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May 2, 2021 - Episode 593 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Apple's giving up billions, Microsoft is giving up commissions, and Roku is giving up YouTube TV.

CherryMX Ultra Low Profile Switches on Alienware m17 - Episode 257 (Piltch Point)

In January, Avram introduced us to the new Alienware m15 and m17 R4. This gaming laptop is considered to be the best performing laptop for gaming on the market today. But, like almost all gaming laptops, the biggest issue is the keyboard. Gamers tend to prefer a mechanical keyboard, but that has generally not been available on a portable rig. Thanks to a new set of switches from CherryMX, however, the m15 and m17 now have that option.

The new switches, known as CherryMX Ultra Low Profile switches. These all-new keyboard switches are designed specifically to create a mechanical keyboard that is still thin. This is because normal mechanical switches are taller than a normal laptop, and when you add the keycaps, they're even taller. For most people, that is an unacceptable situation, and so we have our new design.

A traditional CherryMX switch is 18.5 mm, the newer low profile switches are 11.9 mm, but the newest ultra low profile switches are just 3.5 mm tall. And, because of the design of the switch, the keycaps stretch across the top, as opposed to sitting on top of a post, meaning that all together they are just barely thicker than a traditional laptop keyboard. That is perfect for the m15 and m17 R4, because they are already super thin.

This new design switch maintains the ever important clicky feel while also slimming down. The design, according to the company, is based on the "Gullwing" doors from the Delorean car. When you press down on the middle of the key, a swing pulls two edges up, which the company says was directly inspired by the iconic doors from Back to the Future. No matter the inspiration, it is a welcomed addition to the laptop.

You can get both the m15 and m17 laptops right now for an additional $176.40.

Apple loses first major case involving App Store payment policies

There is no question that Apple's App Store policies are causing them a ton of trouble. They have been investigated by the European Union, The US Government, and more. There is a high-profile lawsuit against the company and a trade organization that has formed around changing Apple's policies. While Apple has continually argued that it's their store, their platform, and no one is required to participate, but many companies have disagreed - from Epic to Spotify, and that is where we pick up this week.

A complaint filed in the EU by Spotify in 2019 alleged that Apple's 30% fee for subscriptions in the App Store constitutes anti-competitive behavior, especially when it affects a direct competitor of Apple. In this case, Spotify and Apple compete with one another in the music streaming space and podcast space. The direct complaint was that, with the 30% fee for a service that Spotify does not want to use, they have to charge Apple customers $12.99 instead of $9.99 to make the same amount of money, while Apple can charge the $9.99, making their service look more attractive.

Of course, we all know that this story is bigger than just Spotify and Apple, or just Apple Music. This same complaint has been levied against the company from nearly every company that makes a competing product or service. This led the European Commission to look at it in larger terms, considering all of the surfaces on which Apple could use its 30% fee to hinder competition. And, the end result is a finding against Apple, showing that the company is engaged in illegal anti-competitive activity.

The EU does not take this charge lightly, with the potential for very stiff penalties. In fact, they European Commission has the option to fine Apple as much as 10% of all global turnover, which would amount to $27 billion. The Commission rarely, if ever, charges the maximum, but event 10% of the maximum 10% would take nearly $3 billion from the company. The amount of fine here is less important, though, than the ruling. With similar cases against Apple around the world, this could be the beginning of a change in tide for Apple, and a potential change in policy, similar to what we're seeing with other stores already.

April 18, 2021 - Episode 592 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, chips are in short supply, Twitch is reducing the bots, and Google is pushing away the rest of the web.

How to Find Limited Computer Hardware - Episode 256 (Piltch Point)

As the global chip shortage continues to affect product availability, finding certain technology products is getting more difficult. Whether you are looking for a new Radeon RX 6900 XT videocard or an Xbox Series X, you're up against limited inventory, high consumer demand, and scalpers. All of these conditions are adding to the overall challenge of acquiring one of these products. Obviously, if it is possible to skip one of these items in the near term, that is going to be your best choice. However, there are some processes and solutions if you need one of these items.

One company that is trying to provide a solution to the problem is Newegg. Their Product Shuffle feature creates a lottery system when a new shipment of inventory has been received. So, if you are looking for that NVIDIA RTX 3090 and Newegg receives a shipment, you can sign up to be considered for purchase. Once the time window closes, the company randomly draws the number of names for which they have inventory and send an email. You then have a limited amount of time to make your purchase before the inventory is unlocked once again. It's not ideal, but it does mean that you're not fighting the mob.

Another option is to sign up for an inventory alert system like HotStock. On these platforms, you can log your interest in a particular product, for example a PlayStation 5. You can also enter a maximum price you are willing to pay (which you should absolutely do), to limit the results. Then, when the system encounters the product available on one of its partner sites for a price within your range, you can get an email or a push notification (if you download the mobile app). One of the limitations of these systems, however, is that you cannot enter a product category. So, for videcards, you'll need to enter alerts for every manufacturer of a model, as opposed to just saying you want a Radeon RX 6800.

No matter how you solve the inventory issues for yourself, we wish you luck in finding the items you need.

A global chip shortage has been affecting product production and availability for nearly a year now. For those who had hoped that perhaps the fabrication plants might be getting close to having a handle on the problem, we've got some bad news. According to executives at all of the major foundries, we can expect these shortages to stay around for years.

The semiconductor bottleneck

The majority of major chip manufacturers use semiconductors produced by one foundry: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). The company produces for brands like Apple, Broadcom, Nvidia, and Qualcomm (though not exclusively) - none of whom have any chip fabrication capabilities internally.

This means that any delays at TSMC will mean major delays for products from these companies. And we have seen exactly that, with shortages in videocards from Nvidia, and chip shortages from Qualcomm. Even Apple's ability to source display technology has been affected.

The timeline to normalcy

TSMC says that they expect these delays to continue well into 2023. This delay comes because the company is already running its operation at over 100% of capacity. Producing a new facility to improve performance is not easy, as it can take years to build a facility and months to configure a new line.

So, two full years of technology at a near standstill, all because we rely on a single manufacturer for many of our chip components. And the company's affect will be far and wide in those two or so years. 45 percent of the company's revenue comes from smartphone component manufacturing and 35 percent comes from high-performance computing components. So, mobile and stationary computing are in trouble.

Automaker GM recently announced that it would have to idle some of its factories because of the shortages. While changes were made to the plans, it is still a dark situation for the automaker. Though they believe they have solved the problem in the near-term to get back up and running, the long-term effects are still murky.

The competition is stuck

But, if you were hoping to avoid the problems by switching form AMD (for whom TSMC manufactures the 7nm silicon) to Intel, who manufactures its own silicon, there is some equally bad news. Intel has also famously been affected by their own semiconductor manufacturing slowdowns. It's part of the reason why the company's chips are still not running at 7nm, while AMD has been there for a while.

New Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger recently told The Washington Post,

We do believe we have the ability to help. I think this is a couple of years until you are totally able to address it. It just takes a couple of years to build capacity.

The conclusion

Whether you're making them yourself or outsourcing the components, producing semiconductors is a challenge right now. And, w're going to be feeling the pressure for the next few years. So, if you were hoping to get a new Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, patience is going to be of the utmost importance.

March 28, 2021 - Episode 591 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, LG might leave the smartphone market, Xbox Live is now the Xbox network, and Twitch is scoring your stream.

Tools to Improve Working at Home - Episode 255 (Piltch Point)

This month marks the 1 year anniversary of "15 days to slow the spread" and it has brought with it a number of new challenges. For many people, it was the first experience of working from home instead of going into an office. That change in paradigm created a need to rethink our homes, as well as the tools that we use to get through our workday.

The most important recommendation has been to carve out space in your home that is your work area. This helps to prevent the feeling of never leaving work and always being at home. It can be confusing emotionally to not have a separation between these aspects of your life. It doesn't need to be a whole room, but some space is good.

Of course, there are items that can improve your work, as well. A great keyboard for your computer can improve your typing and reduce strain on your wrist. Avram uses the Hexgears Impulse and Scott uses the Razer Cynosa V2 with the Razer Tartarus keyboard extension. A good mouse is also important, and Avram uses a Logitech M510 wireless mouse and Scott uses a Razer DeathAdder wired mouse.

A good webcam is another useful component. This is because the webcam that is built in to your laptop is statistically garbage. At this point, nearly no manufacturer includes a decent webcam, so getting an external one can make you look far more together on a meeting. Avram uses the Logitech C920 and Scott uses the bigger sibling Logitech C930.

Other enhancements include multiple monitors, wrist rests for your keyboard and mouse, and a decent office or gaming chair. Everyone's experiences differ, though, and we are very interested in what our viewers and listeners have used to improve their experiences. Feel free to contact us and let us know what tools have made your work from home experience better.

LG, after years of struggling, is ready to exit the smartphone market

LG has a lot of product categories that might be in your home. Refrigerators, ranges, and microwaves are everywhere. Their smart TVs are also one of the big categories for the company. However, one category that people don't currently think of when they think of LG is smartphones. Because of this shift in market share, the company is thinking about abandoning the market entirely.

A decade ago, LG was one of the major players in smartphones. Before Apple got involved, they were one of the big names, along with HTC and Motorola. Today, none of those companies play a major role in the industry. Motorola has changed hands a couple of times over the past few years, currently part of Lenovo. HTC has suffered a similar fate, once considering abandoning the market, later changing course and selling most of the business to Google (who sold Motorola to Lenovo).

Now, LG is in a similar position. Recently, the company was rumored to be considering a sale of the smartphone division to another interested company. However, new reports suggest that LG is now considering simply shuttering the division entirely and moving on. This could be because there are simply no interested parties, or because the amount of work or time involved in the process of a sale would exceed the value of the brand. Sometimes the best course of action is to walk away and cut your losses, which might be where LG is headed.

Now, this is not to say that LG would be entirely absent from the smartphone world. The company is one of the major manufacturers of components like screens for other bands, including Apple. There is no suggestion that LG is considering abandoning that aspect of its business, which makes sense. They have consistently held a position of quality in the component space, so continuing with that aspect of the business is a way to keep participating while not trying to follow the bizarre trends of the smartphone space, which they have struggled to understand.

March 21, 2021 - Episode 590 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, NFTs are all the rage, EVO Championship Series is joining Sony, and the NFL has found some funding.

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