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This week, Facebook unveils dating features at its developers conference, Apple’s new iPad gets kids using a stylus, and Health Canada recalls dangerous USB chargers. But first, Amazon builds its presence in Vancouver while Collision plans a visit to Toronto.

Evidence of Canada’s role as a technology centre comes to Toronto, Vancouver

Amazon on Monday announced it was going to add 3,000 high-tech workers to its Vancouver operation, adding to the 1,000 that are already here.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson were at the press event announcing the plan, which will be Amazon’s third location in downtown Vancouver. The additional staff, which will be employed in “in fields including e-commerce technology, cloud computing, and machine learning” according to a statement, will be moving into a new tech hub being built inside the old Canada Post building.

Meanwhile, the Collision technology conference, which attracted some 25,000 attendees to New Orleans this week and had Al Gore as a speaker, has named Toronto’s Exhibition Place as the venue for its next three events starting in 2019, when it will take place from May 20 through May 23.

Facebook introducing dating features

Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, is happening this week, and like all such events, things kicked off with a keynote presentation by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

With all that’s been going on, you’d expect him to address what his company is going to do to combat fake news, which he did. You’d expect new features to help people control their own data, and he talked about that, too, with a new “clear history” feature that’s upcoming.

Another new feature is “Watch Party” which allows groups of people to communally watch and comment on video. He joked about his friends could have held one of those while he was testifying at the U.S. Congress. “Let’s not do that again anytime soon,” he said.

And then Zuckerberg introduced a number of new features focused on dating. There are 200 million people listed as “single” on Facebook, he said. “So clearly there’s something to do here.”

So Facebook is taking on Tinder and MyCupid. Because nothing could possibly go wrong with that.

New Apple iPad with stylus support is great for kids

A few weeks ago, Apple announced a new iPad that the company hopes has the price and the features to entice schools to bring them into the classroom.

A couple of weeks ago, Apple Canada let my 7-year-old son take one for a test drive.

Health Canada issues recall notice for uncertified USB chargers

Canada’s health agency is warning consumers to beware of uncertified USB chargers that are being sold.

The organization has published a list of more than 25 different wall chargers that “pose an unacceptable risk of electric shock and fire”.

If you’ve got one of the recalled products, you should stop using it and return it to where you purchased it.

The dangerous devices were purchased at a number of different online and bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Health Canada recommends only using products that carry a Canadian certification mark. The problem is that many of the examples listed have been branded with certification marks that are either fake or are so similar to actual certification marks that the average person isn’t going to be able to tell the difference at a glance.

The lesson? Beware electronics that are too cheap.

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It was Earth Day last Sunday, so this week we’ll look at some new batteries that are a bit more eco-friendly and the success of London Drugs’ recycling program. Also, Flickr has been bought. What does that mean for your account? But first, an explanation for all the emails you’ve been getting from the social media sites this week.

Why you’re getting so many “updates to our terms of service” emails this week

If you’re like me, you’ve been getting lots of emails from various companies and organizations with whom you’ve got online accounts.

Twitter, Instagram, and Sonos were among the global corporations to communicate with users about changes to terms of service, data, and privacy policies this week:

Because there’s been so much talk recently about Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, you might think that these changes have something to do with that.

They don’t.

The changes in privacy policies is a result of an impending change to European Union law called the General Data Protection Regulation. The idea is to “harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens data privacy and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy.”

Sounds like a good idea to me.

The regulation was adopted two years ago but becomes enforceable on May 25, and while it only technically impacts EU citizens, any company that has information on EU residents must comply, or face hefty fines (4% of worldwide turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher).

One of the big changes is in what “consent” means. Hunton Andrews Kurth lay out the specific conditions.

Some companies are choosing to roll out the same rights to all users that are being afforded to EU citizens. Here’s how Slack is preparing for GDPR..

Others, like Facebook, seem to be trying to limit the number of users protected by the regulation.

These Fuji batteries are safe for landfills

Back in 2005, Statistics Canada reported that 60 percent of Canadians threw batteries in the garbage. This was a problem, because batteries used to be made of toxic materials like mercury, cadmium, lithium, and lead. Many batteries still are.

You can reduce the number of batteries you need to dispose of by using rechargeable ones, but they still have to be disposed of at some point.

That’s what makes Fuji EnviroMAX batteries so interesting. They do not use those same toxic materials and they are packaged with materials that can be easily recycled.

Fuji Batteries Canada is also making it possible for organizations like schools and sports teams to sell the batteries to raise funds for their initiatives.

A soccer team could sell packages of four AA batteries for $5, for example, and keep half that amount for tournament fees or team hoodies.

Now even though these batteries are technically safe for the trash, you should still have them recycled properly.

London Drugs has diverted 113 million pounds of junk from the landfill

For ten years, London Drugs has been collecting materials for recycling from customers. This has ranged from batteries to packaging to computers and electronics.

The company reports that in the last decade, it has diverted more than 113 million pounds of waste from the landfill.

Here’s the list of what you can recycle at your local London Drugs store:

  • Electrical and electronic goods (TVs, VCRs, computers, monitors, printers, small appliances, etc.)
  • Styrofoam
  • Plastic overwrapping and foam packaging (BC only)
  • Plastic and cardboard packaging from products purchased at London Drugs
  • Cell phones, PDA and rechargeable batteries
  • Alkaline Batteries
  • Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFL’s) incandescent or LED light bulbs, Christmas lights and fluorescent light tubes up to 4-foot lengths
  • Disposable cameras
  • Ink jet cartridges
  • Laser cartridges
  • Metal film canisters
  • Plastic shopping bags
  • Pop bottles and cans (BC only)
  • Insurance plastic folders

Flickr, once a darling of the online world, being acquired by SmugMug

Flickr took the Internet by storm in 2004. It actually spun out of an attempt by Stewart Butterfield to create a video game that would never end. When funding for that dried up, the Vancouver and San Francisco startup pivoted and decided to see if the photo-sharing tool they had built for the game had potential.

Butterfield would do the same thing in 2013 when he spun team communication service Slack out of Glitch, another video game project he imagined could last forever.

The photo service was acquired by Yahoo in 2005 when both companies were in their prime. Yahoo has since declined, and was purchased by Verizon last year.

SmugMug, meanwhile, is privately owned and has stuck to the plan it launched with in 2002: provide a paid service to people who want to store and share their photos online. In an interview with USA Today, CEO Don MacAskill said, “We don’t mine our customers’ photos for information to sell to the highest bidder, or to turn into targeted advertising campaigns.”

Flickr, which has a free account option, will be run as a standalone service while SmugMug collects feedback from users, according to MacAskill.

If you have a Flickr account

Your photos and videos will automatically transfer to SmugMug on May 25. You have until then to download your data and delete your account.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, the BlackBerry brand continues to eke out an existence with the Motion handset, Dominos Pizza wants to half deliver your supper, Amazon’s Spot, the video capable Echo, comes to Canada, and God of War is an exceptional game.

BlackBerry tries again with Motion smartphone

The Motion Android handset doesn’t come from the BlackBerry you remember, but BlackBerry Mobile, operated by Hong Kong-based TCL Communications, which has the license to create BlackBerry smartphones. (BlackBerry is now a software and services company.)

The BlackBerry KeyOne, released in the spring of 2017, was the first under the new licensing agreement, included the physical keyboard that has set BlackBerry devices apart from other smartphones

The Motion, released in Canada last fall, doesn’t have the keyboard. It looks like many of the other premium handsets on the market with a 5.5-inch edge-to-edge display. It’s square edges set it apart, as does the soft textured back.

The key benefit to the Motion is the battery, which will give you about two days of moderate usage. It also has quick charging functionality, which can get you a 50 percent charge in a little over half an hour.

Some of BlackBerry’s software also distinguish the Motion. In particular, BlackBerry Hub, which consolidates notifications into one feed, and DTEK, a security overview.

Aside from that, the Motion is average at best. Average camera. Average storage capacity (32 GB). Average screen.

The BlackBerry Motion costs $600 unlocked, so it’s not exactly competing with the Samsung Galaxy S9 ($960) and Google Pixel 2 ($900). But when compared to other mid-range devices like those that come from Asus, Motorola, and OnePlus, the Motion lacks the same specs at a higher price.

Amazon’s Echo Spot comes to Canada next week

Alexa has been officially supported in Canada since the end of 2017, but the latest device from Amazon doesn’t arrive until next week.

The Echo Spot, which adds a screen to the digital assistant and speaker, is available for preorder now, and ships on April 25, 2018.

The Spots each cost Can$170, but for a limited time you can save $50 when ordering two.

You can use the Spot in the same way that you use other Echo devices, to make calls, play music, control smart home functions, and ask Alexa for information.

But the screen means that you can now make and receive video calls and you can see the weather forecast.

You can even use the Spot as an alarm clock.

Dominos wants to deliver you pizza in a self-driving car

Last year, Ford Motor Company started testing its autonomous vehicles in Ann Arbor, Michigan in partnership wth pizza maker Dominos.

The two companies are taking things further now with news that the program is being launched in Miami.

There are drivers in these vehicles but they will not be interacting with customers.

Really, this seems to be more about testing how well the vehicles, which have a special compartment in the vehicle that can be unlocked by customers with a code so they can retrieve their order.

Sounds fine for Miami, but I don’t know how well this halfway delivery will work in Winnipeg in December, or Vancouver in April.

Kratos grows up in new video game God of War

God of War is a game only a parent could make. And it’s a game only parents will truly appreciate. Read more about the PS4 exclusive in my review at the Straight.

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