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Hands-On With Apple's New Smart Keyboard Folio for the 2020 iPad Pro Models – MacRumors

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Apple last week introduced new 11 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, which are set to arrive in the hands of customers starting this week. Apple introduced a nifty new Magic Keyboard with trackpad alongside the new ‌iPad Pro‌ models that’s coming in May, but it also debuted a new Smart Keyboard Folio, which is available now.

We picked up the ‌Smart Keyboard‌ Folio for the designed for the 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ models and compared it to the ‌Smart Keyboard‌ Folio that was released alongside the 2018 ‌iPad Pro‌ models to see if there are any notable differences.

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Design wise, the two keyboard are close to identical, but the new model is slightly darker in color, though it’s still a dark gray shade. The material on the outside feels the same, but there is one major exterior difference – an Apple logo. The new ‌Smart Keyboard‌ Folio is outfitted with an Apple logo, which the original did not have.

There’s also a square-shaped camera cutout instead of the vertical camera cutout of the prior model, which allows it to accommodate the new square-shaped camera bump on the new ‌iPad Pro‌ models.

Apple’s 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ models feature a dual-lens camera setup with wide-angle and ultra wide-angle lenses along with a new LiDAR Scanner that’s designed to scan the area around you for all-new augmented reality experiences.

When it comes to the keyboard and the typing experience, there’s no change. The keys are shallow with little travel and have a fabric-like texture that’s meant to be waterproof and spill proof. It’s not the greatest typing experience, but it’s passable.

The new ‌Smart Keyboard‌ Folio replaces the prior model and it is designed to work with both 2018 and 2020 ‌iPad Pro‌ models. On 2018 ‌iPad Pro‌ models, the camera cutout will be larger than necessary, but it fits both. Apple is no longer selling the version with the vertical camera cutout.

Apple in May will release the new Magic Keyboard, which is equipped with scissor switch keys with 1mm of travel and backlighting, making the new keyboard more similar to a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro keyboard.

The ‌Smart Keyboard‌ Folio is priced starting at $179 for the 11-inch version and $199 for the 12.9-inch version, which is a good deal cheaper than the $299/$349 asking prices for the new Magic Keyboard options.

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Apple and Google partner on COVID-19 contact tracing technology – Apple Newsroom

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Across the world, governments and health authorities are working together to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, to protect people and get society back up and running. Software developers are contributing by crafting technical tools to help combat the virus and save lives. In this spirit of collaboration, Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.

Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.

First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.

Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities. Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.

All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.

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Amid in-game Hong Kong protests, Chinese retailers drop Animal Crossing sales – Ars Technica

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Chinese online retailers are cracking down on third-party sales of imported copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The move comes as the game has become a popular virtual spot for anti-government protests amid coronavirus-induced lockdowns.

Reuters reports that popular gray market Chinese e-commerce sites Pinduoduo and Taobao have taken down all listings for Animal Crossing as of this morning. Chinese tech site Pingwest reports that the two retailers sent messages to their resellers late Thursday notifying them of the ban. The Chinese government hasn’t issued a statement regarding the game, though a directive from government officials seems the most likely reason for the sudden move.

A licensed Chinese version of the Switch launched late last year through local partner Tencent after the lifting of an outright game console ban in 2015. That version of the system can currently play three Mario-themed games officially licensed for the Chinese market, as well as imported international Switch cartridges, but it can’t access the system’s online features.

But many Chinese gamers have taken to importing fully featured international versions of the system through online resellers. Import prices for those consoles, and for accessories like Ring Fit Adventure, have skyrocketed on Chinese retail sites in recent weeks, mirroring supply shortages in other markets.

As industry analyst Daniel Ahmad notes on Twitter, sites like Taobao have officially banned third-party sales of imported video games since 2017. But that ban is usually lightly enforced and only becomes operative if, as Ahmad puts it, “the game has content or user-generated content that is deemed to be too offensive or violent” or “the game has become very popular and caught the attention of regulators.”

No censorship on this island

Both of those issues seem to apply to Animal Crossing. In recent weeks, the game has become a popular virtual location for pro-democracy protesters who have seen coronavirus restrictions limit their ability to host crowded street protests. Offline players can create elaborate signs, clothing, and other imagery that can, and is, easily shared on social media, as you can see in the above gallery. Online players, meanwhile, can invite other users to their islands to take part in virtual protest actions in miniature.

Animal Crossing is a place without political censorship, so it is a good place to continue our fight,” pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong told Wired UK earlier this week. “Even lawmakers in Hong Kong are playing this game,” he added.

While these online retail restrictions seem to be stricter than normally applied for the Chinese market, they fall well short of a full-fledged ban of the game. Imported systems can still download the title from Nintendo’s eShop by easily setting up an international account, and some brick-and-mortar retailers may also sell the imported cartridge. Some online resellers also seem to be avoiding the restrictions with listings that don’t mention the game by name in order to arrange a sale through private messaging.

China has not yet taken the more extreme step of blocking direct access to Nintendo’s online servers from the country. That would block downloads of Animal Crossing and other Switch games as well as online play for imported systems, though players could potentially get around that with a VPN. Such a major move could anger Chinese Switch gamers whose imports have been treated mostly with benign neglect thus far. It also could anger Nintendo and imperil the company’s lucrative arrangement with Tencent, which is sharing in millions of official console sales in the country.

China’s Ministry of Culture has long put forward restrictions on games that pose a “serious threat to the moral standards of society,” as it put things when banning Mafia-related games in 2009. More recently, pandemic-simulation game Plague Inc. was removed from the Chinese iOS App Store because it “includes content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China.”

Listing image by Joshua Wong

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Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Essential Things The Game Doesn't Tell You Straight Away – GameSpot

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Final Fantasy 7 Remake has a lot of moving parts and, as such, carefully dishes out information as and when it’s necessary. But if you’re familiar with the franchise, or RPGs as a whole, there may be specific things you’re looking for from the outset. As a result, you’ll probably be asking a lot of questions long before the game is ready to give you answers. We don’t want you sweating the small stuff instead of enjoying FF7, so here’s a bunch of spoiler-free heads-ups that’ll save you a bit of stress.

For more guides, check out our feature highlighting some essential tips to know as you play the game, as well as our PSA on why you shouldn’t skip side missions. Otherwise, you can read our FF7 Remake review.

What Moogle Medals Are For

Around Midgar you’ll often find destructible boxes, and you should make a point of smashing them. Firstly, because they’re puny and pathetic little wooden constructs that deserve to be crushed under the might of Cloud’s buster sword, but also because they can sometimes recover your MP and drop potions or antidotes. More importantly, they reward you with an item called Moogle Medals.

You start getting Moogle Medals from the outset of the game, and you may find yourself scratching your head trying to figure out what to do with them. The game doesn’t actually tell you what they’re good for straight away, but don’t worry, a few chapters in, you’ll meet a character who will swap Moogle Medals for some special items.

We won’t spoil who this character is because, honestly, it’s an absolute delight, but we will say that you’ll come across the merchant in a side-quest. If you read our review, you’ll know that side-quests are well worth doing for their story and characterization contributions, but if you need more convincing, this is it. So, make sure to do them, kupo!

How You Get More Summons

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Whether it’s Guardian Forces, Aeons, or Espers, calling on gods and mythical beings to fight by your side is a key part of the Final Fantasy experience. You could do this in the original FF7 and, of course, you can also do it in the Remake. However, it can be easy to miss the detail on how exactly you acquire these summons, especially since it’s very different from the original and other entries in the franchise.

The first is part of the main story, as a character will gift you the Materia item that houses the beast–there’s no missing it. However, from that point on, things get a bit trickier. The next one you’ll get is in Chapter 6. You’ll spot the red Materia next to a big fan, but it’s maddeningly out of reach. Don’t worry about it, you’ll get there eventually. Continue on with the main mission and you’ll be able to use a lift to approach a ladder to the left hand side of the giant fans and grab it. Just make sure you don’t leave the area without getting it.

The rest of the summons are tied to a character you’ll meet shortly after. His name is Chadley, which, according to Urban Dictionary, is a name given to “a made-up boyfriend, often used to deceive others into thinking that you have a boyfriend so they will stop questioning you or making jokes about you.”

Anyway, this strange mashup of Chad and Bradley presents you with the opportunity to fight for summons’ allegiance. You may find that the first summon he pits you against is tricky, but don’t stress about trying to defeat it then and there; you’ll see Chadley a lot and you can take on the fight when you’re feeling a little more levelled up.

Further summons become available to battle by completing the little Battle Intel challenges that Chadley sets you. There are a total of five summons in the game and we won’t spoil which ones, and although there is a sixth, it’s exclusive to a premium version of the game, which is a bit rubbish if you ask me but whatever.

How Joint Materia Work (For You FF7 Newbies)

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Materia gives your characters a wealth of abilities to work with in battle. These range from the ability to cast fire, ice, wind, and lightning spells, manipulate time, create shells to protect allies, and restore their health. There are also a few that will grant you incredibly useful benefits that may not initially be clear. This is because they require a very specific setup before they actually take effect.

The biggest of these is Elemental, which will make it hurt much less when the enemy sets your ass on fire, tries to freeze you to death, or pulls some other magical nonsense to put an end to your adventure. Weapons and armor feature sockets that you place Materia into and there are two variants of sockets: single, isolated ones and joint ones. If you get a piece of armor with a joint slot and put the Elemental materia into one of those slots, the armor will give you resistance for the type of Materia you attach to it in the second slot.

For example, if you have one slot with Elemental and it’s attached to another slot with Fire equipped, any time an enemy tries to set you ablaze, the damage taken from the fire attack will be halved. As the game progresses, enemies become very aggressive and can bust out high-damage spells, so this is essential to know. Alternatively, if you slot it into a joint slot on a weapon, your attacks will be imbued with that element.

The Magnify materia works in the same way, except instead granting you resistance, it casts the attached spell to multiple targets. So, if you have Magnify attached to the healing materia, it will cure multiple characters instead of just one. It also works the same way for offensive spells, but it’s important to note that the primary target receives the bulk of the damage, and those around them get a reduced amount. Again, this is super useful, but you only really learn this information through experimentation.

The Importantance Of Spell Timing

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Like the last few mainline entries in the series, FF7 Remake is a far more active and dynamic game when it comes to combat. Unlike the old days, when characters were rooted in position and would be forced to watch in horror as the enemy unleashed ridiculous attacks and killed their friends around them, characters in the Remake can run rings around their enemies if they choose to.

However, that also means that the hit and miss system is a little more dynamic. Although the Remake doesn’t make a big deal about it, opting to let you learn through experience, it’s actually really easy to fire off a spell and completely whiff it. Timing is key in Remake’s combat model, so you need to watch your enemies closely and use spells when they aren’t wildly darting around the battlefield, so that you can be sure that it’ll travel and land properly.

Another major consideration that will force you to be careful with the timing of attacks is that an enemy can interrupt you. If you’re casting a spell and the startup animation is long, your opponent could fire off a quicker attack and stuff whatever you’re doing. Given that you’re spending precious resources to use your special abilities, getting mugged off like this will hurt your HP and your ego.

Even worse is if you poorly time one of Tifa’s specials or Cloud’s Limit Break and the enemy is just out of reach, in which case watching them just nonchalantly walk away from your badass, super damaging, cinematic super move will make you question whether you’re cut out for this mission at all. Pick your moments!

How To Really Punish With Punisher Mode

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Alright, time for a few quick tips. These will be simple, but they’re crucial to know and can be either missed or not properly understood. Cloud’s unique ability is Punisher mode, which gives him quicker, more powerful attacks but with mobility as the trade-off. The other thing that the Punisher mode allows you to do is respond to an incoming melee attack with a counter. So, if you’re facing an enemy that is getting all up in your extremely gelled pointy blond hair and trying to slap you about, activate that Punisher mode and start blocking to show them what happens when they try to mess with a former-SOLDIER with pencil-thin arms that can still haul around a sword the size of a camper van.

How Tempest Works (Not Like The Shakespeare Play)

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Aeirth’s unique ability is called Tempest. She fires a crystal at her target that can be charged up for a more powerful effect. However, it’s pretty tricky to use as it has some situational application. This is because the crystal actually takes a bit of time to do its thing after Aerith sends it out.

When you hit triangle, the crystal travels to the target point and, if it connects, it will do a small amount of damage. Then it takes a couple of seconds to build some power and explodes, dishing out damage to whoever and whatever is hanging around. It’s more of an area-of-effect spell than a direct attack thing, so you’ll need to plan carefully when using it. The longer you hold the triangle button down, the more powerful the explosion will be when it happens.

The best times to use this is when you’ve hit an enemy with a spell that locks down their movement, they’ve been staggered and thus are unable to get out of the way, or are being absolutely pummelled by one of your teammates and thus can’t do anything but take your deadly crystals to the face.

The True Reward Of Weapon Proficiency

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At the start of the game, your party members have limited access to weapons, however, you’ll eventually be able to purchase new ones or find them in the world. Each one has a cool look and can be levelled up to become a devastating tool of destruction, as well as bolster your character’s core attributes. Another major addition each offers is a new combat ability.

Each weapon has a special action that you can execute when it is equipped. However, if you look at it on the weapon select menu, you’ll notice there’s a little bar that shows your proficiency in its special action. As you put the weapon to use, that bar will fill and, eventually, the associated character will gain that ability, which can be used whether or not you have the weapon equipped.

That proficiency bar fills up really slowly, but if you pay attention to the little bit of text below the bar, it’ll tell you how you can speed up the process. Trust me when I say it’s worth spending a bit of time grinding whenever you get a new weapon so you can max out that bar as quickly as possible. You’ll want to do it with random enemy mobs that you’re familiar with, as you’ll need to switch to the specific character you’re working on to fulfill the objective and it’s easier if you know there won’t be any surprises.

Some weapons are designed to present a different style of play for the associated user, and this style may not vibe with the way you want to play them, so it’s best to earn your proficiency in low-stakes battles. You don’t want to be facing a boss with weapons that don’t let you play your characters the way you’ve specced them out to be.

There’s A New Game Plus Of Sorts

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As previously mentioned in this article, and in the FF7 Remake review, you should do all the side-quests you can. They enhance the story and often give you some valuable items. However, if you’d rather focus on getting the main campaign finished, but don’t want to miss out on anything, you’ll be happy to hear that you can come back and tie up loose ends.

FF7 has a new game plus of sorts. It’s actually a chapter select that pops up after you’ve completed the story and lets you drop in and out of different parts of the game while keeping your experience, items, and loadouts. The thing to know, however, is that you’ll start at the beginning of the chapter, so you may need to spend a bit of time replaying chunks to get to the bit you need.

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