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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about how Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ are in service of selling Apple computers and devices, about Adobe’s release of Photoshop on iPad and the upcoming Illustrator on iPad, about insecure GPS kid trackers, and about the move by Canadian mobile service providers to save us all from robocalls.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, cheap child GPS trackers are a problem. Also a problem? NRA employees editing Wikipedia entries. But first, Adobe’s finally got Photoshop on the iPad.

Full-featured Photoshop on the iPad, and Illustrator is coming

This week at the Adobe Max conference, the software company revealed Photoshop on iPad, a version of the popular image editing app that has been designed to provide most of the features professionals need on the iPad. And because Adobe has also changed the file format used by Photoshop, it means that work done on the iPad will sync with computers, allowing users to pick up where they left off on a different device.

While the iPad version of the software doesn’t provide everything that the computer version does, Adobe says that iPad Photoshop allows for the same kind of compositing, layering, and retouching that before has only been possible on computers.

What may be most important is the interface, which is very similar to what computer Photoshoppers are used to, with tools on the left and layers on the right. The controls have been designed for the touch interface, and Apple Pencil is supported.

If you already have a subscription to Photoshop, the new iPad version is included. A subscription to Adobe’s “photography” software is $10 USD a month, and gives you Photoshop on both computer and iPad, as well as Lightroom.

Adobe also announced that it has a team working on an iPad version of Illustrator, which is the software of choice for many artists and designers. The company said that it will also allow for creatives to work across devices with the same file and file format.

NRA employees suspected of editing Wikipedia to make the gun-rights org look better

In a shocking investigative story, journalists at Splinter News were able to establish that edits to some Wikipedia articles were being made from within the headquarters for the U.S. National Rifle Association (NRA).

By comparing the edits made by IP addresses that were associated with computers in the NRA facility in Fairfax, Virgina, Molly Osberg and Dhruv Mehrotra showed that some of “the additions quite regularly inserted NRA promotional materials into Wikipedia under the guise of fact.”

One anonymous editor from within the NRA building attempted to edit the Wikipedia page of former NRA president Marion Hammer, adding the following text:

“Tough. Professional. Skillful. Persistent. Honest. A person whose word you can count on. A legendary leader whose community service, devotion to America’s youth, and legendary leadership are all qualities that make Marion P. Hammer one of the most successful and respected Second Amendment freedom fighters of our time.”

Not very neutral, is it? The edits were live on Wikipedia for about five hours, before being rejected by other, more credible editors.

When it comes to child GPS trackers, opt for trustworthy over price

News from Avast, the technology privacy and security company that provides software solutions for personal users and businesses, that not all GPS trackers are created equally.

The company’s Threat Labs have discovered that 29 models of trackers being produced in China and sold on various online stores are not providing necessary security, so the devices are sending information to the cloud, “including the exact real-time GPS coordinates of children.”

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Categories Video games | Film, television

There’s a longstanding notion that every business decision made by Apple has been in the service of selling more Mac computers. That may have been true when Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPod, but now that people can have iPhones and iPads without having an Apple computer, the company is shifting in the way that so many other tech companies have, into a content and services model.

Apple has always provided services to people who used its products. It was among the first to offer email addresses and has long supported cloud storage of things like calendars and address books. The release this fall of Arcade and Apple TV+ – which provide subscribers with access to a catalogue of video games, movies, and television shows – is a continued shift into the delivery of content.

And while it might not all be in service of selling computers, it’s certainly about selling Apple devices.

Apple Arcade

For a monthly subscription price of $5.99, up to five family members can access unlimited gaming with Apple Arcade. The games that are part of the service are free of both ads and microtransactions, and you can play them whether you’re connected or not. In the world of mobile gaming, this is transcendent.

But it’s a mistake to think of Apple Arcade as mobile gaming, because the experiences are designed to be played on multiple devices, and many of them support the use of a traditional game controller.

And many games, which run the gamut of types and genres, are being developed and published by Canadian indie studios.

Toronto’s Snowman has published the skateboard sim Skate City (developed by Agens) and the puzzle game Where Cards Fall (developed by the Game Band), which has players configuring playing card structures. And Saskatoon’s Noodlecake has published The Enchanted World (developed by AI Interactive), a puzzle game where you slide tiles of the board to create a path through the world.

Four different Vancouver-area developers have titles on Apple Arcade:

  • Hot Lava, a port of Klei Entertainment’s game already available on Steam
  • Stela, from Burnaby’s Skybox Labs, which is a side-scrolling platformer
  • RAC7’s Sneaky Sasquatch, in which players become the elusive creature, avoiding humans and ultimately passing for one
  • Pinball Wizard, Frosty Pop’s crazy hybrid of a pinball game and an RPG title

By far my favourite, though, is Capybara’s Grindstone. The clever developers at the Toronto studio have managed to come up with a puzzle game that is as inventive and compelling as Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, a game they built for Ubisoft back in 2009.

Apple TV+

It’s early days for Apple TV+. The service kicked off on November 1, and for a monthly fee of $5.99, subscribers get original programming like The Morning Show, produced by and starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon and the Jason Momoa action vehicle See.

There’s also Dickinson, which stars Hailee Steinfeld as the poet and writer Emily Dickinson in a mashup of Pride and Prejudice and teenage soap opera, which has a similar sensibility that Baz Luhrmann brought to Shakespeare with his version of Romeo and Juliet.

And from Battlestar Galactica and Outlander showrunner Ronald Moore is For All Mankind, which imagines an alternate timeline where the Soviet Union was first to land on the moon and the space race never ended.

While reviews from critics and the public are all over the place on the first shows on the platform, Apple appears to be willing to play the long game with its video programming, building out exclusives that fit with its corporate tone.

The cross-device advantage

The low subscription prices for Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ are evidence that Apple is getting into the content and services business to sell hardware. There’s also the fact that everyone who purchases an Apple device will get a year of Apple TV+.

So unlike companies that are selling subscriptions as a primary business model – like Netflix – Apple is providing subsidized content as a way of making the Apple ecosystem a more compelling place to be.

And while you don’t need to have multiple Apple products to enjoy the content, the latest operating systems from Apple – macOS Catalina, iPad OS and iOS 13 – pull all of the content offerings together and enable them across devices in amazingly functional ways.

So you can stop playing or watching on one device, and pick up instantly on another. It is this seamless experience that Apple is hoping will not only keep people using its devices, but adding more of them.

With new iPhones and a new version of iPad just released, and rumours that a new model MacBook Pro is pending, there are lots of Apple devices that people can play games and watch videos on.

For Apple, it’s not just about computers, anymore. But it is about hardware.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Apple has announced new earphones, Twitter has announced it’s not taking political ads (while Facebook takes fire for continuing to run them), and some thoughts about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. To start, new Ring connected lights and cameras are battery powered.

New Ring products take advantage of battery – and solar – power

One of the things that makes LED lighting so advantageous is its efficiency. What used to require a hardwired connection to the electrical grid in your house can now be powered by a few batteries that will last you weeks or months.

Case in point is the new Ring Floodlight Battery ($70) that only requires four “D” cell batteries to power it.

In my home, there’s only one external electrical outlet. Needless to say, I’ve got quite the collection of extension cords. I can’t have those cables running all over the yard, of course, so I’ve never been able to have a good floodlight aiming at the dark corners of our backyard, where the racoons and skunks must be getting up to no good.

In less than five minutes, I had the Floodlight Battery up and running. It’s got a motion sensor attached to it, and I’ve got control over the sensitivity. I can even use my smartphone to control things.

In August, Ring also announced a bunch of other battery-powered outdoor LED lighting solutions, all of which can be motion activated. These include a Spotlight ($55), for illuminating areas for which a floodlight is too much, Pathlights ($40), for use along walkways and sidewalks, and Steplights ($35), which are great for stairs.

And by connecting them to a Ring Bridge ($70) I’m able to use any of them as a trigger for other Ring devices. I can set different zones in which I can assign devices, so when the Floodlight in the backyard detects movement, all of the other lights in the backyard turn on.

The other devices that can be triggered by these motion sensors are the new security cameras announced at the end of September by Amazon, which owns Ring.

All of the new security cameras have night vision functionality and support two-way voice, so if you’re looking in on an area of your house from the office, you can shout at the dog through the camera to get off the couch.

The Ring Indoor Cam ($80) is meant for indoor use, but the third-generation Ring Stick Up Cam is designed to be used anywhere. It comes in two configurations: Battery ($130) and a solar unit ($199). They are all available now.

AirPods Pro are in-ear and come with noise cancellation

Apple announced on Monday the release of AirPods Pro, a new set of earbuds for iOS devices that introduce active noise cancellation and a “Transparency” mode.

The active noise cancellation means that the AirPods Pro can adjust to the environment to provide a quieter listening experience. Transparency is an optional feature that allows me to allow some environmental sound to my ears. Perfect when I’m on a subway in an unfamiliar city and need to be listening to the announcements.

The AirPods Pro automatically sync to your iOS devices when you bring them near, and you can share an audio signal with a friend who is using a supported iPhone or iPad.

They provide between three and four and a half hours of use on a charge, depending on how you use them, and they come in a wireless charging case that gives three or four full charges to the earbuds.

One other thing that makes the AirPods Pro different from previous models is the design. These are in-ear, so they embed in the ear canal with silicone ear tips.

As someone who’s never been able to use AirPods before – they simply fall out – this is a very exciting evolution. I can’t wait to try them.

Available today, Apple’s new AirPods Pro are priced at $329.

The state of political ads on Twitter and Facebook

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced today that the platform would no longer accept political advertising.

“This isn’t about free expression,” Dorsey posted. “This is about paying for reach.” Which is an important distinction.

One of the messages in the thread seems to be a direct dig at Facebook: “For instance, it‘s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want!’,” he writes.

In the past couple of weeks, Facebook has been under fire for doing exactly that.

A story from the Star and Buzzfeed reported on how an American website was able to distribute content that had been repeatedly deemed false by news organizations, including by one of Facebook’s own fact-checking partners.

This is because Facebook has decided that poltiical ads should not be prohibitted from make false statements. (But then bans Adriel Hampton from running ads even after he registered as a candidate for governor of California so that he could run false ads in an effort to call attention to Facebook’s policy).

Twitter’s Dorsey also calls for more regulation of political ads, beyond the transparency requirements that are now in place.

Ads in support of voter registration will be exempted from the new Twitter policy, which takes effect on November 22.

The question now is: Who decides what qualifies as a political ad?

Latest Call of Duty introduces new approach to Modern Warfare

I admit I skipped the last Call of Duty game, last year’s Black Ops 4, because the developers at Treyarch decided to make it multiplayer only. Without a single-player campaign, I didn’t have much to think about.

And above all else, the Call of Duty games have always made me think. I’ve been thinking a lot about this year’s release, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Don’t confuse the 2019 title with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, also developed by Infinity Ward but released in 2007. The two games share more than just a name. They both got me thinking and they both brought something new to Call of Duty.

Available now – for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One – Modern Warfare has a single-player campaign with a narrative that is dark and troubling and, to be honest, manipulative.

This new Modern Warfare was designed to bring some realism to the experience of modern combat. Which means that you may find yourself in deadly fights with civilians around, and confronted by child soldiers who may be trying to kill you.

What will you do? In truth, whatever the game needs you to do in order to further the story, which is where the manipulation comes in. Call of Duty is full of messages, political and otherwise, and in Modern Warfare those are about what is required by special operatives in order to protect western civilization.

The game plays out like a movie with breathtaking pacing, moving slowly and deliberately and then punctuated with frightening action sequences in which you’ll feel barely in control, even if you’re a skilled with first-person shooter games.

In terms of multplayer, Modern Warfare has all of the modes that have been tuned over the years to deliver what fans expect. Deathmatch, Domination, and Headquarters are here, but the new thing is the best thing.

It’s called Gunfight and it pits teams of two against each other in close quarters. It’s heart-pounding and when your partner goes down, you really feel like there’s no-one left who can help you.

Modern Warfare also capitalizes on the recent relaxing of platforms that allows for cross-platform play, so if you’re on a PC you can still play with a friend who’s on a console.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is nerve wracking whether you’re playing through the narrative or engaged in PVP. You’ll be thinking about the actions the game is leading you to and what that all means.

And you’ll be thinking about how you’re going to get through it.

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