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20
Feb

Soundcast VG1- A little Bluetooth Speaker with real punch


I love Bluetooth accessories. The Bluetooth standard is used in far different than it was originally developed for, but the result has been an array of mobile accessories that many of us would never have dreamed up a decade ago. Smart watches, alarms, headphones, earbuds, fitness trackers, speakers… All have been adopted into our daily lives. The search has turned from trying to find an accessory we can afford to finding the best accessory for our money. These accessories are so pervasive, where do you start your search?

Well, Soundcast recently sent over the VG1, a heavy-duty IP-rated Bluetooth speaker for us to take a look at in hopes we may agree its worth the $150 price tag.

When I took it out of the box, I was initially very impressed with the build quality of the speaker. It’s pretty heavy, but there’s a good reason for that. The body is made out of heavy-duty materials that will resist most falls.

The rubber body of the VG1 seems to be your standard hard, black rubber we’ve seen on many speakers that are designed to be used outdoors. The metallic looking grill is actually a hard plastic and I was pretty disappointed how the grill held up to my drop test. A drop from about five feet onto the corner of a wooden table left a pretty significant dent in the grill but did not damage the internals. Higher quality materials might have made the speaker a little heavier, but would pay off in the longer term health of the speaker.

That dent is ugly.

Disappointment over the grill aside, I did like the inclusion of a carabiner bar on the right side of the device. This allows you to easily hook your speaker onto your bag or your belt if you happen to be climbing and the solid construction of the bar means it’s going nowhere.

Another smart decision on the part of Soundcast is the inclusion of an IP rating on the VG1. The speaker is rated at IP67 which means the speaker is protected from harmful dust (6) and immersion in water up to 1 meter deep (about 3 feet) for up to 30 minutes. If you’re running to catch the bus while it’s pouring rain, you’re good, though I wouldn’t take it deep sea diving.

One of the biggest things that the VG1 has going in its favor is the small and angular design of its body. The speaker is just big enough to hold in one hand comfortably while the rubber body provides some decent grip. Soundcast is quick to point out that while the speaker is angular, it is important to keep the speaker on its feet. If you tip it back then the speaker “won’t produce the optimal listening experience”. The quality of the audio does drop when the speaker is put at an angle but nothing to write home about.

Don’t do this.

Speaking of audio quality, I was pretty pleased with what the Soundcast VG1 was able to produced based on the small body it’s housed in. Bass is about on par with other decently expensive speakers. It won’t blow you away and rattle your windows, but it does offer some really nice bass will make rock, rap, and EDM a pleasure. At higher volumes, the bass really kicks in and you can feel the backward-firing passive bass radiator really notch up and provide some awesome bass.

Where the VG1 really shines is in its clarity. The lows don’t step all over the mids, and the mids and highs are very well represented. Spoken word and instrumental shine here with this being the perfect speaker to listen to comedy albums or podcasts. I was really pleased that at higher volumes that the mids and especially the highs, maintained their integrity.

The VG1 has the ability to deliver that high audio quality partly due to high-quality parts, but also support for AAC and aptX codecs, but if you want true stereo audio, you can pair two VG1’s together. Now, that’s going to cost you about $300 and at that price, you may want to look at other options, but the ability to pair two speakers together is pretty enticing. Unfortunately, Soundcast only sent one speaker so I wasn’t able to try out this functionality.

All-in-all, I think the Soundcast VG1 is really an excellent speaker for the money you’re spending. It has all of the speakers you’d expect including Siri support (sorry, no Google Voice Search support), water resistance, and speaker phone, with the added ability to pair an extra speaker which most devices can’t do.

I would like to see the build quality be just slightly better to avoid those dented grills, but I can’t complain too much. My drop test is supposed to simulate the worst of what would be a “normal” drop and it survived up until that point. Still, I can’t get that dent out and it’s really bothering me.

Is the Soundcast VG1 worth your money? Yeah, I think it is. There are definitely other contenders out there that offer pretty enticing alternatives, but they generally cost anywhere between $50 to $150 more.

20
Feb

PlayStation Communities is a handy tool for hardcore PS4 users (Review)


Overview:

PlayStation Communities is another app from the PlayStation mobile app team, that aims to make using your PS4 and mobile device together easier than ever. This app is designed to allow you to manage your PS4 communities and find friends and other players who share your interests and play together.

Developer: PlayStation Mobile, Inc.

Cost: Free

Impressions:

PlayStation Communities is another app from the PlayStation mobile app team, that aims to make using your PS4 and mobile device together easier than ever. This app is designed to allow you to manage your PS4 communities and find friends and other players who share your interests and play together.

PlayStation Communities is an app from Sony that is designed to let you find friends and players with shared interests by joining “Communities” based on region, game, or whatever you’d like. There are hundreds to choose from, but a lot of them do suffer from low population issues. The app is serviceable and allows you to search, join, and message in communities without having to turn on your PS4, which is handy, but in all honestly the app isn’t something a casual PS4 user would really need. This app seems aimed squarely at the hardcore players in Sony’s camp, those who have a lot of friends and use the PlayStation as their primary gaming platform.

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Xbox’s app versus PlayStation’s many apps

The Communities app has no glaring issues, you are able to search for communities by game name, or location and language and join them easily. Once joined, your communities are listed on the main screen and you are able to see player population and active players, as well as messages and updates from them at a glance. The app will also push notifications to you when a community updates if you prefer. There isn’t much more going on here, to be honest, the app does as advertised and nothing more. The user interface is inoffensive enough but could stand to be a bit cleaner, maybe delegate the different tabs to a hamburger menu button on the side, and let the community pages be larger and more readable.

PlayStation Communities is another in a string of PS4-centric apps from Sony that allows you to manage your PS4 remotely. The others are the PlayStation app, which allows you to manage friends lists, browse the shop, and use your phone as a remote or second screen. Alongside that, there is the PlayStation messages app which is solely for messaging on the PlayStation Network. This fragmented app library highlights the biggest issue with Sony’s PlayStation mobile device experience. Compare this triple app mess to the Xbox app for Android, which performs all of the functions of all of these apps in one making for a much easier and smoother experience for second screen gaming. PlayStation needs to unify all these apps into one, larger app that performs all of the same functions. It would reduce bloat on phones and tablets, as well as reduce confusion in the PlayStation community over apps and their functions. It’s 2017 guys, can we get our acts together?

Conclusion:

Overall, the PlayStation Communities app is a solid, functional app that has a very limited purpose and shouldn’t be a standalone app. That, however, has no significant bearing on its score here today. PlayStation Communities is a good companion to your PS4, and if you find yourself in need of a few players for a Destiny raid or to fill out your multiplayer lobby in Call of Duty then this app is a solid source of players and a recommended download.

Download PlayStation Communities from the Google Play Store

20
Feb

Windows Store app hints at Samsung Galaxy Book running Windows 10


Why it matters to you

Samsung is no stranger to the laptop market, but a fully fledged PC capable of running Windows 10 would be a first for its Galaxy line.

At CES 2017, Samsung announced two new Chromebooks, renewing its commitment to Google’s proprietary operating system. However, an app that has just hit the Windows Store might suggest that Samsung has other irons in the fire, as well.

Over the weekend, an app by Samsung called Book Settings was discovered on the Windows Store, according to a report from MS Power User. The app’s listing states that the software is intended for use with the “Galaxy Book,” and may not function normally when installed on other hardware.

More: Samsung Galaxy S8 rumors and news leaks

At present, there’s no such product as the Samsung Galaxy Book, but given the appearance of this app, it seems that an announcement can’t be far off. From the lone screenshot on the Windows Store page, we can infer that the system features an AMOLED display and supports pen input.

The fact that the system is named the Galaxy Book might suggest that Samsung is fielding a product intended to compete with the Surface Book and the MacBook. With tablets increasingly being usurped by 2-in-1 devices, it’s not surprising to see Samsung attempt to get in on this category of hardware while the going is good.

There’s also the possibility that the Galaxy Book could be designed to run Windows 10 Cloud, the new variant of Microsoft’s OS that was exposed by a leaked build earlier this month. When Microsoft decides to go public with Cloud, we’re likely to see hardware announcements to accompany the big reveal — and a 2-in-1 from Samsung would certainly be attention-grabbing.

Samsung has launched an array of phones and tablets under the Galaxy moniker since initiating the line in 2009, but up until now the company has never used this branding on one of its PCs. Given that the Samsung Galaxy Book does carry this name, it’s reasonable to expect that the system will be differentiated in some way from the company’s other laptops.

20
Feb

Mailtrack.io shows you when your email has been read, now available for Inbox


Why it matters to you

The uncertainty of whether or not your email has been read or received can be supremely frustrating, but you can solve this problem with Mailtrack.

This is not an extension for the faint of heart. If read receipts on iMessages freak you out, then read no further — this is not the tool for you. If, however, you want to know that you are being ignored, rejected, or otherwise put off, then go ahead, install Mailtrack. It’s a simple, easy-to-use read receipt for emails that can be equal parts incredibly useful and disheartening.

Today, the Barcelona-based startup released its newest version for Inbox by Gmail. One of the largest releases from the Mailtrack.io team to date, this latest update lets you see whether or not your email has been opened, how soon after it was received it was open, and how many times sit was opened. If that sounds like information overload, we understand — sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.

More: U.S. House of Representatives approves Email Privacy Act, Senate up next

But hey, if you’re of the opinion that knowledge is power, then you’ll be joining the more than 1.5 million folks who have signed up for Mailtrack in a little more than three years. Indeed, during the startup’s short lifetime, it’s seen 300 million emails sent with its tracking feature. 

Today, the free Mailtrack extension is available for Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. It emulates the popular check mark-based interface used by Skype, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp to notate whether or not your email has been read, and while it has plenty of competitors, it looks like it’s leading the field. Indeed, the Mailtrack team told Digital Trends, it has recently surpassed by Streak and Yesware in its number of Chrome users.

“Our users install and keep Mailtrack because of the simplicity of our concept, so we’re investing in taking it everywhere. While it’s our intention to eventually create a version for smartphones, we’re currently focused on taking Mailtrack to Outlook.com,” co-founder Eduardo Manchón said, “We’re strong believers in the survival of email as an essential communication tool for business. Email is incredibly useful, so we want to do our part in making it smarter and more productive.”

20
Feb

WhatsApp launches Status, an end-to-end encrypted Snapchat Stories clone


Why it matters to you

WhatsApp, which serves more than a billion users, is taking a feature from Snapchat so you spend more time on the messaging service.

WhatsApp is going back to its roots to commemorate the app’s eight-year anniversary — its latest update introduces a new tab called Status, which lets users share moments in their day with friends and family in the form of photos, videos, and GIFs.

The Facebook-owned messaging company has been testing Status for some time now, and it’s more or less a Snapchat clone. Facebook has imitated several Snapchat-like features — it introduced Stories on Instagram and something similar called Messenger Days in Facebook Messenger, which is still in testing. It seems as though Status is WhatsApp’s equivalent of this.

More: Security first: WhatsApp begins rolling out two-step verification for its users

“When WhatsApp launched nearly 8 years ago, it started as an app for sharing status updates, where people could type a short line of text to let their friends know what they were up to,” according to a blog post from the company. “When we noticed people were using the feature to communicate in real time, we redesigned WhatsApp as a messaging app.”

Paying homage to status updates from the app’s inception, the new feature focuses on the redesigned camera experience where users can take and share photos, GIFs, and videos. You can add emojis, doodles, and text onto your media, and send your creations out to all your contacts, individuals, or groups.

New Status updates from your contacts will be available from the new Status tab. Statuses expire after 24 hours, and they are end-to-end encrypted as well.

More: T-Mobile may be following Sprint and Rogers to offer RCS in Google Messenger

WhatsApp said 50 billion messages are sent each day via the app, including more than 3.3 billion photos, 760 million videos, and 80 million GIFs — hence the company’s focus on these three mediums with the new update. The company said over the past year, the number of photos sent have doubled, and the number of videos sent have tripled.

Status is rolling out now, and it will be available for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone users.

20
Feb

Get $15 off TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 router with this code ($78)


For a limited time, Amazon is offering a $15 discount on one of the most popular wireless routers on the market. Normally priced at $93, the TP-Link Archer C7 router can now be had for just $78 on Amazon with the coupon code 15TPLPC1.

The Archer C7 supports 802.11ac wireless connectivity for speeds of up to three times faster than Wireless-N. Dual-band Wi-Fi delivers 450Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1300 Mbps at 5GHz for a total available bandwidth of 1.75 Gbps. This gives you two dedicated data streams: simple tasks like web browsing can be performed on the 2.4GHz band while the 5GHz connection tackles heavier jobs such as online gaming or video streaming. Six antennas boost the signal for a stable connection over a wider area.

More: Confused about Wi-Fi routers? Here’s how to buy the right one for your home

TP-Link Archer C7 routerThe TP-Link Archer C7 is well-known as a user-friendly router. The Easy Setup Assistance makes it simple to quickly install the device right out of the box, and TP-Link’s Tether app helps you manage your network from your Android or iOS device. The WPS button provides one-touch WPA wireless encryption and Privacy with Guest Network Access lets you set up dedicated access for guests. With Bandwidth Control, you can set speed limits on connected IPs to prevent certain devices from eating up too much bandwidth. Two USB ports and FTP connectivity take care of your file-sharing needs for printers and other devices on your local network.

The Wirecutter named the Archer C7 the best router for most people, noting that its ease of use, reliability, and good speeds make it a great choice for almost any user. The Archer C7 is already affordable but Amazon’s current $15 promo code discount sweetens the deal, so if you’re on the market for a router than a $78 TP-Link Archer C7 router could be just what you need. Remember to enter the code 15TPLPC1 at checkout to enjoy this limited-time discount.

$78 on Amazon

20
Feb

For a short time, enjoy 50 percent off the Logitech G302 gaming mouse ($25)


Serious gamers know that a good mouse can make all the difference during those competitive online sessions. There is a myriad of gaming mouses on the market today, and designs are growing increasingly bulky and complex with more LEDs and buttons than you can count. As the highly-rated Logitech G302 Daedalus Prime gaming mouse proves, however, sometimes simpler is better. For a limited time, you can score a G302 for 50 percent off of its normal Amazon price, bringing this popular mouse down to $25.

Logitech G302 gaming mouseThe Logitech G302 gaming mouse was particularly designed with multiplayer online battle arena games like League of Legends and Defense of the Anciencts in mind. Built with input from professional MOBA players, the G302 Daedalus Prime features Logitech’s unique Delta Zero optical sensor which provides a DPI of between 240 and 4,000. When you need to change your sensitivity for handling different tasks, you can switch between four different DPI settings on the fly with the press of a button.

More: Get this multiplatform HyperX Cloud Revolver Gaming Headset for 25% off

The G302’s metal spring tensioning system mitigates button travel, improving sensitivity and responsiveness for high-speed clicks with a report of one millisecond. A total of six programmable buttons let you map in-game commands to the mouse, and with the included Logitech Gaming Software, you can set up custom button map profiles for your favorite titles. The slim, lightweight body cuts down on bulk and features friction-reducing feet for increased comfort during periods of extended use. The button switches are rated for over 20 million clicks and the mouse comes with Logitech’s two-year limited hardware warranty as well.

The Logitech G302 Daedalus Prime typically goes for around $40 to $50 at most retailers, but Amazon’s current 50 percent discount brings it down to just $25 for a limited time. If you’ve been looking for a solidly-built budget-friendly gaming mouse, particularly one built for MOBA games, then the Logitech G302 is hard to beat at this price.

$25 on Amazon

20
Feb

Samsung’s reputation was among the most damaged of any company last year


Why it matters to you

Samsung is eager to claw back goodwill with its once-loyal customers by introducing safer and more innovative products.

The annual Harris Poll, which measures corporate reputation among tens of thousands of respondents in the United States, found that Samsung suffered one of the biggest hits of any company in 2016. The South Korean technology giant placed 49th in this year’s survey — down from seventh last year and its peak of third in 2015.

The Harris Poll, which has been conducted since 1999, prompts each respondent to rate two companies on a criteria of 20 different attributes. When asked which firm suffered the greatest drop in reputation over the past year, Samsung was the third-most common answer among those surveyed, taking 5 percent of the vote, followed by Volkswagen in second with 9 percent and Wells Fargo taking the top spot with 23 percent.

More: Samsung’s batteries just caught fire, and nearly took a factory with them

The study also offers insights as to the circumstances most likely to lead to negative reputation. “Intentional wrongdoing or illegal actions by corporate leaders” was cited by 85 percent of respondents as the greatest threat to corporate goodwill, trailed closely by “lying or misinterpreting the facts about a product or service” at 83 percent. “Product recall due to contamination” was the seventh-greatest risk, according to the poll, at 65 percent.

In Samsung’s case, the Galaxy Note 7 exploding battery debacle and arrest of vice chairman Lee Jae-Yong following a monthslong investigation stemming from charges of bribery and embezzlement align with the risks, and provide an explanation to the company’s fall from grace.

That said, it could have been much worse. Samsung’s Reputation Quotient score drop of 5.3 points year-over-year is a far cry from Volkswagen’s 20.5-point margin at the start of 2016 as a consequence of the Dieselgate controversy, when the automaker was found to have lied about the emissions levels of millions of its vehicles worldwide. That set an all-time Harris Poll record last year and was only outdone by Wells Fargo’s performance in this most recent study. The banking giant, embattled by a scandal in which it opened millions of unauthorized accounts without customers’ approval, has fallen 20.6 points.

Samsung’s relatively swift recall of the Galaxy Note 7 and announcement of stricter battery safety protocols likely mitigated what could have been an even greater public relations crisis. As the company gears up for the launch of its upcoming flagship Galaxy S8, expected to arrive in the spring, it has repeatedly assured prospective customers that it has learned from its mistakes and immediately taken those lessons to heart in developing future products.

20
Feb

Now just $60, the NZXT S340 mid tower is a budget-friendly case for your PC build


If you’re building a desktop PC, one of the most important steps is to decide what sort of case you need and how much you plan to spend on it. Desktop towers come in all shapes, sizes, and price brackets, and there are plenty of highly rated models in the sub-$100 range to suit budget-friendly builds. One popular and well-reviewed case is the NZXT S340 mid tower, which can now be had for as little as $60 from Amazon.

NZXT S340 mid towerThe NZXT S340 mid tower PC case is constructed from durable forged steel with a clear ABS plastic window on the left side that shows off the internals of your build. The S340 comes in at just under 18.7 inches tall — roughly two inches shorter than similar mid towers — for a compact footprint that won’t hog desktop space. The minimalist black design features optional color accents for some visual flair that isn’t garish or gaudy.

More: A beginner’s guide to building a PC from scratch

NZXT S340 mid towerOn the inside, the S340 offers seven expansion slots along with three 3.5-inch hard-drive bays and two 2.5-inch bays. A dedicated PSU shroud and a grommet-less cable management bar help you tidy up your internal components for a clean build, an important feature when it comes to appearance and heat reduction. Filtered intakes reduce temperatures as well by helping to keep excess dust from clogging up the works. On the front, the I/O panel provides two high-speed USB 3.0 ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microphone jack.

The NZXT S340 mid tower remains a popular desktop PC case for its attractive minimalist style, solid construction, well-engineered internals, and low price point. The current 20-percent discount makes the S340 even more affordable for a limited time, bringing the red and matte black case down to $60 on Amazon. For just $5 more, you can get the flat glossy black model as well as the blue and matte black version.

$60 on Amazon

20
Feb

Expiring developer certificates caused several Mac apps to crash


Why it matters to you

Did some of your Mac apps fail to launch over the weekend? You may need to download an update.

Changes to Mac app certificates over the weekend caused several apps to fail to launch or crash but developers have begun issuing the necessary updates.

Of the affected apps, the developers said that the crashing was caused by the code-signing certificates expiring. The malfunction only affected Mac apps that were not downloaded directly from the App Store as these apps are certified in a different way, according to a report from MacRumors. These certificates are intended to verify an app (that’s not from the Mac App Store) as legitimate and safe to use.

These issues appear to have been caused by a “provisioning profile.” This profile is used by the app to inform MacOS that it is a legit app and has been certified. When an app developer’s code-signing certificate expires, so too does the provisioning profile.

This is a relatively new protocol. Previously apps would not be affected by a certificated expiration if they had already been downloaded and were in use. However, last year, Apple made it a requirement that all apps have provisioning profiles. This means developers need to keep up to speed with their certs.

More: The MacBook Pro’s battery life is better, but it’s still not the best

Password manager 1Password was one of the many apps that were affected over the weekend. AgileBits, its developer, issued a warning to users that they would need to manually update the app.

“As you might imagine, we have a whole new level of understanding of the importance of expiring provisioning profiles and certificates. Our new certificate expires in 2022 but I can guarantee you we will be renewing it far before then,” said AgileBits CEO Jeff Shiner.

Soulver, another app that crashed because of the issue, sent out an update to users as well. If you were having any problems with other Mac apps over the last few days, check with the developers to see if they have issued an update that you may need to download.

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