Let Google+ Die Already, Pushbullet Screws Free Users… [digest]

Google relaunches Google+ again, Pushbullet pushes people to pay, Google releases the Chromebit, teach kids to code with Minecraft, and the first trailer for A Very Murray Christmas.

Google+ Devolves Into Pointlessness

Google has relaunched Google+ again, steadfastly refusing to give up on its failing social network. The new Google+ has been rebuilt to be responsive across all platforms, which should make it a more enjoyable experience on smartphones and the Web. If anyone still cares.

As for content, the redesigned Google+ focuses on two things: Communities and Collections. Communities is Google’s take on forums and groups, while Collections is Pinterest by another name. The combination of the two means Google+ is now about shared interests more than people.

This is an important re-positioning for Google+, with the likes of Photos and Hangouts being pivoted into standalone products. It means Google+ is no longer a requirement for everyone with a Google account, but instead an optional extra for those who actually want to use it.

The problem is we’re not sure that anyone does actually want to use it. Sure, Communities and Collections are solid features, but neither is unique, which removes most of our enthusiasm for them. Google should just let Google+ die quietly. And learn the truth when nobody mourns the loss.

Pushbullet Introduces a Potty Paywall

Pushbullet has launched a paid version of its service, with Pushbullet Pro priced at $5-per-month or $40-per-year. The problem is that this means many of the previously free features have disappeared behind a paywall, which has gone down about as well as any sensible person would expect.

From December 1st, Pushbullet users will need to either pay up or lose access to mirrored notification actions, universal copy-and-paste, anything over 100 texts per month, anything over 2GB of cloud storage, and the moving of files over 25MB. All of which are pretty important elements of the service.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with paid versions of free services — especially if the reasoning behind them is sound — they should only ever add new features rather than steal them from the free tier. There’s also the pricing to consider, with $5 a month too steep for most users. Poor ol’ Pushbullet.

Chromebit Is Chrome OS on a Stick

Google and ASUS have finally started selling the Chromebit, which they announced way back in April 2015. The Chromebit is an HDMI stick which turns any TV or monitor into a computer powered by Chrome OS. And as it’s priced at just $85, it’s a bit of a bargain.

The Chromebit is perfect for anyone who wants a cheap and cheerful way of turning an old TV or monitor into a computing device capable of running Chrome extensions and apps. It may not be as capable as the Compute Stick from Intel, but it’s a solid option for those who hate Windows.

Minecraft Teaches Kids to Code

Parents keen to tech their children to code — at least on a very basic level — can now get a helping hand thanks to Minecraft. Playing on the fact that most kids of a certain age like Minecraft even more than they like sugar, the game is being used as the basis for a Code.org lesson.

Kids who are into Minecraft can now use the characters and environments they’re familiar with to learn basic coding. In total, there are 14 different Minecraft-themed puzzles to solve using programming. And if your kids aren’t into Minecraft, there’s also a Star Wars coding lesson waiting to be tackled.

A Very Murray Christmas Trailer

And finally, what more could you need this holiday season than a Netflix Christmas special starring Bill Murray? Nothing, obviously. Well, apart from gifts you don’t need or want, and more food than any person should consume in one sitting. Still, Murray is a nice addition!

This video shows the official trailer for A Very Murray Christmas, Murray’s Christmas special as produced by Sofia Coppola. Even if you’re not a Bill Murray fan, appearances from celebrities including George Clooney, Chris Rock, and Amy Poehler should help pique your interest.

A Very Murray Christmas premieres on Netflix on December 4th. [H/T Variety]

Your Views on Today’s Tech News

Are you interested in the new Google+? Would you pay to use Pushbullet? Are you tempted to buy a Chromebit? Are you keen to teach your kids to code? Will you be watching A Very Murray Christmas?

Let us know your thoughts on the Tech News of the day by posting to the comments section below. Because a healthy discussion is always welcome.

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