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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, online video becomes a battleground, and the home entertainment gift guide. But first, some new electric vehicles have been announced.

Tesla announced two new electric vehicles

Tesla’s a bit behind schedule with its production of the Model 3, but that hasn’t stopped Elon Musk from designing new vehicles.

A couple of weeks ago, the company revealed a new version of its Roadster. The first Roadster hit the pavement in 2008 and was the company’s first production vehicle. The new model won’t be available until 2020. The new Roadster has a faster acceleration than any “street legal” vehicle currently available.

You can reserve one for only Cdn$64,000 (on a base price of $257,000).

Coming to market a year earlier, in 2019, is the Tesla Semi, a fully electric transport vehicle that promises faster and more consistent acceleration and deceleration than diesel tractor-trailers. The Semi is designed with a host of safety features, including sensors that will prevent jackknifing and a low centre of gravity.

Then there’s this: “Tesla Semi can also travel in a convoy, where one or several Semi trucks will be able to autonomously follow a lead Semi.”

Reservations of the Semi can be made with a $5,000 deposit.

Electric bikes made in Canada

Cars and trucks aren’t the only vehicles going electric. A number of Canadian companies are making electric bicycles, which are quite popular for commuting in Europe.

Ohm Electric Bikes have a handful of models for commuting, cross-country, and light trail riding.

Volt Bike has a series of folding models, a step-through, and a couple of versions of the Yukon, which was designed with the features of a mountain bike and intended to be used year-round, even in places like Edmonton and Winnipeg.

As long as an electric bicycle has a motor that is 500 watts or less, you do not need a license to operate it.

Amazon Prime Video comes to Apple TV while Google pulls YouTube from Amazon devices

Amazon Prime Video, which provides movies and TV series to people with an Amazon Prime membership, is now available on Apple TV.

This means that shows from Prime Video will be integrated into Apple’s TV app, and are searchable using the Siri voice activated search.

Ironically, at the same time, Google has pulled the YouTube app from Amazon’s devices like the Echo Show and FireTV media streamer.

In a statement, Google explained why: “We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services. But Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest’s latest products. Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

Home entertainment gift guide

If you’re looking for a new TV, it’s time to think about moving up to super high-def. There’s more 4K content being produced all the time, and if you get a screen that is also equipped with HDR you’ll notice the difference (and you’ll be happy with it).

Every manufacturer has a 4K model, and they are all coming up with ways to set their brand apart. Samsung’s QLED models are significant because of what the company calls the One Connect box, which is the connectivity guts from the TV pulled out from the screen, and in a box that can be dozens of metres away from the screen itself.

What this means is that you can put your TV on the wall and not have to look at an black, umbilical mass of wires and cables. You plug all your connections into the One Connect box, and run a nearly invisible optical cable to the TV.

The best thing to plug into that new TV is the new Microsoft Xbox One X, which has the distinction of being the “world’s most powerful console”. According to the technical specs it really is, but it’s also a really great device that provides full support of 4K and HDR video from streaming sources, but also from 4K Blu-ray discs.

If you’re thinking about getting a 4K Blu-ray player, the best one on the market is the Xbox One X. And it plays games, too.

The new Apple TV 4K is something else you can connect to your new TV. It comes with the benefit that you can play the 4K versions of any of the movies you’ve purchased through iTunes library that have been released in the upgraded resolution.

But it’s not the only option. The Roku Ultra media streamer is only $120, and gives you access to the same streaming services, including 4K and HDR pictures when they are available. The remote control for the Roku has a built-in finder feature, which is handy if yours keeps getting lost in the cushions. And you can plug headphones into the remote, too, in the event you need to keep the volume down.

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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

Last Friday, Charles and I talked about the latest information on the data breaches that happened to Equifax and Uber and the importance of good password management, the rare security problem in macOS High Sierra, and the mobile device gift guide, which includes Apple’s iPhone X, and iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, the iPad Pro and Kindle Oasis, and the Ultimate Ears Roll 2 and Bose SoundLink Micro.

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Categories Consumer technology |

This week, some mobile devices you might want to add to a wish list. But first, more bad news about some hacks of personal information from large corporations, and a rare software glitch has made some Apple computers vulnerable to hacking.

Another day, another data breach. Get your passwords under control

Earlier this week, Equifax Canada revealed that the number of Canadians exposed in its data breach was bigger than the company first reported. It wasn’t 8,000 who were impacted, but 19,000.

The breach actually took place sometime in the spring of 2017, but Equifax waited until September to share the news. At first, the company tried to charge people to check if they were affected by the hack, but then backed off and is now offering free monitoring and identity theft protection.

And last week, ride-sharing broker Uber disclosed that personal information from 57 million people was stolen by hackers. A year ago.

Uber reportedly paid $100,000 to the hackers for the deletion of the information.

As a consumer, you do have some control over this. Sometimes you can choose which companies to use – although with Equifax that’s largely beyond your influence – and you can also have a solid password plan where you have different passwords for all your different accounts, and you change them regularly.

And the best way to do this is not to use a pad of paper or a spreadsheet, but a password program. I use 1 password, which is made in Canada and is among the world’s best password program.

Until the end of the year, you can get six months free on an individual or family subscription.

Apple computer users running High Sierra, run your software update now

On Wednesday, Apple released an update for its High Sierra operating system, macOS 10.13.

The update was to fix a serious glitch in the software that made it possible for anyone to log into a computer as an administrator without needing a password. It’s a rare security mistake by the company, which has in the past prided itself on providing the highest level of security for customers.

Other operating systems for Apple computers are not similarly vulnerable.

If you’ve got your computer set to automatically install critical updates, this will have happened without you needing to do anything. Otherwise, you should open up the App Store on your computer, and go to the Updates section to look for “Security Update”.

Installing the update does not require you to restart your computer.

Serving to prove just how interconnected the components of an operating system are, in fixing the security error, Apple engineers actually broke file sharing for some users. If you’re comfortable working with the Terminals software, you can restart file sharing. Otherwise, expect Apple to have another fix in a day or so. Let’s just hope they don’t break something else when they do.

Mobile device gift guide

If price is not an object this holiday, then at the top of your list is the iPhone X. With it’s new design and all of the features that come in the phone courtesy of FaceID, it’s the most functional pocket computer in the world right now.

For those in the Apple ecosystem, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are also solid devices, with much of the same functionality (minus the form factor and animoji).

And the iPhone cases for discerning consumers this holiday are from Otterbox. There are five Star Wars case designs available featuring Darth Vader, Rey and R2-D2, BB-8, a storm trooper helmet, and a red case with a distressed Star Wars logo. They range in price from US$45 to $55.

The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL had some stutters when they were released, mostly fixed with software updates by the company, and these are the premium Android devices now available. With arguably the best cameras you can get on a mobile device, Google yesterday released a new Android app called Datally, that can help you monitor your data use.

The iPad Pro is still the best tablet on the market. The 10.5-inch model is easy to handle but the 12.9-inch version is the one preferred by artists and designers who are using the Apple Pencil to draw on the screen.

Amazon finally solved the final piece of the digital book puzzle with the new, waterproof Kindle Oasis. Now you can take that book with you to the bath or the beach and not have to worry. And the digital ink display means you can read easily even in bright sunlight. It’s also light and has a battery that can last for weeks.

And I’ve taken to using small, waterproof Bluetooth speakers that were designed for use outdoors when riding my bike around the neighbourhood. The Ultimate Ears Roll 2 was built with a bungie cord attached to it so it’s easy to strap onto a bike frame or backpack. The new Bose SoundLink Micro speaker is even smaller, has a silicon strap for attaching it, and has a built-in microphone so you can also use it for making and taking calls.

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Categories Consumer technology |

This week, home automation gift ideas and why Apple’s HomePod won’t be on it. But first, what’s the deal with Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Is there any need to differentiate these things anymore?

Black Friday is nearly over; don’t forget about Cyber Monday

As Black Friday comes to a close, online retailers are looking to promote Cyber Monday, when the deals move online.

One thing that is more appealing about the Monday event is the lack of lines. There’s also no pushing and shoving.

But with so many retailers staking out space online, and having Black Friday sales there, these consumer events are kind of all blurring into one.

If you had no interest in trying to get in on Friday’s bricks-and-mortar craze – or you were actually working today – you can still find some deals through the weekend.

And by Monday there will be another round of price cuts. In keeping with the theme, many of the things promoted on Cyber Monday are consumer electronics, and you can expect to see a variety of things on offer from Amazon, LG, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, and others.

Electronics retailers like Best Buy will be in on the action, too.

As will the app and software developers who create the programs you use everyday. Adobe, for example, has a sale on its annual creative cloud, which gives you a subscription to a suite of design tools including Photoshop, Illustrator, and Indesign.

Apple’s HomePod delayed to 2018

Apple’s got three new iPhones that have hit the market hard – the iPhone X is still hard to find out there – but one of the company’s other holiday gadgets is going to miss its flight.

The HomePod, a wireless speaker that also acts as a hub for Apple’s HomeKit automation system, has been delayed until “early 2018” according to the company.

This is less of a hassle for Canadians, as we weren’t getting the HomePod this year anyway. How much it will delay the eventual Canadian release remains to be seen.

Home automation gift guide

While we’re on the topic of home automation and voice-activated speakers, there are now many options to choose from.

Google Home (regularly $179 but on sale right now for only $99) was joined this year by Google Home Mini, a small, portable speaker that, for only $39, gives you access to Google’s information network.

And last week Amazon announced that Alexa was officially coming to Canada with the entire line of Echo speakers.

The original Echo is now in a second generation with better speaker components and costs $100, while the Dot is a hockey puck-sized version ($50) you can use around the house.

The Echo Plus ($170) adds smart home features.

One of the cool things you can do with the Echos is talk to other rooms in your house where you also have Echos set up. You can call your kids upstairs for dinner, for example. And you can use the Echo to make phone calls, too.

The WEMO Mini Smart Plug from Belkin ($50) works with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home and gives you some out-of-home control over whatever you plug into it.

My other favourite automated home gifts are the Philips Hue LED bulbs which are amazing, and the Dyson 360 eye robot vacuum.

And finally, there’s the Instant Pot, the digital pressure cooker invented in Canada, that has changed cooking around the world. What else can you use to cook a frozen chicken perfectly in only 30 minutes? Instant Pots are between $80 and $100, depending on the volume you want.

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