…Now with less suckage…

I have it on good authority that Windows 8.1 Update doesn’t suck…

Windows8.1

About 18 months ago, I wrote a column for InformationWeek’s BYTE on the state of Windows 8 and its UI at the time. Unfortunately, BYTE is no more. You can’t even find any REAL reference to the project on InformationWeek at this point, though if you know the right search criteria, you can still find many of the articles from most, if not all of its contributors (see the example above…); and in many cases, they may still be relevant today.

Recently, my good friend and former BYTE Editorial Director, Larry Seltzer wrote a piece on how Windows 8.1 doesn’t suck, and it was recently published on ZDNet. He made a couple big points in the article. You can read it if you want to, (it’s a good read and well worth the time) but I’ve summarized them here and added some of my own commentary.

1. Windows 8.1 with Update, is now usable
I’ve got a lot of experience with Windows 8. I’ve been using it since it’s very early days in 2011 when the Developer Preview came out. I had it installed on a touch netbook at the time; and it was a damned mess with both interfaces conflicting with one another, making use of your Windows 8.x device very difficult. It got better with 8.1. It’s gotten better still with Windows 8.1 Update. In fact, you can now use Windows 8.1 on a desktop machine without wanting to rip your hair out. The experience is nearly tolerable. By the time Threshold gets here (Windows 8.2, Windows 9, or whatever they brand it as), it should be just as desktop friendly as Windows 7, in my opinion. (Which I think is the best version of Windows ever, but that’s a discussion for another day).

2. Start Menu Replacements have a limited shelf life with Threshold on the way
This is where Larry and I [may] disagree. I say may, because there’s still one huge wild card left to be played – Windows Threshold. No one knows what it’s going to look like. No one knows exactly when it’s supposed to be released. Microsoft is playing with its release schedule, and while we know there’s supposed to be a release in Q1/Early Q2 of calendar 2015, we don’t know if that’s going to be Threshold or just another “incremental” update. The full Start Menu is supposed to appear in Windows Threshold; and until it’s revealed, it’s impossible to say if it will be positively or negatively reviewed.

Start button/menu apps like Start8 offer as true a Windows 7-like experience as you can get on Windows 8. It’s more about the Start Menu than the button with Start8; and while Windows 8.x may now allow for a more desktop friendly (or Windows 7-like) experience, depending on how the new/revived Start Menu in the NEXT version of Windows is implemented, some users may still want apps like Start8. So I don’t agree with him when he says that Start Menu/button apps are living on borrowed time.

While I think they may not be as popular as they were before Threshold, some users may still prefer them (or at least the one they’ve been using). It all depends on the great unknown – the next version of Windows. Currently, no one knows what that looks like…

3. Windows 8.x is a branding Nightmare
Larry is dead on here. I think just about everyone in the Windows community, outside of Microsoft, that is, will agree. Windows 8.x branding is a worse leper than Windows Vista was. Microsoft needs to get themselves off of Windows 8.x as soon as they can and get to the next version of Windows.

If Microsoft wants to keep the MetroUI/ModernUI look and feel, they will need to draw the line in the sand and make Mobile Windows only for Windows Phone and for their tablets (don’t’ you really want to say Windows Tablet..? I know I do). That will leave MetroUI/ModernUI for the Windows RT/ Windows Surface/2, non-legacy-desktop capable tablets, and leave Windows #.x for their compatible tablets/ultrabooks, laptops and desktops (which, quite honestly, is what they should have done in the first place…)

Anyway you cut it, Microsoft needs to leave the Windows 8.x brand in the past and move on to something – nearly anything – else. If they don’t, they’re going to continue to have sales and revenue issues, going forward.

So, all things being equal at this point, it’s true – Windows 8.1 Update really doesn’t suck. I got it the first day that it was made available to everyone and I’ve been very pleased with what it’s been able to provide.

It seems that Microsoft is listening to the feedback of its customers. It seems as though, under its new leadership from Satya Nadella, Microsoft is getting its act together and is beginning to find its way back to the beaten path. Though many will say that “taking the road less travelled” provides you with a more robust journey, I think that journey has proved to be nothing more than a “bust” for Microsoft up to this point. Getting themselves back to a more traditional version of Windows for their legacy desktop users now insures that their enterprise business is no longer in as risky a position as it used to be.

What do you think? Do you use Windows 8? Have you upgraded to Windows 8.1? Have you upgraded to Microsoft Windows 8.1 Update? Do you use a Start Menu replacement app on top of Windows 8? Is Microsoft getting back on track with its recent releases? Are you more satisfied with Windows 8.1 Update than with previous versions of Windows?

The comments section is just below, and I really would appreciate your thoughts. I know that others would appreciate them as well, as there’s a great deal of opinion on this; and I’d really like to know what you have to say on the whole subject. Please join me in the discussion below and tell me what you think.

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Take control of your PC’s networking needs with HostsMan

Computing today is getting complicated. Having a secure, unhackable machine is something that everyone wants and needs; but isn’t likely realistic. However, you can take control of your computer and its networking needs with the right utilities and a little bit of knowledge. Since most PC’s are connected to some kind of LAN or WAN, it’s important to have some idea of where your PC goes for policy and naming directions. Utilities like HostsMan for Windows can be a help in areas like this.

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Most laptop or desktop computers using a “modern” operating system have a hosts file.  In most cases, end users won’t know what this is, or why it’s important to control.  The hosts file is one of several system objects that assist the user in addressing network nodes on a computer network. When things are working the way they should, most users won’t even think about their computer’s hosts file, though it is a common part of your PC’s operating system Internet Protocol (IP) implementation.  A hosts file translates human-friendly hostnames into IP addresses that identify and locate a host in an IP network. Simply put, it tells your computer where to go and what to do when it comes to networking.

In many cases, users that are aware of this type of need are often used to Domain Name System (DNS) protocols handling this need.  However, many systems customize this provision and implement name service switches. What’s important here is that unlike remote DNS servers that resolve names into IP numbers, the hosts file is located on the PC you’re using, and under your direct control, provided you have administrator rights to it.  This is where HostsMan comes in.

HostsMan is a freeware application that lets you manage your PC’s hosts file with ease. With it, you can update your hosts file.  You can enable/disable usage of the hosts file, or open it for editing with one click.  In many cases, it’s possible to have more than one hosts file on a single computer.  HostsMan allows you to merge two hosts files with its built-in hosts editor.

You can prevent other programs of writing to the file, scan it for errors, duplicates and possible hijacks; determine what host names you’re using and how many there are.  Before making modifications, you can easily create encrypted backups of your hosts file, resolve host names before they’re implemented, keep a log of the latest blocked sites, create an exclusions list and more.

Working with your computer’s hosts file isn’t always easy, and it’s not recommended unless you REALLY know what you’re doing and what your changes will do to your computer’s ability to connect to another computer, server or even to the internet.  The best rule here is that if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. PERIOD.

HOWEVER, provided you have some basic networking knowledge and have a real need to find, and update the hosts file that your computer is actually using (and not just the one you found in a directory you were running through, looking for your hosts file…), HostsMan is probably one of the best utilities you can use to make proper and appropriate edits to the file. Its error checking functions are probably something that you’ll make a lot of use of if you run the app.  Having an encrypted backup that you can fall back on just in case you make a mistake and cut your PC off the internet is also something that you’ll find valuable.

download HostsMan

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Kingsoft Office Suite Free

Reverse your dependence on Microsoft Office with this free alternative suite for Windows

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I’ve been a huge productivity software fan most of my computing career. PFS Write for the IBM PC and Apple II got me into computers, so it’s no surprise to me that productivity suites – word processors, spreadsheets, presentation tools, etc. are a long time favorite. With Microsoft Office cheaper, but still (somewhat) expensive, having free, compatible alternatives is a huge win for everyone on a budget. It’s for this reason that apps like Kingsoft Office Suite Free are among my favorite Windows apps. I’m certain that after a short introduction, the two of you will get along famously as well.

Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2013 goes a long way to simplifying its interface, making it easier than even easier to navigate through all of its applications. Most everything is where you would expect it to be, and the suite includes not only your favorite features, but some new ones as well. The redesigned UI makes working with your more complex documents easier than you thought it would be.

The suite includes three powerful applications – Writer, Spreadsheets and Presentation. The suite has the basic functionality that you’ve come to expect from an MS compatible office suite and has many outstanding features other suites doesn’t include. For example, Writer, includes a professional PDF converter, an advanced paragraph adjustment tool and intuitive table operation by default. MS Word either doesn’t have these, or requires a 3rd party add-in.

What’s new in the latest update?

Having an alternative to Microsoft Office is important in today’s much weaker economy. Microsoft Office may be the bomb, and you may not WANT to accept any substitutes, sometimes you just have to. If you’re a college student, out on your own, and you don’t have access to Microsoft Office, yet need something to write reports or create class presentations with, then apps like Kingsoft Office Suite not only save your bacon (and your money), but they do it while giving you access to everything you need, plus nearly everything you want.

The free version of the suite is a total winner. Hands down… The only thing it’s really missing is a database app or Access clone, an Outlook clone (or something to manage your schedule, contacts and email with) and a Publisher clone (or something to make fliers, stationary and other printed goods with). Aside from that and the lack of any VBA or macro editing support, the free version has all that you’ll likely need. If you do need the ability to write active content into your spreadsheets or other documents, you’ll have to spend about $70 bucks USD in order to get it from Kingsoft.

Download Kingsoft Office Suite Free

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HTC One (M8) – Wrapping it all Up

My time with the HTC One (M8) is almost up. Here are my parting thoughts on the device.

Introduction

My time with the HTC One (M8) is nearly over; and I’ve had one heck of a time with the device. There are some things I really liked; and there are some things that I really didn’t care for at all.

I’ve published a number of blogs here on Soft32. You can search for all of them if you like, or you can simply click through and check out the links below:
HTC One (M8) Unboxing
HTC One (M8) – Initial Impressions
HTC One (M8) – Performance at a Premium
HTC One (M8) – Duo Camera
HTC One (M8) – Is Retro Good Enough?: The Dot View Case

I wanted to take a few moments and give the device the proper treatment before I box it up and send it back, so here are the core essentials of a proper review.

The Specs
The device has some really nice hardware specs from a device perspective. The camera, as you can see in my review of it, leaves a great deal to be desired. It does OK, but if you’re used to 8MP or better on your phone, I think you’re going to be greatly disappointed. However, I also have a decent DSLR and take some (semi-professional quality) pictures. Honestly, I don’t want to be a camera snob at all, but I would definitely NOT buy the HTC One (M8) for its camera. I’m not even certain I would rely on it as a smartphone camera. My iPhone 5 takes much better pictures, and by today’s standards, its 8MP sensor with f2.2 lens is about average. There are smartphones (some Android, some not…) out there with much, MUCH better lenses. If you’re wanting to double up smartphone and camera needs, this is not the phone to look at, in my opinion.

However, as I said, the rest of the specs are quite respectable, and I think, worth the premium price. The camera would have made this a home run, and instead, it unfortunately makes the HTC One (M8) just a mediocre phone.

Quad-core 2.3gHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
32GB Solid State Storage
2GB DDR3 RAM
microSD Card Slot supporting up to 128GB cards
5″ HD Display
HTC BoomSound
HTC Duo Camera – 4MP, dual LCD Flash
5MP Front facing camera
Bluetooth 4.0

The device does not appear to have BT LE as part of its Bluetooth stack. I’m not certain why. My iPhone 5 does, and its 2 years older than the HTC One (M8). Very disappointing, and somewhat confusing…

The device has enough onboard storage to hold a movie or two as well as most of your music collection. I’ve got a HUGE music library and have about 2300 songs on my iPhone 5. I’ve got maybe 500MB of space left over after that and all my tech podcasts (apps, etc.) are on it. With only 16GB, I don’t bother with video. There just isn’t enough space.

However, the HTC One (M8) has twice that space, and as I said, you can hold 1-3 HD movies, PLUS a large music collection, PLUS other audio (like podcasts) and still have space left over. You can also stick in up to a 128GB microSD card in the device for a max total space of 156GB. The HTC One (M8) gives you enough storage capacity to take everything with you, without having to compromise.

Its 2GB of DDR3 RAM insures that nearly everything you run – games, video player, music player, productivity apps, etc., run smoothly. In the month or so that I’ve had the device, I haven’t had any performance issues with it. It’s been running smoothly and quickly. I really couldn’t have asked for a better performing device.
The Hardware
Despite the camera issue (which for me, is HUGE, due to my photography bent), the HTC One (M8) has a lot to offer. From a hardware only perspective, the (M8) hits a home run.
The Device Itself
The HTC One (M8) is a great looking, great feeling device. Its aluminum body is solid, and it doesn’t look or feel cheap by a long shot. The device is thin and sleek. As you can see from the pictures below, it makes the larger iPhone 5 (with a 4″ 16×9 screen) seem dinky by comparison. I’ve tried to give you a decent look at the device. You have the full 360, plus the device’s front and back.

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The HTC One (M8)

However, I did find that with a 5″ screen, the HTC One (M8) REQUIRES two hands to operate. I am huge (and have been for well over 10 years) on one-handed operability. I live in my device, and often have a notebook, pen and cup of coffee in one hand and my smartphone in another, checking mail, messages and the location of my next meeting. I can do this with my 4″ iPhone 5 quite easily. The device is skinny enough that I can hold the device and work the screen with my thumb.

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The HTC One (M8) and the iPhone 5 – front view

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Is Retro Good Enough? – The HTC One (M8) Dot View Case

It offers good protection, and the dot view display is cool in a retro sorta way, but…

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When I bought my iPhone 4S, I tended to carry it without a case. Most of the cases that I found, I didn’t like. The ones I liked, were too expensive, or…they wouldn’t work with an Apple branded or third party cradle. I got so fed up with it that I just decided to carry a naked device. Working with the cases that I found was just too frustrating.

That changed a little bit with my iPhone 5.  I’ve been using the same Speck case for nearly 2 years. I’m very happy with it, mostly because the back folds up and out of the way, so it works with devices and cradles that don’t work well with cases. It’s pretty cool to have a case that works – and I mean really WORKS – with your device and not against it.

When I received the HTC One M8 a few weeks ago, I was very excited to see that it came with the Dot View case.  Since it’s a loaner-review unit, the last thing I wanted to do was return it with scratches or dents in the screen or aluminum unibody. I know most reviewers understand that these things make the rounds, but you really want to take care of it. YOU don’t want to work with a beat up review unit. The next guy doesn’t want to, either.

So, the moment that after I unboxed the HTC One (M8), I put it in the Dot View Case. Here’s my feedback, specifically on the case.

1.Dot View Display Doesn’t Always Display

I find this one very frustrating. The Dot View display is supposed to display every time you close the case and then every time you double tap the front cover of the device while it’s closed over the display.  Simply  put, the HTC One (M8) review unit I have initially did this, but then stopped displaying the Dot View Display when the Dot View Case is closed on the device shortly after I started working with it on day one. Since then, the Dot View Display does appear when you double tap the closed case while it’s closed over the display, as required.

 2. Cracks and Wear

I’ve said it before. I have concerns about the hinge on the Dot View Case cracking over time with wear.  The logical way to work with this case is to flip the cover around the back of the device so that the cover stays open while you hold the device.  Over time, that’s going to create stress cracks on the spine of the case, and it’s going to weaken, rip and/ or crack. Period. This is just a matter of time.

3. Dot View Case and the Duo Camera

It’s clear to me that whomever designed the Dot View Case, never used it with the device. Part of the normal use case for the device is to take pictures with the device while it’s in the case.  This presents a couple of problems:

a.   Wrapping the Case Cover around the Device – You Can’t Take Pictures with the Case Cover open and wrapped around the back of the device. It covers the secondary lens, and the camera complains because the lenses are obstructed.  If you’re using the device with the Dot View Case and you want to take pictures, you have to open the case and let the cover flop open…which leads to our second problem.

b.   Elasticity in the Case Hinge – Leaving the case to flop open while you’re holding the device in landscape orientation, using the volume rocker as a shutter button, the Dot View Case cover wants to close shut on the device, turning off the display. This makes taking pictures with the device very frustrating.

In the end, you’re better off taking the device OUT of the case when you want to take pictures with the HTC One (M8).  Having the device in the Dot View Case while using it as a camera is very frustrating and very aggravating. While it’s very easy to take a lot of pictures with the HTC One (M8) and its rapid shutter release, the longer you work with the device as a digital camera, the more you’re going to want to have it out of the case, which completely defeats the purpose of having it in the case in the first place.

I’m not sure what the right answer is here. The case needs a couple of holes in the front at least for the camera (which would screw up the dot matrix look of the case OR require a graphic redesign of the dot view display), or you just need to make a different case choice for the HTC One entirely.

4. Use with Automotive Universal Device Cradles

This is another hot mess.   Most universal device cradles use some kind of spring tension arm to hold the device in place. Arkon makes some great universal holders. I’ve been using them for almost 10 years.

Your device needs to be in a cradle of some kind while it’s in the car. If you’re using it for navigation or for music playback, you’re going to want it secured and within reach so you can change songs, address GPS issues or answer phone calls without diverting your attention from the road.

The problem is that the case is flexible and there’s a great deal of elasticity in the plastic/ rubber hinge. You have to fold it around the back of the device so you can see the device while it’s in the case and in a universal cradle.  Side gripping cradles want to grab the case cover and fold it in half long ways/ portrait style. When this happens, I feel like the case cover is going to crack. Top gripping cradles want to grab the case and fold it in half short ways/ landscape style. When this happens, I feel like the plastic/ rubber hinge is going to rip AND the case cover is going to crack.

Again, this is another instance where you’d think that taking the device out of the case would be best, but at that point. However, that brings me to my final point regarding the Dot View Case.

5. Practicality Over Time – Don’t Bother

The Dot View Case is a book style case that rests its novelty in a dot matrix styled, retro display created by the holes in the cover.  When using this case with the HTC One (M8), I found I wanted the device in some sort of a protective case nearly all the time. It’s a mobile device, and I use mine most when I am in fact…mobile.

However, I found myself wanting to plug and chug the device in and out of the case more often than not when taking pictures and when putting it in a universal device cradle in the car.  The case doesn’t work well in these use cases.

I have an hour drive to work every day. That’s 2 hours in the car. Add normal picture taking/ selfies posing and other use to this, and I think you’ll find as I did.  The Dot View Case is a flop.

The problem is the case design, not the case type – a book style case. In contrast, book cases for the Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5 works and works well because of the huge window cut in them to display the date and time when they are closed. When you fold them back, the opening in the case cover doesn’t obstruct the camera lens or LCD flash, allowing for unobstructed camera use.  The case hinge also doesn’t have the elasticity that the Dot View Case’s plastic/ rubber hinge and doesn’t want to swing closed all the time. I believe it’s also made of leather or other material and will probably weather the stress a bit better.

In the end, while I truly believe you need a case for any and all mobile devices and smartphones, the HTC One (M8) Dot View Case, unfortunately isn’t very practical; and that really bothers me.  I like the retro styled, dot matrix display and the fact that the device can detect a double tap to activate the display THROUGH the case, but in working with it over the past few weeks, I am too afraid of ripping, cracking or breaking it while using it for it to be of any real, long term use to me or any other user of the HTC One (M8).

What do you think?  Is the Dot View Case’s cool factor enough to excuse its many foibles? With its Gorilla Glass front and aluminum shell, is a case REALLY necessary?  Am I being too critical of the design and of book style cases in general?  Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the comments section below and let me know what you think?

 

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Ashampoo WinOptimizer 11

Keep your Windows PC running in tip-top shape with this must have optimization utility.

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Security and performance optimization are some of the most needed, important computer features today. With all of the security issues that seem to be cropping up now-a-days, the more you can do to protect yourself, the better off you’re going to be. Having the right tools in your toolbox for this is important, and its one of the biggest reasons why I like WinOptimizer 11 from Ashampoo. Its one f the best Windows utilities you can find on the internet today.

Taking care of your PC is often difficult. With WinOptimizer, you get all the assistance you need. It gives you the most your PC can deliver, allowing you to concentrate on your work, rather than concerning yourself with its performance. For example, new in Ashampoo WinOptimizer 11 is Game Booster. With it, you can automatically free system resources and shut down non-essential system services during game play so that your games run faster and more efficiently. It kills all non-gaming essential services (but not processes) and enhances multimedia processing.

Services for mobile devices support, VoIP, browsers that consume a lot of RAM and Office apps like Word or Excel and their associated services will be shut down; but can be easily restored when you’re done playing your game. The best thing is that Game Booster can be activated manually through Live Tuner’s system tray context menu, a shortcut on the apps overview page, or automatically when a game or system intensive app is started.

One of the app’s newest and biggest features is User Rights Manager. This is a comprehensive module that allows anyone with admin rights to the box adjust system restrictions for a single user or for multiple accounts, based on the internal Windows system Policy Editor. A backup of all user restrictions is created automatically in the background before changes are saved.

For example, you can set policies like always opening flash drives as write protected. You can prevent access to admin features by non-admin users, hide varying shutdown options, prevent access to Control Panel’s System properties that control Display, Bluetooth, Power Management, Network connections, etc. If you have shared computers anywhere in the house and inquisitive computer users, limiting access to these things can save you a lot of grief and troubleshooting later.

I’m always very critical of system utilities for a number of reasons. In many ways they make self service a whole lot easier. However, the more advanced THEY get, the more advanced YOU must get in order to understand the system changes you’re enabling. The biggest reason why I like WinOptimizer from Ashampoo is that they give you the options and capabilities without overwhelming you with all the technical mumbo-jumbo that goes along with it.

WinOptimizer 11 is one of better Windows utility apps on the market today. Its fast, easy to use and understand, yet gives you access to all of the options that many corporate system admins have via the Windows Group Policy Editor, without having to deal with its much more complicated interface.

Ashampoo is one of my favorite software publishers. They have some really awesome apps, and this is definitely one of them. The addition of User Rights Manager and Game Optimizer alone justify the upgrade costs. However, it has a great deal MORE to offer. Download this now and find out for yourself why Soft32 thinks this is a must have for your PC.

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UPDATED – Amazon Releases FireTV

It’s a direct shot across the Apple TV bow. How the industry, and Apple specifically should respond remains to be seen…

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Amazon recently announced the Amazon FireTV, a set-top box similar to the Roku box, Chromecast and of course, the Apple TV. However, there were a few gotchas with the device that have me – and a number of other people – scratching their heads. It’s a good first effort, but; well… I don’t want to get ahead of myself…

Amazon’s FireTV has a similar look to the Apple TV, Apple’s “hobby-based” content streaming project that has them pulling in a great deal more revenue from their content ecosystem than I think most people think or Apple is willing to admit. If you have an iDevice and buy ANY content on iTunes, having an Apple TV so you can play that content on your television set is a no-brainer.

I think Amazon had the same thought. They want to give people that have adopted their ecosystem the opportunity to do the same things – watch their purchased or rented video, listen to their music, etc. on their television sets. However, based on the recently debunked rumors, it seems to me that Amazon had a chance to hit a home run, and instead, swung and missed.

The FireTV… yeah… it doesn’t support Amazon Prime Video. Meaning that you can’t use it to stream any content to your TV from the vastly popular and PAID streaming service Amazon gives its Prime members as part of their (now) $99 annual member fee. Whoever made that decision needs to be hunted down and shot fired.

Apple TV is successful because it allows users to stream items from the iTunes media store as well as a user’s iTunes library. Everything that Apple can stream to your Mac or PC, can come through the Apple TV. Users can also buy and rent content from the set top box.

Amazon won’t stream Prime Instant Video through the FireTV. There’s absolutely NO incentive for any Amazon Prime member to buy the box, even after the $20 price increase most of us have recently been subject to. Again, what idiot thought THAT up? While I understand that they are trying to entice other, new customers and users – many of which may not be Amazon Prime users to the ecosystem – what better way to cement current users into the ecosystem than through a set top box that supports their ENTIRE ecosystem and also allows those users to purchase additional content? I know there was purpose and thought behind the decision not to support Prime Instant Video. I just think their logic is flawed and the decision was, well… wrong.

In my opinion, Apple TV has no direct competitor. Yes. You’re right…there ARE other streaming set top boxes out there. The Roku box and Roku Streaming stick are two big examples at the front of the pack. However, even though it can stream content from external services like Netflix as well, it doesn’t have an ecosystem it could support. The FireTV does.

This decision just feels as though someone was asleep at the wheel. Amazon needs to reexamine it and correct it ASAP. I was seriously considering purchasing one UNTIL I found out it doesn’t support Prime Instant Video. Now, I wonder if I will even bother looking at the product pages for it.

How about you? Are you interested in the FireTV even though it doesn’t support Amazon Prime Instant Video? Would it encourage you to purchase an Amazon Prime membership if it did? Why don’t you join me in the comments below, and tell me what you think of this development.

UPDATE – This article was originally based on initial information available on the internet at the time just before the announcement of the set top box. Much of what you see above has been updated to indicate that Amazon FireTV DOES in fact support Amazon Prime Streaming Video. This is a huge win for Amazon as well as users of Amazon Prime as it corrects nearly every issue I brought up with the service.

What makes this an even more compelling buy, especially if you have most, if not all of your media content purchased through one of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, is that like the Apple TV, now you have access to all of your purchased content as well as Amazon’s Prime Streaming Video service.

If you do not have a set top box AND have an Amazon Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD tablet, this is the streaming set top box you need to purchase.

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Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player

Play Blu-ray disks on your Mac or on your PC with this GREAT cross platform app.

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The one thing that I’ve always felt has been missing from OS X was Blu-ray support. Apple didn’t – and still doesn’t for that matter – think that Blu-ray was relevant enough to include native support for in OS X. This is why Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player is my favorite DVD player. It provides all the regular DVD support, plus gives you support for Blu-ray DVD and HD video.

The coolest thing about Mac Blu-ray Player is that its the first universal Blu-ray media player for Mac in the world. It plays Blu-ray discs and Blu-ray ISO files on Mac and PC. It will also play all of these on iOS devices. You can also play most any kind of video, audio, or photo formats with it. It has multi-language support and is easy to use.

The app works on both Mac AND PC systems. It will run on any Mac running OS X 10.5 Leopard or later. It runs on any PC running Windows XP SP2 or later. The only obvious hardware requirement you MUST have is a compatible Blu-ray drive for either your Mac or PC

This is probably one of the best apps I’ve got on my computers. I was looking for something that would support Blu-ray on my Mac and on my PC’s and Macgo has a bundle that will allow you both Mac and PC licenses. The app is easy to use, and the interface is decent and easy to follow. With the ability to play nearly any and every kind of video file ever created, this app will give you the ability to play every multimedia file you can put your hands on and then some.

The app can also play HD video on your compatible iOS device. Just like Apple’s AirPlay, the app can project video on your iPod, iPad or iPhone. The only problem is that it doesn’t work with iOS 6.x devices. Macgo says they are working on a solution; but as of this writing, Airx doesn’t work with iOS 6.

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