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Xperia Z4 Tablet Gets November Security Patch

I saw this post on the +Xperia Blog​​ the other day, but missed the part where the tablet was getting an update too. I was pleasantly surprised by a system update tonight, so close to the Nougat update on my phone. It looks like this update was just for the security patch, which is fine with me. I am looking foward to the upcoming Nougat update. I think it will be even more useful on my tablet than it is on my phone.
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Nougat on Xperia X Performance Dual-Sim

It's arrived. I'm trying to get used to the way things look now, but so far, so good. It's great to see Sony on top of the updates this time around. With their goal of hitting 7.1 first, now is a great time to get a Sony phone. Now they need to market their products in the US, and bring back some of their stores.
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Xperia X Performance Nougat Update

Apparently my phone is first in line for Sony's update to Android Nougat. I'm looking forward to checking it out.
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Learning to Code with Robots

Coding is gaining popularity as a life skill. There are a number of great ways to learn to code, and a variety of coding platforms to choose from. This is one such platform, and is designed to be simple enough for for students in Kindergarten, but also complex enough for adults. If you want to learn basic programming skills and have fun doing it, check out Root. The first 1,000 people to join the mailing list can get one for $199, but there is no retail cost listed. The developers are currently fundraising, and hoping to make the Root available by next year.

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Thoughts on Sony's Absence in the US Market

This article reflects many of my own frustrations with Sony's smartphone strategy in the United States. Sony consistently produces stellar phones, and refuses to market or even make them available in the US.

The article discusses the decision to sell the phones unlocked, rather than through US carriers. I disagree with the author, and think this was a good move at the time, and is still a good move as more mobile users are able to choose their devices independent of 2-year contracts. The problem remains, however, that Sony hasn't marketed their phones properly. Nobody knows a better phone is out there. Those who do know have a hard time finding a vendor from which to purchase a Sony phone.

I have proudly owned a wide range of +Sony Xperia devices over the years, including the original Sony Ericsson camera phones, and the Xperia X10, Xperia ion, and the Xperia Z Ultra. I have also enjoyed the Sony Tablet S, Xperia Tablet S, and Xperia Tablet Z, and am looking at the Xperia Z4 Tablet. The only Xperia I haven't liked is the T-Mobile Xperia Z1s.

Over the years, I have written about each iteration of Sony's Android offerings, and even got to review a few demo units. I have been as confused as the linked article's author, and the representative from the +Xperia Blog, as to why +Sony is neglecting the US market. We like having choices, and the market leader (Samsung) is trying its best to clone Apple's look and feel. Sony should be ideally positioned to succeed here, and yet remains absent.

I am cautiously optimistic that Sony will change its US strategy in the relatively near future. Until then, I will be stuck monitoring Amazon to see if the latest phone is finally available. I just hope it is not too late.

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100 Atari Games Bundled on Steam
Or, time to finally open a Steam account

An Atari game bundle has come to Steam for a great price. $20 will get you the games many of us played as kids, including Frogger, Centipede, and Q*Bert, to name a few. To sweeten the deal, Steam is even discounting the collection to $16.99 until March 31st. Read more at SlashGear, or go straight to Steam to download your childhood favorites.

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Get 2 GB of Free Storage - Google Security Checkup

Google is celebrating Safer Internet Day by offering an incentive for making sure your account is up to date. Just go through their step-by-step guide through your various points of contact with Google, and they'll reward you with 2GB of free storage. The process is really simple, and should take you less than 5 minutes. While you should be checking up on your account as a matter of course, it is always nice when Google throws in a free gift. The offer is good through February 17, so be sure to take care of this soon.

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Sony Concept Program Paying Off

In the early days of Android, there were a number of different flavors available for each iteration of Android's sweet treats. Samsung heavily modified Android with TouchWiz, attempting to clone Apple's iOS. HTC used Sense, and Motorola used Motoblur. Sony for the most part cooperated with vanilla Android - they still used a skin, but it was pretty close to the real Android experience. This was even before the launch of the Lollipop Concept, and subsequent Marshmallow Concept program recently deployed.

Sony has consistently improved upon limitations in Android, and has consistently kept pace with the Nexus phones in terms of a "pure" experience. In this review, the author goes into detail on how Sony continues to lead the pack in terms of Android skins.

Check out the post and see what Android can be, with a little help from it's Sony friends.

Note to +Sony, +Sony Xperia: You could use more good PR like this Android Central article. The U.S. wants your phones. Your products just need an earnest marketing campaign.


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LEGO Dimensions

Interactive toys and games have come a long way since the days of Captain Power, especially when it comes to video games. Leading games from Skylanders, to Disney Infinity, to LEGO Dimensions and even some of the newer, lesser-known games like Nintendo's Amiibo or Disney Playmation make for a pretty wide array of options - many of them quite good. I picked up Disney Infinity starting with version 2, then added the PS Vita version and finally version 3 on the PS4. I really enjoy Infinity, but the lack of interactivity between versions means some of my characters tend to gather dust. This is a limitation shared by Skylanders, but not by LEGO Dimensions.

I picked up LEGO Dimensions just before Christmas, and have really enjoyed it. Anyone growing up in the 1980s can appreciate the massive wave of nostalgia that sweeps over you from the start. The game hits most of the bright spots from our childhood memories, with the exception of Marvel and Star Wars (and even Disney). I'm hoping this is not solely because of Disney's competing game. It is possible that Disney is aware of the massive potential for earning more money by spreading its characters to every available game rather than hording them on proprietary systems, so hopefully we'll see new characters soon.

Even without those characters, there are more than enough to get you started. Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Scooby Doo, and Dr. Who provide a lot of fun immersive and interchangeable interactions for a nostalgic gamer. I really enjoyed The Simpsons and Portal 2 as well.

"_One especially nice feature to LEGO Dimensions is that every character, regardless of franchise or Pack they came from, is playable in every part of the game._"

I loved hearing the actual voices of many of the characters. TT Games went all out on this one, and it shows.

If you wanted to see why Dimensions is worth picking up, check out the source article at Tech Times. It is a pretty comprehensive review of the system.

How about you? Have you played Dimensions yet? Do you prefer Disney Infinity? Or Star Wars?

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Star Wars: Battlefront

When I went to purchase Star Wars: Battlefront on Amazon, I saw a lot of negative reviews about the game. A lot of the top comments went something along the lines of, "It's a beautiful game, but there is no campaign mode," or it "gets old in two hours." Out of 384 reviews (at the time of this post), it has earned a meager 2.7 stars on Amazon. I decided to do the smart thing and check it out on Redbox first. I'm glad I did.

Star Wars: Battlefront really is a beautiful game. It immerses you in the Star Wars universe, and the characters are realistic. On this point I agree with the reviews. I disagree with some of the other reviews though.

On the matter of getting bored easily - this is Star Wars. That is actually enough for some people. Those that complain about the campaign mode may not have played the original Battlefront games. Sure, you could try to defeat planets in succession until ultimately winning, but I really wouldn't describe it as a proper campaign or story mode. That this doesn't let you conquer the galaxy is not that disappointing to me.

One area that does disappoint me is the dependence on PlayStation Plus to use Multiplayer. I have yet to be sold on PlayStation Plus. You get free games, that you immediately lose when you cancel your subscription. A lot of the games are subpar, and I find better games on Android. I'm not sure that I need to pay $60+ a year just so I can use the multiplayer features. On a game like Battlefront, though, multiplayer was a huge selling point.

The chaos of a Star Wars battle is enhanced in multiplayer mode. I normally prefer playing a game on my own, and don't like it when trophies are based on multiplayer activities. One reason for this is that eventually the developer decides to shut down the server, rendering those unearned trophies useless. What bothers me especially in this case, is that you have to pay for PlayStation Plus in order to earn most of your trophies. If I am buying a game, I shouldn't have to pay extra to earn trophies.

Another thing that bothered me was the requirement to log into EA in order to navigate the game menu. It picked up an old username I'd forgotten about, so I chose not to log in when I found I couldn't update the username. Every time I tried to start a game, the window would pop up telling me I needed to log in. Eventually I reset my password and logged in, just to stop the pop-ups.

Those two frustrating points might be too much for some gamers, and there are plenty of other options for people wanting a solid story, and less repetition. I found that I gained quite a bit from the experience though, and decided to buy the game. It should arrive by tomorrow, so I am looking forward to playing the Battle of Jakuu this weekend. I'm also looking forward to playing this with my kids, and also dusting off Battlefront and Battlefront 2 on the old Xbox 360 as we count down to Thursday's opening of The Force Awakens.

What about you? Have you played Battlefront yet? Did the reviews keep you from buying the game, or did you just go for it? Does anyone else like the game?

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