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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about the $5 billion fine to be assessed against Facebook, the perils of the FaceApp Facebook app, Twitter’s feature test in Canada, Apple’s updates to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch, and a new scholarship at Vancouver Film School for female game designers.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, details of the fine to be levied against Facebook by the FTC and why a Facebook exec was in Washington this week. Plus, Twitter tests a new feature in Canada and Apple updates the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro entry level laptop. Also: a unique new scholarship from Vancouver Film School aims to get more diversity into game design.

Facebook fine in U.S. to be $5 billion

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will fine Facebook $5 billion to settle its investigation into the violations tied to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The Guardian reports that Facebook’s revenues in the first quarter of 2019 were over $15 billion.

Accompanying the fine are requirements that Facebook conduct an analysis of how user data is used, “but the settlement will not restrict the company’s ability to share data with third parties,” according to the Guardian citing reports.

Head of Facebook’s Calibra project in Washington this week

While we’re on the subject of Facebook, the U.S. government held sessions this week investigating the Libra cryptocurrency plan put forward by Facebook and a membership group.

Facebook’s David Marcus, who is heading up the Calibra implementation of the Libra cryptocurrency, appeared before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and the House Financial Services Committees on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Democrat senator Sherrod Brown said the company was “delusional” to think that people will trust it.

I’m not so sure. It’s been more than a year since Cambridge Analytica, and Facebook seems to be as popular as ever.

Twitter testing new “hide replies” feature in Canada

Canadian Twitter users are getting the first chance to test a new feature.

This week, the social media company made it possible for you to hide replies to your posted messages. The idea is to give you control over the conversation that is generated by your tweets.

Twitter posts that have had replies hidden will be flagged so you’ll know if a user has opted to hide replies.

And if you want to see those replies anyway, you’ll be able to show them. The company says this is being done in the interest of transparency, and to prevent any abuse of the hidden replies feature.

Meanwhile, Twitter users around the world really want a simple “edit” function to correct spelling mistakes. Alas, Twitter doesn’t seem to think that’s too concerning.

Apple updates MacBook Air and MacBook Pro entry level model

It may only be the middle of July, but that’s not too early to be thinking about getting some equipment in place for back to school.

Last week, Apple announced it was updating two of its laptops, the MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The MacBook Air display now has True Tone functionality that automatically adjusts based on the ambient light in the room you’re in. It also gets a slight price cut, coming in at $1,449 ($1,319 for post-secondary students).

The 13-inch MacBook Pro models, meanwhile, get some alignment. All of them will now have the Touch Bar, including the Touch ID feature that lets you unlock your system with a fingertip. They will also get an Intel 1.4 GHz quad-core i5 chip. The updated MacBook Pros start at $1,699 ($1,569 for post-secondary students) with 128 GB of storage.

This also marks the start of Apple’s annual Back to School promotion. Purchase a qualifying Apple computer and students can get a free pair of Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones, which retail for $400.

New scholarship at Vancouver Film School aims to get more women making games

In an effort to get more females involved in game design, Vancouver Film School has partnered with two Vancouver studios on a new initiative, the Roberta Williams Women in Game Design Scholarship.

It’s named after the game designer who created Kings Quest and co-founded Sierra On-Line.

What makes the new scholarship so unique is that recipients – there will be two announced this year for admission in 2020 – get to participate in the intensive game design program at VFS and follow that up with a paid, six-month work contract with either Blackbird Interactive or The Coalition that will get the student a credit on the title they work on.

Blackbird has three unannounced projects on the go at the moment, but in 2016 shipped Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak for Gearbox. The Coalition is wrapping up development on Gears of War 5, an Xbox exclusive, which has players taking on the role of Kait, a female character.

Applications for the Roberta Williams Women in Game Design Scholarship are being accepted until July 31.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Nintendo reveals the Switch Lite, Bird and Lime electric scooters are launching in Alberta and Google’s Nest Hub makes my kitchen better. But first, Amazon Prime Day approaches, bringing deals on all sorts of things.

Amazon Prime Day will last 48 hours this year

On Monday (July 15), Prime Day 2019 begins at midnight (Pacific time). It’s the annual sale of consumer goods through Amazon, and there are always deals to be found. That’s what it’s all about, after all.

It’s no surprise that Amazon sells a lot of its own products on Prime Day. Pricing has already been slashed on the second generation Echo smart speaker ($70, down from $130) and the Echo Dot ($35, down from $60), and you can expect there will be deals on the Fire TV streaming stick and the new Kindle Paperwhite.

There will be lots of other products on sale, too. In recent years the Instant Pot digital pressure cookers have been popular. And this year, Amazon has “teamed up with brands around the world to offer new and special-edition products only for Prime members. These Prime Day Launches will feature products for pre-order as well as never-before-seen collections that are available for a limited time”.

Amazon is also presenting a live concert featuring Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, SZA, and Becky G. The concert airs at 6 p.m. PT on Wednesday, July 10 but you can watch it anytime through Prime Video if you’re a Prime member.

And because Whole Foods is owned by Amazon, if you’re a Prime member you can get a $10 credit to use on select items being sold on Prime Day when you spend $10 at the grocery store between now and July 16.

Bird bringing electric scooters to Calgary and Edmonton this month

Electric scooters are coming to Alberta this month. Bird will reportedly be the first on the streets and while the company had hoped to be operating in Calgary in time for the Stampede, it doesn’t seem like the devices have been deployed there yet.

Scooters are also coming to Edmonton.

It’s expected the cost will be $1.15 to unlock the scooter, and $0.35 per minute you ride, for a $4 to $6 average cost.

Lime, a competing scooter company, has been running a pilot program in and around the University of Waterloo since last fall. It also operates electric assist bicycles in Calgary as a pilot project and is also expected to have scooters running in Calgary and Edmonton this summer.

Bird Canada CEO Stewart Lyons said he expects Kelowna, B.C. to be the next city to get electric scooters.

Google Nest Hub is a great addition to my kitchen

Formerly known as the Google Home Hub, the Google Nest Hub is a smart device with a seven-inch screen that was released in Canada in June.

Available in four colours, the device also works as a hub for compatible smart home devices, including lightbulbs, doorbells, and thermostats. But I’ve got it set up in my kitchen, where it’s been a nice assistant when I’ve wanted to know what the weather is going to be like or when I’ve wanted to turn off the lights in the living room.

I’ve got it set up so that when it’s idle it operates as a digital frame, displaying photos from NASA’s archive. When I ask it a question it gives me answers in audio and video. One of the kids wanted to know what the Mona Lisa was the other day and we ended up hearing that it was created by da Vinci in 1503 and an image of the painting showed on the screen.

I’ve also used the Nest Hub for recipes, which display on the screen. And it gave me a quick video on how to properly cut a mango.

The Nest Hub was $169 when it was released but is now available for $129.

Gaming deals during Prime Day

In addition to deals on gaming accessories and peripherals like controllers, keyboards, and mice, and on games (Lego DC Supervillains is one we already know about), Prime Day is coming to Twitch.

The streaming video platform is a subsidiary of Amazon, and in advance of Prime Day there are two live events that will be streaming in the coming days as part of the Twitch Prime Crown Cup.

In London, England, celebrities will be playing a game from EA Sports, and in Las Vegas celebrities will be competing in Apex Legends.

Prime members can already get deals on in-game items, including skins for Alex Legends, an Ultimate Team pack for FIFA 19, and a customization bundle for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.

You can also get up to 12 months of Nintendo Switch Online.

Nintendo announces Switch Lite designed for handheld gaming

In a video released online today, Nintendo revealed the Switch Lite game system.

Releasing on September 20 for Cdn$260, the new device has been designed for portability. In fact, it looks a lot like the Playstation Portable handhelds, with built in controls and a 5.5-inch touch screen (compared to the 6.2-inch screen on the full size Switch).

The new system measures 3.6 inches by 8.2 inches, about half an inch shorter and more than an inch off the width. It cannot be used with a dock to display on a TV; the Switch Lite is intended for handheld use only.

Switch and Switch Lite systems are compatible for local wireless play, and while most games designed for the Switch can be played on the Switch Lite, there are some, such as 1-2-Switch, that won’t work unless you connect wireless controllers

The Lite will come in three colours: grey, yellow, and turquoise. A special Pokémon themed edition will be released on November 8 when the next games, Sword and Shield, hit the market.

A full-size Nintendo Switch retails for $380 so the Switch Lite is a great cheaper option, especially if you’re rarely using it on a TV. And given that the New Nintendo 3DS XL sells for $240, I wonder if the Switch Lite is a harbinger.

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