August 18, 2019 - Episode 535 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Apple is fighting the EU, Ninja is fighting for his brand, and CBS and Viacom are trying to fight Disney.

Inexpensive Memory Upgrades - Episode 202 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch discusses one of the biggest changes in the tech space for 2019: the price of solid-state memory. Both NAND flash and standard SSD drives have come down significantly in price, making them a great option for upgrading an existing computer. Many of us have an older laptop that is simply too slow for everyday use, but removing a traditional spinning hard drive or a hybrid drive and replacing it with a solid-state drive can completely change the experience.

Avram recently did this for a colleague from a sister publication. They had a laptop for their son, who wanted to use it for gaming purposes. The problem was that launching apps and games took way too long. So, Avram swapped out the drive, using one purchased at retail. The price for a 1TB solid-state drive was just over $100, making the price per gig around 12 cents. This represents a major shift downward in pricing. Scott also has a recent example of this upgrade. His business partner at Sumo Software has an older laptop with a hybrid drive, which was so slow that the laptop was retired. However, after ordering an SSD from Amazon, the laptop acts like an almost brand new machine.

When making this switch, there is an important part of the process that is required: cloning the old drive to the new one. Doing that will be far easier than trying to start from scratch, having to install Windows, reinstall all of your apps, etc. Instead, you can use a tool to take the original drive and duplicate it exactly to the new drive. Then, simply pull the old drive out of the computer, replace it with the new drive, and you are off and running. It's a small amount of work that can make a big impact.

Apple and Ireland to fight European Union control over taxes

In 2016, the European Union decided that Ireland had not charged Apple enough in taxes, and demanded that Ireland collect an additional 13 billion euro (or roughly $14.4 billion) in "back taxes." This would be far from the first time a company, especially a tech company, was accused of avoiding taxes. For example, Bernie Sanders believes that Amazon has skirted tax law in the United States. However, this might be the first time that the country in question believes that the company paid what they were supposed to.

In this case, Ireland is on Apple's side, not the side of the EU. In fact, the Irish government will be heading to court with Apple to argue against the EU's imposed penalties over Apple paying exactly what the country asked them to pay. The EU has essentially argued that Apple has an unfair advantage in Ireland, where the company houses its European headquarters.

Publicly, the issue revolves around how Apple reports profits. Since the company's European headquarters are in Ireland, they report the profit from their various divisions within Europe through their corporate office. This allows them to pay 3.8 percent on their European profits. However, the EU believes that the amount collected should be reflective of the countries in which the company operates, including design and manufacturing.

In 2016, the Obama administration claimed that the EU was trying to help itself to cash that rightly belongs within the United States' economy. Many in Silicon Valley have argued that it is just one example of many of the jealousy of the EU over constantly losing out on the highly profitable tech market, and trying to rig EU regulations against US companies. This argument has been made many times, often referencing the "Google Tax", which has already claimed services in Europe, like Google News.

August 12, 2019 - Episode 534 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Android is better friends with Windows, loot boxes are lesser friends with the industry, and YouTube is "special friends" with top creators.

Back to School Tech 2019 - Episode 201 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch discusses some of the best technology to send your kids with when they return back to school. Whether they're returning to college or starting high school, certain technology pieces can enhance their learning.

For those who already have a laptop, there are a few items that can make using it a little better. For example, an external keyboard makes typing those long papers less stressful on the wrists. A larger external monitor can also help with the overall ergonomics of your desk setup, preventing a lot of neck strain looking down at a laptop. You can also make small upgrades to the laptop to speed it up, including adding additional RAM or replacing a traditional hard drive with an SSD.

If you are looking for a new laptop, it's important to consider the usage. For example, a school-age student should look into what technology their school is using. While many schools use Windows, because it is the global norm, others are beginning to adopt Chromebooks because they can be less expensive for schools. Unfortunately, it creates a difficult scenario for parents, who are unlikely to be familiar with the operating system.

For college students, however, there are some common things to look for. Ideally, a budget between $800 and $1200 will get you a great laptop for college students. You can get a great model with long battery life, so you can take notes in all of your classes, enough RAM to run any software needed for class, and enough storage to not have to fight with external disks. Tom's Hardware offered their editors' advice on buying a new laptop for students, in which Avram said,

I recommend a lightweight Ultrabook such as the Asus Zenbook, HP Envy 13t or Dell XPS 13. If you want a 2-in-1 (better for sketching), consider the HP Spectre x360.

Samsung and Microsoft make Android and Windows better friends

This week, Samsung finally announced the highly leaked Note 10 smartphones, the newest member of the popular phablet line. While the Note 10 brings many new enhancements, the biggest news (for us) was the enhanced relationship between Samsung and Microsoft. For years the two have worked together, with Microsoft edition Galaxy phones being made available with Microsoft apps pre-installed. Now, the two have come together even closer to bring some expanded capabilities between the phones and Windows 10.

The Your Phone app on Windows 10 is nice, it can bring notifications, text messages, and even photos from your Android device to your desktop or laptop with ease. Now, starting with the Note 10, you'll be able to do a host of exciting new capabilities. For example, Your Phone will interact with Samsung's DeX, bringing screen mirroring directly to the app. This means no more third party software or questionable downloads, it will be built right into your devices. This also means that DeX will be front and center, allowing you to use the desktop features of the phone on an existing PC. It also means that Android apps will be easily accessible on your Windows 10 PC, allowing for Snapchat on the PC for the first time (officially).

This is just the beginning, though. In a future update later in the year (likely in conjunction with the semi-annual Windows 10 update), Microsoft plans to bring phone calling to the application. This would allow you to use Your Phone to make and receive calls from your phone on your computer, eliminating the need to have the phone easily accessible.

This is all part of Microsoft's cross-platform access campaign, which seems intended to counter Apple's closed-loop ecosystem. iPhone owners can do many of these things now, but only if they have a Mac. With Mac being a statistically insignificant portion of the computer world, this means that the majority of iPhone users are left in the dark. Apple has always followed the old Sony methodology, hoping that restricting capabilities will drive sales, despite that philosophy almost bankrupting Sony, and hasn't worked for Apple, either. The open nature of Android and the modern Microsoft seems to be driving growth (just look at iPhone sales numbers).

August 4, 2019 - Episode 533 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Google has a new Play Pass, Microsoft has a new Ninja, and broadcast TV has a new enemy.

LEGO Hidden Side - Episode 200 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch is showing off the newest addition to the LEGO augmented reality family: LEGO Hidden Side. Unlike the set that Avram tested last year, this series of products has both cool LEGO environments and AR that is fun. First, Avram discusses the sets themselves. With 8 in total, they vary from the simpler Graveyard Mystery to the more complex and beautiful Newbury Haunted High School. Like with any LEGO sets, the only real issue is the ease with which the pieces come apart.

The reason to mention the stability of the sets themselves is because of their integral nature in the game. Before you can play, you have to choose your region, which is indicated by the set you're wanting to play with. You then have to lock the app's AR to the physical location of the set. However, if it is not 100% perfect, it will not be recognized and you cannot play. For kids, this can be frustrating because any time you move a set, it could eject pieces or whole sections.

Once you've gotten past the technical issues of the game, it is a lot of fun. The augmented reality aspect of the game is not just a gimmick, as we've seen in the past, but legitimately adds to the experience. During his demo, Avram showed off that the tree in the set was actually in motion, plus it was raining in the graveyard. All of this is a precursor to the actual tasks of the game, which include finding items of a particular color and catching ghosts. The ghost hunting is similar to Pokemon GO, except you find them in the LEGO sets, not in the real world.

Avram will be publishing his full review to Tom's Hardware in the next few days, but spoiler, he recommends it to anyone with kids.

Google begins testing subscription service for Android apps and games

If you haven't noticed over the past few years, subscription services are all the rage. That's because guaranteed recurring revenue is far better for a company's stability than peaks and valleys of individual product sales. Many companies in a variety of industries have begun implementing this business model, from Netflix's primary business to Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass. Google has a collection of subscription services, including YouTube Premium, the ad-free version of YouTube.

This week, word of a new subscription service from the company hit, later confirmed by Google. This new service, dubbed Google Play Pass, is an app subscription for Android which will give you "access (to) hundreds of premium apps and games." The service is priced at $4.99 per month, for those who have been included in the test group.

This service is almost certainly in direct response to the recently announced Apple Arcade, a service that will provide "over 100 groundbreaking new games." With Apple having a very similar service, Google needed to make this move. In addition to the competition, Android has consistently had an issue with revenue available for app developers. In every study conducted, Android owners are less likely or less willing to spend money on apps than iPhone owners are. It is one of the main reasons why paid apps, such as games, release on iPhone first so that they can generate revenue from Apple owners. The monthly revenue from Google Play Pass will be shared with publishers, based on the amount of time their app is used.

While Apple's service will launch this Fall, Google's service is just in testing, with no public market plan. It's always possible that any of the details of the service could change, including the pricing, app availability, etc. They could also abandon the plan entirely, though that is not likely.

Middleton Robotics President Manu @ ROBOTICON Tampa Bay 2018 (FIRST Looks)

If you're involved in the [FIRST" class="UpStreamLink"> community in Florida, then you are almost certainly aware of Middleton Robotics. The program is housed at the STEM magnet program at Middleton High School in Tampa, Florida, and has made a big name for themselves. Having one [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> team, currently two [FTC" class="UpStreamLink"> teams (formerly three), as well as participating in VEX with two teams, Middleton knows how to compete.

At ROBOTICON Tampa Bay, we had the opportunity to speak with Manu, the President of Middleton Robotics. He is a three year veteran of [FTC" class="UpStreamLink"> Team 3846 Maelstrom, but for his senior year switched to [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> Team 1369 Minotaur. This switch is because of the sheer volume of scholarships that are made available exclusively to [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> team members, meaning that seniors are best-served long-term as a Minotaur team member.

Coming into his Freshman year, Manu had no real robotics experience. However, knowing about Middleton's reputation as a world championship club is what attracted him to the school and the STEM program in the first place. Having the ability to participate in a program with teams in a variety of leagues has given him a better understanding of the similarities and differences between challenges. After switching from [FTC" class="UpStreamLink"> to [FRC" class="UpStreamLink">, he noticed that there are a lot of similarities between the programs. The larger scale, however, allows for more people to be involved in the build, as well as adding a need for more detailed communication.

One of the big challenges he experienced was in the schedule of the competition. [FRC" class="UpStreamLink"> starts its season in January, meaning that, for the first half of a new school year, you're having to learn the old game, despite it not having a lot of real-world value. Fortunately, ROBOTICON gives students who are new to the program the opportunity to experience a competition environment and practice with last year's game and robot before their new season begins.

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