Tag: review

Ashampoo Snap 2018 Showcase

Ashampoo Snap 2018 Showcase

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Just two months ago, I brought to your attention the top-tier screen capture software utility by the fine folks at Ashampoo, called Snap 10. Today, I can announce that a new 2017 entry-level version, entitled Snap 2018.  This program is still filled with all of the features that you loved from the prior edition, coupled with a couple of improvements, and newfound features in to have at your disposal. If you need to grab images from your screen, this is a fine, basic program to meet that challenge head-on. While I will not rehash what I highlighted before (as you can reference my prior articles on this site), I wanted to showcase some of the newest features, which might resonate with you, my faithful readers.

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Not unlike the full suite of Snap 10, they have added support for 3D Games screen capture. It works very similarly to the version contained in the Snap 10 and is an excellent version for non-professional gamers. If you have ever wanted to capture your exploits and share them with the world, you no longer have any excuse, as this is now in the palms of your hands. This is a way for disabled people to share their passions with the world.2058ff4

The other aspect that I want to highlight, today, is they have added more additional screen capture sizes. The main area of improvement is how they have focused on more fixed window sizes. The importance of that can be found in the renewed focus on 4K gaming and the breakthrough movement of VR. As widescreen, high-resolution gaming has come into its own, within the last decade, and the companion growth of YouTube and/or Twitch.tv streaming. The needs of the aforementioned streamers and audience, requires proper aspect ratio images and videos to embedded elements for their production needs.  Knowing that your capture program will capture them at a fixed window size that will match the source makes the process seamless. In short, a vital key component for 21st Century eSports and gaming viewership.

25a8dwpIf you adore Ashampoo products, you will like this as it continues their fine tradition, for great, free programs. You cannot beat the price, and that is not something that you can deny. As always, keep on techin’ . . .

Red Death Tour Launch Announcement

Red Death Tour Launch Announcement

Just wanted to share this new release with you, and the option to enter a contest to win prizes , through RaffleCopter. I am new to this area of book reviews, highlights, and tours, but I am glad to add this to my repertoire.   If you love books, and want to help introduce others to the works of literature that you are passionate about, you can do this too!
As a disabled person, books, music, movies, and multimedia is the mode of transportation that allows people, like myself have new experiences, eras, opportunities to learn new things, new people, and above all else, more about ourselves. Never let the embers of literature be blown out by technology, rather allow it to augment the experience. Look how audiobooks can add in sound effects that allows us to be even more immersed in the theatre of the mind.
Without further ado. .here is the launch interview. . .

Welcome to a another Novel Publicity Review Tour! Today, we’re helping Author Jeff Altabef launch his new book Red Death!

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We’ve been with Jeff from the start, and we love helping him launch his latest titles. He and his daughter just finished launching the last of The Chosen Series, Scorched Souls, and now it’s time for something new!

To celebrate, we’ve got prizes, sales and more! Check it all out below, and don’t forget to pick up your copy of Red Death. If you love action packed YA adventures, or Jeff’s other YA books like the Chosen Series, we know you’ll love this title too!

Exclusive Blogger only Interview with the Author

We asked author Jeff Altabef 3 questions you won’t see anywhere else besides our tour. They’re fun,

NP: Thanks for offering some extra questions for our bloggers Jeff! First, what’s your favorite meal and drink?

JA: Coffee and chocolate! I’m not sure what that says about me. My favorite time to write is in the morning so coffee is a no-brainer. My mind can’t start to function without my first cup of Joe. I also like to write in coffeehouses from time to time when I need a little more energy and can feed off of those around me. So when in Rome!

I have a pumpkin stuffed with tootsie rolls on my desk. It’s a terrible habit that I quit from time to time, but it keeps coming back. I just grabbed another one! I’d like to say my favorite writing food is something healthy like kale, but I won’t lie, and I hate kale!

NP: Some of our staff have a love hate relationship with chocolate and coffee too! I bet that’s pretty common with our bloggers too. Now, the next question is tough, but do your best! Who was your favorite Character to write in Red Death?

JA: This is such a hard question to answer. I really feel such a close connection to all of these characters, that choosing one is a bit of a “Sophie’s Choice.” I loved to write Piers. I thought he was such a deep character and certainly Aaliss was a lot of fun. She’s a really strong character that most people love. The Viper and the High Priest were also a lot of fun. I always love dwelling on the nasty characters, but my favorite character to write was probably Wilky. I did a bunch of research before starting to make sure I captured someone with his condition just right. In many ways, he’s the real hero of the series. Now I feel bad that I didn’t mention Eamon or P’mina. Argh!

NP For such a tough question you did a really good job of explaining why so many characters in Red Death are lovable. Last but not least, and it may be another head-banger…who are your favorite authors?

JA: This is a tough question too! I love a wide variety of genres. Really everything from thrillers (Dean Koontz), to historical fiction (Bernard Cornwell), to mysteries (Jonathan Kellerman) and even horror (Steven King). In the Young Adult genre I really like the characters Sarah J. Maas writes in the Glass Throne series. They come across as strong and memorable. I absolutely loved the End of Days series by Susan Ee. Her dystopian world and the use of angels was totally brilliant. I love the first person voice Joelle Charbonneau writes in the Testing Trilogy. She was a huge help when writing the Chosen Trilogy. Still, if I had one writing wish and could write like anyone, I’d choose Christopher Moore. He makes writing funny characters and situations seem effortless. I love his books!

Wow, those are some really interesting authors, and definitely diverse. I bet you’ve introduced our readers to some great new authors! Thanks again for doing our interview Jeff!

You can sign up to Jeff Altabef’s newsletter and get a FREE short story at: http://www.jeffaltabef.com/

Exclusive Excerpt!

Chapter 5 – Eamon

Eamon studied the faces around the campfire, worry etched on his own as he wondered whether this would be the last time they would all gather together. He sat between his two older brothers, King Dermot and Prince Fintan. Dermot had lived six winters more than Eamon had, and Fintan one, yet he was the planner and worrier. Often he wished he could be more like them, but he never stopped fretting about tomorrow, the next season, the next winter. All the council members, twelve in total, joined them this night, forming a loose circle around a campfire that had started to lose its intensity. They met in the Courtyard, in the middle of the Stronghold, a small city protected by a sturdy stone wall. The Stronghold stood in the center of Dermot’s kingdom between the Outpost to the north and the Settlement to the south.

When Eamon realized everyone had stopped talking and were looking at him, he remembered what they had been discussing. “We’ll have to slaughter more cattle this year. The tribe’s grown since last winter.” The answer was obvious to him.

“The herd’s also added numbers this year, my Lord,” added Keenan, the Cattle Master. Built broad and strong like a steer, he had been Cattle Master for three years, and Dermot trusted him. “I reckon we could cull the herd by another twenty over last year and still maintain the size.”

All eyes turned toward Dermot. His reign had already lasted six years, almost an eternity. The Sword of Power lay across his lap, a long sword so heavy that it required two hands to wield it in battle. Its blade gleamed in the firelight, and the many rubies in the gold and silver hilt sparkled brilliantly. An inscription, written in a language no one understood, ran down both sides of the blade and glimmered in the firelight. The smithies could no longer make a weapon like the Sword of Power. That knowledge had been lost. They made other swords, fine ones, victorious ones, but none so grand. Only the King could wield the Sword of Power, the tribe’s finest.

Check out these great prizes from author Jeff Altabef, including a six month Kindle Unlimited Subscription! Did you know we offer exclusive reviewer prizes for tours just like this one? Want in on it? Sign up to Novel Publicity’s Newsletter for more great review opportunities!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Advanced Praise for Red Death

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Not sure if Red Death is for you? Take a look at this advanced praise from MidWest Book Reviews and The US Review.

“Red Death will appeal to a wide audience since it has something for everyone. It’s action-packed, with plenty of chases and fights for those who enjoy adventures and drama. There are enough twists to surprise those who are intrigued by political intrigue, suspense, and cliffhangers. Amid kingdoms to unite, princes to save, and lives on the line, there is also a playful romance sprinkled throughout for those who desire some lightheartedness.” Maria A. Hughes, The US Review

“…[A] thought-provoking saga about belief systems and religion, courage, adaptability, greed and goals of ruling humanity, and a seemingly juggernaut of change that rolls over everyone in its path….[P]erfect for readers who appreciate the complex worlds and feisty protagonists of The Hunger Games and similar novels.” Pick of the Month for November, Midwest Book Review

About the Book

rd-ebook-coverWhat happens when everything you believed turns out to be a lie?

Every child of Eden fears the Red Death. All those afflicted with the plague die young, their souls stripped away as punishment for ancient sins long forgotten. For centuries, Guardians have protected Eden from the Red Death by killing outsiders who stray too close.

Seventeen-year-old Aaliss is a highly-trained Guardian, but when her rather odd thirteen-year-old brother, Wilky, discovers a cure to the plague, her world turns upside down. Branded as traitors by the corrupt High Priest, Aaliss and Wilky are forced to seek refuge in the last place Aaliss thought she’d ever go—beyond the boundaries of Eden and into the land of the Soulless. Here they must navigate a medieval world filled with witches, magic, and warrior kingdoms run by Elders only a few years older than her.

Aaliss yearns to return home, but when her heart tugs her deeper into the world of the Soulless, she questions everything she once believed. Has her soul been taken? Will she and Wilky fall victim to the Red Death, or might they die sooner in the center of a battle that threatens to tear apart the Soulless world? Or… might Aaliss finally find, against all odds, what her heart has yearned for all along?

About the Author

headshotJeff Altabef is an award-winning author who lives in New York with his wife, two daughters, and Charlie the dog. He spends time volunteering at the writing center in the local community college. After years of being accused of “telling stories,” he thought he would make it official. He writes in both the thriller and young adult genres.

In the Young Adult genre, Jeff co-authored the Chosen Trilogy with his teenage daughter, Erynn. The Chosen Series has won multiple awards including the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for Best Coming of Age Novel, the 2015 Beverly HIlls Book Award for Best YA Fiction, and a Mom’s Choice Award.

As an avid Knicks fan, Jeff is prone to long periods of melancholy during hoops season. Jeff has a column on The Examiner focused on writing and a blog designed to encourage writing by those who like telling stories.

You can connect with Jeff on his website, Facebook, Twitter & Newsletter.

Ashampoo Burning Studio 18 In-Depth Review:

Ashampoo Burning Studio 18 In-Depth Review:

You may recall that I reviewed the flagship burning suite from Ashampoo, called Burning Suite 16, not too long ago. Now they have released the updated replacement, entitled Burning Studio 18, and it is packed with nice features and improved functions. Everything that you loved from the prior entry is here, only better, and easier to use. Now, let’s get into the details, and see what is on offer.

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If you are like me, you enjoy listening to your tunes, when you are out and about. This extends to traveling in the car, and this time of the year, singing along with Christmas music. Many newer automotive makers have vehicle product lines have A/V smart radio receivers are factory installed. This is nice to have, without adding an after-market unit, but it comes with some hurdles. Many different radios can only playback certain file formats, while excluding others from the list.

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Burning Studio 18 has a sure-fire way to make it possible to make a disc that will be compatible for whatever device is in the car, and playback is a breeze. The program is designed to allow you to select from numerous presets for radios/playback devices that take the guesswork out of this process, an excellent program feature for 21st Century music disc authoring. This is a must-have feature for disc authoring of today’s digital music.

People this time of year make numerous photos, video, and memories of the holiday festivities. When they sit down to compile the images into a cohesive whole, and lay out albums, it can be overwhelming and in disarray as to how best to present them to the group. Many have elected to turn them into slideshows and add in music and transitions, so they can be shown on the computer and/or TV.

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Since the release of Burning Studio 18, this excellent program has added the support for MPEG-4 H.264/AAC audio-video file formats. This allows you to create state-of-the-art HD videos that give you the sheen of a Hollywood production, yet star you and your friends and family. Now when you add transitions and sound effects, you will how numerous ways to make your memories sparkle.

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Data breaches and e-mail scandals make the headlines, it seems weekly. From the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government, and the recent election fiasco, on down to local government office being ransomed by hackers, to ordinary people getting their personal computers locked out, unless Bitcoin is paid for its release. Now, more than ever, people need solid, controlled environments to backup and secure their data for these and other reasons. Burning Studio 18, and the stable of single and multi-span volume backups/archives. Knowing that you can put your trust in this program, and know that if the worse happens, you can get your data (and to a certain extent, your life) back. This cannot be understated and brushed aside, as a core feature for burning software.

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These are but a few, key features that have been added and/or improved with this edition of the software. I know that if you try this version, you will be very happy with these changes. If you act now (December 2016), you will find that many of Ashampoo’s products are on sale, with significant discounts to be had. As always, the trial version of the program will allow you try it out for yourself. Until next time, Merry Christmas and keep on techin’ . . .

The Jakkattu Vector Book Launch Review

The Jakkattu Vector Book Launch Review

Welcome to another Novel Publicity tour! We’re so excited for the release of The Jakkattu Vector by P.K. Tyler that we wanted to celebrate with a great giveaway featuring a Kindle Fire, one of a kind Jakkattu Vector bookmark and a special book bundle from the author herself!

 My take on this book:

While my usually wheelhouse focuses on the technology sector, I wanted to introduce you to a nice, engrossing sci-fi fantasy book that evokes the best Geo-political aspects of the Dune book series, with a strong, female protagonist slant,  like Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Beatrice (Tris) from the Divergent book/film series. As each story development takes place, the reader becomes engrossed in the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by Sabaal, as she rises from lab rat, to potential rebellion leader.  In a parallel storyline, Julip Thorne seeks answers to the underpinning actions that allowed the leadership of the Greenland Reservation to establish itself, and at what cost. How can these two characters change the world, in which they exist? You will have to read this book to get these and other questions answered. In short, 4.4 starts out of 5.0 stars


About the Book

tjv-ebook-coverThey came as saviors to a deteriorating Earth

Julip Thorne questions whether there is more to life beyond the barren dirt, acidic seas, and toxstorms her people work and die in. Living in poverty on the withering Greenland Human Reservation, she wonders if the alien Mezna goddesses are truly as holy as the temple preaches. Julip begins to dig deeper into the history of the planet and her leaders’ rise to power. But nothing can prepare her for the atrocities she uncovers.

Meanwhile, Jakkattu prisoner Sabaal suffers constant torture and heinous medical experiments as her Mezna-priest captors seek to unlock the key to her genetic makeup. Escaping from captivity, she finds herself suddenly alone on the hostile alien planet of Earth. To survive, she’s forced to work with the same Mezna-human hybrids she’s loathed her entire life, but the more they work together, the more they realize that their enemy is the same.

When humans and Mezna collide, will Sabaal turn out to be the genetic vector the Mezna have been searching for all along, or will she spark the flame that sets a revolution ablaze?

About the Author

pavartiktylerP.K. Tyler is the author of Speculative Fiction and other Genre Bending novels. She’s also published works as Pavarti K. Tyler and had projects appear on the USA TODAY Bestseller’s List.

“Tyler is essentially the indie scene’s Margaret Atwood; she incorporates sci-fi elements into her novels, which deal with topics such as spirituality, gender, sexuality and power dynamics.” – IndieReader

Pav attended Smith College and graduated with a degree in Theatre. She lived in New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off-Broadway. Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry for several international law firms. Now located in Baltimore Maryland, she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not penning science fiction books and other speculative fiction novels, she twists her mind by writing horror and erotica.

You can follow PK Tyler on Facebook, Twitter, and sign up for her newsletter, or visit her website here.

Incomedia WebSite X5 Evolution 13 Review

Incomedia WebSite X5 Evolution 13 Review

A few months back, I brought to your attention the nice, development-ready platform, Incomedia WebSite X5 Evolution 12, and with the programs stable of site design tools, layouts, and templates. Fast forward to this month (October 2016), and you have the updated release of this fine suite, entitled WebSite X5 Evolution 13. Included with this update, is a bevy of new templates, stock images, graphic libraries, eCommerce site tools, social media buttons/applets, and so much more. You may wonder do these new features warrant the upgrade price. Let’s go through the process, and see what is on offer, and what is best for each type of user.websitex5_800px

If you are someone, like myself, and have your own blog site, having the new tools, such as a large stock royalty-free image library (now numbering at 700,000 images), is a blessing, as I can use the images to augment my posts, with demonstration images, along with the licensed images of the products that I review. I do not have a budget to purchase images/logos/design vector images, as a hobbyist blogger, but now I can choose from the built-in libraries to find what I need for future posts.

pro_en_xlAnother element of this update is enhanced eCommerce tools, with strong-level integration with payment processing gateways that work with your online storefront, which allows you to take a nice range of credit cards that you can accept. I do not have a need of this type of site tools, but my wife does run an online store, where she sells her artwork and hopefully, someday her books and instructional materials. I plan to introduce these, new financial purchasing tools to her, so she can incorporate this into her payment structure, to help cut out the “middleman” and reduce her cost overhead in processing fees.

incomedia-website-x5-product-specificationsMy blog audience and exposure is intrinsically tied to my social media profile. I have been able to contact numerous companies, their representatives, and vested individuals, who want to support my cause of raising awareness for the disabled and technology. One day that I do that, on a day-to-day basis is my contacting companies, through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other media outlets. On top of that, I enter numerous contests with many groups, and disseminate those promotional activities, through these social channels, so you, my readers can take advantage of these along with me.

If, and when I can move to a dedicate domain site, I hope to add these built-in plugins and social buttons from Incomedia’s WebSite X5 13. I want to do this to streamline this process, and make it possible for you interface directly with me, on my site, auto re-post my content to multiple social media channels, and maybe have future giveaways with these features, down the line. Having an integrated social media system will make my portfolio of content much more cohesive entity, and centralized that is currently capable.

incomedia_website_x5_logo_redI could go on and on, in hashing out the new features, but the best service that I can do for you is to tell you the three tiers that this software come in, and their price points. The starting tier is WebSite X5 Start 13, which includes 25 pages to make/manage, 50 templates, and the ability to make sites for desktop computers. This only cost $19.99 USD; nice budget-conscious price point that allows you to utilize this software much more than what a trial can offer you. The next tier is WebSite X5 Evolution 13, which is what I need for my projects/sites, and the one I recommend for the majority of people, who need web page design software. The cost of this is $79.00 USD, and has many, many more features, templates, pages to manage, and the ability to offer online storefronts. The top-tier of this product family is WebSite X5 13 Professional that has all of the aforementioned features, options, and a full-featured eCommerce suite that supports storefronts, payment systems, registration of users, and an inventory system, second to none. These wide –ranging feature set comes at a higher price than the other tiers, but considering what you get for the price (being able to use a license on up to two machines) the cost of $199.00 USD is a great buy!

logo_800px-blackIf you have ever had the pleasure to interact with Incomedia, whether as a customer, a potential customer, or someone who has some questions to make a decision or solve an issue, you know they stand behind what they publish/sell. This should give you peace of mind, in deciding to either upgrade to the new version/tier or become a new customer for the first time. Whatever you choose, I can tell you that you will never be disappointed that you considered Incomedia, and their products. As always keep on techin’. . .

Product Review: Steganos Privacy Suite 18 In-Depth

Product Review: Steganos Privacy Suite 18 In-Depth

A constant theme and topic of discussion is the arena of Internet security, and its impact and reach in 21st. Century society. Ever since the dawning of this new century, and the advent of global terrorism attacks, the question of intelligence gathering has become the forefront focal point law enforcement, and the importance it plays in prevention of such vile attacks. While it is a vital component to investigation techniques to gather electronic intelligence, the risk/reward balance of intruding on innocent citizens and foreign nationals means that personal vigilance and self-policing should be the correct approach to this problem. As we wrestle with the best ways to navigate through this ethical maze, each of us must undertake a sense of personal vigilance and vanguard to safeguard our personal information and vital identity documents, for ourselves.

A recent changing of the guard has occurred, as the control of the U.S. Internet DNS registry passed from the Federal government to the ICANN organization (a multi-national organization that works across borders, companies, and governments, to establish web standards, DNS indices, and support WC3 committee); a twenty year process that was just completed last week. While uses of the web will see little, surface changes in their day-to-day life; having a decentralized governing body might make a more fluid level of privacy oversight and protection. Such developments make it a greater concern that one must “mind there, own store,” and keep prying eyes and ears away from your sensitive data. What is something that you can do to accomplish this task, you may ask. The answers can be found in the pages of this blog, and this fine article.

Various tools and apps I have brought forward to you, my readers, over the last, few years, have been in this vein of personal Internet security, and today, I have another fine addition to bring your attention, Steganos Privacy Suite 18. This multitasking suite allows its users to cover their various “digital fingerprints/footprints” in nine tools; each with its focus on how your information interfaces with the wider world, and the global Internet. Each application contained inside of the main program has such specialized usage and systematic layouts that you should find it easy in getting this program configured with minimal effort. Each tool will make sure that what you share on the web is safe, acceptable, and only what you want to share, and not what Big Brother may want you to share online.

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Confidentiality is a rare commodity in these digitally-pervasive times; where the personal, intimate details of a person’s life, property, financial, and occupational records can be raided with easy aplomb. Numerous data hacks, leaks, and DDoS attacks have laid bare individuals and celebrities’ information that has led to identify theft, public shaming/embarrassment, and cost people millions, if not billions of dollars in losses.  What can a person do to protect themselves from such risks? The answer, as you probably guessed from my articles and many other’s is a multi-faceted approach to personal Internet security.

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A piece of the puzzle is the use of a secured data storage area. Having a dedicated area, walled off from general access makes the contents difficult to hack into or access, remotely without express permission. It also has the added benefit of keeping people from snooping on your private data, at the local level, too.  The ease of use that Steganos Privacy Suite 18 provides is very intuitive and easy to establish. All you have to do is choose a location, size, and once generated, set a password to lock/unlock the area, and began to transfer/use the area for sensitive data/information. I cannot stress how important it should be for you to utilize such a storage solution if you want a nice peace of mind, and knowledge that what you put inside this region of your system is secure.

Having a dedicated space for locking down your files is an important step, but that alone is not sufficient to occlude your vital information from nefarious entities. You must also take additional steps, one which includes cryptography of individual files. Steganos has you covered in this area, as well. Their Privacy Suite 18 has a module, called Crypt & Hide, that allows you to add files/folders, and text into a secured, password-protected file. In doing so, you can restrict access to its contents from parties that you do not want to get their hands on it. The uses of such a security measure can be utilized alone and/or in conjunction with other encryption-level applications and certificate exchange services (e.g. OpenPGP).

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As recent news and technology has shown us, on a global scale, being able to encode our files in a secure container format and transmit them across the web, via e-mail, cloud storage, or CDN site hosting; in a manner that cannot be easily eavesdropped on or waylaid in route. Only be encrypting your files, can you add the technological protections needed to maintain a sense of privacy and autonomy. Sending/storing the file unencrypted is just asking for trouble, so do not make that mistake, and use the Crypt & Hide module from Steganos Privacy Suite 18.

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I could elaborate on the several, other modules, but from what you have already seen, I am sure that you will agree that what this security suite has to offer is more than the price of admission. The cost of this fine program is $59.99 USD, and they offer a free 30-day trial, so you can test out the program, and see if it meets your needs. This fine company stands behind what they produce and sell, so you know that your satisfaction will be attended to by these professionals. I know that once you try this great, spectrum-spanning array of security tools, you will only say one thing, “I will take it!”Until next time, keep on techin’. . .

Disconnect VPN – Privacy Pro 1.13 In-Depth Review:

Disconnect VPN – Privacy Pro 1.13 In-Depth Review:

My readership knows how much I treasure privacy and security, with growing concerns that gain strength, with more revelations that governments, corporations, and hacktivist groups are tracking our movements, week after week. This occurs many times, without our express, implicit, permission or legal presidents that justify such surveillance. I highlight companies that help the honest citizen, fight back against such invasive and overreaching practices. One such company that is fighting the good fight is Disconnect, a heralded Virtual Private Network Provider (VPN).

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For those of my readership, who have nominal knowledge and experience with VPN services, I can assure you the process is very hassle-free with Disconnect, and their service platforms (extensions, plugins, apps, etc.). The instructions are very straightforward and require basic software operation skills for PC, tablets, and smartphones. The value proposition inherent in using a service like this is weighed carefully, and once you see the benefits, I am sure that you will find the price point a solid bargain.

disconnect_logoOne, key way of analyzing how this might be helpful to you, and worth the cost can be seen in the gains that you make in data consumption. In looking at the benefits of having ads, tracking protocols, and other data-gobbling data filtered out of your connection, (via VPN) will not only give you peace of mind, but also better speed utilization and greater privacy that using a direct connection to the web. In prior articles that I have written, along with a cacophony of other tech insiders, who have documented and well cited the fact that every piece of data that comes in the down-link can both eat up any caps on monthly transmission limits, but also clog the storage and memory usage of the receiving devices. This is particularly true of mobile smart devices and hotspots, as most provides give you limited and/or throttled data thresholds/month; such devices also have limited storage/memory capacity (usually stated in GB’s).

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On top of this nuisance/menace potentiality, malware has become a greater threat, as the “black hats” have undertaken making phishing/impostors apps that mimic and steal vital information from unsuspecting customers. One way that such nefarious programs get onto devices is through bogus websites/tracking telemetry. With Disconnect protecting you web-enabled computers and mobile devices, this risk is greatly decreased and said sources will have a more difficult time getting to your identity and personal information. With breaches at some of the largest tech companies in the world, where people’s info was stolen with legitimate apps, it is vitally important to make sure the bogus one’s do not get through.

disconnect_scree_capture01 Another excellent benefit of having a VPN is the ability to circumvent Geo-fencing, or the practice of restricting Internet access, based on your location. While in the nation of the United States of America (where I live), we still have a U.S. Constitutional First Amendment that guarantees us freedom of speech, but in many parts of the world, that is not the case. Having access to a VPN allows the user’s of that network service the anonymity to get redacted information and share details of the inner workings of oppressive regimes. A secondary benefit of a Geo-fencing masking IP is the ability to set/show your location as another region on the world, to enjoy content is available to that part of the world, alone. This must be done, under the auspices of acceptable terms of use of any web services one may be subscribed to as a member.disconnect_screen_capture_smartphone01

You may be asking what does a comprehensive VPN service cost to use. The answer may surprise you, as the cost has a range of prices to choose from, starting at Free (Basic – Protect One Browser, Block Trackers, and Search Privately), $40.00 USD (Pro –Block Trackers & Malware across the entire system, with a 44% speed increase in performance, 39% less bandwidth consumption, and longer battery life (if applicable), and $50.00 USD/yr.- 3 Devices (Premium – Pro privacy and performance, secure WI-FI, and full location masking with the VPN). In addition to these levels of coverage, they have a one-time purchase that offers a VPN module for iOS, called Privacy Pro. The cost of this app is $29.99 USD, and grants the user of an iDevice a nice amount of privacy protection and tracking protection, via a VPN configuration plugin for the operating system. All together, each of these work well in conjunction with each other and make a fine addition to one’s security protection plan. All in all, this is a nice company and nice products to help keep your life, data, and online activity, private. Tell them I sent you, and keep on techin’!

Magic Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 Wide Release, tomorrow!

Tomorrow, Magic Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 drops for PC (via Steam), Xbox 360, Android, and Kindle. It has already released for iOS, coming out on July 9th., for iPad’s that run iOS 6.0 or greater. It is slated to come out for XBox One, later in the year. Sadly, there is not planned a Sony platform (PS3/PS4) release this year.

This is a software title that I look forward to each year, as it allows me to play from a sampling of current card sets and some classic favorites from times past. This software title was responsible for me being brought back into the game, after a long hiatus from playing in my college days. This also helped me learn new mechanics and synergies, to help me catch up on potential metas that I might encounter, in my local stores/playgroups.

The game has had one drawback, until this year: no custom deck building. The closest we have ever had was Sealed mode, from last year, as a Supplemental mode; not the main game. All Duels (2011-2014), relied on pre-cons, card unlocks/deck, deck packs, expansions, and promo codes that unlocked special cards, if you either went to Magic events or got them from gaming websites.This year, custom deck building is the framework that the game is built upon.This has been one of the most requested changes/additions, since the game’s inception, but it has come at a cost. For Magic 2015, there are significant changes to acquire cards, and game streamlining.

Every version of the game, until now, always had supplemental modes that were fun, unique, and varied year-to-year. You have had Archenemy (One player is the enemy, with scheme cards, opposed by three challengers to try and defeat them), Planechase (Four-player free-for-all, that uses Plane cards to change game conditions), Sealed (Limited format, where you build 40-card deck from random Booster packs), and a personal favorite, Two-headed Giant (2v2 Teams, that share life total, and work to defeat opposing team, with their two decks).. Now you only have Single player against the A.I. or Standard 4-Player Free-For-All Multiplayer; that’s it!

People are upset and really feel that these added to the game. They also do not like the developer’s attitude that people did not really play these and would not miss them. They have gone as far as to say that Two-headed Giant has not been done well to their satisfaction, so let’s just get rid of it. I have to agree with the gamers on these, as I do miss them, and mainly played 2HG, almost exclusively.

The biggest upset is the new monetary model implemented by Magic 2015. Up to last year, you could get all of the content, throughout the year, for around $35.00 (base game, expansion, deck packs). In Magic 2014, they added Sealed slots for $1.99 each, above the two included in the base game. I understand they sold well, so the handwriting was on the wall.

This year, the base game costs the same (depending on platform), but that is where the similarities end. We know that Alara is an Expansion Plane, almost ready for prime-time, so that will show up, very soon after release for more money, above the base game. That is not normal. Secondly, buying the Gold Bundle on Steam does not get you deck/card unlocks, that costs an extra $15.00 this year. Lastly, and the most inciting thing is the “Premium” Booster paywall. If card were in the base game, you could unlock them without extra cost, by playing. Now that we have open deck building, you have to buy random “Premium” boosters to try and chase 50 pre-selected cards, to get all of the cards, in the game at release. These cost $1.99 (sound familiar), and are estimated to need 14-15 packs to get a full set; an extra $28.00!!!!

So now, the base game (main game, Premium Boosters) costs $38.00, plus speed unlocks for the other 250 cards, if you so desire. Ouch!! This is just when the game launches, and does not cover future planes, card packs, expansions, etc. The cost might push people away from the title, and considering other, online Magic-playing options. I know as a low-income, disabled player this has given me pause, and question buying this title. I do not have $38.00 burning a hole in my meager wallet, and I suspect many others feel that way too. I will probably get this, so I can play with the bulk of M15, but I see this going further to MTGO-Duels hybrid, in cost very soon!

As an addendum to the aforementioned, critical review of the cost model of Magic Duels 2015, I see more people moving to clients like Magic Workstation (www.magicworkstation.com), and its offshoot, Virtual Playtable (www.virtualplaytable.com). While they have a cost upfront (shareware), they allow people to play past, current, and future sets with either their, own cards or digital proxies of cards needed for fun deck making. I, for one, may be moving to that format for the future.