Student Discounts for your Favorite Services: Apple Music, Amazon Prime and Office 365

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Image Credit – ITP Media Group

As the cost of tuitions across the nation continue to rise, companies are offering student customers a break in pricing for some popular services we often use. The following are three of those services, their corresponding pricing to students, and additional information you may find useful;

  • Apple Music – Student Subscription
    • Apple offers the first three months of its popular streaming music service for free followed by a break in pricing for students working towards a bachelor degree, post-graduate degree, or equivalent Higher Education course at a University, College (US only) or Post-Secondary School (Canada only).
    • After the three-month trial, users in the United States and Canada will be changed $4.99 a month.
    • Students can join Apple Music for a discounted membership price for up to 48 months (4 years). The time does not need to be continuous.
    • You will need to validate your enrollment in a qualifying degree program through UNiDAYS, a student validation service, to sign up for student pricing.
  • Amazon Prime Student
    • If you have a .edu e-mail address, you can use it to sign up for a Prime Student
    • As a Prime Student member, you receive a 6-month trial that includes FREE Two-Day Shipping on eligible purchases.
    • Amazon Prime Student will cost you $6.49 per month.
    • According to Amazon, “After your 6-month trial ends, your Prime Student membership makes you eligible to receive a discount on Amazon Prime, including all Prime benefits, for four years or until you graduate, whichever comes first.”
    • Current Amazon Prime members that sign-up for Prime Student will receive a refund for the remaining months left on their current Amazon Prime subscription and no longer have access to certain Amazon Prime benefits during the 6-month trial such as Prime Music, and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library unless you sign up for a paid plan.
  • Microsoft Office 365 University
    • Microsoft offers a steeply discounted version of its popular productivity suite as compared to other Office 365 Plans.
    • For $79.99, eligible students, faculty or staff at Universities and colleges can purchase a 4-year subscription of Office 365 for use on 2 PCs, Macs or tablets including iPad, Android, or Windows, plus 2 phones.
    • PC users get fully installed versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote, plus Publisher and Access, while Mac users get fully installed versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote.
    • Microsoft throws in 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage, an excellent service you can access from any device and online.
    • Support via chat or phone included at no additional cost.
    • Service is compatible with Windows 7 or later and Mac OS X 10.10.

If you use any of these services and are a student, make sure you are taking advantage of this pricing! I hope to post additional discounted services next week. Please share any services you use that are discounted in the comments section. They may be featured in a future blog post!

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Microsoft Office Consumer-Centric Redesign

Office365.jpgImage Credit – Casa Editrice Macity Publishing srl

Microsoft Office has long been the gold standard for productivity, beating out other productivity suite challengers such as those offered by IBM and Corel. With the advent of Google Docs and its ability to be used for free by anyone with a Gmail account, Microsoft has had to renew its commitment to a platform that most users thought of as good enough and found difficult to shell out several hundreds of dollars every few years for an upgraded version.

In a press release issued on June 13, 2018, Microsoft stated that users of their productivity system through their online channel, Office.com, and their subscription service, Office 365, will notice the following changes upon updating their software;

  • Simplified ribbon. A new, updated version of the ribbon is designed to help users focus ontheir work and collaborate naturally with others. People who prefer to dedicate more screen space to the commands will still be able to expand the ribbon to the classic three-line view.
  • New icons and color. Across the apps you’ll start to see new icons and colors built as scalable graphics — so they render with crisp, clean lines on screens of any size. These changes are designed to both modernize Office design and make it more inclusive and accessible.
  • Search. Search will become a much more important element of the user experience, providing access to commands, content and people. With “zero query search” simply placing your cursor in the search box will bring up recommendations powered by AI and the Microsoft Graph.

Over the last year, the company has conducted, “…extensive customer research and spent many months working side-by-side with customers to guide design changes.” It is great that the software giant is reaching out to customers and not just throwing features on the wall to see what sticks like it has with some of its other offerings.

Microsoft has published a YouTube video to show firsthand this new user experience. I welcome the cleaner and modern look of this update.

For many people, Google Docs is good enough. For me as a graduate student, I have had to use Google Docs for group projects because most, if not all, of the cohort has a Gmail account. However, I use Microsoft Office extensively in my professional career and on individual homework assignments, thus, it is my preferred platform. If you are a University Microsoft offers an Office 365 subscription service for university students that is by far the best plan in terms of pricing. I will write more about this in my next blog post, so stay tuned!

Solid-state buttons on deck for next generation Apple Watch

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Image Credit – Fil d’Actu

The next Apple Watch will sport solid state buttons, “…that don’t move up and down but rather sense the touch of a finger…” A source with firsthand knowledge told Fast Company. The same button configuration will remain with the only difference being that owners of the device will no longer be able to click said buttons. “Rather than reacting to the user’s touch by physically moving back and forth, the new buttons will vibrate slightly under the fingertip, using the haptic effect Apple calls the Taptic Engine. (The digital crown will still physically rotate to navigate through content.)

This follows a continuing trend that has been a part of the company since its founding; The embrace of new technologies in their devices. The added benefit to this switch is that it will improve the device’s water resistance and improve battery life, as these solid-state controls take up less space, according to the source. Apple currently uses solid-state storage technology in their line of portable computers and desktops. This article from Ingram Micro Advisor details the benefits of solid-state drives vs. traditional hard drives.

Apple recently held its World Wide Developers Conference in California where it detailed additional features coming to the Apple Watch in their next release of the watch’s operating system. However, the company did not give us a release date of the 4th generation Apple Watch. The following are release dates for previous versions of the device you could use to guess when you think the device may be released;

  • Apple Watch (first-generation): April 24, 2015
  • Apple Watch Series 1 & Series 2: September 16, 2016
  • Apple Watch Series 3: September 22, 2017
  • Apple Watch Series 4: September 2018 perhaps?

There are many great reasons to purchase an Apple Watch, namely their built-in heart rate monitored that it is credited with saving several lives by giving people warnings or irregular heartbeats, but as a power user, I often demand more from the devices I use in terms of features. I have not been fully convinced to buy and Apple Watch yet because of the limited storage space for my music library; 8GB for non-LTE and 16GB for the LTE version. The new solid-state buttons coupled with at least 32GB of storage (fingers crossed) may just be enough to convince me to buy one! For anyone else, there is no reason not to own one of these devices, especially if you are invested in Apple’s ecosystem of devices.

Random Three- Microsoft + AMD?, Microsoft’s New Groove, & Twitter Approves of Birthday’s

Microsoft and AMD Sitting in a Tree

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Image Credit – ZDNet

Rumors are swirling that Microsoft is interested in purchasing the struggling chipmaker AMD. Currently AMD makes the System-on-a-Chip (SoC) used inside the Microsoft’s Xbox One, and Sony’s PlayStation 4. Currently, both companies pay about $100.00 for each SoC on their respective consoles. Buying AMD would save Microsoft a ton of money. Let’s not forget HoloLens. AMD could be used to further Microsoft’s efforts in virtual reality by designing chipsets for the gear.

Slam dunk, no?

Maybe not. AMD has other business attached to it that are not doing so well. It’s Computing & Graphics division is losing money, and lets not forget Intel. Intel licenses its x86 chip technology to AMD. Toss in the the Department of Justice, and you got yourself a Spanish soap opera.

Microsoft’s New Groove

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Image Credit – Engadget

Something has happened in Redmond, and it might be a part of Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella’s doing for big changes in the company. Microsoft has replaced its Xbox Music app with a service called ‘Groove Music.’ No one outside some inner circle at Microsoft knows what’s going on. This could be a rebranding effort, buying of the app, or a possible selling of/ spin off of the service. Time will tell.

Curiously, there is a service already called Groove that is available on iOS and Windows Phone (oddly enough) You can check out the companies page here for a detailed explanation of the service.

‘Twitter now allows users to add birthdays to their profiles’

#coolstorybro. This one pretty much explains its self. According to CNET, “The social networking service said Monday with the new feature, users are now able to share and celebrate their birth date along with other users — complete with colorful animated balloons on that special day.

Users can opt whether to share their B-day with the public, their followers, who they follow or “only me.” They can select the “edit profile” option on Twitter and include the birth month and day or the birth year separately.”

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog, and follow me on Twitter @delrealest! Please leave you comments, as well. I look forward to reading them.

Blackberry’s Shot at Redemption and iPhone 6s Expectations

Blackberry Folds

At Mobile World Congress this year, Blackberry showed off it’s first ‘Blackberry 10 Slider’ device, codenamed ‘Venice.’ According to N4BB, The Blackberry ‘Venice’ slider specs are:

  • 4-inch Quad-HD display
  • 18 MP rear-camera
  • 5 MP front-camera
  • 8 GHz Hexa-core (Snapdragon 808 chipset) 64-bit
  • 3 GB RAM

The kicker is that it will be running Google’s Android operating system. Even Blass, currently a freelance editorialist at Mashable first tweeted a tantalizing picture of the lower part of a never before seen Blackberry device that sports a QWERTY keyboard. He later retracted from that image, and posted this one.

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Image Credit – Twitter @evleaks

This device is certainly eye-catching. Additional corrections were that it should be expected to launch in November. Blackberry has struggled against Android and iOS, mostly because of a lack of useful apps. It now commands a sad 1% of the mobile OS market, behind Windows Phone!

iPhone 6s- What can we Expect?

I will not be talking about the iPhone 7 because that is still too far way to be of concern. What will be coming soon is the iPhone 6s, if Apple continues its current cycle of every other release. MacRumors has posted a page dedicated posting what we know so far and what we can expect from the new device. As expected, we can anticipate that a new device will launch in the fall, just in time for the holiday shopping season. A summary of features include:

  • Expect screen sizes to remain the same
  • Possibly a new ‘rose gold’ iPhone option
  • Possibly stronger aluminum to avaid another ‘bendgate’
  • Force Touch technology (available on the new line of Mac Book Pro’s
  • 12 MP camera
  • ne microphone will be added near the speaker to enhance voice quality;
  • A9 processor upgraded with 2GB LPDDR4
  • Improved recognition rate of Touch ID to promote Apple Pay;
  • Gesture control support

These are welcomed upgrades, and I can’t wait to find out if they are true, or not.

Please remember to leave me your comments and follow me @delrealest on Twitter! I look forward to what you all have to say.

Worldwide Beats

Worldwide, and always on. One of the biggest differentiators between Apple Music and Spotify, and other streaming services is that Apple has in a dedicated radio stations through its Beats 1 channel. According to Apple, “It broadcasts 24/7 to over 100 countries from our studios in Los Angeles, New York, and London.”

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Image Credit – Engadget 

You can think of Beats 1 as you would Pandora. You will be able to created tailored radio stations based on a song, artist, album, or genre.  Once you do that, that station will play similar music it feels you would enjoy. You are also able to like songs so that Apple Music will play more like it, and rate down the ones you don’t so that it will play less of that music.

Apple has tapped DJ, record producer, and television personality Zane Lowe to host the stations flagship music show. He’ll be dropping his music knowledge on listeners, as well as host interviews, and play new music. In true fashion, his first guest was Eminem. Dr. Dre will host his show “The Pharmacy” every other Saturday. “The Pharmacy” aired today at 3PM PST. Killer Mike and El-P launched their radio show “Run The Jewels” on July 3rd. Drake, Pharrell, and more will be acting as hosts on the station in the coming days or weeks.

Membership to Apple Music allows you to skip as many tracks as you like. Nice. Apple has a full programming schedule available for listeners through Tumblr. Julys line up includes personalities such as Ellie Goulding, Elton John, Jaden Smith, and The Fat Jewish. If you look hard enough, you will be able to find programming to satisfy your taste.

Listening to Beats 1, there is definitely variety. I just tuned in to “The Pharmacy” and was really taken in by the awesome mixing of all of those hip-hop songs together, but I had to turn it off after 15 minutes because Dr. Dre, or whoever was announcing kept interrupting to tell me I was listening to the “The Pharmacy.” Thanks, buddy; I think I understand that.

Don’t forget to follow me in Twitter @delrealest, and leave you comments about Beats 1. Happy 4th!

Microsoft Edge- Potentially Your Next Favorite Browser

Internet Explorer has had quite the life span. It brought down Netscape, and was one of the reasons for the almost split of Microsoft. Unfortunately, the dominance was the reason for its downfall. Microsoft feel complacent and forgot to update IE after Internet Explorer 6. After uproar following numerous security vulnerabilities, and fresh competition from Mozilla, Microsoft updated Internet Explorer, but it was too late; The damage was done in consumer’s mind.

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Image Credit- Slate

When Microsoft announced Project Spartan (Edge’s codename), the reaction from the tech sphere was one of excitement and surprise. Internet Explorer will still be around in Windows 10, but only to appease businesses using legacy applications. Edge was introduced at Microsoft’s BUILD conference. The logo is the familiar E from Internet Explorer, but with a different color scheme.

Edge is completely redesigned, and uses no code from IE. This ensures that performance will be adequate for todays web. Microsoft recognized, “… some enterprises have legacy web sites that use older technologies designed only for Internet Explorer, such as custom ActiveX controls and Browser Helper Objects. For these users, Internet Explorer will also be available on Windows 10. Internet Explorer will use the same dual rendering engines as Spartan, ensuring web developers can consistently target the latest web standards.” The new EdgeHTML engine is rendering engine that replaces the Trident engine used by IE. 200,000 lines of code from Internet Explorer were removed for Edge, as well as 300 interfaces removed.

Edge is the first browser with a personal assistant, Cortana. She provides you with voice control, search, and personalized information. One note integration, and annotation is introduced into Edge. This feature will span through the desktop, and mobile Windows 10 devices. Mobile devices will allow you to draw with your fingers, or stylus. PC users can use their mouse. Nice.

Edge will be the default browser in Windows 10. Edge will be a formidable rival to Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome, and will be one of the highlights of Windows 10 once it launches. It is exciting to see Microsoft bury the hatchet with Internet Explorer and come back full force with Edge. The ultimate winners here are consumers. You will be provided with a more secure, and faster internet experience.