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Google's hotel-based searches in action

When you land in a strange new city, your first instinct may be to see what there is to do near your hotel. However, searching Google for nearby attractions can be a hassle if you don't remember your hotel's name or address by heart. That memorization is no longer necessary after today, though -- Google has updated its search engine to use the booking confirmation in your Gmail as a locator. If you want to look for a late-night diner, all you have to do is ask Google to "show restaurants around my hotel." You can also get directions to or from your accommodations, so you should reach a welcoming bed (or your flight) just a little bit faster. The addition makes the most sense if you're using voice search in one of Google's mobile apps, but any traveler can give it a spin.

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Mark Zuckerberg's experiment in social network retail has finally come to an end: on August 12th, Facebook Gifts will close forever. The company's gift feature grew from its acquisition of the social gifting app Karma, selling teddy bears, socks and chocolates drop shipped directly to your Facebook friends. Eventually Facebook discovered that gift cards took the lion's share of sales and discontinued physical gifts altogether. Now the company says it's refocusing its resources on programs that help businesses increase sales through Facebook, rather than selling product themselves. So, in short, the "Buy" button is here to stay, but you'll have to enable your friends' Starbucks habit elsewhere.

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If you've ever gone running with earbuds, you'll be familiar with the condition "pushem-backin-itis." It's an affliction that troubles many music-loving joggers once they break a sweat. Some companies prescribe over-ear hooks, or "wing tips" to combat this; Skullcandy is taking a different approach. Its new "Method" and "The Chops" in-ear lines come with sensual "Stickygel" technology. No points for figuring out what that is. Skullcandy claims their proprietary bud gels are 30 percent more loving to your earlobes (well, the skin at least) than standard tips. We mean loving in the attachment sense of the word. The sensual part? The adhesive action only kicks in once you work up a sweat, so you've got to earn that affection. As per always with Skullcandy, there's a choice of colors and styles -- and at $30 for the Methods, the grabby part doesn't extend to your wallet, either.

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What happens when a physicist decides to become a chef? If they're anything like Manuel Linares, then you can expect a fusion of food and science to come out of their kitchen. For instance, one of the Spaniard's masterpieces is an ice cream that changes colors when you lick it. He calls it the Xamaleón, a play on the Spanish word for chameleon, and it originally starts as a periwinkle blue frozen treat until it's spritzed with Linares' "love elixir," a super secret mixture he concocted himself. This mixture reacts to changes in temperature and saliva, causing the tutti-frutti-flavored ice cream to turn into purple, then into pink as you lick.

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Almost as soon as news broke in February that Netflix had agreed to pay Comcast for a direct connection to its network, Verizon and AT&T were in line with their hands out as well. Verizon reached a deal months ago -- that so far has done little to resolve streaming issues -- and now Netflix and AT&T have confirmed that they reached an agreement in May, as first reported by Mashable. In a statement, they said the process of turning up the connections should take place "over the coming days." Netflix CEO Reed Hastings already laid out his disapproval of the ISPs and their policies, and more recently suggested that if the Comcast / Time Warner Cable merger goes through, the combined behemoth should be barred from charging for interconnects. We wouldn't be surprised to hear something similar about the proposed AT&T / DirecTV combo too, and with the FCC's recent statements on this issue we suspect things are far from settled.

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Despite the popularity of smartphone (and tablet) cameras increasing by the minute, companies like Canon aren't ready to throw in the towel for classics such as the point-and-shoot. With that in mind, the Japanese camera maker has introduced a pair of compact, super-zoom shooters: the PowerShot SX400 IS and PowerShot XS520HS. For starters, the entry-level SX400 IS, priced at $250, comes with a 16-megapixel CCD sensor, Digic 4+ image chip and 30x optical zoom, plus a number of "Smart Auto" features that Canon hopes make it easy for users to snap some great quality photos and video. The SX520 HS, on the other hand, is $400, but the heavier price tag, naturally, signifies a better spec sheet. There's a 16-megapixel High-Sensitivity sensor (with the same image processor as the SX400), 42x optical zoom and a mini-HDMI, as well as speedy autofocus and enhanced stabilization systems. If you're interested, you won't have to wait long to get one -- Canon's bringing the new PowerShots to market soon, starting with the SX400 IS in August and SX520 HS the following month.

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Looking to get that novel you've been plugging away at in your "spare time" published with ease? Well, Evernote now offers an option for doing just that, thanks to a partnership with FastPencil. The note-taking and productivity repository allows you to send individual entries or complete notebooks to the DIY publisher's service. Once you've beamed your carefully-crafted words to the editor, you can send drafts to your boss or best mates for proofreading before GungHo sorts production and fulfillment chores -- just like it does for major publishing houses. You'll also be privy to distribute the finished product via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iPad and Kindle to get all of that hard work out to the masses. Of course, this means you'll likely have to come up with some better excuses for dragging your feet on that book of poetry.

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We knew Instagram's effort to nab a bit of Snapchat's thunder was imminent thanks to leaked promo banners, and now, the app has officially arrived... for some. Bolt, the filter-driven photo app's own ephemeral messenger has hit iTunes and Google Play for folks in Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand. The software's claim to fame is speed: instead of having to fiddle through a series of options, tapping a contact's picture both captures and sends a photo -- no further swiping required (tap and hold records video). So long as they're in your favorites list, of course. There's also an undo feature that allows you to retrieve a message in the first few seconds by shaking your phone. While Bolt doesn't require a Facebook or Instagram account, you will have to sign up with your phone number for sorting through your contacts. For now though, most of us have to find solace in just reading about it, since a select few locales are privy to the initial rollout. Instagram's word on that particular strategy is situated after the break.

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