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Android 11 Beta Review- Good But Still Rough Around the Edges

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Android 11 Beta Review

Do you have an Android phone? As you all know, Google, the company that is responsible for creating the Android operating system, releases a new version of the mobile OS each and every year.

While they’ve already ditched the alphabetical food naming scheme, they’ve stuck with the numbering scheme since Android 10 was launched last year.

This year, the company calls it simply as Android 11 and it is currently in beta and early access. This article is for the Android 11 Beta Review.

How to Get It?

The new Android 11 is still in its early beta stages. In fact, it was just released not too long ago. That being said, only Google Pixel phones have access to it for the time being, so any other Android device would have to wait in line.

UI Improvements

The first thing that I will talk about is something that you will notice right away: UI changes. The most notable one would be for the notifications section.

Isn’t it frustrating where you had to sift through your notifications just to find the right ones that are important to you? Well, Google has lumped notifications into three categories: Conversations, alerting notifications, and silent notifications.

Under ‘Conversations’, you will find all of the notifications that are produced by your chat applications. This includes Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, and a whole lot more.

That provides you with a great way to easily respond to any person that tries to keep in contact with you and that is a really nice change.

In ‘Alerting Notifications’, these are notifications from your other apps that you haven’t included in your silent notifications list. In other words, these are messages that are normally produced by all of your other apps.

Lastly, silent notifications are notifications that are produced by the applications that you have lumped into the said category. They do not produce any sound and will silently just pile up if you don’t deem them as important.

Anyway, all of the notifications under your Conversations tab will create a sort of chat bubble that is like what Facebook Messenger is doing. You can easily tap on the bubble to respond to your chats or emails immediately.

Furthermore, you can also set more priorities for some people as well. Should you prioritize certain things, they will notify you even if you’ve set the phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’.

People that listen to audio and other media will also love the fact that the media playback controls are now more persistent.

When you swipe down the notification shade, you will find the playback controls quickly and easily. They persist so long as there are some media running in the background which is really nice. Gone are the days where you have to fire up the app again just to skip tracks, etc.

Native Smart Home Integration

Android 11

There is really a huge push when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT) and Google just makes it so much easier for you.

If you have any smart appliances or Google Home products, you can easily toggle those things on and off. If there are additional settings, you can toggle that on the same panel as well.

Built-in Screen Recording

Fans of this particular feature were saddened by the fact that the Android 10 didn’t come with native screen recording when it was released to the public (though beta versions had this, it was not present in the final one).

Fortunately, Google seems to have fixed anything that broke screen recording before and has re-integrated it back to Android 11.

It does what it says it does, so hopefully, it will be available once Android 11 finally releases on all mobile phones later this year.

New ‘Recents’ Action

When you go to the ‘Recents’ menu, you will find three new actions: Screenshot, Select, Share.

Pressing the ‘Screenshot’ button will automatically grab a photo of the app that you are currently on. You can either edit the resulting image or share it on your social media accounts.

When you press the ‘Select’ option, you will be able to see what things you can highlight on the image so that you can easily copy your chosen text to the clipboard.

Then, the ‘Share’ button just makes it easier for you to share a particular image to your friends and family.

Stricter App Permissions

By default, there are only three options you can choose from if you fire up an app that asks for certain permissions.

First is the ‘allow only this time’ which means that you only grant whatever permission the app needs only at the time you fire it up.

Next, is the ‘while using the app’ which essentially grants permission to the app indefinitely. The last option would be to deny the application of any access to your system.

If you’ve given an app certain permissions indefinitely, you can toggle the option to reset it, but you will have to go deep down the settings menu in order to do that.

I really love the new ‘permission reset’ setting simply because it automatically resets all app permissions if you want to.

Known Issues

Android 11 Beta

Okay, while all of the aforementioned new features of Android 11 are pretty exciting, keep in mind that it is still the first beta version of the upcoming OS. That means that bugs are to be expected until the final release.

From what I’ve experienced, not all applications can support the new notifications settings. They may be updated to suit the new Android ecosystem, but it may take some time.

Furthermore, there are some settings that do not work. That is to be expected given that it is still a developer preview anyway.

How to Install?

To be honest, Android 11 is still not a really good operating system to be using at this time. You may want to wait for a new beta version to be released in order for the developers to have fixed the bugs that are present in the first version.

Anyway, if you still want to try it out for yourself, you should have a Google Pixel device. If you do have one, you can go ahead and enroll your device on ‘Android Beta for Pixel Program’. Then, you will be able to download the operating system to your phone.

Conclusion

While it is far from perfect, the new features are pretty good. The new notifications panel just makes it so much easier for you to discern the most important ones from the others.

Aside from that, the new UI improvements are always welcome. Its integration with your smart appliances would really improve IoT in a major way.

I certainly hope that there will be more features added to Android 11 before release, but from what I can see so far, what Google is offering is pretty good.

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WatchOS 7- New Features and Everything You Need to Know

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WatchOS 7

Apple’s smartwatch operating system is now on its 7th iteration and although it doesn’t have grandiose features, there are some notable ones nonetheless.

Today, I am going to go over the new features and everything you need to know about WatchOS 7.

What’s New?

The new Apple smartwatch operating system will debut with the release of the Apple Watch 6 but it will also be available on a handful of older generation Apple watches as well.

Anyway, there aren’t a lot of big features included in the new update, but there are some notable ones. Here are just some of them:

1.Watch Faces and Complications

There isn’t a lot of flexibility when it comes to watch faces on Apple smartwatches and that is because the company didn’t make it open source, which means that other developers cannot chime in with their own designs.

But despite the fact that support is limited only to the company, Apple is going to be releasing some new watch faces soon that will not only make your watch look very interesting but it will also add new features and information that will surely be useful to you.

Aside from new watch faces, app developers can also make use of watch complications via a new API. That means that you can use your Apple smartwatch to find out more information about current events, weather, sports, and many others.

For example, if you are going to run a weather app, the said application can provide information about the weather condition, as well as the wind speed, temperature, etc.

2.Sleep Tracking and Wind Down Mode

Apple watches have become one of the most reliable sleep tracking devices for quite some time now and it has only been improved in the new update.

WatchOS 7 provides you with a more robust ‘Sleep’ app that can help you track your sleeping habits and provide you with some tips on how to help improve the quality of your sleep.

You will be able to set your own sleeping time, though you are encouraged to sleep at night (which can be a problem for people who are working in graveyard shifts).

To complement the Sleep app, there is also a Wind Down mode that basically mutes all incoming notifications until the time you’re supposed to wake up. This also means that the watch will not accidentally turn its lighting on whenever you flick your wrist or make watch gestures.

With the use of the watch’s different sensors, the application can record some important metrics that can help you improve your overall sleeping patterns. This is great for people that are not getting the right amount and quality of sleep.

3.Handwashing

One of the best ways to kill the Covid-19 virus is to do frequent handwashing. But, it is not just a mere gesture of wetting your hands with water and putting a little bit of soap and be done with it because there are some set rules that you have to follow to make it even more effective.

As a general rule, you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. I think by now, you know the basic principles of handwashing, albeit you have to do it 20 seconds at a time.

To help you instill good handwashing habits, the WatchOS 7 can use an Apple Watch’s motion sensors, built-in AI, and microphone to ensure that you are doing it correctly.

If it senses that you are done before the 20-second mark, it will remind you to continue washing your hands. 

In addition, the watch will also remind you to wash your hands again once you come home from work or from somewhere else.

4.Fitness

It is always a good idea to strengthen your immune system and one way to do that would be to increase your daily physical activities.

The new update brings with it a new fitness app that includes four additional activities that you can track using your Apple Watch.

If you are a fan of dancing, the new fitness app can help you track a lot of popular dance routines, including Hip-hop, Latin, Bollywood, and so much more.

Aside from dance tracking, you also have options for functional strength training and core training. It is said that resistance training not only helps build muscle but it can also be good for your general health as well.

Lastly, you can also track your cooldown regimen as well. This includes some stretching and things that you can do to maximize your time after working out.

WatchOS 7 Review

5.Hearing

According to the WHO, people should not exceed listening to music at 80 decibels for more than 40 hours a week. Otherwise, your hearing will be compromised.

To help protect your ears, the new WatchOS 7 can send you timely notifications to remind you to stop listening to loud music once you’ve reached the 40-hour mark (this could be in a span of one week).

I think that most people are not going to go beyond that limit anyway, but it is still a nice feature if you forget to rest your ears.

If you are using wireless headphones, you will hear a chime that will notify you when you are close to the said limit.

6.Maps

As part of physical distancing measures, people are encouraged to ride a bike to work instead of taking public transport (this is assuming that you do not have your own car).

If you are riding a bike to work, the new feature can help plot a course that will help make your travel more seamless.

For instance, if there is a huge stairway in your path, your Apple smartwatch can plot a different course for you to take for a smoother ride.

Of course, it should go without saying that this feature is only available for LTE versions of the Apple Watch as this thing will require continuous internet connectivity to work.

7.Translation and an Improved Siri

Siri, Apple’s own AI assistant, has been vastly improved. This time, you are able to send voice-to-text commands right on your Apple Smartwatch and you can use that feature to help you translate some foreign words to your chosen language.

For instance, if you want to know the Japanese term for ‘hello’, you can say that to Siri and she will not only translate that for you but she will also say it out loud so that you will know how it is said correctly.

This is a nifty feature, especially if you are talking to some foreign clients and you want a quick way to know the meaning of certain words that you are not familiar with.

How to Get the Update?

WatchOS 7 Review 2020

The new WatchOS 7 is now available only for select Apple smartwatches. This means that your unit should be at least Apple Watch 3, Apple Watch 4, Apple Watch Series 5, and the new Apple Watch SE. Apple Watch 6, as mentioned earlier, already comes with the new operating system so you do not have to worry about anything.

There are three ways to get the update. The first one would be to open up the Watch application on your iPhone. Next, tap ‘General’ and you will find the option to install a ‘Software Update’.

Alternatively, you can also do the update process directly on your Apple smartwatch as well. To do this, head on over to Settings->General->Software Update.

Apple is employing a staggered rollout which means that you might not get notified even though the update is already available for download. The above steps can be done in order to force the watch to get the new update.

If you are patient, you can go with the third approach and just wait for the notification that will prompt you to download the new update.

There are a few things that you have to remember before initiating the update. First, you need to be connected to your WiFi router as the update will not push through if you are using an LTE connection.

Second, your Apple Watch must at least have 50% of battery before downloading and installing the update to ensure that the device won’t turn off during the entire process.

Third, do not touch the watch while it is updating. Let the entire thing install first before you can use the watch again. It is vital that the entire process is not interrupted, otherwise, you could experience a lot of issues.

WatchOS 7 Update

Conclusion

The WatchOS 7 is an iterative update, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some exciting and important features.

I am really happy about the Watch faces and complications because it just provides you with a much better user experience, especially since app developers can now introduce more watch-specific features to the masses.

The sleep tracking, handwashing, hearing, and fitness applications help you improve your overall health, especially since we are still under the effects of a global pandemic.

I also find maps and Siri’s translation services to be quite useful as well, so there are still a lot of things to be happy about with the new update.

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Xbox Series X- When Will It Be Released and What Does It Bring to the Table?

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Microsoft Xbox Series X

After months of hype and speculations, the Microsoft Xbox Series X has finally been unveiled to the public and we now know a lot more information about the upcoming game console than ever before.

In this article, I will go over the key points that you need to know about Microsoft’s console, such as release dates, pricing, new features and technologies, and so much more.

Release Date and Pricing

The Xbox Series X will be released on November 10 and pre-orders will start as early as September 22. The price of the said game console will be $499 which is in-line with Sony’s Playstation 5 disc edition.

Unlike Sony where the company has decided to employ a staggered release date for its PS5 consoles, the Microsoft Xbox Series X will be released on the same date worldwide. Of course, there is the challenge of availability considering that we are still suffering from a global pandemic, which is why pre-ordering the console (assuming that you want to get one) makes a whole lot of sense.

Design

Microsoft Xbox Series X 1

Unlike previous Xbox consoles, the Series X will actually have a more tower-like design with some air vents that can be visibly seen on top of the device.

The Series X will also feature a 4K Blu-ray player, so you could say that it is indeed quite similar to what Sony has to offer.

As of the time of writing this article, the console will only be available in black, though with the release of prior Xbox consoles, a white-colored Xbox is not too far off.

The more vertical design of the upcoming gaming machine might prove to be challenging for some people, especially when it comes to desk space. You will need to have adequate space to rest the console on the surface.

Specs

Microsoft Xbox Series X Design

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen Custom Zen 2, 8-cores/16-threads (via SMT) @3.8GHz (boost) and 3.6GHz (base)
  • GPU: AMD Custom RDNA 2 GPU with 52 Compute Units, 12 TFLOPS, and @ 1.825GHz
  • Process (nodes): 7nm Enhanced
  • Memory: 16GB GDDR6, 320-bit Bus, 10GB @ 560GB/s and GB @ 336GB/s memory bandwidth
  • Internal Storage: 1GB Custom NVMe SSD, 4.8 GB/s (read) and 2.4 GB/s (write) (both are theoretical values)
  • Storage Expansion: 1TB
  • External Storage Support: USB 3.2 External HDD
  • Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-Ray Drive
  • Performance Target: 4K @ 60 FPS, up to 120FPS (Theoretical)

I am really very excited about the new-gen consoles because they are packed with serious hardware that allows you to play games at 4K resolution without any issues.

Just like the PS5, the Xbox Series X is also powered by a custom AMD Ryzen CPU (using Zen 2 architecture) and a custom AMD GPU (using the new RDNA2 architecture). This performance package should allow you to play games at 4K@ 60 frames per second ‘comfortably’ (at least according to Microsoft Xbox president, Phil Spencer) and it could even give you the right amount of processing power to achieve more than 60 frames per second (up to 120 frames per second, theoretically).

The CPU, according to Digital Foundry, has a base clock of 3.6GHz and it boosts up to 3.8GHz. The good thing is that the boosting algorithms will only kick in when the console needs more horsepower which can be a good thing both from a performance and thermals standpoint.

It is also worth noting that the new Xbox will support ray tracing. Thus, you can enable such a feature in the games that support it and you will not have to worry about any performance penalties at all since the hardware is more than capable.

This new and upcoming game console will also be using a custom 1TB NVMe SSD which is 100+ GB more than what the PS5 has to offer.

While Spencer didn’t mention anything specific, the SSD that comes in the Xbox Series X should be faster than any consumer SSD that you can find on the market up to this point.

This would mean that if you are going to use its expansion slot to add more storage, you will have to buy an SSD directly from Microsoft if you want to get the best performance possible out of a storage drive.

If you are okay with using an external hard drive, it can support one that is using a USB 3.2 Gen 1 cable.

The optical drive is a 4K Blu-Ray player and each game disc can hold as much as 100GB of storage (though it is more likely that each disc can contain an amount lower than that).

Features

The Microsoft Xbox Series X has a lot of nice features up its sleeve. For one, it has the new Velocity architecture that makes good use of the console’s NVMe SSD, thus virtually eliminating load times.

In line with the said technology, you will also get to enjoy the ‘Quick Resume’ feature where you can pick up right where you left off almost instantly thanks to the use of a new DirectStorage API and Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS) technologies.

The Xbox Series X will also have VRR or Variable Refresh Rate and Auto Low Latency Mode or ALLM to provide you with a smooth gaming experience. The former will eliminate screen tearing and improve overall frame rates and the latter will ensure that it will use your chosen display’s lowest latency mode for maximum performance.

Because the Playstation 5 can support 8K resolution, Phil Spencer also said that the Microsoft Xbox Series X can also handle that as well, though it remains to be seen if the gaming experience will be somewhat enjoyable, given how taxing the said resolution can be.

Controller

Microsoft Xbox Series X Controller

Unlike the DualSense controller that comes with the PS5, not much is known about the Series X’s controller. Spencer did say that it will have a slimmer form factor and its D-Pad is vastly improved (to mimic the Xbox Elite controller which is a 3rd-party peripheral).

The rumble motors are reported to make a comeback, though I do not know if it will be a better implementation than the haptics that are embedded in the DualSense controller.

It seems that lowering the latency is one of the top priorities of the company as Spencer said that it will have a Dynamic Latency Input feature that will significantly reduce the input lag of the said controller. Of course, this will be tested in our review once the unit is available.

Games

It is a bit of a disappointment that Halo Infinite, which used to be a launch title, is delayed until 2021. There are still plenty of different games, however, and here are just some of the most notable ones:

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
  • As Dusk Falls
  • Avowed
  • Battlefield 6
  • Borderlands 3
  • Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War
  • Chivalry 2
  • Control: Ultimate Edition
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Dirt 5
  • Dragon Age 4
  • Dying Light 2
  • Everwild
  • Exomecha
  • Fable
  • Far Cry 6
  • FIFA 21
  • Gears 5
  • Graven
  • Hood: Outlaws and Legends
  • Hogwarts Legacy
  • Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  • New Genesis: Phantasy Star Online 2
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps
  • Rainbow Six Quarantine
  • Resident Evil Village
  • Scarlet Nexus
  • Scorn
  • State of Decay 3
  • Watch Dogs: Legion

Backward Compatibility and Xbox Game Pass

Microsoft Xbox Series X Game Pass

A lot of people were disappointed by the fact that the Playstation 5 only supports PS4 games and is not backward compatible with the older generation Playstation consoles. The Microsoft Xbox Series X is different.

You see, it not only supports all of the games from its predecessor’s content portfolio, but it will also support most of the games of the older generation platforms as well. This means that even the original Xbox games are playable on the new game console which is a really good thing.

You would want to register for the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate so that you can unlock all of the games. It is worth noting that by getting the game pass, you also have the privilege of using the company’s xCloud feature that allows you to play Xbox games while you are on the go. Think of this as an improved version of Google Stadia.

Conclusion

I am really impressed with what the Microsoft Xbox Series X has to offer. Aside from its very powerful hardware, its new features and technologies will certainly improve your gaming experience manifold.

By getting the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you get to enjoy your favorite Xbox games while on the go, while also unlocking all of the possible older-generation games that are playable on the new platform.

It remains to be seen if the new controller is better, but I am eager to find out if the new low latency feature can truly decrease input lag by a lot.

Remember that you can already pre-order your own unit today and the console will be officially released on November 10 in all regions. It costs $499.

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TikTok and WeChat Bans- What We Know So Far

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Tiktok and WeChat Ban

It seems that President Trump’s ban on Chinese tech giants are in full swing after one of the most powerful men in the world issued bans on popular Chinese-owned apps: TikTok and WeChat.

TikTok is a popular platform that allows people to record and upload user-generated content, which is essentially a means of uploading viral content over the internet.

WeChat is a chat platform that also includes a payment portal and a news corner. It is a more robust application that could potentially be a problem when it comes to your data and privacy in general, at least, that’s what Trump thinks.

The Ban

Tiktok Ban

In a previous post, President Trump has given ByteDance, the company that created TikTok, about 45 days for them to reach an agreement with Microsoft. If a deal doesn’t push through, the application will no longer be allowed to operate in the U.S. Apparently, there is a new deal that was made and the stakeholder is a different company now.

Oracle has won the bidding war so instead of Microsoft making a deal with the Chinese-based company, it is now Oracle that will take the helm. The company was supposed to oversee the deal but apparently, it couldn’t reach an accord with ByteDance, which prompted Trump to remind the Chinese company that it only had until November 12 to operate.

In what appears to be an insult to ByteDance, Trump also added that its popular application will no longer be available in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store starting Sunday, September 20.

On a similar note, WeChat also suffers the same fate as the president of the United States have also issued an order for the US-owned mobile operating system giants to remove the said application in their respective app stores.

At the time of writing, both Apple and Google haven’t issued any statements but they did mention in the past that they are going to abide by the laws of the country.

President Trump, on Friday, has issued an ultimatum where the popular Chinese export will no longer be able to operate within U.S. soil if it cannot reach a deal with Oracle.

ByteDance representatives, as well as the Chinese government, were adamant against the decision stating that ByteDance was not given a chance of due process. The Chinese government is mulling over the possibility of doing the same with US-owned companies, so we could see some ramifications of this particular threat made by Trump.

Apparently, the ban on both WeChat and TikTok spawned over fears that the Chinese-owned apps are getting private data from its consumers.

There is some truth to this in the sense that TikTok wants to gain access to a lot of permissions that have no integral bearing on the app’s features, which is kind of fishy when you really think about it.

But, in a statement that was released by ByteDance, the only information that was extracted from users is data that the users are willing to share and nothing else. This is also stipulated in the terms and conditions and if users agreed to this, then the app developer has the right to the data.

Some Hope

ByteDance is probably happy by the fact that it has received quite a number of downloads on Saturday, the supposed last day that American citizens can download the application.

True enough, in a statement that was released by the said company, it had received an 800% surge in users over the weekend- something that was unprecedented in recent times.

Just a reminder, you can still use TikTok on your mobile device until November 12 (or longer, depending on whether or not Oracle and ByteDance will reach an agreement).

An update on the deal: Trump’s administration wants Walmart to join the agreement, which would mean that both Oracle and Walmart will be major stakeholders of ByteDance.

It is also worth noting that both of the US-based companies will only own about 20% of the entire share of the company. That means that ByteDance will still own the vast majority of TikTok and other future applications that are going to be developed.

The move is just to ensure that the Chinese-based company will not overstep its boundaries, especially when it comes to national security.

What About WeChat?

WeChat Ban

It still remains to be seen whether or not WeChat will be permanently banned in the U.S. or not, but American users will no longer be able to use the said application until further notice.

Judge Laurel Beeler, one of the judges that handled the case, said that the ban has created a lot of serious questions about the First Amendment rights of some Chinese-Americans.

Apparently, WeChat is the only chat application that is allowed to operate within Chinese soil, so banning this application in the U.S. would mean that some Chinese people who are not fluent in English, will have a hard time communicating with their relatives in China.

I think it is precisely because of this reason why Trump and his administration wants to ban WeChat. It apparently has the means of communicating some sensitive data from American citizens that could potentially be used and be weaponized by the Chinese government. Although these claims could potentially be true, there is no tangible evidence to suggest that this is indeed the case.

While TikTok could still be used by Americans until Walmart and Oracle are able to reach a deal, the same cannot be said for WeChat.

The good thing is that there tons of other messaging apps that American citizens can use, but this will certainly not bode well for the Chinese-American community.

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Android 11 Beta Review- Good But Still Rough Around the Edges

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Android 11 Beta Review

Do you have an Android phone? As you all know, Google, the company that is responsible for creating the Android operating system, releases a new version of the mobile OS each and every year.

While they’ve already ditched the alphabetical food naming scheme, they’ve stuck with the numbering scheme since Android 10 was launched last year.

This year, the company calls it simply as Android 11 and it is currently in beta and early access. This article is for the Android 11 Beta Review.

How to Get It?

The new Android 11 is still in its early beta stages. In fact, it was just released not too long ago. That being said, only Google Pixel phones have access to it for the time being, so any other Android device would have to wait in line.

UI Improvements

The first thing that I will talk about is something that you will notice right away: UI changes. The most notable one would be for the notifications section.

Isn’t it frustrating where you had to sift through your notifications just to find the right ones that are important to you? Well, Google has lumped notifications into three categories: Conversations, alerting notifications, and silent notifications.

Under ‘Conversations’, you will find all of the notifications that are produced by your chat applications. This includes Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, and a whole lot more.

That provides you with a great way to easily respond to any person that tries to keep in contact with you and that is a really nice change.

In ‘Alerting Notifications’, these are notifications from your other apps that you haven’t included in your silent notifications list. In other words, these are messages that are normally produced by all of your other apps.

Lastly, silent notifications are notifications that are produced by the applications that you have lumped into the said category. They do not produce any sound and will silently just pile up if you don’t deem them as important.

Anyway, all of the notifications under your Conversations tab will create a sort of chat bubble that is like what Facebook Messenger is doing. You can easily tap on the bubble to respond to your chats or emails immediately.

Furthermore, you can also set more priorities for some people as well. Should you prioritize certain things, they will notify you even if you’ve set the phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’.

People that listen to audio and other media will also love the fact that the media playback controls are now more persistent.

When you swipe down the notification shade, you will find the playback controls quickly and easily. They persist so long as there are some media running in the background which is really nice. Gone are the days where you have to fire up the app again just to skip tracks, etc.

Native Smart Home Integration

Android 11

There is really a huge push when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT) and Google just makes it so much easier for you.

If you have any smart appliances or Google Home products, you can easily toggle those things on and off. If there are additional settings, you can toggle that on the same panel as well.

Built-in Screen Recording

Fans of this particular feature were saddened by the fact that the Android 10 didn’t come with native screen recording when it was released to the public (though beta versions had this, it was not present in the final one).

Fortunately, Google seems to have fixed anything that broke screen recording before and has re-integrated it back to Android 11.

It does what it says it does, so hopefully, it will be available once Android 11 finally releases on all mobile phones later this year.

New ‘Recents’ Action

When you go to the ‘Recents’ menu, you will find three new actions: Screenshot, Select, Share.

Pressing the ‘Screenshot’ button will automatically grab a photo of the app that you are currently on. You can either edit the resulting image or share it on your social media accounts.

When you press the ‘Select’ option, you will be able to see what things you can highlight on the image so that you can easily copy your chosen text to the clipboard.

Then, the ‘Share’ button just makes it easier for you to share a particular image to your friends and family.

Stricter App Permissions

By default, there are only three options you can choose from if you fire up an app that asks for certain permissions.

First is the ‘allow only this time’ which means that you only grant whatever permission the app needs only at the time you fire it up.

Next, is the ‘while using the app’ which essentially grants permission to the app indefinitely. The last option would be to deny the application of any access to your system.

If you’ve given an app certain permissions indefinitely, you can toggle the option to reset it, but you will have to go deep down the settings menu in order to do that.

I really love the new ‘permission reset’ setting simply because it automatically resets all app permissions if you want to.

Known Issues

Android 11 Beta

Okay, while all of the aforementioned new features of Android 11 are pretty exciting, keep in mind that it is still the first beta version of the upcoming OS. That means that bugs are to be expected until the final release.

From what I’ve experienced, not all applications can support the new notifications settings. They may be updated to suit the new Android ecosystem, but it may take some time.

Furthermore, there are some settings that do not work. That is to be expected given that it is still a developer preview anyway.

How to Install?

To be honest, Android 11 is still not a really good operating system to be using at this time. You may want to wait for a new beta version to be released in order for the developers to have fixed the bugs that are present in the first version.

Anyway, if you still want to try it out for yourself, you should have a Google Pixel device. If you do have one, you can go ahead and enroll your device on ‘Android Beta for Pixel Program’. Then, you will be able to download the operating system to your phone.

Conclusion

While it is far from perfect, the new features are pretty good. The new notifications panel just makes it so much easier for you to discern the most important ones from the others.

Aside from that, the new UI improvements are always welcome. Its integration with your smart appliances would really improve IoT in a major way.

I certainly hope that there will be more features added to Android 11 before release, but from what I can see so far, what Google is offering is pretty good.

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WatchOS 7- New Features and Everything You Need to Know

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WatchOS 7

Apple’s smartwatch operating system is now on its 7th iteration and although it doesn’t have grandiose features, there are some notable ones nonetheless.

Today, I am going to go over the new features and everything you need to know about WatchOS 7.

What’s New?

The new Apple smartwatch operating system will debut with the release of the Apple Watch 6 but it will also be available on a handful of older generation Apple watches as well.

Anyway, there aren’t a lot of big features included in the new update, but there are some notable ones. Here are just some of them:

1.Watch Faces and Complications

There isn’t a lot of flexibility when it comes to watch faces on Apple smartwatches and that is because the company didn’t make it open source, which means that other developers cannot chime in with their own designs.

But despite the fact that support is limited only to the company, Apple is going to be releasing some new watch faces soon that will not only make your watch look very interesting but it will also add new features and information that will surely be useful to you.

Aside from new watch faces, app developers can also make use of watch complications via a new API. That means that you can use your Apple smartwatch to find out more information about current events, weather, sports, and many others.

For example, if you are going to run a weather app, the said application can provide information about the weather condition, as well as the wind speed, temperature, etc.

2.Sleep Tracking and Wind Down Mode

Apple watches have become one of the most reliable sleep tracking devices for quite some time now and it has only been improved in the new update.

WatchOS 7 provides you with a more robust ‘Sleep’ app that can help you track your sleeping habits and provide you with some tips on how to help improve the quality of your sleep.

You will be able to set your own sleeping time, though you are encouraged to sleep at night (which can be a problem for people who are working in graveyard shifts).

To complement the Sleep app, there is also a Wind Down mode that basically mutes all incoming notifications until the time you’re supposed to wake up. This also means that the watch will not accidentally turn its lighting on whenever you flick your wrist or make watch gestures.

With the use of the watch’s different sensors, the application can record some important metrics that can help you improve your overall sleeping patterns. This is great for people that are not getting the right amount and quality of sleep.

3.Handwashing

One of the best ways to kill the Covid-19 virus is to do frequent handwashing. But, it is not just a mere gesture of wetting your hands with water and putting a little bit of soap and be done with it because there are some set rules that you have to follow to make it even more effective.

As a general rule, you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. I think by now, you know the basic principles of handwashing, albeit you have to do it 20 seconds at a time.

To help you instill good handwashing habits, the WatchOS 7 can use an Apple Watch’s motion sensors, built-in AI, and microphone to ensure that you are doing it correctly.

If it senses that you are done before the 20-second mark, it will remind you to continue washing your hands. 

In addition, the watch will also remind you to wash your hands again once you come home from work or from somewhere else.

4.Fitness

It is always a good idea to strengthen your immune system and one way to do that would be to increase your daily physical activities.

The new update brings with it a new fitness app that includes four additional activities that you can track using your Apple Watch.

If you are a fan of dancing, the new fitness app can help you track a lot of popular dance routines, including Hip-hop, Latin, Bollywood, and so much more.

Aside from dance tracking, you also have options for functional strength training and core training. It is said that resistance training not only helps build muscle but it can also be good for your general health as well.

Lastly, you can also track your cooldown regimen as well. This includes some stretching and things that you can do to maximize your time after working out.

WatchOS 7 Review

5.Hearing

According to the WHO, people should not exceed listening to music at 80 decibels for more than 40 hours a week. Otherwise, your hearing will be compromised.

To help protect your ears, the new WatchOS 7 can send you timely notifications to remind you to stop listening to loud music once you’ve reached the 40-hour mark (this could be in a span of one week).

I think that most people are not going to go beyond that limit anyway, but it is still a nice feature if you forget to rest your ears.

If you are using wireless headphones, you will hear a chime that will notify you when you are close to the said limit.

6.Maps

As part of physical distancing measures, people are encouraged to ride a bike to work instead of taking public transport (this is assuming that you do not have your own car).

If you are riding a bike to work, the new feature can help plot a course that will help make your travel more seamless.

For instance, if there is a huge stairway in your path, your Apple smartwatch can plot a different course for you to take for a smoother ride.

Of course, it should go without saying that this feature is only available for LTE versions of the Apple Watch as this thing will require continuous internet connectivity to work.

7.Translation and an Improved Siri

Siri, Apple’s own AI assistant, has been vastly improved. This time, you are able to send voice-to-text commands right on your Apple Smartwatch and you can use that feature to help you translate some foreign words to your chosen language.

For instance, if you want to know the Japanese term for ‘hello’, you can say that to Siri and she will not only translate that for you but she will also say it out loud so that you will know how it is said correctly.

This is a nifty feature, especially if you are talking to some foreign clients and you want a quick way to know the meaning of certain words that you are not familiar with.

How to Get the Update?

WatchOS 7 Review 2020

The new WatchOS 7 is now available only for select Apple smartwatches. This means that your unit should be at least Apple Watch 3, Apple Watch 4, Apple Watch Series 5, and the new Apple Watch SE. Apple Watch 6, as mentioned earlier, already comes with the new operating system so you do not have to worry about anything.

There are three ways to get the update. The first one would be to open up the Watch application on your iPhone. Next, tap ‘General’ and you will find the option to install a ‘Software Update’.

Alternatively, you can also do the update process directly on your Apple smartwatch as well. To do this, head on over to Settings->General->Software Update.

Apple is employing a staggered rollout which means that you might not get notified even though the update is already available for download. The above steps can be done in order to force the watch to get the new update.

If you are patient, you can go with the third approach and just wait for the notification that will prompt you to download the new update.

There are a few things that you have to remember before initiating the update. First, you need to be connected to your WiFi router as the update will not push through if you are using an LTE connection.

Second, your Apple Watch must at least have 50% of battery before downloading and installing the update to ensure that the device won’t turn off during the entire process.

Third, do not touch the watch while it is updating. Let the entire thing install first before you can use the watch again. It is vital that the entire process is not interrupted, otherwise, you could experience a lot of issues.

WatchOS 7 Update

Conclusion

The WatchOS 7 is an iterative update, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some exciting and important features.

I am really happy about the Watch faces and complications because it just provides you with a much better user experience, especially since app developers can now introduce more watch-specific features to the masses.

The sleep tracking, handwashing, hearing, and fitness applications help you improve your overall health, especially since we are still under the effects of a global pandemic.

I also find maps and Siri’s translation services to be quite useful as well, so there are still a lot of things to be happy about with the new update.

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Xbox Series X- When Will It Be Released and What Does It Bring to the Table?

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Microsoft Xbox Series X

After months of hype and speculations, the Microsoft Xbox Series X has finally been unveiled to the public and we now know a lot more information about the upcoming game console than ever before.

In this article, I will go over the key points that you need to know about Microsoft’s console, such as release dates, pricing, new features and technologies, and so much more.

Release Date and Pricing

The Xbox Series X will be released on November 10 and pre-orders will start as early as September 22. The price of the said game console will be $499 which is in-line with Sony’s Playstation 5 disc edition.

Unlike Sony where the company has decided to employ a staggered release date for its PS5 consoles, the Microsoft Xbox Series X will be released on the same date worldwide. Of course, there is the challenge of availability considering that we are still suffering from a global pandemic, which is why pre-ordering the console (assuming that you want to get one) makes a whole lot of sense.

Design

Microsoft Xbox Series X 1

Unlike previous Xbox consoles, the Series X will actually have a more tower-like design with some air vents that can be visibly seen on top of the device.

The Series X will also feature a 4K Blu-ray player, so you could say that it is indeed quite similar to what Sony has to offer.

As of the time of writing this article, the console will only be available in black, though with the release of prior Xbox consoles, a white-colored Xbox is not too far off.

The more vertical design of the upcoming gaming machine might prove to be challenging for some people, especially when it comes to desk space. You will need to have adequate space to rest the console on the surface.

Specs

Microsoft Xbox Series X Design

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen Custom Zen 2, 8-cores/16-threads (via SMT) @3.8GHz (boost) and 3.6GHz (base)
  • GPU: AMD Custom RDNA 2 GPU with 52 Compute Units, 12 TFLOPS, and @ 1.825GHz
  • Process (nodes): 7nm Enhanced
  • Memory: 16GB GDDR6, 320-bit Bus, 10GB @ 560GB/s and GB @ 336GB/s memory bandwidth
  • Internal Storage: 1GB Custom NVMe SSD, 4.8 GB/s (read) and 2.4 GB/s (write) (both are theoretical values)
  • Storage Expansion: 1TB
  • External Storage Support: USB 3.2 External HDD
  • Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-Ray Drive
  • Performance Target: 4K @ 60 FPS, up to 120FPS (Theoretical)

I am really very excited about the new-gen consoles because they are packed with serious hardware that allows you to play games at 4K resolution without any issues.

Just like the PS5, the Xbox Series X is also powered by a custom AMD Ryzen CPU (using Zen 2 architecture) and a custom AMD GPU (using the new RDNA2 architecture). This performance package should allow you to play games at 4K@ 60 frames per second ‘comfortably’ (at least according to Microsoft Xbox president, Phil Spencer) and it could even give you the right amount of processing power to achieve more than 60 frames per second (up to 120 frames per second, theoretically).

The CPU, according to Digital Foundry, has a base clock of 3.6GHz and it boosts up to 3.8GHz. The good thing is that the boosting algorithms will only kick in when the console needs more horsepower which can be a good thing both from a performance and thermals standpoint.

It is also worth noting that the new Xbox will support ray tracing. Thus, you can enable such a feature in the games that support it and you will not have to worry about any performance penalties at all since the hardware is more than capable.

This new and upcoming game console will also be using a custom 1TB NVMe SSD which is 100+ GB more than what the PS5 has to offer.

While Spencer didn’t mention anything specific, the SSD that comes in the Xbox Series X should be faster than any consumer SSD that you can find on the market up to this point.

This would mean that if you are going to use its expansion slot to add more storage, you will have to buy an SSD directly from Microsoft if you want to get the best performance possible out of a storage drive.

If you are okay with using an external hard drive, it can support one that is using a USB 3.2 Gen 1 cable.

The optical drive is a 4K Blu-Ray player and each game disc can hold as much as 100GB of storage (though it is more likely that each disc can contain an amount lower than that).

Features

The Microsoft Xbox Series X has a lot of nice features up its sleeve. For one, it has the new Velocity architecture that makes good use of the console’s NVMe SSD, thus virtually eliminating load times.

In line with the said technology, you will also get to enjoy the ‘Quick Resume’ feature where you can pick up right where you left off almost instantly thanks to the use of a new DirectStorage API and Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS) technologies.

The Xbox Series X will also have VRR or Variable Refresh Rate and Auto Low Latency Mode or ALLM to provide you with a smooth gaming experience. The former will eliminate screen tearing and improve overall frame rates and the latter will ensure that it will use your chosen display’s lowest latency mode for maximum performance.

Because the Playstation 5 can support 8K resolution, Phil Spencer also said that the Microsoft Xbox Series X can also handle that as well, though it remains to be seen if the gaming experience will be somewhat enjoyable, given how taxing the said resolution can be.

Controller

Microsoft Xbox Series X Controller

Unlike the DualSense controller that comes with the PS5, not much is known about the Series X’s controller. Spencer did say that it will have a slimmer form factor and its D-Pad is vastly improved (to mimic the Xbox Elite controller which is a 3rd-party peripheral).

The rumble motors are reported to make a comeback, though I do not know if it will be a better implementation than the haptics that are embedded in the DualSense controller.

It seems that lowering the latency is one of the top priorities of the company as Spencer said that it will have a Dynamic Latency Input feature that will significantly reduce the input lag of the said controller. Of course, this will be tested in our review once the unit is available.

Games

It is a bit of a disappointment that Halo Infinite, which used to be a launch title, is delayed until 2021. There are still plenty of different games, however, and here are just some of the most notable ones:

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
  • As Dusk Falls
  • Avowed
  • Battlefield 6
  • Borderlands 3
  • Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War
  • Chivalry 2
  • Control: Ultimate Edition
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Dirt 5
  • Dragon Age 4
  • Dying Light 2
  • Everwild
  • Exomecha
  • Fable
  • Far Cry 6
  • FIFA 21
  • Gears 5
  • Graven
  • Hood: Outlaws and Legends
  • Hogwarts Legacy
  • Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  • New Genesis: Phantasy Star Online 2
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps
  • Rainbow Six Quarantine
  • Resident Evil Village
  • Scarlet Nexus
  • Scorn
  • State of Decay 3
  • Watch Dogs: Legion

Backward Compatibility and Xbox Game Pass

Microsoft Xbox Series X Game Pass

A lot of people were disappointed by the fact that the Playstation 5 only supports PS4 games and is not backward compatible with the older generation Playstation consoles. The Microsoft Xbox Series X is different.

You see, it not only supports all of the games from its predecessor’s content portfolio, but it will also support most of the games of the older generation platforms as well. This means that even the original Xbox games are playable on the new game console which is a really good thing.

You would want to register for the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate so that you can unlock all of the games. It is worth noting that by getting the game pass, you also have the privilege of using the company’s xCloud feature that allows you to play Xbox games while you are on the go. Think of this as an improved version of Google Stadia.

Conclusion

I am really impressed with what the Microsoft Xbox Series X has to offer. Aside from its very powerful hardware, its new features and technologies will certainly improve your gaming experience manifold.

By getting the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you get to enjoy your favorite Xbox games while on the go, while also unlocking all of the possible older-generation games that are playable on the new platform.

It remains to be seen if the new controller is better, but I am eager to find out if the new low latency feature can truly decrease input lag by a lot.

Remember that you can already pre-order your own unit today and the console will be officially released on November 10 in all regions. It costs $499.

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TikTok and WeChat Bans- What We Know So Far

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Tiktok and WeChat Ban

It seems that President Trump’s ban on Chinese tech giants are in full swing after one of the most powerful men in the world issued bans on popular Chinese-owned apps: TikTok and WeChat.

TikTok is a popular platform that allows people to record and upload user-generated content, which is essentially a means of uploading viral content over the internet.

WeChat is a chat platform that also includes a payment portal and a news corner. It is a more robust application that could potentially be a problem when it comes to your data and privacy in general, at least, that’s what Trump thinks.

The Ban

Tiktok Ban

In a previous post, President Trump has given ByteDance, the company that created TikTok, about 45 days for them to reach an agreement with Microsoft. If a deal doesn’t push through, the application will no longer be allowed to operate in the U.S. Apparently, there is a new deal that was made and the stakeholder is a different company now.

Oracle has won the bidding war so instead of Microsoft making a deal with the Chinese-based company, it is now Oracle that will take the helm. The company was supposed to oversee the deal but apparently, it couldn’t reach an accord with ByteDance, which prompted Trump to remind the Chinese company that it only had until November 12 to operate.

In what appears to be an insult to ByteDance, Trump also added that its popular application will no longer be available in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store starting Sunday, September 20.

On a similar note, WeChat also suffers the same fate as the president of the United States have also issued an order for the US-owned mobile operating system giants to remove the said application in their respective app stores.

At the time of writing, both Apple and Google haven’t issued any statements but they did mention in the past that they are going to abide by the laws of the country.

President Trump, on Friday, has issued an ultimatum where the popular Chinese export will no longer be able to operate within U.S. soil if it cannot reach a deal with Oracle.

ByteDance representatives, as well as the Chinese government, were adamant against the decision stating that ByteDance was not given a chance of due process. The Chinese government is mulling over the possibility of doing the same with US-owned companies, so we could see some ramifications of this particular threat made by Trump.

Apparently, the ban on both WeChat and TikTok spawned over fears that the Chinese-owned apps are getting private data from its consumers.

There is some truth to this in the sense that TikTok wants to gain access to a lot of permissions that have no integral bearing on the app’s features, which is kind of fishy when you really think about it.

But, in a statement that was released by ByteDance, the only information that was extracted from users is data that the users are willing to share and nothing else. This is also stipulated in the terms and conditions and if users agreed to this, then the app developer has the right to the data.

Some Hope

ByteDance is probably happy by the fact that it has received quite a number of downloads on Saturday, the supposed last day that American citizens can download the application.

True enough, in a statement that was released by the said company, it had received an 800% surge in users over the weekend- something that was unprecedented in recent times.

Just a reminder, you can still use TikTok on your mobile device until November 12 (or longer, depending on whether or not Oracle and ByteDance will reach an agreement).

An update on the deal: Trump’s administration wants Walmart to join the agreement, which would mean that both Oracle and Walmart will be major stakeholders of ByteDance.

It is also worth noting that both of the US-based companies will only own about 20% of the entire share of the company. That means that ByteDance will still own the vast majority of TikTok and other future applications that are going to be developed.

The move is just to ensure that the Chinese-based company will not overstep its boundaries, especially when it comes to national security.

What About WeChat?

WeChat Ban

It still remains to be seen whether or not WeChat will be permanently banned in the U.S. or not, but American users will no longer be able to use the said application until further notice.

Judge Laurel Beeler, one of the judges that handled the case, said that the ban has created a lot of serious questions about the First Amendment rights of some Chinese-Americans.

Apparently, WeChat is the only chat application that is allowed to operate within Chinese soil, so banning this application in the U.S. would mean that some Chinese people who are not fluent in English, will have a hard time communicating with their relatives in China.

I think it is precisely because of this reason why Trump and his administration wants to ban WeChat. It apparently has the means of communicating some sensitive data from American citizens that could potentially be used and be weaponized by the Chinese government. Although these claims could potentially be true, there is no tangible evidence to suggest that this is indeed the case.

While TikTok could still be used by Americans until Walmart and Oracle are able to reach a deal, the same cannot be said for WeChat.

The good thing is that there tons of other messaging apps that American citizens can use, but this will certainly not bode well for the Chinese-American community.

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