Comcast will now call customers who need help instead of putting them on hold

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Comcast couldn’t get away from its embarrassing and nightmarish customer service call earlier this year. And after promising to do better and “always treat customers with the utmost respect,” the company is taking one small step to improve the experience of getting help. Comcast subscribers can now skip endlessly holding on the phone to talk with a support representative. Instead, they can now use the My Account app to request a phone call at a time that’s convenient.

A Comcast rep will then call at the scheduled time without putting the customer through a frustrating wait. Call times are available in 15-minute increments, but if you’re not a fan of talking on the phone, there’s also an option to get in touch with Comcast support…

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Xbox One preview members get early access to Halo 5 beta tomorrow

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Microsoft is gifting its dedicated Xbox One preview members an early Christmas present tomorrow: early access to Halo 5. While 343 industries and Microsoft plan to launch a Halo 5 multiplayer beta on December 29th, Xbox One preview members will be able to play content from week one a whole 10 days early. The early access is invite-only, and all current Xbox One preview members should receive a message from Xbox Live tomorrow with two codes to obtain the download.

Halo 5 multiplayer beta early access will start at 4PM ET tomorrow, and end at 3AM ET on December 22nd, giving Xbox One preview members the weekend before Christmas Day to get used to the new weapons, maps, and Spartan abilities. Those include a new Smart Scope option that…

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Documents in Sony leak show how state attorney general was cozy with Hollywood

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At the end of last week, we dug up news of Project Goliath, a secret Hollywood project to investigate and discredit Google on issues of copyright and web freedom. But while the documents showed how bad things had gotten between Google and Hollywood, they also showed how eagerly many state attorneys general took up the MPAA’s anti-Google crusade – particularly Mississippi’s Jim Hood. And less than a week after the documents were made public, that eagerness is starting to have real consequences.

Hood has been at the center of many of the recent legal actions against Google in the US, investigating the company for involvement in both pharmaceutical counterfeiting and content piracy, but never assembling enough evidence for concrete…

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Duet Makes Your iPad A No-Compromise Display For Your Mac

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Duet Display iPad-as-secondary-display apps have been around almost as long as the iPad, but most who used them once have seldom used them since. These things mostly work over Wi-Fi, and work poorly over Wi-Fi at that, with unwatchable video performance, choppy animation and tons of lag, even in the best of circumstances. Duet, a new app from a team that includes ex-Apple display engineering talent,… Read More

RebelMouse Expands Its Publisher Tools With The River, A Personalized Newsfeed

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rebelmouse river RebelMouse first launched as way for people to combine their social network updates into a “social front page,” but more recently, it’s been working to give publishers social tools for their own websites and apps, through a platform called Rebel Roar. Now it’s rolling out the latest piece of Rebel Roar — The River. If you’re on Facebook or pretty much any… Read More

Microsoft’s Lumia Denim update arrives with big camera improvements

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Microsoft has started rolling out a new Windows Phone update to its range of Lumia devices. Dubbed Lumia Denim, the latest update brings some significant camera improvements to the Lumia 830, Lumia 930, Lumia Icon, and Lumia 1520. The first noticeable change is a new Lumia Camera app that launches faster and takes photos more quickly. Microsoft’s Lumia 1520 has a more than capable camera, but the slowness of capturing photos often lets it down, and this update is designed to address that.

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Amazon still adding new features to Fire Phone despite massive flop

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For a whole slew of reasons, Amazon’s first smartphone has turned out to be a dud with consumers. Experiments are, by their very nature, prone to failure,” CEO Jeff Bezos recently told Business Insider. But the company isn’t abandoning people who actually bought into the Fire Phone experiment; it’s just rolled out a new update that packages some new features and numerous bug fixes. FireFly, one of the phone’s more unique features, can now automatically translate text using the built-in camera; it’s also picked up the ability to recognize and identify famous works of art. Amazon says over 2,000 paintings are supported, and it’ll provide Wikipedia background for anything it successfully recognizes.

The Fire Phone’s pretty decent camera is…

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The Vergecast, live today at 4:30PM ET!

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For the final Vergecast of 2014, let’s look back on the biggest stories of the past 12 months. Nilay Patel, Dieter Bohn, and Chris Plante will talk about hacks, smartwatches, large phones, the rise of weed, the fall of cable, and plenty of other timely topics.

Let us know in the comments what other topics from the year you’d like us to cover. We’ll start at 4:30PM ET, so be sure to make your voice heard before the show begins! If you don’t live in the Eastern Time Zone, here’s a helpful tool that will tell you when to watch!

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The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of anywhere else

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The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of anywhere else on earth — and it won’t just be the polar bears who suffer. Snow was well below average, and on the Eurasian side of the Arctic, set a new record low in April. Sea ice in September was the sixth-lowest on record.

These findings come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual Arctic Report Card, which began in 2006 and has been published every year since.

Less ice and more water meant that more plants bloomed in the ocean — and there was more This may be an indication of things to comegreenery on the tundra as well, the report said. In fact, as of 2013, the amount of biomass on the tundra increased 20 percent since 1982. Melting occurred across almost 40…

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Secret is relaunching as a faster anonymous social network with chat

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When Secret launched in February, it quickly became the most talked-about new social network in Silicon Valley. Like other ‘”anonymish” social networks, it offers a compelling mix of sex, drugs, and intrigue. But Secret goes a step further by connecting to your phone’s address book, then showing you your friends’ posts without revealing which friend said them. Several news stories broke first on Secret, fueling buzz that led the app to be downloaded more than 15 million times in 10 months. It hit No. 1 in the App Store in seven different countries.

But in recent months, Secret has lost some of its initial power. The number of posts from friends in my feed slowed to a trickle, and Secret is no longer among the top 1,500 apps, according…

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It’s time for big budget video games to help us deal with real world problems

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Our country is in two wars. Our shared sense of privacy is permanently fractured. The assumption of universal protection from our government is regularly disabused by reality. And we look at the not-so-distant future, and many of us see a skyline of mega-corporations looming over a gridlocked Congress and a lame duck president.

There are protests in the street, and at least here in New York City, it feels like the damn world is on fire. But when many of us play video games, there’s not a problem in the world. That is its own problem.

I often turn to art for escapism, but I also lean on art for therapy, education, and enlightenment. The movies and television I watch, the books and magazines I read, and the music I listen to help me…

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The Interview was originally written with a fake country, not North Korea

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Last night, Sony officially canceled The Interview’s December 25th release after all major US theaters pulled out, following threats of physical violence from a hacker group that had spent days leaking massive amounts of internal Sony data. As of last night, US officials were linking the hacks to North Korea. But what if The Interview had never been about assassinating Kim Jong-un?

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Steam’s holiday sale includes deals on Civilization, Dark Souls, and more

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Valve has just kicked off its annual holiday game sale for Steam, which lasts from now until January 2nd, and it’s pretty big — Valve says that there will be more than 100 games featured throughout the next two weeks. Right now you can grab several blockbuster games for cheap, including Civilization: Beyond Earth for $29.99, Dark Souls II for $16.27, and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes for $13.39, just to name a few. As always, you’ll want to check back regularly for new deals: there are new deals every 12 hours, and the featured sales will be changing every day.

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VHX Introduces An iPhone App And Library So You Can View Your Whole Video Collection In One Place

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vhx app 2 VHX has been working hard to make it easier for independent content owners to sell their videos online. And now it’s working to make it easier for consumers to find and enjoy the content that they’ve bought off the platform, with the introduction of a video library that stores all their purchases in one place, along with the launch of an iOS app. Read More

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