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Categories Consumer technology |

This week, the emoji takeover, Medimap makes getting sick slightly less terrible, and the influencers need to stop influencing. But first, Google sets a record for biggest fine: US$5 million.

European Union slaps Google with massive fine

Google has “cemented the dominance of its search engine” says Margrethe Vestager, who heads up the European Commission for Competition. As such, the company has been handed a US$5 billion fine,

The commission actually found Google guilty of three types of illegal restrictions:

  • Bundling the Google search engine and other apps into the Android operating system
  • Preventing mobile device manufacturers from running variant versions of Android
  • Paying manufacturers and mobile networks for exclusivity on smartphones

This has shades of the decision against Microsoft for bundling Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer within the Windows operating system.

Those decisions led to the creation and popularization of alternatives like Firefox and Chrome.

The difference here is that Google’s advertising revenues rely on the search engine. Reducing the impact of Google’s search engine could have a profound affect on the company.

Vestager said Google has 90 days to stop or face further action. The fine could have been up to $11 billion.

Google says it will appeal the decision.

The problem with social media

Happy World Emoji Day (yesterday)

It’s almost like we’ve found ourselves in Ancient Egypt and the era of hieroglyphs. Emoji have become central to how we communicate today.

Yesterday was World Emoji Day. There are currently 1644 of them. Another 1145 include skin tone variants

Emoji were invented by Japanese designer Shigetaka Kurita. The first one, in 1999, was a heart for use on pagers.

In Canada last year, Twitter determined that the most popular sport emoji was a basketball. The hockey stick and puck came second.

There was even a movie featuring emoji as characters, which may have been the worst idea for a film ever. Somehow, The Emoji Movie won Golden Raspberries for Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo, and Worst Screenplay, and still grossed more than $200 million.

Reactine Canada wants you to have an allergy emoji and has started a petition by way of encouraging the Unicode Consortium to add it to the library.

Find out the wait time at your local medical clinic before you leave home

There’s nothing worse than feeling terrible and having to sit in an uncomfortable chair with a bunch of other sickos while you wait to see a doctor.

Medimap is changing that.

The online service collects information from walk-in medical clinics in Canada and gives you wait times for the clinics closest to you. More and more clinics are participating because they know first hand what it’s like to have to deal with the frustrated patient who has shown up only to find out there are no more spots open for the day.

You can’t book an appointment using Medimap, but using it means you don’t have to call the clinic and pester the overworked receptionist/nurse to ask how long the lineup is.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, the App Store turns 10, Microsoft announces the Surface Go, and Segway announces the existence of “e-skates”. But first, getting ready for Prime Day 2018.

Prime Day 2018 is next week

The retail steamroller that is Amazon just keeps rolling along, and to prove the point the company has expanded Prime Day 2018 to be 36 hours long.

It all starts at noon Pacific time (3 p.m. Eastern) on Monday, July 16, and ending at midnight Tuesday, July 17.

If you don’t already know, Prime Day is when Amazon offers up all kinds of exclusive deals to members of its Prime service. Exactly what will be on sale is always a bit of a surprise, but you can always find something that you can justify needing. Maybe you want to join the Instant Pot bandwagon. Or add to your Blu-Ray collection. You can get clothes, electronics, and kitchenware. You can even get books, in digital and print formats.

New this year are 30% discounts on Whole Foods products sold at, and $10 off in-store purchases over $50 starting today and through next Tuesday. That’s what we get when Amazon buys companies.

You can spend your day staring at the Amazon storefront, or you can “Watch a Deal” and get notified when something you fancy goes on sale.

Only Prime members get to take advantage of this extravaganza. It costs $79 for a year and as a member you also get free two-day shipping on purchases, access to Prime Music, and Prime Video, which has exclusives like Goliath, The Man in the High Castle, and starting next season, The Expanse.

Apple’s App Store has been around for 10 years

For ten years, Apple has been making software for its mobile devices available through its exclusive App Store. What a decade it’s been.

One of the early iOS games that really proved what mobile gaming could be was Toy Bot Diaries, from Vancouver studio IUGO. More recently, the developer has become known for Knights & Dragons.

Other B.C. stalwarts include RAC7 (Splitter Critters) and Frosty Pop Corps (cranking out various apps and games at a rapid pace).

Hothead Games and Klei both got their start making console games but have pivoted to mobile titles with, respectively, Kill Shot and Don’t Starve, among others.

And that’s just on the west coast. Across Canada there are hundreds of other developers making games and productivity apps for iOS devices. Millions of people around the world are on those devices, using those apps.

We’re reading newspapers, magazines, and books, watching TV and movies, and listening to radio and podcasts all through software acquired through the App Store.

Critics might talk about the problem with the walled garden system, but it does benefit both developers, who have a consistent technology to work with, and consumers, who have a secure, curated space in which to shop.

As Apple’s mobile devices continue to advance, new experiences are becoming possible through the App Store. Augmented reality, in-real-life (IRL), and educational apps are the next wave.

Microsoft’s Surface Go starts at $529 in Canada

Microsoft’s Surface devices are hybrids, a little bit laptop and a little bit tablet.

Some of the models, like the Surface Book 2 ($1,599) and the Surface Pro ($1,049), are a little more laptop because they run the full version of Windows 10. The Surface Laptop ($949), weird given its name, is a little more like a tablet with a keyboard.

Surface Go is smaller, with a 10-inch screen, and has a lower end processing and graphics capability. The idea is to provide a cheaper and more portable Surface option.

While it’s priced at $529 (you get double the processing and hard drive space for $699), to get the laptop-like functionality with the Surface Go, you’ll be spending an extra $130 or so for a keyboard cover.

The Surface Go is available for preorder now and will be shipping on August 2. Microsoft says a model with LTE cellular functionality is coming later this year.

Forget rollerblades, Segway’s created electric skates

The Drift W1 e-Skates (what is with the product naming strategies these companies are using?) appear to be using the same self-balancing technology that the Segway scooter uses.

No word on pricing, but there’s a press conference in L.A. on July 24 when we should get more details on cost and release dates.

These seem to be made for Canadians, who already know how to skate.

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Categories Consumer technology |

This week, the rise of audiobooks continues the struggle between publishers and Amazon, a B.C. city installs solar panels in a parking lot, and studying the aerodynamics of Star Wars ships. But first, are Samsung phones texting your photos without your permission or knowledge?

Are Samsung phones texting photos independent of user action?

You may be wondering if this is another case that makes you think technology may have a mind of its own.

This week, stories from users of Samsung smartphones have surfaced in which they claim that their phones are texting photos to people in their contact lists seemingly at random, and without the users initiating it.

Samsung claims to be investigating the issue, but so far it’s very unclear whether this is a real issue or not because there is a very limited number of incidents that have been reported. And they may be related to a specific mobile carrier: T-Mobile in the U.S.

There don’t appear to be any such cases from Canada.

There was an update recently to the Samsung Messages app to move it from SMS (short message service) to RCS (rich communication services) protocol, which makes messaging more robust across different devices and carriers.

It’s entirely possible this is a non-issue. Until anything is clarified, though, if you’re a Samsung user and concerned you should simply use a different messaging app. Android Messages from Google is a good option that supports RCS.

Solar panels installed in Prince George City Hall parking lot

The City of Prince George in British Columbia has integrated photovoltaic (PV) panels in its parking lot.

The electricity generated by the panels will be used by city hall and the electric vehicle charging stations at the lot.

The panels, only millimetres thick and integrated with the asphalt, were designed by French company, Colas Group.

Vancouver’s Solar Earth is also working on PV-enabled roads and last year created the Solar Compass at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

Audio books have come a long way since books-on-tape

Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and The Big Short, has left Vanity Fair and has become a magazine writer for Audible, the audio book company owned by Amazon.

Writing in the New York Times, Alexandra Alter details the shift in the book publishing landscape.

John Scalzi told Alter that his novel Lock In, published in 2014, sold nearly twice as many audiobook versions as hardcovers.

That’s why Amazon, through Audible, is being so aggressive about new and exclusive content, and why publishers are scrambling to keep in the game.

Star Wars spaceship designs aren’t very aerodynamic

EC Henry publishes on YouTube with commentary on all things science fiction, including lots of stuff about Star Trek and Star Wars.

Recently, he got his hands on a copy of Autodesk’s Flow Design software, which is a virtual wind tunnel, and because Mr Henry is all about sci-fi, he put Star Wars spaceships into the tunnel.

He concedes that the ships from Star Wars are mostly used to fly in space, where there is no atmosphere and no need to worry about aerodynamics.

But if you’re curious to know how the Imperial ships match up against the Rebel designs when they’re fighting above the surface of a planet, have a watch.

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