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Review: CyberLink PowerDirector 12 Ultimate

power director3

CyberLink PowerDirector has been one of the top consumer video editors for a few years now, and you don’t have to use it for long to understand why.

The core editor gets the program off to a good start. Import your source files into the Media Room, organize them on the 100 track timeline, and apply hundreds of effects and transitions by dragging and dropping: it’s all very easy.

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Meet the Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630 [Review]

mouse-in-hand

I love laptops for their portability, but I despise touchpads. Every laptop I use gets the same treatment -- a micro-sized USB receiver and a travel-sized mouse, with the laptop touchpad disabled. In other words, I am a mouse person. The mouse, as an input device, is not new and has changed relatively little in the course of modern computing history. So while my phones, tablets and computers move forward, a trusty and cheap Logitech M185 has been hooked to each PC.

Now Logitech has decided to thrust me into the modern computing era by shipping a brand new "Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630" right to my doorstep.

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Taking programming back to the 1980s -- hands on with the FUZE [Review]

FUZE_Pi_Case_and_Breadboard_3

Back in the late '70s at the tender age of 19 or so I learned to program in COBOL on a system that used punched cards -- a Sperry UNIVAC for those who care about these things. There was no instant gratification to be had with this method, non-essential (i.e. student) programs were run as overnight batches so you had to submit the cards holding your carefully-crafted code in a cardboard box. You went back the next morning (OK, afternoon) to collect your output which, naturally, came on blue and white striped continuous paper.

The next generation were able to learn the joys and frustrations of writing code in the comfort of their own bedrooms and lounges thanks to home machines that ran BASIC, no longer did it take 24-hours to fix a bug. Today though affordable PCs and off-the-shelf software for just about any purpose mean that everyone can use a computer without having any need to understand what makes it work.

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Hands-on with the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio iPad case

The FabricSkin in it's natural habitat.

After using the new Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio iPad case for the past two weeks, the pros and cons have become pretty apparent. This extended use has been important, as my impressions have changed over time. Overall, it is an impressive package and definitely worth considering.

At first glance, the materials look good, if not "expensive", and the textures seem well suited to their tasks. The case did feel pretty heavy, especially compared to my usual lightweight leather (non-keyboard) cover. The iPad snaps in fairly easily, and is very securely held. The rubber-like material that holds the device has a slight outer rim, that gives you good grip, but should also bend and provide some shock absorption in a fall. The outer fabric feels a bit like the nylon of a thick gym bag -- fairly smooth, but it is very grippable. The inner lining and keyboard covering have a smooth suede finish that feels great.

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Office 365 for Business: Cloud email (finally) ready for primetime [review]

businessman cloud

Merely a half year ago, my thoughts on Office 365 were salty at best. Outages continuously plagued the service. Its treatment of browser-based users who wished to forego desktop versions of Outlook and Office disappointed. And spam filtering was bottom tier, proving to do little in stemming waves of junk mail. In the February 2013 release, Microsoft turned a new page and proved why it's a reliable comeback kid in the cloud.

If you don't believe Microsoft is transorming itself into a company solidly rooted in the cloud, you're clearly missing the writing on the wall. The company's past three years have been nothing short of a cloud-cluster of budding services while simultaneously sun-setting legacy on-premise products. Windows Small Business Server bid its farewell, while runaway hits like Azure sweep the Redmond, Wash. horizon. Yet even as Office 365 for consumers came out to relatively loud fanfare, the main attraction of the Office 365 product line is the business-oriented offerings.

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MultiPLX is latest RSS alternative to dance on Reader's grave [review]

crow grave bird rip

I am long done with rattling on about Google's decision to kill Reader. I get it. RSS is popular with our crowd -- the tech writers and those who follow multiple blogs and wish for an easy way to keep up. That is where the service excels. But, let's face it -- the vast majority of people do not use this technology. My wife and kids, savvy computer users, would not know what RSS was if I asked.

However, the software has a niche, and sometimes a niche is all that is needed for a successful business. We have alternatives in Feedly, The Old Reader, Feedspot and Digg, which has bun in the oven. There are lesser-known options as well, but most users seem to be destined for one of these already established programs. Several have had to beef up server capacity and bandwidth to cope with new-found popularity.

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Windows Azure: Cloud-hosted virtual machines done right [review]

Cloud Computing

Some of Microsoft's greatest battles aren't being fought in the open, contentious field of constant public opinion and media coverage. If there's one thing Microsoft has always done better than the competition, it's blowing open new areas of opportunity and running with the ball on the sly. Apple and Samsung can keep their tactical flags limited to consumer electronics; Microsoft has far greater potential as a rising star in the cloud arena. The war started with its drive to push email to the cloud with Office 365, and the next leg of battle sits in the helm of Windows Azure and XaaS dominance.

If you're under the impression that we are not yet in the era of massive, prevalent 'big data', you're wildly mistaken. Our data needs are already climbing to astronomical levels, with IBM stating that 90 percent of the data in existence today was created in just the last two years. Not surprisingly, much of these growing data needs are being tossed into virtual environments whether it be on-premise in a VMWare or Hyper-V driven route, or my personal favorite: cloud-hosted virtual machines.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 -- it's just a damn phone [review]

Galaxy S4

After a year-and-a-half on an iPhone 4S, I'm now on the current cutting-edge of smartphonery: Samsung Galaxy S4. I've used the phone for almost 3 days now. It's good. I'm excited. Are there any ball games on tonight?

Where was I? Oh yeah, the phone. I'm so excited that I could...do something that excited people do. Honestly, it's a phone. It's a very nice phone with some great features, a great physical design and a lot of bling features that I'll probably never use. I can believe it's the best of the Android phones, but I haven't tested all the others.

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I cannot recommend Nexus 4 Wireless Charger [review]

Nexus 4 on Wireless Charger

Gadget geeks love their toys, the more sci-fi the better. Several manufacturers offer wireless charging solutions, Google and LG among them -- for Nexus 4. The idea is simple: Rather than plug in the device, you rest it on something else connected to electricity. My question: If the phone lays down to charge anyway, why not just plug in and save, in this instance, $59.99 before tax and shipping?

I paid Google Play just that in a moment of weakness, and later regret. Don't bother, and that's really good advice. The Nexus 4 Wireless Charger is more than a wasteful, redundant accessory. The design is fundamentally flawed, where form goes before function to ruin. If you read no further, take away this: Save your money for something else.

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Nexus 7 dock review

Nexus 7 with ASUS dock

Accessories can make a portable device better. If you own the ASUS-manufactured, Google-branded Nexus 7 tablet, surely there is a case protecting it; sometimes, anyway. Some can prop the tablet, but there's another option. Can a dock improve the user experience and even extend the utility? That's what this quickie review seeks to answer.

The Nexus 7 dock is the official issue, made by ASUS, and sold from Google Play for $29.99. I ordered mine in late January, for $39.99, from B&H Photo, back when only third parties carried the accessory. Since then, the retailer dropped the price by five bucks. B&H took my order when the dock was out of stock, but shipped 8 days later. If you want this thing, don't be deterred by availability elsewhere but forget Google Play, which isn't taking orders as I write. Expect to spend more elsewhere. By the way, I would have waited and paid less, had I known better.

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Nokia Lumia 820 review

Nokia Lumia 820

If you are in the market for a mid-range Windows Phone 8 device then the Nokia Lumia 820 should definitely make your shortlist. The smartphone is affordable, fast, responsive, looks nice and comes with the Finnish manufacturer's exclusive collection of enticing apps. Users can even personalize the appearance of the Lumia 820 by switching between different back covers of attractive colors.

In a number of ways, the Lumia 820 is closer to high-end rather than mid-range Windows Phone 8 devices. The smartphone comes with the same processor as the Lumia 920 (which explains the speed part), features support for wireless charging through optional back plates and sports an AMOLED display where black is really black and not a shade of gray. But, the Lumia 820 is not a scaled down version of the bigger Lumia 920 or any other high-end Windows Phone 8 handset.

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CyberLink PowerDVD 13 Ultra review

cat popcorn movie film hollywood 3d gkasses

After 15 years of development, it’s probably no surprise that PowerDVD has become one of the most powerful and comprehensive media players around. Music, video and movies, DVD and Blu-ray, 3D, DLNA, mobile device syncing, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube – the program does it all.

There’s still plenty of room for improvement, though, and PowerDVD 13 Ultra takes the package forward with a range of new additions. There’s even wider file format support; enhanced video quality for HD footage; a new movie library, complete with cover art (for files as well as discs); a smarter, simplified interface; an all-new subtitling engine; and a new focus on performance to try and make this “the fastest, most responsive PowerDVD ever”.

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Avast! Internet Security 8 review

Security

Avast! 8 is the latest generation of avast!’s security range, and as usual it’s available in several different packages, from the basic avast! Free 8 to the do-everything Premier build.

If you just want solid, standard all-round protection, though, avast! Internet Security 8 could be the best option. It takes all the core security suite basics -- antivirus, browsing protection, firewall, spam filter -- and extends them further with some useful new tools, making for what seems to be an appealing mix.

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openElement WYSIWYG HTML editor mini-review

design designer laptop editing

We’re a little skeptical of “free” WYSIWYG HTML editors. Most are either outdated, too basic or packed with adware (and some manage to be all three). OpenElement claims to be different, though: ” a powerful next-gen HTML editor” with “no ads, no restrictions, no experience necessary”, meaning that a “professional and dynamic website is within reach to anyone with zero coding”. Sounds great, so we decided to take a closer look.

Installation is easy, and the program really doesn’t have any adware or other hassles. There is no commercial version, you don’t have to register, there are no nag screens or anything else. The “worst” we see is a tiny “Contribute” icon on the many window, so small and unobtrusive that you may not notice it for a week, and a suggestion on the “Publish” dialog that you use their partner for your hosting (but that’s easy to ignore, if you like).

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HTC Windows Phone 8X vs Nokia Lumia 920

HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920

Born as two flagship devices built on the Windows Phone 8 platform, the HTC Windows Phone 8X and the Nokia Lumia 920 could not be much further apart in delivering two polarizing user experiences. In boxing terms, Windows Phone 8X is the light flyweight and Lumia 920 is the super heavyweight, fighting each other with two different software and hardware skill sets for the "Best Windows Phone 8 smartphone" title.

But this one is a tough nut to crack as there are many aspects to consider. Price, performance, build quality, software and hardware features, dimensions, weight, look and feel, color trim, among others, are all very important when choosing a device that will likely be alongside you for two years. So without further ado, let's pit the two against each other and see how they stack up.

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