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Moto X (2014)In his review of the second-generation Moto X last September, our Senior Mobile Editor Chris Velazco called it "a huge step forward from last year's model." He complimented the seamless feel of the edges and thought its improved OLED screen was "one of the nicest smartphone screens I've seen in a while." But not everything was pure love with the 2014 Moto X. The battery can squeeze out a day at most, and the front camera fails to be "consistently good" and is often slow to focus, with photos full of grain. But in spite of these flaws, Chris felt that the new Moto X "earned itself a spot in the pantheon of smartphone greats."

That's a pretty big proclamation to make; how well does it hold up? To find out, we turn to the discerning opinions of our loyal readers, who have taken to the product database page for the 2014 Moto X to share their own experiences with the phone. With a user average of 9.2, it was a definite improvement over the original Moto X (which averaged a score of 8.8), but would they agree with our reviewer's assessments?

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Purism Librem 15

If you've wanted a laptop where all the software is free and open source (FOSS), you've usually had to settle for mediocre hardware. Even FOSS champion Richard Stallman is making do with a ThinkPad that's several years old. At last, though, it looks like you won't have to compromise your ideology for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses. Purism has successfully crowdfunded the Librem 15, a portable PC that combines modern parts (such as a 3.4GHz Core i7 and an optional 4K display) with software that's accessible from head to toe. The operating system (a variant of Trisquel GNU/Linux), hardware drivers and included apps are all free and open -- Purism is even trying to loosen up the BIOS and firmware.

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Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week's most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us -- it's the Week in Green.

Inhabitat - The Week in Green

One of America's most innovative solar power plants officially opened in the Mojave Desert this past week, and it's expected to provide enough energy to power nearly 90,000 homes. The Mojave Solar Project is a concentrated solar plant that uses parabolic troughs to create steam, which produces energy when passed through a turbine generator. In other renewable energy news, the folks at Solight have developed a compact solar-powered lantern that provides off-grid light to communities that lack electricity. The flat-pack, LED lantern was inspired by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and it's designed to replace kerosene lanterns. Swiss aviators Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are preparing for the first-ever flight around the world in a solar-powered aircraft. With the flight, the two pilots hope to gain broad support for solar energy. On the green transportation front, self-driving cars are widely believed to represent the future of transportation, but scientists at NASA are already looking further into the future. NASA and Nissan are partnering to research how autonomous vehicles could be used not only here on Earth, but also in space. And in Mexico, a company has produced a bamboo bicycle that generates energy as you pedal around town. The BambooTec bike captures and converts the kinetic energy into electricity, using that energy to charge mobile devices. Best of all, the designs are simple enough to be built by hand.

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Craig Federighi talks about HomeKit at Apple's WWDC 2014 event

We hope you weren't in a big rush to outfit your household with devices that use Apple's HomeKit automation technology -- you may be waiting a little while. Recode tipsters claim that Apple started certifying HomeKit gear later than it wanted, pushing the release of many supporting gadgets (and their underlying chips) back to spring or later. While Apple hasn't said whether or not there's a delay, the company notes that multiple companies (such as Elgato and iDevices) formally unveiled their first HomeKit hardware at CES. In many cases, the finished goods won't ship until spring or summer.

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IMAX Theatre@Urawa Parco

Not to be outdone by Dolby opening its own large-format theater, the folks at IMAX are putting one of their massive screens on a cruise ship. Yes. Really. IMAX says that not only is this an industry first, but that the screen will be three decks high and debut next spring on what'll be the cruise line's biggest ship: the newly minted Vista. The outfit promises recent flicks and classics alike will be shown, in addition to IMAX documentaries. The best way to have seen Interstellar isn't all that the Vista has in store for avoiding the sunlight, either. Next door is what Carnival's calling the "Thrill Theater" where you can check out "multidimensional special effects experience." Given Carnival's less-than-stable history, we're going to imagine that rules out a 3D version of The Poseidon Adventure.

[Image credit: Cog Log Lab/Flickr]

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Pro Tools First

You've probably heard the output of Avid's Pro Tools audio production software, even if you don't know what it's like -- it's virtually a staple of the music industry, and spawned now-famous (or infamous) effects like Auto Tune. There hasn't been a cheap way to try it for nearly 15 years, however, so it's not exactly practical for crafting songs in your basement. Thankfully, Avid's about to lower the barriers to entry. It recently unveiled Pro Tools First, a free version that lets you get your feet wet. It includes a "subset" of the usual features (you're mainly missing extra tracks, score editing and video playback), but it otherwise behaves like the paid version. You won't have to relearn anything if you hit the big time and start using the full software.

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Virtual reality is in the midst of an ongoing renaissance, sparking incredible interest from all along the spectrum, including tech giants like Facebook, young startups, big movie studios and independent filmmakers. With that in mind, VRSE, a new production company in the VR space, has taken to Sundance 2015 to reveal its big ambitions for this immersive technology. And it all starts with Evolution of Verse, a 3.5-minute short film featuring a computer-generated landscape setting and other visual effects that are designed to push the envelope of virtual reality.

Over the past couple of days in Utah, I've been asked several times: "What does virtual reality have to do with Sundance?" Granted, that was brought up by people who don't necessarily keep up with the technology and film industries. Still, the question isn't without merit. To a certain degree though, this year's New Frontier event, an exhibit for creators to feature unordinary storytelling during the festival, is where you'll find the answer to that inquiry. It was there that platforms like the Oculus Rift were born, while more recently, works like Birdly, a virtual reality flight simulator, look to reach new audiences and showcase how science can interact with technology. With its VR experiments, VRSE hopes to make a big impact in the burgeoning space.

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North Carolina residents might soon see Google Fiber vans driving down the streets. According to several publications, Mountain View has invited local Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham officials to a super secret "Save the Date" event on Wednesday, January 28th. The email invitation is reportedly devoid of any pertinent information, aside from the date, time and the promise that there will be "more details to come." While it could be for a completely different service, there's a reason why local authorities would think it's all about Fiber: Google has long named those locations as next possible sites for its Gigabit internet offering.

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"Print stuff didn't scratch the itch. Documentary didn't scratch the itch. TV drama didn't scratch the itch. It wasn't until I started building this stuff. There was no way I could do anything else. I just couldn't do anything else. I don't know even how to explain that. And I think sometimes I wanna shoot myself in the head that I can't do anything else because it just motivates me. [VR] drives me. This is such a visceral empathy generator. It can make people feel in a way that nothing, no other platform I've ever worked in can successfully do in this way."

Let that stand as your introduction to Nonny de la Peña, the woman pioneering a new form of journalism that aims to place viewers within news stories via virtual reality. That vision has culminated in Emblematic Group, her content- and VR hardware-focused company that she runs along with her brother in Los Angeles.

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