This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about the problems with Zoom and alternatives for video conferencing, movies that showed at the Banff Mountain Film Festival that you can watch for free, free Radiohead concert films (and more), early release for Onward on Disney+, the killer VR app that is Half Life: Alyx, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
Technological World for April 1: Free mountain movies and Radiohead music, Onward for Disney+, video conferencing options that aren't Zoom, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Half-Life: Alyx is VR's killer app
This week, free movies from the Banff International Film Festival, free Radiohead, free Onward for Disney+ subscribers, Half-Life: Alyx, and Xbox One game Ori and the Will of the Wisps. But first, Zoom may not be the best video conferencing solution for you.
How to select the right video conferencing solution for what you need to do
There’s been a lot of people talking about and using Zoom to have online cocktail hour with friends or virtual family reunions, but in the past couple of weeks, the conferencing software’s limitations have really been brought to light.
First it was a revelation that Zoom’s iOS app appears to share information with Facebook, according to research conducted by Motherboard.
That has led to a class action lawsuit that was filed on Monday.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation also has some concerns about the observational tools available to Zoom meeting administrators. As in they can see who’s paying attention and who’s not and they can access recordings and transcripts even if attendees didn’t explicitly grant permission to be recorded.
Motherboard also reported that people who were signing up for Zoom accounts using the same email suffix were getting grouped as a company which meant their personal details were shared with everyone else in the “company”.
All those things are Zoom’s to fix, and you can bet they are scrambling to update their software and processes.
The fact that people have been showing up to publicly-accessible Zoom events in the nude or showing porn in the background is a problem that only users of the service can control.
And you can control these things if you know how to use the Zoom settings.
But Zoom is not the only option out there for video chatting with friends and family.
Apple users are better off using FaceTime, which allows multiple people to chat at once.
And Google Hangouts is free and easy to use, too. Keep in mind that Google also collects information from users.
My kids have been using Houseparty to keep in touch with their friends. The service, recently purchased by Epic Games (the Fortnite developers), includes fun games that they can play together, and if you lock down the privacy so they can only chat with people you add, it’s a decent option for kids.
A newer, indie option is Whereby, which allows you to have a true video conference with up to four people without any of your guests having to create accounts, or logins, or download software. You simply send them a link and they can access your meeting in any modern browser. And you can lock the room to keep out any undesirables that might end up with the URL.
Free movies from the Banff Mountain Film Festival
Every tear, the notable Banff Mountain Film Festival takes a number of its films on tour. The tour had already begun, but COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of the rest of the tour.
To make up for things, organizers have released a list of films, curated by Lianne Caron, that have been part of the Festival in years past.
The list of films was turned into helpful links by Enock Glidden.
Free Radiohead music, videos, and concert films
Disney+ gets Onward early
Last week, Disney and Pixar released Onward for purchase on digital and this week we get word that the streaming platform Disney+ is getting the animated film weeks earlier than originally planned.
Half-Life: Alyx is why you want to get a VR rig
Released in 1998, Half-Life was the first game published by Valve, which has since become a software and hardware stalwart, proprietors of the Steam engine for the sale and delivery of computer games, and the HTC Vive and Valve Index virtual reality platforms.
Half-Life: Alyx, which is set between the events of that first game and 2004’s Half-Life 2, is a pure VR experience, and boy-oh-boy does it make me want to shell out for a new computer and a Valve Index headset. The full kit, which comes with motion sensing equipment, controllers, and a headset, is $1,319.
And you need a pretty slick Windows box to use it.
But it comes with a copy of Half-Life: Alyx, and VR is the only way you’re going to play this game.
Here’s the first few minutes to whet your appetite.
Action platformer Ori and the Will of the Wisps soothes the soul
Ori is a forest spirt we first met in 2015, when Moon Studios brought to the Xbox One a delightful side-scrolling platformer. Ori is back, and in Will of the Wisps explores a new, wonderous natural world that is plagued with danger and darkness.
The art in this game is lovely, conveying a colourful, hand-drawn style. The world is expansive, and you navigate it all by running and jumping, avoiding pitfalls and smacking enemies with various attacks, growing more powerful along the way. One of the best additions is the ability to change out skills on the fly, so you can have Ori double jumping when you need to, then being able to stick to surfaces later on.
The narrative soars with emotion, evoking sadness and melancholy in one moment, and jubliance and triumph the next.
There are plenty of secrets to discover in the undergrowth, and corruption to overcome. It’s up to Ori to save the forest, and the creatures living therein.
The Shift with Drex, March 25: #iPad, #MacBookAir, #WorldTheatreDay, #NFB, #DigitalMovies, #CallOfDutyWarzone, #DoomEternal, #AnimalCrossing, #NewHorizons
This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about all the different ways you can spend your leisure time now that you don’t have to commute to the office. Listen in for recommendations on movies and videos, video games, and readings of plays.
Technological World for March 25: New iPad Pro, new MacBook Air, World Theatre Day, NFB Canada, digital release films, free video game demos, Call of Duty: Warzone, Doom Eternal, Animal Crossing: New Horizon
This week, lots of free stuff you can enjoy online with your family at home including movies, music, readings, and games. Plus, more new movies and games. But first, Apple’s new iPads and MacBook Air are now available.
Apple’s got new iPads and a refreshed MacBook Air ready for you
If you’re looking for new gear to make it easier to work from home, or to keep yourself occupied during your free time while there, Apple has some new hardware.
The latest incarnation of the MacBook Air (starting at $1,299) increases the storage capacity, includes the new and improved “Magic Keyboard”, and improves processing speed so it will do things almost twice as fast.
The new iPad Pro, meanwhile, comes in two sizes, 11-inch (starting at $1,049) and 12.9-inch (starting at $1,299), and the devices boast a couple of new features that highlight the “pro” designation of the tablets.
One is the LiDAR (light detection and ranging) scanner that improves augmented reality functions by being able to more accurately measure distance and enhance the system’s understanding of the environment.
The other addition is support for trackpads and mice, and a new Magic Keyboard accessory that enables better typing on an iPad than has ever been possible before.
Add to that a new ultra-wide camera for capturing 4K video and studio-quality microphones, and the new iPad Pros are machines that enable creativity.
In addition to the release of the new iPads, Apple has rolled out support for trackpads on all iPads running iPadOS 13.4, which also allows for the use of bluetooth mice.
Free readings by Canada’s best playwrights
Thursday is World Theatre Day, and in celebration, Playwrights Guild of Canada has lined up 28 of Canada’s best writers who will read from their plays starting at 8 a.m. PT, 11 a.m. ET.
There’s so much love and support for artists going around that we just had to make sure everyone can join! Tune in March 27 btw 11am – 6pm EST here: https://t.co/1ONCnT56vH #artlives pic.twitter.com/GhpSR36cpl— Playwrights Guild of Canada (@PGuildCanada) March 20, 2020
Free movies from the National Film Board of Canada
Everything that’s posted at the NFB is free to watch, but a couple of topics are unique to Canada.
There are dozens of short and feature-length films created by Indigenous filmmakers.
The NFB has a collection of animated films which includes some that are educational. Check out “Science Please!”
More movies get early digital release
This week, the films hitting the digital storefronts early include:
- Onward, from Pixar and Disney, starring Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as a couple of elf brothers in an animated road movie.
- Birds of Prey, the charmer starring Margot Robbie as a supervillain.
- The Gentlemen, in which Guy Ritchie tries to make another movie like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
- Bloodshot, starring Vin Diesel and based on the comic about a soldier brought back to life by nanotechnology.
Free video game demos this weekend
Predator: Hunting Grounds (Illfonic for Playstation) brings back the four-versus-one multiplayer mechanic.
In this game, four players take on the roles of elite soldiers who need to complete a series of objectives in the jungle and then escape via a helicopter. They can, if they choose, try to take out the Predator.
But the Predator is also hunting the soldiers. And if the Predator collects four human skulls, the Predator wins.
Ubisoft, meanwhile, is holding a free weekend for people who want to try out Tom Clancys Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Episode 2 released yesterday, bringing new maps, new character classes, and a new story adventure featuring Sam Fisher, the protagonist from the Splinter Cell series.
Warzone is a new, free-to-play Call of Duty experience
For the adults in the room, Call of Duty has a new multiplayer game, Warzone, that is free to play. Since being released on March 10, more than 30 million players have entered the fray. You can bet Activision is thrilled at this.
In Warzone, up to 150 players are in on the action, in two different modes.
The Battle Royale mode has a continuously shrinking map due to poison gas. Plunder is about trying to collect as much loot by completing contracts, finding caches, and stealing cash from opponents you’ve taken out.
One thing Warzone does differently from other battle royale games is that when you’ve first been eliminated, you get tossed into the Gulag, where you get a chance to go head-to-head against another eliminated player for a chance to be redeployed into the main game.
Doom Eternal gives you something to scream at
Sometimes you just want to blast a demon in the face. Doom Eternal, developed by the venerated id Software and published by Bethesda, gives you that and more. It’s the perfect way to relieve some of that pent-up anxiety and frustration.
It’s also metal as hell.
The battle against the forces of Hell is now on Earth, and it’s up to you to put a stop to it. Armed with shotguns and a chainsaw, you need to tear through the demons that are ravaging humanity. Along the way you’ll upgrade your weapons, armour,
In addition to challenging you with all new demons, the scale in Doom Eternal is awesome. When you first emerge on the surface of Earth there’s a massive creature the size of a mountain moving away from you. It’s so extraordinary that I didn’t immediately process that it was a demon.
With a driving soundtrack by Mick Gordon, who also composed the music for the 1993 reboot of the first-person shooter series, this is the perfect way to scream at the world right now. Especially because you can do it with friends with the new Battlemode competitive multiplayer mode.
Doom Eternal is available now for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One.
New Horizons brings Animal Crossing to the Switch and will help you with all that free time you’ve now got
If there’s one game that’s taking the world by storm right now, it’s the latest Animal Crossing game from Nintendo. New Horizons is the first time the series has appeared on the Switch, and that platform may be the best to help people to cope with social distancing.
In our house, we’ve got two adults and two kids that are now sharing access to one TV all the time. The Switch can be used with the TV or portable which provides incredible and necessary flexibility.
But the Switch is only one reason people around the world are playing New Horizons. Another reason is that it’s exactly the kind of gentle comfort gaming that many people want when the outside world is all confusion and chaos.
You start off with a pretty deserted island, which you can then harvest and customize in ways that you want. After you’ve played for a while you’ll be able to take trips to other islands, which are actually islands customized by other players, where you can collect materials, flora, and fauna that you can bring back to populate your island, improving the diversity of your place while also getting access to more varied materials to continue making your island home as homey as you want. Create an appealing place to live and you’ll find other creatures wanting to make a home there, too.
You’ll get to the point where you’re able to have control over the very geography itself.
Available now, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch.
The Shift with Drex, March 18: #COVID-19, #OnlineAssessing, #FeeWaiving, #Homeschooling, #SocialDistancing, #Activities
This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about the different ways that technology is being used to help us cope with the spread of COVID-19 and the ways it’s impacting our lives.