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This week, using your iPhone to track your medical records and using your smartphone to track your covid-19 exposure. Plus, Mario Kart Life: Home Circuit. But first, the U.S. DOJ says Google is a monopoly.

The U.S. DOJ files a lawsuit against Google for being a monopoly

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday on the U.S. Department of Justice decision to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google.

Google is a huge, international company at this point, but recall where it all started: search.

And search is where the lawsuit is focused, because reportedly 90 percent of searches online use Google, and Google sells advertising against those searches. But more importantly, internet users suffer a loss of privacy as a result.

A release about the complaint reads: “Google has entered into a series of exclusionary agreements that collectively lock up the primary avenues through which users access search engines, and thus the internet, by requiring that Google be set as the preset default general search engine on billions of mobile devices and computers worldwide and, in many cases, prohibiting preinstallation of a competitor.”

Further, that: “These and other anticompetitive practices harm competition and consumers, reducing the ability of innovative new companies to develop, compete, and discipline Google’s behavior.” 

This all has strong echoes of the antitrust case against Microsoft around the bunding of the web browser, Internet Explorer, with its Windows operating system. That all began in 1998 and was settled in 2001 without much impact to Microsoft.

Google’s response is that people use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.

And the company provided an exhaustive list of examples of how easy it is to change search engines on all devices, including Google’s.

The suit is the culmination of months of hand wringing in the U.S. around the power of the tech companies, and I don’t imagine that the case is going anywhere anytime soon. But the conversation that sparked the action will continue.

Recode has a great explainer.

Canadian healthcare starting to use Apple’s Health Records on iPhone

In Canada, three healthcare institutions have started using Health Records, an app on Apple’s iPhones, to share medical records with patients.

The app is designed to keep privacy maintained at all times, and even though the medical records are sent to and stored on the smartphone, this is all done using encryption.

Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, and Mackenzie Health in Richmond Hill are using Health Records, and Apple says that more Canadian medical facilities will begin offering the service.

Healthcare agencies and providers can learn more about providing digital health records to patients

Download Canada’s covid-19 alert app right now

While we’re on the topic: Download Canada’s covid-19 alert app.

It’s available on Android and iOS.

While the provincial health authorities in Alberta and B.C. have not yet signed on, most other provinces have. (Apparently, Alberta is getting on board after all and B.C. will be online shortly after the provincial election, I expect).

This can be an essential tool to dealing with the second wave. It’s secure, it maintains your anonymity and privacy, and it’s easy.

If you haven’t already, download it now.

Mario Kart racing is ready to take over your home

The promise of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is that you’re racing a real car on a real track that you build in the real world. You can’t get more live than that.

The real car is made of plastic and is about the size of a loaf of bread. It’s tough enough to withstand drops and crashes and inadvertent interactions with pets. There’s a camera just above the driver that provides you with a third-person view of races.

The game itself is a free download to your Nintendo Switch, but to play it you need a car and the pieces to build a track. You can get a kit with either Mario or Luigi for CDN$130.

The view on your Switch comes from the camera on the car.

To play, you set up the numbered cardboard gates in whatever space you’re going to use for your racetrack – living room? kitchen? – and then you drive your car around the track once. The game then lays a digital world on top of the real world, providing you with an augmented reality (AR) racetrack.

You need to stay within about 15 feet of your car to maintain a stable connection between your Switch and the car.

You select Grand Prix races just like you do in the standard Mario Kart games, and then race against computer-controlled opponents, with the same power ups and hazards you use to thwart other racers in the other Mario Kart games.

As you move up from 50cc to 100cc to 150cc to 200cc racing, the real car will move faster, and obstacles that appear in the AR perspective will impact the real car, even if there’s nothing in the real world to stop it.

This is not your father’s remote control car experience.

And you can race up to four other players as long as each of you has a Switch and a Mario Kart Live car.

And therein lies the true cost of Home Circuit.

Mario Kart remains one of the most engaging multiplayer games ever. It’s an easy go-to when there are four people looking to play something together, and it’s simple enough that anyone can play it.

But it’s not going to be easy to get multiple people together to play Home Circuit, so as much fun as it is to crash around your house with a toy car driven by Mario or Luigi, it’s going to be a solitary experience.

That said, there’s lots to enjoy here. You can customize your racetracks by adding hazards that will appear in the AR world, and you can compete against others with one system with the Time Attack mode, with each of you trying to get the best track time.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a great way to bring the enjoyable racing game into the real world. It’s just too bad it’s not easier to do with friends.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Canadian Netflix subscribers are going to be paying more, the WRLDCTY conference is an online celebration of cities, Microsoft’s cloud gaming is amazing, and what it’s like to play Star Wars in The Sims 4. But first, details on Apple’s four new iPhones and the HomePod mini.

Apple’s got four new iPhones ready for 5G

In an online event on Tuesday (October 13), Apple revealed its line of iPhone 12 devices, all of which were designed with 5G networks in mind. The new designs have a flat, not rounded, edge.

The four handsets span a range of sizes and features, but the core of them all is Apple’s A14 Bionic chip and 5G capabilities, which promise to deliver faster cellular speeds when mobility providers finish rolling out 5G networks.

All four iPhone 12 models are also equipped with Apple’s new Super Retina XDR display that was previously only available on the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. The screens are all protected with what Apple calls a Ceramic Shield, which the company says improves the durability of the devices.

And MagSafe, which uses magnets to keep power supplies connected, is a feature on all iPhone 12 devices and wil keep the iPhones attached to wireless charging docks.

The two iPhone 12 Pro models have a three-camera system featuring a wide lens, an ultra-wide lens, and a telephoto. The specs of those cameras are higher with the 12 Pro Max.

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini have a dual-camera system with wide and ultra-wide lenses.

What will be missing from all four iPhones are power adapters and earbuds. Apple says the decision to remove them was to reduce waste and to make shipping more efficient, all of which contributes to the company’s drive to reduce its carbon footprint.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

Available on November 13 (preorders on November 6), the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a stainless steel chassis and a 6.7-inch screen. It will be available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB models in graphite, silver, gold, and pacific blue starting at $1,549 CAD.

iPhone 12 Pro

Available on October 23 (preorders on October 16), the iPhone 12 Pro is also a stainless steel device, with a 6.1-inch screen. It will be available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB models in graphite, silver, gold, and pacific blue starting at $1,399 CAD.

iPhone 12

Available on October 23 (preorders on October 16), the iPhone 12 is made of aluminum with a 6.1-inch screen. It will be available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB models in blue, green, black, white, and (PRODUCT)RED, starting at $1,129 CAD.

iPhone 12 mini

Available on November 13 (preorders on November 6), the iPhone 12 mini also has an aluminum chassis, but with a 5.4-inch screen. It will be available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB models in blue, green, black, white, and (PRODUCT)RED, starting at $979 CAD.

HomePod mini from Apple debuts at $129

In addition to the new iPhones, Apple also revealed the HomePod mini, which will be available in white and space grey for only $129 CAD.

One of the new features with the HomePod mini is the ability to use them as intercoms, to send messages to people in other rooms that are equipped with the smart speakers.

The new device will be available to preorder on November 6, with the speakers shippping the week of November 16.

Subscription rates for Netflix Canada are going up

Netflix started delivering service to Canadians in 2010, and at that time the monthly subscription cost $8.

Prices went up in November 2018, by which time the streaming service had three tiers.

The basic plan, for one screen and standard resolution, became $10. The standard plan, for two screens at high-definition, became $14. And the premium plan, for up to four screens and ultra-high-definition, was raised to $17.

The cost for the standard plan will now be $15, while the price for the premium subscription becomes $19.

WRLDCTY virtual festival celebrates the world’s metropolises

Running October 22 through October 24, WRLDCTY is a conference all about cities.

And while the panel discussions and presentations from the likes of Richard Florida, Sidewalks Labs’ Dan Doctoroff, and walkable city proponent Jennifer Keesmaat are easy to put online, the organizers of WRLDCTY are promising to provide participants with unequaled virtual travel experiences.

From the website: “WRLDCTY takes you virtually everywhere: yoga from Santa Monica Pier, magic from Hong Kong, burlesque from Brooklyn, travel photography from Mexico City and dozens more experiences. 36 hours of globe trotting from the comfort of home. with some of the world’s most exciting content creators, artists, and performers.”

The virtual travel and the keynotes are available with a free general admission ticket, but the panels discussions and Q and As are only available with a “pro pass”, which is $150 USD.

Microsoft’s cloud gaming service is a revolution

We’ve only got one television in our house, so our iPads get used a lot. But if I want to play a console game and one of my kids is already playing something, I’m out of luck.

Not anymore.

Microsoft’s cloud gaming service, which comes as part of the Xbox Games Pass Ultimate subscription ($17 a month), lets me play all of the titles in the Game Pass library on an Android smartphone or tablet.

For the past week, since the release of the Ultimate package, I’ve been playing Halo, Destiny 2, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. It’s easy to pair an Xbox controller to the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G that I’ve been using, and the screen on that handset is so stunning that with a pair of headphones on, it’s easy to get lost and forget that you’re playing on a phone.

There’s still no support for iPads or iPhones, but we can hope that changes soon.

In the meantime, there’s a reason to have an Android device or two in the house.

The Sims goes all in with Star Wars expansion

The latest expansion to the Sims 4 is Journey to Batuu, which lets you put your Sims into the world of Star Wars.

It’s playable on PS4, Windows, Xbox One, and with the expansion enabled, you get to choose whether to side with the Resistance and Rey, or the First Order and Kylo Ren.

This is a travel expansion, so your Sim actually travels into the Star Wars universe to have an adventure, after which they return to their home bringing with them souvenirs like light sabers and droids, and items that you can use to decorate your abode.

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