Technological World for May 13: Homecon's virtual fan convention, Apple's Swift Student Challenge, discover your family history with Ancestry, Sidewalk Labs drops Quayside in Toronto, TP-Link's Deco X60 brings better Wi-Fi to you

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This week, Apple’s Swift Student Challenge, finding your family history on Ancestry.ca, Sidewalk Labs says sayonara to Toronto, and TP-Link’s Deco X60 is the best Wi-Fi mesh you can get right now. But first, get your fan on with Homecon.

Homecon brings fan convention experience to you

Spring is the time of year when all the fan conventions begin happening, but with the worldwide shutdown due to the pandemic, most of those have been cancelled (or postponed, which to my mind is simply delaying the inevitable).

Homecon seized on the idea that the fan experience can be virtual. Over the weekend of April 10, organizers brought together a number of celebrities to participate in conference-call-enabled panels and offered attendees the opportunity to schedule one-on-one video chats with them.

The “2nd Edition” of the virtual event will stream on Twitch this Saturday and Sunday (May 16 and May 17) starting at 7:45 a.m. PT, 10:45 a.m. ET.

While the celebrities who will be available for the one-on-one video chats had not been released by the time I published this article, the two-day event will included panels on the television shows Orphan Black, Heroes, Vikings, The 100, Dark Matter, and The Rookie, and actors Tatiana Maslany, Nathan Fillion, and more.

There’s also a panel on indigenous sci-fi and horror that looks to include stars of the film, Blood Quantum.

Young coders can enter Apple’s Swift Student Challenge

Apple announced this week that students from around the world (minimum 13-years-old and enrolled in school) have a chance to win a Worldwide Developer’s Conference 2020 jacket and pin set as part of the Swift Student Challenge.

The task is to build a creative scene in a Swift playground using the free Swift Playgrounds app, which teaches how to code the Swift programming language by solving problems and playing games.

Submissions are due before midnight, Pacific time on Sunday, May 17.

Ancestry website makes its database available for free this weekend

Ancestry.ca, which is affiliated with Ancestry sites around the world, has a massive database of information about people and families and claims to have more than 4 billion profiles in 34 million family trees.

And from Friday, May 15 to Monday, May 18, you can explore your family history for free.

You might start by searching with your last name and finding out where the name originates. In a release promoting the service, the company reported that the most popular surname in Canada is “Smith”. That’s been true since 1911.

Ancestry.ca has also developed a worksheet that kids learning from home can use to guide their research into their family name.

After this weekend you can take advantage of a 14-day free trial to explore more. A membership to Ancestry.ca costs between $15 and $30 a month, depending on what information you want access to.

Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs abandons Toronto Quayside project

In the fall of 2017, Sidewalk Labs, which says it is “reimagining cities to improve quality of life,” announced an interesting project along Toronto’s eastern waterfront.

Quayside was going to be a neighbourhood where new technology would be integral. Not just digital services like high-speed connectivity throughout, but innovations in transportation and mobility and even in how construction was to take place.

But the project has been scrapped.

In a post, Sidewalk Labs CEO Daniel Doctoroff called the decision “difficult” and says that the effort to tackle “big urban problems” will continue.

New TP-Link Deco mesh routers give you Wi-Fi 6 connectivity which means faster, more stable wireless

Never before have you needed better wireless at home, especially if you’ve got multiple people in your household, all trying to get access to the internet for meetings, school work, gaming, and Netflix.

The new mesh Wi-Fi routers from TP-Link are here to save you.

The Deco X20 and Deco X60 use the Wi-Fi 6 standard, which is the next-generation connectivity protocol.

There are a few things which make Wi-Fi 6 different from earlier standards. One is that it supports faster upload and download speeds. Faster than you can probably use, in fact, even if you’ve got the premium package from your internet service provider.

More importantly, Wi-Fi 6 is better able to manage multiple devices being connected to a network. It means that routers can support more devices at once. While you may not get faster speeds to your devices – that will be determined by your tablet, smartphone, or laptop – you will find that your connection will be more stable.

That’s on top of the other features that TP-Link brings, including mesh networking, Alexa support, and simple set up and configuration with the Deco smartphone app.

I’ve got the X60 up and running in our house, and we’ve noticed an immediate improvement over the mesh routers it’s replaced.

There are three main differences between the Deco X60 and the Deco X20:

  • Deco X20: up to 1,800 Mbps, up to 5,800 square feet of coverage, $400
  • Deco X60: up to 3,000 Mbps, up to 7,000 square feet of coverage, $550

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