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‘Kat’ fight: In the Meerkat vs. Periscope battle, it’s score one for the underdog


Meerkat and Twitter are both betting big that users want to live stream videos of themselves, and watch live streaming videos of others. Now the ‘video selfie’ pioneers are caught in a cat-fight (Kat-fight?) over who will win the market.

meerkat

Meerkat’s live video streaming app was the first on the scene before Twitter released their competitor, Periscope. Meerkat skyrocketed in popularity immediately upon release, rapidly becoming one of the all-time most downloaded apps on record.

But Meerkat rose to fame on Twitter. And Twitter had their own live streaming video service in the works, Periscope. It didn’t take long for Twitter to handicap Meerkat on its social network.

It was a tough blow for Meerkat. The company suddenly seemed like an underdog. But now Meerkat is scratching its way back to the top with a big score against Periscope.

Meerkat announced—via Twitter, no less—that they’re now beta-testing their Android app. That means Meerkat has beaten Periscope to the punch on the devices, which make up an increasing percentage of the mobile market. Meerkat started out as an iOS app. The diversification, particularly before Periscope, is critical to its viability.

Taking over-sharing to a whole new level

With the rise of easy-to-use live streaming technology, the ‘selfie’ could quickly go the way of email and DVDs—clunky and antiquated. Why take a picture when you can take a video?

That’s certainly how Meerkat and Periscope are hoping people will feel. The potential for live video streaming for the masses is vast. But is the world ready for all its possible uses?

We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out. Live.

How to watch ‘Orphan Black’ for free online


Amazon is giving TV fans a free gift. The company will let users stream the first season of the hit show ‘Orphan Black’ for free.

Orphan Black

 

The show will be available for free from Amazon Instant Video starting this Friday, April 17. Amazon is hoping the free release of Season 1 will get new viewers hooked on the series so that more people will pay to stream the subsequent seasons.

It’s a play that just might work, given the popularity of the show among those who watch it. ‘Orphan Black’, from BBC America, gained a solid following after its debut in March 2013.

The show, a Canadian science-fiction series, stars actress Tatiana Maslany as ‘Sarah Manning.’ Sarah is a woman with a troubled past who is still trying to sort out her life when we meet her in Season 1.

As an orphan who was passed around to different foster homes in England before being moved to North America by her guard, Mrs. S., along with her foster brother, Felix. Sarah’s already tenuous world comes crashing down when she witnesses the suicide of a woman, Beth, who looks exactly like her.

Sarah is pulled into a vortex of mystery and surprises as she investigates who Beth was and why she killed herself. Sarah eventually learns that Beth was her clone—and that she’s not the only one.

With Season 3 just starting, the timing of Amazon’s free giveaway is perfect. Fans will have a chance to see the story’s beginning, and then binge out on Season 2 to catch up to the show’s current episodes.

Amazon is surely also hoping to grab some more Amazon Instant Video customers with the freebie. With competition among streaming media services and devices so tight now, it’s a smart move to lure new users with free TV. To stream ‘Orphan Black’ for free, visit Amazon’s website.

The high-speed Internet wars: Today’s winners, losers, and up-and-comers


The demand for high-speed Internet has service providers scrambling to both satisfy customers and beat the competition. 

high speed Internet

Internet users across the country hungry for high-speed Internet, and so far the field of service providers is locked in a very close race. The faster Internet gets, the faster customers want it to be. As soon as one company ups their speeds, a competitor leapfrogs past them.

The product customers want is obvious: super-fast Internet capable of streaming media (movies and TV shows) without disruptions, and supporting seamless online gaming, at a low cost. The trouble is that the broadband and wireless companies in the running are having a hard time meeting that demand.

But there are some current winners and losers in the arms race to win the high-speed Internet war. There are also some interesting dark horses — up-and-comers to keep an eye on for a good deal as they roll out their services.

Google Fiber vs. Time Warner

Google has been experimenting with its super-fast fiber optic network, Google Fiber, for a couple years. In the last few months, though, plans have become a reality. Google Fiber offers Gigabit (1000 Mbps, or 1 Gig) speeds, which is 25 times faster than the minimum broadband speed. The service is rolling out in 18 new cities in the Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville and Raleigh-Durham metro areas.

Close on their heels, Time Warner announced it too will offer higher Internet speeds to customers in these same markets. Time Warner says their new Internet will be six times faster than it has been. The company has also started offering free speed upgrades, from the current 50 Mbps to 300 Mbps, to customers in Charlotte (a Google Fiber city).

That’s not terribly close to Google’s 1000 Mbps. But, if Time Warner can step up the speed, then given the fact that it already has inroads in many more cities and metro areas around the country, it could end giving Google Fiber some competition instead of only the other way around.

Plus, given that Google Fiber is still a work in progress, Time Warner is looking like the current winner. Even if only by a hair for the time being.

Comcast and AT&T

The other big names in the Internet Service Provider space, Comcast and AT&T, are also feeling the pull of the fiber.

AT&T was forced to lower its gigabit Internet service by $50, from $120 to $70 per month, in North Carolina after Google Fiber moved in.

Comcast has announced that they’ve actually one-upped Google. The company says they will begin offering households Internet speeds twice as fast as Google Fiber’s fastest, and a whopping 200 times faster than most Americans have today. The catch is that it won’t be available until next year, and geographic restrictions and price will probably bump it from most customer’s short list.

Don’t discount the independents

It isn’t just big-name and billion-dollar companies that are entering the high-speed Internet race. Small towns are also throwing down and trying to gain a subscriber base.

In Oregon, even though Google Fiber is slated to arrive on the scene, several local towns are researching the possibility of building their own independent network capable of delivering a comparable service.

Portland suburbs, including Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Gresham and West Linn, are in the process of assessing their options to build a fiber-optic network with similar mega-speeds. If it’s possible to do so, and to offer the service at a lower cost than Google Fiber or other big companies, then towns could have a winner on their hands.

Other dark horses and start-ups waiting in the wings will have to overcome some serious disadvantages. But they just might find a way to meet a rapidly growing demand, from average households to mobile users to those interested in cutting the cable cord.

 

VIDEO: Reserve cop mistakes real gun for stun gun, shoots and kills man (Graphic Content Warning)


In Tulsa, Oklahoma a reserve police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man after the officer allegedly mistook his gun for his stun gun. (WARNING: Video contains graphic content)

The officer, 73-year-old Bob Bates said he used his gun ‘by mistake’  instead of using his stun gun. “I shot him, I’m sorry,” said Bates.

The victim, Eric Courtney Harris, was pursued by police after he was caught selling a weapon to an undercover officer during a sting operation. At least two police vehicles were on the scene to detain Harris. Harris began to flee on foot, at which point the officers exited their vehicle and gave chase.

Officers caught up with Harris in only a few seconds and got him down on the ground. The officer tells Harris to roll on his stomach, and then a gun shot is clearly audible in the video. The shot is followed by the reserve deputy’s statement “I shot him, I’m sorry.”

Harris’s cries are also clearly visible as he yells “Help me!” and “He shot me!” Officers continued to keep Harris restrained even after the shooting. A deputy can also be heard on the video cursing Harris.

Harris later died of his injuries. A Tulsa investigator has said that Bates and the deputy were not in their right state of mind during the incident due to the stress of apprehending Harris.

The way we stream TV is about to get even better


The next big thing to hit media streaming is here, and it’s sure to please fans who stream TV from the Internet to the living-room screen. It’s called high dynamic range. Even if you don’t know what it is, don’t worry—you’re going to like it.

Amazon originals, like 'House of Cards', will be the first TV shows available to stream in HDR.

Amazon originals, like ‘House of Cards’, will be the first TV shows available to stream in HDR.

High dynamic range (HDR) videos offer the highest-quality picture available today. The new technology makes TV and movie images appear even more real and vibrant. Basically, if you thought your HD picture was a big step up, then get ready for an even better, brighter, bolder TV experience.

HDR is actually two steps ahead of standard high-definition. If you’ve heard of, or have, ultra-high definition 4K TV, HDR is an advancement even over this. HDR makes colors appear richer and truer, eliminating wash-out.

Media streaming companies are now officially making the move to offering HDR. Recently, major players including Amazon and Netflix have announced their services will soon stream in HDR.

Later this year, Amazon Prime members will be able to stream TV originals Amazon (like ‘House of Cards’) in HDR via Amazon Instant Video. Netflix has said its shows will be available in HDR in the coming months as well.

Apple’s new Internet TV service, expected to launch before the end of the year, may also include HDR support. There has been buzz about whether Roku’s next generation device, Roku 4, will include 4K support. Now, Roku might have to up the ante to include HDR before unveiling Roku 4 unless it wants to be behind the competition right out of the box.

“4K Ultra HD picture resolution was just the beginning—we’re excited that Prime members will soon be able to view movies and TV shows including Amazon Originals in HDR quality,” said Michael Paull, Vice President of Digital Video at Amazon. “HDR is the natural next step in our commitment to premium entertainment, and we can’t wait for customers to have even more choice in how they watch their favorite titles on Amazon Prime Instant Video.”

With so much competition now to land customers interested in cutting the cable cord, other media streaming services will feel pressure to follow Amazon and Netflix to the wonderful world of HDR.

VIDEOS: Death by police recorded by bystander; Cop’s family questions whether murder charge would stand without video evidence


A South Carolina police officer who was recorded by a bystander as he shot and killed Walter Scott has now been arrested for murder. The video contradicts the officer’s statement about the shooting.

Officer, Michael Slager, stopped Scott for driving with a broken taillight during the daytime hours on April 4.  Scott, a 50-year-old African American, allegedly tried to flee, and was reportedly hit by Slager’s Taser.

Slager, who is white, then proceeded to draw his gun and fire eight shots at Scott, who was unarmed, as he ran away. Scott was hit by five of the rounds, which struck him in the back, buttocks and ear, and was killed. After Scott had fallen to the ground, Slager approached him and handcuffed him.

In Slager’s statement following the incident, he said Scott tried to take his Taser, and that Slager feared for his life. However, the video recorded by a witness at the scene clearly contradicts his story.

In the video, Slager approaches Scott after shooting him and drops an object beside his body. This object is believed to be the officer’s Taser.

The video shot by a bystander is a crucial piece of evidence in the case. After it surfaced, Slager was arrested for murder on April 7. He is currently being held without bail. If convicted of murder, he’ll face serving 30 to life in prison and could even face the death penalty.

Slager was employed by the North Charleston Police Department. Scott, who was a father to four children, had been previously arrested approximately ten times. Arrests were mostly for failure to pay child support or failure to appear in court.

Slager’s family has gone public with questions about the case, asking whether the officer would have been charged with murder if it weren’t for the video.

Scott’s family has also made public statements citing racism and criminal police brutality. The incident follows other high-profile incidents around the country in which white police officers have killed or injured African Americans.

On August 9 last year, the 18-year-old black man Michael Brown was shot and killed by the white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.

The month before, on July 17, African-American Eric Garner died after a Staten Island police officer put him in a chokehold.

 

The rise of the pocket PC (for your TV)


intel compute stickJust when smartphones are getting huge and approaching the size of something that needs to be carted around in a carry-case (that’s right, like a laptop)—the personal computer is shrinking. Now it’s a PC that can fit in a pocket in a strange device switcharoo.

There are a couple of “pocket PCs” on the market. Intel has a new Compute Stick PC, which the company is calling the world’s smallest computer. It’s small alright—only about twice the size of a standard thumb drive, and certainly smaller than today’s smartphones. Now available for pre-order, with a price tag around $100 to $150, this tiny PC could become the computer world’s next big thing.

How can a PC come in stick form? Well, because like so many other devices these days it doesn’t operate alone. The Compute Stick plugs into the HDMI port of any HDTV and co-opts the TV’s hardware. Once attached, Compute Stick is like a virus, taking over the internal workings of its TV host to turn it into—voila!—a computer.

The PC-TV (or TV-PC?) can then be used to do any number of regular computing tasks, like checking email or surfing the web. For people who no longer need a laptop or (if anyone still uses these) desktop because of the roles tablets and smartphones have usurped—but who sometimes want to use a big screen for computer needs—the PC stick could fill a need. Or it could amount to just another device that doesn’t do enough to be worth the cost.

Intel isn’t the first to come up with a pocket PC. Google answered the call with its Chromebit.

Chromebit works like the Compute Stick (or, perhaps more accurately, Intel’s dongle works like Google’s). What’s the similarity to Google’s Chromecast?

Google says that Chromecast, their media streaming device, and Chromebit fill two totally different roles. True, Chromecast won’t turn your TV into a computer. But you can cast anything playing on your computer—from streaming media like YouTube or Netflix content, to pictures, to webpages—onto a TV screen with Chromecast.

Can the pocket PC be used as a media streaming device? For now the answer seems to be not nearly as effectively as the true streaming sticks and boxes on the market. Theoretically, with the stick plugged into a TV, you could go to Hulu or YouTube and start watching. But designated media streamers now offer such a great user experience that it’s unlikely consumers will be very thrilled with this setup.

Sometimes devices that have limited overlap with other existing devices don’t play well with consumers. It just becomes one more thing that does a piece of what you want, when what you really want is one thing that does everything.

So we’ll see how well Chromebit and the other pocket PCs that are sure to be released soon will fare with consumers.

VIDEO: Novak Djokovic is now the French Open favorite, but is he already showing signs of cracking under the pressure?


Novak Djokovic is the top-ranked tennis player and now the official favorite to win the French Open. But he sunk to a definite low during the Miami Open Championship match on Sunday versus Andy Murray. Could the pressure and high expectations already be getting to him?

After losing the second set in the Finals match, Djokovic also lost his cool and began shouting at his coaching team. Unfortunately, he also ended up screaming into the face of a young ballboy.

Djokovic, the world number one in men’s tennis, went on to win the third set—easily, ‘bageling’ Murray—and the match to secure his third title of the year. Djokovic also issued an apology to the ballboy after the match.

The Miami win settles any doubts that Djokovic is playing incredible tennis so far this season. As tennis now turns to the red clay, the main story in the lead up to the French Open 2015 will be whether Raphael Nadal, the “Clay King”, will be able to secure another win at Roland Garros.

Oddsmakers are already favoring Djokovic to take the French this year. This is in part due to Nadal’s disappointing start to the 2015 season. But it’s mostly because of how unbeatable Djokovic looks on the court.

He’s clearly in peak physical form. The question is whether the mental side of the game will get the better of him. With his recent marriage and the birth of his first child—making this the first season he’s had his family with him on tour—nobody could blame him for being a bit distracted, or for feeling the pressure to maintain his wins.

The on court outburst could indicate some chaos between the athlete’s ears. Djokovic also became a bit rattled during a Miami Open press conference leading up to his match with David Ferrer. When a reporter referred to Djokovic as a “veteran” the label clearly didn’t sit well with the 28-year-old.

But the truth is, in a sport where the up-and-comers are ten years younger and you’re lucky to play well past 30, Djokovic is now a veteran. And that may also be contributing to the pressure he feels to take home Grand Slam trophies this season.

Marriage, children and tennis

In his apology to the ballboy, Djokovic said, “I saw the replay, unfortunately the ball boy was in the middle of it, and I really feel sorry and I regret that he was there. There was absolutely no intention whatsoever to hurt him or scare him in any kind of way, and I sincerely hope that he forgives me. I really apologise, and also as a parent, I do care about children a lot right now. I look at it in a much different way, so I want toapologise to his parents as well for this situation and as a father I wouldn’t wish something like this happens to my son.”

Djokovic became a father for the first time this year after his wife gave birth to a son. He and Roger Federer, who has four children with his wife (two sets of twins), are the top-seeded dads in men’s tennis.

Andy Murray may be next, however. Yes, it seems Murray is always following just a few steps behind the other ‘Big Four’ players—desperate as he is to get out in front of them.

But Murray, who badly wanted to finally get the better of his rival in Sunday’s match-up, will follow Federer and Djokovic down the aisle. Murray will marry his long-time girlfriend, Kim Sears this month.

Top News in VIDEO: Sailor lost at sea rescued after 66 days; Fears of nuclear weapons and a “horrific war”


In today’s top news, a sailor lost at sea for 66 days has been located and is now safe at home after a dramatic helicopter rescue by the U.S. Coast Guard. Israel’s Prime Minister spoke out against the nuclear deal with Iran, saying it paves the way for a “horrific war” involving nuclear weapons.

Lost at sea

Louis Jordan, 37, is finally back on dry land after spending a harrowing 66 days lost at sea.

Jordan set sail from South Carolina on January 23 in his sailboat, telling his family he was going out to do some fishing. He never returned, and search efforts failed to find any sign of him. The search for Jordan was called off after ten days.

But Jordan was alive. After running into some nasty weather, his sailboat capsized. Jordan was able to climb on top of his overturned boat, and there fought to survive for 66 days until he was finally rescued.

Jordan says he drank rainwater, ate raw fish, and prayed. He was finally spotted by the crew of a German container ship yesterday afternoon about 200 miles off the North Carolina coast. The U.S. Coast Guard responded, arriving on the scene to rescue Jordan. He was said to be dehydrated and to have a shoulder injury. Otherwise, for such a long time spent at sea, he is in remarkably good condition.

Nuclear weapons and risk of “horrific war”

Iran has reached an framework agreement with world powers on a nuclear program.

When fully implemented, the agreement will keep Iran “from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” said President Obama. However, Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu expressed strong objections to the deal. Fearing the development of nuclear weapons, he said the program increases the risk of “horrific war.”

While Iran would be restricted from some of their nuclear activities, they will be allowed to continue some enrichment of uranium. President Obama said they would not be able to enrich weapons-grade nuclear material.

Netanyahu has little confidence in the agreement and distrusts Iran’s promise to use its nuclear program strictly for peaceful means. Netanyahu told President Obama that a “deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel.”

He went on to say the deal would enhance Iran’s terror activities in the Middle East and the world.

Goodbye Roku 3, Hello Roku 4! Why the next model will hit shelves by this fall


The Roku 3 has long held its status as the top-of-the-line media streaming device. Thanks for the great times Roku 3. But it’s time to step aside and let Roku 4 show the world what it’s got. For a number of reasons, we can expect to see Roku 4 make its debut no later than the fall of this year.

Roku 4

There’s been buzz about Roku 4 for some time now. Given that the Roku 3 came out in March of 2013—an aeon ago in tech time—there’s little doubt the next generation is in development. As for the Roku 4 release date, that question has yet to be definitively answered.

But one doesn’t have to be a tech psychic to read the tea leaves about Roku 4’s release. It will be unveiled within the next six months, and there’s a good chance it’ll even be within the next three. Here’s why.

Top reasons Roku 4 will be playing soon in living rooms everywhere

First, Roku users are clamoring for a new model. Roku 3 has delighted and entertained for two full years now. Consumers are loyal to the Roku brand. But if an updated version doesn’t come out soon users will toward alternatives.  See a demo of Roku 3

Which brings up the next reason the wait won’t be long now. Alternatives are more plentiful and far more competitive than when Roku 3 launched. And this competition is increasing all the time. Apple TV has new offerings on the horizon. Internet TV services are gaining ground. Other manufacturers should be expected to release new media streaming products in the next year.  Compare Roku to other media streaming devices

All of which means Roku needs to stay at the forefront and beat other companies to the punch. A next generation device is the only way forward.

The new technology driving Roku 4 development

In addition, technology has now advanced enough that the Roku 4 can come with some very compelling new features. Among them, ultra high-definition, or 4K resolution, will be a top selling point.

Roku has already embraced 4K technology and shown that incorporating it into products is a company priority. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Roku announced a Roku TV 4K model. TCL and Netflix are already working with Roku to make 4K available to customers. Roku 4 is therefore sure to be compatible with 4K TV.

Wireless technology has also come a long way since Roku 3 was developed. It’s likely Roku 4 will have wireless antennae, improving signal strength no matter what room the router is in.

To stay competitive with Amazon Fire TV and the Amazon Fire TV Stick (currently the most powerful media streaming devices), the next generation Roku will almost certainly have more memory. By increasing memory to 2GB it would match Amazon’s devices. Above this Roku 4 would surpass the rest of the field and claim the coveted “most powerful” classification.

Finally, even for users who are perfectly happy with their Roku 3, there’s nothing like something new to compel a person to trade up. So get ready for some fond farewells and prepare to embrace its replacement—sooner rather than later.

Read reviews of Roku 3, the Roku Streaming Stick, Amazon Fire TV and other media streaming devices