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Microsoft unleashes 'Settlers of Catan' on the web

Microsoft has something of an extracurricular activity: When it's not releasing Office for iPad or updating Windows, it has a habit of helping other companies build websites. That's mostly because it wants to show how smoothly everything works in Internet Explorer, but there's another reason too. The company has co-developed a web version of Settlers of Catan, the popular board game, making this the only way Windows Phone and Windows tablet users can play online. While the existing Android and iOS apps are of course reserved for people using those platforms, Microsoft's web version will run in any browser that supports HTML5 -- in other words, not just IE.

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Out of the many trappings US carriers have in common, throttling speeds for heavy data users is certainly one of them. So, accordingly, it's not surprising for Verizon to confirm reports that it will soon start slowing things down for more customers. According to Droid Life, Verizon has admitted that, beginning in October, people with an unlimited 4G LTE data plan will see reduced speeds should they fall in the network's top five percent of internet users, among other things. More specifically, this is part of a plan Verizon is calling "Network Optimization," which means throttled speeds for anyone who consumes more than 4.7GB of data per month, is enrolled on an unlimited data plan, has fulfilled a two-year contract but is still with the carrier, and attempts to "use data on a cell site that is experiencing high demand." Chances are most of you won't be affected by this, but it's definitely not good news for others who may be.

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Well, it seems like the US cellphone unlocking bill didn't get held up legislation after all: the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act just passed through the House of Representatives with unanimous support. The measure reverses the 2012 decision that made phone unlocking a violation of copyright law and frees consumers from the mercy of their cellular provider, but it's not law yet -- the bill still needs the signature of President Obama. Still, that's almost a formality: the "bulk unlock" measure portion of the legislation that caused waves in the Senate has since been removed from the bill. Its text is clean and simple: unlocks can be "initiated by the owner" of any device or "by another person at the direction of the owner" with the express purpose of connecting to the wireless network of their choice. Sounds good here.

[Image credit: Mondo3, Flickr]

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When I open my mailbox, I often find Amazon packages that I don't remember ordering. But today's surprise was a DVD of Sharknado, a movie I absolutely did not purchase. My first instinct was to contact Amazon and change my password, but then I found a note inside: "For you to test out the new Syfy Sync app with your Philips Hue lights." Wait, what? A quick web search cleared things up pretty quickly -- the latest Syfy Sync app enables full control of a Hue bridge (and connected lights) on the same network. The movie, app and lights work together, in theory, to bring you a more immersive entertainment experience.

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DENVER, COLORADO, DECEMBER 6, 2006--Variety of headphones for Play cover story. From left: Bose noise canceling headphones (from

The ink is likely dry on the Apple/Beats deal, but it has yet to be officially stamped with regulatory approval. Bose is now going after Cupertino's big purchase though, as the audio outfit is suing over alleged patent infringement. The suit takes aim at Beats' noise-cancelling tech in its $300 Studio line of wireless cans, claiming that the company swiped items from five of Bose's patents. As you may recall, Dr. Dre's outfit is also facing legal proceedings from MOG founder David Hyman who's looking to recoup over $20 million in compensation. We've reached out to both sides and we'll update this post when we hear back, but until then, the full complaint is accessible below.

[Photo credit: Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images]

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Film Navigating Netflix

We've heard your complaint: you can't find anything to watch on Netflix. Despite all the A/B testing, app updates and data Netflix is measuring behind the scenes, the way it presents the library makes it nearly impossible to see everything that's available to watch, and sometimes you want to do the choosing instead of letting an algorithm or hired gun do the work. The good news is there are a ton of different ways to sort through the pile -- or ditch sorting for the bliss of random selection -- but the bad news is that some of them will be going away soon (more on that in a minute). If you're not already taking advantage of third party tools like InstantWatcher to dive deep into the catalog, we're here to explain why you should be.

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The United States space shuttle program no longer exists, which leaves NASA's astronauts with few options for hitching a ride to the International Space Station. One option, Russia's space program, is currently roadblocked by politics. Another other option is thankfully here in the US, with Elon Musk's SpaceX offering rides to and from the ISS; Musk says that his company will transport human beings between Earth and the ISS "in about two to three years" with the second version of his company's Dragon spacecraft. But the long game isn't the ISS: it's Mars.

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Nearly two weeks after New York's Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, made a push to bar Lyft from offering its ridesharing service in New York City, both parties have finally come to an agreement. As a result, Lyft is now free to operate in all five boroughs of The Big Apple, after the company "agreed to operate in New York State in full compliance with existing laws and regulations." In addition, Lyft has also assured state officials it will operate with commercial drivers only. But it wasn't a complete win for the pink mustache company, as this agreement stipulates that Lyft must cease services in Buffalo and Rochester by next week, on August 1st.

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If you've spent time on a beach without protection, you probably have a good idea of just how damaging the sun can be. That gigantic star that gives us life from millions of miles away can also do great harm, as Earth nearly discovered during a powerful 2012 solar storm. According to NASA, during the July 23, 2012 event, a plasma cloud left the sun traveling at 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) per second, passing through Earth's orbit. Our planet wasn't in its path at the time, but would have been just a week before. Instead, it hit a STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) spacecraft, which was able to capture tons of relevant data. According to a study, the cloud could have caused more than $2 trillion in damage, knocking out electrical, communication and other global networks. Unfortunately, it may not be possible to prevent such a disaster, and while life would go on, it would be a far departure from what we're used to today.

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