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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Apple releases Catalina, the new operating system for Macintosh computers, Sony reveals that the PS5 will launch holiday 2020, and Trine 4 reunites the wizard, the thief, and the knight. But first, all the new hardware announced by Microsoft last week.

Microsoft reveals 7 new Surface devices, including two with dual screens

At a press event in New York last week, Microsoft announced that it is bringing five new devices in the Surface lineup to market before the end of the year. The company also revealed two dual-screen devices that will be coming in 2020.

The Surface Laptop 3 is the base notebook computer. It comes in two touch screen configurations, 13.5-inch and 15-inch, and is priced starting at $1,350.

There are also two new Surface Pros, the two-in-one tablet-laptop design. The Surface Pro 7, starting at $999, has a 12.3-inch touchscreen and up to ten hours of battery life.

The Surface Pro X looks to be sleek and powerful, with a new processor and a secret compartment that holds a flat stylus. It has a 13-inch screen and connects to LTE mobile networks. The Pro X starts at $1350.

Microsoft also has Surface Earbuds coming, but while they are listed at the U.S. site, they are not currently showing on Microsoft’s Canadian website.

The book-like Surface Neo has two 9-inch screens that are connected with a hinge. Microsoft says it will be supported by a stylus that attaches to the Neo magnetically, and a Bluetooth keyboard makes it easier to type.

I’m not the only one to notice that the Neo is very similar to the Courier concept device Microsoft was working on nearly ten years ago.

The other dual-screen device is the Surface Duo, which is a mobile phone using the Android operating system. The Duo is also a hinged device with two 5.6-inch displays.

The Surface Neo and Duo devices are coming in 2020. No pricing details have been announced.

New macOS Catalina released, heralds a new approach for Apple

Apple this week released the latest version of its macOS operating system for Macintosh computers. Catalina (version number 10.15) is a free update that sets up a bunch of changes for Mac users.

Primary among them is that iTunes has been replaced by three separate apps: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. This is a welcome approach, as iTunes had become bloated and difficult to manage as different content streams were added to what started out as a music manager.

There have been hiccups with the transition, though, with Apple acknowledging that some music professionals, such as DJs, would be affected by their other software not automatically working with the new Apple Music program.

Apple also faces a challenge by having a software service and a piece of hardware with the same name: Apple TV. It may get even more confusing for some customers when the video streaming service, Apple TV+, launches on November 1.

Other changes coming with Catalina include Sidecar, which allows users to extend their desktop to an iPad, Voice Control, which enhances your ability to operate your computer by voice, and Screen Time, which is already a feature on iOS that makes it easier to understand and manage the time spent on screens and monitors.

Catalina also introduces Apple Arcade to Macintosh computers, which expands the subscription service, enabling you to play your games across all Apple devices. Within the next couple of months, Apple expects to have 100 games available on the service.

PlayStation 5 console will launch “holiday 2020”

Sony announced yesterday that its next generation video game console would be called the PlayStation 5 (PS5) and would be released during the holiday season next year.

Pricing was not part of the announcement, but it did include the revelation of a new game controller, which replaces the rumble functionality of the PS4’s DualShock4 with one with haptic feedback that provides “a broader range of feedback”.

The new controller will also have triggers with adaptive resistance that can be configured by game developers to provide unique and contextual experiences.

Earlier this year, Sony revealed that the PS5 would have a solid-state drive for storage and would support ray tracing, which Mark Czerny, who is designing the hardware, revealed to Wired will be happening in the graphical processing unit.

Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince a puzzle platformer with style

Whether the thief, the knight, and the wizard get along in the Trine games depends on a couple of things. If you’re playing alone, switching between the three characters when you need to in order to progress through the puzzles, they’ll have to get along.

If you’re playing with others, though, you can choose to cooperate. Or you can choose not to. And that, sometimes, is the most fun of all.

Developed by Frozenbyte, and available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Windows, and Xbox One, Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is a delightful blend of platforming, puzzling, and role-playing set in a 2.5-dimensional world that is bright and resplendent.

The new game is all about moving through the maps by solving environmental puzzles. Each of the three characters is essential to this.

The thief shoots arrows and can attach ropes to objects, the knight deflects things with his shield and can break objects, the wizard can move boxes and other objects, and while the game’s creators may have designed a solution, these various skills provide endless emergent solutions to the game.

You can imagine the chaos when a group of people (up to four) start working on a solution, each trying to exert control over the process.

Knowing this, Frozenbyte modified the puzzles for multiplayer.

All the while you are able to improve the abilities of the three characters which opens up the potential for even more solutions to getting across that chasm.

In addition to Trine 4, publisher Modus Games has also released Trine: Ultimate Collection, which bundles all four games together.

It’s great fun to trip around in the world of Trine. Take some friends with you.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, get Alexa on more Echo devices, have Alexa get you a job, and OpenTable moves into food delivery. Plus, the dog starring in a video game and the joy of Puzzle Quest on the Switch.

Amazon doubles down on smarthome hardware

Last week, Amazon revealed five new Echo devices for the modern home, all of which are available for pre-order now and which will be available before the end of the year.

The Echo Studio is a speaker built to play music on, and Amazon says rivals the Apple HomePod for sound clarity. This costs $260.

The Echo Flex fits anywhere you’ve got a wall outlet, and gives you access to Alexa wherever you need it for only $35.

The Echo Dot has been upgraded with a digital clock, making it perfect for bedrooms. It’s $80.

The newest Echo Show sports an 8-inch screen and costs $170.

Amazon is also updating the basic Echo with better sound and design for $130. That means the second generation Echo is only $100 for a limited time.

Along with the new devices, Canadian Alexa users have access to new features from the digital assistant.

The coolest is that when you whisper to Alexa, Alexa will whisper back to you. This is for those moments in the early morning or late night when you want to keep things quiet.

And Alexa can understand and speak in Quebecois. Simply ask a question in French and you’ll get a reply in French.

C’est bonne.

Alexa (and Google) can help you get a minimum-wage job at McDonald’s

Speaking of Alexa, you can now ask the assistant to get you a job.

McDonald’s Canada has built a digital application flow that begins with a job seeker asking Alexa or Google to, “Help me get a job at McDonald’s.”

The service will ask applicants to answer a few questions and will then send a link so the application process can continue online.

Try asking Google for a raise.

Get your restaurant order delivered through OpenTable

Like many people, I’ve often used OpenTable to reserve a spot at a restaurant. I used it last week while visiting Toronto, actually, to get the city’s best Thai food at Pai.

Now when you find a restaurant in your OpenTable iOS app, you’ll see an option to get your meal delivered.

OpenTable has partnered with Uber Eats to provide the service. OpenTable also has an Android app, but at the moment, only the iOS version offers the “Get it delivered” option.

Dog sounds recorded for Halo game

When you play Halo Infinite, hopefully sometime next year, some of the sounds made by the aliens you enounter may have been created by Gyoza the pug.

The pup is the pet of a technical art director with 343 Industries, which is creating the game in metro Seattle. Just listen to the little charmer. He sounds like there’s something trying to get out of him.

Playing Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns on my Nintendo Switch

I’ve got fond memories of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. It was the first game I ever encountered that took a puzzle game and used it as the core of a bigger, narrative experience.

By matching gems, your character can deal damage to enemies, collect mana for spellcasting, and even gather loot. The mashup of a strategy and role-playing game with the match-three puzzle mechanic is wonderfully satisfying.

I played most of that first game while my wife was in labour with our first kid. It was a long time, but I passed it with my PlayStation Portable and Puzzle Quest. I was hooked.

Now, I’m playing the game again, more than 10 years later, on my Nintendo Switch. And for the $15 cost, you get much more than one game.

Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns includes Challenge of the Warlords, the game that started it all, as well as the sequel, Revenge of the Plague Lord and a new expansion, Attack of the Golem Lord. It’s developed by Infinity Plus 2 (formerly Infinity Interactive) and published by D3 Go!

The new collection includes five new classes of character, too: Blood Mage, Elementalist, Monk, Paladin, and Priest. Each gives you a different approach to the game.

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