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Someone Hacked Google Play Store Onto Windows 11, And You Can Too (For Now)

Microsoft

When Microsoft confirmed Windows 11 would support Android apps, there was plenty of excitement, but then we learned apps are only available through the Amazon App Store. And while Android apps on Windows 11 made their confusing debut last week, this week, a developer on Twitter managed to get the full Google Play Store working, and here’s how.

Amazon’s Android app store has a limited selection compared to the thousands of apps on Google’s store. Furthermore, the Android app experience through Amazon isn’t expected to be available to the public until 2022. As a result, people everywhere are trying to hack Google Play onto Windows 11.

The developer ADeltaX has documented their efforts on Twitter, and this weekend it paid off. Now, there’s a working version of the Google Play Store on Windows 11, but we’re not sure how long this will last. Microsoft will likely block it at any moment.

Either way, the developer released a set of instructions for those daring enough to try it themselves, as well as the YouTube instructional video below.

It’s worth noting that this process isn’t for beginners, and things could quickly go wrong. There are files to download, install, copy, and scripts to execute. Basically, it’s not super simple. ADeltaX says the process is still a work in progress and suggests that any users watching the video proceed at their own risk. That said, there is a chance they’ll come up with a more straightforward solution in the future as long as Microsoft doesn’t block the script first.

If you want to try the Google Play Store and all of its apps on a Windows 11 device, now is your chance, but it probably won’t work for long.

via TechRadar

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/101433/someone-hacked-google-play-store-onto-windows-11-and-you-can-too-for-now/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Cory Gunther

The 6 Best Chromebooks for Holiday 2021

Acer Chromebook Spin 713 against orange backgroundAcer

ChromeOS has come a long way, but the hardware has also evolved a lot. Chromebooks are more varied today than ever before, so whether you’re looking for something cheap and to-the-point or expensive and powerful, there’s a Chromebook for you (or someone on your holiday shopping list).

What to Look for in a Chromebook

New Chromebooks aren’t all about being value-friendly (though they are certainly that). The versatile laptops also offer decent power paired with reliable components, making them a great choice for everyday use. Here are the things you’ll want to pay attention to when comparing Chromebooks:

  • Performance: If you know anything about ChromeOS—the operating system built by Google and used by all Chromebooks—you know that it’s pretty lightweight compared to Windows or macOS. Because of that, Chromebooks can get by being a lot less powerful than other laptops, but that doesn’t mean they need to be. There are still benefits to be gained from a faster CPU or more RAM in a Chromebook, especially as more intensive apps have found their way to the OS. You won’t need to pay for higher-end specs if you’ll only use the Chromebook for simple lightweight tasks, such as online classes, scrolling your socials, or writing up documents for work.
  • Display: Resolution, size, and whether or not it’s a touchscreen are all important factors to consider when it comes to a Chromebook’s display. While most of those are purely visual, touchscreen functionality, in particular, is extremely useful and allows Chromebooks to offer tablet modes as well.
  • Clamshell vs. 2-in-1: Speaking of tablet modes, there are two main types of Chromebooks you’ll find nowadays: clamshells and 2-in-1s. The former is the standard laptop design you’d expect, while 2-in-1s are more versatile. 2-in-1s can be converted into a tablet, usually by folding the keyboard behind the display. It’s a nice bonus feature, but if you’re not interested in a ChromeOS tablet, there’s no point in seeking it out.
  • Storage: While Chromebooks tend to rely on cloud storage more than most laptops, that doesn’t mean internal storage isn’t important. Besides storing files, the type of storage it is can also affect how well the computer runs. SSD storage is the fastest most Chromebooks will offer and it allows file transfer and general operation to run much quicker. eMMC is a cheaper and slower alternative but it still does a solid job—this is what you’ll see in the majority of Chromebooks.

Best Overall: Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Acer Chromebook Spin 713Acer

Pros

  • Great performance
  • 2-in-1
  • 1440p display

Cons

  • Limited battery life

Powered by an Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, the Spin 713 has plenty of juice for ChromeOS no matter what you’re doing, and it’s an easy pick for the best Chromebook. Throw in 128GB of SSD storage, a flexible 2-in-1 design, a 13.3-inch 1440p display, and a good selection of ports (including two USB-C, one USB-A, and an HDMI) and the Spin 713 is a wonderfully versatile Chromebook that’s great for working, recreation, and anything in between. While the 10-hour battery life may not be worth writing home about, it’s still long enough to get through the day if you don’t push it.

Best Overall


Acer Chromebook Spin 713


A 2-in-1 Chromebook with great specs all-around.

Best Mid-Range: Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5

Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5Lenovo

Pros

  • Solid performance
  • 2-in-1
  • Good selection of ports

Cons

  • Middling display

Lenovo’s Flex 5 may not excel in any particular category, but it does well enough in all of them to be a viable Chromebook. The Core i3 processor, joined by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, provides ChromeOS enough power to ensure you won’t experience any slowdown until you start pushing things. Add in the 13-inch 1080p HD display and a 2-in-1 design, and the Flex 5 is exactly what you’d expect out of a modern Chromebook: ideal for everyday use, but not much more. It also has a solid selection of ports including two USB-C, one USB-A 3.0, and a microSD card reader.

Best Mid-Range

Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5


This Chromebook may not wow in any particular category, but it’s still a solid all-around choice for the money.

Amazon

$329.99
$429.99 Save 23%

Best Display: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2Samsung

Pros

  • Beautiful QLED panel
  • 2-in-1
  • Solid specs

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited ports

While the Galaxy Chromebook 2‘s display may only run at a basic 1080p, it’s the QLED panel that makes it so attractive. This means the screen does a much better job at displaying colors and contrast than most Chromebooks, and laptops in general. But it doesn’t stop there; It also features a Core i3 processor (or a less powerful Celeron processor for the cheaper model), four or eight gigabytes of RAM, and 128GB of internal storage. It’s also a 2-in-1, so you can make full use of the touch-screen in tablet mode.

All-in-all, it’s a great premium Chromebook that also sports a striking shade of “Fiesta Red” for its aluminum body (or you can get in the much more boring “Mercury Gray”). With 13 hours of battery life, you can safely rely on the Galaxy Chromebook 2 all day long as well. Be aware though, It’s fairly limited when it comes to ports, only offering a couple of USB-C ports and a microSD card reader.

Best Display

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2


An excellent display in an already great Chomebook.

Amazon

$599.00
$699.99 Save 14%

Best Budget: Acer Chromebook 314

Acer Chromebook 314Acer

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Good amount of ports

Cons

  • Slower than other Chromebooks

Acer’s 314 is a pretty basic Chromebook all things considered. Its clamshell design, 14-inch 1080p HD display (with touch functionality), and an Intel Celeron processor don’t make for the most exciting package, but considering the 314 is priced well into the budget bracket, it’s plenty appealing. This is a solid Chromebook if you’re tight on cash or just want a taste of ChromeOS before committing to something more expensive. It also has a good selection of ports, including multiple USB-A and USB-C, alongside a microSD card reader.

Acer Chromebook 314

Best Budget


While the 314 may not wow, it does deliver a solid user-experience for the money.

Amazon

$241.05
$309.99 Save 22%

Best for Performance: Google Pixelbook Go

Google Pixelbook GoGoogle

Pros

  • High-end specs
  • Clean design
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Limited ports (only two USB-C)
  • Expensive

If you’re after the fastest Chromebook on the market, the Pixelbook Go is for you. Straight from Google itself, the Go comes in a few different models; the most powerful of which is powered by an Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. It may be a bit overkill for ChromeOS, but you can rest assured knowing your Chromebook can handle whatever you throw at it, whether it’s an intensive app or a few dozen tabs. It’s even made with portability in mind, so it’s extremely thin and lightweight despite its impressive list of specs. You can also get the Go with up to 256GB of SSD storage.

On top of this, the Go features a 13-inch 1080p touchscreen display, a backlit keyboard, and up to 12 hours of battery life. The only thing limiting about the Go is that it only has two USB-C ports and an aux port—no USB-A or HDMI to be seen, unfortunately. Overall, though it’s a great pick for anyone looking for a more robust Chromebook.

Best for Performance

Google Pixelbook Go


An extremely powerful Chromebook straight from Google.

Amazon

$1301.93
$1399.00 Save 7%

Best Tablet: Lenovo Chromebook Duet

Lenovo Chromebook DuetLenovo

Pros

  • Great for tablet users
  • Affordable
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Keyboard isn’t ideal for intensive work
  • Weaker specs

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a fantastic value that, unlike the other Chromebooks here, almost exclusively focuses on the tablet experience. Sure, it has a detachable keyboard but this is no 2-in-1, the keyboard solely exists as an optional part of the tablet for when you need to type.

The low price does, likewise, result in fairly limited specs—Mediatek Helio P60T processor, 128GB of internal storage, and 4GB of RAM—but it’s still enough for lightweight users to get by on. The battery is long-lasting, it performs excellently for the money, and it can have up to 128GB of internal storage. If you’re interested in a ChromeOS tablet, this is easily the best option; if you prefer a more traditional laptop, however, then the detachable keyboard probably won’t cut it for you.

Best Tablet


Lenovo Chromebook Duet


ChromeOS tablets can be hit or miss, but the Duet is definitely a hit.

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/99936/the-best-chromebooks/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Eric Schoon

Google Assistant Should Be Ashamed of Its Smart Home Routines

For years I’ve said that automation is the key to great smart homes. Voice controls are nice, but a system that anticipates your needs is better. Despite preferring Google smart home devices, I can’t switch to them entirely. Why? Because Google Assistant routines are trash. Google should be ashamed.

Automation comes in several forms in the smart home world. Traditionally to get great automation, you’d want a smart home hub like Hubitat or Home Assistant. And while it’s true, Hubitat’s automation capabilities outstrip Google or Alexa by far; the truth is most average people don’t need a traditional smart home hub anymore.

Both Alexa and Google can serve as the “modern hub” and tie together smart home devices. In the past few years, I’ve noticed a trend towards Wi-Fi-powered smart home devices and away from ZigBee and Z-Wave (Philips Hue being the major holdout). That turn makes the idea of relying on traditional smart home hubs more difficult in the first place.

Both Alexa and Google offer smart home automation through routines—commands that run on their own based on a trigger your choose. It doesn’t have to be a voice; it could be controlled by schedules like at sunset or sunrise—or more.

What Routines Can Do

Smart blinds lower in a living room.Shade Shop

So why is automation essential, and what can routines do anyway? If you have a smart home now, think about how you primarily interact with it. Chances are, it’s probably by voice or through an app. If you need to turn a light on, you ask a smart speaker or pull out your phone. Some would argue that’s not much more convenient than flipping the light switch.

The same goes for smart plugs, blinds, locks, and more. Realistically speaking, with just voice or app control, the convenience level isn’t much better than the old-fashioned way of doing things. Automations, on the other hand, change the game. Instead of your home reacting to your commands, it can anticipate your needs.

In my home, I have scheduled automations that fire every day. In the morning, my coffee maker outlet turns on, the blinds in our two home offices rise to let in light. As evening approaches, the blinds lower automatically, and doors lock themselves. And the coffee outlet that turned on in the morning? That powered down before lunch.

The Alexa app showing many routines.I have at least two dozen routines with various triggers.

Speaking of the doors, we sometimes forget to lock them when we leave home. So four minutes after we unlock a door, it locks itself—no more forgetting. But we don’t just have automations on a schedule. When the sun sets, the lights in the dining room, kitchen, and elsewhere automatically turn themselves on when we enter a room. When we leave, they turn back off. My family doesn’t have to ask; it just happens based on our presence.

That’s thanks to motion sensors in each room and a routine that fires on some basic logic. If the sensor detects motion, it triggers a routine that turns on the lights in that room. When the sensor stops seeing motion, it triggers a second routine to turn the lights back off. Other routines occur when I leave home, or when I come back thanks to a location trigger.

When someone opens our mailbox, a sensor just inside triggers yet another routine to announce in the home that “the mail is here.” In my home, routines trigger due to schedules, voice commands, smart device functions, camera notifications, and more. We still use voice commands, but often we don’t have to because my smart home already did what I needed before I asked.

But that’s no thanks to Google.

Except Google Can’t Do Most Of That

Two lists, the one of the left much longer.Alexa’s Triggers on the left, Google’s Starters on the right.

When I’d advise most people exploring smart homes for the first time, I tell them to pick an ecosystem and stick with it. Choose Alexa or Google Assistant; most people don’t need both. I prefer Google Assistant for voice commands and Nest Hub displays for their fantastic photo capabilities. Despite that, I’m breaking my own advice and have Alexa and Echo smart speakers in my home.

Part of that is because of my job—I write about smart homes, so having a little of everything on hand is helpful. But the other part is because while I prefer Google’s smart home devices, its routines are astoundingly awful. I keep Alexa around for the routines.

The problem is, Google doesn’t approach routines the same way Amazon does with Alexa. Over on Alexa, routines are treated as a total smart home solution. But on Google Assistant, routines look more like a “voice command replacement.” You can create routines that fire off several functions from a single voice command, for instance. That can be handy if you want to turn off multiple lights throughout the home with a simple “good night” command.

But beyond that, your “starter” (Google’s equivalent to Alexa’s “trigger”) choices are limited. You can choose voice command, time, sunrise/sunset, and “dismiss an alarm.” That’s it. Compare that to Alexa, where you can select voice command, schedule, smart home devices, location, alarms, echo button, sound detection, and guard. All those extra choices add up quickly.

On Alexa, I can create routines that trigger from the smart sensors in my home. Confusingly those same sensors show in the Google Home app, but I can’t make routines for them or in the Google Assistant app. If converted over to a Google-powered smart home entirely, my smart lights would no longer turn on and off as I move through my home. My mailbox would stop telling me when the mail arrives. My smart locks wouldn’t even lock themselves anymore—unless I turned to another app.

Why Doesn’t Google Fix The Problem?

An illustration of the Google Home app and Nest devices.Google

If Google really wanted to, it could easily make its routines more powerful. This is a company that leads in voice assistant capabilities. The same company that turned photo storage on the side of its head and created a new A.I. that makes its smart displays the best smart displays. Google designed camera software that kicked off a new revolution in night photos. And at the same time, Google created a system that gave Pixel’s phone capabilities superpowers. It’s no stranger to advanced concepts in A.I., smart home, or advanced coding concepts.

Yet while Amazon continually adds to its routine options, like a recent new feature that triggers routines from the sound of a dog barking or a baby crying, while Google occasionally adds new features. Google only recently added basic scheduling and delay options, things Amazon added to Alexa years ago. Alexa will even act on “hunches” and turn off lights or other devices when the system notices you accidentally left things on overnight or when you aren’t home. Google doesn’t have anything like that.

In comparison, Google’s routines and automations are a joke. And it’s frustrating because it leaves me maintaining two smart home systems in my home: one for voice commands and the other for automation. In smart homes, that’s the opposite of what you want. And Google, through its drive with the Matter smart home initiative, talks a big game about a universal system where it won’t “matter” what devices you won.


Until Google’s smart home routines catch up to at least Amazon’s progress, it’s hard to see the truth in that at all. Right now, if you want the best smart home voice commands and the best accessible automations, then you need a home full of Google smart speakers and displays and one Amazon Echo. The Echo will get you the routines, and Google’s hardware can do the rest.

But that’s not the dream of the smart home. No one wants to maintain two systems and hop back and forth between apps. And frankly, that’s Google’s fault. It’s an unforced error that’s preventing Google from truly dominating in the smart home realm. And we’re worse off for it. Google should be ashamed. And the first step is admitting the problem. Google routines are inferior compared to the competition. The second step? Fix it. Sooner than later.

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/101223/google-assistant-should-be-ashamed-of-its-smart-home-routines/
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Josh Hendrickson

Google Takes a Big Step Toward the Unified Smart Home Future

The Google Smart Home Developers Summit 2021 banner.Google

Just months after announcing its commitment to Matter, the unified smart home standard, Google is launching a set of tools to help developers integrate Matter with their products. It’s a big step toward a future where smart devices work with any app or assistant, even if they come from rival companies.

Matter aims to take the confusion out of buying smart home products, which aren’t always compatible with one another. It’s basically a universal language (or maybe a universal translator) for connected devices—if two products support Matter, they’ll work together.

Google Nest Smart ThermostatGoogle’s Nest Thermostat is just one product that will gain Matter support in 2022. Google

But for developers who are rushing to finish products, Matter could feel like a challenging and time-consuming task. That’s why Google is building a Google Home Device SDK for Matter, which should help developers quickly integrate their products with the new protocol.

Additionally, Google announced new mobile development tools to help integrate Matter with smartphones and apps. This should dramatically simplify the setup process for smart home devices—instead of jumping between an app and your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth settings, you’ll just let the app do the work.

Clearly, Google understands that Matter won’t be successful without the support of major smart home brands. Its simple development tools should help companies build Matter integration into their products before the protocol launches in 2022.

Source: Google via The Verge

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/101234/google-takes-a-big-step-toward-the-unified-smart-home-future/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Andrew Heinzman

Windows 11 Cripples File History to Prop Up OneDrive Backup

File History on Windows 11.Josh Hendrickson

Of all the weird and frustrating problems in Windows 11, this one might take the cake. Microsoft removed the “Add a Folder” option from Windows 11’s File History tool, meaning that you can only back up Documents, Photos, and other pre-made folders in Windows 11. That is, unless you pay for some OneDrive storage.

File History is the main backup tool in Windows. It was first introduced in Windows 8, and allows users to automatically back up select folders to an external drive. In short, File History is like an automatic cloud storage solution that sits at your desk and doesn’t cost $15 a month.

But Microsoft has its own cloud storage solution called OneDrive. And as noticed by Windows 11 users on Reddit, it seems that Microsoft is taking features away from File History to make a OneDrive subscription more appealing.

In previous Windows releases, users could choose which folders to automatically back up with File History. These folders could exist anywhere on your file system. But in Windows 11, users can only back up Documents, Photos, Videos, Downloads, Contacts, and other pre-made folders chosen by Microsoft.

If you’re a File History user, I suggest sticking with Windows 10 for awhile. The Windows 11 release is a bit buggy and its best features are still missing, so you’re not missing out on much. But if you’ve already upgraded to Windows 11, please make sure that File History is backing up your important data. You may need to move folders into Documents and other Microsoft-approved spaces to make sure that they’re automatically backed up.

Source: u/gdeadphilly

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/100810/windows-11-cripples-file-history-to-prop-up-onedrive-backup/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Andrew Heinzman

The 6 Best Streaming Boxes and Sticks for Holiday 2021

Apple TV 4K against blue backgroundApple

Streaming devices are a simple way to step up your entertainment game regardless if you have a smart TV or not. Content recommendations, well-designed remotes, and much more make these gadgets an excellent addition to any living room—so let’s look at the ones you should have your eyes on.

What to Look for in a Streaming Device

The best streaming sticks and boxes all offer the same basic features. Still, though, there are a few things to take into consideration before making a purchase:

  • Operating System (OS): This is the main difference between various streaming devices. While a lot of streaming operating systems hit the same beats, there’s still room for preference. They can vary significantly in design, features, and even what apps they support (although the major ones will be present regardless of what device you choose).
  • Specs: Being able to support 4K, various HDR modes, and surround sound are all important factors of at-home entertainment these days. Still, these features can increase the price significantly, so it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to create multiple versions of the same streaming device with different specs. Most commonly, there will be a 1080p and 4K edition to give you multiple price points to pick from. These different versions usually differ on what resolutions they support, but we’ll be sure to provide you with a breakdown of each device’s situation in this regard.
  • Extra Features: Voice controls, game streaming, and extra ports like USB and Ethernet are all useful features that not every streaming device offers. These are nice bonuses you might not use all the time but are appreciated nonetheless.

Best for Apple Users: Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4KApple

Pros

  • 4K, HDR support
  • Surround sound
  • Compatibility with other Apple devices
  • Sleek remote

Cons

  • Limited ports (only HDMI and Ethernet)
  • Expensive

Apple’s streaming player is excellent for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest draws are the tie-ins with the rest of Apple’s ecosystem. The TV uses Siri for its voice assistant, and you can use the Apple TV app to control things from your phone or tablet and control HomeKit enabled smart home devices from the TV. As far as performance goes, you can expect 4K with HDR (namely, Dolby Vision and HDR10) and Dolby Atmos digital surround sound for a fully immersive experience.

For Apple fans, it’s the obvious choice, but if you’re on a tighter budget, there’s also the 1080p edition available. It’s around $40 cheaper, lowers the resolution, and has less powerful hardware inside. You can also choose between 32 or 64GB of internal storage for either edition, with the latter option being more expensive.

Best for Apple Users

Apple TV 4K


Siri-compatibility and excellent specs all around make this the ideal choice if you’re invested in Apple’s ecosystem.

Amazon

$169.00
$179.00 Save 6%

Best for Google Users: Chromecast with Google TV

Chromecast with Google TV device and remote control on wooden surfaceJustin Duino

Pros

  • 4K, HDR support
  • Surround sound
  • Great recommendations
  • Google Assistant

Cons

  • No extra ports

Chromecasts have far outgrown their once simple purpose of simply casting things from your phone to your TV. The latest model is a feature-rich streaming stick that easily rivals the rest on this list. This Chromecast runs Google TV (formerly Android TV), which has all the best services, uses Google Assistant for voice controls and smart home functionality, and lets Google do what it does best—analyze your preferences and recommend content you’ll probably like. The content recommendations on the home screen draw from all your favorite services and make picking what to watch next a little bit easier.

It also supports 4K and HDR (Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HDR10+) as well as Dolby Atmos surround sound, so you’re well-covered when it comes to performance. And if you’re interested in game streaming, then Google Stadia works on this Chromecast as well.

The Chromecast with Google TV is available in three colors: Snow, Sunrise, and Sky.

Best for Google Users


Chromecast with Google TV


Touting impressive performance and great content recommendations, the latest Chromecast is an easy choice for Google fans.

Best for Alexa Users: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4KAmazon

Pros

  • 4K, HDR support
  • Surround sound
  • Works with other Alexa devices

Cons

  • No extra ports

If your home is already kitted out with loads of Alexa-enabled devices, then the Fire TV is the right choice for you. It offers the typical stuff—4K output (along with Dolby Vision or HDR10+ for HDR support), Dolby Atmos surround sound, all the streaming services your heart desires, and some solid content recommendations. But on top of that, it uses Amazon Alexa, which means you can control the stick using other Alexa devices in your home or vice versa. It’s an excellent way to watch your favorite media (especially Amazon Prime Video naturally), and the smart home tie-ins are a nice bonus if you’ve heavily invested in that ecosystem.

There’s also the Fire TV Stick Max that supports Wi-Fi 6 (albeit for a slightly higher price), and the Fire TV Lite that only supports 1080p (for anyone watching their budget).

Best for Alexa Users

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K


The Fire TV Stick predictably plays well with Alexa on top of being a solid streaming device.

Amazon

$34.99
$49.99 Save 30%

Best for Simplicity: Roku Ultra

Roku UltraRoku

Pros

  • 4K, HDR support
  • Surround sound
  • Plenty of ports
  • Simple OS

Cons

  • Limited voice assistant functionality

While in-depth voice assistant support and algorithmic recommendations are great, sometimes what’s simplest is best—something that Roku has always been great at. Roku TV is an incredibly simple OS that allows you to quickly jump into streaming services without much fuss. On top of that, the Ultra supports 4K (with Dolby Vision and HDR10+), Dolby Atmos, and the remote has shortcut buttons you can assign to your favorite apps. There’s also a USB port on the box itself if you want to display video from other devices and an aux port on the remote for private listening. Chances are it has the streaming app you want, whether that’s Netflix or HBO Max.

It’s a fantastic streaming box, but if you don’t already have a soundbar, you might want to consider the Roku Streambar Pro instead. It features the same stuff seen in the Ultra, but all built into a solid soundbar. And what’s not to love about getting an audio upgrade and a great streaming device all in one? Or if you prefer, you can plug a decent set of headphones into the remote control thanks to the included headphone jack.

Best for Simplicity

Roku Ultra


The many ports and performance of the Ultra makes it enticing enough, but Roku’s simple approach to UI design makes it especially great if you’re looking for something straightforward.

Amazon

$92.75
$99.99 Save 7%

Best Budget: Roku Express 4K+

Roku Express 4K+Roku

Pros

  • 4K + basic HDR support
  • Affordable
  • Simple OS

Cons

  • Limited voice controls
  • No extra ports
  • No Dolby Vision

The Express 4K+ still features Roku TV, so its UI is easy to navigate, but it also delivers 4K (with HDR10+) support for a lower price than most. This small box still has all the performance you need out of a streaming device nowadays but manages to avoid breaking the $50 price point. If you’re okay with (or even prefer) Roku’s more straightforward approach to streaming devices, it’s an excellent choice if you’re on a budget, even among the various Roku streaming sticks.

Best Budget

Roku Express 4K+


A stripped-down streaming device that still brings solid performance and a great UI.

Amazon

$28.98
$39.99 Save 28%

Best for Versatility: NVIDIA Shield

NVIDIA ShieldNVIDIA

Pros

  • 4K, HDR support
  • Surround sound
  • Game streaming through GeForce NOW
  • 3GB internal storage

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited storage for a Plex server

The other streaming devices mentioned so far have been almost exclusively focused on streaming services as their primary function, and it makes sense why: that’s what most people use them for. However, if you want a box with more functionality, the Shield is precisely that. It still supports 4K along with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos surround sound for when you are watching stuff, but there’s a lot more going on here.

It runs AndroidTV, so you can use Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa on it, stream games with it via GeForce NOW, and even have it function as a small (yet proper) Plex server with 3GB of internal storage. On the outside of the box, it features two USB ports for other devices to connect with and a gigabit Ethernet port. The Shield is more expensive than most streaming devices because of all this, but for what you’re getting here, that price is justified.

There is a cheaper version of the Shield, though, that drops the internal storage for a MicroSD card slot, loses the USB ports, and features a slimmer body. If having internal storage out of the box isn’t important to you, it’s a good alternative.

Best for Versatility

Nvidia Shield


There’s a lot packed into the Shield, making it the perfect choice if you’re looking for a gadget that’s more than just a streaming stick.

Amazon

$199.99

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/99583/the-best-streaming-boxes-and-sticks/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Eric Schoon

Google TV Just Got More Personal and Easier to Use

Google TV ProfilesGoogle

Today Google announced several exciting new changes to help make Google TV more personal and easier to use for everyone in the house. From personal profiles built around the TV content you watch the most to at-a-glance cards in Ambient mode with game scores, news, music, and more.

The idea here is that anyone in your home can set up their version of Google TV to deliver a more personalized experience that’s easy to use, familiar, and tailored around what they want to see.

Google TV Profiles

With personal profiles, similar to Netflix, you’ll see a list of profiles to choose from when you open up Google TV. That way, when you fire up Google TV with your profile, you’ll see specific TV and movie recommendations or the popular “continue watching” for select shows you’ve watched instead of anyone in the home.

Recommendations, watchlists, and the Google Assistant are all built around you and your profile. The company confirmed that each device could have up to 12 profiles, and yes, that includes kids’ profiles that an adult can manage.

Plus, the next feature we’ll explain will really make profiles come in handy.

Glanceable Cards in Ambient Mode

Google TV at-a-glance personalized cardsGoogle

Soon, Google TV will have new glanceable cards in ambient mode when you’re not watching a TV show or movie. These at-a-glance cards will be full of helpful information aside from just show recommendations. Now, you’ll get the latest game scores from your favorite team or sport, weather, news tailored around what you’re interested in and much more. And of course, this will all be unique based on the currently active profile.

Users can scroll through the cards and select on-screen shortcuts to jump to their own Google account photos, podcasts or continue playing music right where they left off on another device. So when you’re done watching another episode of your favorite show and the TV is sitting idle, it’ll jump to Ambient mode and start showing personalized content just for you.

Improved Live TV Tabs

And finally, in its continued efforts to take on the likes of Roku or Amazin Fire TV, Google just made it easier to stream live TV from some of the top providers. Google’s Live and For You tabs on Google TV will now show a broader list of shows you can instantly tune in and watch.

The Live TV tab now integrates deeper with YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Philo, making it easier to find and access live TV with fewer clicks.

In closing, Google confirmed that profiles and the improved ambient mode cards would first be available on the Chromecast and Google TV sets from Sony and TCL “soon,” and likely sometime next month. Profiles are available worldwide on any Google TV, while ambient mode cards come to the U.S. first. Additionally, some of these new features and their availability may vary by the device manufacturer. That said, we’re hopeful any Google TV device will get the complete list of changes.

Source: Google Blog

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/100325/google-tv-just-got-more-personal-and-easier-to-use/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Cory Gunther

The 7 Best Laptops for Holiday 2021

best laptops including asus rog zephyrus g14, lenovo flex 5, and apple macbook airASUS/Lenovo/Apple

A laptop makes it easy to lounge on your couch while paying bills, work remotely in a coffee shop, or binge your favorite TV show under your warm comforter. Ultimately, laptops are extremely versatile, useful, and make a great addition to your day-to-day life.

When it comes to starting a search for a new laptop, it’s intimidating, to say the least. Laptops range wildly in price, from a few hundred dollars to over two thousand dollars. Then, laptops boast their specs in numbers and acronyms that are impossible to translate for some, making it difficult to really see the difference between an affordable model and an expensive model.

If you want a clearer understanding of how to read laptop specs, we’ve got you covered. Or, if you just want to hop right to it and see which laptops are the best of the best right now, keep reading!

What to Look for in a Laptop

Buying a new laptop is no small investment. And with so many different options out there, it’s hard to know which one suits your needs the most. Here’s everything you should consider when choosing your laptop:

  • Use Case: What will you be using the laptop for? To scroll social media or take online classes? To stream your latest gaming achievements on Twitch? To edit photos and videos? Having an idea of what you’ll use the laptop for is critical to choosing the right one. If you’ll only be using it for simple tasks (writing an email, scrolling Twitter, online shopping), you won’t need to worry about having powerful high-end specs; likewise, if you’ll regularly be performing more intensive processes with it (streaming, gaming, editing, etc.), you will need a laptop with specs that can keep up with you.
  • Operating System: There’s no right answer when picking between operating systems; it all comes down to personal preference. But you do need to be aware of your options. All of the laptops on this list come with either macOS or Windows 10 OS, but there are also options out there for Linux and Chrome OS.
  • Specs: Every laptop you can buy will have the same basic structure, comprised of a CPU, storage, RAM, an integrated or dedicated GPU, ports, and more. That said, not all laptops are created equally. Using storage as an easy example, some laptops come with a 256GB model, a 512GB model, or even models with 1 TB of storage or higher. Consider your needs, and keep in mind that the better the specs are, the more you’re going to pay for your laptop.
  • Screen Size: Consider how large you want your laptop screen to be. A larger 17-inch screen is great for clearly viewing media and getting work done efficiently, but the laptop won’t be as portable as one with a smaller screen. Smaller screens around 13- or 14-inches work well for those who travel a lot with their laptop, but you’ll be working in a much smaller area. Then, there are 15.6-inch screens, which are kind of that happy medium between a small, portable laptop and a large screen to work on.
  • Unique Features: Although most laptops are all built the same in terms of working parts, there are a few special features that not all laptops have. Some laptops have touchscreen capability that allows you to use a stylus or your finger to navigate the screen instead of your trackpad or a mouse. Then, there are also laptops that come with 2-in-1 functionality, meaning that you can use the device normally as a laptop or flip the keyboard backward to use the device as a tablet. Some even have detachable keyboards, but we focused on more stable options for this guide.
  • Price & Longevity: You’ll also need to factor in your budget. There are more affordable laptops out there, but they usually mean skimping on specs like extra storage or RAM. Likewise, with inexpensive options, you might end up needing to upgrade components like storage down the line or having to buy an entirely new laptop in a few years. If you spend a bit more upfront, you’ll likely be investing in a laptop that will hold up longer before it needs replacing; plus, you’ll also likely be getting beefier specs like a more impressive CPU, more storage, and sometimes even a dedicated GPU.

Best Overall: HP Envy X360

HP - ENVY x360 2-in-1 15.6 Touch-Screen LaptopHP

Pros

  • 2-in-1 capability
  • Decent battery life
  • FHD edge-to-edge touchscreen

Cons

  • Could have more RAM
  • 15.6-inch display may be too big for some

HP’s Envy X360 is a great mid-range pick that’ll be perfect for most people, whether you need a laptop for school, work, or just for fun. It’s a 2-in-1 laptop, meaning that it can go from being a regular laptop to a tablet, depending on what you need. Also, it has a 15.6-inch touchscreen with 1920 x 1080 resolution; additionally, its edge-to-edge display maximizes the viewing area and looks clean.

There’s a 512GB SSD for storage, 8GB of RAM for multitasking, and an AMD Ryzen 7 CPU. There’s not a dedicated GPU, but Radeon graphics are integrated with the CPU. The battery can last up to 13 hours in between charges and takes less than an hour to go from 0% to 50% battery life.

Best Overall

HP Envy X360


For most people, HP’s Envy X360 is an awesome choice with good specs and handy 2-in-1 functionality.

Best Budget: Lenovo Ideapad 3

Lenovo - Ideapad 3 15 15.6 Touch-Screen LaptopLenovo

Pros

  • Super affordable
  • Surprisingly has 8GB of memory

Cons

  • Meh overall specs
  • Poor battery life

For a simple budget laptop capable of running basic programs that won’t cost you a lot, Lenovo’s Ideapad 3 is perfect. Though you won’t be able to play intensive games or do anything that’s super demanding on its processor, the Ideapad 3 is perfect for browsing the web and running programs like Microsoft Office for school or work. You can even comfortably stream Netflix or other video content on the 15.6-inch LED touchscreen, though beware that it only has a 1366 x 768 resolution, so you won’t be able to enjoy much HD content.

Inside, the specs are similarly basic. There’s only 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 10th-gen Intel Core i3 CPU with two cores and integrated graphics. With a thin, light design that makes it easy to carry around, the Ideapad 3 is a great choice for college students on a budget. It only has a 7.5-hour battery life, but this is plenty of juice for a day of classes. And you get a full numpad attached to the comfortable keyboard, which can be rare on laptops.

Best Budget

Lenovo Ideapad 3


The Lenovo Ideapad 3 will save you money and still deliver a decent laptop that’s capable of running basic programs.

Best Premium: Dell XPS 15

Dell - XPS 15 - 15.6 OLED Touch-Screen LaptopDell

Pros

  • Speedy 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD
  • Impressive screen resolution
  • Dedicated NVIDIA graphics card

Cons

  • Pricey
  • 15.6-inch screen may be too big for some

Dell’s XPS 15 laptop is a powerful machine that, although expensive, will last you for years to come and run games and other demanding programs with ease. With a 15.6-inch OLED touchscreen that has 3456 x 2160 resolution, video content and games will look crisp and colorful as well.

Looking inside the XPS 15, there’s a 1TB SSD for plenty of storage, 16GB of RAM for great multitasking, and an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU with 8 cores. There’s even a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB of GDDR6 to help games run even smoother. These specs make it easy to do pretty much anything on this laptop, from running intensive design programs to surfing the web to playing a graphically demanding game. If you need something a little smaller, consider the Dell XPS 13, which enjoys many of the same features in a more compact package.

Best Premium

Dell XPS 15


If you have the money to splurge on a laptop that’ll last you for years, go for the Dell XPS 15.

Best for Apple Fans: 2020 Apple MacBook Air

2020 Apple MacBook Air Laptop Apple M1 ChipApple

Pros

  • Fairly affordable for a MacBook
  • Has Apple’s M1 chip
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Wish it had more RAM for the price
  • Only has two USB-C ports

The latest MacBook Air is the perfect choice for fans of Apple’s signature sleek design and intuitive operating system. For a laptop from Apple, it’s relatively affordable and has a thin, light design that makes it easy to cart around with you.

In terms of specs, there are 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and Apple’s custom M1 chip. This M1 chip is specifically designed for Mac devices and integrates the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, I/O, and more on the company’s M1 chip. Then, the MacBook Air has a 13.3-inch Retina display with 2560 x 1600 resolution that shows vivid colors and sharp blacks.

Despite these powerful specs, it has a long battery life that can last you up to 18 hours. And if you want to save a little bit of money, there’s a MacBook Air model with just 256GB of storage.

Best for Apple Fans

2020 Apple MacBook Air


The MacBook Air has impressive specs and a fanless design to make this a powerful, yet quiet laptop for Apple fans.

Amazon

$1099.99
$1249.00 Save 12%

Most Powerful Mac: Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch

Apple - MacBook Pro - 16 Display with Touch BarApple

Pros

  • Plenty of RAM and storage
  • Dedicated graphics memory
  • Sleek design

Cons

  • Super expensive
  • 16-inch display could be too big for some (and too heavy)

The 16-inch MacBook Pro from Apple costs quite a bit, but you get a pretty powerful machine in exchange. While you’ll, of course, get the sleek, modern design and impressive build quality Apple always delivers, the specs are pretty impressive too.

Inside, you’ll find a 1TB SSD and a whopping 16GB of RAM, which is honestly expected at this high price point. There’s not a proprietary Apple M1 chip inside, but instead a 9th-gen Intel Core i9 CPU and an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M GPU. In between charges, all these impressive specs working together can last up to 11 hours. You’ll charge using the USB-C ports, which is pretty handy.

With a 16-inch display and Apple’s signature aluminum casing, as well as top-notch specs inside, this laptop is pretty heavy. If you’re looking for a laptop to bring with you traveling or to work or school, you might consider getting a lighter laptop. If you’re in love with Apple’s laptops, check out the MacBook Air and you’ll still get a sleek laptop that’s slightly less powerful, but a lot lighter.

Most Powerful Mac

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch


If you want a MacBook that can handle more powerful software, has dedicated gaming memory, and plenty of storage space, go for the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Affordable 2-in-1: Lenovo Flex 5

Lenovo Flex 5 14 2-in-1 Laptop, 14.0 FHD touch displayLenovo

Pros

  • Affordable
  • 2-in-1 capability
  • Plenty of memory

Cons

  • Low storage
  • Smaller screen size

If you love the idea of having 2-in-1 capability in a laptop, but you don’t want to pay a hefty price for it, Lenovo’s Flex 5 is a fantastic option. Because it can function as a tablet as well, it has touchscreen capability and narrow bezels, which makes the 14-inch screen not feel as small. Flip around of course and you’ll get to the keyboard and touchpad for a classic Laptop feel. Plus, the Flex 5 has 1920 x 1080 resolution, which is hard to find in an affordable laptop.

Looking at what’s inside, there are 16GB of DDR4 RAM (which is impressive for this price point!), a 256GB SSD, an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U CPU with integrated Radeon Graphics, and it runs Windows 10 OS. On a single charge, the Flex 5 can last about 10 hours and is able to quick-charge up to 80% in just one hour. It’s also thin and super light, making it easy to cart around the house or to your local coffee shop.

Affordable 2-in-1

Lenovo Flex 5


Lenovo’s Flex 5 laptop gives you handy 2-in-1 functionality at an affordable price with some pretty good specs.

Amazon

$697.00

Best for Gaming: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14

ASUS - ROG Zephyrus 14 Gaming LaptopASUS

Pros

  • Dedicated (and impressive) GPU
  • Easily portable 14-inch screen
  • Plenty of RAM and storage

Cons

  • Pretty expensive
  • Not the most attractive laptop

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 costs a bit more than your average laptop, but that’s due to better specs inside that’ll make games look and feel great. It has a 14-inch screen with an sRGB display, 1920 x 1080 resolution, and a 144Hz refresh rate. All of this together makes for some vivid, clear colors.

Your favorite games will run smoothly, too, with a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 GPU that has 6GB of GDDR6 RAM. Overall, the laptop has 16GB DDR4 RAM, a 1TB SSD, and an AMD Ryzen 9 CPU to keep everything running as quickly as possible. Plus, it’s thin and light, making it easy to game on the go.

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop that’s a bit larger, go for the Alienware M17 R4. It has a larger 17.3-inch screen, a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, and a max 360Hz refresh rate.

Best for Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14


If you need a gaming machine that’s powerful and portable, try out the ROG Zephyrus G14 from ASUS.

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/99422/the-best-laptops/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Sarah Chaney

Hacker Reveals Twitch Source Code In “Part One” of Massive Gigaleak

The Twitch logo on a gradient background.Twitch

In an effort to “foster more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space,” an anonymous hacker has leaked the entirety of Twitch’s source code and creator earnings. The leak also contains info on an unreleased Steam competitor and data related to Twitch’s security tools. And unfortunately, this is just “part one” of an ongoing gigaleak.

Wrapped in a 125GB torrent, this leaked data was first shared on a 4chan thread the morning of October 6th. Trusted sources have verified its authenticity to Video Games Chronicle and The Verge, and Twitch confirms that it suffered a data breach (it hasn’t verified the leak’s authenticity). Some files in this leak were last modified on October 4th, a sign that Twitch may have been hacked just a few days ago.

All of Twitch’s source code is included in this leak, and that includes source code for the platform’s mobile, desktop, and console clients. Shockingly, this source code is so complete that it contains full “commit history” from the company’s developers—that is, notes made to indicate changes made to the Twitch backend.

We can confirm a breach has taken place. Our teams are working with urgency to understand the extent of this. We will update the community as soon as additional information is available. Thank you for bearing with us.

— Twitch (@Twitch) October 6, 2021

Internal Twitch moderation tools also appear in the leak. The most notable (so far) is Twitch’s “red teaming system,” which allows moderators to pretend that they’re hackers. Oh, and evidence that the “golden kappa” that users randomly receive is manually handed out by moderators. We still don’t know if any damaging security tools are tucked in this leak.

And if you’ve ever wondered how much your favorite streamer makes, you’ll probably find out on social media. This leak contains three years of payout data for Twitch creators. Some streamers have already verified that this leaked financial data matches their earnings, although we’re still not sure if this data is all-inclusive or only focuses on a fraction of Twitch streamers.

There are a few oddities here, too. Because this leak contains all properties owned by Twitch, such as CurseForge, it reveals some unreleased projects. The most notable is called Vapor, a games marketplace with a working title that clearly references Steam.

Some Vapeworld assets, including some 3d emotes with specular and albedo maps
I don’t have whatever version of unity installed that they used, so I’m limited in what assets i can get caps of with stuff like blener and renderdoc.
There’s custom unity plugins in here for devs too. pic.twitter.com/6y4woQDcst

— Sinoc (@Sinoc229) October 6, 2021

Early analysis of the Vapor data shows that Twitch is working on something called Vapeworld—fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your priorities), this game has nothing to do with smoking cessation. It’s a VR chat client full of weird 3D Bob Ross emojis. We’re not sure if Vapeworld is an abandoned project or a work in progress, but its files were last modified this week.

The hacker who shared this data clearly did it for altruistic reasons, citing Twitch as a “disgusting cesspool” that hampers competition in the “video streaming space.” As such, the leak doesn’t include a ton of personal data (aside from streamers’ earnings). It seems that the hacker intentionally omitted this data to protect users.

But any data breach is dangerous, and some analysts say that encrypted user passwords are a part of this leak (though these claims are unverified). Not to mention, hackers could use the Twitch source code to find vulnerabilities in its security system, and we’re still waiting for “part two” of this leak, which could target Twitch users instead of targeting the company.

I strongly suggest changing your Twitch password and enabling two-factor authentication on your account. And if you want to be extra safe, I suggest doing the same to your Amazon account, which may be linked to Twitch depending on how you signed up.

Source: VGC, The Verge, PC Gamer

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/99930/hacker-reveals-twitch-source-code-in-part-one-of-massive-gigaleak/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Andrew Heinzman

Hacker Steals a U.S. Navy Facebook Account to Livestream ‘Age of Empires’

A screenshot of the hacked page. The livestreamed video is captioned "Hahahahaha."Malwarebytes

A lone hacker decided to take on the U.S. Navy this week, and all things considered, he had a pretty good run. The Navy confirms that a hacker hijacked the official USS KIDD Facebook page to livestream Age of Empires playthroughs for four days in a row. Evidently, the Navy had to bargain with Facebook to secure the USS KIDD warship’s account back.

On October 3rd, the hijacked USS KIDD page livestreamed Age of Empires for four hours. The stream was captioned with the word “Hahahahaha,” which is exactly what I would say if I stole a warship (or its Facebook page).

But I would’ve played Age of Empires a bit better. The 20-year-old strategy game is all about building civilizations from scratch. But as reported by Task and Purpose, the hacker never made it past the damn stone age! Several of the comments left on his livestream tell him that he sucks—“somebody teach this guy how to play,” said one Facebook user.

Screenshots of the hacker's livestreams with captions like "play game," "fffff," "hi everyone," and "POSC."Task and Purpose

Despite the negative comments, our hacker continued to stream Age of Empires on the USS KIDD page. He even changed the USS KIDD’s account type to “Gaming Video Creator.” But on the morning of October 8th, the jig was up. The U.S. Navy finally convinced Facebook to resolve its problem. It also deleted all of the game streams, unfortunately.

In an October 7th conversation with Task and Purpose, Commander Nicole Schwegman stated that “the official Facebook page for USS Kidd (DDG 100) was hacked … We are currently working with Facebook technical support to resolve the issue.” Keep in mind that the page was first hijacked on October 3rd—did it take the Navy four days to realize what happened?

Some people speculate that the USS KIDD page wasn’t hacked. Like last year’s Fort Bragg porn-posting incident, someone with legitimate access to the USS KIDD Facebook account may have simply forgot to log out. But this theory doesn’t make sense, given the U.S. Navy’s statement and its inability to access the USS KIDD page.

Source: Task and Purpose via Malwarebytes

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/100197/hackers-steal-a-u-s-navy-facebook-account-to-livestream-age-of-empires/
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Andrew Heinzman

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