Brian Fagioli

Google and Amazon bury the hatchet over childish YouTube and Prime Video hostility

Amazon Fire TV provides a really great media consumption experience. And yet, I do not use it. Why? Well, I am a huge YouTube user -- both the regular video service, plus YouTube TV, and unfortunately, Google kept those services off of Amazon's TV hardware. In a bit of "tit for tat," Amazon kept its own Prime Video from Google's Android TV and Chromecast devices. Ultimately, this hostility hurt consumers, which is very unfortunate.

Today, Google and Amazon finally bury the hatchet. YouTube apps are coming to Fire TV, while Prime Video is coming to both Android TV and Chromecast. Even Google's YouTube Kids app will be coming to Amazon's hardware!

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Ubuntu Linux 19.04 'Disco Dingo' is finally available for download

Christmas. Thanksgiving. Ubuntu release day. What do those three things have in common? They are days that cause many people to get excited. Back in the day, computer users would get excited about a new version of Windows too, such as Windows 95, XP, and 7 to name a few. Since Windows 8, however, Microsoft's new operating systems are hardly a reason for celebration. New versions of Ubuntu, the extremely popular Linux-based operating system, does pique the interest of many, including yours truly.

Today, Linux users around the world should celebrate, as Ubuntu 19.04 "Disco Dingo" is finally here! Following the Beta release, the stable version is now available for download. Keep in mind, version 19.04 is not LTS (Long Term Support), meaning it is only supported until January 2020.

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Anker Roav Bolt is an elegant Google Assistant device for your car

Distracted driving isn't just stupid, it is dangerous too. If you aren't paying attention, instead opting to look at your smartphone while in the driver's seat, you aren't only risking your life, but more importantly, the lives of countless other drivers sharing the road with you. Don't do it.

Thankfully, there have been huge improvements with hands free communication. Not to mention, thanks to virtual voice assistants, you can perform tasks without taking your eyes off the road too. The problem? Some people drive with their phone in their pocket, meaning the voice assistant can't hear its wake word, such as "Alexa" or "Hey, Google." This can also happen in loud environments, such as when music is playing or when kids are fighting in the backseat. A new product from Anker called "Roav Bolt" aims to improve the Google Assistant experience in the car.

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Microsoft announces stupidly named Xbox One S All-Digital Edition -- a neutered game console no sane person should want

Download-only gaming for home consoles is certainly the future. It is definitely not the present, however. I can envision all next-generation game consoles being produced without any optical drive or card slot, but to do that with a current-gen system would be asinine. And so, Microsoft has done it.

Yes, the worst kept secret in the video game community is officially announced today. As the leaks suggested, Microsoft unveiled the "Xbox One S All-Digital Edition." What does "all-digital" mean? Well, apparently, the Windows-maker thought optical discs were analog, as this branding simply means the Blu-ray drive has been removed. Yeah, the name sort of makes no sense. In other words, Microsoft hopes you will be crazy enough to buy download-only games at the tail end of the Xbox One's life. You won't fall for that trickery, will you?

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Logitech Harmony Express is a revolutionary universal voice remote with integrated Amazon Alexa

Back in the day, people would have several remote controls in their living room, for things like TVs, DVD players, and stereos to name a few. It was messy and confusing, and quite frankly, caused arguments in households. Remotes were constantly misplaced, and some non-savvy family members would often get frustrated by never knowing which remote to use.

The universal remote solved that dilemma, but it caused yet another -- even though there was just one remote, there were too many buttons. Sitting down and watching TV or a DVD should be a mindless affair, where you don't need to look at the remote -- muscle memory should be able to get you through. Today, Logitech aims to revolutionize the world of media consumption with the Harmony Express -- a remote that is compact, has minimal buttons, and best of all, has Alexa built in! Logitech claims it is compatible with over 250,000 devices too.

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Urban Armor Gear launches Plasma Series cases for Huawei P30 and P30 Pro

My everyday smartphone is an iPhone 8 Plus. It's a phenomenal device -- it has a big display, insanely long battery life, a great camera, wireless charging, and Touch ID -- not Apple's finicky face unlock nonsense found on its newer phones. Best of all, it uses the very secure iOS operating system. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Android -- quite the opposite. What I don't like, however, is not getting timely OS updates. That is what ultimately drove me from Google's mobile operating system to Apple's.

There is one new Android smartphone that is so exceptional, however, that I am tempted to leave iOS for it. That phone is the Huawei P30 Pro. This device is drop-dead gorgeous and full of top specifications. While Apple is largely known as the king of cameras, the P30 Pro's photo capabilities are supposedly on another level. If I was to buy the P30 Pro (or even the non-Pro P30), I would want to protect my investment with a rugged case. Thankfully, well-respected case-maker Urban Armor Gear has launched its popular Plasma Series case for both the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro!

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Mozilla criticizes Apple's iPhone privacy claims, launches online petition

Apple is one of the most privacy-focused tech companies. It has consistently protected its users, going so far as to defy the US Government by refusing to unlock an iPhone for the FBI. Conversely, Google makes a lot of its money from advertising and tracking users, while Microsoft has extreme telemetry in Windows 10.

And that's why it is so surprising that Mozilla -- another privacy-focused organization -- is criticizing Apple. You see, the Firefox-maker is calling out Apple for allowing advertisers to track iPhone users. Mozilla is going so far as to launch a petition, hoping to get Apple to change an important iPhone default setting.

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Before you watch Game of Thrones Season 8 premier on HBO, download these FREE PlayStation 4 avatars and theme

Tonight is finally the night! After two years, Game of Thrones finally returns to the airwaves. Unfortunately, the Season 8 premier excitement is bittersweet, as it is the final season. Sadly, there are only six episodes remaining in the series. With that said it will be rewarding to finally find out who becomes the ruler of the world. My money is on Theon Greyjoy to end up sitting on the Iron Throne, but I digress.

Believe it or not, in the USA, you can watch the Game of Thrones Season 8 premier for free. How? Simply sign up for a seven-day trial of the HBO Now streaming service -- just cancel before the trial ends to avoid being charged. That isn't the only free thing that Game of Thrones fans can get today. You see, Sony has launched a really cool PlayStation 4 theme to celebrate tonight's premier.

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VisionTek launches 1TB USB 3.0 XT Pocket SSD for Windows, macOS, and Linux

While many people are turning to the cloud for storage these days, not everyone trusts such a thing. After all, when you upload your files to an online server, you are essentially storing your stuff on someone else's computer. If you prefer complete control over your data, local storage devices are superior.

What if you want to leverage a USB flash drive, but you need better performance? In that case, a product such as the rugged Pocket SSD from VisionTek should meet your needs. These popular devices look like a standard flash drive, but they are much faster. Today, VisionTek launches the next generation -- the XT Pocket SSD. Not only is the top capacity now a massive 1TB, but the drive should last longer too. You see, VisionTek claims special data refresh technology will allow it to last more than 171 years before failing. In other words, it will outlive you!

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Creative announces extremely affordable USB-powered Pebble Plus 2.1 speakers

Creative's Pebble speakers are very popular with budget-focused shoppers. Over on Amazon, it has 4.5 stars with over 500 reviews. It's not hard to see why that is -- for a mere $25, you get a respectable 2.0 audio experience from a well-known brand. No, they aren't audiophile quality, but at this price, you should know that. They should be better than your laptop's built in speakers, however. One of the coolest aspects of the Pebble speakers is they are USB-powered -- you don't need an AC adapter when connecting them to your computer. You do need to simultaneously connect a 3.5mm audio cable, however, as audio is not transmitted over USB -- only power.

One of the big drawbacks to Pebble is a lack of bass. This really shouldn't be surprising, as they are small 2-inch speakers, and they don't have a subwoofer. Well, Creative heard the user feedback loud and clear and decided to bring a little boom to its budget offering. Called "Pebble Plus," it is the same stereo speakers, but now with a small subwoofer added. Amazingly, the price is barely higher than the non-plus variant. Seriously, folks, the price will shock you.

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Acer announces a pair of Chromebooks that are elegant, rugged, and affordable

Acer announced a bunch of new products today, including many Windows machines. While I am sure those computers running Microsoft's desktop operating system are fine, they don't really excite me. Instead, it is Acer's Linux-based Chromebooks that get my engine running. The company has been cranking out great Chrome OS laptops for many years, and they have proven to be a great value for consumers.

Today, Acer unveils a pair of new elegant Chromebooks. Called "714" and "715," the former has a 14-inch display while the latter is 15.6-inch. Both machines have fingerprint readers, aluminum bodies, 12-hour battery life, and can be configured with 8th generation Intel Core processors (Pentium and Celeron models will be available too). The larger 715 has something the 714 doesn't -- a number pad, which apparently is a first for any Chromebook. The 714 has slimmer bezels, however. Best of all, they are both designed to be rugged and withstand abuse.

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YouTube TV adds several new channels while increasing monthly price

Many people are "cutting the cord" these days, opting for streaming television services rather than traditional cable or satellite. And no, it is not only about saving money. Sure, many folks were tired of the added fees that cable companies charge, such as to rent the cable box and remote -- it can feel like you are being robbed. But also, cable boxes often have poor user interfaces, lacking the modern and fluid experiences consumers expect nowadays thanks to operating systems like Android and iOS. Speaking of mobile, streaming TV services work while on the go, while many cable providers lag behind in that regard.

When I cut the cord, I went with YouTube TV. Why? Well, its channel offering was pretty good, and its price was only $34.99. It later went up to $39.99, however, but I kept the original price through grandfathering. Most importantly, its unlimited DVR put it ahead of the competitors. If you are a YouTube TV customer like me, I have good news and bad news. The good news is actually great news -- the service is adding several channels from Discovery, such as HGTV, Food Network, and Investigation Discovery to name a few. The bad news is sad, but not catastrophic -- YouTube TV is getting a big monthly price hike. And yes, this includes all customers -- no one gets a grandfathered price.

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Urban Armor Gear launches Plyo Series case for Apple MacBook Air (2018)

Apple laptops are consistently great. Even with the polarizing keyboard found on recent models, you really can't go wrong with a MacBook. With that said, in order to buy an Apple computer, you have to have a lot of disposable income. You can get a Windows 10 machine with similar specifications for far less. There's nothing wrong with paying more for Apple hardware -- if it makes you happy and you can afford it, go for it.

If you do end up buying an expensive Apple MacBook, you should definitely consider opting for AppleCare. Insurance is always a bit of a gamble, and not always the wisest move financially, but it can be worth the premium for peace of mind. In addition to AppleCare, you may want to consider a protective case too. For example, today, Urban Armor Gear launches a rugged new case for the 2018 MacBook Air as part of its popular Plyo Series. Not only does it offer protection and improved cooling, but it looks rather attractive too.

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You can win a limited edition Game of Thrones Roku Ultra by watching Season 8 of the HBO show and using Twitter

Game of Thrones is one of the greatest television series of all time. Hell, it is arguably the best. Not only is the acting, casting, and storytelling damn-near perfect, but it is visually stunning too. Back in the day, television shows had terrible special effects compared to films. After all, they had much lower budgets. That's why it is so remarkable, for example, to see such impressive imagery, such as realistic-looking dragons and massive cities, -- both of which are featured on Game of Thrones.

Sadly, all things end eventually, and Game of Thrones is no different. This year, the final season of the hit HBO show will air. To celebrate this significant moment in pop culture history, an official limited edition Game of Thrones Roku Ultra has been produced. Actually, there are six of them, and if you are lucky, you might be able to win one! Yes, Roku is doing a giveaway and entering is rather easy.

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MX Linux 18.2 is here -- download the Debian-based operating system now

With the Linux Mint development being severely strained, and the future of that particular operating system being in slight doubt, many Linux "haters" are seemingly taking pleasure. Hardcore fans of Microsoft Windows will point to the Mint situation as proof that Linux (and open source ideology overall) doesn't have a future on the desktop. Thankfully, these negative people couldn't be more wrong. Regardless of what happens with Mint, Linux still has a bright future -- not only on mobile and servers, but desktop too. Maybe that success will be Chrome OS or Android. Whatever. The point is, the open source Linux kernel cannot be stopped.

As people are concerned about Linux Mint, another distro has been gaining in popularity. While not new, the attention it gets has been growing lately. Called "MX Linux," it is based on the excellent Debian Stable and uses the lightweight Xfce desktop environment by default. If you are intrigued by this newly en vogue distro, I have good news -- a new version is available for download. While not a major release,the 18.2 ISO is chock full of changes, fixes, and of course, updated packages. If you hate systemd (as many do), I have good news -- it is not enabled by default (although it is included).

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