The best digital presents to e-give this holiday season

The digital realm opens up a whole new set of options for your gift buying. Rather than purchasing another pair of socks or bottle of booze for your loved one, you could gift them a subscription to a music streaming service or a specific app you think they’ll like.

These presents don’t take up room, so they won’t gather dust if they sit unused. Even better, they can be delivered instantly, so they’re perfect for last-minute holiday shopping. And of course, they require no wrapping paper. Here are the best digital gifts on our radar.

If you’ve been loaning a family member your Netflix username and password for months, break that dependence and help them start their own account. Netflix sells gift cards for this exact purpose: You provide a set payment and an email address, and Netflix will send a promo code to the recipient. Then your loved one signs up for an account and applies the promo code. Even if they already have an account, they can apply your gift to get a few free months. Then your friend or relative can stream as many available movies and TV shows as they want for as long as the gift balance lasts. They have the option to keep paying afterward the gift runs out, but don’t worry—you won’t be the one who’s billed every month.

This makes a great gift because you can choose how much to give, from $15 to $100. Depending on the type of account—number of screens, level of resolution—Netflix costs $8 to $14 a month, so choose your price based on what your recipient will want, and you can afford. $15 to $100.

If the person you’re buying for already has Netflix, you can still help them access streaming video: Try purchasing a Hulu gift card instead. Or read on to learn how to buy individual streaming movies.

Spotify is one of the most famous streaming services on the planet—and it’s just as easy to buy a subscription for your loved one as it is to purchase a Netflix gift. With Spotify Premium, your recipient can enjoy benefits like offline playlist syncing and no ads. Once you purchase a gift card, your friend or relative receives a code they can use to sign up, or convert their free account to a premium one, or extend their existing premium subscription. When the balance runs out, they have the option to continue paying.

You can pick up a Spotify gift card online. Prices range from $10 for one month to $30 for three months to $60 for six months, and if you want to give a whole year of music, it will set you back $120. $10 to $120.

Although Spotify stands prominently, you can also buy gift cards to other music-streaming services. For example, while you can’t specifically give an Apple Music subscription, but you can purchase an iTunes Store Gift Card, which the recipient can then use to pay Apple Music’s $10 per month fee.

Seen an app that’s just perfect for someone else in your life? Send it them as a digital present. Well, sort of. On Android, you can’t give specific apps; you have to buy general Google Play Store gift cards, which are only available via third-party sources. You can purchase a card from PayPal, Amazon, Walmart, and a few other online sources, or walk into a physical store like Best Buy, Walmart, or Target.

On top of that, the minimum spend is $10, which is probably enough for several apps, or an app and a movie. You’ll need to specify the app you had in mind in the gift message—and after that, the recipient is free to spend the balance however they like. $10 or more

Gifting an app on the iOS platform is much easier than it is on Android. Once you make your purchase, the recipient gets an email that links direct to the app you specified, all paid for and ready to download. You can arrange to send these gifts immediately or schedule them to arrive on a specific date—such as Christmas morning.

On an iPhone or iPad, find the app you want in the App Store, tap the three dots in the top-right corner of its page, and select Gift App. On a computer, look up the app’s page in iTunes, click the down-arrow next to its price, and choose Gift This. (These gifting options don’t appear next to free apps—for those, you can just email a link.) Follow the prompts to enter the email address of the recipient and an optional message, and finally, Apple will charge your account. The price will depend on the cost of that particular program. Various prices.

When you give someone an Amazon Prime subscription, they’ll get a heap of benefits like faster deliveries, access to a library of streaming videos, unlimited cloud storage for photos, and a Twitch Prime account for video games. This gift is also easy: Amazon has set up a dedicated page for this purpose.

First, you need to decide how long the gift subscription should last, some period between three months ($39) and 12 months ($119). Then enter the recipient’s email address and purchase. Amazon takes your payment right away, but you can choose to delay delivery—up to one whole year—which makes this gift work well for birthdays or special occasions. $39 to $119.

You can treat someone to a movie night without investing in a full streaming subscription—just buy them a film from the Google Play Store or Apple’s iTunes. This is possible on both platforms, although neither has managed to make the process as seamless as we’d like.

When it comes to Android, you run into the same problem you faced with gift apps: You can’t give someone a specific movie from the Play Store. What you can do is buy a Play Store gift card online and have it delivered via email. Then the recipient can spend that credit however they like. If you want to push them towards a certain movie rental or purchase, you’ll have to include that information in the gift message. Various prices.

Over on iTunes, Apple does let you gift specific movies when you provide the recipient’s email address, but this only covers permanent purchases, not rentals. On iOS, open the iTunes Store app, navigate to a movie screen, tap the share button on the top right, and select Gift. On iTunes for a computer, find the film, click the down-arrow next to its price, and choose Gift This Movie. You can also try one of those iTunes Store gift cards—recipients can spend this present on any apps, movies, or other digital content sold by Apple—but the cards won’t be associated with a specific movie. Various prices.

If you have a keen video gamer in your life, then treat them to some free play. Just make sure you’re buying something for a console the recipient actually owns—you can find gift cards for Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox hardware.

For Nintendo, an eShop gift card is the best option—even though it comes in the mail as a physical card with a redeemable code on it, which means that, strictly speaking, it doesn’t belong on this digital gift list. You can buy cards pre-loaded with $10, $20, $35, or $50. Once the giftee enters the code, they can put that amount toward games for the Nintendo Switch, Wii U, or Nintendo 3DS. $10 to $50.

Sony offers PlayStation gift cards that can be redeemed for games or for a feature called PlayStation Plus, which provides online access to multiplayer gaming. These cards, unlike the Nintendo ones, arrive digitally over email. You can purchase values of $10, $20, $50, $60, or $100. If you’d like to cover PlayStation Plus service, that costs $10 for one month of membership and $25 for three. $10 to $100.

As for Microsoft-made consoles, you can pick up an Xbox gift card that works similarly to the PlayStation ones: A code arrives in the recipient’s inbox, and then they can redeem it for games on the Xbox store. You can select any amount between $1 and $100 for the cash value. As with PlayStation, you can also provide access to the online multiplayer service, called Xbox Live Gold—you can cover one month for $10, three months for $25, six months for $40, or a full year for $60. $10 to $100.

via Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now

December 9, 2018 at 08:49AM

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The Totally Free Streaming Service You Didn’t Know You Have

Lovers of classic films have been set adrift this month after the Filmstruck streaming service was unceremoniously murdered by corporate ghouls. But friends, I want to tell you about a free streaming service that’s in many ways just as good as Filmstruck, offers Criterion films, and has at least one feature that no one else does.

Kanopy is not new, it got its start in Australia a decade ago and has slowly expanded its services around the globe. Its business model is to partner with universities and public libraries which then offer students and members the ability to stream the service’s library of 30,000 films for free. Some 4,000 public libraries worldwide use the service, so there’s a decent chance you have access through your local system. Why haven’t you been doing this? I don’t know. Why haven’t I? I couldn’t really tell you! But it’s very good.

I think the biggest reason Kanopy isn’t a household name is that association with libraries. Public libraries are great and offer all kinds of digital options that you may not be aware of. So if you don’t have a library card that’s the first step to signing up. In New York City, where I’m located, you can sign up for a library card online. It’s been a while since my last library visit and getting set up on Kanopy meant that I had to revisit an old feeling from the Blockbuster Video days—cleaning up late fees. It did not inspire even the mildest hint of nostalgia. But there will be no late fees for your streaming, so stay with me.

Once your library card situation is in order, you just go to Kanopy’s website or download its app and sign up. You’ll have to choose your local library, enter your card number, and verify an email. It’s easy-peasy.

You’re still not doing yet, are you? You’re still thinking this sounds like a nice thing that you’ll get around to later and you’re going to go home later only to aimlessly scroll through the same watchlist on Netflix that you’ve been staring at for five years. I urge you to just take the plunge.

I subscribe to pretty much every streaming service under the sun and use PS Vue for cable. But logging into Kanopy I immediately saw selections that either don’t pop-up in my regularly scheduled, algorithmically-generated hellscape. There’s a boatload of classic films like Metropolis and Sunset Boulevard for the Filmstruck crowd. There are 50 movies from the Criterion Collection to tide you over until its new streaming service starts next spring. And there are a lot of new flicks spanning all genres.

We don’t know when Apple’s long-delayed streaming service will debut but last month it made a big deal out of its new agreement to produce flicks with the hot indie studio A24. Right this second, you can watch A24’s back catalog on Kanopy, including films like Ex Machina and current awards-competitor First Reformed for free.

Maybe you have kids. Do you have any idea what they’re watching on YouTube? I swear to you it isn’t good. Kanopy has a whole kids section with old and new classics that do not feature a CG doctor impregnating Spider-Man with a syringe.

What many would consider Kanopy’s only flaw is what I believe to be the best thing that sets it apart. You have a limit of how many films you can watch in a month and a limit of how long you have to finish a given film once you’ve started. Kanopy gets paid by its institutional partners for each film that a member streams. The university or library set their own streaming limits for members and can adjust them based on increased activity or budget changes. The Brooklyn Public Library gives me a limit of six films per month and I have three days to finish a film once I’ve started. The counter restarts on the first of every month.

Kanopy isn’t a Netflix killer, it’s a nice additional service. Of course, if you don’t subscribe to any streaming channels, it’s a great option. But I like that you need to think about what you want to watch. Instead of getting 15 minutes into something and changing your mind, maybe you’ll stick it out. If you fell asleep halfway through a film, maybe you’ll be sure to finish it the next day. In other words, it’s much closer to the old video store experience when you actually cared about your choices.

via Gizmodo

December 8, 2018 at 08:03AM

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NASA and SpaceX reschedule the first crew capsule test flight

Bloomberg via Getty Images

We’re a few weeks away from the first uncrewed Demo-1 flight test to the Space Station, but NASA and SpaceX have pushed the mission back slightly. According to a post from the Commercial Crew Program, switching the date back ten days from January 7th to January 17th will allow time for the Dragon capsule to return from its 16th ISS supply run (if you’re quick, you can catch the spacecraft docking live this morning, two days after it launched). Its competition, Boeing’s Starliner, is scheduled for a test in March.

Getting this test done to gather data and test the in-flight abort function ahead of a flight with the Crew Dragon capsule that carries astronauts onboard is critical, as Commercial Crew Program manager Kathy Lueders said “The upcoming steps before the test missions are critical, and their importance can’t be understated. We are not driven by dates, but by data. Ultimately, we’ll fly SpaceX Demo-1 at the right time, so we get the right data back to support the in-flight abort test and the next test flight when our astronauts are aboard.”

Thanks to Mike R, who agrees they should also run the course from bottom to top for the bikers with those calves that look like elephant ballsacks.

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via Geekologie – Gadgets, Gizmos, and Awesome

December 7, 2018 at 02:15PM

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World’s First Insect Vaccine Could Help Bees Fight Off Deadly Disease

Researchers say they’ve found a way to let queen bees pass on immunity to a devastating disease called American foulbrood. The infectious disease is so deadly, many states and beekeeping groups recommend burning any hive that’s been infected. Here, a frame from a normal hive is seen in a file photo from 2017.

Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

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Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Researchers say they’ve found a way to let queen bees pass on immunity to a devastating disease called American foulbrood. The infectious disease is so deadly, many states and beekeeping groups recommend burning any hive that’s been infected. Here, a frame from a normal hive is seen in a file photo from 2017.

Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Bees may soon get an ally in their fight against bacterial disease — one of the most serious threats the pollinators face — in the form of an edible vaccine. That’s the promise held out by researchers in Finland, who say they’ve made the first-ever vaccine for insects, aimed at helping struggling honeybee populations.

The scientists are targeting one of bees’ most deadly enemies: American foulbrood, or AFB, an infectious disease that devastates hives and can spread at a calamitous rate. Often introduced by nurse bees, the disease works by bacteria feeding on larvae — and then generating more spores, to spread further.

The idea of a potential new weapon to fight AFB has generated excitement in the beekeeping community, along with some skepticism about the claim of a vaccine — which remains in the testing phase. The news comes three years after the same researchers were hailed in Entymology Today as discovering the “key to bee vaccination.”

Scientists Dalial Freitak and Heli Salmela of the University of Helsinki say their new vaccine solves a vexing problem researchers have faced as they try to save bees from disease. Because insects’ immune systems don’t have antibodies, they essentially lack a “memory” for fighting diseases.

Freitak says she and her colleagues were able to get around that limitation, after she realized Salmela’s study of a protein called vitellogenin seemed to complement her own work, in which she found insects that were exposed to bacteria were able to impart an elevated immune response to their offspring.

From the university’s news release:

“When the queen bee eats something with pathogens in it, the pathogen signature molecules are bound by vitellogenin. Vitellogenin then carries these signature molecules into the queen’s eggs, where they work as inducers for future immune responses.”

“Now we’ve discovered the mechanism to show that you can actually vaccinate them,” Freitak said in a news release. “You can transfer a signal from one generation to another.”

The Finnish team calls their vaccine PrimeBEE, and they say it can be delivered to the queen via a sugar patty. Another plan would call for beekeepers to simply order a queen that’s already been vaccinated. While a website has been created for that product, it does not list a price — or say when the vaccine might be available commercially.

The new vaccine is still undergoing safety tests, but it could represent a breakthrough in the protection of bees, a crucial link in the food chain. In the U.S., their pollination is vital for many foods we eat, from apples and almonds to watermelons and zucchini.

When an American foulbrood infection sets in, each brood cell can host millions upon millions of spores. And because of bees’ tidy housekeeping practices, those spores are then spread even further when the bees clean the cell out. The disease can be treated with antibiotics, but no cure is available.

“It’s a death sentence” for a hive or colony to be diagnosed with the disease, says Toni Burnham, president of the D.C. Beekeepers Alliance in Washington.

In D.C. and Maryland, Burnham says, “if a colony is diagnosed with AFB — regardless of the level of the infestation — it burns. Every bit of it burns; the bees are killed and the woodenware burns, and it’s gone.”

Concerns about American foulbrood are so serious, Burnham says, that it’s the main reason why her group recommends never buying used bee hives and other equipment.

“They have pulled 100-year-old samples out of storage and have been able to reinoculate honeybee hives with American foulbrood spores,” she says.

In addition to AFB, honeybees and other pollinators face a number of existential threats, from diseases and parasites to insecticides. The researchers in Finland say they plan to use the same approach to combat other diseases.

“We hope that we can also develop a vaccination against other infections, such as European foulbrood and fungal diseases,” Freitak said in a statement. “We have already started initial tests. The plan is to be able to vaccinate against any microbe.”

If the vaccine works as the Finnish team expects, it would be a welcome bit of good news for beekeepers, farmers and advocates for pollinators, who have watched one of the world’s most important insects struggle in recent decades.

“We need to help honeybees, absolutely,” Freitak said. “Even improving their life a little would have a big effect on the global scale.”

While acknowledging the other problems bees face, she added, “If we can help honeybees to be healthier and if we can save even a small part of the bee population with this invention, I think we have done our good deed and saved the world a little bit.”

via NPR Topics: News

December 7, 2018 at 01:57PM

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