Alan Buckingham

Novostella brings it all to automated lighting [Review]

Home automation continues to grow in popularity at an ever-increasing rate. The market value is expected to reach $114 billion by 2025, with smart lighting products accounting for 25 percent of that.

It’s hard to say where the average user begins with home automation, but we’d argue it’s likely to be with a smart lightbulb for most of them. It’s a product that seems straightforward and doesn’t have the dangers of locking you out of your house (as a smart lock could) or making you feel like you’re either in a) Death Valley, or b) Nome, Alaska (unlike a smart thermostat). 

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Trust your game? Rovio exposes Angry Birds Friends database

It’s been over a decade since Finnish game maker Rovio hit the big time with Angry Birds. New levels were periodically added to keep players interested and, capitalizing on that success, the company followed it up with other games such as Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds 2. They also released a tournament-based version called Angry Birds Friends. 

Rovio has kept the tournament version fresh and exciting by releasing loads of new levels every week. The goal of the game is to beat the people you're playing against and after completing each level you will see where you rank amongst those ahead and behind you  -- both places and points. 

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Surprise, surprise! Microsoft exec says the government is spying on you

Intelligence agencies may have begun life as a good idea -- a way to keep their respective countries safe -- and in the beginning we mostly trusted them. But their overt secrecy soon became apparent with things like the famous Roswell incident and the best known "secret" location in the world -- Area 51. 

But there’s much more to the secretiveness than just speculation of little green men. If we didn’t already suspect as much, Edward Snowden showed us a lot of what went on behind-the-scenes in these clandestine agencies. 

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Tour technology: It's a lot more than bike and rider these days

When cycling grand tours were first getting started more than one hundred years ago, things were a whole lot different. Bike frames and hardware hailed mostly from Italy and, while that hasn’t completely changed, riders no longer cover 300 miles in a stage, have to take naps during a stage, change their own tires or, as happened on at least once occasion, stop to weld a broken frame along the way. 

Now stages are a manageable four to seven hours and cars and motorcycles follow the peloton, bringing doctors, mechanics and spare bikes. 

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What I'd like to see in the upcoming Sling app

I’ve mentioned before that I replaced my satellite service with Sling about six years ago. Since then it’s added a cloud DVR and recently upped the capacity of that to what I consider to finally be a reasonable amount of storage space.  It’s also added quite a few more channels in that time. There have been app updates as well, some welcome and some not so much. 

Now the service teases another update coming soon. A box popped up on my screen the other day announcing the change and promising an improved TV experience "soon". 

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Tubi now boasts 55+ live news channels

There are far too many TV services online these days for me to even begin to name them. What started with novelties like Netflix and Hulu soon became no novelty at all, but a billion-dollar industry and live TV soon followed with things like Sling and YouTube TV. 

But don’t discount the lesser-known ones. Just because they’re free doesn’t mean they have less to offer. Sure, you may not get a first-run movie or original content, but what you do get is very much still worth it.

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IRS attempts to make it easier for you to get that new tax credit you might be owed

bag of money

"The nine scariest words in the English language are 'I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'" When Ronald Reagan uttered that statement, it was in general, but it could apply to one government organization in particular. Three letters -- I-R-S -- terrify many Americans. After all, the place can drag you (and all the relevant paperwork in your home) into an office for hours on end and, worse, throw you in jail if things aren't right. 

To its credit, the Internal Revenue Service periodically tries to change its reputation. That’s what it’s up to now with the new child tax credit. Did you hear about it? Given that Americans are getting "free" money from the government it has made relatively few headlines, although that may be simply that it passed back in March and has been pushed out of mind during the time since then. 

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Do we have a little more news on Wear OS 3.0?

Wear OS has been a success in the wearables market and a solid competitor to Apple’s watchOS platform. Both operating systems have their fans. However, like with another Google creation, Android, the search giant doesn't always have a clear vision where it’s going with it. That’s not a knock on the Mountain View company, just an observation. It can be viewed as being careful and listening to input. 

Back in mid-May at Google I/O 2021, the company’s big annual conference, it formally announced Wear OS 3.0, the next operating system that will power its smartwatches.  

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Could the 'Face of Anonymous' go to jail?

We’ve seen the now infamous Guy Fawkes masks around for a long time. More so a few years ago, than in current times. The main group they belong to, 'Anonymous', has a reputation as hackers but members aren’t the people shutting down gas lines or airlines -- they prefer to think of themselves as ethical. Hacktivists if you will. You may disagree, authorities certainly do, and many members have been arrested. 

A decade ago member Christopher Doyon was nabbed in San Francisco. He allegedly jumped bail and headed south of the border, where he has remained ever since. Producer Gary Lang traveled there and featured him in the Canadian documentary 'The Face of Anonymous' in 2020. 

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Audeze and Capcom come together for a sweet Resident Evil Village deal

The E3 gaming show is currently taking place in Los Angeles with many big names in the business there. You can expect announcements from hardware makers as well as games companies.

Today headphones maker Audeze and Japanese gaming powerhouse Capcom are announcing a special bundle of Audeze's Mobius headphones with Capcom's new Resident Evil Village game.

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A decade of Chrome OS: What do you think of it?

Let me get this out of the way first, lest I be called a Microsoft hater (I’ve been called both that and fanboy). I have Windows computers and I use them for some things, just not for my regular, daily routine. I started with a Chromebook early on when Google itself released the HP Chromebook 11 G1 back in 2013. 

Chrome OS was announced in 2009 and an actual "Chromebook" shipped in 2011, but it took a couple of years from then for the platform to pick up steam. 

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Update Chrome now, it has a zero-day exploit

Zero Day

We’re much more used to security flaws now after years of being conditioned to hearing about them from various sources. Some software makers handle vulnerabilities better than others of course, but remember, software is inherently complicated and it’s being written by flawed humans so mistakes are inevitable. 

Today Sergei Glazunov of Google Project Zero reports on a new flaw in Google Chrome, the sixth zero-day affecting the browser this year. Very little information has been released on the vulnerability, but from what we can learn it seems to be in the Javascript engine that powers Chrome. 

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SmartThings updates its home automation app to make it faster and easier to use

Home automation is settling into its place in the world, with more and more people embracing it. Predictions have the home automation market hitting 350 million users by 2023.

Most people start simple with lightbulbs that can be controlled remotely, or a security camera or a water leak sensor to notify you of an emergency wherever you are. Some items can even be controlled by voice through a third-party service like Alexa. The big thing, especially for new users, is ease of setup and use.

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If you're unfortunate enough to be in the path of a hurricane, Amazon has a plan to help

Yesterday we celebrated Memorial Day, and this year it’s followed immediately by a more infamous day. June 1 of each year marks the start of hurricane season in the Atlantic and Pacific basins. It runs through December 1, but remember, mother nature doesn’t always follow our schedules and directions -- one hurricane already formed in mid-May. 

Most don’t reach land and those that do frequently amount to little, but then you also have the likes of Katrina or Sandy that can prove devastating. Maria knocked out power for months in Puerto Rico in 2017. 

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What is your backup solution now?

Data folders backup

For a while backup solutions were a dominant topic in the tech sphere. That was in the days when external drive sizes were growing rapidly and the cloud was becoming a thing. It seems the services have now become established and the frail weeded out. Most storage drives today are larger than most people need. 

If you’ve been around a while, as I have, you’ll remember when ZIP Drives -- like oversize floppy drives -- were the hot new backup product. Like all the "latest things", people invested a lot of money in that solution but it was short-lived. 

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