This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about Apple’s voluntary recall of select 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops, the new TP-Link Deco M9 mesh router and smart home hub, Amazon Prime Reading, and Harry Potter: Wizard’s Unite.
Tech round-up for June 26: Apple recalls MacBook Pros, Deco M9 mesh router doubles as a hub, Amazon Prime Reading, Harry Potter Wizards Unite
This week, TP-Link’s new mesh routers double as smart home hubs, unlimited reading comes to Amazon Prime, and the new Harry Potter mobile game. But first, Apple’s recall of select 15-inch MacBook Pro units.
Apple issues voluntary recall for 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops
Last week, Apple notified consumers that some 15-inch MacBook Pro computers sold between September 2015 and February 2017 may have faulty batteries.
There is a risk, the company says, of the batteries overheating and posing “a safety risk”.
If you’ve got an impacted MacBook Pro, Apple will replace the battery for free.
It’s simple to see if your computer needs to be repaired. Simply visit the website and enter your computer’s serial number.
The serial number is engraved on the bottom of the laptop, and is also found in the “About this Mac” information that appears when you expand the dropdown menu from the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen.
New TP-Link Deco M9 gives you mesh and a smart home hub
You know that mesh networks provide better Wi-Fi coverage in your home (or office) than a standard router. This is true even if you’ve got range extenders set up to stretch the signal coming from the router.
TP-Link’s Deco M9 takes the company’s mesh networking functionality and improves on it.
For one, the devices themselves are small, unobtrusive discs, as opposed to the cylinder design of the earlier M5 units. Despite the smaller footprint, the M9 pucks deliver much more robust coverage – each device can cover more than 2,000 square feet – and faster wireless transmission speeds.
The M9s have 8 antennas and tri-band functionality, automatically switching from 2.4 GHz to one of two 5 GHz channels. And with MU-MIMO technology built in, the M9 will manage the traffic jams that can happen when multiple wireless devices are using the Wi-Fi.
And if you’ve got the slightly older Deco M4 units, which are cylindrical in shape, they can be used to extend your mesh network, giving you a greater coverage map. These are available in a two-pack ($170) and a three-pack ($250).
But the most significant benefit of the Deco M9 is that it has smart hub technology built right into the device (the ZigBee system). That means that you can use the Deco M9 devices to manage your lightbulbs, doorbells, and thermostats. It even works with Alexa.
And TP-Link has included security functionality to protect your network and devices from viruses or malware.
As has become standard these days, set up and management of the Wi-Fi network is all done through the TP-Link mobile app, which is fairly simple to use.
You can get the TP-Link Deco M9 in a two-pack for $400. That’s on the high end of the scale, but because it doubles as a smart hub, there’s value there.
Amazon brings more benefits to Prime members: Access to books and comics
An Amazon Prime membership currently costs $79 annually ($8 a month).
In addition to free one- and two-day shipping on a number of products, access to music, movies and TV shows including some produced exclusively for Amazon, Prime members in Canada now get access to books and comics with Prime Reading.
Amazon will be rotating books and comics through the Prime Reading bookshelf that members can access on their Kindle devices or on Kindle apps that install on pretty much any device.
If you’re not a Prime member you can sign up for a 30-day trial.
New Harry Potter mobile game will have you wandering around casting spells
If you’ve played with the mobile game Pokémon Go, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite will be very familiar. The experiences are very similar. And those of you who are Pokémon fanatics may be underwhelmed by Wizards Unite.
But the worlds are quite distinct, and I suspect there are lots of people who were not interested in Pokémon Go who will be all over Wizards Unite. And they are going to have lots of fun with it.
The new game was developed by Niantic, which came up with Pokémon Go, and Wizards Unite also leverages the camera on your mobile device to deliver an augmented reality (AR) experience.
Available for Android and iOS, it puts you in the role of a wizard, roaming around collecting “foundables,” objects from the Harry Potter world that are in the muggle world and need to be returned. You need to cast spells, by tracing shapes on the screen of your device, to dispel the “confoundables” that are inhibiting the magical object.
Along the way you’ll collect ingredients so you can brew potions, you’ll choose your own wand and Hogwarts house, and you can even participate in group combat activities.
There are a couple of drawbacks of note.
To play the game you’ll need to have a Facebook or Google account which will be tied to your Wizards Unite profile, which is very limiting, especially for kids. And while the game is free, there are many prompts and reminders that you can spend real money in order to play the game more frequently and with greater success.
Wizards Unite is quite a deep and complex role-playing game, in fact, and there may be more going on than the casual player is interested in. But fans of Harry Potter will appreciate the narrative, which takes place in a future in which Harry and his friends are all working in the Ministry of Magic.
The Shift with Drex, June 19: #libra, #facebook, #calibra, #google, #chrome, #adblocking, #deathstranding
This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about Libra, the new cryptocurrency project started by Facebook, changes to ad blocking in Google’s Chrome browser, and the new trailer for Death Stranding, the PS4 exclusive that releases on November 8.
Tech round-up for June 19: Libra and Facebook's Calibra, Chrome and ad blocking, Death Stranding release date
This week, Google is making changes to the Chrome browser and Death Stranding gets a release date. But first, Facebook wants to disrupt banking with Libra.
Facebook cryptocurrency project Libra coming in 2020
Libra, a new digital currency project being led by Facebook, will be launched next year, the company announced on Tuesday (June 18).
The currency is being constructed on blockchain technology, which is a way of having an open, public record of transactions that are protected and secure through cryptography.
What makes Libra different from other cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, is that it will not be speculative. Instead, the value of Libra coin will be determined by a reserve of funds contributed by a group of tech and commerce companies that have each contributed at least US$10 million.
Those companies, which include Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, Uber, Lyft, and Spotify alongside non-profits like Women’s World Banking and Kiva, also form the Libra Association, which will be headquartered in Geneva. Facebook has a single seat on the Libra board.
The idea is that any company can use the currency. Facebook has set up its own subsidiary, Calibra, that will manage things on its own network to allow people to use Libra coin to pay for things on Facebook.
The initiative, while being presented as a way of “empowering” people – “better, cheaper, and open financial services” is how Facebook refers to Libra – is already facing criticism from regulators.
And Matt Stoller, who thinks and writes about monopolies and “regulated competition” is rolling his eyes at the entire idea.
I wrote a piece for the New York Times on why Facebook's global currency is ridiculous. https://t.co/8nEv4×2AqL— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) June 19, 2019
Stoller associate Sally Hubbard had this to say:
Great piece by— Sally Hubbard (@Sally_Hubbard) June 19, 2019
matthewstoller</a> in <a href="https://twitter.com/nytopinion?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">nytopinion reminding us that tech giants like Facebook are not elected or accountable, and are riddled with conflicts of interest, but are increasingly ruling our lives like governments https://t.co/earNmNI3GG
Google changes to Chrome browser plans threatens third-party ad blockers
Google is making some changes to its Chrome browser and it looks like they are going to prevent ad blocking for regular users.
This may seem strange given that Google integrated its own ad blocker into Chrome last year in an effort to promote better advertising practices. It was in response to an industry that had become increasingly intrusive (autoplay video, anyone?) and disruptive (hello, pop-ups).
I’m not going to get into the technical aspects of this (see 9to5Google for the specifics).
It does seem like the change to Chrome is being made, in part, to actually restrict the ability of Chrome extensions – like ad blockers – from being able to access data about your web usage. This ties in with Google’s commitment to do better on user privacy.
And given that Google’s business relies on advertising, maybe it’s not so strange. It’s even less odd when you learn that the ad blocking features of Chrome will still be available to enterprise users.
That is, if you pay to use Chrome you can block ads.
As of last fall, Chrome was the most widely used browser (across platforms) accounting for well over 60% of the browser use the world.
New Death Stranding trailer confounds, delights
While Sony and PlayStation were absent from E3 last week, that didn’t stop the company from rolling out a new trailer for its biggest game of the fall, Death Stranding.
The game, being developed by Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear) and his Kojima Productions studio, will launch on November 8, 2019 as an exclusive for the PS4 console.
The game stars Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux, and Lindsay Wagner.
This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about Apple’s new “Sign in with Apple” feature coming to iOS 13, cycle tracking coming to Apple mobile devices and the Apple Watch, and some of the games revealed at E3 2019 to get excited about, including Watch Dogs Legion, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, GhostWire: Tokyo, and Luigi’s Mansion 3.