Published
Comments None
Categories |

This week, life’s not so good for Samsung, but Gears of War 4, developed in Vancouver, is fantastic. Plus, you can now purchase Sonos speakers at Apple Retail Stores, and all about the new Roku media streaming devices. But first, the New York Times is automating comment moderation. In a way.

How good of an online comment moderator are you?

A few weeks ago I wrote about how National Public Radio (NPR) in the United States had opted to dump the ability of audience members to leave comments on articles at npr.org.

The New York Times is going the opposite direction.

“Times readers have spoken, and we’ve been listening: You want the chance to comment on more stories, and you want your comments approved more quickly,” writes Bassey Etim.

One of the ways that the Times aims to approve more comments more quickly is using new technology from Google. Jigsaw is a team of people at Google parent company Alphabet who “view the world through the lens of technology”.

Jigsaw is helping the Times build a new system that will allow for “robot helpers” in comment moderation.

It’s a big job, moderating comments for the Times. A team of 14 people routinely handle 11,000 comments every day. And to show how difficult it can be to do that job, the Times has created a quiz so you can see how well – and how fast – you can moderate five comments.

Take the Times moderation test.

Samsung stops production of Galaxy Note7 handsets, recalls every one they shipped

Well, after praising Samsung for being quick to own the poor quality control for the Note7 handset, I’m eating those words. Samsung has cancelled production of the devices and is recalling them all, worldwide.

This due to new reports of replacement Note7s catching fire, even when not plugged in.

Which makes me think that the problem with the handset wasn’t the battery after all, but something else. Because putting new, improved batteries into the devices hasn’t seem to have helped.

If you’ve got a Note7, call 1-800-SAM-SUNG to arrange for your refund.

There is no confirmed evidence that any other Samsung device is a problem, so anyone using a Galaxy S7 should be fine.

Which is one good reason that these products should have better naming conventions, because the general public is sure having a hard time telling the difference between the Note7 and the S7.

Meanwhile, Apple is quietly selling it’s iPhone 7 to everyone who’s returned a Note7.

Sonos wireless speakers now sold at your friendly, neighbourhood Apple Store

Just in time for the holiday buying season, it’s become easier to kit out your home with wireless Sonos speakers.

Two of the company’s speakers, the PLAY:1 and larger PLAY:5 are now being sold in Apple Stores. Starting on November 2, they will also be available at Apple’s online store.

Apple’s sweetening the deal, with a three-month suscription to Apple Music with every Sonos speaker sold until the end of the year.

Apple Music became available on Sonos speakers earlier this year.

New media streaming devices from Roku get you ready for 4k and more

If you’re moving into streaming video, there are options beyond AppleTV and Google’s Chromecast.

And Roku has just released four new models of gadgets that are sure to suit every possible context.

The Roku Express ($40) is, the company asserts, the smallest player they’ve developed. Despite the size, the Express delivers high-definition (HD) video through an HDMI cable. The Roku Express+ ($50) sends the signal using a composite cable which are still found in some older televisions.

The step up is the Roku Premiere ($90), which is for those who have made the move to 4K HD video. It also upscales HD video to 4K.

The Roku Premiere+ ($110) adds support for high dynamic range (HDR) and includes a remote control with a headphone jack.

The top line Roku player is the Ultra ($140), which builds on the impressive features of the Roku Premier+ and adds an optical digital audio port and Dolby Digital surround sound.

One of the things that sets Roku streaming devices apart from the competition is that they are agnostic as to where the movies and TV that you want to watch are located.

The Roku operating system will show you where content is available, and will rank your options in order of price, starting with what’s free, and going up from there.

Roku streaming video devices are as plug and play as you can get.

Gears of War 4 releases this week

I’m so happy to get back to Gears of War. Vancouver studio the Coalition, led by Rod Fergusson, has delivered a game that honours the series that came before, but stretches just enough to carve a new path for a new trilogy.

(Read my profile of Rod Fergusson in the Straight’s Best of Vancouver.)

The story campaign is better written than some of those earlier games, and the voice talent – Liam McIntyre as J.D. Fenix, Eugene Byrd as Del Walker, Laura Bailey as Kait Diaz, and John DiMaggio as Marcus Fenix – bring their characters to life with dialogue that is delivered with a natural cadence.

Gears 4 also gives you co-op play through the campaign, as well as standard player-versus-player and the breathless Horde 3.0, which pits groups of five players against waves of enemies. New to Gears is the ability to build defenses to help keep the creepies at bay.

Releasing tomorrow (Tuesday, October 11) for Windows and Xbox One/S, Gears 4 is a “play anywhere” game, so picking it up for one platform also gives you the game on the other.

And if you’ve got an HDR-compatible television, you’re going to want to have an Xbox One S, because the new console is able to deliver a nuanced picture unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Gotta go. Gears 4 is waiting.

Published
Comments None
Categories |

This week, a look at the game that will never end: No Man’s Sky. Plus, a look at the new portable speaker from LG and the smart Canadians who are up for a prestigious award. But first, Google announced some new things yesterday.

Google’s got some new neat things coming

Google held a press event yesterday and showed off a bunch of new gadgets. And these were all designed by the company.

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, for a start. These are the first handsets actually designed by Google (they are being built by HTC) and one of the key features is that they will work with Google’s Daydream virtual reality (VR) headset, something else revealed at the event.

The Pixel handsets, which are available for preorder from Canada’s mobility companies, will have many of the features we expect, including a fingerprint sensor (on the back). They also have a top-line camera, and Google’s throwing in free, unlimited storage on Google Photo for Pixel owners. They are priced starting at Cdn$849.

The Pixels will also run Google’s new Assistant software, which is also at the core of Google Home, the smart home interface that is akin to Amazon’s Echo. You can talk to these devices, assking questions and getting into on things like the weather.

Daydream View is the VR headset, which will work with any headset that can run the Daydream software. You can get on the waiting list. for the headset, which will cost $99 and arrives in November.

Google Wifi is a new multi-point network system that will have you placing routers throughout your home, and Google also announced a new Chromecast device that supports high-dynamic range and 4K video. The Ultra will be priced at $90.

Google did not announce Canadian availability for Google Home and Google Wifi. But they did promise both were coming to Canada at some point.

Canadian nanotech engineers shortlisted for James Dyson Award

An ingenious project from three engineers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario is in the running to win the prestigious James Dyson Award.

The smart contact lens platform was conceived by Harry Gandhi, Huayi Gao, and Maarij Baig. The lens is constructed to monitor glucose levels in the tears of diabetics, sending the information to the individual’s smartphone so they can monitor their glucose levels without needing to test blood.

The idea has already picked up a bunch of awards and as the national winner from Canada, earned the trio US$3,500. They are among 20 projects that are being considered by Dyson himself, who makes the final decision.

The overall international winner picks up $45,000 plus $7,500 for their university. Dyson will announce his decision on October 27.

LG’s new Bluetooth speaker provides good sound, good value

I like to listen to the radio in the morning when I’m making lunches for the kids. But who’s got a radio in their kitchen anymore?

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been using a new Bluetooth speaker from LG to catch up on world events. The Music Flow P5 is small – it’s only six inches long – but provides plenty of sound to fill my quiet kitchen.

It’s got a rechargeable battery, too, so I can place it over the sink without having to worry about wires getting in the way. LG says the battery is good for up to 15 hours, and I can verify that. In almost two weeks of using it for between 15 and 45 minutes every weekday, I haven’t had to charge it yet.

It connected to my iPhone quickly and simply, it starts up fast with the touch of a button. And it can connect to more than one Bluetooth source, so when my wife wants to change stations, she can connect her iPhone to the speaker.

Pair two Music Flow P5s and you can have them give you stereo sound, and if your mobile device doesn’t have Bluetooth, you can plug it in with a 3.5 mm audio cable instead.

This is an appealing speaker because it’s lightweight and portable, it provides decent sound, and it’s priced at only Cdn$150. Great value for the money.

Explore an entire universe with No Man’s Sky

What to say about No Man’s Sky?

The space adventure game, developed by Hello Games and recently released for PS4 and Windows, has been unfairly judged against what fans hoped it would be, instead of its own merits.

No Man’s Sky is not for everyone, that’s for sure.

It’s what I imagine being a true explorer would be like: sometimes breathtaking, often boring.

It is repetitive, it is tedious, it is bland.

And I love it.

I sat down to turn it on and play through the opening sequence, which involves you becoming aware of your surroundings on a strange planet.

I looked up again six hours later.

In that time I explored a planet and its moons. I catalogued alien flora and fauna, and mined resources that I used to craft and trade. I learned snippets of an alien communication and tried to use them in conversation.

No Man’s Sky is almost meditative.

There is a story anchoring the experience, but frankly, I ignored it, choosing instead to take my time and go where I wanted to go, instead of where the game sent me.

I’m getting glimpses at the narrative, and it seems a bit thin. But it’s a great framework for the imagination, providing just enough detail so that you have a sense there’s something bigger, but vague enough that each player will be able to bring their own story to the game.

You can do some trading and you’ll get involved in some basic space battles, but really, No Man’s Sky is exactly what was promised: a neverending exploration of a vast galaxy.

Since the game was announced, I’ve been joking that No Man’s Sky might be the last game I ever need to get. I’m not sure it’s a joke anymore.

Published
Comments None
Categories |

Last night, Shane Foxman and I chatted on CKNW about the Lego Imagine Nation event that’s hitting the Vancouver Convention Centre this weekend. Pick up tickets if you haven’t already.

We also reflected on two Canadian businesses that announced changes this week: BlackBerry and Shomi.

Then there’s the self-lacing shoe coming from Nike in November. Just tell me you don’t want a pair of those.

Listen to the conversation.

Published
Comments None
Categories |

This week, the problem with BlackBerry, Shomi, and Evernote. Plus, a look at self-tying shoes coming from Nike. But first, Lego aficionados need to get to Vancouver this weekend for the Imagine Nation tour stop.

Lego extravaganza brings interactive experiences to Vancouver

If you’ve got any time at all available this weekend, make your way to the Vancouver Convention Centre for the Lego Imagine Nation Tour. It is exactly what you want it to be: dozens of displays of Lego sculpture, as well as plenty of opportunity for you to get your hands on some bricks to do some building of your own.

The event starts this Friday, September 30 and runs through Sunday, October 2. Tickets (you can purchase them in advance but they will also be sold at the door) are $28.50.

Lego is making sure that the exhibits aren’t overrun by staging five different four-hour sessions over the weekend. So you won’t have to worry about standing in line, and you can get to the fun.

Some of Lego’s most popular franchises will be represented, including Elves, Friends, Minecraft, Nexo Knights, Ninjago, and Star Wars. Each pavilion is constructed in the theme of the franchise

You’ll be able to get into a pit of Lego bricks to free-build anything you want, and Canadian Lego Master Builder Christopher Steininger, one of only eight in the world, will be on hand at the Master Builder Lab.

Lego is inherently interactive, but the Imagine Nation Tour is also providing some digital interaction, too.

In the Elves, Friends, and Ninjago pavilions, kids will be able to build their own creations, which are then scanned to create 3-D virtual environments and displayed on massive, 80-inch TVs.

The creator can then interact with their creation through the use of motion-sensing equipment. With the Ninjago interaction, for example, kids build their own dojo out of bricks and then get to protect it from enemies by spinning, punching, and kicking.

Come build, create, and play this weekend.

Evernote becomes even less relevant

I’m dumping Evernote. I used to use it a lot, but I can’t support the company’s decision to further restrict its basic account.

The service has always been “freemium”, so you can get basic functionality for free, and more robust features if you chose to pay a nominal fee.

Evernote was one of those cloud-based apps that made for a productive life. It synced notes and files and shopping lists across multiple platforms, including smartphones and tablets and computers. For a while, a couple of years ago, I was using Evernote daily.

But the functionality that Evernote provided started turning up elsewhere. Apple’s Notes software has always been pretty good for syncing lists, and now it supports files like images and PDFs. Microsoft’s got the same kind of thing going with OneNote, which has got fantastic annotation capabilities.

Not to mention all the Google services that are available.

Evernote has slowly become unnecessary.

And in an attempt to keep afloat, the company recently decided to restrict the basic, free account to only two devices. So with my free account I can sync to my computer and my smartphone, but not my tablet. To do that, I have to upgrade to a premium subscription.

I don’t even care how much it costs. The entire campaign is so anti-user that I’m quitting out of spite.

And because I just don’t need Evernote anymore.

Blackberry getting out of hardware, Shomi shutting down

Speaking of relevancy . . .

Canadian tech company BlackBerry announced today that it will no longer be designing, producing, and selling handsets. The announcement came as the company reported another significant loss.

If there will be BlackBerry handsets in the future, they will be produced by partners under license. Instead, the company will focus on software. Which is, frankly, where it may be able to keep alive. One of the things BlackBerry had going for it was its security features. If they can spin that into other areas, like the “internet of things,” for example, they may be all right. Certainly the company will be in a better position to be acquired.

“BlackBerry is no longer just about the smartphone, but the smart in the phone,” quipped CEO John Chen.

Clever line. Let’s see if it’s too late for that.

As for Shomi, the streaming video service that was being operated by a partnership between Rogers and Shaw, is stopping its service at the end of November, a scant two years after starting up.

The service had fewer than a million customers in Canada (Shomi says subscribers were at 900,000, but analysts put the number closer to 500,000), compared to Netflix’s 5.2 million. And without anything new or original, Shomi could not compete.

Expect CraveTV to follow this pattern before too long. Bell’s streaming service claims to be doing better because it has access to the HBO catalogue, but that does not include new release programming like Game of Thrones.

Nike is going to start selling Marty McFly’s shoes on November 28

You’ll have to plug in these sneakers, but you’re not going to care, because you’ll never have to tie laces again. (My six-year-old is so excited he may never have to perfect shoe-tying.)

After teasing us with the idea that Marty McFly’s self-tying shoes might become a reality, Nike is doing exactly that. These high tops automatically tighten when you step into them based on pressure sensors in the sole. You can manually adjust the fit with two buttons at the top of the shoe.

The battery in the tread that takes care of the auto-fitting will last about two weeks, according to Tiffany Beers, the “senior innovator” at Nike who helped bring these shoes to market.

Nike’s Tinker Hatfield, who has the perfect name to be the vice president for design and special projects, is the one who first imagined bringing the shoe worn by Michael J. Fox’s character in Back to the Future II.

HyperAdapt 1.0 high tops will be available “for experience and purchase” in select U.S. locations. Pricing has not been announced, but you can bet they aren’t going to be cheap. Start saving your pennies.

Published
Comments None
Categories |

Last week on CKNW Tonight, host Shane Foxman and I talked about how you can get Apple’s digital assistant, Siri, to pronounce your name correctly.

We also talked about online comments, and why NPR has chosen to get rid of them, and I provided an update on the Galaxy Note 7 recall and how Canadian Samsung customers can arrange to return their device.

The World Cup of Hockey was another subject, and in particular how NHL17 from EA Sports gives you a chance to play in the tournament. Virtually, of course.

Listen here.

← Older Newer →