Geeks2U Promise
We guarantee you'll love our fast, friendly service - or we'll refund your money.  
133,572 Happy Customers & Counting
Need tech support?
1300 769 448
Extended hours, 7 days a week

Author Archives: Alex Kidman

AMD and Intel go to war at Computex, but it’s a war where consumers win.

At the heart of every computer lies a processor of some kind, whether you’re talking the cheapest student laptop or the highest-end video rendering desktop. In the computing market there are two primary competing companies with serious investments in providing the processor that will run your next computer: Intel and AMD.

Of the two, Intel is the better known, if only because it’s spent serious money convincing hardware makers to include its jingle in their advertising for new computers. That Intel jingle isn’t there because the manufacturers are showing off; money changed hands to make it happen.

It’s been an interesting race to follow watching AMD and Intel fight it out for processor supremacy. For the past decade, more or less, Intel has dominated, not only in sales figures but in raw performance. That’s left most AMD systems being sold as budget models, rather than true performance powerhouses.

That could all be about to change the next time you update your laptop or desktop. At the recent Computex trade show in Taiwan, AMD came out swinging with the third generation of its “Ryzen” line of processors. In keeping with AMD’s lineage, there are definitively “cheap” 3rd generation Ryzen processors, but there’s also some seriously grunty engines to be had. The top tier of the Ryzen family is the Ryzen 9 3900X is expected to sell by itself for around $US499 when it goes on sale in early July.

Unless you’re playing at the bleeding edge of PC building, you probably won’t see them in more regular commercial machines for some time, but what’s really interesting here is how AMD’s taken on Intel in the efficiency for price space — and appears to be winning. The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X has a 3.8 GHz base clock speed, 4.6 GHz boost and a hefty 70MB of cache. That adds up to some serious performance potential.

Intel wasn’t just at Computex to show off some marketing jingles, launching its own 10th Generation core processors, built on a 10 nanometre process. It’s something of a simplification, but the smaller you can build silicon processors, the more (roughly) efficient you can make them, and 10nm manufacturing is something that Intel’s struggled to scale upwards with in the past few years.

By way of contrast, the new AMD Ryzen chips are built on a 7nm process. It’s not unheard of for AMD to leap ahead of Intel so decisively — but it is rare.

Intel’s new processors are powerful, but they’re also more power-hungry, which means they need more cooling. Intel charges a premium for them, too, compared to their AMD equivalents. I’ve not been able to test them myself as yet, but early benchmarks have suggested that this round of the processor wars pretty cleanly falls AMD’s way.

Intel’s pitching the new 10nm chips primarily to ultraportable laptops at first, which was why so many manufacturers opted to show off some truly weird and wonderful designs for multi-display laptops with unique designs. AMD is pitching more towards the desktop crowd at first — the kinds of folks who build their own, or buy high-end PCs for gaming or high-end video work.

So what’s the takeaway here? The reality for most everyday computer users is that the middle ground is really where the value is. There’s still some value in buying as close to the top of the technology tree as you can, because your investment will stay current and compatible that bit longer. The problem there is that for most of us, simply browsing the web or a few documents, even a mid-range PC has plenty of power.

Where these new processors make things interesting is by redefining that cutting edge. This year’s premium processors mean that last year’s flagships are now shifted towards that middle ground, and the mid-market models shift down towards more budget lines. By raising the game for the high end, even the computers we all buy in larger numbers get better.


Huawei’s US ban could have serious effects in Australia

The US government recently listed Huawei as a company that posed a national security risk. As a result, barred US companies from dealing with the Chinese telecommunications giant.

There’s considerable argument on both sides as to whether Huawei does present a risk. That’s a matter of security, international geopolitics and trade negotiations between China and the USA.

For your purposes, it’s more interesting to note what the US ban means if you’ve already got a Huawei device, or indeed if you were thinking of buying one.

In Australia, Huawei’s not part of the 5G rollout that’s happening right now. It does have a considerable business selling mobile phones and laptops. At a technology level it’s doing some remarkable things. The Huawei P30 Pro is its current flagship handset. On every significant metric I can test a smartphone for, it outranks the best phones you can buy from makers such as Apple or Samsung.

However, the US ban creates a big problem for Huawei. One of the first companies to respond to the ban was Google, makers of the Android operating system that phones such as the P30 Pro run on. To keep compliance with US law, Google isn’t allowed to export to Huawei — and that includes software. Since Google’s announced it can’t deal with Huawei, we’ve seen companies such as Qualcomm and Intel join in the block. That doesn’t only affect Huawei’s Android phones, but also its Matebook laptop computers.

But what does that mean for existing owners of Huawei phones and laptops?

Well, in the immediate term, not that much at all. The US authorities extended a 90-day window to Huawei in order to allow network building in other parts of the world to continue, as well as provide software updates for Huawei devices.

What that means is that the essential Android security updates should flow through to your Huawei phone. Google’s also said that its current interpretation of the block means that it doesn’t have to cut access to Google services such as Gmail, YouTube or Google Maps on existing Huawei devices. Basically speaking, if you’ve got a Huawei Android phone, it should continue to operate as normal.

What you may not see, however, is the upgrade later in the year to the next full version of Android. Android Q, as it’s currently known, will be released outside the 90-day window, and Google wouldn’t be allowed to supply it to existing Huawei handsets.

Where the gears do grind to a halt for Huawei is for future device ambitions. If the block remains in place, it won’t be able to produce Android handsets with essential Google services on board. That means no Gmail, YouTube or Google Maps apps pre-installed, and what’s more, no access to the Google Play store so you could load them on.

This isn’t entirely new territory for Huawei. In its home Chinese market, those exact same Google services are explicitly blocked by the Chinese government, so the “Android” phones it sells there skips out on those services. Google can’t actually stop Huawei from grabbing the core parts of Android, because it’s made available under an open source licence. But that’s not a prospect that’s likely to be appealing to an Australian market where we’re very much used to being in either the Android/Google or iOS/Apple camps for our smartphone purchases.

What about laptops? Huawei’s share of the local notebook market isn’t huge, and we’ve already seen the existing Huawei Matebooks pulled from some local retailers. That’s almost certainly down to concerns around how any future warranty repairs might be handled.

If Huawei can’t source replacement motherboards, processors or other needed parts, this could be a genuine concern. If you do already have a Huawei Matebook, though, the warranty should still stand, and Microsoft’s licence should be with you for the copy of Windows on it. As such, the vital security and version updates should continue on those devices.

If you were considering a Huawei phone or laptop, it’s certainly a matter that should give you pause for thought. Now, it’s entirely possible that the politics of the matter will be resolved, and it’s feasible Huawei may continue selling technology in Australia for some time. However, if the ban is enforced over a longer timeframe, it’s feasible that Huawei — already banned from being part of Australia’s 5G rollout – could leave the local market entirely.


Two factor authentication isn’t perfect — but it’s desirable

These days we’re expected to have passwords for just about everything. Our social media accounts need a password. So do our email accounts, our online banking and much more.

I’ve written in the past how it’s a very bad idea to use the same password for multiple services. The easy solution there is to use a password management app. This lets you keep track of many passwords with ease.

A good password is a bit like a simple lock. It’ll keep most simple thieves out, but not everyone.

A good password won’t help if the service you have the password with has a large-scale security breach.

It’s like having the keys you use to keep your home or goods secure with copied many times. What’s worse, if the service you’re using doesn’t tell you there’s been a breach, you may not know that your password is no longer secure.

There’s even a secondary problem here. There’s an entire (and entirely illegal) business model in sending threatening emails that appear to contain your passwords and scaring folks into paying blackmail money via cryptocurrencies.

They’re essentially a bluff. Your password may have fallen out of a public leak of databases, but they’re rarely tied to any account. Threats of taking over your webcam and recording you aren’t particularly credible if you’ve got an otherwise well-secured PC with up-to-date security patches and anti-virus software running.

The general solution that many services propose is the use of multi-factor authentication.

This switches from using only a password to a password and some other form of authentication system.

This could be a one-time SMS messages, apps such as Google Authenticator or fob or USB key that generates a secure code when used.

The idea here is that even if your username and password are compromised – whether it’s your fault or not – there’s a second layer of protection in play. To go back to the lock analogy, you’re adding a second lock to your front door to ensure that only you can gain access.

Now, it’s important to note that multi-factor authentication isn’t 100% secure.

If somebody’s determined enough to target you – and if they’re ready to spend time and money doing it – the risks are higher.

That’s more of a concern for folks with more of a risk profile – so, for example, celebrities, those involved in politics or more lucrative businesses or journalists – than it is for the mass population.

You’re far more likely to hit with a mass attack, run by a software bot than a targeted attack.

Still, you might be wondering how secure that kind of extra authentication actually is.

Google recently ran a study into the level of security you get adding one additional factor of authentication is to an account.

In its study, using relatively simple 2-factor authentication (so password+one other locking mechanism), using an SMS code blocked 100% of bot-based attacks, 96% of bulk phishing attacks and 76% of targeted attacks.

SMS codes can be intercepted and tweaked, so Google’s recommendation there is to use an on-device prompt instead. This goes only to a pre-arranged phone device, so only you as the holder of that phone can access it. By switching to that, 100% of bots, 99% of bulk attacks and even 90% of targeted attacks were blocked in Google’s study.

Quite which type of authentication factor you can add to an online account will vary depending on what each provider supports.

It’s worth talking to your bank, email provider and others about adding at least one extra factor of authentication for those accounts that you really want to keep secure.

Yes, it’s a little more work to undertake, but it’s also smart work that can save you significant heartache and avoid potential financial loss down the track. A few seconds more to log in and really make sure that you are who you say you are is a pretty small price to pay in return.


Google’s search is going visual in a big way

Google has just held its annual I/O developer’s conference, where it lets the folks who do the hard programming work into making apps and services built on Google frameworks get together to learn what’s new.

At IO 2019, Google released new hardware such as the much more affordable Google Pixel 3a, which is available in Australia now. It also launched a new Nest-branded Home Hub with embedded camera that we won’t see for a few months.

Hardware isn’t really Google’s game, though, there’s little doubt that if Google lost search supremacy to Microsoft’s Bing or the DuckDuckGo engine, its business model would take a serious hit.

Text-based search may feel like a “solved problem” for Google. It’s actually something it constantly refines. This is at least to keep ahead of folks who try to “game” Google’s algorithm to ensure higher search visibility.

The business of ranking is only half the problem, however. There’s also how you present that information to a worldwide audience. At its I/O conference, Google announced smart new ways you’ll soon be able to see and experience search results.

The headline feature for search is the inclusion of Augmented Reality (AR) into search results. Google showed this off on stage with an Android phone searching for Great White Sharks.

You could go surfing off the coastline of Australia to try to get up close and personal with a Great White. That’s a risky proposition without a supply of oxygen, a shark cage and, frankly, nerves of steel.

The way Google’s AR search would have it, you’d end up with a virtual Great White projected via your phone’s display instead.
A good way to get a visual appreciation of a shark, with none of the risk. Google’s rolling out the new AR search over the coming months. If you’re on a compatible device, you should start to see AR results as an option — depending, of course, on whether anyone’s built an AR model of what you want.

Google is also making some significant visual changes to its Google Lens search system.

Google Lens uses your phone’s camera and some pretty smart machine learning to give you contextual information about whatever it’s looking at.

Point it at the Sydney Opera House and it can tell you plenty about this iconic Australian landmark. Point it at the MCG, and you might just get the cricket scores.

Google’s enhancing Lens by adding features like restaurant menu scans, so you can see images of popular dishes on a menu that Google recognises.

That works when (and if) people have saved photos of those dishes to Google’s drive service, because it can then link the geographic data (and in some cases the text that accompanies it) to the location you’re in. Doing so in real time is rather neat.

With an eye to the developing world, Google’s also bringing its Google Lens product to low-cost Android Go phones. Here in Australia we’re not developing, but you can pick up a number of Google Android Go handsets at low prices, and pretty soon you’ll be able to use Lens in the same way as a full Android phone. What’s more, Google Lens will be able to read text in signs out loud.

That’s quite a useful feature in countries where literacy rates are low, but one that could also be handy for folks here in Australia, whether it’s those learning English, or for when you’re faced with a sign in another language and you’re simply curious.


Online scams still hook millions of Australians

Hey, have you heard the one about the Nigerian Prince who wants to give you millions of dollars?

How about the supermarket reward voucher you can get for liking a Facebook post?

What about that can’t-miss investment opportunity that the banks don’t want you to know about?

If that sounds like a lot of overblown hype, then congratulations. It absolutely is. All of those examples are oft-repeated scam hooks that have been in use for decades.

It’s tempting to think, with the publicity given to scams that as a nation we’re getting smarter about avoiding them. Sadly this just isn’t true.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s latest Targeting Scams report details the levels to which Australians were duped out of their hard-earned cash.

Australians suffered to the tune of at least $489.7 million in calendar 2018. At least, because that’s the figure taken from the crimes reported to the ACCC. The actual figure could well tip the scales well over the half-billion dollar mark. Folks who feel stupid for being duped, whether it’s for ten bucks or ten thousand might not come forward at all.

What’s particularly concerning here is that those figures are up from the same period in 2017.

Reported crimes were up 5%, but with a worrying 22% rise in actual losses. The ACCC says that the elderly, those with disabilities and indigenous Australians are particularly at risk.

Straight up investment scams were by far the most costly scam category, with a reported $38,846,635 lost to investment scams. Dating and romance scams came next, with an estimated $24,648,024 lost to those pretending to offer permanent partnership to love-lost Australians.

Every other scam category, including online shopping scams, threats of arrest, betting and prize and lottery scams tipped in at between $2,000,000 and $5,000,000. These are not small sums to lose collectively, and for some it’s a question of their live savings being slurped away.

The online world has plenty to offer everyone, but it’s wise to keep your wits about you. For investment scams, that means doing your research.

If somebody’s pitching you a deal “too good to be true”, it probably is. There’s been a spike in those with falsely taken celebrity endorsements onboard. Just because a scammer adds a photo of your favourite TV host to an investment pitch doesn’t automatically mean that it’s a legitimate use of their likeness.

At the very least, do your basic research into any investment. It’s preferable to talk to a competent financial advisor before handing over any financial statements or money.

On the romance side, scammers do and will play on the vulnerability that we all feel when we’re seeking companionship.

The stories around romance scams are particularly heartbreaking.

They’re often predicated on never actually meeting your online lover. If somebody turns up on your social media seeming like your ideal “catch”, again a little research can help. If the photo they send you appears multiple times in Google under the same name, that’s a huge red flag. So too is any protestation that they can’t meet you in real life, although there too you’ve obviously got to be careful.

With the amount of detail we freely give away on social media sites, it’s not that hard to build up a fake personality that might seem to match any number of different personality types. Still, they’re after your money, so the moment an online prospect asks for cash, be sure to show them the virtual door.


What went wrong with Samsung’s Galaxy Fold?

I’ve written before about how one of the big trends in the technology world this year is going to be foldable phones. Now, you might not care that much about a foldable phone, but the reality here is that today’s smartphones are just computers, albeit ones that can also make phone calls. For many folks, the fact that it can make calls or send texts is rather secondary to its other functions. The foldable tech used in foldable phones should, in short order apply to tablets, laptops and every other way we interact with technology today.

The race of late has been between South Korea’s Samsung and China’s Huawei, with both announcing devices at or around Mobile World Congress. Samsung looked to have a leap on its rival, with the Samsung Galaxy Fold due to launch in the United States in the last week of April, and then elsewhere worldwide through May.

Then, at the very last minute, Samsung announced an indefinite delay in rolling out the Samsung Galaxy Fold.

So what went wrong?

Samsung had already sent out review units to a large number of mostly US-based reviewers, and almost immediately they hit issues. Most frequently, when unwrapping the device, they had removed a protective film on the front display of the device, but this was a film that was never meant to be peeled off. Doing so rendered the display inoperable. Others reported odd bulges after only a day or so of usage, and nearly everybody commented that up close, the “crease” of the folding mechanism on the Galaxy Fold was very evident.

Essentially put, without torturing the Galaxy Fold to speak of, they were crashing and dying at an alarming rate. As a result, Samsung decided to delay the launch, rather than end up with hundreds of thousands of angry consumers wanting refunds on very expensive devices.

Samsung’s official statement didn’t say much about the crease, but it did state thatInitial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge. There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance.

It’s a huge black eye for Samsung, given it had hoped to be first to market, and therefore first in mind when anybody mentioned foldable devices. It’s also really surprising, given that the reviewers didn’t really do much to these devices that you or I wouldn’t have done so. Samsung says it’ll “enhance the guidance on care and use of the display including the protective layer so that our customers get the most out of their Galaxy Fold” as well as taking “measures to strengthen the display protection”.

Quite how a device that an end user could all too readily make inoperable with a little peeling, or for that matter that could become defunct if that layer peeled away – say, under a hot summer’s sun, or just natural entropy – made it out of the test labs is a question that Samsung’s mostly avoiding for now.

What’s really interesting here is where Samsung, and indeed foldable devices go next. I wouldn’t expect the Samsung Galaxy Fold to reappear in reviewer’s hands for some time, and it feels likely that it’ll be a device with a different design – and hopefully a non-peeling display, too. It may well give Huawei pause for thought as well, because it won’t want to follow Samsung down a publically disastrous path like this.

What I’m hopeful for, however, is that this doesn’t stunt the development of foldable screen technology generally. We’ve had screens on hinges for decades – that’s the very definition of any laptop, after all – but a screen with its own hinge opens up possibilities for far more portable laptop designs, as well as phones and tablets. We’re inching ever closer to not having to distinguish between any of them, and the day where I can leave my office with just a single, productive device that does everything I need seems achingly close.

But first, they’ve got to make sure that they can stand up to normal wear and tear.


Google ups its Office game

In the productivity applications space, there are a few standards that have emerged over decades, largely focused around the most popular applications within a given field. While you can use many image editing apps, Adobe’s Photoshop is so much the standard that it’s effectively a verb in its own right. You don’t just adjust an image — you photoshop it.

In the office documents and productivity space, it’s Microsoft’s Office suite of Word, Excel and Powerpoint that rules the roost, even though there are other approaches you can take.

Microsoft hasn’t quite managed the Photoshop trick of having its applications become verbs, but they’re still very much the standard if you’re talking word processing, spreadsheets or presentations.

Even within the Mac space, where Apple has its own Pages, Numbers and Keynote applications, Microsoft’s Office is still seen as the “standard”, even as the company itself has shifted more from selling a numbered version of MS Office to the subscription Office 365 service.

So if Office is the standard, is there a point in competing any more? Google certainly seems to think so.

For years now, Google’s tried to overcome the stranglehold Microsoft Office has on most people’s productivity usage with its own, free-to-use GDocs suite.

There’s always been one very simple problem, however. While GDocs is a reasonable application for everyday users, it’s not always been the best option if you’re working with a file that was originally produced in Microsoft Word, Excel or Powerpoint. Typically they would open, but the formatting might be out of whack, and exporting them back out to the MS Office formats was often an additional layer of work and formatting worries.

Google recently announced that it’s in the process of seriously enhancing its compatibility with the standard Microsoft Office file formats. So if you’re sharing a file to somebody who doesn’t have Office, or you’ve had a file sent to you and you don’t have Office yourself, there should be fewer issues openly and safely editing them.

Google will soon natively support .doc, .docx and .dot format files for Microsoft Word, .xls, .xlsx, .xlsm and .xlt files for Microsoft Excel and .ppt, .pptx, .pps and .pot files for Microsoft Powerpoint natively within the Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides, which should cover the vast majority of the file formats you’re likely to be sent.

Google still largely relies on online architecture for its Google Suite of Office apps, which does make it easier to collaborate in real time, but has the obvious limitation that you’re generally required to have a working internet connection to edit or work on files. You’re also required to have a working Google login, although if you’ve got a gmail account already, you’re covered there anyway.

You can take documents “offline” for editing purposes, but it’s a somewhat convoluted affair, because in the Google world, you’re pretty much expected to always be online. It’s free to use otherwise, although as with the rest of Google’s “free” apps, you’re paying in terms of the data you put into each document being tracked by Google for its own information-gathering purposes.

As an online-service, Google could switch on the full compatibility features with not much more than the tap of a keyboard, but it’s instead going to roll out the new functionality to a small set of users to ensure that it’s got compatibility right, before making them more widely available from May 2019.


Apple’s new iPad Mini: Small and powerful, but pricey

Apple recently refreshed its lineup of iPad tablets, adding the first new small tablet it’s had for four years with the introduction of the Apple iPad Mini (2019). Confusingly, it’s still just called the Apple iPad Mini, so if you were buying one, it’d be a good idea to make sure that somebody wasn’t trying to sell you the older model. It’s the same story, by the way, for the new Apple iPad Air.

That potential confusion is understandable from the outside, where the iPad Mini has essentially the same design it’s always had. What you’re looking at is a 7.9 inch display with reasonably wide bezels (by 2019 standards) and a choice of space grey, silver or gold finishes. Opt for the space grey and you’ll get black bezels, while the silver and gold iPad Minis both have bright white bezels instead. It’s a very “Apple” look, if you’re at all familiar with its very popular iPhone lines of recent years.

The new iPad Mini has even more throwback technology to bear, with the older TouchID fingerprint sensor and home button where the new iPad Pros have instead Apple’s nifty “FaceID” cameras and smaller bezels. It recharges via Apple’s proprietary lightning connector, where again the iPad Pro lines have shifted to the more common USB C standard, making them compatible with a range of peripherals — and a lot of third party mobile phone chargers too.

So if all that is somewhat old school, what’s new in the iPad Mini? Well, for a start, it’s now compatible with the Apple Pencil stylus. This will cost you extra, and I can’t claim to have particular artistic skills, but artist colleagues of mine swear by the Apple Pencil for its accuracy and range of motion. There are a few catches here for iPad Mini buyers, however, because that smaller display screen means there’s less sketching space, and the full pencil size feels a little odd on such a small display. Where the newer USB C connected Pencil connects magnetically to the side of the iPad Pro, the older lightning-connected Pencil has no such facility, so you’ll have to carry it separately. The USB C and Lightning model Pencils also don’t work across both device types, so again it’s important to make sure you’re buying the right model for your iPad Mini.

It’s underneath the glass that Apple’s made the biggest change, putting the A12 Bionic chip that also powers the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max into use. It’s very fast and very powerful, so there’s no particular issue running any tablet app available for iOS right now. You can run split-screen apps and have picture-in-picture video running without a power problem, although again the iPad Mini’s smaller display isn’t always ideal for this kind of usage.

However, having tested out the iPad Mini 2019 for the past couple of weeks, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that, even if you’ve got your heart set on an iPad, this isn’t the model that most people should buy.

That’s because it’s primarily best if what you genuinely need is a really small tablet. Apple still charges quite the premium price for the Apple iPad Mini 2019, especially if you opt for the LTE-enabled variant that lets you drop a SIM card in for mobile data, or the higher storage variants.

It’s still fundamentally sold as a tablet for content consumption — watching video, browsing the web and playing games — and for that, the cheaper (and larger) 2018 model Apple iPad is more likely to match your needs. If the Pencil support excites you and you want more power than that model offers, there’s the new iPad Air, or if you’re particularly cashed up, the actual iPad Pro models.


Netflix breaks its own iOS Airplay compatibility

In the world of media streaming services, Netflix is the king. Worldwide it has millions of subscribers, it’s established itself as a well-liked brand and it’s flipped from being largely reliant on third-party movie studios to being a production house in its own right — or at least the funding source for plenty of productions, all of which bear the “Netflix Original” logo.

Part of the way that Netflix has become so pervasive is by ensuring that its service is available on just about every device and platform, whether you’re watching on a computer, mobile phone, gaming console, TV set-top box or smart TV.

Up until recently, if you had an iOS device, such an an iPad or iPhone, as well as one of Apple’s Apple TV set top boxes, you could start a program on your iPad and then send it immediately to your Apple TV for big-screen watching. It’s a feature that Apple calls “AirPlay”, but just recently, it stopped working altogether for Netflix specifically.

That’s less than handy if your Netflix routine switches between the two platforms, so what’s the story with the incompatibility? It turns out that it’s (essentially) a spat between Netflix and Apple rather than some solid technical incompatibility.

Apple has its own Apple TV+ streaming service coming later this year, but it’s a service that Apple intends to roll out to more than just its Apple TV set top box.

Selected new Smart TVs and some third party set top boxes will gain AirPlay compatibility, and to allow that work, Apple recently updated the underlying AirPlay software on its iOS devices.

The issue for Netflix here is that in doing so, it removed the ability for Netflix to work out what it’s actually being played on. Netflix does some complex work to try to ensure that the video streams you watch match the capabilities of the device you’re watching on as well as the bandwidth you have via your Internet connection.

That’s why when you’re watching a program, you may sometimes see the visuals shift from a more blocky looking presentation to a smoother one, because it’s using more available bandwidth and adjusting for your device on the fly.

The new AirPlay, according to Netflix, makes it impossible for them to tell what they’re streaming to, so they’ve pulled the feature entirely. If you try to use AirPlay to send to an Apple TV right now, you’ll be hit with an error message instead. You haven’t done anything wrong, and there’s nothing explicitly broken in your device or home network.

It’s a power play from Netflix, who have notably said they won’t be part of the Apple TV+ experience, and we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out precisely.

For now, you’re not bereft of Netflix connectivity to speak of, but you’ll have to take just a few more steps for nearly continuous viewing experiences. Netflix is still available for the Apple TV itself (neither Netflix or Apple are quite mad enough to cut that access!), so in order to shift a program from your iPad or iPhone to the Apple TV, you’ll have to stop it on one device and select it on the other.

As long as you’re on the same Netflix profile as you were before, it should detect where you were up to in your show or movie, and relatively quickly get you back up and binge watching.


Has Apple’s subscription shift come too late?

Apple recently held one of its “Apple Events”, large scale media briefings with plenty of hype designed to sell its products and services. Typically these are used to launch new iPhones and iPads, but this time, Apple did something a little different.

Apple does have new iPads to sell — an upgraded iPad Air and iPad Mini, the first new small iPad in 4 years — but it launched those in a very low-key way, announcing them a full week before its Apple Event. Instead, the pitch for the “It’s Showtime” event was entirely on subscription services, for magazines, video games and streaming video content.

On the magazine front, Apple News+ will provide access to a range of magazines and newspapers through the existing Apple News app for iOS on a subscription basis. It’ll launch at first in the US and Canada for $US9.99 per month with access to around 300 publications with (predictably) a US-centric focus. That pricing isn’t bad when you consider the cost of just a couple (or in some cases, only one) magazine on a regular basis, but the history of online journalism suggests it can be tricky to get consumers to pay for news and articles. It’s also very unclear what Apple’s plans are for international customers and regional magazines and newspapers. Just like with any other subscription services, there’s not much point if the topics that interest you aren’t covered by the publications on offer.

Subscription gaming also isn’t a new market, but Apple’s going to try to redefine the mobile gaming experience with Apple Arcade. Again, this is a subscription service, but Apple’s selling it on the promise of no in-game adds or pesky (and expensive!) in-app purchases, with around 100 exclusive game titles on offer at any one time. Apple hasn’t released pricing for Apple Arcade, however, but it has said that the games it’ll offer will run on iOS, Apple TV and macOS with family sharing, so you don’t have to pay for a bunch of Apple Arcade accounts if your entire family enjoys mobile gaming.

Then there’s Apple TV+, Apple’s foray into original programming and bundled subscription video services. On one side, it will offer “Apple Channels”, which will basically be existing subscription streaming services made easier to access on Apple TV and iOS devices. However, it’s also spending up big on its own content, signing up everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Jennifer Aniston for a range of exclusive original shows that will only be seen on Apple TV+. Apple hasn’t yet said if it will follow the Netflix or Amazon Prime Video model of also licensing existing shows and movies to bulk out its content library, or indeed what it will charge when the service launches later this year.

Apple has a long history of coming to market last, but doing it right. Or at least, depending on your level of cynicism, doing it with enough panache to get consumers hyped up. But can it make a real go of journalism, game and video streaming? There’s some serious challenges for it on every front. As noted, it’s very hard work — not impossible, but tough — to get people to pay for journalism in the digital age, and Apple has to convince publishers that giving it a fraction of that income in return for being part of Apple News+ is a wise strategy in the first place. Likewise for games, the serious money-spending part of that business is, it seems more heavily entrenched in the console and PC spaces, and there’s limitations on what you might be able to do with a game that has to run as well on a Mac as it does on a touchscreen iPhone.

In the video space, the biggest player in that market Netflix has openly said it won’t be part of Apple’s TV+ service. Apple is very late to this market, and most of the rights to very popular shows already reside with its competitors. Disney is launching its own streaming service this year, most likely within a similar timeframe to that of Apple TV+, but it has a huge catalog spanning decades of everything from family-friendly fare to sports to even more mature content to work from. If all Apple can bring globally is its own content, it’s going to want to hope for a Game of Thrones level hit to sell it to consumers who may already have subscription TV fatigue.


Recent News

Generally speaking, when there’s an important update for your notebook, it’s a decent idea to install it. It may not be an update that makes an immediate obvious new feature available. Instead it may work behind the scenes to add layers of security, fix bugs or improve general performance. It’s why for the most part… More 

Samsung has long pitched its “Note” line of larger smartphones as being perfect for folks with a productivity focus for their smartphone work. A few years ago, it introduced a specific desktop dock for its Note and Galaxy S class phones, the DeX dock. Drop a qualifying Samsung phone into a DeX dock, and what… More 

For most of us, buying a new laptop is a matter of expediency, not outright tech desire. We’ll make do for as long as possible on an older system until it simply isn’t economical — or sometimes feasible — to continue working with it or repairing it. When that happens, market figures suggest that most… More 

Apple recently made some pretty large changes to its line of MacBook laptops. In recent years there’s been an array of choices, from the very small “MacBook” through the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines. Some of these had the newer butterfly keyboards and Apple’s own Touch Bar sensor, while others didn’t. If you didn’t… More