Brian Fagioli

StarTech.com TB3CDK2DP Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C hybrid dock is magical [Review]

Unless you are a gamer or enthusiast, owning a desktop computer these days is sort of, well... stupid. Look, even if you do most of your computing at a desk, you should still buy a laptop. Why? Think about it -- a desktop keeps you tethered to one place, while a notebook is portable. Thanks to Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C, you can use your laptop as a makeshift desktop by using a docking station. In other words, you can connect your notebook to a monitor, keyboard, mouse, web cam, external hard dive -- pretty much anything you need. The dock will charge and power your computer too. A traditional desktop is very limiting.

One such docking station that piqued my interest recently is a Thunderbolt 3 model by StarTech.com. Called "TB3CDK2DP," it has a very unique feature -- it is compatible with USB-C laptops that are lacking TB3. In other words, if you have a Thunderbolt 3 laptop, this dock will work in full TB3 mode. If you have another computer that only has a regular USB-C, however, it will function in a USB mode. This essentially gives you the best of both worlds. I have been testing this docking station extensively with a MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3, as well as a Windows 10 laptop and Chromebook that only have USB-C and not TB3. Unfortunately, I do not have a Windows machine with Thunderbolt 3.

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Microsoft Surface Pro X now available for pre-order

Earlier this week, Microsoft unveiled several new devices, such as Surface Pro 7, Surface Laptop 3, Surface Neo, and Surface Duo. What has many consumers excited, however, is the Surface Pro X. This new 13-inch tablet is designed to compete with the iPad Pro. Despite being powered by an ARM Processor, Surface Pro X can run legacy Windows software, making it very attractive to those that rely on Windows but want a svelte device with long battery life.

Like other Surface Pro devices, the X can double as a laptop with a keyboard attachment -- sold separately of course. They keyboard is quite cool, as it has a dedicated place to store the optional Surface Slim pen; the stylus wirelessly charges while stowed away too.

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Microsoft courageously omits headphone jack from Surface Pro X, but don’t worry -- there’s a dongle for that

Apple was one of the first companies to show true courage (yes, I’m being facetious) by removing the 3.5mm headphone jack from some of its devices. And now, Microsoft is following the iPhone-maker’s lead.

Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled several upcoming Surface devices, but one of them in particular was surprisingly lacking a headphone jack -- the Surface Pro X. This is a tablet/laptop combo powered by an ARM processor.

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Microsoft Surface Duo shows Linux is the future -- not Windows

Microsoft Surface Duo

Windows is a massive failure -- in the mobile world, at least. Microsoft should have been a dominant force in smartphones and tablets, but no, it let Apple and Google eat its lunch with iPhone and Android. While Windows 10 is still a decent enough desktop operating system that keeps chugging along, Windows Phone died a bloody death -- consumers barely paid attention to it. Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile were utter embarrassments for Microsoft.

What can Microsoft do to save its mobile dreams? Turn to Linux, of course. Yes, with the upcoming Surface Duo smartphone (you can read about the dual-screen device here), Microsoft will be using the Linux-based Android operating system. This is a smart business move, but it must be absolute hell for the Microsoft faithful -- if Bill Gates was dead, he would be spinning in his grave.

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iBUYPOWER begins selling its Snowblind cases individually

When it comes to PC building, there are essentially two ways you can go -- build the system yourself or pay a premium to have a company assemble it for you. Neither option is better than the other, although building your own rig will definitely earn you more credibility. After all, anyone can throw money at something (if they have it), but doing it yourself is a legitimate skill to be proud of.

One respected company that has long been assembling computers for gamers and enthusiasts is the legendary iBUYPOWER. The computer builder even offers its own PC cases -- exclusive to machines assembled by iBUYPOWER. Sadly, people that like to build computers on their own have not been able to get one of these cases -- the company has never sold them individually. Today this changes, as iBUYPOWER begins selling two of its Snowblind cases to "do-it-yourselfers" for the first time ever.

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Logitech G PRO X mechanical gaming keyboard has swappable switches

The ability to swap keys on a mechanical keyboard is nothing new. With a key puller, you can often replace, say, the W, A, S, D keys for different colors or textures. Replaceable switches, however, are an entirely different ball game. A company would have to be mad to create such a keyboard, right? Well, Logitech may be bonkers, as it has done just that!

The all-new Logitech G PRO X mechanical gaming keyboard has swappable switches, meaning you can change out each individual switch -- linear, tactile, or clicky -- depending on your needs. Whoa! The keyboard is "tenkeyless," meaning there is no number pad on the right. Not only does this save space, but it looks nicer too. Unless you are an accountant, the top row of numbers is fine. There is also customizable RGB lighting, so you can make it your own. I love that the cable is detachable, but surprisingly, it uses a micro USB connection rather than the newer USB-C.

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Pandora goes dark on Apple iPhone and iPad

I've never been much of a fan of dark mode -- especially on a desktop operating system. White text on a black background tends to annoy me. With Windows 10, for instance, I didn't really enjoy using the operating system until the light theme was introduced in the May 2019 update. Believe it or not, I use Apple Music instead of Spotify because I hate the latter's always-on dark interface. And yet, on iOS 13, I actually like Apple's implementation of dark mode -- in the evening, I have my iPhone and iPad switch to it.

Now that I am using dark mode on my Apple mobile devices, I am trying to use apps that auto-switch to dark when the operating system does. It is very satisfying to have a consistent interface where apps respect the user's dark desires. Today, the very popular music app, Pandora, finally introduces dark mode support for iOS 13 and iPadOS 13. In addition, the Pandora mobile app is getting enhanced Siri compatibility.

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YouTube TV now on Amazon Fire TV

Back in July, the YouTube app finally returned to the Amazon Fire TV platform. This was great news for both Google and Amazon, but more importantly, consumers were the big winners. Owners of Fire TV devices finally had an official app for watching YouTube.

Google and Amazon had promised that YouTube TV -- the search giant's live television service -- would come to Fire TV too, but for whatever reason, it did not debut with the return of the regular YouTube app. Thankfully, starting today, Fire TV owners can finally access YouTube TV on their devices -- as long as they have a compatible model.

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HyperX Pulsefire Dart wireless gaming mouse has Qi charging and RGB lighting

There are many gaming mice on the market these days, so it can be hard for a single model to stand out. I mean, look, there are only so many ways to make a mouse unique. And yet, today, HyperX launches such a product, and it is actually quite special.

Called "Pulsefire Dart," this looks like an ordinary wireless gaming mouse, but it has a pretty cool feature -- Qi charging. Yes, you can charge the mouse using one of those cool wireless charging mats -- the same ones used for Android devices and iPhones. In addition, it features RGB lighting, so you can customize the appearance to your liking.

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Google forces YouTube Music on Android users

I am a big fan of YouTube. Not only do I watch videos on the site daily, I am also a paid subscriber to YouTube TV -- I love the service and happily part with my $50 each month. YouTube Music, however, is an entirely different story -- I kind of hate it. When testing it against Spotify and Apple Music, YouTube Music failed miserably. The user interface is just unnecessarily confusing. Quite frankly, I am not sure how Google got it so wrong. Sigh.

That's why I was rather bummed out by the news that Google will be pre-loading the YouTube Music app on all Android 10 devices, plus some new ones that will ship with Android 9. Yep, it will be foisted upon many unsuspecting customers. This includes buyers of Google's own devices, such as the upcoming Pixel 4.

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Ubuntu Linux 19.10 'Eoan Ermine' Beta available for download

Happy Friday, dear BetaNews readers! The weekend is nearly here, meaning you can take some time to do the things you want to do, rather than the tasks your boss assigns. For some, that means spending time with family, watching movies, or simply catching up on some rest. For others, it is the prime time to test a Linux distribution!

Today, Canonical releases the official beta for the upcoming Ubuntu Linux 19.10. Code-named "Eoan Ermine," it features Linux kernel 5.3. There are several great desktop environments from which to choose too, such as KDE Plasma, Budgie, and the default GNOME. Ubuntu 19.10  is not a long term support (LTS) version, sadly, so support for the stable release will only be a mere 9 months.

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DoorDash hacked!

Food delivery services are all the rage these days. Apparently, people are so averse to leaving their home, that they are willing to pay a premium to get meals driven to them. But wait, is that really a new trend? Pizzerias, for instance, have been delivering pies for years. Yeah, but that was driven by an employee of the restaurant. These days, services like Grubhub and DoorDash allow pretty much anyone with a car to be the go-between -- there is no vetting by the restaurant. Do you really want your food in the hands of a stranger? Lord knows what he/she could do to it.

If you are a DoorDash user, the suitability of your delivery driver is not what you need to be worried about today. Actually, your concern should be focused on your privacy, as the delivery service has suffered a massive data breach. Yes, hackers have infiltrated DoorDash, and the number of impacted people is staggering -- nearly 5 million. That doesn't just include customers but DoorDash drivers and merchants too!

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Microsoft turns to Google to help its struggling Xbox One

Smartphone voice command

Long gone are the days where playing video games on a console was a simple affair. You used to just plug in a cartridge, turn the game system on, and begin playing. These days, consoles are constantly making you install both game and system updates, making the "pick up and play" concept a thing of the past. Not to mention, since they often double as media players, the interfaces are clunky and confusing. I really miss the 80's and 90's in this regard.

Thankfully, voice assistants are seemingly making the game console experience a little simpler. By allowing you to use your voice, you can potentially avoid the confusing interfaces. Today, Microsoft announces that Google Assistant support is now available for Xbox One -- in beta, at least. The search giant's offering joins both Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa. It is doubtful that this move will help the Xbox One's struggles against the more popular PlayStation 4.

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Amazon's new eero mesh Wi-Fi system collects your data and you shouldn't buy it

Earlier today, Amazon unveiled a bunch of new Echo devices. As a hardcore Alexa user, I am sort of excited about this new hardware, but at the same time, my house already has enough of them -- I am not at all in the market for more.

In addition to Alexa-focused hardware, Amazon today also launches a new eero mesh Wi-Fi system. In case you forgot, yes, Amazon owns eero now. While this new mesh Wi-Fi system looks fine enough for the average consumer, it is quite underwhelming. Its speeds are hardly top of the line, and there is no WiFi 6 (802.11ax) to be found. For the most part, these 802.11ac access points are fairly basic, but I do like that each has two gigabit Ethernet ports. The cute devices are powered by USB-C as well, which I also appreciate.

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Logitech MK470 Slim Wireless Keyboard and Mouse Combo is quiet, elegant, and affordable

Quality computer hardware doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Sure, some gamers and enthusiasts will gladly spend over $100 on a mouse or headset, for example, but many consumers wouldn't. After all, computers are quite inexpensive these days. A quality device used to cost thousands of dollars, while today, a decent machine can be had for less than $500. It would be quite foolish to spend $100 for a keyboard if your PC cost, say, $300.

Today, Logitech launches a keyboard and mouse combo for the "everyman." The "MK470," as it is called, is comprised of a slim keyboard and elegant mouse -- both are wireless and are designed to be quiet. They use a single USB dongle between them, meaning only one USB-A port will be taken up. Both are powered by AAA batteries, but Logitech promises they will last a very long time -- a year and a half for the mouse, and an insane three years for the keyboard! That will vary based on usage, of course. Best of all, it is ridiculously affordable.

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