Last Friday on the Corus Radio Network, Charles Adler and I talked about the resignation of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Netflix’s new interactive feature that lets audiences choose the direction of the story, and the joy of wildlife webcams.
Tech round-up for June 23: Uber CEO resigns, Amazon credits expire, Netflix makes you the storyteller, and watching wildlife on webcams
This week, the truth about those Amazon credits you’ve been hearing about on Facebook, choose your own adventure with Netflix, and watching Chick D grow up. But first, Travis Kalanick has resigned as CEO of Uber.
Uber CEO resigns
Uber, the ride-hailing technology company that has completely disrupted the taxi and limousine industries around the world, continues to shudder from the credible accusations of a sexist culture and questionable business practices.
This week, CEO Travis Kalanick resigned after being presented with a list of demands from five of the company’s biggest investors. Kalanick had, the week before, agreed to take a leave of absence.
Also last week, board member David Bonderman made a stupid, sexist comment during an Uber employee meeting.
Ariana Huffington said something about how females on boards lead to more females joining boards of directors.
“Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more taling,” Bonderman said. Bonderman has since resigned.
Uber is now without a CEO, a CFO, and a COO. Other top executives are under scrutiny or have been fired.
Benefitting from the chaos is competitor Lyft, which is not yet operating in Canada.
eBook antitrust settlement credits expiring
People may have been frantic about all the posts this week about credits on Amazon accounts that are expiring tomorrow.
Well, you can relax, because unless you’re in the U.S. with a U.S.-based Amazon account, this does not apply to you.
The credits for U.S. Amazon customers are the result of a class-action lawsuit against Apple for price fixing with book publishers.
Earlier this year, Canada’s Compeition Bureau reached an agreeement to rebalance the e-book market, but there have been no settlement costs discussed for Canadian book buyers.
Netflix introduces “choose your own adventure” television
With a new episode of the animated series Puss in Boots, Netflix is giving audiences the chance to get involved in the telling of the tale.
When viewers watch Puss in Book, which is available now, on select devices, they will be given opportunities to pick a direction for the story. When Puss ends up in the Goldilocks story, for example, you can choose to make the bears friendly or menacing.
The story that plays out changes depending on your choices.
It’s the kind of thing that isn’t available on all systems that Netflix is on. The branching stories are only supported on smart TVs, streaming media players, game consoles, and iOS devices (and not the web, Android devices, or Apple TV).
An interactive episode of Buddy Thunderstruck will be coming in July.
Webcam gives us a chance to watch Chick D grow up
A new spotted owl chick is growing up before our very eyes.
Chick D is the offspring of Shania and Scud, two residents of Langley’s Northern Spotted Owl Breeding Centre. You can watch them on a webcam that is streamed by B.C.‘s Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.
Explore has dozens of webcams that give you the chance to see wildlife in their natural habitat, including polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba and orcas and other marine animals off the coast of B.C.
The Alberta Conservation Association has webcams watching nine different peregrine falcon families.
Tech round-up for December 16: Amazon Prime Video comes to Canada, video game systems for your kids (and you)
This week, the various video game systems your kids are asking you for, but first, Amazon Prime Video comes to Canada.
Amazon launches Prime Video in Canada
Crave and Netflix have a new competitor. On Wednesday, Amazon announced that Prime Video had been made available in Canada.
Prime Video, which is free to anyone with an Amazon Prime membership ($79 annually), is a video service that has movies and television shows in its library.
Like Netflix, you can also download content from Amazon Prime to watch later.
In its library are shows including Justified, The Night Manager, and Fear the Walking Dead, and movies like The Fast and the Furious and Across the Universe.
The company also has a production department. Amazon Original Series is responsible for the award-winning Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor, the miniseries The Man in the High Castle, based on the Philip Dick novel, and Hand of God, in which Ron Perlman plays a judge who believes he is getting visions from God.
It’s also home to The Grand Tour, the new series from the former hosts of automobile enthusiast show Top Gear.
Prime Video is adding to the benefits enjoyed by members of Amazon Prime, who also get free two-day shipping on many items sold at the online store, free unlimited photo storage, and special discounts.
Video-game systems to put smiles on those faces
In the past, there’s only been a couple of choices when it comes to choosing a video game system to be a gift. Not this year. Technology advances such as virtual reality and high dynamic range (HDR) have helped drive the demand for high-powered hardware.
The easiest way to get into virtual reality is with PlayStation, especially if you’ve already got a PlayStation 4 console. The price on this is a bit misleading, because for PSVR to work, you also need a PlayStation Camera ($75) and, depending on the game you’re playing, you may also need PlayStation Move Controllers (two pack for $130). But if you can afford the experience, there are some amazing things to discover in those virtual worlds. ($550)
If you want to get into the other virtual reality systems from HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, there’s a good chance you’re going to need a new computer to support the headsets. The new Alienware 13 is powerful enough to drive those VR experiences, but portable enough to cart about. One configuration ships with a stunning OLED touch display, and the Alienware 13 also works with the manufacturer’s graphics amplifier, so you can get even better performance out of the system when you’re at your desk. (starting at $1,500, $2,450 with OLED display)
Nintendo NES Classic Edition
This little console is quite the deal if you can find one in stock anywhere. A miniaturized replica of the original Nintendo NES, the Classic Edition comes equipped with 30 classic video games built right in, including favourites like Donkey Kong, the Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and Super Mario Bros. ($80)
Similar to the NES Classic is this box that comes with more than 90 titles from publishers including Capcom and Jaleco, including games like 1942, Bionic Commando, Ghouls ’n Ghosts, Mercs, and Super R-Type. (US$60)
Xbox One S
The newest console from Microsoft brings the ability to watch 4K video from either streaming or Blu-ray sources and supports stunning high dynamic range (HDR) images. Plus, it’s the only console on which you can play games like Vancouver-developed Gears of War 4. ($400)
PlayStation 4 Pro
Sony’s released two consoles in as many months and if you don’t already have one, and you want one, and you’re considering PSVR, this is the console for you. While any PS4 supports PSVR, this high-powered machine can do so with ease. It’s also designed to deliver astounding visuals. ($500)
We’re all playing more games on our mobile devices than ever before. With the GameVice controller, you can make playing games on your iOS devices more like a console experience. You clip your iPhone or iPad into the GameVice and you get console control with analog sticks, a directional pad, buttons, and even bumpers. ($140)
MSI VR One
From computer manufacturer MSI is this slick device, which is a full on gaming laptop built into a backpack. The idea is to make the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift VR headsets, which have cables that need to be connected to computers to work, somewhat portable. It’s built with some extreme cooling measures and swappable battery packs, so you can just stay in that virtual environment forever. (starting at $2,700)
This week, a look at some technology gift ideas for those who work at home. But first, an update on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone.
Samsung will brick remaining Galaxy Note 7 smartphones next week
In a statement, Samsung Canada has indicated that starting next week, it will be limiting the ability of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones to charge and to make Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections. By December 15, they will be unable to connect to any mobile network in Canada.
The company says that 90% of the Note 7s that were sold in Canada have already been returned.
Tech gift ideas to kit out that home office
Technology has revolutionized offices and made it possible for more people to work from home. Here are some new products that can turn any remote office into a productivity zone.
Apple MacBook Pro
The fanciest thing about the new MacBook Pro from Apple is the Touch Bar, a multi-touch OLED strip across the top of the keyboard that replaces the function keys. While it might seem like it’s just a gimmick, the contextual controls – insert, delete, and spell check buttons when you’re in a word processing program, for example – really do make a difference when it comes to productivity. The new laptop is also the thinnest, lightest, most powerful laptop Apple has ever created, with a brighter and more efficient display. It’s available in 13-inch and 15-inch models. (starting at $1,899)
HP DeskJet printer
Many of us are finding we need printers less and less these days. But when you need a printer, you really need one. The HP DeskJet 3758 is great to have on hand because it’s got a small footprint, so it won’t take up much space, and it’s wireless, so you can have it stashed out of the way. Despite the size, it can do everything you need a printer to do, including print documents and photos and copy and scan documents. ($90)
Varidesk Pro Plus 36
The standing desk trend came about as a result of research indicating that the amount of sitting we do is harmful to our health (that’s where the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” came from). But you don’t have to spend thousands on something new because Varidesk transforms your existing desk into a standing one. The top surface is big enough for two 24-inch monitors while a lower tier provides space for a keyboard and mouse. Available in black or white, you can move from sitting to standing in seconds, clicking into the position that is ideal for your height. ($590; varidesk.com)
These days, our smartphones have plenty of storage space on them. Until they don’t. The iBridge3 connects to your iPhone or iPad and adds between 16 and 128 GB of storage space for those photos and videos you’re taking while on holiday. You can even configure the iBridge3 to work with your Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud accounts. Leef also has a microSD Reader for iPhones and iPads ($70) that makes it easy to transfer files from other devices. ($80 to $230)
OWC USB and Thunderbolt 2 docks
One of the ways that laptops can constantly become thinner and lighter is by removing the ports that you’d normally connect peripherals to. At the same time, we’ve got more things we want to plug into our machines: external disk drives, mobile devices, and multiple monitors. That’s where these docks come in. The USB-C Dock from OWC adds 10 ports to your system including two USB-C connections and ports for secondary monitors, including those that display in 4K resolution. The Thunderbolt 2 Dock, meanwhile, has a total of 12 ports to expand the possibilities of your Mac: two Thunderbolt 2 ports, multiple display connections, one FireWire 800, one gigabit ethernet, and five USB 3.0 ports. (US$149 and US$218)
Archer C3150 router
The beauty of MU-MIMO technology is that it can take one Internet connection and make it available to a number of different devices at the same time. The “MU” stands for “multi-user” and routers, like the Archer C3150, are different from the previous generation of routers that could only send out one Wi-Fi signal at a time. The Archer also ensures that it is using the signal band that is best for the device it’s communicating with. It’s easy to set up and has built-in parental controls, too. ($288)
Whoosh screen wipes
These wipes come from a Toronto company and are designed to clean the many screens in your life. From smartphones and tablets to laptop screens and computer monitors, these wipes will not only remove fingerprints but disinfect at the same time. The company also creates screen cleaning solution and anti-microbial cloths. (products starting at $15)
Star Wars Force Band
Anyone who works from home knows how lonely it can get. That’s why so many of them got a Sphere BB-8 droid for Christmas last year. This year, you can get them a Force Band, which provides wearers with the power to control a BB-8 with a wave of the hand. Before you know it, you’ll be able to send BB-8 to fetch coffee. ($100, $250 with a BB-8)
Philips goLite Blu energy light
Coffee and chocolate are good pick-me-ups to get over those afternoon slumps, but you can also use the goLite Blu to energize with a dose of light that simulates bright daylight. It’s got a rechargeable battery so you can use it wherever you need it. And while the light is bright it is also diffuse so you don’t have to worry about eyes aching from the glare. The LED light is UV-free, too. ($200)
Charles Adler Tonight, December 2: #computerscienceweek, #minecraft, #wink, #dyson360eyerobot, #philipshue
Last night on the Corus Radio network, Charles Adler and I talked about the upcoming Computer Science Week and the fun, free opportunities for kids to have fun at Apple Retail Stores and Microsoft Stores. We also talked about gift ideas for people with automated homes, including the wonder that is the Dyson 360 Eye Robot vacuum.