Archive for September, 2020

The New Google Pixel 5 Is Now Available For Pre-Order At TELUS

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 30, 2020 by itnerd

TELUS has confirmed to me that the Google Pixel 5 is now available for pre-order at TELUS attelus.com/pixel5. The Pixel 5 will be available for purchase in-store and online at telus.com on October 29, 2020.

With TELUS Easy Payment®, customers can get iconic devices like the Pixel 5 for as little as $0 upfront, interest free, and pay for the device over 24 equal payments. Plus, when customers sign up for the Bring It Back program, they can expect to receive the Pixel 5 at our absolute best cost, all on TELUS’ 5G network.

Take Control Of Your Gaming With Watch Dogs: Legion

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 30, 2020 by itnerd

Some of our favourite video games are continuously sculpted by the decisions we make as players, and the choices we make throughout our video game journey. From character customization, to the NPC’s we choose to interact with, to the activities we choose to partake in. But at the end of the day, they’re often linear and our choices for customization are limited.

Watch Dogs: Legion tosses aside the expected when it comes to video game culture and puts you in control of your gaming experience. You have the ultimate freedom to do as you please and play whomever you please. There are no NPC’s and you can play as anyone you see in the futuristic dystopian streets of London.

Play as anyone, from the sweet (or not so sweet) granny on the street to the punk vigilante hacker. The choice is yours, and there are plenty more choices where that came from.

Watch Dogs: Legion is available for pre-order right now, and is launching on PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4 (New-Gen compatible) and Stadia on October 29th 2020.

Get a little taste of what’s to come in the Watch Dogs: Legion Tipping Point Trailer:

Apple Sleep Tracking In watchOS 7/iOS 14: A Good Start, But It Needs Some Improvements

Posted in Products with tags on September 30, 2020 by itnerd

One of the things that showed up as part of watchOS 7 is sleep tracking. There have been third party apps that have done this in the Apple ecosystem for years, but to have something built into the Apple ecosystem would make many users very happy.

Sleep tracking works by having your Apple Watch detect movement and using that to determine if you are asleep or awake. The Apple Watch will also track your heart rate while you are asleep as well. The onboarding process is mostly straightforward and once you set it you can forget it. Let me walk you through the setup process via the Health app on the iPhone.

First you set a sleep goal. As in how many hours you’d like to sleep. And you have to define how much time you want to wind down before you get to bed, and when wind down should start. During the wind down process, the iPhone and the Apple Watch become more difficult to use as you’re not supposed to be using your digital devices before you go to bed. For example, The phone becomes increasingly more difficult to unlock and open. This is to allow you to create a routine before bed that allows you to get the best sleep possible. I should note that you can set up some wind down shortcuts to help you to wind down before going to bed. Here’s what you have to choose from:

In my case, I set a sleep goal of 8 hours. And I set a wind down time of 30 minutes. Then I set up my bedtime and wake up time:

In my case I set a bedtime of 10:30PM (which is the time that the lights go out) and my wake up time of 7AM. I can also set this schedule to be 7 days a week, or weekdays only, or weekends only for example.

I can also set up an alarm at my wake up time, though I can only choose between 9 rather gentle musical routines to wake up to. Or put another way, if I wanted to wake up to Gun’s And Roses “Welcome To The Jungle”, I couldn’t. Now these musical routines are played through the Apple Watch with some haptic feedback. And from my testing, they do a good job of waking you up. One thing that I should note, you can set up charging alerts to let you know to charge your Apple Watch if it has a battery life is below 30%. Though strangely, you have to leave the Health app and go to the Watch app to do that a shown here:

You might be wondering how much battery life that sleep tracking on the Apple Watch uses. On my wife’s Series 4, she uses about 15% of her battery life consistently. In my case, my Series 6 uses between 15% and 20%. I am guessing the difference is in how much movement one makes. In her case, her head hits the pillow and she’s out. I tend to be a bit of a restless sleeper.

Now I just walked through how to set this up on the iPhone using the Health app. But there are other ways to do this from the watch as well.

At this point, you can now just follow the prompts to go to sleep. Which is that if your Apple Watch needs a charge, you’ll get a prompt for that. Then 30 minutes or whatever time you have it set for, wind down begins. Then you get into bed and hit the bed icon on your Apple Watch by swiping up from the bottom to bring up control center:

This stops the display on your Apple Watch from lighting up, and it forces you to spin the digital crown to get out of this mode. If you do want to see the time however, simply tapping the display will show it to you. But it is very dim. At this point, you go to sleep. The next morning you wake up and you can see what kind of sleep that you got:

This is the results that I got over the last week. The green sections are where I was sleeping. The gaps between the green sections where I was awake or restless. This is where Apple’s sleep tracking starts to show the need for improvement. In terms of digging into the data that you’ve collected, this is pretty much all that you can do. You can see the time that you started sleeping to the time you woke up:

The problem with this view is that it doesn’t show the time you actually slept unless you scroll down to this point:

And you can only see the last couple of days. You can’t see anything beyond that unless you click “Show More Sleep Data”:

While you can view the last week or last month, it’s kind of light on information. Speaking of being light on information. You can track your heart rate during sleep as evidenced here:

But you can only see that for your last sleep session. If you want to go back over a few days to compare, you can’t. Another thing that I noted is that the sleep tracking doesn’t track blood oxygen levels while you are asleep, even though for Apple Watch Series 6 tracks that as I can see the data that it grabs while I am asleep. My guess is that this is a deliberate choice by Apple as blood oxygen in the Apple Watch Series 6 is marketed as a “wellness” feature. Which means that Apple can’t say how accurate it is, nor can they use it for diagnostic purposes like they do with the ECG functionality in Apple Watch Series 4 and up.

Another thing that I noted is that if you use the Apple Watch to turn off the alarm, it will display the weather, battery status and date as well as wishing you good morning. But I also notice that I often have two to three stand goal hours credited to me in the Activity app on the watch. That doesn’t make sense as if I get up once during the night, I should have only one hour credited to me. But I will have two or three hours credited to me. And some nights I haven’t gotten up at all and I still have an hour or two credited to me. Thus I am pretty sure that this is a bug that Apple needs to figure out.

Finally, here’s the big thing that Apple’s sleep tracking is missing. It can’t figure out the states of sleep like some Fitbit products claim to do for example. I have always questioned the accuracy of what Fitbit does as a sleep lab uses things like mattress pads with position sensors and having you connected to a EEG amplifier to read your brain state to figure out your sleep state accurately. Now it should be possible to do the first half of this using a wearable, which presumably is what Fitbit and other are doing. But how can you tell if whatever movement it’s detecting is due to a nightmare rather than you tossing and turning because you can’t get to sleep as that would indicate what sleep state that you might be in? That’s likely why Apple doesn’t have that functionality here as it likely isn’t something that would bring meaningful value to their users.

So in short, the sleep tracking functionality is usable but it is also pretty basic. And Apple has a few areas where they can improve upon to make sleep tracking way more functional and coherent. And hopefully they do that within iOS 14 rather than wait for next year for iOS 15. But if they do that, I think they have the start of something good that will benefit Apple users who want to better manage their sleep.

TunnelBear Reveals Nearly Half Of Internet Users Believe They Face Online Censorship

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 30, 2020 by itnerd

Today, VPN provider TunnelBear released a study, uncovering global perspectives on online censorship experiences of citizens in the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, Norway and Sweden. The survey showed large segments of people in each country do not trust the integrity of information they find online, and many suspect censorship is at play.

Consumers believe they face internet censorship, with those in the USA feeling most impacted

Due to pandemic-induced stay-at-home orders and increasing political activism, online activity across the globe has reached an all-time high in 2020, with a report from DataReportal showing a seven per cent per cent increase in internet users and Akamai revealing a 30 per cent increase in global internet traffic. As more connections take place digitally, many people are cautious of the ways censorship may be impacting their ability to gather accurate, real-time information.

TunnelBear’s recent survey found that nearly half (45 per cent) of respondents in the seven countries surveyed – do not trust the integrity of information they find online (39 per cent in Canada) In fact, two in five (44 per cent) people globally report that they, or someone they know, have experienced internet censorship, with the highest rate coming from the USA (54 per cent), while Sweden and Norway are close behind (53 per cent each). Canada and the U.K. are on the lower end at 37 per cent and 36 per cent respectively.

Globally, nearly seven in 10 (69 per cent) of respondents believe online information accessed in their country might be censored, with over one-third (35 per cent) reporting they believe a significant amount of news is censored in their country. That said, censorship appears to be less top of mind for users in the UK, Canada and Australia – as almost one-third (31 per cent) of respondents in these countries say they have never considered if online information is censored.

Consumers are suspicious of political censorship

Censorship can take many different forms, impacting users in targeted ways. Consumers are divided in their opinions on the most prominent form experienced today.

According to the survey, about four in 10 (39 per cent) of respondents believe they face political censorship, as governments and political parties suppress content to avoid upheaval or embarrassment. This number jumps to nearly half (44 per cent) in the USA.

Solutions to effectively combat censorship 

As respondents become more cautious of potential censorship in their respective countries, nearly one-third (29 per cent) reported that they would begin using a VPN if there was hard evidence of regulators censoring the internet. However, over one in four consumers (26 per cent) are not familiar with the technology – and therefore, would be unlikely to use one.

“While consumers are increasingly aware of and wary about internet censorship, they also need to understand how to combat such intrusions on their freedom,” said Justin Watts, Head of Engineering at TunnelBear. “At TunnelBear, we are passionate advocates for a free and open internet. Through our latest technology and recent anti-censorship initiatives in countries like Iran and Venezuela, we intend to help everyone access the most accurate and updated information available.”

In countries such as Iran, where this type of censorship is known to be particularly prevalent, TunnelBear has launched an anti-censorship initiative that provides users with enough data to browse the web and view blocked content at no cost to them. TunnelBear also partners with NGOs and other open-internet activist groups to continue expanding its offerings to consumers who need these resources the most.

Methodology

TunnelBear worked with 3Gem Global Research to conduct a survey in September of 2020. The survey polled 5,500 people between the ages of 18-65 in the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, Norway and Sweden on the topic of internet censorship.

NordVPN Participates In Comprehensive VPN Industry Principles

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 30, 2020 by itnerd

NordVPN has committed to meeting the VPN Trust Initiative (VTI) Principles revealed today by the Internet Infrastructure Coalition (“i2Coalition”), the leading voice for web hosting companies, data centers, domain registrars and registries, cloud infrastructure providers, managed services providers and other foundational Internet technologies. 

The VPN Trust Initiative formally launched in December 2019 as a consortium of VPN business leaders focused on building understanding, strengthening trust and mitigating risk for VPN users and providers. The VTI is dedicated to ensuring VPN users gain the most benefits from this technology.

The VTI Principles offer a comprehensive set of best practices for VPNs providers to bolster consumer confidence and provider accountability and ultimately increase VPN adoption and access to the technology’s benefits. 

The VTI Principles have been informed by input from civil society and other outside experts to protect the privacy and security of VPN users, offer practical policy guidelines for VPN providers and ensure policymakers, regulators and the wider market have access to criteria for evaluating these technologies. The principles focus on five key areas: security, privacy, advertising practices, disclosure and transparency and social responsibility. 

As a leader in the VPN industry, NordVPN lends weight and credibility to the VTI Principles in its participation. 

The VTI formally launched in December 2019 as an industry-led and member-driven consortium of VPN business leaders focused on building understanding, strengthening trust and mitigating risk for VPN users and providers. The VTI is dedicated to creating and releasing resources to serve as a singular voice that provides appropriate and accurate industry-led stewardship. 

The founding five VTI members include: ExpressVPN; NordVPN; VyprVPN; Surfshark; and NetProtect (whose VPN brands include encrypt.me, WLVPN, SugarSync, IPVanish, StrongVPN, OverPlay, and SaferVPN). Companies that have since joined the initiative include Ivacy VPN, CloudFlare, Mysterium Network, GoldenFrog, Hide.me and WeVPN.

The VTI aims to reach consumers, legislators and technologists, promoting appropriate industry-led stewardship, providing accurate information to policymakers, informing the greater technology sphere and collaboratively establishing solutions to pressing VPN challenges.

To learn more about the VTI, please click here

To learn more about the i2Coalition and explore membership, please visit www.i2coalition.com

Apple And Epic Don’t Want A Jury Trial

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 29, 2020 by itnerd

It is incredible. Apple and Epic agree on something. They both do not want to have a jury trial in their ongoing legal dispute over Fortnite and Apple’s App Store policies, according to a court filing submitted to the Northern California court handling the case today. This is despite the fact the judge thinks a jury trial is important.

I still think Epic is still in a place where they are on the losing end of this. The judge who presided over this has shown that Epic’s arguments are bogus. All this move to a non-jury trial does is stall the inevitable.

rag & bone & Microsoft Create A Virtual World That Challenges The Status Quo

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 29, 2020 by itnerd

rag & bone unveils a preview of its Spring/Summer 2021 collection with a dynamic teaser film, Metamorphosis, created in partnership with Microsoft. Metamorphosis explores new ways of bringing collections to life through the integration of innovative technology.

Metamorphosis is a special stand-alone collaboration that spans the creative worlds of design, technology, and filmmaking to bridge the authentic craft of rag & bone with technology to reveal elements from the collection. Creating the unexpected between rag & bone and Microsoft began with the Spring/Summer 2020 show, which featured real time point cloud data capture technology. The partnership will continue into 2021 with concepts aimed at simplifying how consumers digitally engage with rag & bone collections.

Set in a fantastical vision of New York, Metamorphosis represents a virtual transformation of movement, fabric detail and the versatility of rag & bone signatures. Through the use of Azure Virtual Machines for Cloud Rendering, classic outerwear, feminine meets masculine silhouettes, relaxed tailoring, and easy to wear essentials are mixed and matched to redefine an everyday wardrobe.

Created remotely on the Cloud and supported by Azure Virtual Machines, an avatar figure was generated to capture key looks in the collection. Through a variety of camera movements and atmospheric plays on light and dimension, the avatar explores a New York City that shifts perspectives of space and dimension. Each small and highly defined detail in the looks are created on the cloud using Microsoft Azure Solutions. Additionally, Microsoft Azure allows for powerful remote GPUs and other services that optimize the output of a virtual rag & bone collection. 3D software was utilized to run virtually in the cloud to facilitate direct renders of each piece featured in the teaser to cloud GPUs. A musical arrangement by DJ Kris Bones was created to round out the film’s surreal and imagined landscapes.

Available to view from today, Metamorphosis launches across rag & bone and Microsoft’s channels worldwide. A new set of look book imagery featuring expanded looks from Metamorphosis will accompany the film’s debutThrough a virtual articulation of how Cloud Computing has shaped the ways in which fashion can be interpreted, the partnership with Microsoft highlights rag & bone’s ongoing commitment to creating digital first experiences that are uniquely their own.

Keyfactor Launches Inaugural Virtual Conference in October

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 29, 2020 by itnerd

Keyfactor, the leader in crypto-agility solutions, today announced its inaugural digitally delivered conference, the Critical Trust Virtual Summit, which will take place on October 21-22, 2020. The two-day online event will offer more than 15 sessions and panels delivered by industry-leading innovators and practitioners specializing in crypto-agile best practices across IT, security, engineering and DevOps.

The Critical Trust Virtual Summit includes panels and sessions featuring top industry experts focused on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) best practices, certificate lifecycle automation, zero trust manufacturing and future industry trends. Event presenters, industry partners and highlighted sessions include:

IT, DevOps and security leaders and practitioners can register for their free Critical Trust Summit pass by visiting: https://summit.keyfactor.com/.

A Follow Up On My Apple Watch Series 6 Review

Posted in Products with tags on September 29, 2020 by itnerd

After posting my review of the Apple Watch Series 6, I got requests to do a follow up on that review because apparently, I didn’t cover all the bases when it came to the Apple Watch Series 6. I also got requests to do a story on the sleep tracking functionality. That will happen later this week. But for now, I’m going to take the questions that I got and answer them as best as I can:

Is the Apple Watch Series 6 physically different than the Series 5?: At first glance it isn’t. But I have since discovered that the Series 6 is slightly thinner than the Series 5. But it’s really not noticeable as I really couldn’t tell when I had a Series 6 and Series 5 side by side. Whatever thinness that exists is likely due to the removal of the Force Touch hardware. But it’s essentially the same.

What about battery life?: This is a difficult question for me to answer because I use it for sleep tracking, which means I recharge when I wake up, and again when I go to bed. But battery life is longer than what I was used to with the Series 5. For example, I charged the Series 6 to 100% this morning, I and have worn it for 2.5 hours thus far and the battery is at 98% as I type this. The Series 5 would be into the low 90% range by now. So clearly there’s an improvement. Another data point is that by the time I get to 5PM, I am at 50% or more on the battery gauge. So battery life is clearly better. Of note, iFixit tore down the Apple Watch Series 6 and found that the battery is a bit bigger. That combined with the new S6 processor which is apparently more power efficient likely accounts for what I am seeing. When it comes to recharging, it is faster than I am used to as I can get from 50% to 100% charge in under an hour. That’s well within what that Apple advertises. Which is 0% – 80% in about an hour, and 80% to 100% in 30 minutes after that. That’s a total of 90 minutes to fully charge your Apple Watch Series 6. That convenience is a total win.

Something that I didn’t expect is that the haptics are far more pronounced on the Series 6 making next to impossible to miss. That is likely due to the new Taptic Engine that iFixit found when they tore down the Series 6.

One other thing. Blood oxygen measurements became a whole lot more reliable after a day or so. After being a bit finicky when I first got it, it became very reliable as I can always get a reading when I ask for one via the blood oxygen app. While it does measure blood oxygen in the background at a rate of roughly once an hour, I found that it also doesn’t measure blood oxygen in the background while you work out or you are moving. That’s a bit disappointing as I would like to know what my blood oxygen is during a bike ride without having to manually having to do it. It would also be nice to tie blood oxygen to sleep tracking as I think that would be useful. But it doesn’t do that either. More on that when I do my story on sleep tracking.

What did you think Apple could improve on?: They could have pushed the envelope on battery life. It is marginally better, but there are wearables out there that get days of battery life. Though those wearables don’t do as much as the Apple Watch does. Apple could have also figured out how to make the Apple Watch roam on LTE. That would be a game changer. Qi wireless charging is one other thing that Apple could have done something about as it would make charging more convenient as there are Qi wireless chargers everywhere now. Oh, and finally there’s the fact that Apple only makes the Apple Watch work with iPhones. Meaning that Android users have to switch to get their Apple Watch fix. While it would expand Apple’s base of customers if they did deliver Android support, much like Android Wear watches have iOS support, I honestly don’t see that happening.

My bottom line hasn’t changed. The Series 6 an iterative upgrade. Which isn’t really a liability as we haven’t reached peak saturation of the smart watch market yet. Also the Apple Watch SE is going to provide it some competition. And existing Apple Watch users may have to think long and hard about whether an upgrade is worth it. But it’s hard to deny that Apple is likely to continue to lead the smart watch market with the Series 6.

Trump “Likely Exceeded” His Legal Authority By Trying To Ban TikTok

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 29, 2020 by itnerd

Things are not looking good for the Trump administration. The judge who on Sunday halted the TikTok ban dropped this on President Trump yesterday:

The federal judge who blocked the White House’s ban on TikTok downloads in the U.S. Sunday night said the Trump administration “likely exceeded the lawful bounds” of the powers afforded to the president under the the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

President Trump invoked the IEEPA in his executive order to ban TikTok, the short-form video app owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance, in the United States. The law is designed to let the president take emergency action to prohibit business transactions with an entity that represents “an unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.”

However, the IEEPA includes two exceptions — both of which apply to TikTok, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols of the District of Columbia wrote in his opinion, which was unsealed Monday.

And:

As cited by the judge, the IEEPA does not give the president authority to regulate or prohibit, either directly or indirectly, “the importation or exportation of ‘information or informational materials” or “personal communication[s], which do[] not involve a transfer of anything of value.”

Well…. That’s not good if you are President Trump. And it may mean that TikTok may live on in the US. While I expect this to play out in court this week, I also have a sneaking suspicion that the Trump administration may end up losing this fight in the end.