Tech round-up for October 30: Ring Floodlight Battery, AirPods Pro, Twitter bans political ads, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

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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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