Archive for November 20, 2020

SkipTheDishes Announces Support For Peel Restaurants

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 20, 2020 by itnerd

This afternoon, I got a message from SkipTheDishes in relation to supporting Peel Region restaurants. Here’s the message in full:

As a proudly Canadian brand, we’re standing by our restaurant partners across the city as their dining rooms are required to close, responding to their needs with an impactful support package for affected restaurants that includes:

  • A 25% rebate on commission for local, independent restaurant partners
  • 0% commission rate for any new restaurants joining the network during the restriction period
  • 10% commission rate to any restaurant looking to utilize staff to facilitate their own delivery
  • Additional marketing and order-driving initiatives that can both increase repeat orders and attract new customers, like the launch of Skip Rewards
  • The continuation of Skip’s restaurant tipping initiative, which has seen over $1 million in generous donations from customers go directly to local restaurants

This support package will be rolled out to affected partners across the Peel Region on Monday, November 23, 2020 when the new restrictions take place and SkipTheDishes is prepared to action similar measures across the country as further restrictions are announced. Skip has also continued its support for Toronto and Quebec restaurants on the network as restrictions continue in those regions. 

“The restaurant community is at the heart and soul of communities across Quebec. We’ve seen the effects that these closures have had on our restaurant partners and we are working tirelessly to support them as they adapt their businesses to keep their kitchens open,” says Kevin Edwards, CEO, SkipTheDishes. 

“With pickup and delivery orders becoming a critical revenue stream for restaurants, Skip stands with our local partners throughout this new wave of restrictions.

Since the start of the pandemic, SkipTheDishes has worked alongside our restaurant partners to proactively offer impactful support, as they continue to navigate the effects of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry. To date, we have provided over $30 million to our restaurant partners in commission rebates and order-driving initiatives.

WW launches new myWW+ App

Posted in Commentary on November 20, 2020 by itnerd

WW International, Inc. (NASDAQ: WW), has introduced myWW+ which offers a more holistic approach to weight loss and wellness that focuses on food, activity, mindset and sleep – pillars of health which have a measurable impact on success. Building on the massive success of the myWW program and through a deeply enriching, more interactive and personalized app experience, myWW+ offers members a plan that works best for them with new tools designed to make weight loss easier. 

In addition to featuring an all new Personal Assessment which will help people pinpoint the changes that will power their personal weight loss success, myWW+ delivers customized content powered by a smart personalization platform that uses machine learning and AI to identify the preferences of each unique member — the more a member engages with the content and features, the more myWW+ delivers.

One of the newest features with myWW+ is the Weekly Check-in – a personalized, holistic view of your progress within the app. Members can now review how their week went and automatically receive a Progress Report to see the full picture related to food, activity, mindset and sleep. For the upcoming week, members create an Action Plan by selecting suggested actionable goals or creating their own. Their weekly goal will be displayed to help maintain focus throughout the week. With these new tools that digitize and customize behavioural goal-setting, people will stay engaged and on track to successfully reach their goals.

In addition to understanding your progress and setting goals, myWW+ offers even more features focused on key wellness elements to make the weight loss journey easier and more successful, such as: 

  • Food: New meal planning tools, such as “Meal Planner” and “What’s In Your Fridge” (in beta) to help members customize what they want to eat throughout the week based on their eating preferences, time restrictions and the foods they have on hand.
  • Activity: A redesigned activity experience gives members a new way to view and understand daily activity, weekly goals and progress over time. Members can also continue to move in ways they love with on-demand equipment-free workouts through in-app content from partners such as FitOn and Aaptiv. 
  • Mindset: WW now provides its science-backed mindset techniques in bite-sized audio sessions via new 5-Minute Coaching. These science-backed techniques are rooted in cognitive behavioural, acceptance-based, and positive psychology sciences and are organized by relevant categories such as Manage Eating, Help for Stress, etc. 
  • Sleep: WW members can track sleep (manually or synced through a wearable) to get tailored advice and learn practical, science-based strategies to improve sleep habits. 

The app still includes popular features, such as food, water and activity trackers, the barcode scanner, and Connect – WW’s members-only digital community. Access to the WW app is included with all subscription-based memberships on the myWW+ program. The program is rooted in WW’s scientifically proven approach to weight loss and nutrition and grounded in the SmartPoints® system and ZeroPoint™ foods. WW remains a category leader, having been ranked for a decade as #1 “Best for Weight Loss” by health experts in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Diets rankings. 

For more information, please visit www.ww.ca.

Review: Apple HomePod Mini

Posted in Products with tags on November 20, 2020 by itnerd

When the original HomePod came out, I was blown away by the sound quality. But I was also blown away by the price of the HomePod. It was insanely expensive. And it didn’t help that Siri wasn’t the most intelligent personal assistant when compared to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Thus I skipped it.

Fast forward to the present day. Apple has released the HomePod Mini, and by doing that Apple has addressed a lot of the criticisms that I had about the HomePod. But let’s start with what the HomePod Mini looks like and what you get in the box:

You get the HomePod Mini which is covered in fabric like the original HomePod and has a woven fabric USB-C cable that is permanently attached to the HomePod Mini. That’s the same as the original HomePod. To the right of the HomePod Mini you get some documentation and an Apple sticker. And to the left of the HomePod Mini you get a 20W USB-C brick. The same one that Apple decided to leave out of the iPhone 12 models.

Yeah, I’m not letting the fact that Apple left charging bricks out of the box of iPhone 12 models go.

The HomePod Mini is tiny. It is 3.3 inches high by 3.9 inches wide and comes in white and space grey. I chose the latter as it isn’t going to get dirty. It’s small enough that it will fit in anywhere and maybe even go completely unnoticed. There is a touch screen on the top that allows you to trigger Siri and control the volume. Setup is laughably easy. You plug it in, and bring an iPhone next to the HomePod Mini. Then follow the prompts. In about 5 to 10 minutes, it will be live. You can also set it up to recognize the voices of others in the household so that they can use it as well.

Besides all the “Hey Siri” commands he HomePod to play music and the like, there’s a couple of things that make the HomePod unique:

  • The Apple U1 chip: Apple’s own ultra-wideband silicon found in iPhone 11’s and 12’s as well as the Apple Watch Series 6 is being used for handoff purposes with the HomePod Mini. Simply point your iPhone 12 for example at the HomePod Mini and the U1 chip is able to track the phone, recognize my intent, and pass off any audio I was listening to. Though I will admit that it wasn’t 100% perfect at doing that.
  • Thread: This is a new smart home connectivity standard that has many benefits over Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Z-Wave. The most notable being instant response. I have a HomeKit compatible light switch that prior to the HomePod Mini arriving, it would take a couple of seconds to turn on and off. With the HomePod Mini it was instant.

That’s all great. But let’s get to the key points. Starting with how it sounds. Well, I threw the same audio torture playlists that I use to test car audio systems during car reviews. I also tested it in a couple of rooms to force the computational audio that driven by the Apple’s S5 chip to adapt to different environments. And the bad news is that the HomePod Mini is a bit lacking in bass versus the HomePod. But other than that, the audio quality is great. I seriously think that you will have no complaints while playing music and I would say it is about 70% of the audio quality of a full sized HomePod. If you got two of them, you can make a stereo pair to get true left/right audio. And it would likely sound great.

You can also use the HomePod Mini as a HomeKit bridge so that you can automate and access your home remotely. It takes almost zero effort to set that up assuming you have HomeKit compatible devices. In my case, I have a pair of HomeKit security cameras, and a HomeKit light switch. I was able to create automations that did the following with ease: When both my wife and I leave our condo which is verified by the lack of presence of either the iPhone or Apple Watch that each of us has, the cameras will turn on and have the ability to stream and detect movement. If movement is detected, the camera that is pointed at the door will record video and sound to iCloud and send a notification to both our iPhones.

One cool feature is Intercom. This allows you to use the command “Hey Siri Intercom” to record and to play an audio message on all connected HomePod speakers as well as on iPhones, Apple Watches and the like of all family members. And it works inside or outside your home including on CarPlay. It’s great when you don’t want to shout from the kitchen to someone else in another room that dinner is ready. Or that you driving up to your home to pick up the kids and you want them outside and ready to go.

So what’s the downside to the HomePod Mini? For starters, all of this is only good if you are within the Apple ecosystem. If you don’t have an iPhone, you can’t set it up. Nor can you interact with it. In other words those on Team Android need not apply. Also, Siri while improved as of late, is still miles away from the sort of functionality you get with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. By that I mean that you have to speak to Siri using very specific commands to get it to work for you. You don’t have to do that with the Google or Amazon equivalent. Though the flip side of that is that Siri doesn’t troll and mine your data the way that Amazon and Google do. So Apple has made a conscious decision to prioritize privacy over broader functionality. You’ll have to decide if that matters to you and you can live with the limitations that this decision brings to the table.

The price is the best part of the HomePod Mini, it’s $99 USD which makes it enticing to those in the Apple ecosystem. And only those in the Apple ecosystem. Siri is still only okay. The sound is great. And the price is right. Which means that it might be enough for Apple to sell a few truckloads of them.

Canadians Are Playing More Video Games To Stay Connected And Entertained During COVID-19: ESAC

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 20, 2020 by itnerd

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the lives of Canadians. In its most recent study conducted by The NPD Group – the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC), found that Canadians are increasing their levels of video game play as a way to stay connected and entertained during these difficult times.

Every two years ESAC, national trade association for Canada’s video game industry, conducts a study on video game consumers to identify how, what, where and why Canadians are playing video games. On Thursday, ESAC released its latest study entitled Real Canadian Gamer – Essential Facts 2020.

This study provides an in-depth look at the video game player community and consumers in Canada; which is already one of the world’s largest video game hubs with 61% of our population reporting regularly playing video games.

Key Findings

Although the pandemic has not resulted in substantial new video game consumers – with less than 2% of Adult Canadians (18 to 64) deciding to take up a controller for the first time during the pandemic – it has significantly boosted the amount that existing video game consumers played in Canada.

● 58% of Adult Gamers and 80% of Teen Gamers reported playing more video games during the pandemic.

Not only are Canadians playing more video games, but a majority of them say it is helping them feel better emotionally and mentally while following stay-at-home measures. Games are also helping parents find common ground with their kids while helping them spend time connecting.

  • 65% of Adult Gamers and 78% of Teen Gamers find that gaming while supporting stay-at-home health measures makes them feel better.
  • 70% of Teen gamers reported using online video games to stay connected while isolating at home.
  • 65% of Adult Gamers with children ages 6 to 17 reported playing video games with their children and 44% reported playing more often during COVID-19.

Many also identified video games as a means of helping family and friends stay bonded and connected throughout the pandemic.

You can find out more about this study by clicking here to look at it.

Apple Publishes Solution To Those With MacBook Pros That Were Bricked Due To macOS Big Sur

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 20, 2020 by itnerd

Earlier this week, it came to light that the upgrade to macOS Big Sur was bricking some 13″ MacBook Pros. This was a bit of a #Fail for Apple.

But to their credit Apple published a new support article on its website confirming that some users are unable to install macOS Big Sur on 13-inch MacBook Pro models launched in 2013 and 2014. It also provides what I consider a possible fix. I say “possible” because I would love to know if this actually fixes the issue or not. Thus, if you have this issue and you try this, please let me know by leaving a comment below if this works (or not).