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Microsoft Gives Insiders 4 Builds as July 29th Approaches

posted Sunday Jul 5, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Gives Insiders 4 Builds as July 29th Approaches

Microsoft's big day, July 29, is coming quickly. On that day, full-screen Windows 10 versions officially make it to the public. These versions are Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education. Essentially, if it will normally run on a screen larger than 7", it will be available on that date. As the day comes closer, it is expected that incremental builds of the base will become more stable.

Microsoft's Insider release rules are based on stability. Gabe Aul, the voice of the Insider Program, has said that builds are tested internally and if they are found to be stable, they are released to the Fast Ring users. This week he said,

We're focused at this point on bug fixing and final polish, so it's much easier for each build to get all the way through than earlier in the cycle when we're adding big new features. now we find ourselves in a great situation, with an abundance of build candidates.

With this abundance of builds, Fast Ring Insiders saw an overabundance of new builds released: 3 for PC and 1 for mobile. The mobile build had been available previously, but had an upgrade bug that meant anyone who wanted to try it was forced to clear their phone back to Windows Phone 8.1 and upgrade form there. The new release made it possible for anyone to get the build.

Where the excitement came in was the 3 PC builds. 10158 was released on Monday, June 29: one month before the official launch. It was based on bug fixes and final polish. We saw icon changes, tweaks to the Start menu and Microsoft Edge branding. Continuum saw updates, as well as Cortana and Photos. The biggest change, however, came in the list of known issues; there were none. In fact, rather than a long list of known issues, the release notes instead said,

We don't have any significant known issues for this build worth noting in the blog post, but we are servicing several issues so make sure you check Windows Update for those.

Before anyone had enough time to prove that statement true or false, Microsoft released Build 10159 only 24 hours later. It included the new Windows 10 hero image on a tweaked login screen, as well as including it on anyone's desktop that had not already set an image. That was really the major change to this new build, though it was a welcomed change.

On Thursday, just in time to experience for the weekend, Microsoft released Build 10162. This build was very focused on bug fixes and performance than any previous build. Aul said,

Build 10162 is another great one. In fact, our testing and internal telemetry metrics show it has better reliability, performance, battery life, and compatibility than any Windows 10 Insider Preview build so far.

The company also released installation ISOs for the build, which they only do when they are very confident in a build. They are also already considering rolling it out to Slow Ring users, another sign of confidence. All of this movement is a great sign for what is to come with the final build in just under a month.

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GameStop Launches Old School Game Retail Site

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

GameStop Launches Old School Game Retail Site

GameStop is taking it back to the old school with a new online website dedicated to the games and consoles of yesteryear. Titled Retro Classics, the online shop features the expected array of popular 90s and early 2000s consoles, along with your favorite games that take you on a trip of pure nostalgia.

Already up and running, Retro Classics shows off the NES, Sega Genesis, SNES, N64, PlayStation and even the Dreamcast box. Pricing seems to be matching eBay's prices, with the highly sought after DuckTales fetching around $20. GameStop said these prices will change as often as needed to properly meet demand.

A good example of that is the price of Mario Party which has already risen $5 to $40 for the cartridge on the N64. Nintendo's console that needed three hands to use its controller has been re-popularized in the past two years, with old school and new gamers alike both wanting to play the array of hit Mario titles.

An interesting point is not all games come with an original box and/or receipt. In true GameStop fashion, you may end up just getting a disc with a hand-drawn box art along with it. For the hard-to-find Power Stone 2, that may affect its going rate of $70 by about twenty bucks in some cases. The good news is that I can still pick up a second Duck Hunt gun for $13.

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Dallas Cowboys Use Virtual Reality to Train Quarterbacks

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Dallas Cowboys Use Virtual Reality to Train Quarterbacks

It's pretty cool when the sports world and the tech world combine. Usually it means we see great strides in progression for sports and see new ways to integrate tech into that. The Dallas Cowboys, along with their monstrous new stadium, has now brought virtual reality to the gridiron with a new VR training regimen.

Quarterback Tony Romo and his offensive line have already started using virtual reality to better review their play on the field. Behind the QB who throws more interceptions than touchdowns is a 360-degree camera mounted onto a drone that records the action around it. The team can then put on VR headsets and see the plays they just ran in a first-person view.

The coaches will also gain benefit from this new gear. Coaches can actually use headsets to watch the plays as the linebackers and safeties on the field - the defensive players - so that they can properly adjust their schemes and see the plays develop like never before. They'll be able to identify gaps, flaws and open players on the field that could be otherwise overlooked.

A video about the new technology is after the break. Will all of this tech lift the curse on the Cowboys over the last 20 years? Probably not. Is it cool? Definitely yes. Tony Romo may throw less interceptions but it certainly won't change how distracted he gets by pretty girls in the stands.

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SoundCloud Squares Off Against Sony and Universal in Infringement Dispute

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

SoundCloud Squares Off Against Sony and Universal in Infringement Dispute

SoundCloud has proven useful for a lot of unknown artists to get their music out there and seen by the world. It's also been a place for podcast storage and a venue for commercial artists to release music that may or may not appear on their albums. SoundCloud is so popular that even music labels are putting music on the site, accompanied with ads, of course. The success has been so high for SoundCloud that the company has been exploring offering a paid service on the site to compete with Spotify, Apple Music and the like. Cue the expected infringement lawsuit, this time from Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.

SoundCloud has been busy working on deals with different companies and record labels, including UMG and Sony. Things looked to be going well until SoundCloud said that it would be leaving the free, ad-supported service up and running, and just offer a premium service on top of that. This was back in October and that's when Universal pulled out of negotiations entirely. In March, Sony then pulled a good portion of its music from the site. Now, the two labels have banded together to serve SoundCloud with a "massive copyright infringement" lawsuit.

An executive who wished to remain anonymous said that the labels don't like SoundCloud's "attitude" during negotiations, which led to the brash decisions. The labels believe no service should be free and that SoundCloud should have moved to a strictly premium platform. For SoundCloud, that would've been sure to kill a lot of the site's momentum, considering that there are 175 million active users per month, with over 10 million accounts uploading content to the site.

A leak at the beginning of this month showed some internal documents about SoundCloud's business models moving forward, with users being able to opt for limited service that would include no ads and additional features for a small monthly fee, or paying a bit more for SoundCloud's full catalog. The documentation also showed that there was no intention in departing from an ad-supported free tier.

We'll have to see if SoundCloud will choose to settle with UMG and Sony, or if they will fight this thing in court. It seems that the lawsuit could be construed as a little unfounded, as it appears to have come to fruition because of a disagreement in business models. Either way, I wouldn't expect SoundCloud to move away from offering a free service, since that is what made the site.

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SiriusXM Settles Pre-1972 Song Copyright Dispute for $210 Million

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

SiriusXM Settles Pre-1972 Song Copyright Dispute for $210 Million

While music streaming is becoming a hot topic, there is still a high demand and following in SiriusXM. However, SiriusXM currently settled a small copyright fiasco that is going to set them back $210 million. The dilemma may also prove a problem for music streaming companies in the future.

Before 1972, songs didn't really have a form of copyright attached to them. Once the popularity of radio took off, and people began using music in films, TV shows and for commercials, it was apparent that copyright would need to be applied to songs as well. States have granted copyright to these songs but not everyone was following the rules and playing fair.

This takes us to documents filed this week with the SEC against SiriusXM for playing those pre-'72 songs without paying out royalties or buying licenses. Instead of fighting through the courts on who's right and who's wrong, SiriusXM recognized the issue at hand and has agreed to pay out $210 million to record labels, settling the dispute.

Major record labels currently own the rights to about 80 percent of the pre-1972 music SiriusXM plays, so the settlement takes care of the majority of the problems. Still a lingering issue is the class-action lawsuit that is ongoing, filed by The Turtles, a 1960s band. The lawsuit was filed in 2013 and has yet to be resolved, however Florida has already thrown the suit out. The Turtles have also sued Pandora in 2014 and are currently seeking more targets to acquire.

As far as the multi-million dollar settlement, SiriusXM will be able to play the songs in question until 2017, at which time they will enter negotiations for a new five-year deal through 2022.

The Recording Industry Association of America is obviously happy about the ruling, but for once I can't say I disagree with them. CEO Cary Sherman said, "This is a great step forward for all music creators. Music has tremendous value, whether it was made in 1970 or 2015. We hope others take note of this important agreement and follow SiriusXM's example."

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Apple Fights Through Artist Pullout Over Free Period Policies

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Apple Fights Through Artist Pullout Over Free Period Policies

When Apple announced the rebranded Beats Music, now called Apple Music, a few weeks ago, they made a lot of waves announcing that the first 3 months would be free for all users. The problem for Apple was the waves were not all positive. In fact, very few of the talks surrounding the announcement was positive. Most tech sites and even Apple fans were pretty unimpressed with the rebranding, as well as the majority of the announcements that day.

Those who were least impressed, however, were musicians who were to have their music on the platform. As it turns out, Apple's genius idea for how to support a full quarter without revenue was to pass every penny on to the artists. That meant that for 3 whole months, artists were going to make absolutely no money from Apple. With Apple's plans to damage the plays from other services, this meant that artists were actually going to be hurt overall, rather than helped.

Taylor Swift, you remember her, wrote an open letter to Apple, complaining about the policy. Apple responded quickly by changing their policy and offering as much as 2 cents per listen. That is a lot of money, and certainly more than could have been decided upon in the short window between the letter and the decision. After Apple's reversal, Taylor Swift came out of her streaming isolation and announced that her most recent album would be available on Apple Music.

The natural line to be drawn here is that the initial policy was not true and that Swift's "open letter" was likely penned by Apple themselves, with Swift being paid to publish it. The result of the letter being published is that Swift looks tough on bullies, yet remains "America's sweetheart" and Apple looks like they are giving fans and artists what they want; everyone wins. Except, potentially consumers, who might be upset about what appears to be a paid publicity stunt to promote an exclusive streaming deal.

The Attorneys General of New York and Connecticut are crying fowl, launching an investigation into whether or not Apple is pressuring artists and music groups to sign exclusivity deals. In addition to the Swift announcement, which she ensures is not exclusive to Apple but is currently exclusive to Apple, other artists, including Pharrell, have announced Apple Music exclusivity deals. Unless Apple is offering A LOT of money, which could be possible, though not probable, or threatening the artists or music groups with overall delisting, exclusive deals like these don't make sense.

The best way for consumers to speak out against deals like these is to not support the platforms that are, ultimately, trying to hurt the streaming industry as a whole: consumers, artists, producers, etc. It will be interesting to see what the final finding from the states is, because another major suit against Apple on intimidation practices will likely not go well for them.

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