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Google announces Cast for audio, connecting speakers to music in the cloud

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So far the Google Cast streaming protocol has been used with video in mind – after all, it is powering the Chromecast, the company’s very successful HDMI stick. But today Google has announced Cast for audio.

This will work in a very similar way to video casting, but it naturally won’t send video, just audio, to supported speakers. Like with the Chromecast, these won’t get the content from your mobile device – rather, they’ll connect directly to the Internet and fetch it from there, saving you battery life for your phone or tablet in the process. Read more »

Netflix starts blocking VPN users

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Netflix maybe an excellent service, full of great content, which can be accessed from pretty much any device these days, but it is also seriously limited geographically. Due to licensing issues, the service can be accessed from only a handful of countries around the world, and even then the content is not the same everywhere.

To get around the location issue, many of the users have been using VPN. Unfortunately, the movie studios aren’t too happy with that, which has resulted in Netflix slowly starting to block VPN services. Read more »

The Interview becomes Sony’s no. 1 online film of all time

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Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) has revealed that its latest release The Interview has become the studio’s top grossing online film of all time. Made from a budget of $44 million, the movie managed to pulled in more than $15 million in online sales through the first four days of the holidays alone.

“Through Saturday, December 27, including all of its online distribution platforms, The Interview has been rented or purchased online more than 2 million times,” SPE said in a statement. This compares with the estimated $2.8 million the movie made over the same time period in theaters, although that was a limited release. Read more »

Apple iTunes is the latest outlet to offer The Interview

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Apple iTunes is the latest outlet that offers the controversial movie ‘The Interview’ for rent or purchase. Cupertino is asking $5.99 for a 24-hour rental of the flick or $14.99 to own it.

Starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, ‘The Interview’ has been available online since December 24. Read more »

Sony will likely stream ‘The Interview’ on YouTube and Google Play (updated)

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Apart from showing the highly controversial ‘The Interview’ in 300-odd cinemas around the US on Christmas Day, Sony may also be be streaming the movie on YouTube, among other services.

Update: the movie is now available to stream from a number of outlets including Google Play, YouTube Movies, Xbox Video, and the website SeeTheInterview.com. The Interview costs $5.99 to rent and $14.99 to own. Read more »

Amazon’s newly launched Prime Now service offers one- and two-hour deliveries

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Amazon has announced a new service that offers one-hour and two-hour delivery of daily essentials via a mobile app. Dubbed Prime Now, the service is only available to Amazon Prime members, who can use it to get products like paper towels, shampoo, books, toys, batteries, and more expressly delivered from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

The service is currently available in selected areas of Manhattan, although the company is encouraging all Prime members to download the new Prime Now app, which is available for both iOS and Android, saying that they will be notified when the service launches in their area. Read more »

Robin Williams, World Cup and Ebola top Google’s 2014 search

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It’s that time of the year when we can take time and look back at what gathered the most attention. There’s no better place to do that than Google’s search – the most popular tool on the internet.

Google has rounded off the most popular searches and stories in its rebranded Year in Search 2014, formerly Google Zeitgeist. The most searched topic on Google for 2014 was Robin Williams’ passing followed by the FIFA World Cup, the Ebola outbreak, Malaysia Airlines’ lost MH370 flight, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and many more. Read more »

YouTube now lets you easily create animated GIFs from (some) videos

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YouTube is apparently testing a new feature to be added to the Share menu which you can find underneath each video on the site. Alongside sharing via social networks, emailing someone a link to the video, and embedding it on your website, on certain channels a GIF option has magically appeared.

And yes, this is exactly what you think it is – an extremely easy way to create animated GIFs. For now, the feature only seems to have surfaced next to videos uploaded by PBS’ Idea Channel. Since Google hasn’t officially announced the automated GIF maker, this may be just a test – or an extremely slow rollout. Read more »

Update to Google Fit for Android adds support for new activities

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Hot on the heels of Android Wear’s firmware bump, Google Fit for Android received a major update as well. The latest version of the search giant’s health and fitness suite brings new features to the platform.

Google Fit now supports manual entry for over 100 new activities. Read more »

YouTube for Android with offline playback, but only in certain Asian markets

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After the recent mass roll-out of the new material design look, the YouTube app is once again receiving special treatment from Google. The latest addition to the video streaming service is the long-requested feature of offline video playback.

This sounds incredibly exciting, but before you head on to the Play Store eager for an update, there are a few catches. The new feature is initially available only in India, Indonesia and the Philippines and only for select video content, or as Google put it: “much of [the] popular YouTube content”. So if you happen to reside in the aforementioned areas, look out for an offline icon on certain clips to see the feature in action. Read more »

Google outs Live Channels streaming app for Android TV

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Google quietly released an Android TV app, which allows streaming of live channels to the platform. Dubbed Live Channels for Android TV, the application works only on the Asus Nexus Player for the time being.

Live Channels needs a built-in tuner to work (IP-based tuners are also supported) — you cannot simply stream a channel by installing it at the moment. Read more »

Amazon now lets you negotiate prices with sellers

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Today Amazon has unveiled a new feature for its customers. It’s called Make an Offer, and it basically lets you negotiate lower prices with Amazon sellers.

To start, you’re able to do this for “more than 150,000 items” in the Sports and Entertainment Collectibles, Collectible Coins, and Fine Art categories. Read more »

You can now get three months of Spotify premium for 99 cents

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There is no doubt that Spotify has changed the music industry forever. The micro-purchasing, ad-supported streaming service that it offers has turned into more than a household name. If you are like most Spotify users, however, the words “try Spotify premium” have been drilled so deeply into your mind that hearing them while listening to music has become more or less the norm. If this is the case and you are among the millions hooked on Spotify’s set of features and experiences, than there has never been a better time to take the premium version out for a spin.

Now you can get three whole months of uninterrupted music listening pleasure for only 99 cents. Read more »

New Gmail feature brings editing office files to your inbox

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Gmail users can now edit office documents straight from their inbox. The button for the new feature is available alongside the options to download a file or save it to Google Drive.

When a user selects the newly available option, Gmail saves the file to Google Drive and automatically converts it to Google’s own office format. Read more »

Microsoft acquires the developer of the popular email client Acompli

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Microsoft acquired the developer of Acompli – a popular email client for iOS and Android. The deal is reportedly worth more than $200 million.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft plans to merge the high level of functionality of Acompli with its own Outlook platform. Read more »