This week, the Tech Podcasts Network team discusses what's coming up and what we're all most excited about for CES 2021.
This week, App Fairness is expanding its ranks, Russia is expanding its outlook, and HBO Max is expanding its reach. Plus, ways to prepare for 2021.
2020 is (thankfully) almost over, and that means that it is time to look back at the year and find the things that had a positive impact on the tech industry. While there has been no end of negativity, from product scalpers to toxic streaming, there have been some extremely bright spots.
The best CPU of the year is the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X. While the entire 5000 series of processors have been great, the 5600X sets itself out. It's just the right combination of cores and power at an attractive price point. Most importantly, its performance beats Intel's more expensive processors at common tasks, including gaming at 2K resolution. On the GPU side of things is the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080. While there were a lot of new video cards that came to market, the RTX 3080 represented a massive single generation performance improvement. The processor also released at a price that couldn't be beaten, as was evidenced by the immediate sellout of inventory.
No good video card is worth anything if it isn't paired with a monitor that can support it. The Asus ROG Swift PG259QN is the gaming monitor to take advantage of those powerful cards. It offers 360 Hz refresh rate, allowing for major FPS for professional and aspiring gamers. Even if your system isn't capable of that kind of framerate, you'll still benefit from the best motion resolution Tom's Hardware's team has ever seen. But, if resolution is more important than framerate, the Asus ROG Swift PG43UQ offers the best 4K gaming performance on a giant screen. For storage, the Samsung 980 Pro is your best bet - if you're running a modern AMD system. This chip can reach 7 GBps read/write in a small M.2 package.
For the entire list of Best of 2020, head on over to Tom's Hardware.
If you're unaware of the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF) or haven't heard about it in a while, you can be forgiven. The organization has often stayed in the shadows, working to fix a problem that the general population is not directly affected by, but developers are - Apple's App Store policies. The organization is led by Epic Games and Spotify but has grown to 50 members, with the newest coming on board this week.
While technically only one new member was added, it is a big get for the movement. The newest member is Digital Content Next, an organization that represents the majority of the major publishers in the United States. Among the group's ranks are The New York Times, Associated Press, and NPR. By adding the major news publishers, adding to the existing European members, the group now has a good fighting force on another front in the Apple monopoly battle - publishing.
Currently, the major battlefront has been general App Store policies. It started with Epic Games suit over the 30 percent "App Store tax," which is forced upon publishers for using the company's proprietary payment system - a feature that most developers don't want to use, but are forced to by Apple. Recently, Apple threw fuel on the fire by dropping the rate to 15 percent for streaming video services but did not extend the same offer to music and news subscription apps. That move was what finally brought Digital Content Next into the fold.
However, there is another aspect of Apple's closed environment that has caused problems recently - Apple News and, more importantly, Apple News+. In June, The New York Times announced that it was removing its content from Apple News entirely over the way Apple was trying to control the distribution of news on its platforms. The publishers were not to receive a large portion of the upcoming Apple News+ revenue, while also being boxed in on content.
Overall, the primary goal of the organization is still on App Store policies, but with multiple ways to show Apple's attempted control over third-party developers, it's got a stronger case for anticompetitive behavior.
It's almost the end of 2020, and while the year has been chaotic for most of us, the PLUGHITZ Live team is looking for every way we can start 2021 off without some of the burdens of 2020. Our staff members and partners each have some rituals they perform going into a new year, and together we hope that these suggestions can help all of us feel a little less chaotic.
So many aspects of our lives are controlled by devices with batteries. However, we tend to have some devices around that have batteries in them that we completely ignore. While it might seem like a non-issue, that is not always the case. This is because as batteries fail, they can cause damage ranging from ruining the device itself to causing fires. Because of these risks, it is important to check your battery-powered devices, especially those you don't often use.
One of the most common causes of issues is decorations. For decorations, we put some AA batteries in those tiny LED holiday lights and then put them into the attic or basement at the end of the season. The heat and cold can damage the batteries and cause them to leak, rendering the product useless for the next season. This can also happen with remote controls for items we don't use often, like the DVD player you still have hooked up but stopped using because of your Netflix or Amazon Prime Video subscription.
Another source of trouble is old phones and tablets. The rechargeable batteries in these devices are usually Lithium-Ion and can bulge up from disuse or overcharging. These bulging batteries can pop, and when they do spill corrosive battery acid over everything. In some instances, the chemicals can even explode, causing greater damage, and can even catch fire.
You know when you're done with your devices, you don't always put them away. You've got something on your kitchen counter that belongs in the living room, or a charger for your phone on the coffee table. Everyone does it, and it means we lose stuff. When you've also got studio equipment that doesn't make it back into place after a trip, it makes things even worse.
Going into the new year, I plan to find those items around the house and studio that are not where they belong and put them back. Hopefully, this will mean not looking for things that I regularly need (like an SD card we couldn't find for 9 months), or repurchasing items that I know I already own because I need it right now.
If you're like me and working from home for the first time, you might be finding it difficult to keep your workspace clear. You spend time there during the day, but it's also part of your house. My goal before the end of the year is to do a deep clean of my desk. The way to start is by clearing everything off the desk to determine what is necessary and what is clutter. Once the desk is clear, wipe all your surfaces down. Remember that screens, like your laptop, monitor, phone, and tablet cannot be cleaned with regular solutions - always use a screen cleaner.
Now that everything is clean, put things back in a way that you can find them and that are not cluttered. Things like under monitor pen holders can help. Also, make sure that the cords you've got are not in your way with wire clips or wire trays. Once everything is in its new place, keep things organized going forward with a side monitor memo board. Remember, a cluttered desk means a cluttered mind, but an empty desk means... nevermind.
If you're like me, you get auto subscribed to every junk email list on the planet. Thanks to GDPR, we have a guaranteed way to unsubscribe from these lists, but it's never the same. Every provider uses a different method, and it makes getting off the lists too time consuming. So, what do we do? Ignore them forever and they just keep piling up and flooding our inbox with garbage.
I want to go into 2021 without all these lists making it so I miss emails from people I care about, so I will be unsubscribing from every list I possibly can. I won't be doing it manually, though, because there are tools to make it easy. If you have an Android device, like I do, there is a tool called Cleanfox which will go through your inbox, identify the bulk lists, remove your subscription, and then delete the emails. Similarly, for my friends with iPhones, there is Unroll.Me.
Email lists aren't the only unwanted subscriptions that might be on your plate. As we approach subscription fatigue with so many options for subscriptions for music, video, collectables, comic books, and more, we can lose track of what we've got. Even worse is when you sign up for a trial and completely forget to unsubscribe before the end of the trial and you end up paying for a service you're not using.
Before next year, I plan on finding all the subscriptions I pay for and make decisions on whether I need to keep them. There are a couple of ways to do this. First, check your bank and credit card statements. You might miss that single $5 monthly subscription regularly, but upon investigation, you might find it. Also, check your app stores. This could be for Apple, Google, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, and more. You can see everything you're paying for and cancel from there.
One of my tech issues is keeping my devices clean, both digitally and physically. During events, I take a lot of photos with my phone and camera, some of which stay on the phone while others move to the laptop so I can post them on our social media pages. But, because they're on different devices, they get mixed up and lost. Plus, most of the photos I take I know I'll never need or want again.
So, before I start the new year, I plan to go through my photos and other files and find the ones I want to keep and eliminate the others. Some might get backed up onto cloud storage, while others will be deleted entirely. Once I have my storage cleaned up, I tend to want to carry on to the devices themselves, cleaning my screens, using canned air to blow out dust, and cleaning keyboards.
One of my favorite things to do (actually quarterly) is to go through and delete something that takes up so much space in my phone - screenshots and photos of who-the-heck-knows-what-that-I-clearly-no-longer-need. I try to keep the number of photos down below 3000 on my phone for my own neurotic purposes, but I do find it helps everything move more smoothly.
I also try to keep other unnecessary files off my phone - namely apps I no longer use. We all download apps and try them out or use them for a while and stop caring. But they can take up even more space than the random photos of prices at the grocery store or whatever weird photos I've got. Deleting the apps can clear space and prevent possible data theft through those apps.
This week, Cydia wants a piece of Apple's pie, the whole government wants Facebook in pieces, and Disney has a whole lot of new content on the horizon.
One of the most anticipated games of 2020, Cyberpunk 2077, has finally hit the street after several release delays. However, despite these delays, the game has launched with some high profile bugs. One of these bugs can force the game to crawl even if you have some of the most powerful system processors available.
But, what hardware do you need to play the game well? Jarred Walton at Tom's Hardware wrote a piece showing how the game played on a large variety of GPUs. The Frames Per Second (FPS) ranged significantly at 1280x720 Low, with the GTX 1050 Medium coming in as low as 13 FPS and the GTX 1650 Super maxing out at 105.1 FPS. At 1920x1080, the GTX 1050 performed at the bottom with 8.2 FPS, and the RX 6800 XT maxed out at 110.8 FPS. Obviously, those numbers drop as the resolution increases.
But, even if you have everything you should need, you might fail to get the correct performance. This is if you are using a modern AMD processor because the rendering engine is set up to prevent older AMD processors from overloading. It searches for AMD Bulldozer processors and, if it is not one of those, it disables usage of half of the processor. The problem is that Bulldozer is an architecture that predates the 3 generations of Ryzen. So, if you do have a Ryzen or Threadripper processor, this bug affects you. There is a "fix" but apply it at your own risk.
In addition, the company has apologized for not showing enough information about the Cyberpunk 2077 running on current generation hardware. Gamers have been disappointed with the performance on the hardware it is currently available for (PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X support will come later). As such, Sony and Microsoft are offering refunds in their stores, and retail has been asked to accept refunds.
Apple is often credited with creating the integrated app store for the iPhone, but it's not really an accurate remembrance of history. In reality, the iPhone launched without the ability to use 3rd party apps. All that was available were Apple's small number of built-in apps, and 3rd party developers were encouraged to build mobile web apps that would run in Safari. However, users looking to upgrade their iPhone from a media device (the initial categorization for the iPhone) to a smartphone quickly learned how to jailbreak their devices. This allowed for app stores, such as Cydia, to be installed onto the iPhone, bringing app installations to the platform.
Cydia was available long before the official App Store and made it possible to install additional apps onto the iPhone and iPod Touch. Once the App Store launched, Cydia continued to evolve, adding the ability for users to customize their lock screens and home screens in ways that Apple did not allow but the operating system did. Over the years, Apple has implemented some of the features from Cydia, like a quick launch for the camera, all while preventing users from using officially using Cydia.
Following the trend in the industry, Cydia has sued Apple, claiming that the practice of preventing the alternate app store from being installed on the company's devices, despite being fully functional and popular, is illegal anticompetitive behavior. The lawsuit states,
Were it not for Apple's anticompetitive acquisition and maintenance of an illegal monopoly over iOS app distribution, users today would actually be able to choose how and where to locate and obtain iOS apps, and developers would be able to use the iOS app distributor of their choice.
Cydia is not the first to make this claim. Epic Games has made this same argument, stating that Apple is free to prevent apps from entering its own App Store, but only if they make alternates available. Otherwise, blocking any apps, like Fortnite from the App Store can be seen as anticompetitive.
This week, Libra's seizing the Day (Diem), Fortnite is tripping up gamers, and WarnerMedia is almost skipping theaters.
Over the past few months, the tech world has fallen victim to a problem that sneaker collectors have been dealing with for years - automated scalpers. There are services available that, for a fee, will scour the internet looking for the product of your choice and will purchase them for you. Some people may use this to acquire the product for themselves, most use it to turn around and sell a high demand product for a massive gain.
We have seen this process play out with video cards, gaming consoles, and more this year. It has accounted for some of the inventory issues with these products, as they are purchased by these bots and then relisted on eBay and Amazon. But, the process has drawn ire from tech companies and consumers alike. As such, things have been put in place to try to fight the problem.
Consumers have been creating fake listings on eBay looking to confuse these bots. They list photos of the products right at or slightly below the MSRP of the product and tell people not to big on the listing. The theory is that bots will encounter the listing at a price that could have a good return on investment and bids or uses But It Now. For those that Tom's Hardware has interviewed, they have said they return the money if the user asks. Otherwise, the person gets a photo of the product, we assume.
A more realistic option that requires a little more guts is bidding on the scalper's listings with massive prices. This drives the price way up, but of course, the bid isn't legit. So, in the end, the scalper's time has been wasted and the product is still in their possession. It does require the guts to make and abandon the bids, which is of course not for everyone.