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This week, it’s all about technology and COVID-19.

B.C. has an online COVID-19 self-assessment tool

This week, the BC Ministry of Health released an online self-assessment tool.

The tool asks a series of “yes/no” questions and offers suggestions on what to do. If you’re struggling to breathe or have severe chest pain you are instructed to call 911 or get to an emergency department.

Other instructions include a direction to self-isolate and call 811 to speak with a nurse at HealthLink BC.

The app was developed by Thrive Health in partnership with B.C. government organizations.

Canadian telcos giving customers a break in response to COVID-19

Most of Canada’s providers of mobile and internet services are opening things up a bit as a result of the pandemic.

Bell is waiving overage charges for home internet customers.

Rogers is waiving long distance charges and roaming fees for some customers.

Shaw has opened up its WiFi network to everyone for free.

Telus is waiving internet overage and roaming charges.

Rogers and Telus are also offering support to customers and businesses that may have financial difficulties at this time.

What to do while you’re staying home to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic

On Tuesday, three months ahead of the original release date, Disney added Frozen 2 to the Disney+ streaming lineup. The Mouse has also released Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker for purchase earlier than expected through iTunes.

Universal Pictures is turning to home releases to make up for dismal theatre receipts, pushing The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma to rent this weekend, and deciding that Trolls World Tour will be released in theatres and on-demand simultaneously.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York, meanwhile, is staging daily performances of free opera streams that you can access on your preferred device.

Renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma is tweeting videos of himself playing what he’s hashtagged #songsofcomfort, and others are jumping on the bandwagon.

And Google has partnered with dozens of museums that you can visit virtually from the comfort of your own living room, including the Guggenheim in New York, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Hermitage outside of St. Petersburg, and the Tate in London.

Tech companies working to curb profiteering and false information

Amazon has blocked the account of Manny Ranga, who nearly bought out Costco’s stock of Lysol wipes in B.C.‘s lower mainland. Kijiji, meanwhile, has banned listings for surgical masks and hand sanitizer.

And Apple, in an effort to make sure that mobile apps for iOS that can help people deal with COVID-19, is offering to expedite reviews for organizations that are on a list of “recognized entities” from which data can be considered “reputable”. Fees to become a member of the Apple Developer Program are also being waived for some organizations.

With schools closed all parents are going to become homeschoolers

I’ve written about Khan Academy before, which provides free educational resources to everyone. The gang over there has put together schedules that parents can use to provide structure to the days, including links to age-appropriate lessons and practice resources.

If your kids are ready for more advanced education, there are free courses that they can take online provided by universities and institutions. You can find other online courses at Open Culture and Class Central.

Active for Life, meanwhile, has collected more than 200 activities you can do with your kids at home that will keep them developing their physical skills as well as doing something with all that energy.

And to give them a little break, the Canadian video game developer and publisher Snowman is giving away the two endless runners Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey. They are delightful games.

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This week, a free ebook to celebrate International Women’s Day and one of the best video games of all time is headed to TV. Plus, what people are really doing when they work from home and how Chinese students are coping with online learning. But first, tracking all the cancelled events.

Website “Is it cancelled yet?” tracking the things we’ve lost

Not all of the notable events and issues listed on Is it cancelled yet? are big, publicized events. Other things, like “handshakes” and Doctors Without Borders, are also listed. (Medecins sans frontieres is not cancelled, by the way; you should donate.)

But the website, curated by Chillmage, is tracking most of the big happenings that are now not happening. Like SXSW, GDC, and former Hardball host Chris Matthews.

Earlier this week, events like E3 and TED, were tagged with “uh oh”. Now E3 has been cancelled and TED delayed.

And just in case, @chillmage has included a salient disclaimer at the bottom of the page: “This is not a comprehensive guide to all human gatherings on planet Earth.”

Epson Canada survey about working from home reveals what people are really doing on that conference call

Lots of people are choosing to work from home or being asked to work from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while there are lots of people out there on the social networks sharing their tips on how to stay productive, Epson Canada wanted to know what kinds of things people are doing while working at home that they wouldn’t be able to get away with at the office.

So they conducted a survey.

  • Conference calls: Half of the respondents said they had cooked or eaten during conference calls. 42 percent said they had been on calls while using the bathroom. 19 percent exercised or walked the dog.
  • Dress code: 46 percent of the people said they wore sweatpants or yoga pants.
  • Distractions: 21 percent of respondents said they had the TV on while they worked.

Another finding of the Epson survey was that nearly everyone, 97 percent, said they needed to print things.

Chinese elementary students may have found a way to get out of online homework

Wamg Xoiying writing The Word from Wuhan in the London Review of Books:

“Schools are suspended until further notice. With many workplaces also shut, notoriously absent Chinese fathers have been forced to stay home and entertain their children. Video clips of life under quarantine are trending on TikTok. Children were presumably glad to be off school – until, that is, an app called DingTalk was introduced. Students are meant to sign in and join their class for online lessons; teachers use the app to set homework. Somehow the little brats worked out that if enough users gave the app a one-star review it would get booted off the App Store. Tens of thousands of reviews flooded in, and DingTalk’s rating plummeted overnight from 4.9 to 1.4. The app has had to beg for mercy on social media: ‘I’m only five years old myself, please don’t kill me.’”

International Women’s Day marked with free ebook from Tor

It was International Women’s Day last Sunday, and to mark the occasion, book publisher Tor started giving away a notable ebook, Nevertheless, She Persisted.

The book was originally published on the publisher’s website in 2017 and includes short pieces of writing from writers including Kameron Hurley, Seanan McGuire, Charlie Jane Anders, Jo Walton, Catherynne M. Valente, and more.

“Chernobyl” creator adapting “The Last of Us” video game for HBO

Craig Mazin, who created the chilling TV series, “Chernobyl”, is partnering with Neil Druckmann, co-creator of the astonishing video game, “The Last of Us”, to bring the Playstation exclusive to HBO.

Druckmann, who was co-directed the 2013 game with Bruce Straley for Naughty Dog, is about to see the release of the sequel, The Last of Us Part II, scheduled for release on May 29.

The HBO series, which does not have a release date, will reportedly cover the events of the first game and possibly the sequel.

No casting has been announced.

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This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey being under threat by a company buying up stock, how Google and Microsoft have made conferencing and collaboration software available for free, how you can access the HDMI on the hotel TV, and the latest expansion for Ubisoft’s The Division 2.

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This week, action in The Division 2 moves back to New York, and how to improve travelling by hacking hotel TVs, and managing your iPhone battery. But first, Google and Microsoft are responding to COVID-19 with free software.

COVID-19 prompts Google and Microsoft to make conferencing and collaboration software available free

In the wake of COVID-19’s spread, conferences and work travel are being cancelled, and two leading tech companies are responding by making conferencing technology available for free.

Google is making advanced Hangout features available for free to G Suite and G Suite for Education customers.

This allows for larger meetings, live streaming, and recording.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is making Teams available for free for six months. That platform includes collaborative file sharing, video conferencing, and chat.

How to access the HDMI port on that hotel TV

One of the Hilton’s I stayed at had a panel on the wall next to the TV where I could plug in my own HDMI cable so I could throw my iPad video up on the big screen.

But not all hotels are so civilized. Deviant Ollam tells us how to easily circumvent this.

Get more life out of your iPhone battery with optimised charging

The other thing you want to keep track of when travelling is the power level on your smartphone.

One way that you can help do this is by treating your iPhone battery properly, because it turns out that keeping your battery fully charged all the time can reduce its lifespan.

That’s one reason that iOS 13 includes a feature that tracks your typical use and uses it to keep your batttery to 80% when you’re charging it, and only charging to full right before you need it to be full.

You can turn on “optimised battery charging” in the Settings menu:

  • Battery
  • Battery health

Which is great when you’re at home and have a fairly regular routine that has you plugging in your phone every night.

When you’re travelling, though, you can turn this off so that your phone takes the charge when it can get it.

Ubisoft’s The Division 2 returns to New York from Washington D.C.

The Division 2 is Ubisoft’s online third-person shooter set in a near future in which the world has been decimated by a smallpox pandemic.

The new expansion for the game is now available, and it ratchets up the tension consderably.

Warlords of New York takes the story back to New York, where the first game was set before moving to Washington D.C.

Warlords raises the level cap to 40 and introduces new weapons and gear as players and their teams try and capture a rogue agent who is responsible for a biological attack.

Learn more about what’s changed in Warlords of New York, and move out.

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