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Lucis targets smart-home DIYers with its NuBryte lighting-control hub
LAS VEGAS– The market for smart lighting is growing by leaps and bounds, but all too many products depend on your smartphone or tablet for control. Sometimes it’s just better to have those controls right on the wall.
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MSI's sweet Shadow gaming dock bundle costs as much as an old-school PC
LAS VEGAS—As any gamer knows, the problem with a laptop is that once you’ve purchased it, you’re stuck with whatever the manufacturer included inside. MSI now has two separate products that can solve that
Read More 132 Hits 0 Ratings
What CES told us about this year's smartphone trends
International CES has never been a showcase for new smartphones, but it always features several interesting announcements that highlight big trends for the next 12 months, and this year was no exception. Smartphone
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Sales of Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader plunge during holiday shopping season
The holiday shopping season wasn’t merry for Barnes & Noble’s Nook division, which experienced plummeting sales of the Nook e-reader as well as content and accessories for the device. Total sales in the Nook
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Teens say they're ditching Facebook for Instagram, and fast
Teenage users have been drifting away from Facebook for the last few years, but now it seems they’re in a mad rush to get off the world’s largest social network. A study by investment bank Piper Jaffray (download PDF)
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Intel, Fossil team up to work on wearables 06 September 2014, 20.30 Business
Intel, Fossil team up to work on wearables
Everyone wants in on the wearables game—Motorola, Samsung, LG, and if rumors are to be believed, Apple. Not to be outdone, Intel announced a new partnership Friday with watchmaker Fossil to “further develop wearable
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Dreadnought preview: It's like World of Tanks and Battlestar Galactica had a baby
"Everyone always wants to be the fast ships at first. And then they die." These are the dour words of the developer watching over my shoulder as I played Dreadnought, a spaceship combat game, last week. He was right. I
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10 hilarious, brutally devious ways PC game developers punish pirates
The Sims 4 was released this week, but some people who eagerly snatched up a copy soon found themselves perplexed by an apparent bug: The entire game eventually became blurry and pixelated, with the effect beginning as a way
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Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba seeks up to $21 billion in US IPO
Alibaba is looking to raise as much as US$21 billion in its U.S. IPO, according to documents filed Friday, making the Chinese e-commerce company’s debut one of the largest initial public offerings in U.S. history. Its
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Comparing smartwatches -- what Apple has to beat 06 September 2014, 20.30 Business
Comparing smartwatches -- what Apple has to beat
It’s been a big week for smartwatches and the next few days could be even bigger if rumors are true and Apple enters the battle for the wrist on Tuesday. The company has been such a tremendous force in the smartphone and
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At IFA, new smartphones are a harbinger for future trends
Smartphones introduced at the IFA trade show in Berlin this week highlight trends that will grow more apparent over the next year, including the use of 64-bit processors, LTE-Advanced and super high-resolution
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OneNote for Android adds handwriting support 19 August 2014, 00.25 Business
OneNote for Android adds handwriting support
Mark Hachman Microsoft released a major update to its OneNote for Android app today, adding handwriting input and tablet support and bringing Android users closer to the OneNote experience the company envisioned for the
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FCC allowed to question AT&T, Verizon on business broadband pricing
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has the green light to collect new data on the pricing of so-called special access services, the middle-mile network services used to deliver business broadband and mobile service
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Steve Ballmer steps down from Microsoft's board 19 August 2014, 00.25 Business
Steve Ballmer steps down from Microsoft's board
About six months after retiring as CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer has relinquished his seat on the company’s board of directors effective immediately, citing a busy schedule and confidence in the company’s current and
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Hands on with Acer's Aspire Switch 10 29 April 2014, 16.03 Business
Hands on with Acer's Aspire Switch 10
Acer’s dual-purpose Aspire Switch 10 can function as a Windows 8 tablet and laptop, but the shape-shifting product’s uniqueness is in its magnetic keyboard base, an element not found on other hybrid devices. The Aspire
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Twitter more than doubles its sales, but still can't turn a profit
Twitter on Tuesday turned in some healthy sales figures for the first quarter, though its net loss grew substantially compared to last year. Total revenue for the period ended March 31 was roughly US$250 million, Twitter
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Bitcoin traders agree to settlement in Mt. Gox class-action suit
Plaintiffs in two class-action suits charging the embattled Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox with fraud have agreed to a settlement, and new plans to revive the exchange have been drafted. Earlier this year a class-action suit in
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Florida commuter's illegal jammer blocked more than cell talkers
Some drivers would love to have a cellphone-free bubble around their cars, but when a Florida man allegedly created one every day on his commute, it didn’t necessarily make the highway a safer place. Jason R. Humphreys
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Big data hype didn't speed growth in the BI market, Gartner says
All the hype around big data last year didn’t drive big growth in the worldwide BI (business-intelligence) and analytics market, according to research firm Gartner. While the BI and analytics market grew about 8 percent
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Microsoft's prototype keyboard understands gestures
Microsoft’s research division has developed a keyboard that can interpret basic hand gestures, potentially bridging a gap between touch devices and more traditional input methods. [See the keyboard in action in a video
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Microsoft to close Nokia acquisition Friday 20 April 2014, 19.43 Business
Microsoft to close Nokia acquisition Friday
Image: Jon Phillips The end is nigh. Or is that a new beginning? Either way you look at it, Microsoft on Monday announced that its $7 billion acquisition of Nokia's phone business will finally close this Friday, April 25,
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AMD steers clear of low-cost tablet market 18 April 2014, 23.18 Business
AMD steers clear of low-cost tablet market
Advanced Micro Devices doesn’t want its chips in low-priced tablets, and is eager to avoid a battle with Intel or ARM, whose chips have driven tablet prices down to under US$100. Growth in the tablet market is driven by
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Space X rocket en route to ISS with space laser cargo
A Space X Falcon rocket lifted off Friday afternoon for the International Space Station (ISS) from the Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida. The mission is the third commercial resupply flight for Space X to the ISS and
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Telerik frees HTML5 collection of components 18 April 2014, 23.18 Business
Telerik frees HTML5 collection of components
Borrowing a page from the recently revised Microsoft playbook, development tools maker Telerik has released as open source the bulk of its Kendo software library of components for building Web and mobile applications The
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Plastic computers taking shape, but won't replace silicon
Can plastic materials morph into computers? A research breakthrough published this week brings such a possibility closer to reality. Researchers are looking at the possibility of making low-power, flexible and inexpensive
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Was Steve Jobs a jerk? Hiring case questions his character
Tech workers suing over an alleged no-poaching agreement among Silicon Valley firms are fighting an attempt by defendants to ban evidence that might portray Steve Jobs as a bad guy. The case centers on alleged secret
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Google invites Glass wearers to brave LA's beaches
Users of Google Glass will get to meet and compare their techie headgear this weekend at a spot where appearance is everything. On Saturday in Los Angeles, the Internet company is holding a 3.6-mile run from its offices in
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Google's future phone: The modular Project Ara 16 April 2014, 11.03 Administrator Business
Google's future phone: The modular Project Ara
  (CNN) -- Google is jumping into its next futuristic hardware project. This time it's a modular smartphone dubbed Project Ara that can be customized by swapping out individual pieces, such as the battery and the
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Before Project Ara, others envisaged a modular phone, too
The spotlight will fall on Project Ara this week when Google holds a big event for developers, but it’s far from the first company to toy with modular smartphones. Among the first was Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, which showed
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Connected stuff is catching on -- just don't call it IoT
Many organizations today are looking for things that talk to the Internet. Sensors, cameras, medical equipment and even snowplows are on that wish list. The “Internet of Things” is not. The municipalities that come to
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Google Glass gets KitKat support, leaves out video calls
Google Glass is getting a big software update to coincide with its one-day sale on Tuesday, but video calling is one feature that’s been put on hold. The Internet-enabled headset will get KitKat, the newest version of
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How to photograph the 'Blood Moon' 14 April 2014, 20.39 Business
How to photograph the 'Blood Moon'
It’s hard to believe today—especially since you can just look up at the sky and see our crater-covered moon with your naked eyes—but there was a time when people weren’t intimately familiar with what the surface of
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Google patches Android icon permissions attack 14 April 2014, 20.39 Business
Google patches Android icon permissions attack
Google has issued a patch for an attack that could lead an Android user to a phishing site, according to security vendor FireEye. FireEye recently spotted an malicious Android application that could modify the icons of
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Google updates terms of service to reflect its scanning of users' emails
Google has updated its terms of service to reflect that it analyzes user content including emails to provide users tailored advertising, customized search results and other features. The Internet giant’s scanning of
Read More 333 Hits 0 Ratings
Bitcoin akin to the Internet 20 years ago, digital currency executive says
Bitcoin today is like the Internet of 20 years ago, showing immense promise but in need of much more development, a digital currency executive said Monday, kicking off the Inside Bitcoins conference. As the first digital
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Social network acted like a jerk, faces FTC complaint
The former social network Jerk.com acted like its name would suggest, by allowing users to label others as jerks and then charging people for the ability to change those profiles, but not delivering on that promise,
Read More 334 Hits 0 Ratings
HP talks up faster speed of Z Turbo Drive PCI-Express SSDs
Hewlett-Packard’s new Z Turbo Drive solid-state drives will be faster than conventional SSDs that plug into hard-drive slots, the company said. The drives, which will be available in 256GB and 512GB storage capacities,
Read More 368 Hits 0 Ratings
Uber now delivers packages with Rush courier service
Not content with delivering people to their destination, Uber is now delivering packages as well. The company rolled out a new service on Monday called Rush, which lets people order pickup and delivery of packages using
Read More 302 Hits 0 Ratings
Microsoft readies its own original programming push
Microsoft took the wraps off plans for original programming on Monday because, honestly, isn’t that what everyone’s doing these days? Actually, it’s more than just Fear of Missing Out that’s motivating Redmond to
Read More 316 Hits 0 Ratings
Windows XP: Chronicle of a death foretold 08 April 2014, 02.16 Business
Windows XP: Chronicle of a death foretold
When Microsoft ends support for Windows XP on Tuesday, a security sinkhole will likely open and gradually widen, threatening hundreds of millions of PCs worldwide in homes, companies, government agencies and schools. Along
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World Tech Update: Microsoft puts Office on the iPad and Facebook's $2 billion VR bet
This week on World Tech Update, our weekly news video review, we take a closer look at Microsoft’s long-awaited Office for iPad. At his first major press conference as Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella said he’s committed
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Trial to proceed in Silicon Valley employee 'no poaching' case
A lawsuit that accuses Google, Apple and other top Silicon Valley companies of driving down wages by agreeing not to hire each other’s workers can go to trial, a judge ruled on Friday. The case alleges that executives
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Why Zuckerberg prefers drones to Google's balloons
Mark Zuckerberg is determined to bring Internet access—and thus Facebook access—to every corner of the globe, no matter how remote. On Friday, the social network’s CEO said more about how he plans to do that, and it
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Judge approves class-action suit against Apple in e-books case
A New York judge has given the go-ahead for a group to collectively sue Apple for damages over its collusion with publishers to fix the price of electronic books. Denise Cote, a judge at the U.S. District Court for the
Read More 345 Hits 0 Ratings
There's no bubble in business Wi-Fi, Aerohive CEO says
Aerohive Networks sells not just enterprise Wi-Fi gear but also cloud-based software designed to make it easier to set up and manage a customer’s entire wired and wireless network. Other wireless LAN vendors are moving
Read More 279 Hits 0 Ratings
Judge blocks sales of Typo keyboard on BlackBerry request
A California judge has granted BlackBerry’s wish to temporarily halt sales of an iPhone keyboard produced by start-up Typo Products while the two companies argue over alleged copyright infringement. BlackBerry had
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California DMV customers may be affected by a credit card breach
Did you renew your driver’s license or pay a fee to the California Department of Motor Vehicles using your credit card? You may want to keep a close watch on your credit card statements. That’s the message the state
Read More 282 Hits 0 Ratings
RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition review: The same Myst you know and love, but prettier
The sun is setting on Myst Island. It dips towards the ocean, which stretches boundless in every direction. From where I stand, the last pale orange rays stretch across the sky, scrabbling for purchase between a few
Read More 277 Hits 0 Ratings
AT&T exec takes to the Internet, takes Netflix to task in the process
In a blog post published Thursday night, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings took aim at Comcast—you know, the company Netflix paid in order to get better network access— for its stance on net neutrality. So naturally, AT&T
Read More 402 Hits 0 Ratings
Report: Turkey cuts off a key Twitter workaround by blocking Google DNS
Earlier this week, the Turkish government blocked access to Twitter inside the country in response to a YouTube video that alleges Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's involvement in a corruption scandal. Citizens found
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Twitter kills its music app, which never got much play
Twitter’s mobile music app, launched last year amid a crowded market for online music services, is being shut down, Twitter said on Friday. Twitter #music will be removed from Apple’s app store on Friday. For those who
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NSA hacked into servers at Huawei headquarters, reports say
The U.S. National Security Agency has hacked into Huawei Technologies servers, spied on communications of company executives and collected information to plant so-called backdoors on equipment from the Chinese networking
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SpiderOak streamlines its enterprise secure-cloud pricing to $5 per user
Cloud storage provider SpiderOak has simplified the pricing of its enterprise service, updated its management console and introduced a mobile app for Android and iOS. Enterprises will now pay $5 per user, per month, no
Read More 252 Hits 0 Ratings
Tencent to focus WeChat on markets where competition isn't entrenched
China’s Tencent isn’t letting up on international marketing for its WeChat mobile messaging app, but signaled its plans to avoid competing in markets where rivals such as WhatsApp already have a strong user base. Growth
Read More 298 Hits 0 Ratings
Bitcoin's software gets security fixes, new features
The software driving Bitcoin’s network was upgraded Wednesday, with security fixes addressing a problem that defunct bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox blamed for losing nearly half a billion dollars worth of bitcoins. The
Read More 274 Hits 0 Ratings
EA Games site hacked to steal Apple IDs 19 March 2014, 18.42 Business
EA Games site hacked to steal Apple IDs
An Electronic Arts website was hacked in a phishing scheme aimed at the acquisition of Apple IDs and credit card numbers, security researchers reported Wednesday. Security vulnerabilities in a calendar application are
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HP plans 3D printer announcement for June 19 March 2014, 18.42 Business
HP plans 3D printer announcement for June
Hewlett-Packard claims to have solved the two biggest problems with today’s 3D printers and will make its first big technology announcement in that area in June, CEO Meg Whitman said Wednesday. There’s a lot of “buzz
Read More 383 Hits 0 Ratings
NASA 'codeathon' challenge seeks apps for coastal flooding
NASA, with an eye toward Earth-based projects, is calling on software and hardware developers to create new technologies for addressing issues around coastal flooding. The space agency on Wednesday launched its third
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Sony's mobile strategy puts priority on wearable tech
Now that Sony plans to sell off its fashionable Vaio laptop business and convert its TV business into a subsidiary, the Japanese electronics giant appears poised to beef up its line of mobile products, including
Read More 467 Hits 0 Ratings
Nokia and HTC bury hatchet in patent disputes 09 February 2014, 21.31 Business
Nokia and HTC bury hatchet in patent disputes
Nokia and HTC have settled their long-running patent infringement battles, which played out in several countries and have seen a handful of HTC phones banned from sale in Europe. The two companies, both major players in
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US seeks information on industry ability to hold bulk phone data
The U.S. government has asked industry for information on whether commercially available services can provide a viable alternative to the government holding bulk phone records for a program of the National Security
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Foxconn investing B in Indonesia to build factories 09 February 2014, 21.31 Business
Foxconn investing $1B in Indonesia to build factories
Manufacturing giant Foxconn Technology Group is investing US$1 billion to build factories in Indonesia, in the company’s latest step to address a major handset market in Asia. Foxconn plans to make the investment over a
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Patch times improved in 2013, security analysis reports
Software vendors have improved their response to security flaws in the last 12 months but some still take too long to patch the highest-risk vulnerabilities, figures from Swiss testing firm High-Tech Bridge have
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Pwn2Own security contest offers 5,000 in prizes 09 February 2014, 21.31 Business
Pwn2Own security contest offers $645,000 in prizes
Hewlett-Packard’s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) spelled out the rules for its March hacking contest, Pwn2Own, which will put two-thirds of a million dollars in prize money on the table for researchers who can hack the
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Verizon denies throttling Amazon's cloud, Netflix 09 February 2014, 21.31 Business
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Yahoo buys virtual worlds gaming company Cloud Party
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Toshiba completes acquisition of OCZ Storage 21 January 2014, 21.43 Business
Toshiba completes acquisition of OCZ Storage
Toshiba has completed its acquisition of OCZ Storage Solutions, a failed Silicon Valley maker of solid-state drives, the company said Tuesday. Solid-state drives are storage components built with flash memory that are
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PS4 and Xbox help AMD to a profit, but outlook disappoints
Advanced Micro Devices has reported a profit for the fourth quarter, thanks largely to the sale of its chips in the latest game consoles from Microsoft and Sony. AMD’s forecast for the current quarter seemed to
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A collection of postcards that depict India of the 1930s in Japanese woodblock style
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Image extraction can be a daunting task when dealing with complex shapes. Bad retouching can mess up your whole image, for example when you try to extract some hair to take one person out of a picture. With the tutorials shared
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Designers don’t have to design every single item they create, it would be counter-productive to think so. With the Internet giving you access to a huge quantity of design freebies, it would be even dumb to not take
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Lucis targets smart-home DIYers with its NuBryte lighting-control hub PDF Print E-mail

nubryte energy tracker

LAS VEGAS– The market for smart lighting is growing by leaps and bounds, but all too many products depend on your smartphone or tablet for control. Sometimes it’s just better to have those controls right on the wall. Lucis Technologies seems to agree with that sentiment.

Lucis describes its NuBryte product as a “smart-home lighting and safety console.” Like the Umbrela, the NuBryte replaces an existing light switch, allowing you to control the “dumb” lights in the room in which it’s installed. It’s programmable, of course, so if you install one in your bedroom, you can set it up to automatically slowly dim the lights to help you fall asleep at night and gradually brighten them in the morning to help you wake up.

Like the Nest thermostat, the NuBryte learns the household’s daily behavior patterns and will automatically begin turning lights on and off in accordance with those patterns. This feature is particularly useful when you turn on the console’s “vacation” mode, because it will illuminate the home in the same way that it would if someone was there. Burglars are much less likely to break into a house when they think someone is home.

If an intruder does enter the home, the panel will send an alert to the homeowner as an internal motion-sensitive IP camera records what’s happening. The video clips are stored in the cloud, so they can’t be destroyed or otherwise tampered with.

The impact on you: Our impressions of the NuBryte are based on a quick demo on a noisy showroom floor, and we won’t make a final judgment of this product until we’ve had time to fully evaluate its performance and capabilities. Having said that, The NuBryte suffers from the same shortcoming as the Umbrela. It’s easy to install because it replaces an existing light switch. That means you’ll need one for each room you want to control. Even at $150 per room, that could get very expensive very quickly.

Chanelle Bessette Freelance contributor, TechHive

Chanelle is a freelance contributor who writes about smart home products and connected devices. She has written for Fortune and Forbes covering business and technology.
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MSI's sweet Shadow gaming dock bundle costs as much as an old-school PC PDF Print E-mail

LAS VEGAS—As any gamer knows, the problem with a laptop is that once you’ve purchased it, you’re stuck with whatever the manufacturer included inside. MSI now has two separate products that can solve that problem.

MSI announced plans to make the GS30 Shadow laptop a couple of months ago—a bundle of a thin-and-light notebook and a massive gaming dock that can hold a full-length graphics card. And then there’s the GT80 Titan SLI, a massive notebook featuring a mechanical keyboard that’s serviceable from the top—and may or may not allow you to swap in a new CPU in a few months.

“PC gaming is constantly evolving and our new lineup of battle machines are ready to take on any challenge,” says Andy Tung, the president of MSI Pan America, in a statement. “We’ve thrown down the gauntlet with a selection of outstanding choices for every type of gamer.”

At the CES show here, MSI spelled out what gamers will have to shell out for the GS30 Shadow and dock: a flat $2,000. MSI will sell the notebook and dock as a bundle. That’s a slightly different business model than the Alienware Graphics Amplifier, a $299 external-GPU dock that’s sold separately, but only works with Alienware PCs. 

The Alienware solution uses a X4 external PCI Express GPU connector, though, while the MSI model uses a x16 PCI Express Gen 3 connection. That’s about as much bandwidth as the spec allows for, however,and shouldn’t prove to be a bottleneck. The dock also includes speakers, a 3.5-inch hard-drive bay, USB ports, ethernet, and analog jacks. The ultraportable GS30 notebook, meanwhile, measures only 0.77 inches thick, and weighs less than 2.65 lbs. What the bundle doesn’t include is a graphics card, however; you’ll have to supply your own.

Laptop keyboards tend to suck. There, we said it. Unless you opt for an external keyboard, those who feel strongly about keyboards tend to buy Lenovo ThinkPads, and older models at that. 

 

The MSI GT80 changes all that, with keyboard built around mechanical Cherry MX Brown switches. And if you want, you can even swap out a particular key for something a bit more blingy. 

Inside the GT80, however, is where things get interesting.  It’s the first gaming laptop from MSI that comes with dual Nvidia GTX 980M GPUs in SLI mode, with a top-opening hood that allows easy access to the components inside —similar to the way the trunk opens on your car.  It can also support up to 4x M.2 SATA SSDs in RAID 0, with 32GB of memory, and includes a super-efficient dual fan cooling system drawing heat from both graphics cards and processor with its 8-heat pipe design, MSI said. And there’s also 24 GB of RAM, a terabyte hard drive, and a 256GB SSD. It’s available now for $3,700.

The rumor, according to PCW’s Gordon Mah Ung, is that the laptop will eventually support a drop-in Broadwell replacement when the chips are released in several months. And wouldn’t that be a nifty upgrade?

Why this matters: We would love, love, love a future where we could take a thin-and-light notebook to work, power through some Web browsing and document creation, then take the same notebook home and plug it into an external GPU for some additional gaming. With Alienware, MSI, and The Hive all supporting something similar, could this be the year of the external GPU?

Mark Hachman Senior Editor, PCWorld Follow me on Google+

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What CES told us about this year's smartphone trends PDF Print E-mail

PCWorld News

International CES has never been a showcase for new smartphones, but it always features several interesting announcements that highlight big trends for the next 12 months, and this year was no exception.

Smartphone manufacturers are struggling to get people to upgrade because new models lack earth-shaking features. But these new devices will still offer significant improvements, including powerful processors, better screens and enhanced cameras, as seen at CES.

Lets look at what some specific makers are doing. LG isn’t giving up on the idea of curved smartphones with the launch of the G Flex2, which is curved from the top to the bottom. Interestingly, LG has decreased the screen size from 6 inches to 5.5-inches, while at the same time increasing the resolution to 1080p.

I am still not a fan of the Flex2’s curve, which is intended to make the smartphone more ergonomic and comfortable to use. However, Samsung’s Galaxy Note Edge, with its curved side, is more useful: it lets users access and see more information and features alongside the main screen.

In fact, LG’s display team showed a side-rounded screen as well, so this is a concept that seems to be catching on. The key is to come up with applications that make good use of the rounded edge, so that whatever is displayed there is helpful and not distracting.

Even though it wasn’t a trend at CES, more high-end smartphones will get screens with a 2560 by 1440 pixel resolution (also known as QHD), like the ones already available with Google’s Nexus 6 and LG’s G3.

High-resolution screens are also trickling down to cheaper smartphones. The basic model of the LTE-equipped ZenFone 2 costs US$199, but packs a 5.5-inch screen with a 1080p screen, which is impressive. It also has a 13-megapixel camera on the back and a 5-megapixel camera on the front. In general, buyers of phones that cost under $200 without a contract will get more bang for their buck this year with better screens, cameras and LTE support.

The insides of the Flex2 and the ZenFone 2 are also harbingers of what’s to come this year. The Flex2 is powered by the 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor, which is Qualcomm’s new flagship processor.

The processor will likely power many other high-end smartphones. It offers performance improvements across the board, including the ability to use faster memory and speedier LTE connections along with extensive support for 4K video with the help of the Adreno 430 GPU.

Meanwhile, the ZenFone 2 can have up to 4GB of RAM, which should help improve multitasking performance. Vendors have been slow to increase the amount RAM in their devices, but the ZenFone 2 may signal a change in this respect.

Asus is still very much a challenger in the smartphone market, and it needs something special to help it grab the interest of consumers. While it’s doing that with hardware, fellow challenger Alcatel OneTouch is doing the same with software.

The company’s new PIXI 3 family of smartphones is operating system-agnostic, and runs Android, Firefox OS or Windows Phone. The OS choice is made when buying the smartphone, as is the case with the HTC One M8, which comes with either Android or Windows Phone.

So what does all this mean for smartphone buyers? If I had bought a new high-end smartphone last year, I’d skip upgrading this year. But for people that have older products or are in the market for a cheaper smartphone, this year’s crop of products will look enticing.

By , IDG News Service

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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Sales of Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader plunge during holiday shopping season PDF Print E-mail

PCWorld News

The holiday shopping season wasn’t merry for Barnes & Noble’s Nook division, which experienced plummeting sales of the Nook e-reader as well as content and accessories for the device.

Total sales in the Nook segment, which includes devices, accessories and content, came in at US$56 million for the nine weeks through Saturday, according to figures released by the bookstore chain on Thursday. This represents a 55.4 percent decrease compared to 2013’s holiday shopping period. Device and accessory sales were down by 67.9 percent and came in at $28.5 million. Digital content sales tallied $27.4 million, a 25 percent drop from the previous year’s figure.

Barnes & Noble has struggled on the digital front, where Nook sales have proved lackluster. The company hasn’t been able to fend off Amazon’s popular Kindle e-readers and the plethora of tablets from companies like Apple, Samsung and Google that allow people to download and read books by using an app.

In December, Barnes & Noble announced that it was buying out Microsoft’s stake in the Nook division for $120 million in a cash and stock transaction. The companies entered a partnership in 2012 in which Microsoft invested $300 million to obtain a 17.6 percent stake in a newly created Nook Media subsidiary consisting of Barnes & Nobles’ digital division and college bookstores. Microsoft may have lost around US$315 million on the Nook partnership after factoring in funding guarantees and arrangements that obligated the tech heavyweight to pay Barnes & Noble to support Nook device and content development, among other stipulations.

That news of dismal Nook sales follows June’s announcement that Barnes & Noble was splitting into two companies. One would handle retail stores and online sales and the other would comprise Nook digital operations and the chain’s college bookstores. The separation should be complete by August 2015, the company has said.

Fred O'Connor Reporter, IDG News Service

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for the IDG News Service.
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Teens say they're ditching Facebook for Instagram, and fast PDF Print E-mail

Instagram

Teenage users have been drifting away from Facebook for the last few years, but now it seems they’re in a mad rush to get off the world’s largest social network.

A study by investment bank Piper Jaffray (download PDF) about teen behavior on everything from online shopping to social media use shows that Facebook is a distant third when it comes to teens’ favorite social networks.

After surveying 7,200 teenagers with an average age of 16, Piper Jaffray found that about 80% cited Instagram as their favorite social site, 65% said they like Twitter and about 40% said they use Facebook.

Tumblr was fourth with about 25% and Pinterest rounded out the top five with about 20%. Facebook rival Google+ was cited by fewer than 10% of respondents

The survey also showed a major exodus during the past six months or so: 45% this fall said they use Facebook -- a big drop from 72% who said that in the spring. (By contrast, 76% of teenagers said they use Instagram now compared to 69% in the spring.)

Bad news for Facebook

“This is very bad news for Facebook,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “Facebook substitutes, like Instagram or Snapchat, seem to pop up every year, providing teenagers an alternative where they probably won’t find their parents.”

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, agreed that the large number of older users on Facebook is driving away younger users. Kids simply don’t want to be on the same social network as their parents or the uncle they only see at Thanksgiving.

“As every parent knows, once Mom and Dad get involved in something the kids likes, that thing becomes almost instantly uncool,” said Olds.

It’s been clear that Facebook was struggling to interest younger users for a while now.

Late last year, a company executive, speaking during Facebook’s quarterly earnings call, admitted that the social network was struggling to keep teenagers’ attention. “We did see a decrease in [teenage] daily users [during the quarter], especially younger teens,” said David Ebersman, Facebook’s chief financial officer at the time. He went on to call the network’s teen user base “stable.”

Although Facebook has more than 1 billion users around the planet, losing younger users is a growing problem.

The next generation moves on

“Younger users are very fickle,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. “They are losing their seed corn. Eventually, their audience will age out and the market will see the decline as unavoidable, collapsing their stock price and company valuation. The resulting bad outlook will become a self-fulfilling prophesy as advertisers will abandon them.”

Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner, Inc. doesn’t see the situation as dire.

“While this isn’t the best news for Facebook, it’s also not a sign of impending failure either,” he said. “Facebook has and will in the future offer many types of online social experiences. Their apps and platform today is used by a very wide variety of people and businesses, and they will continue to grow as they help offline users around the world come online.”

The company, which already owns teen-favorite Instagram, has taken steps to draw those younger users back, even if it’s not directly to Facebook’s own site.

In February, Facebook bought WhatsApp, a popular mobile messaging app, and in June, it took direct aim at social competitor Snapchat by launching Slingshot, its own mobile app.

Both WhatsApp and Slingshot are aimed at the younger market.

Earlier this year, Facebook inked a deal to acquire Oculus VR Inc., a company that makes virtual reality gaming glasses. Analysts immediately noted that the company had spent $2 billion to lureback some of its lost teenage user.

While analysts are split on whether Facebook can bring younger users back and keep the ones it has, Olds doesn’t think Facebook has to to survive.

“As long as they see Instagram as being the cool place to be, that should make Facebook happy,” he added. “Plus, it gives them two strong platforms with different demographics to use for advertising. That’s a damned good position to be in. What they have is actually better than just having everyone on Facebook because if you only have one platform for all, it’s easier for a competitor to come in and steal around the edges.”

Sharon Gaudin Reporter, Computerworld Follow me on Google+

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet, social media, cloud computing and emerging technologies for Computerworld.
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Intel, Fossil team up to work on wearables PDF Print E-mail

watch

Everyone wants in on the wearables game—Motorola, Samsung, LG, and if rumors are to be believed, Apple. Not to be outdone, Intel announced a new partnership Friday with watchmaker Fossil to “further develop wearable technology for the fashion industry.”

According to the two companies, Intel and Fossil will team up “to identify, support and develop emerging trends in the wearable technology space” and “work together on emerging products and technologies that will be developed for the fashion-oriented consumer,” according to a joint press release

Presumably, the partnership will eventually result in Fossil-branded wearables (likely smartwatches) with Intel’s technology inside.

In the joint press release, Fossil and Intel put emphasis on developing fashionable wearables. A major critique of early smartwatches is that they are mini-computers first,  watches second—that the fashion aspect comes second. And if wearables are to catch on outside tech enthusiasts, they need to look like something you’ll want to wear. 

Tech companies seem to be starting to “get it”—just take a look at the round-faced Moto 360 and LG G Watch R—but there’s still plenty of work to do. For instance, many current smartwatches are not well suited for those with smaller wrists, as Joanna Stern at The Wall Street Journal points out.

But having a major fashion-driven watchmaker like Fossil on board and providing smartwatches in a variety of sizes and styles should go a long way toward helping take wearables to a more mainstream audience.

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Dreadnought preview: It's like World of Tanks and Battlestar Galactica had a baby PDF Print E-mail

heavy corvette sneak up

"Everyone always wants to be the fast ships at first. And then they die." These are the dour words of the developer watching over my shoulder as I played Dreadnought, a spaceship combat game, last week. He was right. I died almost immediately, picked out of the sky by a much larger ship as I battered ineffectively against its armor.

Here's the easiest way to describe Dreadnought—the way it was described to me, and presumably the way it was described to everyone at PAX, and it's the first thing you think of when you play the game. Remember that scene in Battlestar Galactica where the ship warps in the atmosphere? Yeah, of course you do unless you didn't watch Battlestar Galactica in which case who are you?

Dreadnought is that scene.

heavy support laser attack

A heavy support vehicle attacking a light dreadnought.

It's a spaceship combat game, as I said, but not in the way you're probably thinking. This isn't Elite: Dangerous or Star Citizen or Enemy Starfighter. In fact, it's not even really a game about dogfighting, which is pretty anathema to the last twenty or so years of space game design.

Instead think of Dreadnought like a tank game with three dimensions of movement, like World of Tanks except with spaceships in the starring role. All of the key ideas of a tank game—positioning, for instance—are important here as you glide around obstacles and try to hide until the last possible moment. The PAX map even took place in a planet's atmosphere, making it feel like massive floating tanks (though there are space maps planned for the final release).

akula dreadnought

A titular dreadnought.

There were five ships in the demo I played, ranging from a small sniper/recon ship to the titular Dreadnought, which is your Imperial Star Destroyer/Battlestar size monster of a ship. Each ship is a bundle of compromises, with small ships being more maneuverable but also frail, while larger ships move at a snail's crawl but soak up lots of damage. You can think of the ships as different "classes" from a shooter, considering one is effectively a medic, one is equipped as I mentioned with a long-range weapon, et cetera.

Plus the Dreadnought can warp short distances and it makes a big whoompf noise right before it materializes/starts kicking space-ass and is all around one of the most satisfying moves to pull off in recent history. Oh, and it shoots nukes.

nuke launch

Nuclear missle away! 

But even the smallest ship has a hefty sense of weight that says "I'm a hundred tons of metal" more than "I'm meant for zipping around the galaxy." I'm sure a more experienced player can pull off some complex maneuvers with the smaller ships, but this is not a twitchy dogfighter. It's a tactical game that relies heavily on teamwork.

I had a lot of fun with the round I played at PAX, once I got used to the slow pace. I'm definitely more interested in the space maps (which the developers tell me will feature asteroid fields and ship graveyards) than the in-atmosphere settings, though the backdrop did make for some of those incredible Battlestar Galactica-esque moments.

And hey, the game is going to be free-to-play upon release so there's really nothing stopping you from checking it out. If there's anything good to be said about free-to-play, it's that the barrier to entry is incredibly low regardless of whether the game turns out impressive.

Space. Nukes. Warping. Millions of fictional people dying in massive planetary battles. Trillions of dollars worth of damage per second. Yeah, that's Dreadnought.

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10 hilarious, brutally devious ways PC game developers punish pirates PDF Print E-mail

The Sims 4 was released this week, but some people who eagerly snatched up a copy soon found themselves perplexed by an apparent bug: The entire game eventually became blurry and pixelated, with the effect beginning as a way to obscure nude Sims and blossoming out from there. Did a major error slip through EA's playtesting?

Nope. Those blurry pixels are intentional—and they appear only if you're using an illegitimate version of The Sims 4. Yes, EA is messing with game pirates.

This isn't the first time a developer's decided to get cute with its anti-piracy measures. In fact, some of the methods game makers have used over the years to thwart pirates have been downright insane. Here are some of the craziest, most hilarious examples.

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Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba seeks up to $21 billion in US IPO PDF Print E-mail

PCWorld News

Alibaba is looking to raise as much as US$21 billion in its U.S. IPO, according to documents filed Friday, making the Chinese e-commerce company’s debut one of the largest initial public offerings in U.S. history.

Its stock will be priced between $60 and $66 per share, according to a prospectus filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. At the top of that range, if Alibaba sells just over 320 million shares as planned, it would bring in just over $21 billion. According to published reports, using the midpoint of that range Alibaba would be valued around $160 billion.

The company is expected to begin its global roadshow in New York City on Monday, when executives will meet with potential investors before moving on to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The roadshow is expected to end on Sept. 18 with the pricing of the shares, which would go on sale the following day. Alibaba will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “BABA.”

Previous IPO documents showed Alibaba sold more merchandise than eBay and Amazon combined. But instead of using its own inventory of goods, as Amazon does, Alibaba manages an online marketplace for connecting merchants with consumers. The company runs the Taobao Marketplace and Tmall, two of China’s largest online retail sites. In addition, Alibaba affiliate Alipay is China’s largest third-party online payment service.

Alibaba has sold to U.S. customers through its supplier sites AliExpress and Alibaba.com, but the company is looking to expand in this country. It recently launched a new site called 11Main, which currently acts as an invitation-only marketplace offering items from specialty shops for clothing, jewelry and the arts.

One of the company’s biggest challenges in the U.S. is that consumers don’t know the company well.

“When an Internet company of our scale that originated in China enters the global scene, you should expect that it will encounter skepticism from different directions due to differences in cultural perspectives, values and even geopolitical positioning,” said founder and executive chairman Jack Ma, in an accompanying letter to investors.

Yahoo holds roughly a 24 percent stake in Alibaba. But the Internet company will sell roughly 121 million shares in the IPO, according to the prospectus, decreasing Yahoo’s ownership to 16 percent. At $63 per share, the stock Yahoo is selling would be worth about $7.62 billion.

Alibaba was formed in 1999 as a way to help small exporters in manufacturing and trading reach global buyers.

Zach Miners , IDG News Service

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service
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Computer News Reports

New Bitcoin Foundation chief eyes crowdfunding 13 April 2015, 23.28 Computers
New Bitcoin Foundation chief eyes crowdfunding
The newly appointed head of the Bitcoin Foundation, a group that promotes development of the digital currency, believes crowdfunding is one part of the solution for its troubled finances. A one-time Morgan Stanley
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In New Zealand, a legal battle looms over streaming TV
A legal battle is taking shape in New Zealand that could result in one of the first worldwide court cases to address the legality of skirting regional restrictions on web content. Several ISPs in the country received a
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IBM's Watson Health division will incorporate patient data from Apple
The health information your Apple Watch collects could eventually end up in IBM’s Watson cloud computing platform, where medical researchers and doctors can tap it in the course of their work. On Monday, IBM launched the
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Sharp develops 4K smartphone display, undecided on manufacturing plan
Sharp has developed a 5.5-inch display with 3860 x 2160 pixel resolution, which is equivalent to “ultra high definition,” also known as 4K. The prototype LCD display, which could be used in smartphones in the future,
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RadioShack presses ahead plan for sale of customer data
RadioShack will press on with its plan to sell its customer data, despite opposition from a number of U.S. states. The company has asked a bankruptcy court for approval for a second auction of its assets, which includes the
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Windows vulnerability can compromise credentials 13 April 2015, 23.28 Computers
Windows vulnerability can compromise credentials
A vulnerability found in the late 1990s in Microsoft Windows can still be used to steal login credentials, according to a security advisory released Monday. A researcher with security vendor Cylance, Brian Wallace, found a
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#Movistar – Who Owns Your Customers Problems? 24 January 2015, 00.26 Computers
#Movistar – Who Owns Your Customers Problems?
And after 69 rather long, frustrating and somewhat infuriating days of a much anticipated wait … HABEMUS INTERNET! Yes!! You are reading it right. After nearly 2.5 months of waiting for Movistar to, finally, get their act
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#Movistar – The Only Boss You Need to Pay Attention To
Here I am, once again, incredibly frustrated and very irritated I got disconnected from the Internet last week Friday, as I blew up my monthly data allowance on my mobile phone for the zillionth time over the course of last
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Blitzkrieg 3 hands-on preview: An asynchronous war of your own making
If I were a World War II officer, I would apparently be the equivalent of that character that Ross from Friends played in Band of Brothers a.k.a. Sergeant Completely Incompetent. Friends got really dark before the end.
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North Carolina could be next in Google Fiber roll-out
Two cities in North Carolina could be the first to benefit from a planned expansion of Google’s fiber-optic Internet service. The company is holding events in Raleigh and Durham on Wednesday and Thursday next week,
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NIST pledges transparency in NSA dealings over crypto standards
A U.S. agency that develops widely used standards for encryption has pledged to be more transparent about its dealings with the National Security Agency, amid concerns the NSA undermined those standards to boost its
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California DMV changes course, reverses registration policy change for rideshare drivers
Earlier this month, some UberX drivers in Calfornia found themselves between a rock and a hard place: The state started requiring ridesharing service drivers to register their cars as commercial vehicles, but Uber in turn
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DirectX 12 just sneaked into Windows 10, but you can't use it yet
Poking around the fresh Windows 10 build last night, I found an interesting new feature that Joe Belfiore didn’t mentioned in his announcement post: DirectX 12 is already baked into the operating system. Don’t take my
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Conference calls a waste of time? In 1915, this one made history
These days, making a call across the U.S. is so easy that people often don’t even know they’re talking coast to coast. But 100 years ago Sunday, it took a hackathon, a new technology and an international exposition to
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#Movistar Killed the Web Star 08 January 2015, 00.13 Computers
#Movistar Killed the Web Star
Imagine if all of a sudden you decide to embark on an experiment where you try to figure out what it would be like to live without access to the Internet over a certain period of time not only for your day to day work, but
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#Movistar – The Cost of Lying to Your Customers 08 January 2015, 00.13 Computers
#Movistar – The Cost of Lying to Your Customers
Today is, officially, my first day at work for 2015 after the Christmas holidays. I am writing officially on purpose, because after 61 days I am still waiting for Movistar (That Queen Between that always wants to get paid,
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MSI's sweet Shadow gaming dock bundle costs as much as an old-school PC
LAS VEGAS—As any gamer knows, the problem with a laptop is that once you’ve purchased it, you’re stuck with whatever the manufacturer included inside. MSI now has two separate products that can solve that
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What CES told us about this year's smartphone trends 08 January 2015, 00.13 Computers
What CES told us about this year's smartphone trends
International CES has never been a showcase for new smartphones, but it always features several interesting announcements that highlight big trends for the next 12 months, and this year was no exception. Smartphone
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Sales of Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader plunge during holiday shopping season
The holiday shopping season wasn’t merry for Barnes & Noble’s Nook division, which experienced plummeting sales of the Nook e-reader as well as content and accessories for the device. Total sales in the Nook
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Global post-recovery Ebola campaign adds mobile app 08 January 2015, 00.13 Computers
Global post-recovery Ebola campaign adds mobile app
An interactive mobile app has been added to the West African multimedia #ISurvivedEbola campaign, one of the first global efforts at helping Ebola survivors in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea connect with each other,
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Ekin Labs says its free software can build a home-security system using hardware you already own
LAS VEGAS—You can’t swing a burglar’s bag of loot at CES without hitting some new smart-home security system. Amidst all the cameras, sensors, and touchscreen control panels, Ekin Labs’ exhibit stood out: It’s
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Lucis targets smart-home DIYers with its NuBryte lighting-control hub
LAS VEGAS– The market for smart lighting is growing by leaps and bounds, but all too many products depend on your smartphone or tablet for control. Sometimes it’s just better to have those controls right on the wall.
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2014, The Year That Was 26 December 2014, 02.50 Computers
2014, The Year That Was
And nearly four months later… I am back to blogging. Again. And for how long this time around? I just don’t know. We will have to wait and see, but, I tell you, if I were to describe what 2014 has been like so far for
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Your new PC needs these 22 free, excellent programs 26 December 2014, 02.50 Computers
Your new PC needs these 22 free, excellent programs
More than a mere blank slate, a new PC is a fresh opportunity—a collection of components that, with the right software installed, could accomplish anything from balancing your household budget to helping to cure cancer. Yes,
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Google's future phone: The modular Project Ara:   (CNN) -- Google is jumping into its next futuristic hardware project. This time it's a modular smartphone dubbed Project Ara that can be customized by swapping out individual pieces, s...
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