Dispatches

tech news

Dispatches

Our Take On Tech News

20 Bucks More To Be Prime

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Amazon is raising the price of a Prime membership to $119 a year - up from $99 - to start May 11th and on all renewals after June 15th. It's the second time Amazon has upped the Prime price - it went from $79 to $99 in 2014. Recently Jeff Bezos disclosed that there are some 100 million Prime members - mostly in the US - who get free two-day or faster shipping, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music & other benefits.

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Apple’s Air Port Is Closed

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No more Apple Air Port routers. Apple is officially discontinuing their line of Wi-Fi routers now that Wi-Fi is everywhere and so many companies are in the Wi-Fi router business. Those in stock will be sold, then that's it. The Air Port line dates back to 1999.

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Alexa Is Getting Smarter

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Amazon's Echo devices, where you speak to Alexa, are about to get smarter. Developers have told a conference in France that they are adding memory to Alexa, and you'll be able to ask follow-up questions without again prompting it by saying "Alexa." Alexa will be able to remember things you tell "her" and speak more conversationally.

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Not So Fast On 5G

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All the talk about new, faster, mobile speeds - the 5G standard - it may not be coming so fast. While some carriers are starting to roll out 5G in test areas, the hardware to use them is still in the early stages, and a market research company says 5G will not make much of a dent in the cell phone market until 2021.

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Make That The Ford Model-X For Extinct

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No more Taurus. Or Fiesta. Or Fusion. Ford says because so few of its sales now are of sedans & coupes, it's cutting back over the next few years to only two lines in North America: the Mustang and something called the Focus Active. Ford trucks & SUVs will continue to be made and Ford will be adding more hybrids and EVs to the continuing model lines.

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Welcome To The New Gmail

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Google has begun rolling out changes to Gmail - both the free personal accounts and the paid business account under G Suite. The new features include security protections, a way to quickly unsubscribe to annoying newsletters, and a Smart Reply option to answer email more quickly. The business accounts have additional security and intelligence features.

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Alexa Was Listening Too Much

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Amazon has fixed a flaw in its Echo devices - the ones with Alexa - that allowed others to tell Alexa to listen and record non-stop. Security researchers found the problem, told Amazon, and it was fixed.

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$35 Million Fine For The “Not Yahoo” For Yahoo Failures

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The Securities & Exchange Commission has fined "Yahoo" for failing to disclose for almost two years a 2014 data breach that exposed information on some 500 million users. The "Yahoo" is in quotes because the actual Yahoo was mostly sold to Verizon which left behind a holding company re-named Altaba. Verizon still faces user lawsuits because of what the "real" Yahoo did or didn't do about the hack.

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Spotify Makes Its Free Music Better

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Spotify - the music streaming service - is making it easier for "free" users, creating 15 playlists with unlimited "skips" as well as the ability to poke around on the 35 million other songs in the Spotify catalog - although the service still won't be "ad-free" unless you pay for the premium service. Spotify trying to compete better with Apple Music and Amazon's Prime Music.

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Junk In Your Trunk

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Not home to get an Amazon delivery? Can't have it sent to work? No Amazon locker or Whole Foods near you? Well, what about sending it to your parked car? That's Amazon's latest delivery option - if you have a connected car service such as GM's OnStar or Volvo On Call. The Amazon driver locates your car, an app opens the trunk, in goes the package, and the trunk is locked.

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No Copyright For A Monkey’s Selfie

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Sorry, Naruto, you don't own the copyright to the selfie you took with a British nature photographer's camera. PETA - the animal rights people - had sued on the crested macaque monkey's behalf, claiming a non-human could hold a copyright. A federal appeals court in San Francisco thinks that's bananas, ruling that neither Naruto nor PETA have legal standing to sue for the copyright. The photographer has already agreed to give 25% of the photo's earnings to animal protection charities.

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Amazon’s Home Robots

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Amazon is reportedly working on developing home robots. Bloomberg reports the secret project - code-named Vesta - hopes to place its first robots in employees' homes by the end of this year and make them available for sale next year. Not clear exactly what functions the Amazon robots will perform.

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Tech Support Scams Continue To Rise

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Microsoft says fake tech support scams were up 24% in 2017 over 2016 - with no sign they are slowing down. Those who fall for it generally lose $200 to $400 - but it can go higher. The scammers reach out by phone, browser pop-ups and phishing emails. Just remember, Microsoft and other tech companies will never call you unsolicited to report a "problem" with your tech.

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Wireless Collusion?

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Are Verizon and AT&T colluding to make it harder for wireless users to switch carriers? The Justice Department has reportedly opened an investigation into just that - with sources telling the NY Times that Justice is looking into an alleged effort to thwart eSIM technology which allows mobile users to switch carriers remotely, without the task of swapping out SIM cards.  

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2000 Charging Stations In 39 States

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The trouble with all-electric cars, of course, is that they have to be charged. No problem if you drive home every night & charge in your garage. But on longer trips away, EV car owners have to figure out where they can stop & fill 'er up. Electrify America is going to add some 2000 charging stations in the U.S. by the end of next year, stations in 17 metro areas and highways in 39 states.

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He Made 1 Million Robocalls A Day

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A Florida man is facing a $120 million fine for making 97 million robocalls - about a million a day - just between October & December of 2016. Adrian Abramovich was subpoenaed by a Senate committee which had lots of questions - not all of which he would answer - but he did say anyone could easily set up a robocall operation from home with open source programs. Abramovich said he even gets 4 or 5 robocalls a day - but just hangs up.

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Don’t “Log In With Facebook”

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You know those websites that allow you to "Log In With Facebook?" Don't. Researchers have discovered that some sites use your login to track Facebook IDs & email addresses. So far only about 400 sites were found to do this. Facebook is looking into it.

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Lyft Buying Carbon Offsets

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Almost a million-and-one-half cars drive for Lyft now and the ride-hailing service says it's going "tax" itself to offset all the emissions from those vehicles. Lyft will pay for carbon "offsets" to fund renewable energy & reforestation, among other projects. They're not saying exactly how much money that will involve.

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Google Kills Fake Ad-Blockers

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Some of the ad-blockers for Chrome were really malware - and Google has now removed them. The fakes were discovered by a legit ad-blocking company based in Moscow - one of them had 10 million installed users which created a botnet of infected browsers.

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No More Whole Foods Rewards

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Whole Foods is ending its reward program as of May 2nd - including its digital coupons - so any "rewards" customers have, need to be spent by then. It appears the Whole Foods program will just be moved into Amazon Prime - with nothing rolled over - now that Amazon owns the company.

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Amazon’s Prime Number

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There are 100 million Amazon Prime members worldwide - that disclosure from founder Jeff Bezos in his annual letter to shareholders is the first time Amazon has said how many Prime members there are. Those in the U.S. pay $99 a year for free two-day delivery on many items - one-day or same-day in some places - plus access to streaming & Prime videos and Prime Music.

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Best Buy & Amazon Are Suddenly “Besties”

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Best Buy & Amazon - rivals in selling electronics - are now teaming up to sell smart TVs with the Amazon Fire operating system built-in. Starting this summer 10 HD & 4K Fire TV Edition models from Toshiba and Best Buy's Insignia house brand will be sold exclusively at Best Buy stores & on their website. Best Buy will also be a "seller" on Amazon.

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Facebook EU Privacy Everywhere

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Starting May 25th Facebook - and other websites - have to follow strict new privacy rules in European Union countries to protect users' data. Facebook says it will not only comply in the EU, but implement the protections worldwide, although not immediately.

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Microsoft Has An Extension For Chrome

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Those extensions you can add to Google's Chrome browser to block ads, add functions, and all sorts of other things - Microsoft, of all people, now has an extension for Chrome. It is built on their Edge browser's anti-phishing protection, claiming to add more effective protection to Chrome. Microsoft's had a lot of trouble selling users on the Edge browser, running a distant 4th behind Chrome, Firefox and even the older Internet Explorer.

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Pro-Consumer FCC Commissioner Stepping Down

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One of the two Democratic members of the Federal Communications Commission - Mignon Clyburn - has resigned. Clyburn was strongly in favor of net neutrality and consumer protection regulations. Her term ended last June, but under FCC rules she could have stayed on until the end of 2018. Another Democrat will be nominated to replace her, with Republican commissioners retaining a 3-2 majority on the FCC.

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A Security Promise From Big Tech

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Dozens of high-tech companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and Cisco have signed a pledge to protect their users and NOT help any government launch a cyber attack. Microsoft's president says it's clear cybersecurity is "not just about what any single company can do but also about what we can all do together,"

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$40 Million For Calls That Weren’t Really Ringing

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T-Mobile was faking ring tones on hundreds of millions of calls to rural areas - and now it has to pay. The FCC is collecting a $40 million fine from T-Mobile, which allowed callers to think their calls were going through but the intended recipient just didn't answer.  The fake ring tones gave a misleading impression that it wasn't the carrier's fault that the calls weren't completed.

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Bank Online? Be Wary

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Research into online banking sites finds many of them are less than totally secure. Positive Technologies tested some 33 sites & apps and discovered that banking and financial institutions were "the most vulnerable" to hackers. Unfortunately, they didn't name the vulnerable sites.

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The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

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Not the 1966 movie, but here & now. A joint warning from the US Dept. of Homeland Security, the FBI and Britain's National Cyber Security Centre says that Russian hackers are attacking home routers, business firewalls and even ISPs, looking for weak passwords. The Kremlin hackers want to steal intellectual property, conduct cyber espionage, and be in place for future possible cyber attacks. The movie was a spoof - this isn't.

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Philo Is Coming To Apple TV & Amazon Fire

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Philo - an inexpensive TV streaming service - is expanding to Apple TV & Amazon Fire devices - and eventually Android. Philo is a so-called skinny service because many of the big name channels with news & sports are not available on it, but it may have channels you'd be willing to pay $16 monthly for. It's named, BTW, after TV pioneer Philo T. Farnsworth.

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Google Apps Tracking Kids?

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Researchers looking at almost 6-thousand supposedly family & kid-friendly apps available on Google's App Store says thousands may be violating the law by tracking kids on their phones. None of the suspect apps obtained the required parental consent for kids under 13.

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No More Credit Card Signatures

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Stores are going to stop asking you for your signature when you buy with a credit card. The major card issuers have agreed that with chip cards, the signature is meaningless, and is no longer required. It may take some time, though, for store systems to be modified to not ask you to sign for a purchase, and stores have the option of still requiring them.

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How Cops Can Crack Any iPhone

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There's reportedly a box - available to law enforcement - that can crack the built-in encryption code in any iPhone - allowing police to find photos, emails, text or other items that may be evidence against the phone owner. Motherboard reports police around the country are buying the Greykey, as it's called, for $15,000 to $30,000. Android devices are easier to crack because most are not encrypted, even though Google makes it possible.

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High-Definition Vinyl?

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How about high-definition vinyl? In Austrian-based company says it hopes to release such records in 2019 - and because of the way they are made with lasers creating the grooves on the stamping machines - they would have more playing time and greater fidelity while still being able to play on regular turntables.

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Android Phones Not All They’re Patched Up To Be

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Not all Android phones have all the patches Google has made available for them, but the phone makers sometimes say they do. It's what researchers at a Geman company have discovered after reverse engineering some 1200 Android phones. Google's own Pixel phones & Samsung's have the fewest missing patches.

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How Much Could You Really Make As A Lyft Driver?

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What do Lyft (or Uber), drivers really make? Not a simple question as it depends on where they drive, when they drive, and what else they do with their time. But a Lyft executive claims that nationally drivers average just under $19 an hour but more than $31 hourly in the top 25 markets. Of course, that's before their car expenses & taxes, which take an estimated $3-5 an hour out of their earnings, and number do come from someone at Lyft.

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More Unlocked Phones Being Sold

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The share of unlocked smartphones in the US - phones not bought under contract to a carrier - is rising, but stats from BayStreet Research finds most of those phones are Samsung's - especially the new Galaxy S9.

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More Rider Safety For Uber

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Uber is coming out with new safety features for riders, including a one-click ability to call 911 and send GPS coordinates. Riders will also be able to set up Trusted Contacts, so they can quickly reach out to friends or family in case of an emergency. And Uber has hired Jeh Johnson to chair its Safety Advisory Board - he's a former Secretary of Homeland Security.

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FOSTA The People

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President Trump has signed a controversial bill into law - the bill is known as FOSTA-SESTA - a combination of two bills designed to stop sex trafficking on the Internet. But opponents say it will also limit protections that voluntary sex workers have on the Internet - such as the ability to screen clients - which will make them less safe.

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Here’s Looking At Gmail

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Google is updating Gmail with a new web design - available soon for G-Suite (business) users and personal accounts as well. Google isn't ready to reveal its new "fresh, clean look" quite yet, but new features are said to include the ability to snooze emails and Smart Reply.

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Don’t Save The Seal

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No, not THAT kind of seal - the seal manufacturers put on their electronics & other parts, warning that if you break the seal you void their warranty. The Federal Trade Commission says that's illegal, as is stating that using unofficial servicers and parts ends the warranty. The FTC has warned 6 companies - unnamed - to stop saying that.

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New Deal For Spotify & Hulu

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Spotify & Hulu are joining to offer music and video for a combined price of $12.99 a month - a $5 discount over buying each separately. It's similar to a plan offered to students, but now it will be open to all. Spotify trying to compete with Amazon Prime and an upcoming TV addition to Apple Music.

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How About Digital License Plates?

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Prison inmates may have one less job skill to learn if license plates go digital. The Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai is testing out digital license plates, which in addition to displaying a vehicle's number would be able to summon help in case of an accident and display an alert if the plate or vehicle is stolen.

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Sprint & T-Mobile, Again

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For the 3rd time in 4 years, Sprint and T-Mobile are talking about a possible merger. the two cell companies came close to agreement late last year, but it all fell apart before anything could be signed.

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Better Uber App

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Uber has redesigned the app its drivers use to include a real-time earnings tracker and other features drivers have asked for. The app tells Uber drivers how much they made on their latest trip, as well as supplying feedback from their riders.

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Now Facebook Cares About Election Interference

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Facebook is going to look into how social media affect elections. Founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg continuing to try to limit the damage to Facebook's reputation after revelations about user data being taken for political advantage & foreign agents posting fake news. Zuckerberg says Facebook is funding an "independent election research commission" on social media & elections and wants to make sure this year's voting is not interfered with.

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Your Next Uber Could Be An E-Bike

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Uber has acquired Jump - an e-bike sharing start-up - for a reported $200 million. Jump bikes are pedal-assisted and come with a special lock that allows them to be secured anywhere a regular bicycle can, rather than need special bike docks to be installed. Jump already operates in San Francisco & Washington, DC and is looking to expand elsewhere.

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Apple Red 8 To Fight HIV/AIDS

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Apple's is selling special iPhone 8 and 8 Plus in red, with part of the proceeds going to the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa & elsewhere, as other Project Red products do. Apple has been participating since 2006, and had previously made the iPhone 7 & 7 Plus in red. Except for the colors, the red 8s have the same specs as "regular" versions.

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The Woz Has Left The Building

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You won't find The Woz on Facebook anymore. Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, has left Facebook and deleted all traces of ever being there. Woz says it is because of the carelessness with which Facebook - and other companies - treat users' private information.

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Not Dylan’s Back Pages

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Backpage.com - the sex ads website - has been seized by federal law enforcement and the feds have also taken action against the company founders. It comes after years of complaints that the website was used for sex trafficking minors and others, and just after new rules were passed in the US Senate about sex trafficking & exploitation on the web.

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Facebook Requiring Political Ads To Be OK’d

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Facebook is going to require any "political" ads on the social network to be "authorized" before they can be posted. It comes after all the controversy over Russian ads in the 2016 election and other mischief.  Advertisers will need to confirm their identity to Facebook or else they won't be able run electoral or political issue ads.

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Not So Sure About The Safety Of Self-Driving Vehicles

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A new poll finds Americans are now less sure of the safety of self-driving vehicles than they were a few months ago. A Morning Consult poll finds 50% of those questioned think autonomous vehicles are less safe than those with a real driver while 27% think they are more safe. In January a similar poll found 36% said self-driving vehicles were less safe, and 33% said more safe. Since then an Uber test car killed a pedestrian and a Tesla on autopilot crashed & killed the human driver.

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Fewer Apps In The Apple App Store

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There were 2.1 million apps available to users in the Apple App Store at the end of last year, but that's 5 percent fewer than the 2.2 million as the year started. A new report says it's because Apple is tightening up app requirements, including getting rid of spam apps and "clones." Google's Play Store grew last year, up 30% to 3.6 million apps.

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More Security For OneDrive & Outlook.com

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Microsoft is adding security features to its OneDrive cloud storage app, and to Outlook.com, its free email service. Many OneDrive users will be able to go back as much as 30 days to retrieve previous file versions - useful in a ransomware attack. And Outlook.com is adding advanced encryption and will prompt users about sending sensitive information such as Social Security numbers.

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Subscribe To A BMW

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Got $2,000 a month - or more - to spare? Then you can get a "subscription" from BMW that allows you to drive the car of your choice, or switch to another, as long as you keep paying. The program has started in Nashville, where two grand gets you only the "lower" tier BMWs and you need to shell out $3700 monthly for the higher performance ones.

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Facebook Data Leak Much Larger

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The number of Facebook users whose data was taken by Cambridge Analytics for political profiling has now jumped from about 50 million to 87 million. Facebook says its tightening up what data goes out, and will make it easier for users to see what third party apps get their data.

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New Facebook Fake News Tools

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Facebook is rolling out to all users new tools it's been developing to help people decide what "news" items they see posted can be trusted. Some of the information on the publisher or author will come from Wikipedia, and Facebook users will also see who of their friends have shared the story, and more from the same publisher, to help judge if the story is likely to be worthwhile.

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Even Faster Intel Laptop Chips

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Intel is announcing its fastest processors for laptops - Core i9 - its first mobile chip with 6 cores. Intel says these will run some 29% faster compared to the previous generation i7 desktop processors and as much as 88% faster than laptops with even older technology. Dell has already announced a new 15" laptop with the faster processor, starting at $999.

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Gay Dating App Was Sharing Users’ HIV Status

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Grindr - the popular social app for gay, bisexual, & transgender people - had been allowing information about its users' HIV status to be shared with two outside data companies that Grindr said helped make its app better. But BuzzFeed reported researchers found the HIV info was sent with users’ GPS data, phone ID and email, which could identify them. Grindr later announced it is stopping the sharing of HIV status to those companies.

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ESPN+ Sports Streaming Starts Soon

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ESPN+ (and they don't want us to write "ESPN Plus") officially launches April 12th at $4.99 a month for subscribers. The sports streaming service will deliver live games and on-demand programs both to ESPN.com and a new ESPN app. They're promising 180 Major League Baseball games - one a day in season - and 180 National Hockey League games. There'll be even more pro soccer and college sports, plus live PGA Tour golf and Grand Slam Tennis tournaments.

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How Do You Say “Whoops” in Russian?

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A Russian drone - supposed to demonstrate how it can deliver mailed packages to a remote village in Siberia - lifted off in a nearby city, then crashed into a building, tumbling to the ground in pieces. Russian Post said it was not responsible and one local official blamed too many Wi-Fi signals for confusing the drone.

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Faster & More Private Internet For Free

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A new way to get more privacy - and speed - on the Internet. The security company Cloudflare is promising to do both if you'll only use their DNS for accessing the web, not the DNS servers provided by your ISP. Cloudflare promises to never collect your data itself, but that doesn't mean sites you visit won't continue to do so. Enter 1.1.1.1 in your computer or phone web browser to get started.

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Another Day, Another Credit Card Data Breach

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The latest theft of credit card data is from the Saks and Lord & Taylor stores in North America, both owned by the Hudson's Bay Company of Canada. The company says millions of cards have been compromised, they don't exactly how many, but are taking "steps to contain” the damage. A hacker group called JokerStash may have been responsible for the theft.

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Huawei Not Going A-Way From U.S.A.

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Huawei - the giant Chinese telecommunications company - says it's not quitting the US market, despite openly voiced suspicions from the federal government that its equipment might be used to spy on Americans. And despite that no major American wireless carrier will sell Huawei phones, and it can't get them into major retailers. Huawei's CEO says they are committed to "earning the trust of US consumers by staying focused on delivering world-class products and innovation."

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10% Amazon Prime Discount At Whole Foods?

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Amazon is reportedly working on giving its Prime subscribers a 10% discount on Whole Foods shopping. A Whole Foods store in Austin, Texas promoted just that, offering Amazon Prime members a special discount on many sale items, in what may have been a test of the idea. Amazon bought Whole Foods last summer.

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Biggest Tesla Recall

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Just because a Tesla is very expensive doesn't mean it won't have problems needing a recall. Telsa proving that again with a recall of 123,000 Model S vehicles built before April 2016, a recall because of steering wheel bolts that may develop "excessive corrosion." Two previous Tesla recalls - for a seat belt problem or a parking brake issue - were not as large.

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Under Armour Data Breach

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About 150 million users of the MyFitnessPal service from Under Armour have had their usernames, email addresses & passwords stolen in a data breach. Under Armour says it happened in late February and is advising all users of their service to change their passwords - even though they were encrypted.

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New iOS Checks Your Battery

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Apple's released its new operating system for iPhones, called iOS 11.3. This revision allows users to check their phone's battery and see if their iPhone is being slowed down by a weak battery. You'll remember Apple got dinged for slowing phones without specifically informing users when it happened.

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More Privacy On Facebook?

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Facebook says its implementing new privacy settings - including ways you can delete your data - settings that were in the works even before the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. You'll be able to access your Facebook information and delete posts, reactions, comments or searches if you so choose.

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Faster Video Streaming

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Video streaming is about to get faster. Tech companies such as Google, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft have been working together on a new video compression technology called AV1 that uses 30 to 40% less network capacity. That means videos can be delivered to your devices more quickly using less bandwidth.

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Only One Safety Sensor On That Uber Car That Killed Womam

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The Uber vehicle that killed a woman pedestrian in Arizona had only one sensor to detect objects in the road in front of it. Reuters reports previous Uber self-driving vehicles - Ford Fusions - had seven lidar sensors but the replacement Volvo SUVs had only one, which may have created a blind spot. Other self-driving vehicles - from other companies - have five or six lidar sensors.

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Uber Ends Self-Driving Car Tests in California

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Uber is stopping all self-driving car tests in California - as well as in Pittsburgh & Toronto - after the death of a pedestrian in Arizona earlier this month, hit by a self-driving Uber with a "safety driver" behind the wheel (but caught on video not paying full attention to the road). Arizona - where self-driving vehicles were allowed to be tested with or without a safety driver, has now ordered all such testing stopped because of the pedestrian fatality.

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Firefox Blocks Facebook Tracking

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Concerned about being tracked by Facebook? Mozilla has released a new add-on for its Firefox browser that specifically blocks Facebook tracking. It's called Facebook Container. While this add-on is very specifically for Facebook, there are other anti-tracking add-ons for Firefox, Chrome & other browsers that block Facebook, Google & others from tracking you, such as Ghostery and Disconnect, among others.

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Your Taxi Could Be A Self-Driving Jaguar

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Waymo - the self-driving division of Google parent Alphabet - is going to buy 20,000 Jaguar I-Paces, a fully battery powered vehicle, and making them self-driving taxis. Waymo hopes to have them in its fleet by 2020. The Jaguars will be a compact, more luxurious ride than Waymo's other vehicles, which are Chrysler minivans and hybrids, not fully run on batteries.

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Arizona Stops Uber Self-Driving Tests

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Just over a week after an Uber self-driving car - out for a nighttime test in Tempe, Arizona - killed a pedestrian walking her bike across a road, Arizona's governor has suspended his state's wide-open permission for such cars to be tested on the streets, with or without a "safety driver."  The car in the collision did have such a driver, who was looking down & had her hands off the wheel when the pedestrian was struck & killed.

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Foxconn Buys Belkin And Linksys

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Foxconn - the name you know as the Chinese manufacturer of Apple iPhones - is buying the American electronics firm Belkin, which include the well-known Linksys brand. The purchase, by a Foxconn subsidiary for a reported $866 million, still needs the approval of the US government, which is not necessarily welcome to the idea of a Chinese company making American telecom products, for fear of using them for spying.

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FTC Probing Facebook Privacy Practices

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The Federal Trade Commission says it has opened a non-public investigation into Facebook's privacy practices after it was reported - and Facebook admitted - data on 50 million users was taken by a political analyzes firm without user permission. Facebook had signed a consent agreement in 2012 with the FTC to give users “clear and prominent notice” when their data is to be used and ask their permission.

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Get A Ford From A Vending Machine

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A vending machine that dispenses Ford? It's happening in China - at least for a month - where Alibaba, China's Amazon, teamed up with Ford to build a "vending machine" that spits out cars for trial drives. With an Alibaba account & a selfie, prospective drivers get a sedan or SUV to try to three days, before they have to return it.

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Windows 10 Twices As Secure As Windows 7

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The security firm Webroot says Windows 10 appears to be about twice as secure as Windows 7 - at least looking at the percentage of malware files its software found on machines running those Windows versions. Windows 10 is now the most used version of the Microsoft OS in the world, finally surpassing Windows 7 earlier this year, two and one-half years after it was officially released.

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Facebook Was Keeping Your Phone Call Data

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Does Facebook have a record of calls & texts you made on your Android phone? A New Zealand man downloaded his Facebook archive, and he found it contained call & text records. Facebook says if users approved their app gathering contact info from their phones a few years ago, it took it as an OK to also track calls & texts. That all stopped with a Google update in October 2017.

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MoviePass Drops Again

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MoviePass is dropping its prices - for new subscribers - again, although for an unspecified "limited time." MoviePass got some bad publicity earlier this month when its CEO bragged that its app could track users before & after they went to see a movie. They've since said it can't although it might in the future. But MoviePass needs new subscribers because of all the cash they're spending to stay in business.

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No More Personals On Craigslist

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Craigslist is dropping all personal ads from its giant classified ads website. It's in response to congressional passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) which makes websites criminally or civilly liable if they are misused by sex traffickers. Reddit - the online news & discussion site - is also removing some "subreddits" that are marketing "physical sexual contact" but also ones that sell firearms, narcotics or stolen property.

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Music Downloads? That’s So 2016

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Digital downloads of music may be becoming a thing of the past, now surpassed by two things from the past: vinyl record albums and CDs. The Recording Industry Association of America says that in 2017 music download revenues dropped 25% to $1.3 billion, while physical media sales were $1.5 billion, with vinyl up 10%. Music streaming, of course, overwhelmed both, with two-thirds of all recorded music revenues.

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Easily Hack IoT Devices

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Internet of Things devices - IoT devices such as thermostats, security cameras and more - can be easily hacked because their passwords can be found on Google. Israeli researchers discovered that just about every IoT device's default passwords are available online, and since most users don't bother to change the passwords, presto, hackers are in!

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The Default Will Be No Auto-Play

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The next edition of Google Chrome will prevent auto-play videos that have audio - by default. Google had promised that feature for January, but it has been delayed until Chrome 66 is available mid-April. Silent videos or ones with the sound already muted, will roll automatically if the site sets them to do so.

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No Huawei For Best Buy

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Best Buy - the retail electronics giant - is going to stop selling phones & tablets from Huawei - the world's largest telecommunications manufacturer. The Chinese company has already lost ties to every American mobile carrier, and federal intelligence agencies say Americans shouldn't use Huawei products, over fears of Chinese spying.

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Zuckerberg Trying to Save Face(book)

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admits there was a "breach of trust" between Facebook & its users, that it did not protect users' data as it was supposed to in what Zuckerberg said was the "Cambridge Analytica situation." He's promising new steps to protect user information after 50 million users' data was misused.

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YouTube Bans Gun Videos

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No more gun videos on YouTube, including videos about gun accessories. The new policy bans videos to sell guns & accessories, as well as tutorials on such things as how to modify semi-automatics and how to make a silencer or high capacity magazine.

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Robotic Fish

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Researchers at MIT have developed a robotic fish - a robot that looks & moves so much like an actual fish it doesn't scare off other fish as it swims around gathering information with its fish-eye lens camera. The researchers have tested it in the coral reefs near Fiji and say it's the first untethered robotic fish that can swim on its own - with commands from a repurposed game controller.

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Google Wants Better News

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Google is trying to improve the news you get. It has announced a $300 million initiative that will work on several fronts, including making sure only more "authoritative" news gets top billing in Google searches. Google is also working with Havard to watch for misinformation during elections and partnering with Stanford & others to promote news literacy among teenagers.

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Bad News For Orbitz Users

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If you've used the Orbitz travel service, your personal information may be in the hands of a hacker. Orbitz says it discovered someone broke into their "legacy" system late last year and stole records on some 880,000 customers, including bank card information, full name & address, phone numbers, email addresses & more. The info was from January 2016 to December 2017.

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Try Before You Buy

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Google's Play Store for Android apps is trying something new: trying something new. If you're interested in a game for your phone or tablet, there's now a "Try Now" choice, allowing you to try the game without installing it. For now, it's only available for a few developers and 6 games - but it may spread.

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FTC Investigating Facebook

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The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly investigating Facebook to see whether the availability of data on 50 million users to a political analytics firm violated a 2011 consent decree Facebook signed. The agreement was that Facebook would get users' consent to share private data with 3rd parties and came after Facebook had changed some user privacy settings without notification.

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A Self-Driving Uber Kills A Pedestrian

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A woman was killed in Tempe, Arizona after being hit by a self-driving Uber vehicle. Reports say the victim was crossing the street outside a crosswalk, but the Uber had a safety driver who is supposed to take over in the event of problems or emergencies. Uber has suspended self-driving tests in Arizona, San Francisco, Pittsburgh & Toronto and the NTSB is investigating.                                                              

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Microsoft Adds Accessibility

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Microsft is adding new accessibility features to Windows 10 - mostly for users with visual impairments. The most used features will be found first, such as making everything on screen bigger or brighter.  Microsoft is also improving the Narrator function- among other things.

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Walmart Gets Handy

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Walmart is teaming with Handy - the home services company - to provide in-home installation & assembly services from two-thousand Walmart stores. Amazon - Walmart's biggest headache - has its own Home Services division - and IKEA has recently teamed with TaskRabbit to help people assemble their Swedish furniture.

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Google Wants A Piece Of The Action

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Google is taking a cut of items you search for & buy on the web. Reuters reports Google has made deals with such retailers as Walmart, Target and Home Depot to list their products on Google Search and if someone buys the product, Google gets a piece of the action. It's partly because so many Google searches end up with people buying on Amazon. Google Home is competing with Amazon Echo and the retailers apparently have decided the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

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Some Robocall Restrictions Softened

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A federal appeals court in Washington, DC has ruled unanimously against a 2015 FCC rule on robocalls - in part. The part the judges didn't like was that it could affect regular calls made from smartphones. Most of the rest of the rule - to prevent auto-dialing programs from making thousands of unwanted calls - stands. Business groups - and the current FCC chair - opposed the rule, while consumer groups supported it.

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Beep, Beep. It’s Alexa

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Is Alexa turning into the Roadrunner - beeping instead of speaking? Amazon is apparently trying something new with its Echo technology, allowing the devices to "beep" in acknowledgement of some commands instead of speaking in Alexa's voice.

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Your Typing Pattern Is Your Password

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Could the way you type be a way to identify you? A company named TypingDNA thinks so and has a Chrome extension you can use to add an extra layer of identification when you visit secure websites. Their system watches HOW you type - the pattern of how long it takes you to move between keys & how long each is depressed - to authenticate that it IS you typing a name & password.

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Airbnb More Accommodating To People With Disabilities

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Airbnb has added 21 new filters to its listings, to help people with disabilities find accommodations that work for them. The filters include whether the location has elevators, wide entryways, roll-in showers, or other accessibility features. Airbnb previously listed wheelchair accessible locations, but not with specifics.

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Google Adds Wheelchair Routes

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A new feature for Google Maps - wheelchair routes. Google is rolling out the feature just in some major cities for now: New York, Boston, Mexico City, London, Toyko and Sydney. Last year Google asked users to add accessibility information to locations on its maps.

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A Robot & Water To Treat Enlarged Prostates

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BPH - benign prostatic hyperplasia or enlarged prostate - affects about half of men over 60 and almost all men over 85. A California company says it has a new way to treat BPH using a robot and a jet of water, said to have fewer side effects than the most common surgical treatment now. The company, Procept BioRobotics, has raised about $120 million to bring their method to market.

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Walmart Drone Farming

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Walmart wants to make more use of drones down on the farm. It has reportedly applied for to 6 patents on using drones to patrol farms, looking for problems, applying fertilizers & pest controls, and even cross-pollinating plants. More than half of Walmart's revenues come from groceries, and it is competing with Amazon/Whole Foods now to have the freshest food delivered.

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300 New Places To Fix Your Samsung Phone

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Samsung's entered into a partnership with uBreakiFix to be the official repair shops for Samsung Galaxy phones. There are currently 300 locations, with 200 more planned, where Samsung trained tech will be able to use Samsung tools & parts to fix the phones, and same day service is promised.  

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Former Equifax Exec Made Money On Data Hacking

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Remember when we found out Equifax had been hacked and data on some 150 million Americans stolen? And that three executives had sold stock BEFORE the public announcement of the hack? Now one of them, former US CIO Jun Ying has been charged with insider trading, for allegedly selling his company stock when he personally knew about the data breach before it was made public.

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Double The Bad Ads In One Year

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Google says it took down more than 3.2 billion bad online ads last year, double the number it blocked in 2016. 320,000 online publishers were banished for violating Google's rules. The bad ads were trying to send people to malware-infected sites, install unwanted programs, gather personal information or sell scam merchandise, among other things.

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YouTube To Fight Hoaxes With Wikipedia

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Faced with videos that go viral but spouting conspiracy theories and other hoaxes, YouTube has decided to include direct links to Wikipedia articles debunking those falsehoods, while not censoring the videos. What YouTube is not doing is changing its algorithm that makes hoax videos "viral."

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Not The Same Old Firefox

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Firefox just keeps adding improvements. Among the latest, in Release 59 available now, includes blocking annoying requests from websites to subscribe to notifications, or access your webcam, or know your location. The latest Firefox is faster too, as it tweaks its recent Quantum engine for better performance.

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Recall Of Amazon Basics Battery Packs

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Amazon is recalling more than a quarter-million of its Amazon Basics Battery Packs after reports of some of them overheating and at least one report of a chemical burn. The Consumer Product Safety Commision says owners of any of the 6 battery pack models should contact Amazon to return the units & get a full refund.

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WWW Inventor Suggests Social Media Regulations

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Tim Berners-Lee - who invented the World Wide Web 29 years ago - says regulation may be needed for social media. He says the Internet is now dominated by a few giant companies which seem to be unable to police themselves. So Berners-Lee says regulations may be needed to prevent the spread of fake news & propaganda - as well as hacking.

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Apple & Google Fall In Reputation

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An annual survey of corporate brands finds Apple & Google tumbling from the top 10 down to 29th & 28th respectively. Amazon stays the #1 brand and Tesla rocketed from #9 to #3. Also among the top five: Wegmans at #2, Chick-fil-A at #4, and Disney at #5.

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Not So Smart Phones Making A Comeback

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Feature phones are back - phones that make calls & texts and have some built-in features like Facebook or YouTube - are selling faster than smartphones - worldwide last year as opposed to only 2% growth in smartphones. Among the reasons: these "dumber" phones are less expensive and now work on faster 4G networks.

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Now Watch Your Potassium

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AliveCor's KardiaBand for Apple Watches, approved last year by the FDA to check on heart rhythms, can now monitor blood potassium, without a needle, to check for hyperkalemia, too much potassium, which can lead to kidney and heart failure. The FDA has not approved the KardiaBand for this use.

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Make Calls On Tablets With Alexa

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Amazon has announced that voice & video calling will now work from many tablet devices by using their Alexa program. This includes iPads & Android tablets as well as their own Fire tablets. The feature will be in the latest iOS & Android updates.

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3 Billion Users Can Sue Yahoo

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A federal judge in San Jose, California says Yahoo can be sued by some 3 billion users for negligence and breach of contract because of three data breaches that happened between 2013 & 2016. The lawsuit claims users were at risk of identity theft and Yahoo was too slow to let them know. Verizon now owns Yahoo and is fighting the suit.

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You Could Have Your Own HAL-9000

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HAL-9000 - the malfunctioning computer of Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey - could soon be working for you at home. Master Replicas Group has built a HAL using Amazon Echo technology and wants to get Amazon's approval for it to respond in HAL's voice, not Alexa's. Hopefully, they don't say, "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."

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Play Ball On Facebook

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Facebook now has the exclusive rights to 25 weekday afternoon Major League Baseball games - one a week starting with the Mets & Phillies on April 4th. Those games will not be shown on TV or streamed anywhere else. Facebook streamed 20 MLB games last year, but they weren't exclusive.

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It’s Not Just Bots Spreading Fake News

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Fake news spreads faster than real news - at least on Twitter. It's what a study at MIT finds, that fake news is 70% more likely to be retweeted than real news, and while bots spread fake & real news equally, it's people who retweet fake news more.

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Net Neutrality Goes To Court

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Challenges to the FCC's decision to end net neutrality are going to be heard by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. That court was selected at random by a federal panel that consolidates multiple cases. 22 state attorneys general, public interest groups, and Internet companies, among others, have filed a dozen lawsuits against the FCC on ending the 2015 net neutrality rules.

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You’re Loyal To Your Phone

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Android or iPhone? Most people have already decided and stick with what they know, at least according to a report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, which shows Android users are more loyal to that operating system than iPhone users are loyal to Apple phones. Android loyalty surpassed iPhone's in 2014 and has held steady since 2016.

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LIFE With Google

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Google has indexed millions of photographs from the archives of Life Magazine, all done by AI - artificial intelligence. Anyone can search the archive online but it appears some of the categories are pretty general, for example, there's no "Vietnam War" category - which would have thousands of photos - just a general "war" search which turns up 23,000 photos of many conflicts.

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MoviePass Backs Down

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MoviePass - whose CEO bragged that their app could track users both before & after they used it to go to a movie theatre - has modified its iOS version to remove "unused app location capability.” In other words, no more tracking users. MoviePass allows subscribers to see as many movies as they can get to, for a $9.95 monthly subscription.

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Do You Have a Right To Get Your Device Repaired?

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Do you have a right to be able to get your device repaired - and not just by the manufacturer at a high price? California has become the latest state where such a right may be written into law. It would require device makers to provide parts and instruction on how to fix their gadgets - so consumers could do it themselves or go to independent repair shops.

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An Apple Watch & $1,000 To Walk Healthy

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UnitedHealthcare is trying to give its enrollees a new incentive to exercise. It's going to start a program to send people Apple Watches for just the cost of tax & shipping, then give them up to $1,000 a year if they meet daily walking goals - as measured by the watch. Part of that money can go to buying the watch - the Series 3 starts at $329 - and the rest gets deposited in an account to help pay out-of-pocket medical costs.

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Discounted Amazon Prime For Medicaid Recepients

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Amazon is offering discounted Prime memberships to qualified Medicaid recipients. Those who qualify will get Amazon Prime - with free two-day shipping & other benefits - for $5.99 a month, $7 less than the regular monthly membership fee. Membership can be renewed annually for up to 4 years.

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Geek Squad Junior G-Men

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The Geek Squad was tipping off the FBI. New documents revealed after a Freedom of Information lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation show Geek Squad managers were paid by the feds if they found "illegal" data on computers sent in for repairs. The FBI could then get search warrants to justify their access to the devices.

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Self-Driving Uber Trucks Hauling Freight

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Uber has started using self-driving trucks to haul freight - across Arizona at least. A human driver takes the load to a transfer point, where the self-driving truck is hooked to the trailer, and with a "safety driver" in the front seat, the truck drives itself some 300 miles to another transfer station, where again a human driver takes the trailer the rest of the way. So far, the self-driving truck doesn't cross a state line nor start or finish the delivery itself.

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$20 State Fee To Watch Porn

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There's a proposal in Rhode Island to require ISPs to block porn and other "offensive material" unless a user pays a one-time $20 fee. The money would go to the state to help stop human trafficking. The bill proposed in the RI state Senate has a long way to go if it ever becomes law.

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BlackBerry Sues Facebook

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BlackBerry may have become an also-ran in smartphones, but it still has patented technology, and BlackBerry is now suing Facebook for patent infringement, claiming Facebook and its subsidiaries Instagram & WhatsApp use some capabilities in their messaging apps that were designed by BlackBerry. Facebook says it will fight the claim and that "BlackBerry is now looking to tax the innovation of others."

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MIT Off On Uber/Lyft Drivers Pay

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Last week an MIT researcher issued a preliminary paper claiming to show Uber & Lyft drivers make far less than the minimum wage after expenses, and Uber hit back, saying MIT was just plain wrong in the calculation. Now MIT admits the study may have posed some questions incorrectly, creating misleading results, the paper is being re-worked, and they are asking Uber & Lyft to make more data available. But many drivers do make less than minimum wage in their states, just not as much less than first reported.

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MoviePass Tracks You Before & After The Movie

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MoviePass - the $9.95 monthly app that allows you to see as many movies as you want in participating theatres - is also tracking you on your way to & from the movies. MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe actually bragged about it to a business group. The company says they are aiming for "a complete night out at the movies" with discounts for dining & transportation.

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Leave Poor People’s Lifeline Alone

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Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai is getting a lot of push-back on his proposal to change the federal Lifeline program, which offers a $9.25 monthly subsidy to allow low-income people to get Internet and/or phone service. Pai wants to stop allowing resellers to handle the accounts - even though 70% of Lifeline users get it through resellers. Consumer groups, state officials, conservative think tanks, and now even Verizon & Sprint are against Pai's proposal.

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HP Sanitizes Medical Computers

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You know how doctors, nurses & other medical people are now always typing into computers? Well, those computers need to get sanitized because as we've heard, keyboards are dirtier than toilet seats. HP has come out with a line of computers for health care specifically designed to be sanitized thousands of times without being damaged by germicidal wipes.

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Get A Lyft To Your Doctor

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Just a few days after Uber said it was partnering with health care providers to allow them to order rides for patients, Lyft says not only is it already doing the same, but it has a partnership with Allscripts - the electronic health records service - to allow rides to be ordered right from their software. Both companies say more than 3 million people skip medical appointment because of transportation problems.

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Google Sells Zagat

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Google is selling Zagat - the restaurant reviewer - 7 years after it bought it for $151 million. Zagat is going to The Infatuation - a restaurant review site. Google had previously made Zagat's reviews part of its Maps program.

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Amazon Taking Photos Of Package Deliveries

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Amazon has been taking photos of package deliveries in some places and making them available to customers tracking their goods. The idea is to not only to show a package has really been delivered, but also to maybe deter thieves or people who falsely claim to have never received a delivery.

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Up & Down Go AT&T Prices & Speeds

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AT&T making some changes to its phone plans, if you can figure them out. They are raising the price of some family plans by $5 a month and lowering the price of one single user plan by $10 a month while raising it by $5 for another. AT&T also making some changes to what they call "unlimited" in terms of speed & when they throttle it - you'll need a slide-rule to make sense of them.

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Real Time Translation From Alexa

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Amazon is reportedly working on making its Alexa devices capable of real time language translations. Right now Alexa and its cousins Google Assistant, Samsung Bixby & Apple Siri can translate words & short phrases, but Yahoo Finance reports Amazon wants to make full conversations immediately translatable.

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Your Doctor Can Get You An Uber

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Patients without transportation or smartphones can have their doctor's office order them an Uber to and from an appointment. Uber Health is already being used by 100 health care providers in a test, "including hospitals, clinics, rehab centers, senior care facilities, home care centers, and physical therapy centers," according to an Uber official. Apparently the health care providers will pay for the rides.

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They Got Your Driver’s License

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More bad news from Equifax. On top of the 145.5 million people whose personal information was hacked from Equifax last year, they have discovered another 2.4 million more - although only names & driver's licenses were taken not home address or other info. They were stolen in the same data breach, but not discovered until recently.

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PC Device Sales Continue to Slump

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2017 not the best year for makers of PC devices, defined as desktops, towers & laptops, as well as detachable tablets. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) the 2.7% decline from the year before was due to decreased demand for what's called legacy form factors. Not mentioned, all the young people just using their phones.

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A Phone With A Five-Day Battery

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How about a phone with a 16,000mAh battery? That's more than 4 times more than the biggest smartphone batteries - and could last up to 5 days in use - even more on standby. The phone will be branded and sold by Energizer - the battery company - later this year and run Android OS. And it won't be lightweight. Bunny not included.

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So Much For Mr. Wonderful

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In 2013, it's inventor couldn't get a good offer on Shark Tank, and now Amazon is paying a reported billion dollars for Ring, the doorbell & security camera. Ring already works with Amazon's Alexa, and the thinking is it might be used as part of the Amazon Key delivery service, the one where the driver can unlock your front door when you're not home, to leave the package inside.

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Will Net Neutrality Come Back?

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There's now a resolution in the US Senate to bring back net neutrality, which became "officially" gone just last week. All 49 Democrats plus Republican Susan Collins of Maine have signed on, but at least one more Republican is needed for the bill to pass. And of course, the House would have to agree, and the President too. So, the return of net neutrality is not too likely very soon.

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Breaking Into Any iPhone

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The latest iPhones are supposed to be very secure, but that's been a problem for law enforcement when they need to access information on a suspect's phone & the person won't give up the unlock code. Now an Israeli company says it can break into just about any iPhone, but the police need to send the phone to them, and they'll unlock & return it. They don't want to give out their method, so Apple can put in a fix to block them.

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Fully Driverless Cars OK In California

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Fully driverless cars will be on the streets in California as of April 2nd. The state giving GM, Waymo, Uber & others permission to test autonomous vehicles without a "safety driver" who can take over the wheel. The companies have to show that there's an option for remote control of the vehicles, as well as what's called a "law enforcement action plan."

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An Even Bigger iPhone X

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Apple is reportedly planning three new versions of the iPhone X - one will have a 6.5-inch display - making it phablet size - although Apple is unlikely to call it that. One of the other new phones will simply be an updated version of the current iPhone X, and the third will be a less expensive iPhone X model with an LCD screen and a less flashy body.

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CBS Shares: Free Sports Streaming

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CBS has just launched CBS Sports HQ - a 24/7 free streaming network to complement its 24/7 streaming news channel, CBSN. The service will feature CBS Sports anchors & reporters with sports news, previews, highlights and post-game analysis.

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A BlackBerry Comeback?

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BlackBerry once ruled the smartphone world and who didn't have one before the iPhone emerged & BlackBerry didn't innovate enough to keep up. Now an executive of BlackBerry Mobile, the division of Chinese maker TCL, says they hope to capture at least 3 percent of the premium phone market over the next few years. Currently, BlackBerry has less than 1 percent.

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Uber & Lyft Making Things Worse

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Ride-hailing services like Uber & Lyft said they were going to decrease traffic on city streets, as more people left their own vehicles behind to ride with the services. But a report out of Boston shows just the opposite, that people are leaving mass transit behind and calling for a car instead, adding to more congestion on city streets. And the same is true in reports out of New York, San Francisco and 5 other cities.

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No Surprise: Here Is The Samsung S9

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In almost an anti-climax - because news about them has been leaking for months - Samsung's officially announced its new Galaxy S9 smartphones: the S9 and the somewhat larger S9+. At first look, they are updated versions of the S8 line of last year, with faster processors, better cameras and social media apps to lure your kids. The Samsung S9s go on sale March 16 with "pre-sales" starting March 2. $720 and $840, respectively, unlocked, available from all major cell carriers, plus Amazon, Costco, Best Buy, Target & Walmart. Guess they hope to sell a lot of them.

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Worries About Tech Addiction

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Worried about your kids & grandkids becoming addicted to their tech devices? You're not alone. Almost half the parents surveyed by the nonprofit Common Sense and SurveyMonkey say they are worried about it and their kids' mental health because of it. About a third of the adults are concerned that they are addicted to tech too.

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Smartwatch Sales Making Time

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Smartwatch sales are taking off, at least so says research firm CCS Insight. The Apple Watch is leading the way, but Google Android Wear watches are not doing so well. Apple is said to be on track to eventually sell more watches than traditional Swiss watchmakers.

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First Taxis, Now Buses Are Being “Ubered”

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Uber is officially rolling out a new way to catch a ride, Uber Express Pool. So when you call for an Uber, instead of the car meeting you, you have to walk to a "stop" where the vehicle is going to pick up other riders going your way. Then it will drop you off near your destination and you'll walk the rest of the way. Sort of like taking the bus.

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AT&T Starts Rolling Out 5G

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AT&T is promising to have 5G cell service in a dozen cities by the end of the year starting with Dallas, Atlanta & Waco, Texas. The faster network will, of course, require new phones capable of using it, some due out next year. Verizon, Sprint & T-Mobile are also working on 5G roll-outs in the next two years.

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Talk With Your Nest

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Google's Nest IQ indoor security camera has a new feature - you can talk to it as a Google Assistant. So it'll act just like other Assistant devices - answering questions, controlling other smart devices, and other things. You still need a subscription to store any videos Nest records, but Google is offering a lower price tier for that.

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Google Pay Has Arrived

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Google Pay is here, the new app replacing Google Wallet & Android Pay, and setting up a more focused challenge to Apple Pay. Google is rolling out the new app to Android phones, and it will be coming to Chrome & Google's Assistant as well.

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Swype Left

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Swype - a popular keyboard app for Android & iPhone - is being discontinued.  Swype allowed users to "swipe" across the keyboard with one finger and "type" by lifting the finger for chosen letters - a fast way to write a quick note once you got the hang of it. The company that bought Swype 7 years ago says it is leaving it behind to concentrate on business programs.

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Amazon Prime 5% Rewards At Whole Foods

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Who didn't see this coming: Amazon, which bought Whole Foods last year, now says Amazon Prime members using their Prime Rewards Visa card at the stores, will earn 5% rewards, just as they do shopping on Amazon. Non-Prime members with just a "plain" Amazon Rewards Visa card will get 3% back.

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Eye Scan For Heart Disease

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A way to assess your risk of heart disease by scanning your eye. A research paper from Google's health-tech subsidiary Verily claims that a deep scan of the back of a person's eye can predict - through artificial intelligence - their risk of suffering a heart attack or other major cardiovascular event.

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Solar On Every Roof?

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How much electricity could be generated if every suitable roof in the US had solar panels? New research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates all those solar panels would create about 40% of the country's electricity needs. obviously more in some states than others, and that doesn't count those big "solar farms" some utilities & businesses have or are building.

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Google Makes 911 Easier to Find You

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Google has been testing a way to make it more accurate to find callers who dial 911 from their Android phones. In tests in two states, Google's system located most callers within about 121 feet, while cell phone carriers could only give a radius of about 522 feet. Google's location data also came in faster.

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No More “View Image” For Google

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Ever searched for an image on Google, then clicked "View Image" to see it alone? Well, no more, because Google has eliminated that choice as part of a settlement with Getty Images, the stock photo company. Seems Getty complained that its copyrighted images were being downloaded by Google users without paying for them, and "View Image" made that too easy.

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Live Breaking TV News On Twitter

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Twitter has started to live stream breaking news events, something users saw for the first time during the Florida school shooting. Twitter sent live video from Miami's WSVN 7 to the timelines of users in the US. Twitter says its entering into partnerships with local TV stations to do the same for other breaking news being discussed on their site.

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Warnings On Chinese Smartphones

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US intelligence officials are warning against the purchase & use of Chinese brand smartphones - specifically those made by Huawei & ZTE. They've told Congress it's dangerous to allow possible spying equipment onto the US telecommunications systems. Huawei is pushing back, saying their phones are no more a risk than any other makers'.

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YouTube TV To Cost More

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YouTube TV is upping its price from $35 to $40, starting with new customers who sign up in mid-March. Along with the price increase come added channels, including the NBA, Major League Baseball, Time Warner & Turner (CNN, TNT & TBS). Google thinks the sports channels will draw more users to YouTube TV, which is competing with a half dozen subscription services, and Google's service is reportedly in last place.

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Block Ads But Make Money

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Salon.com has a new idea - you can visit their news site and block ads - if you allow them to "borrow" some of your computer's power to mine cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. You get an ad-free site, while they try to make money and not the old-fashioned way. Salon says the mining operation is safe, but it can use a lot of your processor power.

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Apple Taking More Of A Bite Of Health Care

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Apple says it's going to be getting more involved in health care. CEO Tim Cook saying so to Apple's annual shareholders' meeting, that the company is going to take a more consumer-oriented approach to health care as it moves ahead. Google & Amazon are getting into the health care space as well, either alone or with new partners.

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Gmail Getting AMPed Up

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Google announcing a coming new feature of Gmail, AMP, which stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, a technology that will both speed up Gmail and make it messages more interactive. Rather than just click on a link inside an email, you'll be able to interact with the email's contents, such as accept an invitation or answer a questionnaire. You won't see these new email immediately, as Google has just released the specs to developers.

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It Is Your Father’s Facebook

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All those old friends you have on Facebook - there's a reason they're there and not your kids or grandkids. Younger users are dropping - or not signing up for - Facebook, in droves. Snapchat and Instagram - if you've heard of them - are the cool apps for those under 25. Facebook is still the biggest social network and still growing, and besides, it owns Instagram too.

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Beefing Up Windows 7 and 8.1 Security

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Microsoft is upgrading security on Windows 7 and 8.1 computers starting this summer. They will make available for those older operating systems Windows Defender ATP (Advanced Threat Protection) which has previously only been available for Window 10. Defender ATP is cloud-based and goes to work after other defenses have allowed malware into a computer, so users can figure out what to do.

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Don’t Blink, Amazon Bought The Company

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Amazon's quietly bought Blink, a maker of small home security cameras, according to Reuters. What Amazon reportedly really wants is Blink's technology that runs the little cameras on long-lasting batteries, technology that could be incorporated into Amazon devices, such as the Echo and Cloud Cam.

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Verizon To Lock All Phones

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Verizon is going to start locking down all its smartphones, saying it's a way to deter theft. Right now, when you buy a phone from Verizon, you can switch to another carrier by swapping the SIM card, but Verizon says that also allows thieves to grab phones when they are shipped and switch carriers to sell the phones on the black market. Supposedly the phone will be unlocked after you purchase it.

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Palm Reading Windows 10

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Open your computer by palm reading? No fortune-teller required, but Microsoft is teaming with Fujitsu to allow Windows 10 Hello to work with a biometric read of the veins in a user's palm. You would just hover your hand over Fujitsu's PalmSecure sensors in the keyboard - no touch, no password. It's said to be much harder to copy the unique veins than your fingerprints.

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Google And Uber Kiss & Make Up

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Uber and Waymo - the self-driving car division of Alphabet, Google's parent company - have suddenly settled a contentious lawsuit. Waymo had sued Uber claiming a former engineer took trade secrets with him when he left for Uber. Uber is going to ensure that none of Waymo technology is used in their vehicles and is making a relatively small payment to Alphabet. A Waymo spokesman says, "we are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology."

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Amazon’s Delivery Business

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Amazon's going into the delivery business, reportedly starting soon in Los Angeles and expanding from there. Amazon now partners with UPS for most of its Prime deliveries and uses FedEx and the Postal Service as well. The new Amazon service would be picking up from third-party sellers for delivery to buyers, which has not been as reliable as shipments direct from Amazon's warehouses.

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Amazon Echo & Google Home Users Want An Apple HomePod

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This is weird: half of all Google Home voice-assistant owners, and almost as many owners of Amazon Echo devices, are interested in purchasing Apple's new HomePod. Those are higher percentages than owners of Macs, iPhones & iPads who are likely to buy a HomePod. OK Google, ask Alexa to invite Siri over.

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This Website Is Not “Not Secure”

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If you're reading this in Chrome you can see that our website is rated "Secure" but starting in July with the release is Chrome 68, Google is going to put "Not Secure" next to the name of sites that are not using encryption. Google said one day it was going to make encryption necessary for Chrome, which is the #1 browser with more than half the worldwide share of use. Safari is #2, at barely 15%.

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Any Fitness Watch Can Detect Early Diabetes

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Can your watch detect early signs of diabetes? A study by the health startup Cardiogram and the University of California San Francisco says it can, helped by artificial intelligence. Millions of people have undetected diabetes, and this method does not use glucose monitoring, but rather is based on heart rate variability as studied by a neural network known as DeepHeart. The Cardiogram app can be downloaded for both iPhone and Android watches.

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Amazon To Make Whole Foods Deliveries

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Amazon is adding its Prime Now two-hour deliveries to orders from Whole Foods - which it bought last year. For now, the service will be available in only 4 places: Austin, Dallas, Virginia Beach, and Cincinnati, but Amazon plans to expand over time. Orders over $35 are delivered free to Prime members and can be made on the Prime Now website or mobile app.

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Your Smart TV Could Be Hacked

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Consumer Reports has been testing smart TVs and streaming devices and is warning that some Samsung TVs and Roku devices, as well as other TVs using the built-in Roku platform, are vulnerable to hackers. They could change channels, control the volume, or stream content you might find offensive. CR says all the smart TVs it tested raised privacy concerns about data collection.

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Scammers Jamming Chrome

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Those phony tech support pop-ups in your browser? Malwarebytes says it has found a new scam that starts to download thousands of files using Chrome and claiming you need "tech support" to stop it. Using a good anti-virus product can help prevent this, as can an ad-blocker.

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Take Out A Loan To Buy an iPhone?

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Don't have $999 in your pocket to buy an iPhone X? Apple is reportedly talking with Goldman Sachs - yes the Wall Street investment firm - to set up a program where you could take out a loan from them to purchase an iPhone X. Apple hasn't sold as many of the $999 phones as it expected to.

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Amazon Removes Phone Ads

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Amazon is removing the lock-screen ads from its discounted "Prime Exclusive" phones. The change will apply not only to new phones being sold, but a fix will be sent to previously sold phones to stop lock-screen ads. Amazon is not just being altruistic, because Google is now banning such ads on Android phones, and the price of the Prime Exclusive phones is going up $20.

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A Lot Of New iPhone Batteries

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Apple says there's a “strong demand” for iPhone batteries to replace the failing ones on older devices, especially since it lowered the price to $29 after complaints that older phones were being deliberately slowed down. Apple wrote a letter to a Senate committee investigating the slowdowns and is still facing at least 50 proposed class action lawsuits. It's also considering a rebate to those who paid full price for replacement batteries.

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New Chrome Ad-Blocker Not Blocking Much

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Google touted a new ad-blocker it has built into Chrome as stopping bad third-party ads. Turns out, according to Axios, only 1% of publishers are affected by the ad-blocker although 20% of Chrome users' feedback is about annoying or unwanted ads and people hit Google's "mute this ad" feature more than 5 billion times last year.

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Worse Than Bad Grammar

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If you use Grammarly - as we do - to fix our misteaks [sic] when writing on the Internet, your documents and other data may have been exposed to hackers. Grammarly has now fixed a security hole in its Chrome extension after a researcher found the problem and let them know about it.

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Can’t Answer Calls On $999 iPhone X

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How'd you feel if you bought a $999 iPhone X and you couldn't answer phone calls on it? Well, apparently a lot of people are feeling that way, complaining to Apple that the touchscreen won't allow them to answer some incoming calls before they go to voicemail. Apple's looking into this "feature."

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Apple Music vs. Spotify

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Apple Music - the paid subscription service - is growing so fast it may become larger than Spotify in the US by the summer. The Wall Street Journal reports Apple Music is growing by 5% a month, thanks in part to the fact that the app comes pre-loaded on iPhones, Macs and other Apple devices. Worldwide, though, Spotify is in no danger of losing its #1 spot.

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Google Cleans Up Its Play Store

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Google says it removed 700,000 apps from its Play Store last year as malicious or misleading. That's 70% more apps removed in 2017 than in 2016, meaning malware makers are trying harder to get into billions of Android phones with bad apps.

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Way? No Huawei For Verizon

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First it was AT&T, and now Verizon is reportedly not going to directly sell phones from one of China's biggest makers, Huawei (pronounced Wah-way). The federal government discouraging the carriers from selling the phones, fearing they'd be used for Chinese spying. But if you buy the phones independently, for now they will still work on all carriers' networks.

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Way? No, Waymo

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Google's Waymo division - and yes we know they're both really part of parent company Alphabet - has ordered thousands of Chrysler Pacifica minivans hoping to start a driverless ride-hailing service later this year. Waymo already owns a few hundred of the minivans and has been testing them on public roads since November.

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More Local News On Facebook

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Facebook's going to show users more local news in their news feeds. The change announced by Mark Zuckerberg after all the criticism Facebook is, er, facing, for all the fake news spread by the Russians during the 2016 election. Facebook previously announced it would give priority to friends and quality news sources, as it tries to not be blamed for false information, clickbait and other bad content.

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Disabling Intel’s Bad Spectre Fix

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The Intel chip vulnerabilities revealed recently - Intel & computer makers have issued fixes for the Meltdown & Spectre bugs, but it turns out the one for Spectre can cause other problems including PC reboots. So Microsoft has issued a patch to kill the Intel Spectre fix, but you have to download & install it manually, from here.

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Doctor Google

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Are you one of those people who Googles medical symptoms & tells your physician what you found? Most docs don't like that, but they may like what Google is experimenting with, an artificial intelligence system that may be able to predict the medical outcomes of hospital patients. Google took "de-identified" data from more than 200,000 patients at hospitals in San Francisco & Chicago and claims it can predict - among other things -  patient deaths 24 to 48 hours in advance, giving physicians time to intervene.

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A Secure, National 5G Network

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A national, secure 5G network, what Axios.com is reporting the Trump administration is considering as a way to thwart Chinese hackers. A memo from a senior National Security Council official outlines two ways to do it: a 5G network built by the federal government and leased to various US carriers, or creating a consortium of the carriers to build the 5G network together. But the White House & FCC now say the memo is old and they are not considering a national 5G network.

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Here’s A Bulletin From Google…

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A Bulletin from Google - that's the name, Bulletin, of a new local news app & service Google is trying out. The stories would come from anyone, right from an app on their phone. Google is testing the service in Nashville & Oakland, asking people to post "hyper-local" stories about their communities.

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If You Can’t Fix It, They Can’t Sell It

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Expensive to repair electronic gear? Washington state has an answer. Starting next January, it will be illegal to sell electronics in Washington that are difficult to repair. The bill makes it against the law to sell any device whose design or manufacture "prevent reasonable diagnostic or repair functions by an independent repair provider." Other states are also considering making electronic repairs easier.

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Google To Allow You to Mute More Ads

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Visit an online store and then have ads for that store or products you looked at pop up as you search for other sites, or use Gmail or YouTube? Google thinks that's annoying too, and is going to roll-out additional controls to its Mute This Ad program to prevent ads from following you around. That's in addition to some ad-blocking it's adding to Chrome soon.

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Beware Of Those Self-Driving Slippers

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OK, this is going to seem ridiculous, but Nissan has developed "self-driving" slippers that will park themselves at the entrance to a traditional Japanese inn, for guests to use. Not only slippers, but in some rooms floor cushions & low tables will also "drive" themselves into place using tiny wheels & an electric motor. A Nissan spokesman tells Reuters “the self-parking slippers are meant to raise awareness of automated driving technologies, and their potential, non-driving applications.”

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New York State Follows Montana On Net Neutrality

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New York has become the second state to defy the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, by requiring any Internet service provider doing business with the state to comply with net neutrality. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing the executive order, following Montana's lead of two days earlier. It remains to be seen if these executive orders will hold up legally.

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Turn Off iPhone Slowdowns

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The next release of the iPhone operating system - iOS 11.3 - will allow users to turn off the "feature" that slowed down older iPhone when their batteries weakened. iPhone users will get a recommendation to have the battery replaced and decide whether or not to slow the phone down. The new OS due in the spring.

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AT&T Wants Net Neutrality Back – And More

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AT&T is asking Congress to restore net neutrality - and write new laws governing the Internet. It's that second part you should pay attention to because AT&T wants laws that would limit the FCC’s ability to regulate the Internet, such as making rulings on rates.

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Better Late Than Never For Apple HomePod

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Apple's finally taking orders for its HomePod, the voice-assistant speaker it hopes will rival Amazon's Echo and Google's Assistant devices. HomePod was supposed to be available for the 2017 holiday season, but Apple delayed it for unspecified technical reasons. The smart speaker is also intended to boost Apple Music because it won't play Spotify, as the Amazon & Google devices do.

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One Waking Day On The Internet – Every Week

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17.6 hours a week on the Internet - and that's just at home! The finding from the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future which has been surveying Americans' Internet use since 2000, when it registered 3.3 hours a week. Now it's about a full day's worth of time awake, if you sleep 6.4 hours a night!

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Net Neutrality For Montana

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Many states have talked about it, but Montana's governor is the first to do something about it - restore net neutrality to his state, despite the FCC's decision to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules nationwide. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock signed an executive order requiring any ISP doing business with the state to honor net neutrality for all customers in Montana. That executive order may get around the FCC's gotcha provision, which says net neutrality cannot be reinstated by any state law.

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Firefox Is Getting Faster

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Mozilla says the next release of its Firefox browser will be even faster than the latest one currently available, known as Quantum. Firefox 58, due out next week, will use what's known as "streaming compilation" which allows WebAssembly code - as it's called - to be downloaded AND compiled in parallel, so things pop faster on your screen.

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Amazon Opens First Automated Grocery Store To Public

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Seattle shoppers can now go to Amazon Go - an automated grocery store with no checkout lines or cash registers. Sensors & cameras will monitor what each person takes off the shelves - and out of the store - and charge it all to the person's on-file credit card. Amazon has been testing the store since late 2016, but only Amazon employees were allowed to shop there until now.

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You Will Be Able To Talk To Alexa On Android

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Amazon is updating its Alexa app on Android phones, so you'll soon be able to actually give it voice commands - IF the app is open. Until now the Alexa app was only good to adjust some Alexa tasks manually. Alexa voice command will be available on iPhones at a later date.

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Amazon Increases Prime Price – Or Not

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Amazon is raising the monthly price of its Prime service by $2 a month - but for those who pay annually, the price for Amazon Prime stays the same, at $99. Paying monthly will now be $12.99,or $155.88 for a whole year. Prime includes free two-day shipping on many items, as well as video-streaming.

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$48,000 For A Camera

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Would you pay $48,000 for a camera? Even if it had a resolution of 400 megapixels?? Well, Hasselblad's new H6D-400c camera isn't for you anyway. The very high-res camera is meant for digital archivists and macro photographers, both of whom need as much detail as possible for their work.

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Worries About Self-Driving Cars

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Americans are split about the safety of self-driving cars - but united in worrying about the risks the cars could be hacked. A Morning Consult survey of more than 2-thousand adults found 67% somewhat or very concerned about cyber threats to autonomous vehicles. As to whether self-driving cars are safer than cars driven by humans, about 1/3 of those asked thought they were somewhat or much safer, and just slightly more thought self-driving cars are somewhat or much less safe than human drivers.

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Now There’s A Working Patch For AMD Chip Windows 10 Computers

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Users of Microsoft Windows 10 with AMD processors in their computers can now safely update them for the Meltdown & Spectre chip vulnerabilities. Microsoft releasing updated patches because the ones released previously made some of the AMD powered machines unbootable. But some anti-virus products still block installation of the chip updates.

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Computers Just A Little Slower After Intel Security Patches

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The security patches issued by Intel, Microsoft, Apple and others because of the Meltdown & Spectre chip vulnerabilities, PCMag.com says its tests show the performance hit on the computers they tested were so small, most users won't notice the difference.

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Miss Amazon America

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Amazon - looking for a second city to be a headquarters in addition to Seattle - announcing 20 finalists. They range from Los Angeles to New York; Atlanta to Newark, NJ; Austin to Nashville; and even Washington, DC and Toronto, Canada. Amazon says a final decision will be made this year. No word whether a city will be named Miss Congeniality.

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iPhone Throttling To Be User Option

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The iPhone "feature" that has led to Apple apologizing, some lawsuits, and even questions in Congress, is going to be user controllable. Apple CEO Tim Cook now says that in an upcoming iOS release, users will be able to turn off performance throttling, which Apple activates - it says - to help with degraded older iPhone batteries. Previously, Apple just offered replacement batteries at a greatly reduced price.

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What Facebook, Twitter & Google Are Doing About “Fake News”

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The social media giants - Facebook, Twitter & Google's YouTube - testifying before a Senate committee, say they have learned how they helped spread Russian "fake news" & propaganda during the 2016 elections, and are working to make sure it doesn't happen in 2018. Twitter even said it's “working to identify and inform individually” its users who got tweets in the last presidential election that came from the Russians in disguise.

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Apple Also Is Going To Build A Second US Campus

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Apple's joining Amazon in looking to build a second office campus somewhere in the US, likely setting off a fresh round of cities and states offering money and tax breaks to another company worth close to a trillion dollars on its own. Apple also says it'll pay $38 billion in a one-time tax payment for all the cash it holds overseas, invest in new data centers, and add 20,000 employees over the next 5 years.

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AI Can Tell If You’re Having A Heart Attack

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Emergency dispatchers in Copenhagen, Denmark have new help in quickly determining if a caller is having a heart attack - an artificial intelligence (AI) system that has proved to be 95% accurate in deciding if a caller is in cardiac arrest, at least in a small study. The system listens to a caller's speech & breathing patterns. Human dispatchers can tell the same with about 73% accuracy. What also works: yelling into the phone, "I'm having a heart attack!"

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An App To Help You Stop Looking At Apps

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Spend too much time looking at your phone? Millions do & there's a new app designed to help you not look at your phone so much. It's called Thrive and is now available in both the Android & iOS app stores. In one mode will block all notifications, calls, texts & apps for a time period you specify, and it can also set a time limit for specific apps. The idea is to give you back more of your non-digital life.

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They’re Even Tracking Your Footsteps

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Is there no privacy anymore? A Milwaukee company is selling "floor sensors" to stores that can track your unique foot compressions as you walk around, see what interests you, what displays or shelves you stop at. Of course, that's in addition to the cameras & other sensors tracking you as you shop. The floor sensors can also be used in nursing homes to monitor patients' falls, but most buyers of the service are retail stores.

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Lyft Got A Lift Last Year

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2017 was a very good year for Lyft. The ride-hailing service increased rides by 130 percent over 2016. Lyft is still small compared to rival Uber, but Uber's had a year full of scandals & lawsuits, which Lyft has not.

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A BlackBerry For Connected Cars

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No it's not a smartphone, BlackBerry got out of the smartphone hardware business a while back, but they are still a software company that knows a lot about security, and their latest is a security product for autonomous and connected cars. Called Jarvis, it looks at all the code of every system built into the vehicles, trying to find exploitable vulnerabilities. Having a self-driving or connected car hacked is a big worry to those making & those riding in such vehicles.

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Ford Goes Electric

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Ford is going to have 40 hybrid & all-electric vehicles in its model line-up within the next four years - spending $11-billion to make it happen. The promise coming from chairman Bill Ford at the Detroit Auto Show, who says “we’re all in on this and we’re taking our mainstream vehicles, our most iconic vehicles, and we’re electrifying them.” GM, Toyota & Volkswagen among the other automakers promising a slew of electric vehicles in the next few years.

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No Chinese, Please

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Chinese-made telecommunications equipment - such as cell phones, tablets and routers - made by the companies Huawei & ZTE would be banned from use by the US government or firms it contracts with, under a bill introduced by Texas Republican Mike Conaway. He says he's concerned that those devices, or devices made from parts from those companies, could be used to spy on Americans. Huawei is the world's largest telecom company and denies it's a threat. AT&T recently backed down on offering a new Huawei phone to its customers.

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More From Your Real Friends On Facebook

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Facebook is going to start showing users more posts from friends & family, and fewer from businesses and the news media. CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the idea is to increase “meaningful interactions” that social media is designed for, and decrease “passive consumption of low-quality content." The change comes as Facebook is under fire for pushing inflammatory and often misleading content that tried to influence the 2016 elections.

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GM Wants A Car Without A Driver’s Seat

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No driver's seat, because there's no driver. General Motors is asking the federal government to approve a self-driving car built without any manual controls for the "driver" - no steering wheel or pedals - just another passenger seat where the driver used to sit. The GM Cruise AV would go into production in 2019, able to open the doors for passengers and make other accommodations for visually or hearing impaired riders.

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Intel CEO Promises Transparency Over Processor Flaws

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Intel CEO Brian Krzanich hasn't exactly apologized for the processor flaws that would allow hackers to get your personal information on computers, phones & tablets, but he is now promising the company will be more "transparent" going forward about security problems with its products. Krzanich says 90% of the Intel chips of the past 5 years should be patched for the Spectre and Meltdown problems by January 15th, and the rest by month's end.

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What Famous Portrait Do You Look Like?

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There's a free app that can try to figure out if you look like a famous portrait - at least famous enough to be in a museum. The Google Arts & Culture app already allows searching for images in over 1-thousand museums, but now it can also search by a selfie for a portrait that looks most like you.

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Factory Attack By Smartphone

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Could a hacker take down an entire factory with a smartphone? Two researchers say yes, it may be possible, now that many factories use mobile devices to monitor machinery & processes. Flaws in those programs could be exploited by hackers, and they found 147 vulnerabilities in 34 such apps, chosen at random from the Google Play Store.

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Just What We Need: In-Car Ads

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Think you're being marketed to all the time? Just wait until carmakers start installing a new dashboard system to show you advertisements while you're driving, ads based on where you're driving or where you usually go, or whatever metrics they have on you. The company behind the idea says people will opt-in for the ads because they'll get other services, such as wireless data, "free."

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Senator Wants Apple Answers On iPhone Slowdowns

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South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune has some questions for Apple over those slowdowns in older iPhones. Thune is chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and he wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking why Apple didn't offer free - not discounted - replacement batteries for those older iPhones and why wasn't Apple more transparent about the slowdowns. Apple's also being sued in at least 3 states over this issue.

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Local News From Facebook

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Facebook is testing out providing more "local news" in users' news feeds. The test is in 6 cities: New Orleans; Little Rock, Arkansas; Binghamton, New York; Olympia, Washington; Billings, Montana; and Peoria, Illinois. Both artificial intelligence and humans will provide the news stories.

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A Vote On Net Neutrality

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The US Senate is going to have to vote on net neutrality. The magic number to force a vote is 30, and that's been reached, so there will be a vote on a resolution to roll back the FCC's repeal of net neutrality. It's another question whether 51 Senators will vote to do so, and yet another on what the House will do. And President Trump is likely to veto it should Congress pass it. But net neutrality proponents will have made their political point.

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What Do You Get Merging Android Pay & Google Wallet?

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Android Pay and Google Wallet - two ways to pay from Google - now being merged into one, called, imaginatively, Google Pay. So there'll be just one way to use your Google account to pay via mobile, web, or retail - that is if you don't want to just use your credit card.

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Apple vs. Spectre

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Apple has released a new version of iOS - the operating system for iPhones & iPads - to prevent the so-called Spectre bug from getting through Apple's Safari browser. Apple previously announced patches for Macs, Apple TV & Apple Watch. Spectre is one of two chip flaws in Intel processors publicly disclosed last week.

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Internet Biggies To Sue For Net Neutrality

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The Internet Association - the trade group representing Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix and many other tech companies - has announced that it is going to sue the Federal Communications Commission for repealing the net neutrality rules instituted in 2015. The group says the repeal "defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open Internet."

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Ready To Talk To Your Toilet?

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It's not just a toilet you could be talking with, but everything in the bathroom, if you go for Kohler's new Internet-connected bathroom. The toilet, shower and sink can all be controlled by voice commands that you give the Alexa connected mirror. Apple & Google voice assistants will work too. "Mirror, mirror on the wall..." oh, nevermind.

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Turning Down The Ringing In Your Ears

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Tinnitus - the medical term for ringing in your ears - is more common as we age, often a precursor of hearing loss. There are treatments but no real "cures" although researchers at the University of Michigan think they have a possibly more effective treatment. It involves a small box that plays a sound into a person's ears alternated with mild electrical pulses. Done for 30 minutes daily for 4 weeks, it reduced tinnitus loudness in many patients & some even said the ringing was completely gone.

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Intel CEO Cashed Out $25-Million After Learning Of Chip Flaws

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The security flaws in Intel chips? Intel learned about them from Google "months ago" - but after that - and before the flaws were publicly disclosed - Intel CEO Brian Krzanich sold off all but $250,000 worth of his Intel stock, worth almost $25-million. Intel stock took a big tumble on word of the flaws, and the amount Krzanich kept was the minimum he was contractually obligated to hold onto as CEO. Intel denies he did anything wrong.

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A Ban On Drunken Droning – You Read That Right

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New Jersey may become the first state to ban drunken droning - that is - controlling a flying drone while inebriated or otherwise impaired. The NJ bill would also ban flying drones over prisons or to chase wildlife. Some 38 states are considering their own drone laws, as sales of personal drones topped 3 million last year.

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Mark Zuckerberg’s New Years Resolutions

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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says his personal goals for the new year all involve fixing Facebook. In - what else - a Facebook post, Zuckerberg says they have to work on important problems, such as "protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, [and] making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent.”  

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Every Computer Chip Has A Security Flaw

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Every computer processor chip in just about every computer, laptop, phone, server & other devices have - and have long had - at least one security flaw that would let a hacker get into the computer's memory to steal information such as passwords. The two flaws discovered by Alphabet (Google's parent) and academic researchers in chips by Intel, AMD & ARM. Apple & Microsoft, among others, are already patching the flaws.

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You’re Not Addicted To Your Phone

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Are you addicted to your phone? Maybe your spouse thinks so, but not two behavioral scientists at Stanford University. They tested students behavior when told not to pick up their phones, right in front of them, or had the phones completely taken away. The students all got fidgety and had trouble sitting there alone. But researchers say it's not addiction, just that people need "external stimulation" and something to do.

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Will Apple Buy Netflix?

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Apple may buy Netflix - at least that's what some Citi Group analysts are saying - that with Apple's stockpile of cash and the new tax laws there's a 40% chance Apple will buy the video streaming service since it hasn't exactly been lucky trying to create streaming programming on its own. Apple has about $250 billion in cash just sitting around and would need only about a third of that to take over Netflix.

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Goodbye to Paperless Voting

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What seemed like a good idea - paperless voting - turned out to be a security nightmare as experts discovered the machines could be hacked and there was no "paper trail" to prove the vote counts correct or not. Now there's a bipartisan bill introduced in the US Senate that would give states money to replace paperless machines with ones that scan a paper ballot, so if a recount is needed, there's something to count. The Secure Elections Act would also encourage a routine audit of all voting, not just a recount for a close election.

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2017 Was Prime For Amazon

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Amazon says 2017 was a very good year for Prime. For the first time, the company is revealing Amazon Prime sales figures and says it shipped more than 5 billion items worldwide to subscribers. The best selling items were Amazon's own Fire TV Stick and Echo Dot.

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Well, At Least It Doesn’t Catch On Fire

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Problems with Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 battery - no, it doesn't catch on fire as the Note 7 did - but it seems some of the phones' batteries are giving their owners problems such as they won't turn on ever again if the battery completely runs down & is trying to be recharged. Samsung acknowledging the problem but not offering any fix yet.

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Forever 21 Hacked For Credit Card Data

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Shop at any of Forever 21's more than 700 retail stores? Your credit card information may have been stolen because for at least 7 months in 2017 - April to November - hackers had access to the stores' point of sale (POS) systems - what used to be called cash registers. In many stores, the POS system was not even encrypted and in others, hackers planted malware to collect credit card data.

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Would You Buy Steve Jobs Jeans?

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Seems unbelievable, but Apple never trademarked Steve Jobs name, so an Italian clothing company did and now has won a court case over its right to use his name - in a modified "Apple" logo - on jeans & other clothes and even electronics!

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Apple Decides Not to Be Rotten

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Faced with complaints and lawsuits because it admitted slowing older iPhones as their batteries aged, Apple has apologized and will drastically cut the price on out-of-warranty battery replacements for iPhone 6 or later, from $79 to $29. And it's adding a feature to show when a phone battery is deteriorating. “We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down," the company apology says.

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How Your Email Address Gets Stolen

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Ever wonder how some companies know your email address, even though you've never communicated with them? Princeton researchers have discovered a way that at least two marketing firms are using your web browser's "auto-fill" feature to capture your email address, which of course can then be used or sold. The companies say they are not doing anything wrong and are following privacy rules.

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The Ad Blocker Wars Continue

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Use an ad-blocker in your web browser? Millions do, trying to avoid annoying ads, but the ads are how many sites make money, so they have a stake in fighting ad blockers. New research from two universities finds almost one-third of the top 10,000 sites are detecting and in many cases working around ad blockers. The ad block app writers, of course, are working to get around the workarounds.

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Hacking Your Wireless Speakers

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Some wireless speakers from Sonos and Bose can be hacked to play any audio the hackers want, even voice commands for an Alexa device. Researchers at Trend Micro have found that the Sonos Play:1, the Sonos One and the Bose SoundTouch systems are all vulnerable.

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A Few Feet Of Wireless Charging

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The Federal Communications Commission has given its OK to a wireless charging system that can work with devices up to 3 feet away from a base station. The system is made by Energous and needed FCC approval because it uses radio frequency (RF) energy to charge phones, smartwatches and other devices built to receive RF energy. Not for sale yet but maybe sometime in 2018.

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Redbox Gets Universal

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Redbox - the kiosk service where you can rent movie DVDs - has a new deal with Universal Pictures to make those disks (Blu-ray or regular DVD) available at its more than 40,000 kiosks the same day they go on retail sale, starting in January. And the videos will be available on Redbox's video-on-demand service as well. Redbox already has same-day deals with Sony & Lionsgate, and movies from Warner Bros. & 20th Century Fox are available 7 days after home video release.

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Your Tweets May No Longer Be Archived

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The Library of Congress, which has been archiving everyone's Twitter tweets, is going to stop that as of 2018 and only archive tweets that it finds to be significant, such as on public policy. It was in 2010 that the Library was given all tweets since 2006 & started collecting new ones for its archives.

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Pick-Up A Tesla In 2019

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Tesla is going to make a pickup truck sometime in 2019. Founder Elon Musk says he's been thinking about making an all-electric pickup for 5 years and will do it right after Tesla rolls out their crossover Model Y in mid-2019.

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A Holiday Gift From Edward Snowden

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Edward Snowden, the former NSA computer specialist who is a hero to some & a traitor to others, has a holiday gift for all: a free Android app that can be used to detect physical tampering with a phone, laptop or other devices. Designed for investigative journalists & other at risk of surveillance, the Haven app can also be used for home security or even a baby monitor!

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Thumbs Down On Repealing Net Neutrality 2 to 1.

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The FCC's 3 to 2 partisan vote to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules remains unpopular with American voters. A Morning Consult/Politico poll finds 45% of registered voters say the FCC was wrong in that vote, while only 21% say it was the right thing to do.

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Apple Slows Down And Gets Sued

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For iPhone users who thought their phones were slowing down as they got older, Apple has now confirmed it's true, they DO deliberately slow the processors on the 5,6 and some iPhone 7 models, to help the aging batteries cope. Now there's going to be a lawsuit, contending Apple is slowing down older phones to get people to replace them with newer ones.

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$16,000 For Home Internet

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Why people hate cable companies, part 6,687,354: a family in Michigan, moving to a new house, double-checked with Charter/Spectrum that service was available there, even got an appointment for an installation, but just before the installer was to show up, surprise, a call saying the new house was too far away from the road and Charter wanted $16,000 to make the connection! Long story short, the family got municipal wireless broadband, after installing an antenna for less than a tenth of Charter's demanded price.

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No More Non-Amazon Music On Amazon Music

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If you uploaded music to your free or paid Amazon Music account - you may need to remove it or make sure it's stored somewhere else safe. Amazon says it will be ending the ability to upload & play 250 songs for free in about a year and even paid subscribers - who could store a quarter-million tunes - will have less access to music they've uploaded from non-Amazon sources.

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Facebook vs. Fake News

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Facebook is changing its strategy on "fake news" posts. It had been flagging such stories with a red icon, but that didn't seem to help. So now Facebook will try something different, placing a "real news" story under the fake one so users can fact-check for themselves.

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Companies Are Using Age-Targeted Facebook Ads To Weed Out Older Job-Seekers

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Over 50 and looking for a job? You may never see it advertised on Facebook because dozens of companies use age-targeted ads on Facebook when it comes to seeking employees. It's what an investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times has found - a practice that may violate federal age discrimination laws. One attorney calls it “blatantly unlawful,” but Facebook says used "used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice."

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Do You Have One Of 2017’s Worst Passwords?

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Is your password 123456? Congratulations, you have the perennially worst password of the year, #1 in the annual list compiled by Splashdata. Coming in at #2: password.  And new for this year: Starwars, ranked #16 worst. Our personal favorite is #4: querty (see photo above!).

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Sorry, Uber, You’re A Taxi Service

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Uber says it's just an app, but the European Union says it's a taxi service - and can be regulated like one. The decision comes from the EU's top court after a complaint from taxi drivers in Spain that Uber used non-professional drivers giving the service an unfair advantage.

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Here Comes Chrome’s Own Ad Blocker

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As promised, Google Chrome is going to block some ads - the ones it finds "unacceptable" such as running a video with sound or an ad with a "countdown." The new blocker will start February 15th, so Google is giving advertisers plenty of time to clean up their acts. If just one "unacceptable" is found on a site, ALL of its ads will be blocked.

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Playing Tag With Facebook

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Facebook is making it easier to find out when someone uploads a photo with you in it. Facebook is offering an optional facial recognition feature that will let you know if your face is posted, giving you the option to tag it or not, or ask the person who uploaded it to remove it. It's also a way to prevent people from impersonating you on Facebook.

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Tech Firms Help Block North Korea Cyber Attacks

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Homeland Security says Facebook & Microsoft helped stop North Korean cyber attacks - Facebook by taking down accounts & Microsoft by patching its software. The US says North Korea was behind a series of WannaCry attacks on hospitals & other facilities back in May.

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UPS Orders The Most Tesla Semis

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UPS has put in an advance reservation for 125 Tesla Semi trucks - the largest pre-order so far for the electric vehicles that won't be available until 2019. It's a drop in the bucket for a fleet of 108,000 UPS vehicles, 8500 of which already use alternative fuels. The previous largest Semi pre-order was from Pepsi, for 100 of them.

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Kaspersky Sues Trump

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Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab is suing the Trump administration over new rules that prevent federal government agencies - civilian & military - from using Kaspersky products, claiming they could be used by Russian spies. Kaspersky says it was denied due process and a chance to show its products are safe.

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Facebook Will “Bait” You Less

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Facebook is cracking down on what it calls "engagement bait" - posts from "friends" trying to get you to click on "spammy" posts usually advertising something.

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Volkswagen Will Charge You Up

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Volkswagen is going to install some 2800 electric vehicle charging stations in 17 American cities by June 2019. It's part of their penance for cheating on diesel emissions tests on some of their vehicles.

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No More FM Radio

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No more FM radio? Well, no more FM radio in Norway. It has become the first country to shut off the switch on all FM broadcasts, moving to digital audio broadcasting, which requires less power. DAB is used alongside FM in several European countries, and some are readying to turn off FM as well. DAB is not used in the US, and so far, no plans to change that.

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More Videos – And Ads – On Facebook

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Facebook is stepping up its competition with YouTube on its "Watch" platform. Not only will there be more & longer videos, there'll be so-called pre-roll ads - those ads you have to watch first before the video you want to see.

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Net Neutrality Ends But Now Come The Lawsuits

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The Federal Communications Commission - as expected - has voted on party lines 3-2 to end the net neutrality rules first implemented during the Obama administration. That despite protests & polls, and pleas from members of Congress & tech companies gigantic and small to keep the rules in place. Now comes the announcement of the first lawsuit of what's expected to be several, this one to be filed by New York's attorney general, who hopes as many as 18 other states to join in.

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Maybe A Truce For Amazon With Apple & Google

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Amazon is once again going to sell Apple TV & Google Chromecast products, likely calling a truce to back & forth squabbling among the three tech giants. Google had lately pulled YouTube from Amazon's Alexa offerings while Apple & Amazon had reached agreement on putting Amazon Prime Video on Apple TV a few weeks ago.

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Say “OK Google” To Your Older Phone

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Thinking about upgrading your Android phone so you can get Google Assistant? Well, if you have a phone with Android OS 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher, now you don't need to. Google is making the assistant available on many of those phones and not just those with 6.0 (Marshmallow) or higher. OK, Google!

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15 Seconds Gets You Free Pandora

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Pandora - the streaming music service fighting for its life against Spotify & other competitors - will now allow you to use their $10 monthly service for "free" - if you'll watch a 15-second ad. It works like this: when you search for a specific song or album available only to Pandora Premium users, you'll be asked if you want to sign up for the $10 service, or watch the short ad and listen to music free - at least for a while.

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Read By The Light Of The Plant

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MIT engineers have come up with plants that glow in the dark, and one day may be bright enough to substitute for reading lights. The chemical engineers embedded nanoparticles into a watercress plant, which made the leaves glow for almost 4 hours. Not quite bright enough to a replace a desk lamp, but they're working on it.

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Computer Student Pleads Guilty

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A Rutgers University computer student has pleaded guilty to creating a botnet in 2016 that temporarily degraded or took down hundreds of sites, including Twitter & the Play Station network. He faces up to 5 years in prison but will likely get less for cooperating with investigators. Two co-conspirators have now been identified.

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T-Mobile In TV Business

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T-Mobile is going to start offering a pay TV service next year. The company has bought a TV tech firm & intends to start its own streaming & online video service at what it says will be a lower cost than other services. No word on exactly what content T-Mobile will have.

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Hacking DirecTV

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DirecTV can be hacked. A Trend Micro researcher says the problem is in the wireless bridge supplied by Linksys to DirecTV users which has no password protection. Anyone with access to the wireless signal could get information on laptops, phones & anything else connected to it. Linksys says it has a fix for the problem and has told DirecTV, but no word on when they'll implement it.

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Register That Drone

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Owners of private drones 55 pounds and under will have to register them. The rule reinstated as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, just signed into law. A 2015 Federal Aviation Administration rule requiring registration for drone owners was shot down in May because a court ruled that the FAA didn't have the authority to make the rule itself.

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Ex-Facebook Exec Says Social Media Confuses Truth & Popularity

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A former executive of Facebook says social media is eroding the social fabric. On CNBC, Chamath Palihapitiya, now a venture capitalist, explained that it's become easy to confuse truth with popularity. He says that just by spending money on social media you can "get people to believe what is popular is now truthful and what is not popular may not be truthful." Facebook pushing back, saying Palihapitiya has not worked there in more than 6 years and that since then it has grown and "we have realized how our responsibilities have grown too."

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Your Pepsi May Be Delivered By A Tesla

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A $100,000 Tesla is not going to pull up in your driveway, but PepsiCo is ordering 100 of Tesla's new electric Semi trucks - the largest early order so far for a rig that won't be in production until 2019. Pepsi is looking to reduce emissions & fuel costs, but 100 Teslas would be only 1 percent of Pepsi's big rig fleet.

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Clap On, Clap Off. Again?

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No, it's not called The Clapper - which you can still buy BTW, but a new little smiley-faced thing is coming out called Clapboss that lets you control various devices by clapping your hands. And not just on & off for whatever is plugged into it, but up to 6 different clap patterns to control different devices. That sound - it's our one hand clapping.

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You Didn’t Watch Quite As Much Netflix This Year

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Netflix says its subscribers collectively watched a billion hours on the service every week in 2017 - with the average user watching some 470 hours for the year. That is, however, somewhat fewer Netflix hours per user than a couple of years ago, although there are more subscribers. The reason: people now spend more time on HBO Go, Amazon and Hulu - all with their own original content, movies and TV repeats.

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Shazam! Apples Buys It

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Apple's bought Shazam. If you never heard of it, Shazam is a smartphone app which can identify music you hear playing, say on a radio, telling you what the tune's name is and who recorded it. Apple is spending millions to own the app, as a way to build up Apple Music, which is not as popular as Spotify.

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Watch The NFL On Any Phone

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The NFL and Verizon have made a new deal allowing pro football games to be streamed on any smartphone, Verizon or not. Currently, you have to be a Verizon customer with the NFL app to live stream the games. But as of January, you can use any carrier's phone, as long as you do it using Verizon's Oath properties such as Yahoo Sports, Yahoo and AOL.

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Ford Likes Hybrids Over EVs For Self-Driving Cars

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Ford says hybrids are better than all-electric vehicles when it comes to self-driving cars. Their top sales executive tells Automotive News that Ford is aiming to have an all-new hybrid autonomous vehicle ready by 2021. Jim Farley says hybrids beat EVs because they don't need to be recharged regularly. Rival GM is testing self-driving Bolts, which are EVs.

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Another Security Problem For HP Laptops

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Another problem for HP laptop users - a possible keylogger has been found in the touchpad software, although it's turned off by default. Trouble is, a simple registry change turns it back on. It was reportedly installed as a debugging tool, then disabled but not removed. HP has issued a patch to fix the problem.

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Name Your Own Price Ransomware

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Any victim of ransomware knows the drill. The pirates lock up your files with encryption and demand hundreds in Bitcoin - or thousands if they struck a big company or agency - and you either pay or try to reconstruct your data from backups. Here's a new tactic. These pirates ask you to email them with how much you'd be willing to pay to get your data back, and negotiate!

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Airlines Dumbfounded By Smart Luggage

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Major US airlines are concerned about the batteries in so-called smart luggage - bags that can charge phones, track their location and even lock & unlock remotely. So they are insisting the lithium-ion batteries be removed before such bags are checked - not possible with some models - in rules to take effect next month. The airlines are worried about the batteries' fire hazard in planes' cargo holds.

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Pet Door Facial Recognition

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Microsoft has apparently developed the technology to use facial recognition for pet doors - so your cat can come in and various rodents or other 4-legged trespassers are locked out. Microsoft's not selling the device, just showing how it could work. Others are showing how it could be fooled.

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No So Fast On Delivery Bots

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San Francisco limiting the use of delivery bots - 6 wheeled boxes that drive themselves on sidewalks & crosswalks to deliver products from stores to people. They are still being tested, but the SF Board of Supervisors now limiting them to 3 each for 3 companies testing them, and will only allow their use in less populated, industrial areas.

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Living With His Mom, 20 Year Old Stole Uber Data of 57 Million People

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A 20-year-old man, living with his mother in a small Florida house, was reportedly the person who managed to steal the data of 57 million Uber users & drivers in October 2016. Reuters reports he was paid $100,000 to delete the data & keep quiet about it - a deal Uber arranged through a company that pays "bug bounties" to hackers who find faults in software code, payments that rarely exceed $10,000. That company & Uber know the man's identity and made sure his computer was scrubbed clean of all the stolen data. Two Uber executives were fired for the payment & the cover-up.

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Amazon & Apple Finally Agree On TV

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Amazon Prime video will now be available to watch on Apple TV after the companies reached an agreement that's eluded Amazon & Google. Google is yanking YouTube videos from Amazon devices and Amazon won't sell Google Home devices.

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Sue Me Sue You Search Engines

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A few weeks ago, Mozilla changed Firefox's default search engine back to Google, after years of it being Yahoo. Now Oath, the name Verizon gave its merged Yahoo-AOL subsidiary, is suing Mozilla claiming breach of contract. And Mozilla is suing back, saying the switch was allowed under their deal with Yahoo. Of course, you can choose your own default search engine for any browser, although most people stick with what it comes with.

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Amazon And Google Can’t Stop Fighting

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No more YouTube on Amazon Fire TV or Echo Show. Google pulling the plug as part of its ongoing fight with Amazon, which won't sell Google products such as Chromecast or Google Home on its shopping site. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime Video isn't viewable on Google devices. The loser in all this: you, of course.

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GM Wants You To Shop While Driving

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Just what we need - more distracted driving. General Motors announcing e-commerce technology built into new cars dashboard screens, so drivers can order food, fuel or hotel rooms even while driving. Let me say that again: even while driving!  Of course, some people already shop on their phones while driving, but this just makes it "easier."

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Virtual Keyboard Leaked 31 Million Users’ Data

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A popular virtual keyboard app for Android phones turns out to have been completely insecure, allowing the leak of data from some 31 million users: full name, email address, and location, and users of the free version of ai.type also exposed their device's IMSI and IMEI number, make & model, and in some cases their Google profiles. The data has reportedly now been secured.

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Unlocked iPhone X

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Got a thousand bucks to spend on a new phone? Now you can buy the iPhone X - starting price $999 with 64 GB of storage - right on Apple's website and not locked for any carrier.  Previously the X was sold only by the carriers, meaning you had to make a deal with them. Unlocked you only need a SIM card - GSM or CDMA - from the carrier of your choice (one of the budget ones so you can afford the phone?) and insert it in your new iPhone X.

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Delay Net Neutrality Roll-Back

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New York's attorney general and more than two dozen Democratic Senators are asking that the Federal Communications Commission delay the scheduled December 14th vote on net neutrality, which is widely expected to be 3 to 2 (Republicans to Democrats) to repeal the 2015 rules. The delay wanted because a study has shown many of the millions of public comments on net neutrality were fake or from duplicate addresses. The FCC chairman says he won't delay the vote.

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Google Going to Stop Bad Apps

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Google is giving app makers two months notice that if their Android app is spying on users or otherwise deviates from Google's Unwanted Software policy, Google will block the app even if it's not distributed through Play Store. And it will display a warning to users that the app is unsafe.

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Will Your New Phone Be A Palm Reader?

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No, it won't tell your fortune but it might recover your password - at least that's what a Samsung patent proposes, that lost passwords on a smartphone could be recovered by the user taking a picture of his/her palm, and give the user enough of a clue to remember the phone's password. Hmm, I see you taking a long voyage...

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New Fake Tech Support Scam

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There's yet another new tech support scam going around - this one reportedly puts up a phony Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) on a Windows computer and a "troubleshooter" offering a "Windows Defender Essentials" fix for $25. Pay & the screen unlocks. There's a way to trick the malware into unlocking without paying - keep reading below.

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This Drone Will Self-Destruct In 10 Seconds

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Remember the old Mission Impossible TV show, where the leader of the I.M. force would get a voice message of what they were to do, and the recording would "self-destruct" in 10 seconds? Well, Amazon now has a patent for any drone to self-destruct - maybe not so dramatically - but there'll be a "fragmentation controller" that if something goes wrong with the delivery drone, it would take itself apart in mid-air so what fell to Earth would be in small pieces, less likely to cause harm.

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Alexa At The Office

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Amazon says its Echo devices - better known by the voice assistant Alexa's name - are ready to go to work in the office, as well as in homes. Amazon is going to allow businesses to license Alexa devices at $7 a month per device so they can allow employees to join conference calls, arrange meetings, and of course order from Amazon, among other tasks.

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A Fix For Chrome Crashes

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Google is going to do something about Chrome crashing in Windows - next July. Google says 3rd party "injections" into its browser - such as for anti-virus programs - are the likely cause of many crashes, so starting in July 2018 Chrome 68 will begin blocking those 3rd party programs that don't use Chrome extensions.

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5G Verizon For The Home

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Verizon says it's going to start rolling out 5G wireless service - intended for home users - in a few markets starting in the middle of 2018. The service is intended to replace copper or fiber cabling, which is expensive to run on streets to reach homes and apartment buildings. Verizon says the 5G service will not be capped the way they - and other cell carriers - limit 4G speeds.

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Waze Will Now Listen To You

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Waze - the popular navigation app - has added voice activation - as well as support for motorcycles and HOV lanes. With the updated app you can say "Ok Waze" to get it to listen for other voice commands such as "drive to work" or "report an accident."  Before the update, users had to tap a microphone icon on their phones before giving Waze a voice command, causing driver distraction.

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Fake Emails To The FCC About Net Neutrality

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With the Federal Communications Commission set to vote on December 14th on whether to rollback rules on net neutrality - and a 3-2 vote to do so is just about guaranteed - an analysis of the 21.7 million public comments submitted to the FCC from April to August finds more than half were from temporary or duplicate email addresses and many contained false information. Pew Research Center doesn't say which side - for or against net neutrality had the most fakes - but that the seven most-submitted [identical] comments - six of which argued against net neutrality regulations - comprised 38 percent of all the submissions over the four-month comment period.

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A Good Reason For Cord-Cutting

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Thinking about cutting the cord to your cable company? Many more people are dropping cable in favor of streaming services and over-the-air HD broadcasts, and now people who buy the Plex DVR have another reason to clip the cord. The Plex device is said to be able to automatically detect and delete commercials in any programs it records.

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YouTube’s Kids’ Problem

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YouTube says it has killed tens of thousands of channels, removed ads from millions of videos, and terminated hundreds of accounts, because of inappropriate material aimed at children. It's also removing search results that point to videos about adults having sex with children.

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HP’s Installing Spyware On Your Laptop

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There are reports from several sources that HP has been automatically installing a new "Touchpoint Manager" - ostensibly for laptop touchpads - that sends "telemetry" information back to HP, without asking for your consent. That makes it spyware. HP's website says it is for "lifecycle management" whatever that means.

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Stop Using Your Phone In Bed

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Checking your phone just before going to sleep - and soon after you wake up - turns out to be something a lot of people do. New research finds 14% of people check their phones immediately before going to sleep and 50% do so within 15 minutes of bedtime.  16% of people check their phones immediately on waking up and 62% within 15 minutes. (I plead guilty on both counts!)

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Microsoft Office On Chromebooks

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Google's popular Chromebooks are getting something from Microsoft - Office365. Until now, only the online versions of Office apps, such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint, have been available for Chromebooks. But Microsoft is now going to sell the Android tablet version of its office suite to Chromebook users, for $7 monthly.

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Would You Accept A Substitute?

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Many people seem addicted to their phones, so Austrian designer Klemens Schillinger has come up with a "substitute," a phone shaped device with beads on it, so people can pick it up and feel as if they are scrolling through messages. It's supposed to be a therapeutic device to help phone addicts with their withdrawal symptoms.

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Cyber Monday Appeal On Net Neutrality

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More than 200 companies - including Airbnb, Twitter and Pinterest - have signed a letter this Cyber Monday urging FCC chair Ajit Pai to not go through with the planned rollback of net neutrality rules. The companies say an open Internet is in the interest of both businesses and consumers. The FCC vote is scheduled for December 14th.

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Making Roads For E-Bikes

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BMW and a German-founded Chinese university are working on designing e-bike only roads, with artificial intelligence controlling the traffic flow. These roads - above regular vehicle rods - more like to be built in Asia & Eurioe, where bikes are seen as a normal - not alternative - mode of transportation.

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Did Russian Trolls Show You Propaganda On Facebook?

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Under pressure from Congress, Facebook is going to make public a tool its users can employ to see if they followed or liked Russian trolls on Facebook or Instagram during the 2016 election. Facebook has already admitted that at least 29 million users directly saw propaganda produced by Russian troll farms during the primaries & presidential election and 140 million may have seen the same material shared by friends.

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Facebook Still Allows Discrimination In Housing Ads

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Facebook is still allowing housing ads to discriminate against black people, Spanish-speakers, wheelchair users, Jews, mothers with high school age children, and others, despite stating that it will enforce non-discrimination in ads for housing, employment and credit. The finding in an investigation by Pro Publica, an independent, non-profit media investigation journalism group.

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Uber Paid Hush Money To Hackers Who Stole Data On 57 Million People

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Uber paid hackers $100,000 to keep quiet and delete stolen information - names, email addresses & phone numbers - of some 57 million Uber users and drivers - information stolen in a previously undisclosed October 2016 hack. Uber has now admitted all this - which it was supposed to tell regulators more than a year ago - and fired its chief security officer & one of his deputies for organizing the cover-up.

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Goodbye Net Neutrality

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The Republican-led Federal Communications Commission is going to repeal the net neutrality rules - meaning Internet providers will be able to charge more and even block some websites that compete with the ISP's content. Google, Facebook & other major tech firms opposed the repeal, but the big carriers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast insisted the net neutrality rules hurt their business.  A formal vote is expected December 14th.

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Don’t Get Sick In A Self-Driving Car

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Uber is worried about passengers getting motion sickness in self-driving cars - like the ones they plan on adding to their ride-hailing service. When you're not in control - or see no one who is - the risks of motion sickness rise because of unexpected movement. So Uber is working on various ways, including lights, air & vibrating seats, to make riders more at ease.

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Your Android Phone Is Always Tracking You

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Even if you turn "location services" off on an Android phone, as long as it's connected to the Internet it is reporting back to Google where it is. It's reportedly true even when there's no SIM card in the phone and no apps are installed. Google says it was using the info to push notifications - but will stop.

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How Lazy Are You?

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IHOP - the International House of Pancakes chain - now has nationwide to-go online ordering and is testing deliveries in some cities in 5 states. By the end of the year, IHOP plans to have its own app as well as deliveries through two services - although it's not clear if that will be available everywhere, so you might just have to go to an IHOP to get your pancakes - imagine that.

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Your Self-Driving Uber May Be A Volvo

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Uber is reportedly buying as many as 24-thousand self-driving cars from Volvo. The cars are not yet built and the deal is non-exclusive, but it continues a relationship between the two companies going back several years. The Volvos will be XC90 SUVs which sell for around $50,000.

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You Can Buy A Tesla For $45

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OK, it's not a Tesla car, but it is made by Tesla, a battery to recharge your phone or tablet. It uses the same battery as in their vehicles, although just one not many, and it's only $45. But already sold out - for now.

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Santa Won’t Bring You An Apple HomePod

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No Apple HomePod for Christmas - or any holiday before 2018. Apple is delaying the release of its competitor to the Amazon Echo and Google Home until early next year, saying it needs "a little more time before it's ready for our customers."

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FCC Allows Blocking Robocalls

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Say goodbye to many robocalls. The Federal Communications Commission has given phone companies the official OK to block certain types of calls most associated with illegal robocallers. Among them: calls from legit numbers whose subscribers don't want others spoofing their CallerID; calls from numbers that cannot make outgoing calls; and calls from numbers or area codes that don't exist. No word on how soon the phone companies will get this all in place.

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Your Television Will Be Watching You

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You're going to trade pictures for privacy because the Federal Communications Commission - with only the Republican members voting yes - has approved technology that will improve the picture on TV sets and mobile phones, but also give broadcasters information about where you are and what you're watching. For now, the new technology is voluntary for broadcasters.

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“Free” Hulu

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Sprint is going to offer its Unlimited Freedom customers "free" Hulu - but the one that has some commercials along with the programs. It comes after T-Mobile bundled free Netflix with certain phone plans and AT&T offers HBO. Sprint will eventually offer its unlimited customers access to Hulu's commercial-free service, but not for free, just at a discount.

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Amazon Prme Discounts At Whole Foods

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Whole Foods - now wholly owned by Amazon - is cutting prices for Thanksgiving turkeys BUT Amazon Prime member will get the birds at even lower prices. It's just a preview of what's in store for Prime members as Amazon gets more involved in Whole Foods pricing.

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Google Maps Makeover

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Google Maps wants to make it easier for you to find what you're looking for - and is adding specific color-coding and new icons to various places of interest.  For instance, shopping locations will be bright blue, health (hospitals & pharmacies for instance) will be salmon colored, and food & drink sort of orange. Plus the maps will adapt to how you're traveling - car, transit, or foot.

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How About A Flying Volvo?

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Terrafugia - which is working on a flying car - has now been bought by Geely, the Chinese company that owns the Volvo car brand. The company has promised to have its first flying vehicle on the road - and above it - in 2019 and its all-electric model by 2023. The company will stay in the US, backed by Chinese cash.

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So Long CompuServe, Forever

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CompuServe, the first service so many of us used in the 80s & 90s to get on that new thing called the Internet, is going down for the count. Overtaken by AOL, then taken over by AOL, the dial-up service's forums survived - until now. With AOL & Yahoo becoming Oath, part of Verizon, all the archived CompuServe Forums are going to be killed off as of December 15th.

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New Faster Firefox

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There's a new Firefox, said to be twice as fast as previous versions, and a competitor with Chrome, which is the most-used browser. Firefox Quantum is out now, and Mozilla is promising to make it even faster next year. Firefox also ended its deal with Yahoo so the default search engine is back to Google.

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You Can Keep Your Hat On

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Drowsy driving is a problem - especially when you're driving a 40-ton semi - and in Brazil, Ford's heavy truck division has come up with a possible way to help. It's a trucker cap to alert drivers when it senses they are getting drowsy, so they can pull over and rest. Still in the testing stage.

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So Much For iPhone X Facial ID

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Apple's new iPhone X, the one with supposedly unfoolable facial recognition, has already been fooled.  Within a week of the phone's release, a security firm in Vietnam has produced a video that shows how they can trick the phone's facial ID program. Apparently, all it takes is a well-designed mask.

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IPhone X Has A Cold

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Seems Apple's new thousand dollar iPhone has a problem - it's touchscreen doesn't work if you take it outside when the weather's too cold. Apple says it's aware of the problem, and is working on a fix.

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Phishing Is Worse Than Hack Attacks

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Google's been looking into the hacking of its users' email accounts and has discovered that despite well-known data breaches, phishing is far more dangerous than hackers getting into databases. Some 1.9 billion accounts were exposed in hacks, but 3.8 billion were exposed by phishing, and more likely to be current information.

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Windows Movie Maker Scam

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Microsoft no longer offers the free Windows Movie Maker - but that only means scam artists have gone to work - offering a paid "upgrade" to be able to download what they claim to be is the same program. It's not. Unfortunately, a Google search for Windows Movie Maker turns up the scam at the top of the list.

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An Argument For Self-Driving Cars Sooner

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It better to have imperfect self-driving cars - or wait until they are twice as good as human drivers. A report by the RAND Corp argues that even if autonomous cars are only 10% better than human drivers it would still save 3,000 lives a year, and waiting for them to get better would take too long and not lower highway death rates.

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A Free Apple Watch – For Your Health?

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You may be able to get a free Apple Watch from your health insurance company. Aetna is planning to give away 500-thousand of the watches to their customers, as a way of helping keep people fit and monitoring their progress.

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Chrome To Block Unwanted “Redirects”

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New editions of Google's Chrome browser - due out next year - will stop websites from "redirecting" you to pages or sites you never asked to go to. That can happen even if the website's publisher didn't want it to, because of some third-party ad embedded on the site. Google says "well-behaved" websites won;t have any problems with the new browser.

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Vote For Municipal Broadband Wins

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Voters in Fort Collins, Colorado approved allowing the local government to build & operate a fiber-optic broadband system for all, a defeat for Comcast which helped fund a campaign to reject the proposal. If city officials go ahead, 1 Gigabyte Internet would cost $70 a month, and 50 GB $50 monthly.

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You 2FA?

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Are you using 2FA - two-factor authentication - to protect your phone, your email or other cyber assets? A survey by Duo Security finds only 28% of those asked use 2FA and 56% had no idea what it was! 2FA means that when you log into an account from a new computer, you are sent a text message to the phone on file, asking you to enter a unique code. It is effective - usually - in stopping hackers from hijacking accounts.

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Expect More Android Malware

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The forecast for 2018 is more malware for Android phones, much of it ransomware. There's 7 times more Android malware this year than 4 years ago and Sophos Labs expects more for next year. Windows threats are up too, as is malware aimed at Apple devices, but the biggest rise is against Android.

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Longer Tweets Are Here

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Twitter says 280 character tweets are now available for almost all users - after a trial run in September with a limited group. Twitter says those allowed to use more characters had more followers, likes & retweets, and spent less time editing them. Tweets in Chinese, Japanese & Korean will remain at 140 characters for now.

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Really Driverless Cars In Phoenix

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Waymo - Google's self-driving car corporate cousin - is going to start testing self-driving cars in the Phoenix area with no one in the driver's seat. It comes after some 8 years of testing driverless cars with a test driver in the seat, just in case. Waymo says at first the passengers will only be its own employees, but eventually, others will be invited to ride.

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No Computer, No Medical License for 84 Year Old Doc

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An 84 year old physician in New London, New Hampshire is trying to get her medical license back, after giving it up because, in part, she does not have and doesn't know how to use, a computer. Dr. Anna Konopka says she's fine with paper records, but the state insists she must use a computer for their mandatory electronic drug monitoring program.

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Sprint Teams Up With Cable Company

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The day after Sprint & T-Mobile announced they would not merge, Spring announced a new partnership with Altice USA, a division of a Netherlands-based multi-national telecom company, best known in the US for its Optimum brand. The deal would allow Altice to use Sprint's wireless network, while Sprint gets Altice's cable infrastructure to transmit data.

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Good For You: T-Mobile & Sprint Won’t Merge

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T-Mobile and Sprint will not merge into one large competitor to Verizon and AT&T. After months of talks, the #3 and #4 wireless carriers in the US could not agree on how to become one company and are continuing their separate ways. So wireless competition will continue, which is only good news for customers looking for ever better deals.

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Best Buy By Alexa

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You can now "voice-shop" at Best Buy. The electronics retailer partnering with Amazon to sell a limited number of products through Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. You can ask about daily specials and ask questions about some TVs and laptops. Best Buy also working with Google Home Assistant, but so far mostly in Canada and inside 700 US stores.

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No More Back Door Free Windows 10 Upgrades

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At the end of the year, Microsoft is officially shutting the back door on free upgrades to Windows 10. While the Windows 10 upgrade program "officially" ended in July 2016, anyone who claimed they needed "assistive technologies" (no proof required) could still download & install W10 over Windows 7 or 8.1. That exception will now end on December 31, 2017.

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Millions Of Fake Facebook Accounts

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About 3 percent of Facebook's more than 2 billion accounts are fake - according to Facebook itself in its quarterly earnings report. Another 10 percent of all accounts are "duplicates" of real users, meaning as many as 270 million Facebook users are not legit. Facebook's under pressure because of fake Russian accounts that tried to interfere with the 2016 elections.

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No Welcome Mat For Amazon

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Amazon's new delivery system, Amazon Key, which would allow its delivery drivers access to your home to leave Prime packages when no one is there, is not getting much enthusiasm. In fact, a new poll finds 68% of adults asked are uncomfortable with the idea, even though Amazon is going to provide a security camera so deliveries can be monitored. The older people are, the more uncomfortable they are with Amazon Key.

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The Key To Google Security

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Google is going to sell a $20 set of physical keys to lock down your Gmail and other Google programs so hackers cannot get to them. One is a Feitian key that can be used wirelessly for a computer or phone, and the other is a USB key that you plug into a laptop or other computer. Without them, there's no access to any Google account or program that connects to a Google account.

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Pirate TV

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No it's not a channel about rum, looting & pillaging, but pirate TV is the name for services that offer live TV channels over the Internet for a fraction of the price of cable or satellite. As many as 7 million households in the US & Canada reportedly subscribe to these pirate services, costing legit services billions in revenue a year.

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Better Software For Home/Small Office Users

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If you work for yourself from home, or just have a small office, Microsoft is making one of their Office365 packages more attractive to you. The Business Premium package, which already included email and the most used Office apps, such as Outlook, Word, Excel and Powerpoint, will now also include Microsoft Listings for publishing your business info, Microsoft Invoicing, and MileIQ, to track mileage for expense reports.

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One Smart Dog

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Sony's brought back its robot dog - 10 years after its last model. But this one is even smarter, with artificial intelligence, so it behaves like a real dog. So far they are only sold in Japan for about $1700.

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Smoking Gun At CBS

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Surely you're old enough to remember Gunsmoke - the CBS Western that ran on TV for 20 years, ending in 1975, and was on radio for 9 years even earlier. Now CBS is suing a photographer for using a screenshot of a 59-year-old episode of the TV show. Apparently it's payback for the same photographer suing CBS for using one of HIS copyrighted photos without permission or pay. Where's Marshall Dillion when you need him?

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Equifax Lawsuits Piling Up

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It's been almost two months since Equifax belatedly disclosed that its database had been breached months earlier - and they knew about it in July - and it happened because they failed to close a known security hole in their system. Since then a lot of lawsuits have been filed, most asking for "class action" standing - more than 70 of them by one count.

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Removing Barriers to Self-Driving Cars

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - NHTSA - says it wants to hear about how it can change or remove regulations that would slow development & deployment of self-driving cars. NHTSA says it will make a former request for public comment in November and of 75 auto safety standards now in effect, most were written presuming a human driver was in control.

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Teen Gets Dad Fired From Apple

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An Apple engineer lost his job because he showed his teenage daughter the new iPhone X when she came to visit him at work in September. Well, not just that, seems his daughter made & uploaded a YouTube video showing the new phone before it was supposed to be public. The video went viral, Apple found out, and her father was fired.

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Captcha May Get Caught

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Captcha - the "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart" - has been around since the late 1990s to prevent automated bots from logging into websites & more. But new research has discovered a way for Artificial Intelligence to imitate human responses to Captcha and even Google's reCAPTCHA test was tricked 2/3rds of the time.

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Twitter Gets Real On Hate & Violence

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Twitter - which just the other day announced it would not accept ads from two Russian media companies linked to the Kremlin - now says that starting on November 22nd it will outright block tweets and images that promote hate and violence.

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You’ll Know Who Bought That Facebook Ad

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Facebook - criticized for all the Russian "fake" ads that ran in the 2016 election - now going to require political advertisers to verify their identity. and Facebook will make it easier for users to see more information about all ads, such s where they are running and how much they cost.

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Too Much For Netflix

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How much do you want to pay for Netflix? A new poll by Morning Consult finds 91% of Americans asked don't want to pay more than $10 a month, although Netflix just raised its price to $10.99 this month for the standard service and up to $13.99 for premium service. Basic Netflix - one device at a time and not in HD - remains at $7.99. Standard is two devices simultaneously and HD.

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Twitter Bans Russians

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Twitter is banning Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, two Kremlin connected media sites, from advertising on the social media platform. It's because of investigations that show both Russian organizations tried to interfere with the 2016 elections.

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Walmart Hires Robots For 50 Stores

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Walmart is giving its human "associates" a little less to do. The retail giant announcing that it is putting shelf-scanning robots in some 50 stores, after testing them out in a few stores already. The robots look for out of stock items, check for missing labels and wrong prices.

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Verizon Wants $10 More

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Verizon Wireless customers who don't want to be throttled when trying to watch videos, will soon be allows to pay $10 more a month for getting more than 720p resolution. Verizon announced unrestricted unlimited plans earlier this year, then in the summer capped video on all plans. The new resolution change is available only for some current plans.

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An Uber Credit Card

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Uber, the ride-hailing company that's had some issues with driver & rider privacy, is now going to have its own credit card - well a Visa card in its name issued by Barclays. The Uber card will link to the Uber app and offer rewards, including 2% back on Uber rides & online purchases and 4% on UberEATS orders & other dining. The points can be used for cash back, gift cards and of course Uber rides.

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Would You Trust Your Front Door To Amazon?

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Amazon wants Prime customers to give it the keys to their front doors. It's part of a system that would allow inside deliveries even if no one is home. The $250 package deal includes a smart lock, a new Amazon "cloud camera" and an Amazon Key app. The deliveryperson unlocks your door & leaves the package, all recorded by the Amazon cam & you can see it in real time or later.

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Laser Scarecrows

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An Oregon blueberry farmer is all fired up about lasers, after trying out a Dutch technology that aims laser beams at birds eating his crop. The laser bursts scare the birds away & the whole thing runs automatically. It's designed to NOT flash a beam at nearby roads or into the sky where it might interfere with planes.

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Uber Down, Lyft Up

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Uber's troubles are costing it business passengers. A company that tracks business expenses says Uber rides by businesspeople were down about 1 percent from the 2nd to the 3rd quarter of the year, while rival Lyft saw a 3% increase. In San Francisco, Uber's hometown, rides were down 8% following problems that included the forced resignation of its CEO.

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Facebook’s New News Rules

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Facebook - trying to fight fake news - has given publishers new guidelines to avoid being blocked as fake news. Basically, Facebook wants meaningful, accurate content, without explicit sexual content or hate speech.

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Please, Baby, Please

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They've gotta have it. Like Spike Lee's character in his first hit movie, 238 cities & regions in the US, Canada and Mexico are asking Amazon to please, please, please choose them for the company's second North American headquarters. Some are offering billions in tax breaks, one said it would rename a whole suburban tract as a new city called "Amazon" and make Jeff Bezos its mayor for life!  Amazon will decide next year.

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How Hackers Are Attacking The Power Grid

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State-backed hackers are continuing to attack US power sources, including nuclear power stations, trying to steal details of their control systems. There's a new report by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, explaining how the hackers work their way up from small suppliers with less secure systems into the more secure systems of power companies.

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Pay With Google With Any Card

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You'll now be able to "Pay With Google" using any card your Android phone knows, not just those specifically saved to Android Pay. The idea is to make mobile payments easier and allow the Google Assistant to help you shop from your phone.

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Kaspersky Says It Has Nothing To Hide

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Kaspersky Lab - the Russian anti-virus maker accused of being a backdoor for Russian spies and now barred from being used by federal agencies - says it will open up its software to independent outside experts, right down to the code. Those outside reviewers not yet named, but CEO Eugene Kaspersky says his company has nothing to hide.

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The First HyperLoop Section is Coming to Maryland

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When serial entrepreneur Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX) first announced his vision for Hyperloop it was going to be a high-speed underground transportation system that would make it practical for a San Francisco - Los Angeles commute.  Now it looks like the first 10 mile stretch of Hyperloop will actually be in Maryland.  Initially it will be the first segment in a Baltimore to Washington, DC transportation system and eventually, if Musk can achieve his vision, it will speed travelers from New York to DC in just 29 minutes.

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Pay Your Pals In Facebook

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Facebook Messenger now allows payments to your "friends" using PayPal, an extension of Messenger's ability to use PayPal for purchase payments. It is first available only on iOS, but soon for Android phones.

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Preventing Ejections In Car Crashes

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Military pilots may have ejector seats, but the last thing you want in a car crash it being "ejected" out your vehicle's big sunroof. Now Hyundai has come up with the panoramic sunroof airbag designed to keep people from being tossed out in a roll-over or other crash.

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Paying For News On Facebook

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Facebook is trying something new, a subscription tool pushing users to a publisher's site to pay for news stories. Most sites will allow 10 articles a month before putting up the paywall, but they have the option of making certain stories pay-only. The testing with 9 news sites will only be on Android for now because Apple wants a cut of the money going to the publishers.

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Smell Like You Can Afford A Tesla

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Maybe you can't afford to buy an all-electric Tesla, but how about making your drive at least smell like you can?  A company has come out with an air freshener named "Elon Musk" - after the Tesla inventor of the same name.  It will sell for $7 - or for 10,000 times more you can buy the least expensive Tesla S.

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Mobile Ads Can Track You

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Anyone with $1000 can track you using online ads - what researchers at the University of Washington have discovered. They were able to pinpoint a person’s location within 25 feet using a targeted ad, which they tested on 10 different apps. And they were able to find out all the apps installed on the phone.

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Rating Streaming Like TV Shows

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Nielsen - which has been measuring radio and then TV audiences for more than 80 years - is now going to measure streaming audiences the same way it does broadcast and cable TV. Nielsen has been measuring video on demand since 2014, but using not the same method as it does "regular" TV.

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New Phishing Protection

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Google's Chrome browser has added new phishing protection through its Safe Browsing technology and can reportedly warn users of brand new phishing sites that haven't even been added yet to lists of known bad sites. The predictive technology will only be available at first to Google accounts, then later to all passwords Chrome saves.

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Bagging Online Grocery Sales

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Most people don't want to buy their groceries online. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds 75% of online shoppers say they never or rarely buy groceries on the web, and 60% of all people surveyed like their local markets better for price, selection and quality. So maybe Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods won't shake things up so much.

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How Green Is Your Phone?

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Do you have a green - that is low environment impact - phone? Greenpeace, the international environmental advocacy group, has rated 17 of the world's leading consumer electronics companies and found the greenest smartphone is...wait for it...Fairphone, which you've probably never heard of. Apple came in second with a B-minus, and other major phone makers were behind. Samsung got a D-minus.    

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Garmin & Alexa

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Garmin, which you know for its map programs, has teamed with Amazon to create the Garmin Speak, a $150 device that attaches to your vehicle's windshield (that's on the inside) and you can speak to it for directions, music, weather and traffic reports, in short, almost everything you can do with Alexa. You won't see a map but the device gives spoken turn by turn directions. It's the first Alexa product with mapping intelligence.

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High Gmail Security – But Not For You

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Google is going to set high security for Gmail accounts - but only certain Gmail accounts - such as those belonging to political activists, journalists and government officials at what Google thinks is a higher risk of being attacked by hackers. Those enrolled in the Advanced Protection Program will need a physical security key to log onto Gmail and other Google accounts.

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Microsoft Edges Chrome In Phishing

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Google Chrome may be five times more popular than Microsoft's Edge (and Internet Explorer) browser, but when it comes to stopping phishing attacks and malware downloads, Edge is apparently the new champ. NSS Labs - a cybersecurity company - tested both browsers and Firefox for 23 straight days, with Edge clearly beating Chrome (and Firefox) in stopping malware & phishing, and how quickly each responded to so-called "zero hour" threats - ones never before seen.

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Why Google Is Not Like Heroin

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The US Supreme Court - without comment - has refused to a hear a case claiming that "google" is now a widespread generic term for Internet search and "Google" should not be a protected trademark. The case for what's called trademark "genericide" brought by a man who registered 763 domain names with "google" in them, only to be ordered to give them up as violating Google's trademark. Among the former trademarks that are now legally generic: linoleum, escalator, flip phone and, yes, heroin.

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Huge Flaw In Everybody’s Wi-Fi

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If you use Wi-Fi - you're vulnerable to a hack even if you use an encrypted password. That's what a Belgian researcher has discovered, a security flaw in the WPA2 protocol, the protocol thought to be secure and used by most Wi-Fi devices. The password itself is not stolen, but the flaw allows hackers to mimic the encryption key it creates. The flaw can be patched in most devices, and many device makers are already starting to do it.

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Toyota Concept Car For Wheelchair Users

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Toyota is expected to unveil a new concept vehicle, intended to make it easier for wheelchair users. The Concept-i Ride, as it's called, would have gull-wing doors for easy access and joysticks in place of pedals. It would allow for both autonomous and regular driving.

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Training Self-Driving Cars About The Police – and Vice Versa

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Waymo - Google's cousin - is teaching police officers how to deal with self-driving cars, teaching the self-driving cars what to do if they hear a police or emergency vehicle siren and how to behave in case there's a collision or other accident. Waymo has been testing its cars in Washington, California, Arizona, and Texas

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Longer Tweets OK With Some

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Twitter's recent announcement that it was doubling Tweet length to 280 characters is OK with about 30% of the Americans asked - not OK with 13% - and 58% didn't know or didn't care. As for the Commander-in-Tweet, 61% of all Americans surveyed say his Twitter use is bad for the country, with Democrats overwhelmingly feeling that way, a strong majority of independents agreeing, and Republicans evenly split.

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Order Food On Facebook

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Facebook not only wants to be in your face - but in your mouth too. A new feature allows users to order food - through existing delivery services - right in Facebook. They are also partnering with Chipotle, Five Guys, Jack in the Box, Papa John's, Wingstop, Panera, TGI Friday's, Denny's, El Pollo Loco, and Jimmy John's, so you can order directly at those restaurants & use their delivery services.

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Almost A “Fantastic Voyage”

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More than 50 years ago, the sci-fi movie Fantastic Voyage, about a submarine & crew shrunk to fit into the body of an injured scientist:

Now real scientists at CalTech are working on swallowable mini-robots, to be able to monitor peoples' health and even deliver drugs to exactly where they are needed.

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Watch Movies Anywhere

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A new service - called MoviesAnywhere - has launched and will allow you to watch movies from several different providers, including Amazon, iTunes, Vudu and Google Play, without having to remember on which provider you found them. The new service is run by Disney, but includes movies from Sony, Warner Bros., Fox and Universal, and you can watch on Amazon, Apple, Android and Roku devices.

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Lyft Adds Maps For Drivers

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Lyft drivers will now be able to find their way using Google Maps right in their Lyft app - meaning drivers will be able to look at just one screen to get you correctly to your destination (and not, as we experienced recently, go the wrong way TWICE to get a well-known NYC location!). Uber already has in-app navigation and Lyft drivers asked for the same.

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Social Media Full Of Financial Scams

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The number of financial & banking scams on social media such as Facebook & Twitter has nearly doubled since last year, up to some 450,000. The report from a cybersecurity firm says although there are many, many scams, most come from only a relatively small group of thieves.

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Left Coast Rules For Driverless Cars

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California - at the urging of tech companies - has issued new rules for self-driving cars, to go into effect in June of next year. The autonomous vehicles are allowed on public roads, except if the passengers not paying fees to ride.

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Look Ma, No Hands!

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Cadillac drivers can now get something called Super Cruise - cruise control that lets you not only take your foot off the pedals, it also lets drivers take their hands off the steering wheel - as long as they continue paying attention to the road and are on a limited access highway. A PCMag.com car expert gave it a try - as you can read with a click below.

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Walmart Trying To Be Amazon

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Fewer new stores, more digital sales - that's Walmart's strategy going forward. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon telling the company's annual investors meeting that they expect to grow ecommerce by 40% in the next fiscal year.

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Save The Tweet For Later

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Twitter users may soon be able to "bookmark" a received tweet for responding to later. A Twitter product manager says they are working on it.  Until now the only way to "save" a Tweet was to tap to heart button, suggesting you like it.

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Why Should You Want Driverless Cars?

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Alphabet - Google's parent company - is starting an ad campaign to convince you that self-driving cars are a good and safe thing. The campaign coming after surveys showing as many as three-quarters of all Americans say they would be afraid to ride in a driverless car.

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New BlackBerry With No Keyboard But Giant Battery

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BlackBerry no longer makes BlackBerries, but TCL, the company that does, has now introduced a second new model, the BlackBerry Motion, this time without a physical keyboard. But the Motion will be water-resistant and have a 4000mAh battery - which is quite large. Selling first in the Middle East - a strong BlackBerry market - and eventually in the US.

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Pull Down The Shade On Windows 10 Mobile

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If you still have a Windows 10 Mobile phone - starting looking for something else.  Microsoft admitting there'll be nothing new for their phone - they've had a lot of trouble getting apps for it - and while they will release security & bug patches, there'll be no further updates.

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Goodbye AOL Instant Messenger

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Say goodbye to AOL Instant Messenger, the IM program used, then discarded, by millions of users starting 20 years ago, is shutting down for good as of December 15th. Everyone moved on to texting & all the short message services now available from Twitter to WhatsApp.

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Cash – It’s So Last Century

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Pay by cash? Fewer are, with plastic & digital sales cutting into businesses that will even accept cash. The percentage of cash sales in the US keeps dropping, except for small purchases - under $10. One Stanford professor says when her kids set up a lemonade stand recently they doubled their business by taking Venmo & Paypal instead of just cash!

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50 FDIC Security Breaches For Two Years

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The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation - known as the FDIC - which guarantees deposits in US banks for up to $250,000 each account, was hit by more than 50 security hacks in 2015 & 2016, according to a report from federal officials. The report says that despite the repeated attacks, the FDIC was slow to both take action on them or notify the people whose information was compromised.

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Google Forcing More Secure Sites

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Google keeps cracking down on insecure websites and the latest is that when using the Chrome browser - starting soon - any site that asks you to enter data and has an HTTP page - as opposed to secure HTTPS page - will be labeled as "not secure" by Chrome. Google wants everything on the web to be encrypted and has the power to push sites to make it so.

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Facebook’s New Fake News Tool

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Facebook - under fire for all those Russian fake new posts & ads - trying something new, a button that will link users to Wikipedia information about the post & its publisher.  Of course, there are fake Wikipedia entries, but crowd-sourcing there usually fixes them quickly.

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You’ll Pay More For Netflix

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Netflix is increasing its prices starting in November - $1 more for the Standard plan and $2 more for the Premium plan.  Standard will be $10.99 for HD video & use on 2 devices simultaneously, while Premium allows use on 4 devices and offers Ultra HD where available. Netflix's Basic plan - no HD, one device - will stay at $7.99.

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All That In-Vehicle Tech Is Dangerous

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A new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that all the technology now standard in new cars - especially the infotainment systems - is distracting drivers more & more. Drivers are taking their eyes & minds off the road & their hands off the wheel even to do simple things like making a phone call or changing a radio station, to say nothing of texting or emailing or web-surfing, or resetting a map program.

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Senate Panel Moves Self-Driving Cars to the Fast Lane

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A Senate committee has unanimously approved a bill that could put self-driving cars on the roads within three years, and they won't have human controllers  It's the first significant federal legislation on self-driving cars and closely mirrors a measure already approved by the House of Representatives.  It also limits the roadblocks that individual states could pose. Safety advocates have expressed concerns about whether humans should be able to intervene, but amendments to allow that did not win support.  The bill also comes at a time when the Department of Transportation has started looking into rules that would address the cybersecurity issues involved in these vehicles.

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New Google Phones

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Google's introduced its latest smartphones - the Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL.  One is obviously larger than the other, but Google says the features are the same, including the ability to just squeeze their sides and have the Google Assistant ready to answer any question - you don't have to first say, "OK. Google." Another shared "feature," no headphone jack.

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Long-Time Intel CEO Paul Otellini Dies at 66

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Intel has announced the sudden passing of former CEO Paul Otellini at age 66.  He reportedly passed away in his sleep Monday night. I (Gary Kaye) was fortunate to have known him for some years during my tenure at Fox Business. I had the privilege of knowing every Intel CEO from the legendary Robert Noyce through Gordon Moore, the irascible Andy Grove, and then Craig Barrett.  All were engineers. Until Paul. He was the first non-engineer to lead the company and created a very different public face for the tech giant. He faced the challenge of keeping Intel on a sound path even as its core business, chips for PC's was on the decline. On a personal note, Paul was always wonderful to deal with. He was the lynchpin in the creation of the Fox Business Three Days in the Valley series that I produced. Paul invited us to set up shop at the Intel Museum, and without his support, I don't know if Three Days would have ever come to pass. His style was in stark contrast to that of his predecessors, a refreshingly different public face for Intel, a solid leader, and a true gentleman.  RIP Paul.

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Will Your Voting Machine Be Hacked?

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Next election, will your voting machine be hacked, and the results changed? It almost happened in 2016, with reports that Russia tried to hack voting machines in 21 states, even got into some. Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden is calling on all major voting machine makers to explain in detail how they are going to prevent that next time.

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Every Yahoo Account Was Hacked

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The hacking of Yahoo accounts was triple what Yahoo originally said.  Verizon, which now owns Yahoo, says every one of Yahoo's 3 billion accounts was hacked if they existed in August 2013. The "good" news - Verizon says - is that passwords in clear text, credit card data, and bank account information were not stolen, just users' names, email addresses, phone numbers and birth dates.

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Let’s Replace Every Social Security Number

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Maybe it's time to replace everyone's Social Security number, especially after more than 145 million peoples' information was stolen from Equifax. The suggestion from White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce, who says the old numbers are out-dated & vulnerable and new, more secure IDs are needed.

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Equifax Ex-CEO: Our Bad

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The former CEO of Equifax is telling Congress Equifax was warned in early March of security holes in their system - by the Department of Homeland Security - but when their own security people ran scans of the Equifax system they failed to find them. It was right about then, Richard Smith says, hackers began breaking in, break-ins Equifax didn't notice until the end of July. And although they told the FBI about it August 2nd, they said nothing publicly for more than a month. 145.5 million Americans had their information compromised.

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Microsoft Gets Out Of The Groove

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Say goodbye to Groove. Microsoft giving up on having its own music service, moving Groove Music Pass users to Spotify. Subscriptions will be good until the end of 2017, after that people will get refunds. Groove started as Zune, then Xbox Music, but nobody was listening.

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More EVs For GM

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General Motors says it will have two new electric vehicles joining their Chevy Bolt within the next 18 months, and by 2023 GM is promising 18 more EVs. GM is only the latest automaker to announce more electric vehicles. Ford's just announced formation of “Team Edison” to speed up its development and rollout of EVs.

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Facebook To Have More Humans To Monitor Ads

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Facebook - under fire for allowing Russian trolls to place targeted ads on its pages during last year's election - says it will hire 1,000 more people to monitor ad placement, and make ads, even if targeted to certain groups, visible to all, so any fakery will be easier to spot. The announcement on the same day Facebook turned over data to Congress on 3,000 political ads that apparently came from Russian sources last year.

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Samsung To Make Billions On iPhone X

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Strange but apparently true: Samsung, Apple's biggest rival in smartphones, is going to make billions of dollars on sales of the new iPhone X. Why? Because Samsung is the supplier of some of the Apple phone's key parts, including its OLED screen, adding up to $110 per phone. And that means Samsung may make more profit on the iPhone X than it will on its Galaxy S8 phone!

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Less “Free” News From Google

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Google - which had insisted news publishers with paywalls allow Google searchers at least three "free" articles, or risk lower Google rankings - has now given in to publisher complaints and will no long penalize them for requiring subscriptions to read any articles.  Google is leaving the decision to the news sites on how many freebies to allow users.

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Apple Face ID May Not Be So Secure

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Face ID - touted by Apple for its new & expensive iPhone X - may not be 1 in a million secure. Apple's own guide to Face ID, published this week, says twins, siblings & younger children may find a lot less accuracy for Face ID figuring out who is who. Face ID can be disabled either permanently in the setup, or temporarily by pressing the buttons on both sides of the iPhone X simultaneously.

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Hacking Macs More Possible

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As many as 43% of Mac computers may be vulnerable to hacking of their firmware, even though Apple is aware of the problem and has released firmware updates. The study by Duo Security looked at over 73,000 Mac and found that - on average - over 4% were not running the right firmware, and for at least one model 43% had out of date firmware.

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Government Wants More Of Your Data Than Ever

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Google says government requests for users' private data increased in the first half of 2017 from the same period the year before, with about half the requests coming from the US government; the rest from foreign countries. The number reported does not include requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows data collection from non-US citizens.

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Uber Helping Deaf Drivers

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What Lyft announced the other week, Uber is announcing now: help for its deaf or hard of hearing drivers. The Uber app will have GIFs that show passengers how to use American Sign Language to say "Hello" and "Thank You" - which Lyft does - but also how to sign your own name.

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Google Assistant Coming To Your TV

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Google Assistant - the intelligent assistant built into Google Home devices and many Android-based phones - is coming to Android TV.  It will first be available on Nvidia Shield TVs, but will be added to Sony Bravia TVs in "the coming months."  The mic for Android TVs is built into the remote and can now be used to search for programs or playback or pause streaming content.

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Swedish Meatballs Not Included

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Ikea - the Swedish furniture company with stores all over the US - has bought TaskRabbit - the service where people can find paid help with random tasks including putting together Ikea furniture. TaskRabbit workers will still be available for other jobs - even for rival retailers.

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Turn On the Radio

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The chair of the Federal Communications Commission is telling Apple it should turn on the FM radio function of its iPhones, by default, so people can get information in an emergency. Ajit Pai says Apple is virtually alone in not having the radios enabled in its smartphones. Apple says the iPhone 7 & 8 don't even have FM radios built-in.

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See Me, Feel Me

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Porn for the visually impaired. Porn Hub - considered the top "free" porn site - is doing its part for those with limited vision. It is adding a new Visually Impaired mode for the blind or those with low vision, which will have larger type, color adjustments and even text descriptions of what they are having trouble seeing.

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Comcast Only Streaming Service

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Comcast trying to hold onto cord-cutters by offering an $18 a month streaming service that will show most broadcast TV channels without the need for a set-top box. But it'll be only available to Comcast broadband customers and it'll cost extra to get some additional entertainment or family channels.

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YouTube-less Echo Show

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Echo Show - Amazon's Alexa device with a screen to show videos - can no longer show YouTube videos. Google pulling the plug. They have their own intelligent assistant device, Google Home, but so far Google does not have a model that shows videos. So maybe one is coming.

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Twitter To Double Tweets

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Twitter is going to allow some users - not saying if the Commander-in-Tweet is one of them - to post tweets of up to 280 characters in English, double the current limit, as a test. Twitter now allows links to the web or photos not to count to the limit, but some users have protested previous suggestions to allow more than 140 characters in the messages.

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Uber quittera Québec

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Already fighting with London over its ride-hailing services, Uber now says on October 14th it'll leave the entire Canadian province of Quebec - that includes Montreal & Quebec City - because it doesn't like regulations Quebec wants after running an Uber pilot program. They include 35 hours of driver training & police background checks, same as Quebec requires for regular taxi drivers. Quebec says it found Uber drivers breaking the rules & some had criminal records.

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Will They Build A “Hoover” Car?

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Dyson - the company known for vacuum cleaners, hair dryers & fans, is setting out to build an all-electric car. James Dyson confirming that a team of more than 400 engineers is already working on the vehicle, which he expects to be ready by 2020.

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Now Alexa Can Control Your Phone’s Amazon Music

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Amazon continues to expand the things its Alexa intelligent assistant can do, this time to controlling the Amazon Music app on Android & iOS devices, much the same way you can tell Alexa to play music on Amazon's Echo devices. You can ask Alexa to have Amazon Music play a specific artist or song or music for various activities, and if you don't know a song title or artist, just tell Alexa some of the lyrics and Alexa will figure it out.

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You’ll Gotta Have Heart To Log Into Your Computer

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Nevermind facial recognition - what about cardiac recognition? Researchers at SUNY Buffalo and Texas Tech have developed a Cardiac Scan authentication system, where the motion & dimensions of your heart as it beats create a unique ID that can unlock a computer while you are near it, and lock it when you walk away. They say it's harder to trick than a fingerprint reader because the person has to be alive for it to work, and each person's heart is just different enough.

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Siri Dings Bing For Google

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Goodbye Bing, welcome Google. Apple is making Google the default when iPhone users ask Siri a question, which is the way Apple's Safari browser & other Mac searches are set. Apple says it wants to continue its strong relationship with Google - as well as the estimated $3 billion Google pays it - and Google surely wants the billions of dollars it makes from Apple users' searches.

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Uber Apologizes To Save London Service

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Last week, London's transport department said that starting October 1st, no more Uber, that it is "not fit and proper" to have private taxi licenses, of which it now has some 40,000.  The department cited how Uber reports serious criminal offenses, its background checks on drivers and software that can block regulators accessing Uber's app.  Now Uber is apologizing, promising to make changes, and asking to talk about it with taxi regulators.

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Don’t Drop Your New iPhone or Galaxy

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Apple's latest iPhones are supposed to have the strongest glass ever on a smartphone. Turns out not to be so true. A new iPhone 8, and alongside it a new Samsung Galaxy Note 8, failed a standard drop test. The phone that survived: a Moto Z2 Force.

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Taking The Bam Out Of Bambi

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Researchers at Virginia Tech are working on a better way to warn drivers of deer crossing the road, better than suddenly seeing Bambi in your headlights or even worse, colliding with no warning. Their idea is to bury special microwave cables alongside the roads where deer are known to cross, and when the magnetic field of a cable is "disturbed" by an animal passing over it, that would trigger a warning to be displayed on a roadside sign or even to technology built into vehicles.

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Everybodys Gone Phishing

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Almost one-and-one-half million phishing websites are being created every month, many of them mimicking legit business sites in an attempt to trick people into trying to log into them and by so doing giving up their real credentials. The report from researchers at Webroot says Google was the most "popular" site impersonated, with one-third of phishing sites the first half of 2017 pretending to be Google. Chase, Dropbox, PayPal and Facebook round up the top five. The phishing sites constantly change, to avoid detection.

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Google Buys The Pixel Phone Maker

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Google is spending more than a billion dollars - in cash - to buy the division of HTC that makes Google's Pixel phones. Under the deal, HTC, a Taiwan company, can continue to make and sell its own phones. This is the second time Google has tried to get into the phone hardware business. Back in 2012 is bought Motorola Mobility, but sold it two years later to Lenovo for $10-billion less than it paid.

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Hackers Using Find My iPhone To Demand Ransoms

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The Find My iPhone app that Mac users can access to help them locate a computer, iPhone or IPad - there are reports of hackers figuring out users' iCloud logins and passwords, locking their devices, and demanding a ransom to unlock them. Even if two-factor authentication is turned on, it's possible for the hackers to get around it.

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Waymo Seeks Waymo’

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Waymo - Google's corporate cousin under Alphabet - is seeking a whopping $2.6 Billion from Uber for just one of the 9 trade secrets, in more than 14,000 documents, that a former Google autonomous vehicle expert took with him when he left to form his own self-driving truck company, which was then bought by Uber. The filing in San Francisco federal court where the lawsuit is being heard. Uber has since fired the sticky-fingered executive.

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Not So Fast On New iPhones

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Apple's new iPhones - the 8, 8 Plus and even the $999 iPhone X - will come up short on cell network speed. They all are not going to be capable of using Gigabit LTE, which is a very fast speed all the carriers are moving to. The new iPhones will only be able to communicate at LTE Advanced which has a theoretical peak speed of 500 megabits per second, or half the theoretical speed of Gigabit LTE. Meanwhile at least 10 Android phones do have Gigabit LTE capability, including the new Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8.

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So Much For Watching TV The Old-Fashioned Way

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We may be the last generation to watch television the old-fashioned way: on broadcast or cable. A survey by Pew Research finds that while 70 to 84% of adults 50 to 65+ get their TV fix with a cable or satellite subscription, our kids and grandkids are switching to streaming, especially the 18 to 29-year-olds, who stream 61% of what they watch, just about double their use of cable or satellite TV.

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T-Mobile Now Allowing 50% More “Unlimited” Data

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T-Mobile is going to allow customers on their "unlimited" data plan to use even more data before they are slowed down. T-Mobile's throttling had been starting at 32 GB a month in congested areas, but now it will reportedly not start until 50 GB have been used. Verizon and AT&T start to slow "unlimited" data at 22 GB; Sprint at 23 GB.

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A Big Change In Gmail

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Google's made a change in Gmail - long overdue - that creates automatic links for email addresses, phone number & even physical addresses in an incoming message.  That means with one click on the link, you can create a new, pre-addressed email, make a call to the number, or look up the location & get directions from Google Maps.

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Bring Your Amazon Returns to Kohl’s

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It was less than 2 weeks ago that Kohl's announced a partnership with Amazon which would sell Amazon smart home products in a dedicated section of some Kohl's stores. Now the partners have agreed that some Kohl's store will accept Amazon returns from customers, and send them back to Amazon itself. "Amazon" customers will even have designated parking spaces at the 82 Kohl's stores where this will start - in Chicago & LA.

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Possible Criminal Charges For Equifax Execs

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Three senior Equifax executives are reportedly under criminal investigation by the feds for possibly violating insider trading laws when they sold company stock just after Equifax discovered it had been hacked for some 3 months, and a month before the data breach was publicly disclosed. Equifax stock tanked after that and the company denies the trio knew about the hack when they cashed out almost $2-million.

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CCleaner Got Dirty

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CCleaner - a popular program that millions use to delete outdated temporary files & registry entries in their Windows computers, to improve performance - the company says some of their recent free versions installed malware with the program. The malware they say could harvest the computer name, IP address, list of installed software, list of active software and list of network adapters, sending it to a US-based server. As many as 4 million users may have been compromised, mostly those with 32-bit Windows.  Manually installing the current, clean version of CCleaner should clean up the problem.

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ABBA To Tour As Holograms From 1977

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ABBA - the Swedish band - hasn't officially toured in more than 30 years, but they're going back on the road, sort of, in 2019. There'll be a live band, but the group's four singers will appear as holograms, looking much as they did in 1977, the year of their first big album. The holograms will "sing" with vocals lifted from ABBA records and a 1977 Australian tour.

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Lyft For The Hard Of Hearing

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September is Deaf Awareness Month and to add to the "awareness" Lyft is adding new visual features to make their deaf or hard of hearing drivers aware of requests for new rides. They will also be telling passengers their drivers have hearing issues and linking to how to say "Hello" and "Thank You" in American Sign Language.

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Free Identity Monitoring Thanks, Sort Of, To Equifax

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You will soon be able to monitor your identification data for free because of the Equifax hack.  Not Equifax, but Credit Karma, which provides free credit scores and offers advice on loans & credit cards, is adding the free ID monitoring starting in October. The company says it's speeding up the product because of the Equifax hack. It's also adding Equifax to its free credit monitoring, which previously only cover TransUnion, a different credit score service.

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Chrome To Soon Block Auto-Play Noisy Videos

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Those videos that play themselves on websites, usually at FULL VOLUME, are going to be blocked or muted in the next major release of Google's Chrome browser.  That version is scheduled for January 2018.  Google says "autoplay will be allowed when either the media won't play sound, or the user has indicated an interest in the media," interest meaning you frequently play the site's videos voluntarily.

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Apple’s Safari To Protect Your Browsing Privacy

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The newest version of Apple's Safari browser - due out on Macs & mobile devices later this month, is going to prevent advertisers from tracking you on the web with stronger controls on cookies, the little bits of code that keep track of what you're doing. Many browsers block so-called third-party cookies, while allowing cookies that, say, keep track of what you put in a shopping cart. Safari will now expire those first-party cookies if you haven't been back in 30 days.

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Dozens Of Malicious Apps In Google Play Store

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Google's Play Store keeps getting loaded with malicious apps - apps that do things like sign you up for paid services or text in your name. The security company Checkpoint says it found 50 such apps in August, told Google, and they were removed, but by that time millions of people had downloaded them. And more soon appeared and had to be removed again. The app writers have figured out how to fool Google's malicious software scanners.

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Back To The Future With Polaroid

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We all grew up on Polaroids, the "instant" camera first introduced to Baby Boomer parents in the 1950s, but which fell out of favor over the next 40 plus years and the Polaroid Corporation went bankrupt in 2001. The name lived on with different owners, and now the latest - Polaroid Originals -  is introducing a new "OneStep 2" camera to mark the original company's 80th anniversary October 1st.

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FTC To Investigate Equifax Hack

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The Federal Trade Commission has done something it usually doesn't - announce the start of an investigation - this one into the massive hack of Equifax, the credit reporting agency, which waited until September 7 to report that it had been breached from May to July and more than 143 million people's records were likely stolen. 40 states and Congress are also investigating.

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No More Kaspersky In Federal Computers

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All US government computers & networks have been ordered to be purged of Kaspersky Labs products, the latest move against the Russian-based security company after reports of ties between the company and the Kremlin, ties the company denies. While there may not be very many federal computers with Kaspersky products, the ban also applies to federal contractors and third-party programs that may incorporate Kaspersky.

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Syringe Infusion Pump Can Be Hacked

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Something else on the Internet of Things that can be compromised: a wireless syringe infusion pump, used to inject medicines or nutrients into an intravenous line poked into a patient in an ICU or operating room. A researcher has found flaws in three versions of a British-made pump that would allow a hacker to take control, change, stop or start dosages.

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Ford Tests Self-Driving Car Without Visible Human Inside

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It was a test, disguised as a stunt, to see how people might react to seeing a self-driving car without a human visible in the driver's seat. Ford and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute set up the test, with a human in the seat, but disguised AS the seat. No word on just how pedestrians, drivers & other humans reacted to the "driver-less" car.

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New iPhones From Apple

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Apple has - as expected - introduced new iPhone models, two versions of the iPhone 8, the 8 and 8 Plus, and the iPhone X, pronounced "ten," a high-end phone marking the iPhone's 10th anniversary this year. The iPhone 8 is slightly smaller than the 5.5-inch 8 Plus, which has dual rear cameras. Both have stronger glass and faster processors than previous models, and for the first time, wireless charging. They'll be available this month (September 22nd). The iPhone X is a major redesign, replacing the "home" key with a swipe-up, and using facial recognition, called Face ID, to unlock the phone. It has a high-res OLED display with an edge-to-edge 5.8-inch screen and wireless charging. Shipping November 3rd starting at $999.

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Apple Watches To Monitor Heart Rhythm As Well As Heart Rate

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Apple's announced an updated operating system for all of its watches, and among the improvements is the ability to monitor not just heart rate, but heart rhythm. Later this year there'll be an Apple Heart Study app, developed with Stanford Medical, which will analyze heart rhythms from Apple watch users and notify them of irregular rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation, which often goes undetected. Apple also unveiling its latest smartwatch - the Apple Series 3 - which for the first time includes the ability to connect to a cell network directly, without going through a phone, something Samsung & LG watches do already. It also charges wirelessly and will be available September 22nd.

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Looser Federal Guidelines On Self-Driving Cars

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Revised federal guidelines for self-driving cars have given the industry more of what they wanted: looser federal safety reporting and a recommendation that states make it easier to test autonomous vehicles on the streets. These guidelines replace ones issued in 2016 by the Obama administration, and are themselves to be revised again next year. Consumer advocates say the new guidlines are

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Billions Of Bluetooth Devices Can Be Hacked

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Researchers have revealed a way to hack into just about any device that uses Bluetooth, because usually Bluetooth is on and "looking" for connections. Microsoft & Apple have patched some of their newer devices, but that leaves many older devices vulnerable, as well as Android & Linux devices that have yet to be patched.

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AT&T Is Offering “Free” HBO to More Customers

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The game of keeping customers continues, with AT&T announcing that it will now include "free" HBO for customers of all of its "unlimited" wireless data plans - not just the most expensive. It comes after T-Mobile offered "free" Netflix to new & existing "unlimited" data customers.

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Everybody’s Going Electric

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Now Volkswagen says it will be producing electric cars - including hybrids - across all of its lines, as of 2030 - that's some 300 models - more than VW had previously promised to do by 2025. It follows Mercedes-Benz which has promised electric motors for all its cars by 2022, and BMW which says it'll be mass-producing electric vehicles by 2020 and have a dozen all-electric models by 2025. And China's considering banning all vehicles that use combustible fuel by 2040.

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“Safe Browsing” Now Protects Over 3 Billion Devices

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Safe Browsing is a tool Google started 10 years ago to help keep malware away from desktops. It's been growing ever since, especially after Google added it to the Chrome browser, and now Firefox & Safari use it too. Google says Safe Browsing is protecting more than 3 billion devices and it continues to improve it & allow other developers to incorporate it for free.

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What Google Knows About You

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Google's Dashboard is going mobile, and that's a good thing, because Dashboard is where you can look yourself up and see what Google knows about you. It can be a lot, from your searches to your YouTube watching, to the places you have been with your phone. Using Dashboard you can delete much of the data and tell Google not to track you so much. The new version is rolling out this week.

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Red Cross To Try Drones For Disaster Help

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Drones may be able to help in disasters - such as Hurricanes Harvey & Irma. The American Red Cross is teaming with the UPS Foundation to try flying tethered drones at 400 feet above areas hit with natural disasters to help assess damage and direct response teams. The drones are tethered with a power cable so they can remain up for hours or days.

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Say Goodbye To Google Drive – As We Know It

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Get ready for a big change to Google Drive - it's sort of going away as of March - to be replaced by Google Drive Backup & Sync - which works much the same way, except you can use it to backup anything on your computer or phone, not just the Google Drive folder. You can make the change now, or wait until Google tells you more in October.

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Big Hack Exposes 143 Million Records

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Equifax - one of the big three credit reporting companies - says its database was hacked from mid-May to July and some 143 million people's records - that's about half the US population - may have been stolen. The hackers could have grabbed names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, and addresses, as well as drivers license & credit card information. Equifax has set up a website where you can check if your records may have been compromised.

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T-Mobile Faster Than Verizon And AT&T

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T-Mobile may be the fastest wireless carrier - although Verizon and AT&T have more coverage. That's one of the findings from Ookla Speedest, looking at the first half of 2017. It suggests the Big Two are throttling users of their unlimited data plans, especially heavy data users. Sprint comes in last in wireless speed.

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Jaguar Goes All-Electric

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Jaguar - or as they pronounce it in their TV commercials "jag-yoo-are" - is going to have only all-electric drivetrain vehicles by 2020, be they only electric or hybrid. Jag is now showing three new electric drivetrain models, one of which will be available for 2018. Volvo has already promised to be all electric by 2019 while Mercedes-Benz says it will have 10 electric vehicles by 2022.

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You’ll Never Guess Who Sells More Smartphones Than Apple

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Who's the Number Two smartphone seller in the world? No, it's not Samsung, they are far & away Number One. And it's no longer Apple, whose worldwide sales have been dropping lately, maybe in anticipation of new phones. But the Number Two smartphone seller in the world is Huawei - a Chinese maker you can pronounce "wah-way" or "hwa-way" - and while they don't sell a lot of phones in the US, they sell big in China & the rest of the world. We reviewed a Huawei phone earlier this year.

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Kohl’s Partners With Amazon

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If you can't beat 'em, join 'em - that seems to be what Kohl's decided as the brick & mortar store chain partners with Amazon. They first will create Amazon zones in 10 stores starting next month, to be called the Amazon Smart Home Experience. That's where Kohl's will sell Amazon merchandise such as the Echo assistant device and the Fire tablet, giving customers the hands-on experience not available online.

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House Steps On Pedal For Self-Driving Cars

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Congress wants to speed up development of self-driving cars, and now the House has unanimously passed a bill that would allow automakers to get exemptions for as many as 25,000 autonomous vehicles from many existing auto safety standards. That's just for the first year. Over three years the exemptions would rise by 100,000 vehicles each year.

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Buy Two T-Mobile Lines And Get Free Netflix

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T-Mobile has a new deal for new customers: get a family plan with at least two lines and they'll throw in a free Netflix standard subscription, worth about $120 a year. And Netflix is not just for the phones, it can be used on any device. For those who already have Netflix, T-Mobile will pick up the cost.

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Trade Your Personal Data For “Free” Tickets & Rides

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Verizon has a new deal - agree to allow it to track everything you do on the Internet using your smartphone: web-browsing, app usage, and location data - and you'll be "rewarded" with concert tickets, Uber rides, Starbucks coffee, even a new phone. And of course, Verizon will use - and likely sell - your personal information to target you with ads & other come-ons. What a deal!

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Lenovo Admits Installing Spying Software

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Lenovo has settled a suit brought by 32 states and the Federal Trade Commission by admitting it preloaded software on many laptops that compromised users’ security. The program was designed to allow pop-up ads, but it also accessed sensitive information such as Social Security numbers. Lenovo is paying $3.5 million and saying in the future it will ask consumers' permission before installing such a program.

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Don’t Use Kapersky Labs

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Don't use Kapersky Labs products - the strong recommendation of US Senator Jeanne Shaheen - a New Hampshire Democrat - in a New York Times op-ed, going by classified information she says the FBI, CIA & NSA gave to Congress earlier this year. Among other things, Kaspersky's servers are in Russia, where data is sent from computers that have Kapersky software installed, and Russian law allows their spy agencies to monitor all data the company receives.

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A Cheaper Uber

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It's not in the US - yet - but Uber is getting a less expensive competitor in Europe & Africa. It's called Taxify and reportedly costs 3 times less than Uber for the same ride. And it takes a lower commission from drivers. Taxify is just starting in London, looking to Paris next, and is unlikely to ignore the huge American market.

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Juicero Runs Dry

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Would you pay $400 for a Wi-Fi enabled juicer? Well, many people did, at least for awhile, but it seems Juicero's market has dried up, it's shutting down, and refunding customers' money for the Juicero Press, although not for any of the too-easy-to-squeeze produce packs people bought to use in it.

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How To Find Google’s Top “How To” Searches

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Google has come up with a list of all the "how to" things people search for - all over the world - and they are different in different countries. The #1 "how to" worldwide is: How To Tie A Tie?  #2 is: How To Kiss!  Click below to get to Google's blog post.

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Just Smile At The Colonel

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Pay for some KFC food with your smile?  Well, not exactly, the facial recognition screen at a KFC store in China does allow customers to pay that way, but of course they first have to "register" their face & payment method. And give their phone number to make sure it's really them.

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Update Your Pacemaker Now

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If you have a St Jude/Abbott pacemaker - or know someone who does - a trip to the doctor is recommended to have the pacemaker's firmware updated. The pacemakers have been vulnerable to Internet hacking and while the company fixed security issues on its end in January, only now does it have firmware updates for the actual implanted devices.

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Yahoo Can Be Sued Over Those Billion Plus Email Breaches

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Trouble for Verizon. Yahoo, which it bought earlier this year, can be sued by the more than a billion users whose accounts were hacked earlier. A federal judge in San Jose rejected Yahoo's argument that the users who are suing didn't suffer any injuries and therefore lack "standing" to proceed. That allows the nationwide lawsuit to continue, with Verizon liable for Yahoo's security mistakes between 2013 and last year.

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Apple Goes All In For Net Neutrality

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Apple's told the Federal Communications Commission it wants to keep an "open Internet" for all - and not roll-back rules on net neutrality, as the FCC's new chair has suggested. Apple is joining other big tech companies, such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Netflix in supporting net neutrality. The big ISPs are for getting rid of the rules, but millions of people have told the FCC they want to keep net neutrality.

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You Can Now Get A Lyft In 32 More States

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Lyft - the "other" ride-hailing company - has now expanded its service to 32 more states, making it 40 in all, which they say covers more than 90% of the US population. Of course, like Uber, that doesn't mean there are Lyft drivers available EXACTLY where you live, but Lyft claims it covers more area than its competitor.

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The FCC Has Heard From Millions On Net Neutrality

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The Federal Communications Commission, considering whether to drop or keep net neutrality rules, which basically keeps the big Internet carriers from slowing or charging extra for some websites or applications while favoring other traffic. So far the FCC has received 21 million comments, but most - from both sides - are reportedly form letters the sides encouraged their supporters to use. Removing the form letters there are 1.7 million comments in favor of keeping the net neutrality rules and only 24,000 agreeing with the FCC's new commissioner that the rules should be dropped.

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Alexa & Cortana Get Married

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Well, maybe not "married" - they're not human we don't think - but Amazon & Microsoft are making partners of their intelligent assistants - Alexa & Cortana - so they can communicate with each other and work with each other for certain tasks. For instance, Cortana works well with Microsoft's Outlook email program and the partnership will allow Alexa to use Outlook too, and Alexa is better with smart home devices, so...

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Happy Birthday Email

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Email officially 35 years old - Internet messaging was given the copyrighted name "email" in 1982 - and is still the #1 way people communicate over the web - especially for work. 85% of Americans read & write email on their phones, and some three-quarters find the amount of mail they get is overwhelming - too much & too often.

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That’s The OLD YouTube You’re Looking At Over There

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YouTube has made some changes - including a change to the familiar logo: YouTube's look has also been redesigned, after 12 years, and it will be more mobile-friendly, allowing gestures, right or left swipes to go to the next video or the previous, and display all video formats "correctly."  

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Uber To Stop Tracking Riders After They Leave Vehicles

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Uber - which had been using its phone app to keep track of riders after their trips ended - for about 5 minutes - now reportedly is going to stop doing that - something it says it did to ensure riders' safety. Uber will offer the post-ride location tracking as an opt-in feature.

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New BlackBerry Will Not Have Physical Keyboard

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There'll be another new BlackBerry this fall, but one without a keyboard. TCL, the company that now makes BlackBerry-brand hardware, announcing the full-touchscreen model, which is says compliments, but does not replace the recent BlackBerry KeyOne model - with a physical keyboard - that was released earlier this year (but has been on back-order for many weeks at most places).

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(Almost) Driverless Domino’s Pizza Deliveries

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Domino' Pizza is going to experiment with self-driving cars from Ford, to make "automated" deliveries. It will not be completely without humans, as a real driver will be in the vehicle, hidden behind darkened glass, just in case. And the customer will have to come out to the car, punch in part of their phone number on a touch screen, and a rear window will roll down to allow access to the pizza in a warming oven. No word on whether the car will accept tips.

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Tech Support Scam Victims To Get Very Little Back

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Victims of some tech support scammers are going to get less than 10 cents back on every dollar they were cheated of. The Federal Trade Commission says a Florida company that it successfully sued for offering phony tech support can come up with only about $10-million of the estimated $120-million it took from its victims. If you think you are due a "refund," go to this FTC website.

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New Home Blood Test For Infections, Cancer & More

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A California start-up is making a new at-home blood test device available, a device that already has clinical studies & FDA approval. With one drop of blood, the Athelas device can measure while blood cell counts, which can be used to detect infections, cancers, and even pending heart attacks. The results appear on a smartphone app and can be sent to a doctor.

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Drones Hunt For Sharks

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All those shark attacks in Australia's waters - there's a new technology trying to make that less of a problem with drones that will fly over beachfront water, able to spot sharks & even warn swimmers to get out now. The technology is said to be capable of distinguishing sharks from friendly dolphins, whose shape & fins are sometimes mistaken for sharks.

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Accuweather Still Sharing Your Location Data

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Accuweather's smartphone app is still reportedly sharing users' location data with a third party marketing firm, despite updating the app & saying it had stopped doing so. The security researcher who first found the Accuweather geolocation data was being shared has tested for it again, and found the sharing is still going on.

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AT&T Charged With Slower Internet For Poor Areas

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A complaint to the Federal Communications Commission charges AT&T with offering only slow Internet connections to poor neighborhoods in Cleveland, Ohio while providing wealthier neighborhoods with fast fiber connections. The complainants and AT&T have held talks but reached no resolution, with AT&T only offering faster Wi-Fi, not faster wired Internet to the poorer neighborhoods.

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Call Your Robo-Doctor

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Would you call a robo-doctor to discuss your health?  A California start-up has launched its first artificial intelligence "doctor" that humans can call at any time to "discuss" test results - with more functions to come. Of course, you're going to have to provide health records & access to other information, so your new "doc" can answer your questions.

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Amazon To Ring-Up Whole Foods Purchase Monday

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Amazon is going to close on its acquisition of Whole Foods on Monday (August 28th) now that Whole Foods shareholders and the Federal Trade Commission have both given their OK. Amazon says it'll start cutting some Whole Foods item prices immediately and eventually use Amazon Prime as the stores' rewards program.

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Blind-Spot Monitors & Lane Warnings Save Lives

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In-car safety devices such as blind-spot monitors and lane-departure warnings can prevent tens of thousands of accidents & injuries, or so say new studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety - you know them from those crash test dummy videos. The studies looked at 6 years of police accident reports from 25 states.

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Keeping Uber Drivers Happy

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Uber is trying to keep its drivers driving happy - with new changes to the rules that will allow Uber drivers to turn down trips without penalty - they couldn't do that before. Uber recently allowing tipping in its app - and that's made drivers $50 million extra in just the first month.

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No Bull – A $2,450 Smartphone

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Would you pay $2,450 for a phone? Lamborghini thinks some of the alpha males who spend up to $200,000 for one of their vehicles might, so the very, very expensive Android phone is for sale at that price. Most of the price tag is for the name & logo, with some for the Italian leather backing & case.

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Walmart Enlists Google To Fight Amazon

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Walmart, fighting the dominance of Amazon in online sales, has teamed up with Google for "voice-shopping," where people can order by simply speaking into a device at home. Amazon, of course, offers this on their Echo devices with Alexa's voice, and now Google Home is going to work with Walmart by offering shopping through its Google Assistant's voice.

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Verizon Throttles Video

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Starting tomorrow (Weds. August 23) Verizon is going to limit video bandwidth for all mobile users to as little a 480p on smartphones and 720p on tablets - even for users with so called "unlimited" plans. Those who want slightly more resolution - 720p on phones and 1080p on tablets -will have to pay an extra $10 a month. The new limits will be enforced at Verizon's mobile hotspots as well. Verizon says it's doing this to prevent or reduce "congestion."

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Now You Can Talk To Bixby

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Bixby - Samsung's own voice-assistant - is now available worldwide - including in the US. However - and didn't you know that was coming - it is only available so far on Samsung Galaxy 8 devices and it only recognizes standard US English or Korean - no entiende español or any other language - or even some accents or dialects. So maybe, for now, fuggedaboutit, y'all.

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Make It Oreo for Android

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The much-rumored name for the latest Android operating system is true - they are calling it Oreo - the name licensed from Nabisco no doubt - to be pushed out first to Google's own phones, Pixel and Nexus. Google is working with other phone makers to get Oreo ready for them because unlike the iPhone, Android phones can be modified by different device designers and that requires tweaks in the OS. Oreo promises better battery life & more security, among other improvements.

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Much Faster Chips From Intel

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Intel has announced new processor chips - which they are calling 8th-Generation - and claiming they will boost laptop speeds by up to 40% compared to recent chips and run twice as fast as processors in a 5 year old computer. The new chips to be in laptops available in September.

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Google’s “Kleenex” Problem

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Do you say "google" when you mean search the Internet, even if you aren't using Google - the same way you say "kleenex" when you ask for facial tissue of any brand?  The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to remove Google's trademark on "google" because it has become a generic term for Internet search. Google has won, so far, in lower courts. Kleenex, by the way, is still an official trademark, despite its widespread generic usage.

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Bing It On

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Most people "Google" when searching on the Internet, but Microsoft now says its Bing search engine is "bigger than you think" claiming Bing - directly or through affiliation with AOL & Yahoo - does one-third of the searches in the US. Bing's share worldwide is still less than 10 percent, with Google the runaway winner. But maybe some day you'll say you're going to "Bing it."

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Nationwide Cell Service From Comcast, If…

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Comcast is now making its cell phone service available nationwide with a $45 a line "unlimited" plan or $12 per GB. It runs on Verizon's network and is cheaper than Verizon, plus it has 18 million Wi-Fi hotspots available. A big "if" - you can only get the cell service IF you are a Comcast Xfinity residential Internet subscriber. And the "unlimited" plan throttles speeds after 20 GB of usage. And it's Comcast.

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Cox Cable Starts Charging For “Extra” Data

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Cox joining Comcast & Charter in capping users' cable data & adding extra charges for customers who want to either get "unlimited" data or just add 500 GB to their standard 1 TB plan. Customers who don't upgrade would be charged $10 per 50 GB for going over - and monthly data doesn't roll over.

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Riders Can’t Sue Uber

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If you sign up for Uber's ride-hailing service, you give up your right to sue them, so rules a Federal appeals court. The court upholding Uber's claim that all disputes are to be settled by arbitration, where companies generally have an edge because they can pick the arbitrator, who is often not a judge and is not bound by precedent.

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Any Car Can Be Hacked

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Seems any car built in the last 20 years or so, has a built-in unit that can be hacked to turn off vital car systems such as air bags, anti-lock brakes, and door locks. They all rely on an industry standard CAN system (Controller Area Network) that connects all in-vehicle equipment, so if a hacker gets in through an Internet or cell enabled entertainment system - or a device you plug in - they get stealth control of your car's systems.

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Apple Has A Billion Bucks To Spend On TV

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Apple's joining the ranks of Netflix, Amazon, HBO and others in wanting to create more of its own original programming. Apple is reportedly willing to spend $1 billion next year to develop as many as 10 new shows. The few that Apple has already released have not done too well.

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Self-Driving Car? Just Take Out The Steering Wheel

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Ford has patented a way to simply remove the steering wheel & pedals on self-driving car. This is different than other approaches, which have the "human" fold up the wheel & pedals so they are out of the way. The steering wheel's airbag would have a backup unit in the dash. Just a concept, of course.

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20 Years Of FTC Privacy Audits For Uber

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Uber's agreed to 20 years of privacy auditing under an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission which formally complained that Uber failed to follow through with its own rules to prevent employees from monitoring users, drivers & even journalists. And the data wasn't even kept securely. A 3rd party will audit Uber & report back to the FTC.

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Your LinkedIn Data Can Be Gathered By Third-Party Bots

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Your data on LinkedIn can be "scraped" by 3rd party bots to use as they please - the ruling by a Federal judge against Microsoft, which owns LinkedIn. They had fought to block hiQ Labs which wants to gather LinkedIn data to estimate when workers leave their jobs, but the judge says not to allow such data gathering is anti-competitive. The ruling opens the door to other 3rd parties collecting your data from LinkedIn & other social media sites.

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Amazon’s Pick Me Up

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If you're a college student - or professor - or just live near a campus, you may be able to pick up your Amazon order "instantly." Amazon is opening "Instant Pickup" locations around the country, starting with five college campuses in Berkely, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio and College Park, Maryland, with more to come. Only fast-selling smaller items will be available for pick-up in a few minutes.

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Self-Driving Cars Go “Soft”

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Waymo - Google's self-driving car unit - has been issued a patent for ways to make a car "softer" in a collision with people or other vehicles. It's only a concept, but basically it would reduce the hard shell of a vehicle by having cables or bars that would release the tension of certain parts before a predicted collision - making the vehicle "softer."

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Humans Are Still Better Drivers

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While it seems every vehicle-making company & tech firm is getting on the road to fully autonomous cars & other vehicles, a University of Michigan researcher says human are still better drivers than the most intelligent machines. For example, we can stay in lane if the markings are faded or gone, and tell if a person crossing a street is paying attention or looking at a phone. The machines, though, are getting better.

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SoundCloud Safe – For Now

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SoundCloud - the audio distribution system where people & bands can upload & share music and other audio - is not going out of business. Last minute funding and the resignation of SoundCloud's CEO, one of its founders 9 years ago. The Berlin-based service has both free & subscription accounts, where many musicians post their work that's not available commercially.

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Is Amazon Getting Into The Event Ticket Business?

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Amazon is reportedly looking to get into the event ticketing business, according to Reuters. Their story says four sources have told them Amazon has been talking to various venues about breaking the virtual monopoly Ticketmaster has on event ticket sales, as a means to bring more people into its Prime membership club, while lowering all those extra fees for tickets that consumers dislike.

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Thumbs Down On Microsoft Surface Laptops

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Consumers Reports says it is no longer "recommending" four Microsoft Surface laptops - saying they have poor reliability compared to other brands. Microsoft says CR's report is not accurate.

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Who Needs A New Car Any More?

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A new study finds that where Uber & Lyft ride-hailing services are available, people may purchase fewer cars & even take fewer trips. Researchers questioned people in Austin, Texas, after the on-demand services pulled out because of a local law and found that availability of the services had changed people's behavior.

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Facebook Fights Disguised Ads & Sites

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It's called "cloaking" a long-time method used by spammers to hide who they really are, and by web advertisers trying to get you to click on one thing, but delivering an ad for another, such as porn or diet pills. Facebook says it's beefing up the fight against cloaking with increased use of artificial intelligence, as well as humans reviewing ads & posts.

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Maybe You Don’t Need Fast Internet Speed

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American may not need fast Internet speed at home - or so a new document from the Federal Communication Commission suggests. It says with so many people on mobile, faster broadband may not be so necessary. This is a potential policy shift by the new Republican chair of the FCC, but does it make sense when more people are shifting from cable TV to streaming services and the US isn't in the top 20 of average Internet speeds, worldwide?

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Battery-Free Cell Phones

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Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a way to power a cell phone without using batteries. The phone gets its power from either light or ambient radio signals. The prototype was made using off-the-shelf components and while it looks crude now, they hope to have a better version early next year, even including a camera.

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Mickey’s Saying Bye-Bye To Netflix

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No more Disney on Netflix, starting in 2019. Disney is going to take its movies - including those from Pixar - onto its own streaming service - but Star Wars & Marvel movies were not mentioned. Disney's ESPN is also launching its own streaming service next year with pro baseball, hockey, soccer & some tennis, plus college games. No name or price for either service, yet.

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Faster Way To Send Big Files

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Ever want to send someone a big file - maybe a video you took - but it's too large for email?  Sure you could put it up on Dropbox or a similar site & send them a link, but Mozilla is testing an easier way, something they call Send. You just drop the file on the site, it creates an encrypted link automatically, and you grab & email the link. Mozilla deletes the file as soon as it's downloaded, or 24 hours, which ever comes first.

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Search Engine Just For Internet Audio

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It's music to the ears of podcasters and radio news - a new search engine designed to find audio - thanks to a growing trend for people to get their information by ear and using such devices as Amazon's Echo, as well as their phones & computers. Audioburst Search allows looking for podcasts & web-hosted radio programs by topic or keywords. One caveat: so far, the search includes mostly podcasters & radio stations that have "partnered" with Audioburst.

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T-Mobile Offering Discount Plans for 55+ Users

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T-Mobile is offering discount mobile rate for users 55+, becoming the first carrier to wake up to the fact that older folks represent the fastest-growing group of smartphone adopters and users. Starting Wednesday (August 9) a single unlimited account for those 55+ will be $50 monthly - $20 less than the regular rate - and for couples $60 monthly - HALF the regular 2-line rate. You have to accept auto-pay to get the full discount.

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Blu Back On Amazon

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Less than a week after Amazon stopped selling the Blu brand of smartphones because of concerns that some have an app that collects user data, the phones are again listed for sale. The phones are inexpensive, and a security firm claimed that the phones collected data and sent it to servers in China, without informing users. The Chinese company that makes the Blu phones says it was a "false alarm" and that the data collected is standard for smartphone functionality.

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Netflix On Your Cable Box

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If you can't beat 'em, join ' em. American cable companies are starting to add Netflix to their cable boxes, a bow to the power of the streaming service which until now was only available on your TV through an Internet connection. So far, though, no cable company is "bundling" Netflix as part of their deal; you have to pay additional for Netflix, same as if you streamed it yourself.

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Senate Passes Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid Bill

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The U.S. Senate has approved a bill, sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, among others, that would enable the sale of FDA approved hearing aids for a fraction of the price currently charged by professional audiologists.  Those fitted hearing aids can run upwards of $5000, and they are generally not covered by insurance.  The measure, seen as a help for millions of Americans who suffer hearing loss, has the backing of the Consumer Technology Association and other industry groups.  

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Test Your Passwords

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Have your passwords ever been stolen? Now you can find out - and test possible new passwords - by looking them up on a web database of so-called pwnd passwords - passwords exposed in a data breach somewhere. There are hundreds of millions of them, and now you can look yours up on the site.

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Echo Location Smartwatch For The Blind

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People who are blind, or nearly blind, will soon have a device to help them - an echolocation band, worn on the wrist, that vibrates if it senses an object nearby - the vibration getting stronger as the object gets closer.  The band will sell for under $300, and it links to a smartphone for adjustments. The developers expect to eventually add Google Maps integration to help blind people navigate better.

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Ransomware Hero Arrested For Selling Hacking Code

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You might remember back in May when a British researcher figured out a "kill switch" on a ransomware worm known as WannaCry that was infecting hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide. Well now the FBI has arrested the same guy, Marcus Hutchins, at a Las Vegas hacking convention, charging that he advertised & distributed malware used to steal people's banking & credit card data.

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Smartphones Are Really Hurting Your Teenagers

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Smartphones are socially destroying a whole generation, the iGen, as it's called, the teenagers after the Millenials. A long story in The Atlantic points out that your teenage children or grandchildren are less social, hanging out much less with friends, dating less, less mature, wasting more time alone with their phones, and most disturbingly, are more prone to suicide, especially girls, than the generation before.

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We Merged, You Pay More

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Now that Charter Communications has merged with Spectrum (the former Time-Warner Cable) and another provider, it has been moving those users to new - and often higher - pricing plans. The CEO says those customers previous plans were "mispriced" and needed to be moved "in the right direction" which is apparently only up.

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Facebook Doing More To Combat Real Fake Newss

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Facebook has started using updated artificial intelligence on its German site to find potential "fake news" and send them to fact checkers. The fact check results will be shown under the original item. Facebook says a test of a new system is also being launch in the US.

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Electric Car Sales Way Up So Far This Year

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Electric car sales are up 86% so far in 2017 compared to a year ago, with the all-electric Tesla Model S leading the way, followed by the Chevy Bolt, then the Tesla Model X.  The Toyota Prius Prime and Chevy Volt - which are plug-in hybrids - came in 4th and 5th for January through July.  The Tesla Model 3 was just released this month.

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Who’s The Fastest Of Them All?

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T-Mobile is now the fastest overall wireless carrier, at least according to the latest measurements by OpenSignal. Both Verizon & AT&T slowed down the last quarter, likely because they launched their "unlimited" data plans. Sprint continues to come in last.

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Tiny Tape Holds 330 Terabytes!

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Backup to tape - that sounds so last century but IBM has come up with a new method that can hold up to 330 TB - uncompressed - in a palm sized tape cartridge.  It uses something called "sputtered magnetic tape" and is mostly intended for business enterprise use, but these innovations do have a way of sometimes trickling down to us mere consumers.

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CBS All Access Adds 24/7 News

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CBS All Access - their CBS-only streaming service - is now adding CBS News coverage, included anchored newscasts and special reports from CBSN - the CBS News online service that's been available on CBSNews.com since 2014. This is in addition to some CBS News programs - and local newscasts - already available on All Access

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Word Will Read Back To You For Review

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Microsoft Word is adding new features - one of them is the ability to read aloud back to you something you've written, which is good for catching errors you might miss in scanning a document, especially if your eyesight isn't what it once was or you have a disability such as dyslexia. Other Office365 products are also getting updates to be rolled out by the end of this year.

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Don’t Be Asleep At The Wheel

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Drowsy driving is dangerous and you can go from slightly sleepy to full out without realizing it. Panasonic has come up with an in-car system that uses sensors, a camera, and artificial intelligence to notice the early stages of drowsiness and tries to keep the drive awake by changing the car's air flow. Failing that, it sets off an alarm! To be tested y car makers this fall.

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No Texting While Crossing In Honolulu

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Honolulu is becoming the first American city to ban texting while crossing a street. Distracted walking has injured thousands of people and is often considered a possible cause of some deaths. The law in Honolulu goes into effect in October and even looking at a phone while crossing a street will get a fine of $15 to $99 - going up the more times someone is caught.

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Apple TV Sued Over Skip Back Feature

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For the past two years, users of Apple TV can ask Siri "what did she say?" and it will skip back 15 seconds so you can catch the dialogue you may have missed. But a Florida company says it patented that same exact feature in 1998 and is suing Apple for patent infringement. The company says it's tried for three years to contact Apple to discuss licensing the patent, but never got a response. Maybe they should have asked Siri.

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How Hackers Can Steal Your Cell Number & Pretend To Be You

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A flaw in cell phone networks could allow hackers to grab your cell phone number & use it as if they are you - which means they might be able to get to your bank accounts and other records and call or text as if it's you. A Chinese security company found the problem and has told cell providers about it, and they are fixing it.

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Jeff Bezos Officially World’s Richest Person – And Then Not

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Jeff Bezos - founder of Amazon - was named the world's richest person by Forbes, for the first time, surpassing perennial rich-guy Bill Gates with a $90.6 billion net worth, thanks to the rise in Amazon's stock price. But later in the day, Amazon shares dipped a little, and Bezos slipped back to second place. Only a few hundred million bucks divide them, or as we call it around here, chump change.

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New Group To Test Medical Devices For Cyber Security

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Serious concerns about the hacking of medical devices - such as pacemakers - have led to the creation of the World Health Information Security Testing Labs (or WHISTL) to be an independent consortium of labs that will test medical devices for security & privacy. It will work just as Underwriters Labs (UL) does, which tests electrical devices for safety. A researcher recently found thousands of vulnerabilities in 7 pacemakers from 4 companies.

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No, No Nano

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No more Ipod Nano - or Shuffle. Apple is dropping the small music players from its line of devices, will offer only the Ipod Touch player instead, starting at $199. The Shuffle & the Nano both came out in 2005 and offered alternative ways to listen to music (or FM radio in the case of the later Nano models) separate from your smartphone

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Twitter Losing Users And Money

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It may be the preferred communication medium for the commander-in-tweet, but Twitter is losing other U.S. users and its revenues are down compared to a year ago.  It's stock price, of course, has taken a hit.

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Is Amazon Going To Get Into Health Care Too?

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In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue - or so went the old poem - but now 1492 is said to be the name of a secret team at Amazon working on health care technology including telemedicine and electronic medical records. CNBC reporting the tech might use Amazon's Echo or Dash Wand devices, among other things.

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$500 Million Patent Infringement Award Against Apple

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A federal judge has ordered Apple to pay the University of Wisconsin-Madison more than $500 million for infringing on a patent it owns based on a technical innovation by a university computer science professor and 3 of his students. The judge more than doubled the jury award because Apple continued to infringe on the patent until it expired last year. Apple is appealing.

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Even Faster USB Connections

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The data speed of new USB-C cables may be about to double - from 10 Gigabits per second to 20Gbps. It would be using new technology to send data over USB-C cables, now known as USB 3.1 to USB 3.2. It may be, though, a year or more before the new USB speed is widely available for phones and computers, making for faster transfers of data including music and video.

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Why Isn’t The Government Protecting You From Bad Email?

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Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden wants to know why federal agencies, including Homeland Security & the IRS, are not using an email security option that's been around for more than 5 years. It's called DMARC and implementing it can help prevent spammers from spoofing email addresses & domains, such as those claiming to be from .gov.

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Microsoft Paint Will Now Be A Free Download

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Microsoft is not killing Paint after all.  Just a day after word that Paint would be "deprecated" in new versions of Windows 10 - and an outcry from users of the more than 30-year-old program, Microsoft now says Paint will live on as a downloadable free app from the Windows Store.

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Adobe Killing Flash

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Say goodbye to Adobe Flash - the video program is being killed by Adobe effective in 2020 - although its use is already optional for many web browsers. For instance, Chrome already asks for permission to run Flash and plans to disable it by default. Apple Safari has already been blocking it although there is a way to re-enable it on certain websites. Flash's problem is that its age makes it tougher to make it secure.

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It’s A Fact: Snopes Is In Trouble

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Snopes.com - arguably the Internet's first and best known fact-checking site - says it's in danger of having to shut down because of a business dispute - and it's asking visitors to donate money to keep it open. Snopes accepts no direct advertising, and the money problems seem to stem from a contentious divorce of the site's founders, which included the wife selling her half of the business to an outside company that is now suing the husband claiming he's hiding company assets.

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Goodbye Microsoft Paint

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Microsoft Paint - which has been part of Windows since the very first edition in 1985 - will soon be no more. Microsoft is reportedly going to be removed or "deprecated" - as Microsoft put it - in the next update to Windows 10. If you already have & use paint in Windows 7 or 8.1 - it won't go away.

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Your Vehicle’s Bluetooth May Be Used To Track It

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If you have Bluetooth in your car - frequently used to connect your phone to the vehicle's system so you can talk hands-free - that same Bluetooth technology may allow your car to be tracked. A city in Denmark is using Bluetooth sensors to judge traffic patterns & adjust signals accordingly. The technology is being used in several European countries, Canada, and at at least two U.S. airports.

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Verizon Admits Slowing Netflix & YouTube

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Verizon says it has been "optimizing" streaming video from Netflix & YouTube - which looks to many like Verizon throttling the bandwidth in violation of the net neutrality rules that are still in place. Verizon one of many broadband operators who want the FCC's rules rescinded. Verizon says it's been doing "network testing" that should be finished soon & claims customers are not affected.

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Millions Want to Save Net Neutrality

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The Federal Communications Commission says it has received a record 10 million comments on a proposal to roll back the 2015 net neutrality rules - with some 2 million of them coming in last week during a net neutrality online protest. The rules prevent broadband companies from slowing down or blocking content, or demanding fees to offer faster service from certain companies. Big Internet companies support net neutrality; the big phone & cable companies oppose it.

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Now Lyft Is Working On Self-Driving Cars

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Lyft - the other major ride-hailing service - is also going into the self-driving vehicle development business. Lyft had previously partnered with several other companies working on self-driving cars, including Alphabet's Waymo & General Motors - but now says it will open its own facility in California to develop self-driving systems, but not to build the actual cars.

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FTC Investigating Amazon

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The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly investigating Amazon for misleading consumers on price discounts, as it considers Amazon's bid to buy Whole Foods. Reuters says a consumer watchdog group found Amazon - when it posted list prices - often sold the items for less in the previous 90 days so the "discount" price was the "real" price.

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Musk Claims Verbal OK For 29 Minute NY-DC Hyperloop

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Tesla's Elon Musk says on Twitter he has a "verbal" approval to build an underground "Hyperloop" that would allow people to travel between city centers in New York City & Washington, DC in 29 minutes. An airline flight between the two takes more than an hour - not counting time to & from airports and going through security. Musk admits there's a lot of work to get "formal approval" but is "optimistic."

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No New Windows 10 Features For Millions of Laptops

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If you have a laptop with a certain family of Intel processors - and millions do - Microsoft says it will provide no more Windows 10 feature updates (although they will get security updates) because, Microsoft says, Intel has ended support for the processors. They are in what was known as the Cloverview family, and at least 10 million devices sold in 2013 & 2014 have these Intel Atom Z2760, Z2580, Z2560 and Z2520 processors.

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Bloodless Glucose Smartphone App

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A British company says it's testing a smartphone app that can take measurements of a person's blood - including blood glucose levels - just by placement of a finger over the phone's camera lens. Epic Health says it hopes to have the - free for Android & iOS users - available later this year, with the glucose measuring function working in 2018.

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You Can Keep Your Hat On

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How about a Speakerhat? It's Atari's idea - a hat with built-in Bluetooth speakers and microphone, so you can make phone calls or listen to music while you keep your hat on. These are speakers, not earphones, so everyone around you will hear it too, in fact, Atari says eventually wearers will be able to sync up with each other to play the same noise - uh, music - together.

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Personalized Google News Feed For Your Phone

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Google is rolling out an improved "feed" of stories you may like - for both Android & iOS. The feed personalizes what it shows you based on your search history & location, among other things. It will include news, sports & weather.

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A News Paywall Is Coming To Facebook

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Facebook - which has been showing its users news stories from other sources for free - much to the consternation of many publishers - is going to try instituting a "paywall" for those stories, starting in October. The first 10 stories will be free, then Facebook users would have to subscribe to keep reading.

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Here’s Bixby, Finally

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Samsung is finally launching Bixby - its voice-assistant - in the US some 3 months behind schedule. Bixby is supposed to be a rival to Siri, Google Assistant & Alexa - but it had trouble learning English. And so far it's only up to American English because it's not quite ready to roll for the UK, Australia & Canada, eh.

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All We Need Is 100 Square Miles Of Solar Panels

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100 square miles of solar panels - that's all it would take to power the entire United States with the Sun, or so says Elon Musk, of the Tesla & other innovations. Musk says that square mileage would be just a small corner of Texas, but of course, doesn't have to all be in one place. And he'd need one more square mile, filled with batteries for night time.

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Google Glass Is Back – For Work

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Google Glass, Google's not very successful attempt to have people walk around viewing & recording images from their special glasses, is back in Version 2.0. But this time Google Glass is being made & sold specifically to use in business & manufacturing. Large companies, such as Boeing, GE & DHL have all been trying, and liking, Google Glass. Just leave them at work.

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First Smartphone Always Listening For Alexa

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It's the first smartphone that "listens" for Alexa - the same way Amazon's Echo devices do. The HTC-U11 hears if you say "Alexa" - and then follow your command, the same way an Echo does. There are some limitations - for instance you cannot change phone settings with Alexa, but the HTC-U11 also listens for "OK Google" commands.

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Sanitizer For Escalator Handrails

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When you travel on an escalator, do you "purell" your hands afterward, to kill any germs you might have picked up?  May no longer be necessary, if a new LG device gets installed on many escalators. It can sterilize escalator handrails with UV, as they move. Doesn't work, though, for regular handrails, door knobs, etc.

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Big Tech Wants To Save Net Neutrality

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Amazon, Facebook, Google and other major tech firms are urging the Federal Communications Commission to not take away net neutrality, the 2015 rules that prevent Internet providers from favoring one type of data over another, say giving faster speed to a company that pays extra for its content to be transmitted. The big carriers, Verizon, AT&T & Comcast, are on the opposite side, saying net neutrality discourages investment and innovation.

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Amazon Chat App?

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Amazon is reportedly considering releasing its own chat app, something to rival texting and other apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Skype. The service would include voice & video calls, sharing photos, group chats, even encrypted communications with businesses & banks.

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Sprint Offers New Leasing Plans

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Sprint is introducing new wireless plans aimed at helping people pay more easily for smartphones and even be able to upgrade in as little as a year. The basic Sprint Flex plan allows users to choose a phone with a small down payment & an 18-month term, but they can upgrade for free after 12 months, go the full 18, or even keep the phone by essentially refinancing the deal.

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Putting Words In A President’s Mouth

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Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a way to put words in someone's mouth - that is - take audio from one place and put it in a video from another time the person was speaking, and make it appear those were the "correct" words spoken. Essentially, using artificial intelligence to lip-sync. They used President Obama because there are so many videos of him speaking for their system to use to learn how to match his lips to words. Obviously, there's a danger such technology could be used to create "real" fake news.

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Racist Airbnb Host Banned, Fined, Schooled

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A Northern California woman who canceled an Asian woman's Airbnb reservation for her cabin - because she is Asian - has not only been tossed out of Airbnb, she's been fined $5000 by the state & ordered to take a course on Asian American studies. It's the first time California has enforced an agreement with Airbnb to counter racial bias by its hosts.

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Does The Monkey Own Its Selfie?

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A selfie a macaque monkey took of itself - using a British wildlife photographer's camera - is still having an ownership dispute. The photog says he owns the rights, but PETA - the animal rights people - says the monkey does and they want to administer any proceeds for the monkey's benefit. A federal judge agreed with the photographer, but now an appeals court is involved. So far, the monkey has not been called to testify.

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Cloud DVR And More For DirecTV Now

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DirecTV Now - AT&Ts service for cable-cord-cutters - is getting some needed enhancements, including Cloud DVR. The streaming service launched last year, but is in need of upgrades, and AT&T says they are coming, some this fall, some next year, including parental controls, live TV pause, and "download & go."

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You Can Now Backup To Google Drive

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After a few weeks delay, Google says you can now use Google Drive to backup files & photos. The program now includes a Sync option to schedule automatic backups. Of course, there's a 15 GB limit on free storage in Google Drive, but you can buy 100 GB more for less than $2 a month.

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Bot Fights Parking Tickets For You

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A Stanford University student has created a free chatbot site that helps people fight parking tickets - 375,000 in the past 2 years. Joshua Browder is now expanding to other kinds of help, such as disputing a bad credit report, filing for maternity leave or reporting discrimination. He's aiming to replace lawyers who charge too much for taking care of small issues.

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4-in-10 Are Harassed Online

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More than 40% of American adults say they have been harassed online and 2/3rds of those surveyed by Pew Research know it has happened to others. The Pew survey found most harassment was name calling or purposely embarrassing someone, largely on social media, and most surveyed felt online companies need to do more to stop it.

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Pay Up Or Be Exposed To All

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Here's a new twist on ransomware - a bad program that demands money not to unlock your data, but they promise if you pay $50 they won't send all your personal data & browsing history to all the contacts in your phone.  So far, this ransomware has only turned up in two programs available for Android phones and they've already been removed from the Play Store.

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Amazon Has Its Own “Geek Squad”

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Amazon may be going pocket-protector to pocket-protector again Best Buy.  Amazon has reportedly started its own version of the "Geek Squad" to offer free consultations on Alexa and paid home installations. So far the "smart home" squad has only been rolled out in 7 markets, but more are said to be on the way.

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Who Is Guarding Your Internet Privacy?

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Here's something to consider: Adobe is among those rated highest in safeguarding users' Internet privacy by the Electronic Freedom Foundation in its annual "Who Has Your Back?" scorecard. It looks at how companies respond to government requests for user information. Adobe, Dropbox, Lyft, Uber, and WordPress getting 5 stars. Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile & WhatsApp getting only 1. Microsoft & Google scoring in the middle.

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Don’t Get Smished

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Smishing is growing.  Smishing is phishing by text messages, where you get what looks like a legit message from a friend or bank or credit card company, but really from some crooks looking to trick you into responding with personal information or going to a malicious website. Trickier to catch than email spam, so be careful.

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Prime Numbers For Amazon

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Amazon Prime continues to grow. The $99 annual membership now attracting some 85 million customers, and new data shows those who pay for Prime also spend - on average - almost twice as much a year on products from Amazon.

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Google Maps Adds Wheelchair Accessibility Info

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Wheelchair accessible?  Google Maps is now going to have the answer, with wheelchair accessibility - to entrances, elevators, restrooms, parking & seating - listed for millions of locations. It'll just take a couple of extra taps on Google Maps on Android (or desktop) to find the info. 7 million places worldwide are already listed & Google is inviting users to add their local information too.

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No More Gas Or Diesel In France

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No more gasoline or diesel vehicles in France by 2040. It's the goal the French government has announced, but without too many specifics on how that would be accomplished. Currently, fossil fuel vehicles make up about 95% of new cars sold, but the French government wants the whole country to the "carbon neutral" by 2050.

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Volvo Steps Off The Gas

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Volvo says that starting with its 2019 models all its new cars will have electric motors - some fully electric, some hybrids. They've already announced no more diesels, so this means in a few years no more Volvo cars will be built to run only on combustion engines.

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Texters Walk Differently

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Text while you walk?  Then you walk differently than usual - or so finds a study in England that people look at obstacles when they text and walk up to 61% less than they do while just plain walking. The researchers at Anglia Ruskin University found texters walk 40% slower than usual - and that's probably a good thing because they're not looking so much at where they're going!

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Bixby On Hold

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Bixby - the name Samsung has given to its voice-assistant - was supposed to be rolled out in English last month. But Bixby is held up until the fall with technical issues, including a lack of the "big data" needed to make an AI assistant work properly, and language barriers between the South Korean & US development teams. One British consulting firm claimed in May that Samsung's Bixby will be second only to Google Assistant in four years, followed by Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa & Microsoft's Cortana.

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Facebook Can Track You Even When You’re Logged Off

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Even when you're logged off Facebook, it can track your Internet activities using cookies stored on your device - and a federal judge in California says it's OK. Judge Edward Davila in San Jose ruling that there's no reasonable expectation of privacy to prevent Facebook's cookies from reporting back to them when you visit a site with Facebook "like" buttons, even when logged out of Facebook.

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Update Windows 10 Now

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Microsoft is pushing all Windows 10 users to upgrade to the latest version - especially those running the "original" version 1507 which no longer receives security & other updates as of May 9th. Microsoft is also reminding users of later versions of Win 10 to review their privacy settings, something they must do to get the latest update, the so-called Creators Update.  Part of the reason for all this: helping block ransomware attacks.

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Internet Only Cable TV From Charter

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Charter Communications - the big cable TV company - is reportedly testing an Internet-only TV service - $20 a month with 25 channels including local TV. For $15 more some premium channels are added, plus there are other add-ons for sports networks, HBO & Showtime. The idea is to hold only customers who are increasingly cord-cutting - dropping or not even signing up for expensive cable services - while getting the TV they want over the Internet.

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Back to The Future For Sony Vinyl

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Sony is joining the return to vinyl. The Japanese company will open a vinyl record pressing plant and start issuing records by early next year. It's been almost 30 years since Sony made such records so it's looking for older engineers to help get it restarted. Sony did release a new turntable earlier this year and vinyl sales have been going up since 2008, reportedly surpassing digital music sales in the UK by the end of last year.

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Google Shares Photos By Facial Recognition

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Google Photos is rolling out a new version for phones & computers - and it's going to make sharing photos easier by using facial recognition. The sharing will not be fully automatic, but Google Photos will "suggest" sharing a photo if it recognizes the face of one of your contacts in a photo.

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Windows 10 May Block Ransomware

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A new version of Windows 10 - now testing in a preview - may help block ransomware from encrypting files. Users would need to turn on Controlled File Access in Windows Defender, which would block malware or any blacklisted programs from changing files in that folder. If the test is successful, the new Windows 10 version with it would be rolled out in September.

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No Kaspersky For US Military

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Kaspersky Lab - the Russian cyber security company - may have its products banned from use by the US military if a proposal from several senators goes through. The senators and some military & intelligence officials are worried that the Kaspersky has ties to the Russian government, and in fact, several of its American employees have been questioned by the FBI.  Kaspersky denies any Russian government connections.

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Google Ordered To Change Search Results Worldwide

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Canada's Supreme Court has ordered Google to fix its search results - worldwide - because a small firm in Vancouver sued a competitor that was illegally relabeling and selling its products. The problem is Google still lists the fakes and the company got a court order - now upheld - for Google to fix the search results to block the counterfeiter from doing business.

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A New Look For Google News

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Google News has a new look. The site on computers and phones aggregates stories from around the Internet whose selection and placement the page are determined automatically by a computer program. There's also a "fact check" feature. It's the first major redesign of Google News in 6 years.

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Yahoo Mail Gets A Makeover

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Yahoo Mail has a new design and features now that the company has been taken over by Verizon. Yahoo says the new browser app is faster & uses up less memory, and the look is cleaner. Yahoo is still either the 3rd or 4th most popular free email app - depending on who is counting - and revelations of major hacks in the recent past have not helped.

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1 Of Every 4 People On Earth Is On Facebook

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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says there are now at least 2 Billion people worldwide who are active on Facebook each month - that's more than 25% of the world's estimated population of 7.5 Billion people. It's also three times the estimated users of Instagram and some six times more people than use Twitter.

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Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport

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Self-driving cars in Australia have a problem - they don't easily recognize jumping kangaroos in the road - a problem unique to Down Under. Apparently, the way the kangaroos move baffles the vehicles' animal detection system. Volvo is testing self-driving cars there & is trying to solve the 'roo problem. Maybe they should just sing it away.

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Europeans Fine Google $2.7 Billion

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The European Union has fined Google's parent company Alphabet a record $2.7 million for favoring its own services in Google searches. Google has 90 days to change its ways or the EU will impose additional fines of up to 5% of Alphabet's daily take which would amount to at least $12 million a day. Google's planning an appeal.

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Ringless Voicemail Hangs Up

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You won't be bothered with ringless voicemail - a way to leave messages on your cell phone without it ever ringing. The Republican Party & some business groups wanted ringless voicemail exempted from the Federal Communications Commission rules on robocalls, but there was so much opposition, the marketing company that petitioned the FCC to allow such messages has now dropped the request.

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Yes, It’s The WienerDrone

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Hot dog, your wiener is going to be delivered by drone. Yes, for those of you who've been relishing airborne delivery, Oscar Meyer now has a WienerDrone to compliment the famous Wienermobile and its all-terrain WienerRover cousin. The drone is scheduled to make its first drop July 4th in Wiener, Arkansas, although it can deliver only one cardboard packaged dog at a time. There's also a new WienerCycle, a moped with a sidecar that can keep 8 dogs hot for urban deliveries.

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Avis Is Trying Harder To Be First With Self-Driving Car Rentals

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Avis is going to manage Waymo's self-driving cars in Phoenix - as the Google-related company tests Chrysler Pacifica minivans there. Avis already owns Zipcar, the car sharing network, and that's likely the appeal of the deal to Waymo. It gives Avis a head start on renting self-driving cars as they become street legal in other cities. Meanwhile, Apple is leasing some cars from Hertz, also to test self-driving tech.

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Sniffing Out Graffitti

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Graffiti is a plague on many mass transit systems but in Sidney, Australia, they've come up with a high-tech way to stop graffiti writers in their tracks. The rail system has developed little "sniffers" that can detect when someone starts using spray paint or a permanent marker, and it sets off an alarm. So far 50 people have been caught trying to "tag" Sidney trains.

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Gmail Will Stop Spying On Your Inbox

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Google is going to stop - sometime later this year - scanning the inboxes of its 1.2 billion free Gmail users looking for information so it can "personalize" the ads it shows them. It's not that Google will stop showing ads in Gmail, but it apparently already has enough information about you from its other products to stop reading your inbox.

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No More Private Medical Records In Google Searches

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Google searches will no longer turn up private medical records. Google quietly added the category of “confidential, personal medical records of private people” to the list of things it will not display in a search - a list that includes personal financial information & so-called revenge porn.

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Record Fine For Robocalls

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The Federal Communications Commission is proposing its largest fine ever for robocalls - those annoying scam calls delivered by the millions. The FCC wants to fine a Miami, Florida man $120 million for making some 96 million robocalls in just 3 months last year. Those who answered their cell phones were offered vacation deals that were actually for timeshares in Mexico. The calls disrupted a medical paging service and deluged a legit travel agency.

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Roadside Cameras To Catch Uninsured Drivers

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There's a bill pending in Rhode Island that would use roadside cameras to ticket uninsured drivers. The highway surveillance cameras would be installed & monitored by a contractor, and the $120 fine split evenly between the contractor & the state, the same way fines paid by speeders & red light violators caught on camera get split. But RI would be the first - if this goes through - to use cameras on uninsured drivers.

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Facebook Has A New Mission Statement But You Can’t Sing It

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Did you know Facebook has a "mission statement?" It does - and it used to be to "make the world more open and connected.”  Mark Zuckerberg has now changed that, and Facebook's mission is now "to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together."  Sort of along the lines of "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony..." 

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Don’t Get Skimmed At Gas Pump

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The Federal Trade Commission is out with warnings and information to help you avoid having your credit card "skimmed" when you fill up at the gas pump. Skimming is when illegal card readers are attached to legit terminals - such as at a gas pump - and they steal your card information & later your money. The FTC says the scam is not new, but the skimming devices are getting smaller & harder to find. Read what they say, below.

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Like A Virgin For $1 A Year

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Virgin Mobile - the wireless carrier owned by Richard Branson - is giving up on Androids and going all-in on iPhones. The new deal tries to lure customers with a price of $1 for the first year of "unlimited" service, and $50 a month after that. Of course, you have to also buy (or already own) a compatible iPhone and Virgin runs on the Sprint network. But you will get some discounts on Virgin flights, hotels & wines. Deal deadline: July 31.

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Google Squashs Ads

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Google says it's using its new ad-squasher to reduce the size and loading time of it own ads, which means faster page loads and longer battery life. The Brotli compression - as it's called - reduces ads by 15 to 40%. Only Apple's Safari browser for Macs & iOS devices don't yet work with it.

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Uber CEO Driven Out

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The CEO and co-founder of Uber - Travis Kalanick - has resigned after the company's major investors said they no longer had confidence in him running the company. This comes just days after Kalanick took an undefined leave of absence in the face of both troubles at Uber & his mother's death. Those trouble included complaints of sexual harrassmant of women

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Now You Can Tip Your Uber Driver

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Uber is now going to allow riders to tip their drivers - through the app of course - rolling out the program in a few cities & to the rest by the end of July. Other driver-friendly changes are being made as well, such a charging riders if they keep their driver waiting too long. Rival services such as Lyft already allow tips and Uber drivers have been pushing hard for increased pay.

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Try Clothes Free Before You Buy At Amazon

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Amazon adding another service for its $99 a year Prime members: Prime Wardrobe, which will ship at least 3 and as many as 15 garments - of their choice - to Prime members for free. They'd pay only for what they decide to keep - if any - and get a free return on the rest. The program will roll out soon to all Amazon Prime members.

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Firefox Privacy Boosting Browser For Android

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Firefox Focus - a browser designed to improve user privacy and block ad trackers - is now available for Android devices. It was made available for iPhone & iPad users last year. With one tap users can erase their browsing history and Firefox Focus can be used as the default browser so you are never tracked.

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Best & Worst Cable Companies

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Consumer Reports has rated the best - and worst - cable companies and found there are good reasons many people are cutting the cord and buying subscription TV services. Some of the largest cable companies, such as Comcast, Charter, Cox & Spectrum (formerly Time-Warner) rank among the lowest in consumer satisfaction for value and customer service. Google Fiber & a municipal-run service in Chattanooga, Tennessee got the highest ratings.

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Driver In Fatal Tesla Crash Barely Touched The Wheel

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A man killed in the crash of a Tesla Model S in May 2016, allowed the car's Autopilot to drive for 37 minutes during which time he touched the steering wheel for only 25 seconds, despite repeated warnings from the vehicle that his hands were "required" to be on the wheel. That's the finding of the National Transportation Safety Board, which reviewed the car's data. Tesla has since changed Autopilot to prevent drivers from ignoring warnings to take back control.

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198 Million Voter Records Exposed

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Data on some 198 million American voters - data going back to 2008 - has been found on an unsecured server used by a Republican data analysis firm. The records include each voters name, birthdate, place of residence, party registration, phone number and other "profiling" information such as ethnicity and religion. The researcher who found the hole informed the company before going public with it, but that doesn't mean others have not previously obtained the voter data.

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Who’s The Fastest Of Them All?

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Which carrier has the fastest & best wireless where you live? PC Magazine spent most of the last month driving around & between 30 major cities, testing cell phone service all the time, and finds that overall Verizon is best, but not everywhere; that AT&T came in with the fastest average download speeds; and T-Mobile was close to Verizon but at a lower cost. Sprint was inconsistent & came in last. Drill down in their chart, below.

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Shocking Self-Treatment For Depression

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A Korean company has developed a headband to be worn by people who suffer from depression, a headband that can give them mild electrical shocks to jolt them into feeling better. The wearable device has been approved in South Korea, which has one of the world's highest suicide rates. Harvard Medical School is reportedly now testing the headband.

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Google Tightens Down On Extremist Videos

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Google is the latest social media provider to announce stronger steps to keep extremist content off its sites. Google will add new technology to help identify such content, better train employees who are supposed to watch for it, and not allow such videos to be monetized or recommended by users.

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Amazon Could Block Comparison Shopping

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Amazon has received a patent on a way to block in-store shoppers from comparing prices with on-line sites, which is pretty weird considering Amazon has made its billions undercutting brick & mortar stores by encouraging people to go online! Then again, Amazon is moving to more physical stores - opening bookstores & now buying Whole Foods. While the comparison-shopping block would only work on the store's Wi-Fi, the patent also describes locating a shopper by the device & possibly pushing sales information to that device.

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Taking Down Tech Support Scammers

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Microsoft - the real one - says it's having a lot of success taking down "Microsoft" - the fake ones - scamming people on tech support. Microsoft says it has been using artificial intelligence in the fight against tech support scammers, who create browser pop-ups that claim a user's computer is infected & gives a "tech support" number that is not Microsoft, the scammers then charge to "fix" the non-existent problem.

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Amazon Swallows Whole Foods

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Amazon is buying Whole Foods - the upscale grocer - for $13.7 billion - which is Amazon's largest deal to date. Whole Foods stockholders will be pleased with the extra 27% value Amazon is putting on their shares as it moves more to brick & mortar stores to add to its Internet dominance. Local stores will also help Amazon make fast food deliveries on Internet orders - and the deal may even lower Whole Foods grocery prices because of Amazon's buying power.

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Hack A Computer With An E-Cigarette

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Hack a computer with a vape pen? A report from London says a British researcher has figured out how to do it, essentially by delivering a malicious payload to a computer when the e-cig is plugged into a USB port to recharge. The pen would have to be modified & the computer tricked into thinking the vape pen was a keyboard or mouse.

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Stark Warning On North Korea Cyber Attacks

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The FBI & the Department of Homeland Security have issued a strong warning about possible cyber-attacks from North Korea through unpatched software. The warning is aimed at American businesses, but it applies to personal computer users as well.  Constantly updating & patching programs & Internet-connected devices is not optional in today's world.

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Facebook Aims For Less Terrorism Content

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Faced with criticism that they are not doing enough to keep terror-related content and hate posts off their system, Facebook has announced new measures, using artificial intelligence, to quickly identify & remove such content.

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Tattoo You – For Health Monitoring

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We don't think the Rolling Stones had this in mind when they released their Tattoo You album in 1981, but medical researchers at Harvard & MIT may have come up with a way to use a special tattoo to monitor a person's health - say a diabetic watching his or her blood sugar. Don't rush out to the tattoo parlor yet as this idea is still in early development.

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Low Tech Typewriters Now In High Demand

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Who would have thought typewriters would be back? Seems in the smartphone era a lot of people are going back to typewriters - at least for some things - and old manual typewriters are in demand and so are people who can repair them.  Guess we were smart keeping that old Royal 440 we bought in the 1970s!

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Quicker Heart Attack Help By Drone

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A small study in Sweden found that using drones to deliver automatic defibrillators to where someone has had an out of hospital heart attack cuts response time by some 16 minutes, minutes that could make the difference between surviving a heart attack or not. The study was done with "staged" heart attacks - so no one was endangered.

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We Want A La Carte TV – But At What Price

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A new survey by Tivo finds some 77% of TV viewers would like to be able to have "a la carte" channels - in other words - just pay for those channels they actually watch not the expensive bundles offered by cable companies. But the price most people are willing to pay for such choices keeps dropping, now down to under $30 a month.

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Finally Faster Firefox

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Firefox - after years of delay - has finally issued a multi-processing browser version - and that makes it noticeably faster. Firefox used to be the #2 browser after Internet Explorer, but both have now been surpassed by Chrome, in part because of its speed even when multiple tabs are open. Firefox now can catch up - at least part way.

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Microsoft Warns Of New Cyber Attacks

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Microsoft is warning of possible new cyber attacks and is automatically patching Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 to block them.  But learning from the WannaCry attack of last month, Microsoft is also going to make the patches available for manual download to Windows XP  systems - which it stopped officially supporting in 2014.  Unpatched XP system helped the last big attack spread.

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Yahoo & AOL Are Now Oath

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Verizon has completed its acquisition of Yahoo - and is now merging Yahoo & AOL, which it already owned, into a service called Oath. With the completion of the merger, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer steps down with a payout of over $260 million.  2100 Yahoo & AOL employees will lose their jobs. The part of Yahoo that Verizon didn't buy is going to Alibaba, the giant Chinese Internet firm.

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Uber CEO Takes Leave After Scandals

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Uber's CEO - Travis Kalanick - is taking a leave of absence of an unspecified length after an outside report commissioned by Uber looked into allegations of harassment, discrimination, and an aggressive culture. The lawyers made 47 recommendations including to Uber's management structure. When Kalanick comes back, he will have lesser duties & there'll be more oversight.

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XBox 360 Wins TKO At US Supreme Court

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Microsoft has won a unanimous victory in the US Supreme Court - mostly on a technicality - that prevents XBox 360 users from suing as a class action. The original suit in 2011 claimed the device was defective and damaged game disks, but Microsoft said just 0.4 percent of XBox owners reported the problem & it was likely their own fault.

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Essential Only To Sprint

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The ballyhooed new phone from Android inventor Andy Rubin - the Essential - is only going to be offered by one carrier, Sprint, which is the smallest of the "Big Four" wireless companies. Essential is trying to put a good spin on this, but still, it looks like the other three don't want to take a chance on this startup or Essential won;t have enough phones to supply to them. The phone will also be sold unlocked - for any carrier - for $699 later this year.

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How Fast Is Your Internet?

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The fastest average Internet in the U.S.?  Washington, DC it seems - not much of a surprise as ISPs have an - umm - interest in giving the government the best. Slowest average Internet speed: Idaho - which is strange because a lot of computer equipment is made there. The rankings from the content delivery network Akamai, which also shows the country on average has 22% faster Internet than a year ago - but still ranks 10th internationally in wired Internet speed, and 28th in mobile.

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Most Home Blood Pressure Monitors May Not Be Accurate

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If you monitor your own blood pressure at home - a warning - most of the devices sold are not accurate. That's the conclusion of a study of home monitors by physicians at a Candian hospital which found that 70% of the devices were off by 5 mmHg or more - which surprised them. The home devices are not certified for accuracy by the FDA.

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Pandora Partnering With Sirius XM

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Pandora - the music streaming service - is getting a $480 million investment from Sirius XM - the satellite radio company. Sirius was looking to buy Pandora but couldn't make a deal, but this arrangement makes Sirius a minority owner of Pandora and gives Pandora cash with which to compete against Spotify and other new music services.

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Goodbye To 2100 Jobs in Verizon/Yahoo/AOL Deal

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Yahoo shareholders have approved its purchase by Verizon, and now Yahoo will be combined with AOL - which Verizon already owns - and 2100 people will lose their jobs. It's about 14% of the combined Yahoo/AOL workforce. Many Yahoo workers are getting enhanced severance packages, but the biggest are going to Yahoo senior executives - from $12 to $265 million!

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Senators Say AT&T Overcharges Customers

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AT&T used mandatory arbitration clauses to overcharge customers in the past two years - so say 5 Democratic US Senators responding to a CBS News report on how AT&T & DirectTV customers were charged much more than the deals & promotions it advertised.

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Microsoft Beefs Up Windows Defender

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Microsoft - looking to increase security for its products - has purchased a US-Israeli firm that specializes in using artificial intelligence to discover malware. Microsoft would use it as part of its Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.

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Faster Chrome On Your Android

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Google's going to make Chrome 10 to 20% faster on your Android phone. More than half of all Internet users surf the web on their phones, so it makes sense to make it faster. The newest Chrome will automatically update on your phone in the coming week.

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Easier Repairs For Cracked iPhone Screens

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Apple is going to make it easier for users of iPhones to get cracked screens repaired. Now the only choice it to take it or send it to Apple - and wait.  Apple is going to make its screen repair machines available to some 4000 third-party businesses around the world - there's already one at a Best Buy near Miami, Florida.

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We’re Older But Digitally Connected

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A new survey from the Pew Research Center tells us what we already know, that tech use among those 65 and older is rapidly growing, even as America grays. The percentage of 65 plus folks using smartphones has more than doubled in 4 years and more than 2/3rds of seniors over 65 use the Internet.

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Cheaper Prime For Those On Government Assistance

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Amazon Prime - the $99 annual subscription that gives users free two-day shipping and free videos - among other things - is being discounted for those on government assistance such as food stamps who have an Electronic Benefits Transfer card. Those with a valid EBT card can get Prime for $5.99 a month - less than $72 a year. Amazon doing this to compete with Wal-Mart for lower income customers.

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Ordered To “Dish” Out $280 Million For Robocalls

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A federal judge in Illinois has ordered the Dish Network to pay $280 million in penalties for making millions of robocalls in violation of the national Do Not Call rules. The Federal Trade Commission first sued Dish in 2009, joined by attorneys general from four states. Dish says it will appeal.

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Apple’s Big Announcements Including Amazon Prime Video

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Apple had a laundry list of things to announce at its annual developers' conference - among them: a new operating system for iPhones & iPads; a new MacOS called "High Sierra;" a new very high-end iMac Pro; Apple Watch OS4; and the HomePod, an intelligent speaker designed to rival Amazon's Echo/Alexa devices. All of those to come out later this year. They also announced a new iPad Pro & MacBooks, plus that Amazon Prime Video will be available on Apple TV - later this year, of course.

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Google Now Mapping Air Quality

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Google is adding a new feature to its mapping app - showing air quality & pointing to possible sources of pollution. Unless you live in Oakland, California you can't see your air quality - Oakland was done as the first step - but Google has already gathered data on 14,000 more miles of streets.

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Do Cops Need A Warrant To Trace Your Cellphone?

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The US Supreme Court has agreed to take on a cellphone privacy issue: do police have a right to ask your carrier for where your cellphone has been lately - ask without first getting a warrant?  A man who was arrested for a series of Detroit robberies is appealing his conviction, which was based in part on records of his cellphone's locations, obtained without a search warrant.

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It May Pay To Use Bing

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Google Chrome may have almost 90% of the search market, but Microsoft Bing - at 10% - is going to try old-fashioned bribery to get you to switch. Users with Microsoft accounts can sign up for a rewards program that will give them "points" for how often they use Bing, points redeemable in the Microsoft Store.

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Airbnb Disabilities Discrimination

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A study at Rutgers University finds Airbnb hosts are more likely to reject people with disabilities than those without. Researchers found it was not always personal prejudice that had hosts rejecting those with disabilities, sometimes it was an issue of lack of physical inaccessibility for those with disabilities.

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Chrome To Block Some Ads

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Google's announced that starting early next year its Chrome browser - the world's most popular by the way - will block ads that don't conform to Google's guidelines. That especially means ads that pop up & run videos. Google's calling it an ad "filter" not an ad "blocker" and will make the guidelines & a tool available to advertisers & web publishers so they can be sure to conform.

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Password Manager Hacked

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Do you use the password manager OneLogin? If so, consider changing your password to it - and possibly the passwords you store in it - because OneLogin says it was hacked & sensitive information was stolen.

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Facebook Of The Dead

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Who gets control of your Facebook account when you're dead?  A German appeals court says the parents of a 15-year-old girl, who was killed by a Berlin subway train 5 years ago, cannot access her Facebook account because their parental rights expired when she did. The parents have been seeking access to the account - for which they don't have the password - to see if their daughter had possibly left any clues indicating her death was a suicide.

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Amazon’s Patented Parachute

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Amazon has been awarded a patent for a combined parachute & shipping label that it could use to deliver packages from drones. Amazon applied for the patent in 2015, and basically, the parachute would be contained in the shipping label and open on the way down. There would also be sensors and shock absorbers to make sure the package makes a soft landing in the right place.

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Find Your Waze Ride In California

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Google is expanding it's Waze Carpooling app all over California starting June 6th. It means Waze users will be able to find a driver going their way and carpool - paying only for shared gasoline at the federal rate of $.54 per mile. For now, Google will take no fee as it uses Waze Carpooling as a direct challenge to Uber.

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Uber Dumps Ex-Google Engineer

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Uber has fired the former Google engineer who had worked on their self-driving car project after the engineer refused to hand over the 14-thousand documents Google says he stole on the way out the door. He had cited his 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination. The engineer & the documents are at the heart of a lawsuit by Google's parent company against Uber.

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Is This New Phone “Essential?”

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A new smartphone from the creator of the Android operating system. Andy Rubin unveiling a premium "Essential" phone - it runs the latest Android OS of course but it supposedly will more modular. It's seen as a challenge to the dominance of Samsung & the iPhone. The cost: $699.

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Could Your Pacemaker Be Hacked?

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A study of radio-controlled pacemakers finds that those from four major medical brands - they don't say which ones - could be hacked by someone other than your physician, changing the settings or even stopping the device. Among other problems pacemakers, programmers, and device monitors are all available on eBay and the programming devices are not required to authenticate themselves to the implanted pacemakers, so virtually anyone could control a nearby pacemaker.

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Fitness Trackers Can’t Track Calories Burned

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Fitness trackers are not good at measuring calories burned - according to a new study of seven popular trackers by the Stanford University School of Medicine. The study found the trackers were OK at counting heart beats but were off by an average of 27% on calories burned and one was off by 93%! 60 volunteers wore the devices while exercising on treadmills or stationary bikes & being monitored by "gold standard" medical equipment. The trackers were not named by the researchers.

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Insomnia Goggles

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Can't sleep? Insomnia is a problem for many people - especially as we get older - and now a tech company says it will be selling special goggles sometime next year that will help insomniacs get to sleep & stay asleep. The company founder says the goggles use audio-visual stimulation to trigger specific patterns in the brain to produce the patterns your brain needs in order to produce deep states of relaxation.

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Mossberg out.

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Walt Mossberg, the dean of American tech journalism, has written his last column for the websites Recode & The Verge and is retiring. For a quarter-century, starting with a Personal Technology column in the Wall Street Journal, Walt Mossberg has provided thoughtful news, reviews & commentary on the ever growing world of tech that surrounds us. In his final column, below, Walt looks back, and of course ahead, and we recommend reading it.  

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T-Mobile Is Giving Away Digits

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T-Mobile - the number 3 wireless carrier so it tries harder - is going to give all subscribers free "Digits" next week - a single number that can work across multiple devices - and ring them all at the same time (cell, office, home..). And you could have one "Digits" number for multiple people in the same household. The first Digits number is free - others can be bought for $10 or month-to-month.

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You Can Be Hacked Through Subtitles

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If you watch programs or movies on your smart TV, computer or mobile device, and turn on subtitles because what you're watching is in a foreign language or maybe you just need to better understand the dialogue, be warned: some subtitle programs can be easily hacked. And that means your device can be taken over by outsiders, and it won't be pretty.

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Uber & Lyft Users Give Up Their Cars

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A new survey shows about one-quarter of American adults sold or traded their cars in the past year, but what's not such good news for automakers is that 9 percent of those who sold their cars didn't buy another - turning instead to Uber or Lyft for their transportation. About the same percentage says they plan to give up their cars in the next 12 months.

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T-Mobile Will Pay For Your Verizon Phone

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T-Mobile, continuing to get aggressive about beating its larger wireless rivals, is now offering to pay new users who come over from Verizon and bring their iPhone or Google Pixel phone with them, even if there are payments still left on the phones. T-Mobile will cover the remaining payments and any early termination fees, but only if you've had a Verizon account for at least 2 months.

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Real Robocops On Patrol

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It's Robocop, not the movie, in Dubai. The largest & in some was the most Westernized city in the United Arab Emirates, is rolling out these robotic police officers to patrol malls & tourist attractions, and they are able to interact with people in both Arabic & English, with more languages to come. Eventually, Dubai hopes to deploy them - or their larger, faster versions - to chase down crime suspects & parking fee scofflaws.

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P.O.’d PayPal Sues Pandora

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PayPal is claiming Pandora stole its P. At issue is the new logo for the music streaming service, which does resemble the "PP" logo for PayPal created two years earlier. PayPal claims the similarity is causing consumer confusion and is now suing for trademark infringement.

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It’s A “Go” For Google AI

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Google's artificial intelligence program - AlphaGO - has defeated China's grandmaster in the ancient game of Go, a game still very popular in Asia. It's seen as giving Google a toehold in China, where it pulled its search engine 7 years ago, refusing to self-censor Internet searches.

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Samsung Really Wants You To Buy An S8

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Samsung really want you to have a Galaxy S8 - its latest flagship phone.  They are offering  "buy one, get one free" deal with T-Mobile, with few gotchas. You buy 2 S8s from their website, activate one with T-Mobile on Samsung's website, and Samsung sends you a rebate of up to $750. No requirement to activate the second phone with T-Mobile, the best we can tell. you also get a 64 GB micro-SD card and 6 months of free Netflix.

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Next Time Could Be Much Worse

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The worldwide ransomware attack of the other week, experts are saying it was the work of amateurs, cutting & pasting code stolen from the NSA (National Security Agency) that was posted online. While the ransomware ruined tens of thousands of computers around the world, it wasn't very sophisticated, and security experts warn some of the released NSA "tools" in the hands of better pirates could lead to attacks that are much worse.

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Decrypt Ransomed Files

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Anyone whose Windows computer was caught in the worldwide ransomware exploit can now try to use a tool to decrypt their files - for free (if the computer has NOT been rebooted since the infection). The tool developed just as time was supposedly running out to pay the pirates for the decryption key or have all the data permanently lost. Despite the tens of thousands of computers attacked, the pirates have collected relatively little in ransom.

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Trump Wi-Fi Can Be Easily Hacked

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A report from Pro Publica finds the Wi-Fi at several Trump properties, including his "Southern White House" at Mar-a-Lago in Plam Beach, Florida, can easily be hacked. In fact, at three other Trump properties, there was open Wi-Fi or signals with weak passwords, easy pickings for any junior hacker or foreign government.

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AT&T Cheating Customers

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CBS News has found more than 4,000 complaints by AT&T and DirectTV customers who claim they were cheated by the company which charged them much more for services than they were promised in their ads and agreements. AT&T only says "we fully honor the terms through the promotion's completion" for customers who sign up for one.

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Facebook Fake News Filter Failing

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Facebook's new system to prevent so-called "fake news" from spreading on the social network is failing - or so says The Guardian newspaper. Reportedly tagging a story as possible "fake news" actually makes it spread faster. And some stories that are tagged as "false" are tagged too late - after they've already gone viral.

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Whoops! We Want Net Neutrality

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The top cable industry lobbyist tried to prove that Americans don't want net neutrality - the FCC rule that all Internet content gets treated equally by Internet Service Providers. But even with leading - and misleading - questions, 61% of those polled support net neutrality, although a percentage of those questioned didn't know what the term means.

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Amazon Pharmacy?

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Amazon is reportedly giving much more serious consideration of going into the prescription drug selling business. CNBC says while such an idea has been considered before, this time Amazon is hiring an experienced pharmacy business person to help it decide how to break into the multi-billion dollar market. Just maybe Amazon's buying power could do something about those ever increasing drug prices.

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Are Sleep Trackers Accurate?

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Devices that claim to track your sleep - are they accurate at all? That's what an undergrad researcher at Brown University wanted to find out, so she slept with 10 of them - for 10 nights - and graphed the results. It'll be no surprise that different devices gave different sleep stats - and the researcher says their data is "better than random" but if you want to really know how you sleep, you need to spend a night in a sleep lab.

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Crackdown On Tech Support Scammers

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The Federal Trade Commission is now going after scammers who claim to offer "tech support" for computer users - generally older, less tech-savvy people - when "virus warnings" or other fraudulent notices pop-up on their screens.  The FTC and several states are now "trapping" the scammers and filing both civil & criminal charges.

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Seven Is Still One

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Windows 7 is still the number one operating system in the world - with almost twice as many installs as Windows 10 which is approaching its 2nd birthday this July. Windows XP - which Microsoft is no longer actively supporting - is the third most popular OS, ahead of Windows 8.1 and with double the share of the latest Mac OS.

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Self-Driving Cars Help Traffic Flow

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Adding just a few self-driving cars helps traffic flow - or so says a study by researchers at several universities - a study funded by the National Science Foundation. Because the self-driving cars don't behave the same as human drivers, the study found there's a more even flow of traffic, eliminating the stop-and-go waves on a crowded highway.

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Netflix Price Hike?

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Is Netflix planning to increase prices - on weekends?  A report from Australia says Netflix has tested higher pricing there - including for weekends - and Netflix is only saying it "continuously tests new things."

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Street Views For Android Maps

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Google Maps for Android is adding Street View images - to help you find your way when following their directions. The roll-out of the feature started earlier this month and is now widely available. You just tap on the image to see where you're supposed to turn.

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Here Comes The Ads

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You knew it was coming - ads on Alexa, Amazon's intelligent assistant that runs on its Echo device and connects to many other things. A company is proposing adding short advertising messages when using Alex's "skills." The ads - for now - would only be for some "skills" unless Amazon changed its rules.

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Google Play Apps That Spy On You

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Researchers at SophosLabs have found at least 50 apps available for Android phones in Google Play that not only deliver ads - they are actually collecting information on you & sending it back to a remote server. That's despite a "privacy policy" that claims your personal information is not being collected.

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Who Would You Dump?

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Interesting question on The New York Times website - which of the 5 big tech companies would you drop - and in which order - if you had to? Increasingly, Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon are involved so much in many people's lives.  Make your choices, and see how they compare to others.

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No Chrome On Windows 10 S

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Windows 10 S - a variation of its operating system that  Microsoft is putting on a new line of Surface laptops & other devices - will only allow apps from the Microsoft Store.  And that means, among other things, that Google's very popular Chrome browser cannot be installed. Microsoft says it's about "security" - or is it?

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What Echo Shows

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Amazon has a new Echo - the Alexa voice assistant device that's become so popular - and this one has a 7-inch touch screen, and among other things can make video calls. The Echo Show - as it's called - also plays videos, can act as a monitor for security cameras, show lyrics to music it's playing, and control home automation devices. Available in late June for $230.

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Comcast-Charter Wireless Combo

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Comcast & Charter Communications are announcing a new wireless partnership. The agreement will allow the companies to cut costs & share technical expertise, and allow their customers onto each other's Wi-Fi hotspots. Comcast already has a deal with Verizon for cell service, and Charter expects to have mobile service next year.

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Whose Voice Is That Anyway?

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New technology is able to convincingly mimic people's voices - and the fake voice may be good enough to fool not only people but machines designed to use voice-prints as pass-codes. In a recently released demo, the robot spoke as "Trump," "Obama" and "Hillary" and got at least the first two pretty darn close in both the voice sound and speech rhythm.

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Android Gmail Protection

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Google is adding a layer of protection from malware to Android Gmail users. Now if you click on a suspicious link in Gmail, a warning will pop up before allowing you to continue, at your own risk. It comes a day after a phishing attack fooled many Gmail users, and attack Google now says it has blocked.

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No More Verizon Email

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Now that Verizon has acquired AOL, it is changing email for all of its users with verizon.net addresses. You can keep the address, but it will be AOL "underneath." You might want to consider changing to a non-carrier email address, good for whichever ISP you use in the future. Obvious choices are Gmail and Microsoft's Outlook.com. If you choose Yahoo - remember Verizon is buying them too!

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Hulu Upgrades Streaming

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Hulu - which already offers many on-demand channels for $8 a month - is upgrading to a $40 monthly service that includes 50 live TV channels on top of the on-demand ones. YouTube & DirectTV offer similar services, and surely there will be more.

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Facebook And Violence

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Facebook - under criticism for recent streaming videos on its site showing violence, even murder, is adding 3,000 people to catch & remove such videos. That's on top of 4,500 Facebook workers who are already supposed to be screening content, and attempts to use artificial intelligence to catch inappropriate posts.

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10 Hours Staring at Screens

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A new report says American adults spend more than 12 hours a day consuming "media," with 10 of those hours in front of screens: computers, phones, tablets & TVs. Radio gets an hour-and-a-half and print only 25 minutes. Of course, as the eMarketer report points out, most of us consume multiple media at the same time - such as watching TV while also using a smartphone.

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Regular Laptop From Microsoft

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Microsoft is going into the laptop business.  They've already had sort of a laptop with their Surface line - which could be a laptop or a tablet - but have now announced the Surface Laptop, a regular "clamshell" style machine running a version of Windows 10. Starting at one thousand bucks; available in June.

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T-Mobile 5G

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T-Mobile intends to build the first nationwide 5G network - 5G being a newer, faster generation of wireless networking. The company plans to use all the wireless spectrum it recently bought at a federal auction, although those bands operate at lower speeds but go longer distances.

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Twitter Adds More Video

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Twitter is adding a dozen channels of video programming - including news from Bloomberg. Despite all the usage from the occupant of the White House, Twitter's growth has stalled and it's been turning to streaming video as a way to raise revenue. Also announced: WNBA games, more golf, live concerts and BuzzFeed stories.

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Samsung Beats Apple

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Smartphone sales were up worldwide by more than 4% in the first quarter of 2017, and Samsung regained first place, beating Apple with increased sales, perhaps because they lowered prices on their Galaxy S7 and S7 Note models, to make way for the new S8s. The IDC report says Chinese maker Huawei came in 3rd, showing that there's a strong market for non-premium phones.

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Facebook To Fight “Information Operations” From False Accounts

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Facebook is going after false accounts - set up by governments or other operators - that spread false information. This is said to be more than just an attempt to stop so-called "fake news" but an acknowledgment by Facebook that it is being used to circulate false information to manipulate public opinion and needs to do something about it.

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New BlackBerry Next Month

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The new BlackBerry - with a physical keyboard and running Android - finally has a release date for the US: May 31st. The KEYone - as it's called - will first be available unlocked for $549 - and later in the summer Sprint will bundle it, as may other carriers.

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Goodbye Net Neutrality

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As expected, the new chair of the Federal Communications Commission is calling for an end to net neutrality and regulation of Internet Service Providers as common carriers, as telephone companies have been since 1934. While the FCC chair says regulation of ISPs is "heavy-handed," critics say removing the rules opens up Internet services to unregulated abuse where the biggest companies favor their own content over others.

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GE Hardens Power Grid From Hack Attacks

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General Electric says its fixing bug in power grid software that might allow a hacker in.  No attacks have been reported but researchers found there was a way to get into GE's protection relays and disconnect sections of the grid.  Hackers did something similar in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016 but not be exploiting this particular bug.

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Drunk Knocks Down Robot

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An inebriated Silicon Valley engineer is being charged with attacking a Knightscope K5 patrol robot as it was doing its job in a parking lot. The K5 has no defenses, as it is only programming to look around and report unusual activity.  Surely it helped report this guy.

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Got Fiber Optic? That’s Rich.

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A study of AT&T fiber optic cable deployment to homes in California finds high-speed fiber goes to the richest communities, while poor and moderate income areas get Internet speeds from 768kbps to 6Mbps - at the low end less than 1/10th the gigabit speeds available to the wealthy. The UC Berkeley study says AT&T is increasing the "digital divide" with these policies.

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Google Looking To Remove Fake News & Bad Searches

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Google is trying to get rid of fake news under something it calls Project Owl.  The first task is so-called "problematic searches" where Google searches turn up sites containing "post-truth" content, or outright fakes. It's different than Google's efforts to get rid of search spam and malware sites.

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Another Fix for Fake News

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The founder of Wikipedia is launching a new way to fight fake news: crowd-funded journalism.  Jimmy Wales says his new site, wikitribune.com should go live in the next month, starting out with 10 professional journalists paid by subscribers giving up to $10  month - and no ads. Wales says articles will be fact-checked by volunteers, much the same way Wikipedia relies on readers to keep its entries honest.

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Trickier Ransomware

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Yet another "new" way to trick people into installing ransomware has surfaced. This one hides an infected Word document inside a PDF.  People who open the PDF, then the Word document, and click to enable macros, get their files encrypted and a demand for money from the pirates.  The advice - as always - be very careful what email attachments you open - even if from what appears to be a credible source.

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Gigabit Internet At Home

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Verizon is offering new customers of its FiOS service Internet speeds approaching 1 gigabit starting at about $70 a month - making it one of the fastest home providers in the country. A gigabit is some 40 times faster than the speed at the average Internet-connected home. The service will only be available in the Northeast and AT&T, Google Fiber & Comcast already offer such high speeds elsewhere. The $70 FiOS price only applies to some new customers.

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Apple Threatened To Drop Uber

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A New York Times story about Uber says Apple once threatened to drop the Uber app because Uber reportedly continued to track iPhone user even after they deleted the Uber app.  Apple CEO Tim Cook is said to have confronted Uber's Travis Kalanick personally about this. Uber denies it was tracking former users.

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How Safe Is Your Bank Password?

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Your bank password may not be as safe as it should be - or you want it to be.  Turns out some major banks, such as Chase & Wells Fargo do not require case-sensitive passwords, which is one thing that makes it tougher for hackers. Your best bet to avoid getting hacked: two-step verification on your accounts.

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Subscribe To An EV

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You can buy an electric vehicle, you can lease an EV, but now you can also "subscribe" to an EV, if you live in California at least. Hyundai is making it's Ioniq electric car available for subscription in that state, including unlimited mileage, maintenance, and Hyundai will reimburse for at least some of the electric charging fees. A base model will be $275 a month, plus tax, on a 36-month subscription.

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Tesla Sued Over Safety

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Three Tesla owners have sued the company in a California federal court, claiming the safety features that are supposed to be included are "vaporware" as is Tesla's enhanced autopilot feature.  They are seeking class action status. Tesla says this is just an attempt by lawyers to cash in using "misrepresented" facts.

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Flying Taxi

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A company in Germany says it has successfully tested a prototype flying taxi - a 2-seater - and is now working on a 5-seater to put into production. The taxi can take-off and land vertically. A lot of companies are trying to make flying cars and a Slovakian firm says its taking pre-orders for its hybrid flying and driving car - priced a over $1 million.

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Spying Headphones

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A complaint has been filed in Chicago federal court alleging that Bose wireless headphone "spy" on users with an app that tracks what they listen to and then Bose sells that information to marketers. The lawsuit wants Bose to stop doing it, and is seeking millions of dollars in damages for Bose customers.

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Ad Blocking Chrome?

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Lots of us use ad blocking add-ons in our browsers - now word from the Wall Street Journal that Google may put some ad blocking right into Chrome, the world's most popular browser. The option wouldn't block all the ads - as 3rd party ad blockers now do - but those deemed to provide a "bad experience" such as video ads that play automatically as soon as you land on a page or story. Google would also block those add-in ad blockers.

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Inside The Tech Support Scam

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You've been warned many times - including by us - about scam calls claiming to be "support" and there's something wrong with your computer. Now researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have written a paper on just how the scammers work.  Of course, if you do get an unsolicited call from "support" - hang up - and the same with unknown "virus" warnings that pop up on your computer.

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AI Beats Docs In Predicting Heart Attacks

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What's smarter than a physician at predicting heart attacks?  Computers with artificial intelligence (AI) were fed data on heart disease and learned from their predictions which symptoms to value more when deciding is a patient is going to have a heart attack. The machines did better than human doctors using the same guidelines.

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No More Passwords

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You may no longer need to remember your passwords to sign into some Microsoft products. A feature has been added to the Microsoft Authenticator app that will allow you to sign into such Microsoft websites as OneDrive.com, Outlook.com, and Skype.com without needing to remember each password.

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Do You Need Cyber Insurance?

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Companies buy them, and maybe you should too - insurance policies against loss from ransomware, cyber bullying, or other causes. A columnist for Computerworld find such policies, added to your homeowner's insurance, are now reasonably priced.

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Android PayPal

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Android Pay will soon allow payments from PayPal. The announcement says the feature is coming in a few weeks, which will link a PayPal account to Android Pay for use in stores, on websites, and in apps. So far Apple Pay does not link with PayPal, advantage Google.

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Google Revisits Earth

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Google Earth has come out with a new edition - just before Earth Day 2017 - and this one includes "guided tours" of our planet and even of various cities. For now, Google Earth is best seen on Google Chrome or Android, but they are making it available soon for other browsers and phones.  https://www.google.com/earth/  

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You’re Driving Distracted

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A new study of distracted driving finds drivers are using their phones on 88 out of every 100 trips for an average of 3.5 minutes each driving hour. Even 2 seconds of looking at your phone, to text or dial, is enough to increase your chance of a collision by 20%.  Despite a handheld phone ban, Vermont had the highest percentage of driver distraction while Oregon drivers had the lowest, also with a state-wide ban on handheld phones.

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Google Makes Peace With Russia

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Google has settled an anti-competitive dispute with Russia and will allow a rival Russian search engine - called Yandex - on phones using its Android operating system. Google will also develop a way for Russian users to switch to either search engine as the default.

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How The NSA Hacks Computers

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A hacking group has now released a set of surveillance & hacking tools allegedly used by the National Security Agency against Windows computers - specifically for NSA surveillance of several banks & banking systems. The NSA hacking tool had been confirmed stolen last year and a dump of them has been expected.

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T-Mobile Just Got A Lot Bigger

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T-Mobile bid and won $8 billion worth of new wireless licenses across the country - some 1500 locations worth - quadrupling their "low-band" holdings. Low-band frequencies are better at going longer distances & penetrating buildings. Except for Verizon & Spring, other carriers also picked up licenses in the FCC auction.

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Thanks For Solitaire

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Play Solitaire on your computer or phone? You can thank Wes Cherry, who was an intern at Microsoft starting in 1988, and bored he created the video game, which was first included with Windows in 1990. Bill Gates complained it was too hard to win - and he's an expert bridge player! Cherry didn't get paid for it although Solitaire is still in Windows, 29 years later.

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Where To Move For Fastest Internet

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Rhode Island & Delaware have the fastest average Internet speed in the US - according to a study by the Consumer Technology Association - a trade group. Those two small states had average Internet speeds of more than 16 megabits per second (Mbps) - higher than the US average of 14.6 Mbps - but still far behind world leader South Korea at 29 Mbps or double the US average.

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Bloodless Diabetes Monitoring

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Apple is reportedly working on a way for diabetics to monitor their blood sugar levels, without having to prick their fingers to use a drop of blood. The secret project, said to have been initiated by the late Steve Jobs, would be a tremendous breakthrough not just for health monitoring, but also for products such as the Apple Watch.

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Inmates Hack Prison Computer Network

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Inmates at a medium-security prison in Ohio managed to hack their way into the prison's computer network, building their own computers out of parts taken from an on-site electronics recycling program. They used the hack to view porn, obtain credit cards, learn tax fraud, even get inmates' records from the prison computers.  The 5 geeks responsible have been transferred elsewhere.

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Keep Net Neutrality Just As It Is

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The big Internet companies are telling the chair of the Federal Communications Commission they don't want the rules changed on net neutrality - which treats all data the same and not give some providers priority over others. The FCC's new chair has been talking about making net neutrality "voluntary" and enforced by agreements with the Federal Trade Commission, not his agency.

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Robots Are Coming To Help You

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Japanese automakers are working on more than just self-driving cars. Because of Japan's fast-growing elderly population, and shrinking car use, Honda & Toyota are also working on robots to help older people move around even when they can no longer drive.

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Not So Soon For Bixby

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Bixby - Samsung's much ballyhooed intelligent assistant - will not be present when their flagship Galaxy S8 phone is first available on April 21st, at least the one that speaks English. Reportedly it'll be at least another month before Bixby will be ready for prime time, despite all the publicity from Samsung touting its rival to Alexa & Siri. and the company's intention to feature Bixby on devices other than their smartphones.

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Shipped With Malware

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Just because it's fresh out of the box, doesn;t mean your new phone or other device is not loaded with malware. Checkpoint Software recently looked at new Android phones at two large companies and found malware in three dozen of them - malware that came installed on the phones. Not the first time such infection have been found, so it pays to virus scan any new device, immediately upon getting it.

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Bye Bye Botnet

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The arrest - in Spain - of a vacationing Russian spammer has led to authorities dismantling the botnet he used to send tens of millions of spam & malware over the past 7 years. The Kelihos botnet is said to have been one of the largest hacker-controlled networks of compromised computers in the world.  So less spam - at least for a while.

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No Talking Up There

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The new chair of the FCC says a proposal to allow cell phone calls on planes has been grounded. Chair Ajit Pai wants to put an end to the proposal - first made in 2-13 - but opposed by pilots, flight attendants many passengers. Text & email will still be allowed in flight.

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Hybrid Pursuit Cop Car

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Ford announcing it has developed a hybrid police car suitable for high-speed chases. The souped-up Ford Fusion will be tested by the Los Angles Sheriff's Dept. and the Michigan State Police, two agencies that rate cop cars as suitable for pursuit. One advantage - the hybrids will get 30 mpg.

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CIA Hacking Tools Already Used In Attacks

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Symantec says it has confirmed at least 40 cyber attacks in 16 countries to the CIA hacking tool exposed by Wikileaks. Symantec says the attacks were apparently carried out by the CIA, although the CIA has refused to confirm that the methods exposed by Wikileaks are genuine.

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Tesla Add-On Solar Roof

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Tesla has added an option to it's offering for solar panels for roofs - Panasonic branded panels that can be added to existed roofs - not just installed as totally new roofs - as Tesla had been touting. the solar panels will be American-made - at Tesla's "Gigafactory 2" in Buffalo, NY, only for install by Tesla.

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The (Virtually) Living Dead

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We're not sure why anyone would want this, but a company in Slovenia has created an interactive digital tombstone, complete with a waterproof, vandal-proof 48-inch screen. It stays quiet until it senses someone in front of it, then comes to "life" with whatever content the deceased - or more likely the family - has loaded into it: photos, videos, a biography. The developers plan to add wireless sound, so as not to disturb the other dead people, we suppose.

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Does Uber Cheat Riders & Drivers?

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There's a new class action lawsuit against Uber, claiming the ride-hailing company deliberately defrauds both riders & drivers. In the lawsuit - filed in California - it is charged that Uber's app showed a rider a longer & more expensive route while giving the driver directions for a shorter, less expensive route. The rider pays the higher fee while the driver gets paid based on the shorter route, essentially cheating them both.

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Fact Checking Google

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Google has started to fact check both news items and searches worldwide - and will show a fact check label on those items where it wants users to know more about them. Google says not all items will be fact checked, in and fact, sometimes the same item will use different fact checkers and reach different conclusions. But they want users to have more information.

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3D Printed Sneakers

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Here come the first 3D printed sneakers. Adidas hopes to be first out of the gate with a consumer sneaker whose sole is made on a 3D printer. The shoes to go into mass production next year. Other companies -as well as Adidas - have made prototype 3D printed footwear, or used 3D printers to customize special sneakers.

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No Garage Door Opener For You!

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Shades of Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" - a company that makes a garage door opener that works from your smartphone just didn't like it when one customer who had trouble making it work posted an angry comment about Garadget on their community bulletin board and then on Amazon where he had bought it. They didn't like it so much that they deactivated his account, posting that his unit "will be denied server connection" and he should return it.

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Another Wireless Service

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As if you already didn't have enough choices in wireless services, Comcast - the cable provider that also owns NBC - is going into the wireless business, offering unlimited monthly plans starting at $45 a line if bundled with their cable, Internet & other services. The actual cell service will come through Verizon, but Comcast has millions of Wi-Fi hotspots around the country - mostly in cities - and users will supposedly be automatically connected to those as well.

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What Microsoft Knows About You

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It's no secret that Microsoft Windows 10 collects data on its users - more than any previous Windows version - and now Microsoft is revealing just how much data it grabs and how users may be able to reduce - but not totally eliminate - the data collection.

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FBI’s Geek Squad

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Is the Geek Squad also working for the FBI? Seems when a computer is given to Best Buy's Geek Squad for repair, it may be sent to their big repair facility in Kentucky, and allegedly that's where some techs are cooperating with the FBI in looking for child porn on customers' computers - without a warrant. There's a court case in California now about a gynecologist whose computer was found to have one photo of a young girl and was indicted for having child porn, all because he gave a computer to the Geek Squad for repair.

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Free HBO

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HBO is going to be free for AT&T wireless customers, the announcement coming as AT&T prepares to purchase Time-Warner - owner of HBO & CNN among other channels. HBO would be free only to customers of AT&T unlimited wireless plan for $90 a month, and also to AT&T cable customers.

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Smart Homes Too Costly

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A survey by a home automation company finds Americans like the idea of having a so-called smart home, packed with Internet-Of-Things devices, but they think it would cost too much. About 27% of people have purchased home connected devices, although some 71% would like the ability to monitor their homes while away.

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Android Users Beware

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The bad guys - and maybe some gals too - are targeting Android phones more than ever. New numbers from Sophos Labs finds Android phones are rapidly growing targets for what's called Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs) which put malware or adware on phones. Overall, Windows is still the #1 target of malware.

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Millions Of Samsung Devices Are Hackable

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There may be millions of Samsung devices: phones, smartwatches, even TVs & other smart appliances, that are full of security holes in Samsung's Tizen operating system, what it uses to replace the Android OS on many of its products. An Israeli security researcher says Tizen "may be the worst code I've ever seen." The researcher says he warned Samsung about this months ago but only lately are they asking him for more information.

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I Spy

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Whoopsies - seems an American made sex toy with a built-in camera & light can easily be hacked, especially if the user fails to replace the default password! The Siime Eye vibrator connects on Wi-Fi to allow users to "share" the experience with others - although not necessarily people who hack in.

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Repolishing The Mac Pro

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Apple's admitting it went wrong with the Mac Pro - a new design it first released 3 years ago - and has been a thumping failure. Apple says a new "iPro" will come out later this year, and a new Mac Pro maybe sometime in 2018

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Your Internet Privacy Repealed

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As expected, President Trump has signed the bill to roll back privacy rules enacted last year by the Federal Communications Commission, rules designed to prevent Internet Service Providers from obtaining & selling - without your specific permission - your web browsing history, location, health & financial information, even children's information, all for marketing purposes. The House & Senate - mostly on party lines - approved the repeal last month, but the rules had actually not yet taken effect. Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast all say they will not sell individual users' Internet browsing data.

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Yahoo & AOL Take An Oath

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And the winner of the worst ever corporate name is...Oath. That's the name to be assumed when Yahoo & AOL fully merge later this year, as part of Verizon. Not clear what "Oath" is supposed to mean, other than they swear they will not allow their users' accounts to be hacked - as 1.5 billion Yahoo accounts were - and as AOL accounts have been in the past.  

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Laptops Are The Living Dead

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The laptop is dead.  Again. The death of the laptop has been predicted so many times, and yet... This time it's a columnist for Computerworld who finds at least 8 reasons laptops will soon go the way of the Dodo bird. Among them, that Apple is out of good ideas for laptops, that laptops are boring & expensive, and that you can now add a big screen, keyboard & mouse to smartphone and have, uh, a desktop? Aren't they dead too?

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Netflix Now Available Offline Not Just To Your Phone

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Netflix movies & shows can now be downloaded to a Windows 10 computer - for watching offline. It's something available for Android and iOS phones & tablets since last year, but now it's come to Windows 10.  So far, the content available to download is limited, but it's expected to grow.

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Most Popular Operating System?

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If you guessed Windows is the world's most popular operating system - guess what - you're wrong. For the first time, Android is Number One worldwide at least in terms of Internet usage as counted by a web statistics firm. Microsoft's share has been sharply dropping the past 5 years, while Android has only grown.

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Self-Driving Car Race

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In a self-driving car "race" over the weekend in Northern California - only 4 of the 9 cars entered actually completed the 2-mile course without human intervention. Each car set out separately - just in case of problems. The winner finished the course in a little over 3 minutes, without help from the human inside.

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A Lot Of Teslas

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Tesla delivered a record 25,000 of its all-electric vehicles in the first quarter of 2017, a record. 13,450 were the Model S sedan - which starts at $68,000 - and the rest were the Model X SUV which starts at $85,500. Later this year, the Tesla Model 3 is expected out, starting at $35,000. Those are just the starting prices, for "basic" models.

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It’s World Backup Day

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It's World Backup Day - March 31st - a day to remind everyone to not be an April Fool so backup your data from computers, tablets & phones if you don't already do so. 6 years ago, Ismail Jadun, a digital strategy consultant, began promoting this day to remind people and businesses of the importance of regular data backups. Data loss is something that can happen to anyone, either from hardware failure, theft or ransomware. So if you don't regularly backup your data - start NOW, even if it's already April as you read this.

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Protecting Porn Privacy

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With Congress and President Trump now taking away rules to prevent your Internet Service Provider from selling to marketers information on what websites you visit, porn sites are making changes to protection their visitors' privacy, primarily by putting encryption on their sites, the same HTTPS encryption you see on bank & credit card websites. Depending on which statistics you believe, porn is anywhere from 5 to 30% of web traffic, although one report claims Internet porn has more visitors than Amazon, Netflix & Twitter, combined.

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Everybody’s Getting Into The Act – Part Two

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Just a few days ago there was word Comcast was going to start a video streaming service later this year - now the reports are that Verizon has been making deals with TV content providers for its own streaming service to start later this year. AT&T and Dish are already doing it; everybody trying to hang onto so-called cord-cutters, mostly younger customers who don't want regular cable TV service.

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Pam Edstrom – the Woman Who Shaped Microsoft’s Image – Dies at 71

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Pam Edstrom, co-founder of Microsoft's long-time public relations agency, Waggener-Edstrom has died after a four-month bout with cancer. Edstrom was largely responsible for creating Microsoft's public image and protected long time CEO and co-founder Bill Gates during storms of public controversies about the company's business practices and tactics. She helped create Gates' public persona, making him into an icon of entrepreneurial and technological success.

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Longer Tweets

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It is now possible to write longer tweets as Twitter has made good on its promise of last year to NOT count attachment links and @ replies toward the 140 character count.  And now they don't, so tweeters can put more words in each one. Maybe we shouldn't tell you-know-who...

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Preventing Driver Distraction

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Apple has recently patented technology that can tell when a vehicle's driver is wearing a wearable - such as a smartwatch - that might prove to be a distraction while on the road. It would then do things such as limit notifications to the wearable, so the driver won't be tempted to take eyes off the road.

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2016 Leaked A Lot

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More than 4 billion data records were leaked by hackers last year, as much as in the previous two years combined. IBM says while the hacks included stuff like credit card number and health information, there was also a rise in "unstructured data" such as business records and email archives.

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Trump Tweets Have Changed

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Donald J. Trump - America's commander-in-tweet - has apparently given up his old Android in favor of a more secure new iPhone. At least that's what the White House director of social media is saying, that Trump has been using his new phone for at least a week. But presidential tweet after that date showed it came from an Android - but it could be a newer model.

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Robots Are Taking Your Jobs And Your Pay

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Robots ARE taking jobs & lowering people's pay - so finds a new study by economists at MIT & Boston University, the same economists who said just a year ago that robots would create new & better jobs for people. Citing real-world data, not a theory, they now see that increased use of robots decreases both job opportunities for humans, and their pay, with each robot replacing 3 to 6 workers in a given commuting area.

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How About EV Car Sharing?

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Portland, Oregon is starting a pilot program to bring alternative fuel shared vehicles to low-income neighborhoods. EV cars are not cheap, so it's less likely residents there would buy or lease one, but a partnership including the local power company is offering 3 used Honda Fit EVs in the car sharing program, which includes charging stations at an affordable housing complex.

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Everybody’s Getting Into The Act

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Suddenly, all the cable companies want to help cord-cutters, those customers - mainly younger ones so far - who don't want to sign up for regular cable TV, but want streaming services instead, to watch programs on a television set, computer, tablet or smartphone. Comcast getting into the act, as have AT&T and Dish, offering Xfinity Instant TV later this year for $15 to $40 monthly.

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The FBI May Have Your Face Wrong

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The FBI's database of adult Americans' faces - mostly taken from DMV records & passports - is 117 million & growing. But a House committee was told last week that the facial recognition software makes errors in identifying people as criminals 15% of the time - most often for black people

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Buy A Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – Now?

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Samsung is going to start selling its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone again - yes the one that caught on fire last fall, prompting a total recall - after researchers found no other problems than the bad batteries. The batteries are being replaced & phones sold as refurbished. Apparently, Samsung wants to recover some of its $5 billion loss and not have to just dump 3 million returned phones.

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Uber Resumes Testing Self-Driving Cars

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A crash in Arizona involving an Uber self-driving car prompted the company to temporarily suspend testing - but is resuming in San Francisco today (Monday, March 27). Only two Uber test "safety drivers" were in the vehicle in Arizona, which rolled over after being hit at an intersection by a car with an actual person at the wheel. No one was seriously injured.

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Another Voice Heard on Why We Need Self-Driving Cars

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Despite an assortment of controversies about the road to autonomous vehicles, there has been a general feeling that they will become reality and like it or not we need to get ready.  Self-driving cars, by all accounts, will dramatically reduce the number of automobile accidents, lower the cost of insurance, and will increase the capacity of our current highway system without adding more concrete.  But the biggest reason why they will be inevitable is because aging Baby Boomers who wish to age in place wherever they are will find that these vehicles may be the only way to maintain mobility and independence.  

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Hang Up On This Call

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The Federal Trade Commission warning of a  new, insidious robocall scam. When you answer they ask: "can you hear me now," and if you say "yes" that's recorded and the scammer uses it as permission to authorize payment on something you don't want - they may already have your financial information. So just hang up if you get one of these calls, and read our Stop Robocalls story.

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Would You Pay For Twitter?

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Would you pay for Twitter? Twitter is thinking about offering a paid subscription to Tweetdeck, it's app that is mostly for power users, businesses & journalists. They're thinking of charging $20 a month. No word on whether the current, Twittering occupant of the White House would get a freebie.

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Teenager Sues Mother For Taking Away His Phone

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A 15-year-old in Spain took his mother to court after she confiscated his smartphone in an effort to make sure he studied more. He claimed it was "mistreatment," but the judge found it was responsible parenting & his mother is even required by civil law to make sure her son gets an education.

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Your Anti-Virus Could Be A Double Agent

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Researchers in Israel have discovered a vulnerability in all version of Windows - from XP to Windows 10 - would allow a malicious program to turn your anti-virus software into a double agent in that while is would appear to be working correctly to protect your computer, it would actually be allowing other malware to be installed & run. The researchers have told anti-virus vendors about the problem, who are said to be working on fixes.

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iPhone Powered Laptop

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Maybe Apple is jealous of Google's Chromebooks - the inexpensive laptops that operate on Chrome OS and have been taking a lot of the MacBook business away in schools. Apple has now patented the idea of putting an iPhone into a laptop slot, so it powers the larger device and acts as its touchscreen

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Security Bugs In LastPass

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Security bugs have been found in the popular password keeper LastPass - but so far they have been immediately fixed. A Google researcher found the holes in the Chrome & Firefox LastPass add-ons that could allow passwords to be stolen, and LastPass says the fixes are being pushed to all users automatically.

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Your Kids Are Cutting The Cord

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More & more people - especially younger adults - are using streaming services to watch TV, rather than cable. A new survey finds that while traditional TV is still in the lead, streaming is up 40% in two years, and more than half of people 18-29 use streaming alone, 40% of 30-to-44-year-olds do, while those over 55 are still mostly watching "regular" TV

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New Cheaper iPad

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Apple announcing a new, cheaper iPad - replacing the Air 2.  It has a 9.7-inch screen, faster processor and more storage space, and of course a less expensive price tag, as low as $329.

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Who Do You Beleive?

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When a story is shared on social media, whether you believe it or not depends more on whether you trust the person who shared it, than who produced it.  The study by the Media Insight Project finds that even if the story is produced by an unknown or fictional "news" site, people will believe it over a story from a known and "real" news provider, as long as they trust the sharer.

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Self-Driving Cars Are Not For Everywhere

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When it comes to the best cities for self-driving cars - the top 10 do not include the ones you might expect, like San Francisco.  Inrix, a traffic data analysis firm, says the Top 10 best suited for self-driving cars are New Orleans, Albuquerque, Tucson, Portland, Omaha, El Paso, Fresno, Wichita, Las Vegas and Tulsa.  San Fran didn't even make the top 20 - below even New York City  & just before bottom-ranked Ft. Worth.

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Faster eBay Deliveries And Maybe Free

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eBay is announcing a new service - starting this summer - which will guarantee delivery in 3 days or less, and in some cases, the shipping will be free. The service is called Guaranteed Delivery. Buyers will be able to search listings by shipping time, and if a package doesn't arrive when promised will get a shipping charge refund or coupon toward the next purchase.

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Alexa, Siri, Cortana And Now Bixby

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Samsung is adding another voice to the "intelligent assistant" chorus on smartphones & devices, with an IA named "Bixby" to debut on its new Galaxy S8 phones due out later this month. Bixby will be a little different, designed more to help users navigate apps & features on their phones, rather than help you find a good restaurant or call for an Uber. Samsung plans to add Bixby to many of its other devices.

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NetFlix Giving Its Ratings System A Thumbs Down

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The "star" rating system that Netflix users -where subscribers give up to 5 stars for programs and movies they like (or don't), is going away. In its place, Netflix is going to have a thumbs up/thumbs down rating system starting in April. The stars will remain for older content previously rated that way.

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Alexa Challenges Siri On Your iPhone

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Amazon is rolling out an Alexa shopping app for iPhone, putting Alexa in direct competition with Apple's Siri intelligent assistant. While Alexa has already been available on iOS to manage Echo devices, this Alexa app not only shops on Amazon, it can stream music, read books from Kindle, even check on the weather, among other Alexa skills.

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Google Starts Flagging Offensive Content

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Google has started to flag "offensive" or "upsetting" content in its searches, giving new guidelines to its 10,000 human quality-raters who evaluate search results and give Google their "ratings." Google then uses those ratings in its search algorithms, meaning low-rated sites rank lower in search results.

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It’s Very Likely Your Home Could Be Solar Powered

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If you've thought about adding solar power to your home, but aren't sure if there's enough sunlight on it to make an installation worthwhile, think again. Google has been running Project Sunroof the past 2 years, surveying some 60 million buildings with the same satellite images Google Maps uses and so far finds 4 out of 5 American homes get enough sunshine for solar power. You can check your address on their site, but not all homes have been surveyed yet.

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New Parental Smartphone Control Program From Google

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Wants young kids to have their own smartphone and Gmail account? Google does too and has introduced Family Link, a parental control program that allows parents to monitor & control their children's access & Internet use. It can impose a bedtime and shut down their phones too - but both parent & child have to use Android phones.

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Gone Phishing

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It's always phishing season on the Internet, where the baddies send you emails they want you to click on because they seem to come from a friend, a customer, a company you know, even your boss. Some of the most prevalent scams: PDFs that are not themselves infected, but have a fake error message that when clicked on leads to a malicious website; or phony friend requests that take you to bogus login screens; or polluted Amazon listings that redirect to non-Amazon payment pages.

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Indictments In Massive Yahoo Email Hack

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The US government has indicted two Russian spies, and two known hackers, for the 2014 hack of 500 million Yahoo accounts. One hacker, who lived in Canada, has been arrested there, the other had been arrested in 2013 on other charges but fled to Russia.  He & the spies are unlikely to be extradited to the US to face the charges.

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Alexa Will Do The Roomba

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The popular Roomba vacuuming robot will soon be able to take voice commands from Amazon's Alexa intelligent assistant. iRobot announcing that it's 900 series Roombas will be able to be controlled through Alexa sometime in the next few months.

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A New Not So Inexpensive Smartwatch

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Tag Heuer, the Swiss luxury watch company, now has a new not so inexpensive smartwatch, to follow up on its first version, which sold pretty well considering the $1500 price. The new watch costs $1650 or more - depending on options - and uses Google's new Android Wear 2.0.  Tag offers some 500 different design combination and allows the smartwatch to be traded in for another model when the internal programming gets obsolete.

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A Cheap All-Electric Car

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Volvo is talking about making a cheap all-electric car - and with a longer driving range than both the upcoming Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt. Volvo plans a vehicle for $34-40-thousand - about what the Tesla will cost, but with a range of 250 miles, a little more than both the Tesla & Chevy. Of course, your all-electric range may vary.

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Malware That Comes With Your Phone

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Malware, pre-installed with your Android phone?  One security firm says, yes, it found malware already installed in factory-fresh phones, even some from big companies like Samsung, Lenovo, and LG. You can check your phone - new or old - with a free scanner from Sophos.    

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Intel Moves to the Driver’s Seat in Self-Driving Cars

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Giant chipmaker Intel is placing a big bet on the future of self-driving cars. The company is acquiring Moble Eye, the Israeli firm that makes sensors for autonomous vehicles and those on their way to autonomy for 15 billion dollars.  Mobile Eye has been in the forefront of the industry and Intel is betting this move will put it in the driver's seat as a leading player in the space.

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What Worries Father Of The Worldwide Web

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Tim Berners-Lee invented the worldwide web almost 30 years ago - but dad has some worries about the kid - even though it's an adult.  Berners-Lee says too much personal information is not protected, there's too much misinformation being spread, and there's too much "political" advertising that's not clear about who is behind the ads.

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No More Nut Holding the Wheel. No More Wheel Either?

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California is considering a new rule that would allow self-driving cars to be built without a steering wheel.  And for that matter, they wouldn't need a brake pedal or a human driver.  The proposed rule was published this week and the public will be able to comment on it until April 24th.  If approved it would take effect in 2018.  Until now autonomous vehicles in California had to have a human who could take over in the event of a problem.

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Amazon Pronto Hablará Español

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Amazon.com users will soon be able to see the regular site in Spanish - a nod to the 40 million native Spanish-speakers in the US, plus another 11 million people who speak both English & Spanish. The Spanish-speaking market in the US continues to grow and Amazon is rolling out the Spanish language option to users of its website over the next few weeks.

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ENOugh With Female Virtual Assistants

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Ever notice how most virtual assistants - whether they speak or just chat in typed messages - have clearly female names? Capital One has given its new chatbot a "gender-neutral" name: Eno (which happens to be 'One" backward spelled). It was a deliberate decision on the bank's part - and if you ask Eno if it's male or female, it will say it's "binary."

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Wikileaks To Give Tech Firms CIA Hack Data

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assage is giving tech firms like Google & Apple details of the CIA hacking tool data Wikileaks obtained & released this week. The world is not accustomed to seeing Assange as a "white hat" hacker as he's usually inserting leaked information to disrupt established governments and businesses. Some tech companies say they have already patched their products based on the CIA leak, or that the vulnerabilities shown were old & out of date anyway.

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Why Yahoo Is Purple

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Many companies pay big money to create the right "image" - down to the "color" that identifies them. But it turns out Yahoo purple was an accident, that when the founders first had an office, one of them went out to buy gray paint for the office walls, only the paint turned lavender when it dried, so they stuck with it for the company color.

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Dad Fined For Son’s Pirate Download

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A dad in Germany is being fined about $1,000 after being found guilty of not being explicit enough when warning his 11-year-old son not to download anything illegally and to use his computer only for school-related work. The father wasn't even home when the kid downloaded an audiobook but was found liable anyway.

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Tech Firms Trying to Plug Holes After Wikileaks CIA Hack

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With Wikileaks publishing thousands of pages on how the CIA can take over computers, phones, smart TVs & other devices to spy on people, tech companies around the world are rushing to plug any security holes that the CIA may have found.

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Undershirt Warns When You’re Too Drowsy To Drive

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Yawning behind the wheel? It's dangerous when drivers get too drowsy, and two tech companies in Japan may have a solution - an undershirt that sounds an alarm if it detects when someone is about to fall asleep. A bus company is testing the undershirt on its drivers, and the shirt may be publicly available later this year

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Google Adds 2-Factor Authentication To Nest Product Line

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Google is adding an option for two-factor authentication to its line of Nest devices, which so far are Internet-enabled thermostats and indoor or outdoor security cameras. With 2FA - as it's known - anyone trying to log in also needs a code usually sent by text to the device owner's phone - making the device much more secure.

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Amazon Gives Up Echo Data In Murder Case

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After arguing that what one of its Echo devices might have heard & recorded at the site of murder in an Arkansas home was protected by privacy right, Amazon has now agreed to give investigators access to any data. The murder suspect, whose home & Echo it is, agreed to allow it, but questions remain about Echo users' Constitutional rights where they don't agree to allow police access to intelligent assistants' data.

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Now FiOS Offers A Pre-Pay Plan

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Verizon is now offering its FiOS fiber optic services in select cities as a pre-pay plan - in other words, pay-as-you-go the way some wireless plans are. For $60 a month customers get 25/25 Mbps Internet including a Wi-Fi router. TV service or landline voice are extra, but there's no credit check or deposit, just a $90 installation fee. Good for cord-cutters, snowbirds with second homes, or who travel a lot.

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Consumer Reports Will Test For Data Security And Privacy

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Consumer Reports - the independent, non-profit organization that watches out for consumers - is now going to test products for privacy and data security. They are partnering with cybersecurity experts after a January survey found 65% of Americans are not confident their personal data is private.

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Facebook Has A New “Fake News” Flag

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Facebook has rolled out a tool in its system that will flag so-called "fake news" items - stories that have been reported as phony & checked out by Politifact and Snopes, two organizations that debunk Internet stories and rumors. The items will still appear on Facebook, but with a warning that they have been disputed by fact-checkers. Google has also altered its system to keep out fake stories & "fake news" sites.

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Phony Debt Collection Scams Top The List

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The Federal Trade Commission says "imposter scams" - where someone pretends to be someone they are not - topped the list of reported complaints to the FTC last year, surpassing identity theft. Most of the imposter scams were phony debt collection calls, and 622,000 people who fell for frauds reported paying out $745 million last year - money they didn't owe.

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Gmail Doubles Size Of Attachments – Inbound Only

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Google has decided its limit on attachment sizes in Gmail is too small, so it's taking half a step to change this, allowing incoming mail to be as large as 50 MB (message plus attachments) while still limiting outbound Gmail to 25 MB (message & attachments). They want you to use Google Drive to email links to larger files.

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FCC Proposing New Rules To Stop Robocalls

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The Federal Communications Commission - which has said complaints about unwanted calls are what it hears about the most from Americans - proposing new rules to, among other things, allow phone companies to block spoofed calls - those with fake Caller ID - from certain numbers if requested by subscribers. It was a suggestion from an industry strikeforce that is still working on the larger problem of automatically blocking some 2.4 billion robocalls made each month.

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Chromebooks’ Gain In Schools Is Apple’s Loss

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Chromebooks - the inexpensive laptops that use Google's Chrome operating system - are replacing the more expensive Apple MacBooks in many schools. A new report says Chromebook sales to schools were up 50% last year, while Apple sales fell 19% and overall Apple has half as much of the school market as Chrome. Chromebooks are not only cheaper, they store each student's information in the cloud, so it doesn't matter which one a kid picks up to use.

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Twas A Typo That Killed The Beast

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OK, maybe Amazon Web Services isn't a "beast" but it is very big and many, many companies, programs, and applications run on it "from the cloud." And for 4 hours on Tuesday, AWS went down at their Northern Virginia site, Amazon now says all because a tech worker essentially made a typo while trying to troubleshoot a problem and issued a command that shut down a large bunch of servers and caused outages all over. It took a full reboot to get things going again - just like you have to do sometimes!

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New Twitter Tools To Stop Abusive Tweets

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Twitter is adding new tools to keep abusive tweets to a minimum. They include looking for user profile photos, real email & phone numbers, so Twitter trolls will have a harder time hiding behind anonymous or phony accounts. Some of these filters will be optional, but Twitter will also be suspending or restricting accounts its system finds are abusing the service.

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YouTube To Offer Live TV As Well As Cat Videos

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YouTube wants to replace your cable company. The Google division is launching a new live TV service, which will include programs from ABC, CBS, Fox & NBC, as well as cable channels ESPN & USA, among others. The idea is to attract cord-cutting millennials, but there's no reason this won't also be attractive to cost-conscious seniors, at $35 month for 6 accounts. Dish, DirectTV, Sling & others are also competing for cord-cutters who want live TV.

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You Can Keep Your Hat On – With A Camera

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How about a camera hat? Or a hat camera? Hatcam? Whichever, Google has filed a patent for one, saying it could be used for social media, interactive assistance, or sending data to an emergency-handling system.

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Good-Bye To Net Neutrality Under New FCC Chair

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The new chair of the Federal Communications Commission - Ajit Pai, a Republican commissioner, and former Verizon attorney - says the net neutrality rules passed under the Obama administration were a "mistake" and the commission is going to roll them back and replace them with "light-touch internet regulation." The idea of net neutrality was that an Internet provider could not favor its own content while throttling competitors'

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Windows 10 Might Block All Non-Microsoft Store Apps

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Microsoft has added a "feature" to it's latest insider build of Windows 10 - not released to regular users yet - that could block users from installing any app NOT from the Microsoft Store. If actually applied it would likely be called a "security" feature - and reportedly the options would be NO apps except from the Store, ANY apps from anywhere, or SOME apps from the Store, in which case non-Microsoft Store apps would come with a warning that they might not be safe.

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You’re Getting An Assistant From Google

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Google Assistant, the voice-activated digital assistant that's limited to mostly Google-brand phones, such as the Pixel, is now going to be on any Android phone running the two latest operating systems, Marshmallow & Nougat (Android V6 & V7). Assistant will roll out this week to English-speakers in the US, at a time when not only is Amazon's Alexa threatening to become the lingua franca of digital platforms, other phone makers are creating their own digital assistants.

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Does Alexa Have First Amendment Rights?

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The US Supreme Court has already ruled that corporations are people, and now Amazon is arguing in court that Alexa - the voice of its Echo devices - has First Amendment free speech rights. It's in an Arkansas murder case, where police want recordings the device may have made during a 48 hour period. Amazon says both the user's voice commands, and Alexa's responses, are protected free speech.

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Google Sues Uber As Self-Driving Vehicle Thieves

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Google's parent company - Alphabet - is suing Uber in San Francisco federal court, claiming Uber is using stolen technology for self-driving vehicles. The allegation is that a Google team member left a year ago to form his own autonomous truck company, a company Uber bought 6 months later, including thousands of confidential design files the guy took from Google.

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Google To Help Clean The Web Of Toxic Comments

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Google and their Jigsaw subsidiary launching a new technology to help online publishers deal with abusive comments on their sites. "Perspective" scores comments & compares them to the scores of other comments that readers have found to be "toxic." The program will not delete the comments, but flag them so each web publisher can decide what it wants to do with malicious comments.

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Spam Is Way, Way Down Since Christmas

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Have you noticed? Spam is down by more than half these past two months - since just about Christmas. No, it's not a gift from the spammers, but SophosLabs says one large botnet - a network of some 6-million infected computers - has gone quiet. Of course, it could spring back at any time, and other spammers are still hard at work trying to infect you, mostly with ransomware, so continue to be careful.

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Apple Announces Opening Date for “Spaceship” Headquarters

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Apple says it will open its spaceship-like corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California in April of this year.  The campus spreads over 175 park like acres on a site that had been occupied by Hewlett Packard.  The new complex will house 12,000 employees and promises to be visitor friendly.  It features a modernistic theater dedicated to Steve Jobs, which will rise on a hill overlooking the complex  

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Calling Dr. AI – With Alexa

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Amazon's Alexa - the voice-activated program integrated with their Echo units - can now help you with your health. The app Dr. AI from Healthtap, already supported on Apple & Android smartphones, will now listen to you on an Alexa device.  Dr. AI will respond to patient symptoms, and if necessary, connect the patient to one of the networks 107,000 physicians.

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UPS Testing Drone Delivery

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UPS is yet another company testing deliveries by drones. The test in Florida, with the drone launching from, and returning to, the top of a UPS delivery van, even if the van moves on to other delivery drop-offs. UPS sees it as a way to make rural deliveries more efficient, where deliveries are more spread out.

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IRS Lists Phishing & Other Scams As Top 2017 Threats

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The Internal Revenue Service says email phishing, phone scamming & identity theft are the biggest thefts to taxpayers in 2017 - as they have been previously. But the IRS says phishing - and in particular a version involved W-2 forms - has become more dangerous and pervasive this year.

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Gmail Now Blocking All JavaScript Attachments For Safety

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Google is now blocking all JavaScript attachments sent to Gmail users. The entire message is bounced back, because many Windows machines will run such scripts by default, and malware crooks have been using Javascript more. So the blocking by Gmail is a good thing.

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GM To Make Self-Driving Chevy Bolts For Lyft

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Reuters is reporting that General Motors is going to make a fleet of self-driving Chevy Bolts - their electric vehicle - for the exclusive use of the Lyft ride service. The cars to be available by 2018, but not for sale to the general public. Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, and other automakers have previously promised self-driving vehicles for on-demand ride services.

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Global Agreement Needed To Stop Cyber Warfare

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Microsoft's chief legal officer is calling for "Geneva Convention" on cyber warfare, because of all the attack by nation states on each other, eroding civilian rights. Brad Smith says we're finding ourselves "in a world where nothing seems off limits."

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Making Phone Calls With Amazon Echo Or Google Home

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Amazon Echo - the smart device where "Alexa" works for you - and its rival Google Home - already can perform many tasks by voice-command. Next may be making and receiving regular phone calls. Reportedly both companies are trying to work out just how their devices will become phones, without violating users' privacy.  Might happens as soon as later this year.

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A Million Spams In 3 Years – And He’s Only The 8th Worst

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An Arizona man - rated as only the world's 8th worst spammer - has been indicted on federal fraud charges for sending more than a million spams between 2012 and 2015. In 1998 AOL sued the same guy for fraud and he settled for $500,000. He claims to be an "e-marketer" not spammer.

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Facebook To Start Auto-Playing With Sound ON

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Bad enough that every other website now bombards visitors with auto-playing videos with the sound on - often ads - as soon as you open a page (not us, folks!).  Now it seems Facebook is going to do it too, turning the sound on by default, instead of the current default to mute. You can leave the sound off on your phone or computer, and there'll be a way to disable this dubious "feature" in the Facebook settings menu.

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The Couple That Hates Together, Stays Together

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Well, it is different. All those dating websites & apps designed to bring people together over shared values, or interests, or religious beliefs now have an opposite called Hater, an app for people to find their match with another who dislikes the same things.

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More & More Requests For Google To Take Down Sites

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The number of websites Google has been asked to remove from its searches is growing quickly, with both copyright holders & people with apparent political motives asking that certain sites be taken down from searches. Overall, billions of such requests, not necessarily granted, have been made over the years.

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Verizon Goes Unlimited Too

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Faced with competitors doing better by offering "unlimited" data plans, Verizon Wireless is jumping back in, after stopping such plans in 2011. While Verizon is still the industry leader in terms of customers & coverage, lately T-Mobile has just about equaled it by offering simpler wireless plans.

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No So Fast, Comcast

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Comcast has been told to stop advertising itself as the fastest Internet in America and the fastest home Wi-Fi - after Verizon complained to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) - and the board agreed the ads are misleading. Comcast says it will comply. Verizon itself was slapped down by the NARB last year, after making a similar "fastest" claim for FiOS. In both cases, the issue was how the companies chose to measure themselves & their competitors.

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T-Mobile Now Just About Equal To Verizon

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T-Mobile - once considered one of the also-rans in the US cell phone market - is now said to be just about equal to Verizon, the market leader, in network speed and other measurements. That can't be good for Verizon - or AT&T for that matter - in part because T-Mobile (and AT&T) use GSM technology which is pretty much a world-wide standard, while Verizon (and 4th place Sprint) are still using CDMA.

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Samsung Has A Foldable Phone – But You May Not See It For A While

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The concept is simple.  If you make a phone that is foldable you can double the screen real estate without increasing the heft of the phone.  That's the idea behind Samsung's new foldable phone.  But it looks like it may be a while before you'll be able to get one in a local store.

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Amazon Payments Nearly Doubled Transactions Last Year

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Amazon Payments - a rival of PalPal that allows users of other retail websites to check out using info already stored in their Amazon accounts - shot up in usage last year adding at least 10 million users and reportedly doubling the volume of transactions. Amazon is also reportedly talking to PayPal about collaborating in on-line payments.

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Your Vizio TV Was Spying On You

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Vizio - a maker of flat screen TVs now owned by a giant Chinese conglomerate - is going to pay $2.2 million for spying on viewers of some 11 million of its sets. Seems a program inside the TV reported back to Vizio on not only what was displayed on the screen, but also that came from cable boxes & DVD players, plus the IP address of the user.

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Uber Pushes Forward With Flying Cars

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Uber is apparently very serious about building flying cars and has just hired a veteran NASA engineer - he'd been there 30 years - for a flying cars initiative called "Uber Elevate." Of course Uber isn't alone in wanting to develop flying cars - Google, among others, also investing in the technology.

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Google Maps Updated With More Info

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Google Maps - a popular app on Android phones - has an update that adds more information for users, including easier access to commuting or driving data, and expected time of arrival. Other new options include better showing of locations for restaurants, ATMs, gas stations and clinics.

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South Korea To Make Sure Phone Batteries Are Safe

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No surprise, South Korea wants to make sure there's no repeat of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 debacle, so the government is going to strengthen safety requirements for lithium-ion batteries, the type that overheated & sometimes caught on fire in those phones. The government also going to monitor Samsung's design & production, especially.

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Pacemaker Data Leads To Arson Charges

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Something smelled funny to cops investigating a house fire in Ohio - how did the 59-year-old man who lived there manage to pack a suitcase & bags, break a bedroom window with his cane, and escape the flames, then call 911, considering he had an artificial heart attached to an external pump & pacemaker! Police got a search warrant for all the electronic health data and checked with a cardiologist, who told them it was highly improbable the guy could have packed his bags, jumped out the window & all that in just a few minutes. The indictment is for arson and insurance fraud.

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New DWI: Driving While Infected

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You won't be pulled over by a cop, but you may be able to take a breathalyzer test to determine if you have the flu - even before you have symptoms. The test developed by a University of Texas at Arlington engineering professor works just like the breath test for alcohol - you exhale into it and it analyzes your breath, not for booze but for biomarkers associated with the flu virus. If you test positive you can start on flu medicines early, possibly shortening your infection & reduce its spread.

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That Annoying Credit Card Chip Isn’t Stopping Fraud

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That little chip on the face of your credit card or bank card, which makes you wait longer to buy something in a store or get cash from an ATM - it was supposed to cut down on credit card fraud since the thieves wouldn't be able to fake one. Turns out identify fraud, most of which is credit card fraud, rose last year. Seems the crooks doubled-down on phone & web orders with fake or stolen card numbers; those thefts rising 40% in 2016.

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Watson Come Here, I Need You To Help With My Taxes

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Get supercomputer help with your taxes: H&R Block teaming up with IBM to have their brainiac Watson answer taxpayers' questions and look over their returns for deductions & credits that might have been missed. For now at least, IBM's Watson will not be replacing human tax preparers - only assisting them.

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Ad Block Usage Is Up Despite Attempts to Stop It

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Use of ad blockers on the Internet - especially on mobile - is continuing to rise. Ad blockers on mobile usage rose more than 60% last year, while only 17% on desktop computers. The largest use of ad blockers is on mobile phones in the Asia-Pacific region, but usage is growing in North America & Europe. The two biggest reasons for ad blocking: security & not being interrupted by ads.

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Spam Is On The Rise, Big League

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Spam is back. After the number of spam emails dropped sharply starting in 2010, a new report from Cisco says spam is back, with some 3,000 per second - that's right - per second - being sent last year.  About 8% of email spam is malicious, but at the current spam-spewing rate, that's close to 900,000 malicious emails an hour!

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That Self-Driving Uber Might Be A Benz

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Uber adding Daimler of Germany - the maker of Mercedes-Benz - to the list of those that will provide self-driving vehicles for the ride service. Uber already partners with Volvo & Ford, but in those instances, the automakers are working with Uber on the self-driving tech, while Mercedes will only become another brand in the fleet - timeline unannounced.

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Humans Lose Big To Poker-Playing Computer

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A poker-playing computer equipped with artificial intelligence cleaned up against 4 of the best human players a the 20 day meet at Pittsburgh's Rivers Casino. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University created Libratus - as the AI player is called - and it "won" some $1.7 million playing 120,000 hands of Heads-Up, No-Limit, Texas Hold ‘em. It doesn't keep the winnings.

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Your Vote Needed On Bubble Wrap

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Maybe you didn't know it - but January 30th was Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day - proclaimed as such by the people that hold the trademark on the name of the ubiquitous packing material. Bubble Wrap was discovered some 60 years ago and now Sealed Air Corp., which owns the brand, wants people to vote for their favorite new Bubble Wrap design - deadline February 13th. At least this will be a fun election.

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2016 A Record Year For Data Breaches

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More than 4 billion data records were known to be stolen in 2016 - the worst since 2013.  Yahoo alone accounted for 1.5 billion user records breached, but the smaller ones added up, many attacks were on from poorly secured database servers on the Internet.

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Better, Faster Vinyl Records

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Vinyl records making something of a comeback these last few years, with younger listeners warming to the medium that used to be our only way to hear recorded music, before cassettes, then CDs, then downloads. A Toronto company has upgraded the process of making a disk, trying to cut down on the time from recording to pressing the records and making better ones at that.

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Make Your Older Ford Smarter

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Ford announcing a way to retrofit Ford & Lincoln models - going back as far as the 2010 model year - with Ford Smartlink, which adds Internet connectivity, remote starting & door locks, as well as other safety and vehicle health features. The device plugs into a data port that already exists under the dashboard. Available from Ford this summer, but no pricing yet.

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Google Blocked 1.7 Billion Bad Web Ads Last Year

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Google says it blocked some 1.7 Billion - yes with a "B" - bad web ads in 2016, twice as many as in 2015. The ads were for all sorts of products, including misleading "cures" and phony pharmaceuticals. Also blocked were ads for payday loans, illegal gambling, and "click to trick" ads, trying to entice people to sites containing malware.

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Blocking Access To Those In a Bad Mood

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Can biometrics be used to deny someone access to technology - say if the person is in a foul mood, or stressed, or is being forced? Researchers in various places are trying to determine if "brain-wave" biometrics can measure emotional states and technology can use those measurements to keep a person in a bad state from accessing a bank account, or military system, or, say, a Twitter account.

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Everybody Wants A Piece Of Qualcomm

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Qualcomm - the US chip-maker - supplies the chips inside most Apple & Samsung phones. Now Apple is suing Qualcomm in China for a billion yuan (about $145-million) for abusing their business relationship. This is on top of a suit Apple filed against Qualcomm last week in California asking for $1-billion in damages, which followed a South Korean fine of some $854-million, a $975-million fine in China and an FTC complaint accusing Qualcomm of anti-competitive practices.

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Diagnosing Skin Cancer With A Smartphone

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Researchers at Stanford University have come up with a way to combine artificial intelligence and smartphones to help diagnose skin cancer and do it as well as board-certified dermatologists can. The researchers made a database of 130,000 skin disease images and used AI to compare smartphone photos of suspicious looking skin and come up with a diagnosis. There are more than 5 million new cases of skin cancer annually in the US, and early detection greatly increases survival rates.

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HP Recalls More Laptop Batteries That May Overheat

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HP is recalling more than 100,000 lithium-ion batteries used in many of its HP & Compaq line laptops, because of the danger of them overheating, causing burns & possibly fires. The announcement from the Consumer Product Safety Commission comes after HP recalled some 41,000 laptop batteries in June 2016 for similar issues. You can go online to get replacement batteries or call HP: 888-202-4320

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Giant “Star Wars” Twitter Bot Network Discovered

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British researchers have stumbled on a giant Twitter-bot network - capable of sending tweets by the hundreds of thousands for any purpose including spam, marketing or political interference. There are at least 350,000 accounts controlled by this one bot network, and the researchers think there may be more, even larger, networks. For now, the bot network just quotes random sentences from Star Wars novels - hence the name given the network.

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New FCC Chairman Could End Net Neutrality and Many Internet Enterprises

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Donald Trump is elevating FCC member Ajit Pai to succeed Thomas Wheeler as the new chairman of the regulatory agency.  While Wheeler helped create what's known as "Net Neutrality" Pai says he wants to dismantle it.  Pai has also opposed other FCC actions including privacy protections.  Net Neutrality rules prevent Internet Service Providers from picking favorites among content providers and from throttling down data rates.  A dismantling of those rules could boost the prospects for major players who can afford to pay for carriage, but kill off thousands of startup Internet enterprises.

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Sprint Purchases 33% of Tidal – Improves Prospects for Hi-Res Streaming

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Sprint says it is buying a one-third interest in streaming music service Tidal.  Sprint will provide Tidal service to its 45 million subscribers.  The move could help advance Tidal's efforts to upgrade its service to handle so-called Hi-Res or lossless audio, even as the format struggles to gain acceptance with consumers raised on a generation of lower quality MP3 format audio.

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It Was The Batteries, Samsung Says Officially At Last

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Samsung has now officially declared what everyone already knew, that it was the batteries in their Galaxy Note 7 phones that were defective and caused overheating & even some explosions of the phone. Samsung says experts it hired determined that while the batteries came from two different makers, there were design & manufacturing mistakes that caused the problem, which led to some 3 million Note 7 phones to be recalled.

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Yahoo Under SEC Investigation For Hack Attacks

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The Securities & Exchange Commission is investigating Yahoo over two attacks on its systems, one in 2013 and another in 2014 - both disclosed only last year - that exposed more than 1.5 billion user accounts. The SEC wants to determine if Yahoo deliberately withheld notification of the security breaches to investors - nevermind the 1,500,000,000 people & businesses affected.

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Uber Owes Its Drivers $20 Million In Settlement

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Uber has to pony up $20 million to its drivers, for misleading them on how much money they'd make, driving for the service. The settlement with the Federal Trade Commission which charged Uber with recruiting drivers on its website by underestimating the cost of drivers' buying or leasing vehicles,  and inflating how much drivers would earn.

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Trading Alert App For Trump Tweets

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Because Donald Trump's tweets - something he intends to keep doing - sometimes affect stock prices, a London-based firm has come up with an app that generates alerts for trades, based on what Trump tweets. The app will supposedly be smart enough to know when a tweet just mentions a company and when it says something that might move the market.

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Billboard Coughs When Smokers Walk By

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Walk by a billboard in Stockholm - advertising a pharmacy chain - and if you're smoking a cigarette the model on the billboard photo starts to cough! The idea, to get smokers to the pharmacy and get them to buy products to help them quit.

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FDA Wants Stronger Protections Against Hacking Pacemakers

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Hacking is not only a problem on your computer, but as the world becomes increasingly Internet interconnected, it's an issue for cars, homes, and even your body.  In the case of your body, and even in a self-driving car, that could be a matter of life an death. Now the Food and Drug Administration has issued what it calls final guidelines on how to protect your medical devices such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and the like from becoming the victims of cyberattacks

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Restaurant Live Streams Patrons On Facebook As They Eat. Really.

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It's still early, but the stupidest idea of 2017 may be here already: a restaurant in Brooklyn, NY that live streams to Facebook & Twitter its customers as they are eating & talking & whatever (no cameras in the toilets, so far...). You get 10% off your check if you agree to also be interviewed while dining. Really.

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Microsoft Trying To Scare Windows 7 Users To Windows 10

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A scary blog post from Microsoft, warning users of Windows 7 that the operating system - which still has about twice as many users as Windows 10 - is not secure enough and could have hardware problems. In other words, they're still trying to push you to Win 10, even though Microsoft support for Windows 7 will continue for 3 more years, so you can keep installing their regular Windows 7 updates. (Update: 2 days later Microsoft deleted the blog post.)

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Some Verizon Customers Won’t Let Go Of Their Note 7s

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It was back in September that Samsung asked that all users of its new Galaxy Note 7 to return them because they could catch on fire & explode. Most did, but Verizon says it still has thousands of Note 7s still in use, despite an over-the-air update that was supposed to prevent them from connecting or recharging. Apparently, thousands of users ignored the update and now Verizon is going to make every call from a Note 7 go to their customer service which will tell the callers to return the phones.

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Just What Your Phone Needs: A Fire Extinguisher!

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This is not a joke - researchers at Stamford University have come up with a "fire extinguisher" for cell phone batteries that catch on fire,  the way the one in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 did. The fire retardant sits in a protective shell and is released if the battery overheats.

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You’re Not Using Strong Passwords

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Is your password 123456?  Congratulations, you have the number one unsecure password of 2016 - and it's been at the top of the list for years. Keeper Security looking at the most common passwords among 10 million made public last year by hackers, finding way too many are just too simple or too short, making them easy to guess or steal. The second most common password of 2016: 12345678.  You can, and MUST, do better.

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Samsung Will Admit It Was The Battery In Note 7 Fires

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It was the battery that caused many Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones to catch on fire - at least that's what Reuters is reporting an internal Samsung investigation has found.  Samsung has been holding off on an "official" report, which may come out January 23rd, something it needs to do to restore confidence in its products.  

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Canada May Be First In North America With Delivery Drones

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Canada may beat the US in allowing drones to make deliveries. The Canadian government has approved test flights by drones to a small village in Alberta province, and that may lead to real service before the end of 2017. Canadian officials see drones as a way to get medical & emergency supplies to far northern communities, where roads are few.

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Latest Adobe Acrobat Reader Update Installs Spyware

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If you have Adobe Acrobat Reader DC on your Windows computer - and you use Chrome for your browser - be aware that the latest updates to that Acrobat PDF reading program automatically adds an extension to Chrome, which, if you allow it, sends information about your browsing & Acrobat use back to Adobe. Click on the full story, below, on how to stop it.

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New Game System From Nintendo Switches On In March

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Nintendo is releasing its first new video game console in more than 4 years - called The Switch. The official release date is March 3rd, and gamers will have a lot to look forward to, as Nintendo has designed The Switch - as the name implies - to be used many different ways.  It is being priced starting at $299.

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Now Consumer Reports Likes The MacBook Pro

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It was a big deal a month ago when the new MacBook Pro did not receive a seal of approval from Consumer Reports, the non-profit consumer testing organization. It was the first MacBook to get CR's thumbs down, the judgment after inconsistent battery life far below Apple's claims. But Apple has put in a fix, CR's re-tested, and now the MacBook Pro is "approved."

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More Privacy For Windows Users

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Microsoft is finally listening - especially after being prodded by the French data Protection Commission and the Electronic Frontier Foundation  - Microsoft has announced new ways for Windows & Office users to maintain their privacy while using those products. One way is a web-based privacy panel, the other, clearer privacy settings coming to Windows 10.

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With $34 Million In Pre-Orders, A Start-Up Shuts Down

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Well, so much for that. A start-up that promised a "throw-and-shoot" camera drone, is going out of business, despite collecting $34-million in pre-orders. Lily says it just couldn't come up with the financing to actually manufacture the drones, so it'll refund the money it collected for pre-orders.

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Amazon To Add 100,000 US Jobs By Mid-2018

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Amazon just keeps growing, announcing that it plans to add 100,000 new jobs in the US by mid-2018, jobs in its Seattle headquarters, fulfillment centers (that's warehouses), and customer service. The Internet giant already has about 180,000 employees in the US. Of course, this news comes as more & more large retail stores are being closed, with employees let go.

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Getting Served KFC Based On Your Face

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A KFC in Beijing - American fried chicken is very popular in China - is trying to figure out what each customer wants to order based on the customer's face. Reportedly the facial recognition software thinks young men would favor a crispy chicken burger and a Coke, while an older woman would prefer porridge and soybean milk for breakfast. A British reporter - a young woman - tried it out: she was offered the chicken burger too - but it guessed her age wrong - older!

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Free “Fly-Fi” Now On All JetBlue Flights

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JetBlue has become the first major airline to have free Wi-Fi - or as they call it "Fly-Fi" on all of its planes - from departure gate to arrival gate. The Wi-Fi speed will be between 12 and 15 Mbps - zippy enough - unless of course everyone on board is streaming Netflix at the same time. JetBlue started the Wi-Fi rollout in 2013, with just one equipped plane and other carrier offering in-flight Wi-Fi charge about $20 for it.

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Beware Of Phishing Scheme On Amazon

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A new warning about an old scam on Amazon.com - listings that offer bargains "too good to be true" - and of course aren't. Clicking on them takes you - and your money - to a very convincing Amazon payment page. Amazon always on guard against these fraudsters & removes their links, but you have to be careful too.

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Bug Fix For St. Jude Medical Implanted Devices That Could Be Hacked

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St Jude Medical - a maker of implantable medical devices including pacemakers & defibrillators -is rolling out a patch to fix a vulnerability found in the home controllers that monitor the devices. The Food & Drug Administration confirmed that a hacker, gaining access rto the [email protected] system, could reach out and coimpromise the implanted medical devices.

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So Much For “Unlimited Data” On Verizon Wireless

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Verizon Wireless is reportedly telling customers with legacy "unlimited data" plans that if they are averaging more than 200 GB a month they will be cut-off and need to move to a limited data plan by next month to avoid it. Also, Verizon is raising from $20 to $30 the cost of upgrading to new phones, and will no longer offer 2-year contracts or subsidies to renewing users - those perks previously ended for new users. Verizon lately averages about $3.5 billion a quarter in net profit.

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You Can Still Upgrade For Free To Windows 10

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Not sure why you'd want to if you haven't already, but it's still possible to get a free upgrade to Windows 10 on a Windows 7 or 8.1 computer, even though the free upgrade program officially ended at the end of July last year (2016). Microsoft said anyone using "assistive technology" - such a screen magnifier - would be allowed to still upgrade, and it's not shut down its upgrade servers nor required upgraders to prove they use such tech.

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@POTUS Turned Into An Obama Archive

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President-elect Donald Trump may have been the Twitter Candidate - and may continue on his own Twitter account when he's in the White House - but all of President Barack Obama's social media posts - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. - have been collected in a searchable archive open to the public. When Obama's term officially ends January 20th, all of his @POTUS accounts will be scrubbed clean, even if @realDonaldTrump doesn't ever use them.

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Amazon Alexa Now Has CBS Radio News

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Amazon's Alexa - the voice of its Echo devices and now many more connected gizmos - will now bring you CBS Radio News for the asking. Offerings include the 5 minute network news on the hours, either when you ask or on schedule, or just a one one "briefing."  NPR, the BBC and other services are also available on Alexa-enabled devices.

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No You Can’t Buy A Car With Amazon Gift Cards

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From the folks who brought you paying your back taxes with iTunes gift cards, now comes buying a car online with Amazon gift cards - BOTH ARE SCAMS. The Federal Trade Commission warning people about scammers trying to sell cars, boats, and bikes, among other things, saying they need the cash fast so use an Amazon gif card. But those are are only good for buying on Amazon itself - so be warned.

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Amazon Alexa – Winning!

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It sounds like Amazon's Alexa voice-control technology is winning big over rival tech from Google and Apple. At the annual CES show in Las Vegas, where tech companies show off their wares & innovations, Alexa could be found in many other companies' devices, including a smart refrigerator, voice-controlled TVs, and even robot home vacuum cleaners.

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$1 Billion In Ransomware Last Year And No End In Sight

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Ransomware, malicious programs that encrypt data files on computers so pirates can demand payment - usually in Bitcoin - to unlock them, continues to grow, raking in an estimated $1 billion in 2016. One security expert says that estimate may even be low. There were between 2 and 3 million ransomware attacks last year, usually through phishing emails, and so far, no 100% reliable way to stop them.

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Feds Give D-Link An “F” On Security

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The Federal Trade Commission is suing D-Link, alleging that the company's routers & Internet-connected webcams have weak security that allows hackers to take them over. The FTC wants the court to order D-Link to fix the devices, which are advertised as secure, and repay the government for all costs of the lawsuit.

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Get A Cadillac On Demand

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Why buy or lease a luxury car or SUV, when you can have it personally delivered to you, whenever you want, simply by using an app? That's the thinking behind Cadillac Book, a $1500 a month subscription service the car-maker is going to offer. You ask for a Caddie, and the fully-equipped luxury model of your choice is brought right to you, to drive for an hour, a day, a week, or however long you wish, with maintenance & insurance included, and no mileage cap.

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The Eye’s On Hulu As CBS Signs up

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CBS has reportedly signed a deal to have its broadcast programs - and some of its cable shows - on Hulu the pay streaming service. ABC, NBC & Fox are already on Hulu, as are many cable only services. With CBS Hulu gets entertainment, sports & news programs, giving it an edge on AT&T DirecTV Now, which lacks CBS - at least so far.

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Tesla Starts Gigafactory Battery Production

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Tesla has started battery production at the giant facility it's still building in the Nevada desert near Reno - a gigafactory as they call it - to produce batteries for Tesla cars & energy storage products (like power from solar cells after the sun goes down).  Almost 3-thousand people already work there, with that number expected to more than double when the factory is fully built sometime in 2018.

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Faraday Challenges Tesla For Speedy All-Electric Luxury Car

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Faraday Future - a Chinese-backed firm - has shown off at CES a prototype of its all-electric car, which it claims is speedier than Tesla. The luxury SUV - reportedly priced at $180,000 - won't go into production until next year, and that's a maybe because the company has been having money troubles and is counting on a $1.4 billion investment. You can pre-order the SUV, but you need to pay $5,000 up front.

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Samsung Doubles Down On Touchscreen Refrigerators

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Samsung, which unveiled a luxury refrigerator with built-in cameras & an Android touchscreen last year (and which we didn't much care for), is showing 10 new models at CES this year, not only with the touchscreen but also voice commands. They're betting this "smart" appliance will eventually catch on.

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Just What You Need (?) A Connected Hairbrush

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How do you ever brush your hair - those of us who have enough left - with a plain dumb hairbrush? Unveiled at CES, a "smart" hairbrush that connects to your phone with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to tell you if you're brushing "correctly." It has a microphone, gyroscope & accelerometer to measure your brushing. You know, instead of just looking in the mirror.

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How To (Maybe) Save The Phone You Dropped In Water

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Who hasn't dropped their smartphone in water - the toilet seems to be a favorite place for this accident - and unless you have one of the newer water-resistant phones, there's been little to do to save most of them. A service called Redux may be able to recover your phone. if you can get it to one of their 600 locations in time. Could cost as much as $100 for a water-logged smartphone rescue.

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A Flying Car By 2020?

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Israeli researchers have successfully tested a "flying car" - a large passenger-carrying drone that's been in development for 15 years and is not expected to be on the market for another 3 years. While the Cormorant, as it's called, is the size of a family car, don't expect to become The Jetsons anytime soon, as the first flying cars will cost millions & are first intended for military and rescue operations.

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French Get Right To Not Get Work Emails After Hours

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Everyone still working knows about the emails - the work emails that arrive at night, on weekends, even on vacation. But as of 2017, French workers have the right to NOT get work emails during non-work hours, or at least not be obliged to answer them.

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A New Law of Unintended Consequences: Self-Driving Cars and Organ Shortages

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Most of the figures say the vast majority of automobile accidents are the result of driver error, a situation that could be dramatically reduced if self-driving cars really become the rule.  Ironically, by saving many of the 30 thousand plus lives that are lost each year in accidents, there may be far fewer cadaver organs available for donation.  At at time when twice as many people are added to the kidney list as are receiving kidneys, this is not good news for them.

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Just What We Need: Skype While Driving

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In case you needed more distractions while driving, Volvo says its new 90 Series - their top of the line - is going to have Skype For Business built into the console, so drivers can take part in conference calls while on the road. Luckily for the rest of us, it appears that this Skype will be voice-only, no video to take the driver's eyes off the road even more.

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The Kissenger – And It’s Not Named Henry

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Developers in London say they've come up with a way to transmit a kiss by mobile phone. They call it the Kissenger - for "kiss messenger" - and apparently no relation to the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who was considered, in his day, quite the ladies man. No, this Kissenger is an app and a special case for an iPhone, that purports to send a kiss from one device to another, so the receiver actually feels it.

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Looks Like Santa Delivered A Lot Of Apples This Season

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The Apple iPhone was apparently the gift to get this holiday season, with iPhone activations in the week leading up to Christmas (and Chanukah & Kwanzaa) more than double that of Samsung phones, Apple's biggest competitor - 44% to 21%. All other phone makers in the very low single digits. Flurry Analytics also says the trend is toward "phablets" - the larger phones - now up to 37% of the mobile market from only 4% in 2013.

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Artificial Intelligence May Hear Your Car’s Problems Before You Know Them

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AI - or Artificial Intelligence - keeps spreading and the latest comes from Israeli researchers who have put ultrasonic microphones inside vehicles, to listen for early warning signs of problems. The sounds would be analyzed by an AI technique known as "deep learning" that would detect the sound patterns of something that will soon need repair.

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Was An Amazon Echo An Earwitness To A Murder?

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An Amazon Echo may have been a witness to a murder in Arkansas. Police in Bentonville, noticing an Echo in the kitchen of a home where a man is suspected of strangling another man in a hot tub, have sent a search warrant to Amazon, asking for any recordings the Echo may have made during two days in November. Amazon says it won't supply any information to police.

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Panasonic Puts Millions Into Tesla Solar Cell Plant

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Panasonic clearly believes in the future of solar energy. The Japanese electronics giant is investing over $250 million in a Tesla solar cell factory in Buffalo, NY. In return, Telsa is giving a long-term purchase agreement to Panasonic, which has been moving away from consumer electronics to partnering with automotive and other industries.

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How To Recycle All Those Amazon Boxes

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All those Amazon shipping boxes that piled up from holiday orders - Amazon has a good way to reuse them: ship donated items to Goodwill, for free. Under a "Give Back Box" program, you can get shipping labels from Amazon, and UPS or the Postal Service will deliver the recycled boxes, and their contents, to the nearest Goodwill.

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Canada Says High Speed Internet is “Essential” to Quality of Life

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Canada's government says it will spend some $750 million to ensure that all of its citizens have Internet access.  The decision by Canada's telecom regulation agency basically says Internet is now as much of an essential service as is voice communication.  And it wants all Canadian citizens to have access to 50 MB/s broadband and unlimited data

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Microsoft Finally Admits Windows 10 Mistakes

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Microsoft finally admitting what was obvious to everyone else, that it pushed too hard to get Windows 7 and 8.1 users to upgrade to Windows 10. In particular, their chief marking officer regrets the upgrade pop-up where clicking the red X in the upper right corner didn't cancel the upgrade, it actually started it. Even now it's estimated that Windows 10 is running on less than half of the world's computers.

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Take A Break From Facebook, Be Happier

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Giving up Facebook for a week makes many people feel better & more satisfied with life. It's what a study in Denmark finds, that particularly among people who "lurk" on Facebook without actively engaging with others, leaving taking a Facebook break makes them happier. It also applies to heavy Facebook users and those envious of their Facebook friends. The study also found that some who offered to give up Facebook for just a week, couldn't do it.

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Uber Puts San Francisco In Rear View Mirror

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Faced with California's demand that it get special permits for the self-driving vehicles that it was testing in San Francisco, Uber has moved them all to Arizona, where no special permits for self-driving cars are required. Uber used the cars in SF for a week, first defying state officials, then relenting when the state threatened to pull the cars' registrations.

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Hide From Facial Recognition Software

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A Chicago designer has created a new type of glasses - called Reflectables - that can not only reflect light at night - making it easier to see bicyclists and pedestrians - it also can hide the wearer's face from surveillance cameras and facial recognition programs. The glasses are hoping to be funded with a Kickstarter campaign.

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Search Engine Finds And Tracks Fake News

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Researchers at Indiana University have designed a search engine that tracks fake news. You type in a topic and Hoaxy responds with a list of fake news sites with items on the subject. The search engine, still in beta,  also shows how the story spreads on Twitter & its popularity.

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No More Self-Driving Ubers In San Francisco

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Uber has pulled its self-driving cars from the streets of San Francisco after California threatened to revoke the cars' registrations. The state DMV insisted Uber apply for special permits, the same permits required of other self-driving cars being tested on roads in California by other companies. Uber claimed their cars didn't need the permits because they still needed occasional human intervention.

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Return Of The Living Dead: Nokia Sues Apple

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Nokia - the Finnish phone maker that was finished when the first Apple smartphones came out in 2007 - is now suing Apple for infringing on 32 patents covering the technology for displays, interfaces, software & other phone features. The suits filed in Germany and in an East Texas federal court, the number one court for patent cases, where those suing tend to win. Nokia had previously sold its phone assets to Microsoft, which sold them this year to a Chinese company.

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Facebook Adds Live Audio

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Facebook is adding Live Audio to its news feeds, allowing broadcasters & podcasters, as well as authors & celebrities, to offer audio-only streams. At first, the BBC World Service and a British talk-radio station will be available, as well as content from the publisher HarperCollins. The service will roll out to others early next year.

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Finally A Phone Company Is Blocking Call Spam

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AT&T has become the first major phone company to finally do something about fraudulent calls. They have started blocking calls from numbers known as sources of phone fraud, or at least warning when those calls might be a scam. Users who want to whitelist incoming numbers to their phones will need to download an app.

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$20 Internet “Porn Tax” Proposed In South Carolina

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How popular is pornography on the Internet? Estimates on porn traffic vary from 4% to 30%, but if a South Carolina proposal becomes law, any Internet-enabled device from a phones to a computer will be required to have a porn filter, which could legally be disabled by an adult paying a $20 fee, or a manufacturer or seller paying a $20 "porn tax" per device to NOT install the filter.

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Who Listens To Radio? Us

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All those music streaming services, like Pandora & Spotify, turns out they still don't have the audience of "old-fashioned" radio, except among millennials, those under 30. Everyone older, and especially those of us 50+, gets most of their music from the radio and a sizable chunk from CDs or other purchased music, such as iTunes. Just like the old Stan Freberg/Sarah Vaughn promo said, more than 40 years ago (although it's now 265 million...):  

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New Study Finds Smartphones Could Be Major Health Research Tool

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When Apple introduced its iPhone based Research Kit, it came with the hope that if people used their smartphones to gather their own health information, that could be pooled to make valid "big data" about behavior and outcomes.  Now a study published in the JAMA Cardiology journal endorses the concept.  But there's a big question - how long will people use their smartphones to gather consistent information?

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Fact-Check Donald Trump’s Tweets? There’s An App For That

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The Washington Post, which was fact-checking President-elect Donald Trump (and his opponents) all through the campaign, continues to do so during the transition. And now the Post has an extension for Google Chrome that offers a "fact-check" to each Trump tweet as it is displayed.

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There Could Be A BlackBerry Driving Your Car

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BlackBerry, the pioneering smartphone maker that's going out of the smartphone business (but promising one more physical keyboard model in 2017), is getting into the autonomous car business. BlackBerry expanding its QNX software facility to work on self-driving car technology. QNX already powers some infotainment system in many cars.

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