Brian Fagioli

Peppermint 9 Linux distribution now available with Ubuntu 18.04 base -- download it now!

It's officially summer and the weekend is here. For some folks, this means spending time outdoors for the next couple of days. If you are a computer guy or gal, however, you may be sun adverse -- spending time inside tinkering with your PC could be more fun than the beach or the pool. If that is you (it's definitely me!), I have a suggestion -- why not try a new Linux distribution this weekend? Hell, there are countless such operating systems from which to choose.

Today, a lesser known Linux-based operating system achieves a milestone. Called "Peppermint," version 9 is now available for download. If you are still holding onto some old hardware, you might want to pay attention. Not only is the OS designed to be light on resources, but Peppermint's developers are still maintaining a 32-bit version of the Ubuntu-based distro.

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Microsoft brings AI-powered visual search to Bing for mobile

The invention of the search engine really made the web usable for the masses. Think about it -- if there was no way to search the web, how would you find anything? Say what you want about Google the company, but if its search engine disappeared tomorrow, the world would be a worse place. Of course, Google did not invent the search engine, nor is it the only game in town -- there is also DuckDuckGo, StartPage, and Bing to name a few excellent alternatives.

Speaking of Bing, did you know it's actually really good? It's true! For whatever reason, Microsoft's search engine is considered by some to be a joke, but that is a falsehood. Bing works very well, offering accurate search results. Unlike Google, Bing's interface is very fun and colorful too -- it's a pleasure to use. Today, Microsoft announces it is improving Bing for mobile in a very clever way -- artificial intelligence-powered visual search. What is that, you ask? Well, you can use your smartphone camera to take a picture of an object, and AI will (hopefully) identify it and then launch a search for it. This feature is quite brilliant, as it can be hard to search for something using text when you have no idea what the heck it is!

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Motorola Moto Z3 Play and G6 Play are the newest Amazon Prime Exclusive Phones

An Amazon Prime membership is a great thing, especially if you take advantage of all of its offerings. The free 2-day shipping by itself makes it worthwhile for many, but the Prime Video streaming service puts it over the edge -- there are so many great movies and TV shows available, you could easily forgo Netflix to save money. Following Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods, the membership can even get you discounts on groceries -- only in some areas of the country for now, however. There are even more perks, so ultimately, Amazon Prime is worth the cost, even after the recent price increase.

One of my favorite membership benefits, however, is the Amazon Prime Exclusive Phone program. If you aren't familiar, this is where Prime members can get discounts on quality Android smartphones. There is a small trade-off for the savings -- some Amazon apps and widgets are pre-installed on the device, including Alexa. With that said, the use of the apps is optional, so it really shouldn't be a big deal. Quite frankly, I'm sure some hardcore Amazon users will find having the apps is a plus. Today, two new Motorola phones join the aforementioned program -- the high-end Moto Z3 Play and the affordable Moto G6 Play.

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Instagram celebrates 1 billion users by announcing IGTV video platform

YouTube is a great video platform -- I have no complaints, really. With that said, I also enjoy watching content on Twitch. Ultimately, competition is a good thing, as it forces companies to innovate rather than stagnate.

Today, yet another video service debuts, and it is backed by a major player in the social network space -- Instagram. Just how major is it? Today, Instagram announces it has achieved 1 billion users! To celebrate, the Facebook-owned photo site is launching a true video platform that goes beyond the short throwaway videos the service currently offers. Called "IGTV," it is aiming to be a true YouTube competitor, allowing users to upload videos up to one hour in length. There is one big twist though -- the videos are vertical only...

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American Girl selling 'Xbox Gaming Set' for dolls

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I remember video games being considered a "boy thing." This was just marketing -- of course girls liked gaming too. Sadly, games that were designed for girls were often terrible. It seemed like developers thought they could use, say, Barbie as a way to sell garbage games to this particular demographic. The truth is, girls enjoyed playing the same games as boys -- Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, etc. Ultimately, there was no need to market games based on the player's gender.

These days, the old stereotypes are largely gone, though not entirely. Seeing a girl or woman play a video game should be unremarkable, although there are still trolls that feel threatened by it and harass female gamers. In other words, there is still work to do. Thankfully, as time marches on, girls are being increasingly empowered to embrace video games. Today, wildly popular doll-seller American Girl unveils a really cool accessory kit that reinforces the fact that girls can enjoy gaming. The "Xbox Gaming Set," as it is called, lets the owner turn their doll into a gamer. How cool is that?

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TP-Link launches Deco M9 Plus AC2200 Smart Home Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi System

When it comes to Wi-Fi, we are living in very exciting times. It used to be that the majority of homes -- regardless of size -- had one router. Then, depending on needs, people would piecemeal various range extenders and repeaters that would maybe work well. Worst of all, routers of yesteryear were not only slow, but woefully unreliable -- they often required rebooting. I recall TV show South Park once had a joke where the entire internet was fixed by unplugging the power from a giant router and then plugging it in again.

These days, however, many routers are rock solid, requiring a reboot almost never. They are insanely fast too, usually offering performance that surpasses the user's internet speed. The greatest innovation for home networking in recent memory, however, is mesh. If you aren't familiar, this is where several access points work together to blanket a home in Wi-Fi. There are many great mesh offerings on the market, and today, TP-Link unveils its latest. Called "Deco M9 Plus," it is a small disc-shaped Tri-Band access point that offers AC2200 performance -- an upgrade to the existing non-plus version.

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Debian-based deepin Linux 15.6 now available

deepin Linux is controversial because its developers are in China. You see, some people are suspicious of a Linux distribution that comes from that country. If you feel that way, that's your business. But you know what? I am personally sick and tired of such xenophobia these days. Let's not forget, many goods come from China -- including personal computers and associated components. Not to mention, the OS is largely open source.

Controversy aside, deepin is a great operating system for both Linux beginners and experts alike. Not only is it stable thanks to its Debian base, but it has a very polished and focused user experience. Today, version 15.6 becomes available, and it is loaded with improvements.

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Google releases VR180 Creator for Linux and Mac only -- sucks for you, Windows users!

When you are a Linux desktop user, it can be very frustrating when popular programs are not available for your platform. The same can be said for macOS, but to a lesser extent -- at least it has access to things like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. Like it or not, Windows often gets premium programs as an exclusive. It's not hard to see why -- on the desktop, Microsoft's operating system reigns supreme from a marketshare perspective. Developers will simply follow the money, and who can blame them?

The world is changing, however, and Microsoft's stranglehold on the software community is loosening. Consumers don't really need Windows anymore. Sure, 10 or 20 years ago it would be almost unthinkable for a typical home user to run an alternative operating system, but these days it’s totally doable. Highlighting this, today, Google releases a really cool program called "VR180 Creator." Interestingly, it is not available for Windows -- the search giant made it a Mac and Linux exclusive. Oh my.

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Google releases open source 'GIF for CLI' terminal tool on GitHub

Tomorrow is the GIF's 31st anniversary -- exciting, right? Those animated images have truly changed the world. All kidding aside, it is pretty amazing that the file format came to be way back in 1987!

To celebrate tomorrow's milestone, Google releases a new open source tool today. Called "GIF for CLI," it can convert a Graphics Interchange Format image into ASCII art for terminal. You can see such an example in the image above.

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Samsung unveils Chromebook Plus (V2), coming to Best Buy June 24

When people say Chromebooks are glorified web browsers, do not listen to them. Haters are going to hate, but the truth is, laptops running Google's Linux-based Chrome OS are highly capable. In fact, the vast majority of home users would be perfectly fine forgoing Windows and choosing a Chromebook instead. Heck, even many businesses would find Chrome OS to be a delight.

Today, Samsung announces its latest such laptop -- the premium, yet affordable, Chromebook Plus (V2). This is a refresh of the first-gen "Plus" model. It can run Android apps and doubles as a convertible tablet, making it very versatile. Best of all, you won't have to wait long to get it -- it will go on sale very soon.

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#BetaNews20 Giveaway: Linksys WRT32XB AC3200 Xbox One wireless gaming router

Here at BetaNews, our 20th birthday cerebration is in full swing. We have several amazing giveaways running, including the Linksys Velop Dual-Band Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System. But what if you don't need or want a mesh networking solution? What if you are a gamer that just wants a single router?

Enter the Linksys WRT32XB. Yes, we are giving away this hardcore Xbox One-optimized gaming router. Don't own Microsoft's gaming console? Don't worry. It will still function perfectly fine as a router for all of your non-gaming needs too. In other words, Xbox or not, you should enter the giveaway, as this router is a beast.

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Google and The American Red Cross partner for World Blood Donor Day

Whenever there is a tragic event, such as a natural disaster or large-scale terrorist attack, people turn out in droves to donate blood. This is very noble, but such a donation is not only needed during publicized tragedies. Every day, hospitals around the world use donated blood to save lives.

Each year, we celebrate World Blood Donor Day -- an annual occasion to raise awareness regarding the necessity of this life-changing donation. On this day, people often want to donate, but it can be hard to know where to go. Thankfully, Google is partnering with The American Red Cross to make finding such a destination even easier. A Google employee has even chosen to share their personal story about how donated blood saved a family member's life.

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Toshiba launches affordable RC100 NVMe SSD

Solid state drives keep dropping in price, but unfortunately, they are still too expensive for many consumers. This is a shame, as moving from an HDD to an SSD can provide a huge performance boost. Heck, in some cases, it can make your aging PC feel like a brand-new computer! NVMe variants in particular are blazing fast.

Toshiba is aiming to make NVMe solid state drives more affordable with the launch of its latest such product. Called "RC100," it is available in three capacities -- 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB.

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Logitech unveils G512 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard with new 'GX Blue' switch option

If you are a PC gamer and you don't have a mechanical keyboard, it's time to upgrade. Not only are these models often more accurate, but some offer tactile and/or audible feedback which could improve your gaming performance. When you aren't playing games, they work brilliantly for typing too.

Today, Logitech officially unveils an all-new proprietary mechanical keyboard switch called "GX Blue." This option will provide both tactile and audible feedback. It will be available on two keyboard models -- the all-new G512 (which Logitech announces today), and the existing G513. Don't like audible feedback? Don't worry -- the new G512 will also have options for "Romer-G Tactile" and "Romer-G Linear" switches.

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Google celebrates Father's Day by sharing dad-related search trends, and Kanye West is on top

Google is all about data. Yes, the company has the ability to track individuals using the information it collects, but more importantly, it can analyze on a more macro level, discovering global trends. Heck, Google has the potential to change the world by properly leveraging its collected data.

Today, Google is sharing some search trends that, while fun, are not at all world-changing. Actually, they are bordering on silly, but that's OK. What are they? Dad-related trends to celebrate the upcoming Father's Day which is this Sunday!

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