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  1. The service is making some interesting moves in the BYOD arena, and without some of the compromises imposed by other low-cost carriers. Your mileage may vary, but Ting can definitely save you money over the long haul.TingThe smartphone world has its share of disruptors. Over here you've got Republic Wireless and TextNow offering cheap, no-contract service powered heavily by Wi-Fi. Over there you've got the unlocked OnePlus One smartphone delivering flagship features for half the price of a Galaxy S5. And then there's Ting, a two-year-old wireless service provider started by...Tucows? That shareware-hosting company? Yeah, like I'm going to get my cell service from the same place I go to download PDF converters. Except, hold on a second. Ting's "disruptive" ways have earned it thousands of loyal fans, and the company has made some interesting moves in recent months that should cause even more users to sit up and take notice. Indeed, every time I write about Republic, Virgin Mobile, or another no-contract carrier, readers invariably chime in to recommend Ting. Wondering why? Here are five reasons you may want to give the company your wireless business. 1. You pay for only what you use Ting's claim to fame has long been its pricing model. Instead of paying a flat rate for "unlimited" everything, you pay only for what you use -- a great option for folks who may consume a lot of one thing but very little of another. It's all about the buckets.TingFor example, my daughter, like most teens, is constantly texting, but makes almost no voice calls and consumes relatively little data (because she's mostly connected to Wi-Fi). Ting levies its monthly fees based on three individual "buckets" -- one each for voice, data, and texting. Wherever your usage lands within each bucket, that's what you pay per month. Think of cable TV: you pay a flat rate for 500 channels even though you may only watch 50 of them. It's the same with cell carriers, but with Ting, you get an a-la-carte option. Though not every user stands to save big, many users stand to save, period. 2. It's family-friendly I know many a household manager who tears his hair out at having to pay for three, four, sometimes even five or more phones every month. Ting charges $6 per device on your account, with no limits. Then everyone pools their activity into that same bucket system. Although it's hard to predict where that will land you every month, you can plug usage from previous months (on your current carrier) into Ting's usage calculator to see what your savings might be. Again, this is predicated on the idea of bringing an existing phone to Ting. If you're looking at new hardware for everyone in the family, obviously you'll have to factor that into the equation -- same as you would with subsidized phones from a Big Four carrier. 3. You can easily swap phones from another carrier TingLet's say you've got an AT&T Samsung Galaxy S3 or a VerizoniPhone 5. So much for moving to Ting, right? That S3 runs on GSM networks, and Ting is a Sprint-powered CDMA network. Likewise, Verizon's phones are typically locked to its own CDMA towers. Not a problem. Ting recently introduced a swap program that lets you make the move at virtually no cost. What you do is buy the same model phone (except Sprint-compatible) from Glyde, then sell your current handset through Glyde. If you're not able to sell it for the same price as you bought the replacement, Ting will credit you the difference. Sure, this will take a little time and effort, but in the end it should be a fairly transparent move -- the only difference being that Ting is now your service provider. 4. It's hacker-friendly One frustrating thing about carriers like Republic Wireless is that you can't bring your own device. Ting not only accommodates most Sprint-compatible handsets, but also "quietly encourages" (a PR rep's words) any bit of hacking that goes with it. So, for example, a recent Reddit thread revealed that some Verizon iPhone 5 units can make the move to Ting. (It all depends on the ESN, which you can check easily using Ting's tool.) Another Reddit user shared the option of unlocking a Boost Mobile Moto G -- temporarily on sale at Target for just $59.99 -- and bringing it to Ting. The company is like a cellular Statue of Liberty: "Give us your tired (of contracts), your poor (from paying high monthly rates), your huddled masses yearning to switch carriers." 5. You can give back Like Solavei, Ting has a referral program (accessible via your account dashboard) that nets you $50 in credit for the first friend who joins and $25 per friend after that. (Needless to say, scoring just one referral per month could potentially cover your entire bill.) However, if you don't want friends and/or family members to feel like you're just looking out for number one, Ting now offers the option of donating your referral credit to charity. I like that, much the same way I like Giv Mobile's monthly contributions pared from your bill. So what's the catch? Are there any reasons not to hook up with Ting? I can think of only one: coverage. In my neck of metro Detroit, Sprint service is mediocre at best. Inside my house, call quality varies between weak and mediocre (with occasional drops), and data moves at a snail's pace. Ironically, I have the same issue with Republic Wireless (another Sprint MVNO), but the default to Wi-Fi calling effectively solves that problem. It also allows me to make calls when I travel outside the country, an option not natively available on CDMA phones. In any case, I had the chance to test drive an iPhone 5 running on Ting's service, and using it was no different than using an iPhone 5 on any other carrier. (Interestingly, you can buy a Ting-ready iPhone 5 from Glyde for about $250.) Unfortunately, for the moment there's no support for the iPhone 5C or 5S, though a Ting rep said it's in the works. I'm not saying Ting is the best carrier out there or even the cheapest. It's simply one you shouldn't overlook when shopping for cell service. There are several benefits you won't find elsewhere, not the least of which is the chance to pay lower rates. If you've tried Ting yourself, hit the comments and share what you liked or didn't like.
  2. It’s been suspected for some time that Warner Bros. and DC Comics have bigger plans for adapting their superheroes than they’re letting on – plans set to become clear once Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters. But when the studio’s purported release schedule was leaked online, it packed one particular bombshell: it wouldn’t be a Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman film following just months behind the big screen team-up in 2016, but an unexpected magical heavyweight: Shazam. The idea of Shazam being released effectively alongside Dawn of Justice is a startling one; but with undeniable appeal, and possessing one of the best stories in DC’s New 52 universe, the property has all the makings of a cinematic hit. Even so, the hero formerly known as ‘Captain Marvel’ may not be as established as his “DC Trinity†colleagues. Allow us to present you with 5 reasons why Shazam could be THE next big DC/WB movie franchise. The Story Aside from the hero’s iconic phrase (“Shazam!â€), it’s safe to say that not much is widely known about Shazam’s backstory. With that in mind, DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns’ recent reboot (part of DC’s New 52) supplied a rough outline for what to expect from a live-action film. For starters, the hulking hero is actually fifteen-year-old Billy Batson, a street-tough Philadelphia orphan. The boy soon finds himself summoned to a mysterious tomb known as ‘The Rock of Eternity,’ where a mysterious wizard warns him that a great threat has returned to the world. While Billy is far from perfect, he possesses the potential for heroism needed to be named the wizard’s champion: simply utter the phrase ‘Shazam,’ and a bolt of lightning transforms Billy into a magical, godlike hero. With the role effectively split between a young boy and a grown man playing a young boy, this particular hero packs a twist that makes him one of a kind in a genre filled with familiar tropes (while also offering more wish fulfillment for young viewers than any other hero). The humor inherent in any big screen version of the ‘World’s Mightiest Mortal’ should be obvious, and how Billy uses his new powers is a story that could be taken in any number of directions. - The Characters Casual audiences may think that a caped hero powered by magical lightning more than earns a spotlight all to himself – but despite having lost his own parents, Billy Batson is far from alone. In both the classic comics and the New 52, Billy is accompanied by his friends Mary and Freddy Freeman – with Johns’ reboot adding three more foster siblings to the group: Pedro, Eugene, and Darla. With Shazam‘s obvious appeal to a younger audience, some might worry that the grim tone of WB’s approach to superheroes would be a poor fit. But the larger themes at play have the potential to be treated with respect and gravity (as adoption was in Man of Steel), and the ensemble cast of children spreads that potential farther, including minorities and women in a genre of film lacking both. The Action After Man of Steel, it’s understandable that audiences might not be excited by the idea of two men blessed with the strength of Superman going toe-to-toe. But with the realm of magic at both of their disposals, a showdown between Shazam and Black Adam could be as varied and awe-inspiring as the director chooses to make it (just ask the comic book fans how many different ways a lightning bolt can be used in combat). But the real promise in the action comes from the fact that Shazam has the ability to share his gifts with his family. As it stands, superhero movies tend to be categorized by eager fans into ‘solo’ or ‘team-up’ adventures. But with Shazam able to use all his power for strength, or turn his siblings into magical superheroes alongside him, the movie can split the difference. Warner Bros. and DC clearly aren’t afraid of having their heroes share the screen, so a full roster of the Shazam Family fighting as a unit may be in store. - The Mythology When it was first rumored that Shazam was not only in the cards for WB, but could be the studio’s next big franchise, many expressed doubt that its magic and mysticism could work in the world established by Man of Steel. But given that many doubted Zack Snyder could make Superman work in a world similar to The Dark Knight Trilogy, we would advise patience. Especially when the benefits outweigh the risks. To dive headlong into the fiction of Shazam is to introduce the ‘Council of Wizards’ – a collection of magical beings seemingly linked to the history of China, Australia, Egypt, North America, and more. Besides the international appeal, the blend of fantasy and history may be easier to accept than a simple supernatural force of ‘magic.’ Geoff Johns also made the decision to not just expand the mystical world behind Shazam, but to begin his story with magic essentially ‘returning’ to the world. So while Batman and Superman may be hashing out the destruction of Metropolis, audiences will know that a much larger threat may be looming. Yet that threat is one only Billy Batson is able to fight, meaning his place alongside DC’s biggest heroes would be ensured. - Continuity With all the momentum building around Batman V Superman, fans may have forgotten that Sandman was among the first films pitched by David S. Goyer following Man of Steel. And while the first arc in Neil Gaiman’s seminal graphic novel included both Batman and John Constantine, achieving the same blend of DC and Vertigo will be a tough task in the film universe – and trying to overlap them directly could fail entirely. But a character like Shazam changes all that. Shazam’s strength may make him an analogue to Superman, but his knowledge and mastery of magic makes him just as important to the world of Constantine, Sandman, or the rest of the cast of Guillermo Del Toro’s troubled Justice League Dark project. In many ways, Shazam is a walking solution: the realm of magic is no place for the Justice League, but stories like DC’s recent “Trinity War†(featuring Constantine and Billy Batson joning forces) show how both the mystical and superhero universes can coexist. It’s a tough trick to pull off, but confirming the existence of both worlds – made easier with Shazam’s ability to straddle the line – sets the stage for multiple crossover events down the road. - Conclusion Below you’ll find a quick recap of why we believe a Shazam movie could be the next successful superhero blockbuster for DC Comics and Warner Bros. Do you agree with our reasoning? Let us know in the comments! The Story – An origin story (with a message) that will be every viewer’s dream come true. The Characters – Varied, unique, and diverse enough to feature plenty of promising stars. The Action – A superhero movie with fantasy action, AND a superpowered fist fight. The Mythology – An ancient world of magic that cracks DC’s movie universe wide open (if they wish). Continuity – A way to link Justice League and Sandman/Constantine properties without overlapping them.
  3. Amazon Amazon introduced a new file storage and collaboration service calledZocalo that—on first blush, at least, looks like it might be a Dropbox killer. Much like Dropbox and other cloud storage services, Zocalo lets you sync files between the Amazon cloud and your phone or PC. It has a business twist too, helping IT staffers control who gets access to which files. The product must be making some Dropbox executives uneasy, because unlike its other big competitors—Google and Microsoft— Dropbox itself is a pretty big Amazon customer. The startup uses Amazon’s S3 storage service to store the more than 500 million files that get uploaded to Dropbox each day. That’s going to make it pretty much impossible for Dropbox to undercut Amazon’s pricing. Zocalo starts at $5 per user per month for 200GB of storage. Dropbox charges twice that for half as much storage. But price isn’t everything, and Dropbox still has a several advantages that Amazon will be hard-pressed to overcome. 1. Sync is incredibly hard to get right Dropbox’s greatest strength is that it makes syncing files with the cloud and sharing them with other users seem so easy. But it’s not. Behind the scenes, Dropbox has a vast system of software keeping track of which files have been edited when, and who has access to what. Sync is a particularly difficult problem, and one small bug can lay waste to years of important user data. Err the other way, and you’re constantly resurrecting long-deleted files. Amazon has the technical chops to build a reliable storage and synchronization system, but making it as invisible to the end-user as Dropbox is no easy task. Dropbox has a seven-year head start here. And customers have shown, again and again, that they’re actually happy to pay more money for a tool with fewer features as long as it’s easy to use. 2. Dropbox’s “users first†strategy Dropbox’s strategy has always been to win end-users over first, then sell to the business side. Amazon is taking the opposite approach, by appealing directly to businesses. The problem with this approach is that even if Amazon is successful in selling its service to a business, the managers of that business still have to convince their employees to use it. Employees who are already Dropbox might not want to make the switch — especially if Zocalo ends up being even slightly harder to use than Dropbox. Could Amazon appeal directly to end users in this space? It already tried that with Amazon Cloud Drive, which is still around, but has been largely forgotten since its 2011 launch. 3. Branding Amazon already has a dizzying number of services and features under the Amazon Web Services umbrella, and it can be hard to keep track of them all. And the company is always adding more. That means it could be easy for the product to be overlooked, much as Cloud Drive has. That’s made all the worse by the name Zocalo. In Spanish, Zócalo means “plinth,†which is a platform for pillars or statues. It can also refer to the Plaza de la Constitución, the public square in the center of Mexico City. Unfortunately, it’s not a word that means much to non-Spanish speakers, and it’s particularly hard to remember. Bu now, just about everybody knows about Dropbox. Independence Ahead? Of course it’s not all smooth sailing for Dropbox and other competitors. This move will put pricing pressure on Dropbox, and it may need to spend some of $1.1 billion it’s raised on gaining more independence from Amazon. Startups are always in danger of being squashed by larger companies and bigger marketing budgets and the ability to undercut them on cost. But that problem is magnified when you’re running your service on infrastructure owned and operated by the same big companies you have to compete with. We’ve already seen this with Amazon Prime, which competes with Netflix, another major Amazon Web Services customer. But Amazon is still a long way from killing Netflix, and that’s good news for Dropbox.
  4. Vote in the poll here to pick the Trivia start time! 302 Found It’s a well-known fact that, as we age, our brains don’t work in quite the same way that they did when we were younger. We begin to lose memories, we may find it difficult to concentrate, and it can take longer to learn new skills and absorb information. One of the best ways to keep our minds sharp is to exercise them on a daily basis. When you begin to develop your brain fitness routine, be sure to include trivia to the regime. Here’s why: 1. Improved Cognition Cognition, or thinking, can be improved with training. If you hope to learn a new skill, retain new information or practice a new craft, you need to be able to think, reason and problem solve. By playing trivia games, or utilizing a trivia app, you can improve your cognition without realizing you’re doing so. The better you get at trivia games, the easier you will find it to learn new things, concentrate on tasks and perform previously unlearned skills. 2. Fluid Intelligence Our brains are amazing pieces of machinery. Experts call the reasoning that takes place behind our learning processes “fluid intelligence.†If you find trivia games to be confusing, difficult or even boring at first, do your best to stick with them. The more you answer trivia questions and play trivia games, the easier and more enjoyable you will find them to be. As your play becomes more frequent, your brain will adjust to its new task and adapt readily. 3. Cortisol Do you have a stressful job? Is your life just stressful in general? When you live in a persistent state of stress, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. The more cortisol that courses through your body, the less able you will be to concentrate, learn and even think clearly. When you play trivia games, you can effectively lessen the amount of cortisol being released by your body. The lessening of cortisol will result in an increased ability to focus and to just plain think. 4. Cross-Training While you have dozens of choices when it comes to trivia games, the most beneficial are those that cover a variety of subjects. When you find a trivia game that forces you to recall knowledge about sports, music, history, entertainment, culture and other topics, you will have to rely on skill, memory, logic and even language in order to answer the questions. This type of game play is called mental cross-training and is so beneficial that it is often used to treat those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. 5. Emotion Regulation You may not believe it, but the act of answering trivia questions and playing games can make you a happier person. Friendly competition can heighten your mood, boost your ego and make you more jovial in general. If you win the game, you’ll experience a feeling of satisfaction that can increase the release of feel-good hormones in your brain. This is a great reason to sit down with the whole family on a Friday night and pull out your trivia games. There are some people who love trivia games and some that have to learn to love them. No matter which camp you fall into, there’s no denying that trivia games benefit your brain. The next time you’re looking for something to do, find a partner and bounce some trivia questions off of each other; your brain will appreciate the workout.