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Trudeau to resume briefings after his national address boosted downloads of COVID Alert app

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning to resume regular briefings similar to those he held early in the pandemic after a plea he made to Canadians during his national address led to a significant bump in the number of downloads of the COVID Alert app.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), COVID Alert had been downloaded 2.75 million times by last Tuesday, the day before the throne speech, which Trudeau followed with a national address that was broadcasted by each of the country’s major television networks.

During Trudeau’s address — which critics said failed to focus on the severity of the second wave of COVID-19 in favour of highlighting the government’s just-revealed agenda — the prime minister drew attention to the notification cellphone app, while talking about how Canada can contain the pandemic.

“In the spring, we all did our part by staying home,” Trudeau said. “And this fall, we have even more tools in the toolbox. People are wearing masks. That’s critical. So keep it up.

“We’ve got the COVID Alert app. Take the teacher who felt fine, but she gets a positive (test result) after the app warned her she’d been exposed. COVID Alert meant she went home instead of the classroom.

“It’s a powerful, free tool that’s easy to use and protects your privacy,” he continued. “So if you haven’t already, download it off the App Store or Google Play. It’s one more way to keep ourselves and others safe.”

Searches of “COVID Alert” spiked on Google immediately after the prime minister’s address. Google Play statistics provided to iPolitics by the PMO show that downloads of COVID Alert also soared immediately after the prime minister’s address.

Between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. last Wednesday, about 15,000 people downloaded COVID Alert onto Android phones alone.

Higher-than-usual download rates continued throughout the evening, as well.

From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., it was downloaded close to 8,000 times on Androids, and between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., it was downloaded about 5,000 times.

By Friday, the app had been downloaded 2.91 million times.

Responding to the bump in downloads, which the government hopes to replicate to counter the spike in COVID-19 cases, specially in Ontario and Quebec, Trudeau will resume the semi-regular updates he made from Rideau Cottage in the pandemic’s early days.

With the House of Commons sitting again, Trudeau likely won’t hold the briefings outside his home, a senior source in the PMO told iPolitics. While a schedule hasn’t been set in stone, the PMO envisions Trudeau resuming regular briefings “at the very least” once per week.

Federal officials have been tirelessly trying to convince Canadians to download the COVID Alert app since it was released at the end of July.

COVID Alert does not force users to surrender any personal information and doesn’t track users’ locations.

It relies on Bluetooth technology to exchange randomized codes with other phones that users are close to. Although the app is available across Canada, to function, it relies on users inputting single-use key codes when they test positive for COVID-19. That way, their phone automatically alerts anyone they encountered to the possibility of exposure to COVID-19.

Provincial health authorities are responsible for delivering codes to people who test positive for the coronavirus. So far, only users in Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are able to report a diagnosis in the app.

Quebec’s government has spent weeks very publicly rejecting COVID Alert, insisting it wants a made-in-Quebec application instead. That stance shifted on Monday.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said Quebec would likely adopt COVID Alert in “a matter of days.”

Speaking to reporters again on Tuesday, Dubé said his Ontario counterpart told him she was “not totally satisfied” with how many people were using (or not using) the app.

While Dubé said his government plans to talk to opposition parties about beginning to use the app, he said, “The straight answer is: Yes, we will have the application.”

Quebec Premier François Legault also said the province will launch an advertising campaign to encourage people to download COVID Alert.

With files from Kevin Dougherty and Janet Silver.

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT, 6800, 6800 XT Price and Release Date Announced – Gadgets 360

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AMD has unveiled three new graphics cards under the Radeon RX 6000 series: AMD Radeon RX 6800, AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT, and its new flagship AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT. The last of them is the fastest gaming graphics card AMD has ever developed, the American giant claimed in its announcement. The first two — RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT — will be available November 18 at $579 (about Rs. 43,000) and $649 (about Rs. 48,000) respectively, with the RX 6900 XT following December 8 for $999 (about Rs. 74,000). India prices have not been revealed and are expected closer to launch date, which should be in line with the global launch.

The three new AMD Radeon RX 6000 series graphics cards go up against Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3000 series, which were announced in early September and rolled out later that month globally, including India. The GeForce RTX 3000 series starts at $499/ Rs. 51,000 (for the RTX 3070) and goes up to $1,499/ Rs. 1,52,000 (for the RTX 3090, Nvidia’s new flagship). If AMD too sticks to the $1 = Rs. 100 price conversion strategy like Nvidia (and many others by now) — this is thanks to local taxes and import duties — expect the AMD Radeon RX 6000 series to cost between Rs. 58,000 – Rs. 1,00,000.

Though AMD’s new graphics cards have a higher starting price point ($579 for RX 6800 vs $499 for RTX 3070), it’s undercutting Nvidia elsewhere: $649 for RX 6800 XT vs $699 for RTX 3080, and $999 for RX 6900 XT vs $1,499 for GeForce RTX 3090. The last of them is especially going to make heads turn, with a 33 percent difference between the price of their respective flagships. Of course, it’s impossible to say at this point if performance will be comparable. AMD has a lot of new bells and whistles it’s touting for the Radeon RX 6000 series.

First up, there’s the new AMD RDNA 2 gaming architecture — it’s also being used in both next-gen consoles, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X, though only the latter will have “full hardware support” for all its capabilities — which promises to deliver two times the performance in select games, even though it’s still using the 7-nanometre transistor size. That’s a bit of a cherry-picked number, as it compares the RX 6900 XT to RX 5700 XT (which uses AMD RDNA).

What does RNDNA 2 offer? Improved energy efficiency, reduced latency (thanks to AMD Infinity Cache), and 30 percent frequency boost at the same power level. There’s also support for DirectX 12 Ultimate API that was previously limited to Nvidia GPUs. It allows for ray-tracing (real-time lighting, shadows and reflections) and variable rate shading. AMD says that developers can aim for both quality and performance when this is combined with its own AMD FidelityFX, a collection of lighting, shadow and reflection effects that help with hybrid rendering.

Additionally, the AMD Radeon RX 6000 series also supports AMD Smart Access Memory (this only works if you also have an AMD Ryzen 5000 series CPU and AMD B550/ X570 motherboard), Microsoft DirectStorage (for faster loading times and high-quality textures), Radeon Software Performance Tuning presets (one-click settings including “Rage Mode” stable overclocking), and Radeon Anti-Lag (quicker response times).

The one drawback is an AMD equivalent of Nvidia’s DLSS: deep learning super sampling. With DLSS, Nvidia GPUs render fewer pixels and then use “AI” to upsample them to higher resolutions. This decreases the load on RTX 3000 series while still allowing for close to native resolution quality. AMD has a tech of its own called Super Resolution, but it hasn’t provided any details as it’s still in the works and won’t be available for several months after the launch of Radeon RX 6000 series. This also means AMD’s ray-tracing won’t be on the same level as Nvidia’s for now.

In a prepared statement, AMD graphics’ corporate VP and GM Scott Herkelman said: “Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of R&D focused on bringing the best of AMD Radeon graphics to the enthusiast and ultra-enthusiast gaming markets, and represents a major evolution in PC gaming. The new AMD Radeon RX 6800, RX 6800 XT and RX 6900 XT graphics cards deliver world class 4K and 1440p performance in major AAA titles, new levels of immersion with breathtaking life-like visuals, and must-have features that provide the ultimate gaming experiences.”

The AMD Radeon RX 6000 series will begin roll-out in November, with cards offered by AMD, in addition to its partners in ASRock, ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, PowerColor, Sapphire, and XFX.

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Sony shares pop on strong outlook

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A man walks past the logo of Japans Sony displayed at the company’s showroom in Tokyo on October 28, 2020.
KAZUHIRO NOGI | AFP via Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Shares of Sony surged in Tokyo on Thursday, a day after the Japanese electronics giant raised its annual profit forecast.

Sony shares in Japan were up 6.69% on Thursday even though Japan’s broader index, the Nikkei 225, fell 0.37% on the day.

On Wednesday, Sony raised its forecast for its annual operating income by 13% to 700 billion yen (approx. $6.7 billion). It came as the firm announced a operating profit of about 317.8 billion yen (around $3.04 billion) for the three months ended Sept. 30.

Jefferies Asia’s Atul Goyal told CNBC on Thursday that he’s “extremely bullish” on Sony. The firm owns the stock and currently has a “buy” rating on Sony, with a price target of 13,230 yen per share — more than 50% higher than where the price currently sits.

… this is one of the best companies that we have seen in our coverage.
Atul Goyal
Managing Director, Jefferies Asia

Sony is set to release its next generation video game console, PlayStation (PS) 5, which would come on the back of the blockbuster success of PlayStation 4.

“It is looking very solid, very strong for PlayStation 5 and the whole cycle that lies ahead of us for the next 5 to 6 years,” Goyal, a managing director at Jefferies Asia, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday. He highlighted Sony’s claims that the company received as many preorders in 12 hours for the PS5 as it did in 12 weeks for the PS4.

“You would hear shortages of PlayStation 5 because there’s more demand than supply,” the analyst said.

It’s not due to supply disruptions as “they have been able to recover from the … supply-side shortages that they were facing early on because most of the assemblies are happening in China and most of the supply chains have recovered almost entirely in China.”

“Demand is so strong for the product that that will keep the news flow that this product is sold out in most places for a while,” Goyal added.

Coronavirus impact

The video game sector has been among the few that have benefited from more people staying at home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. That has raised questions over the sustainability of that bounce in a post-pandemic environment.

“The increase of gaming that we have seen partly is because of stay home, not just working from home, but vacationing from home where people are not traveling, and even the weekends you stay home,” Goyal pointed out. “This increase, part of that will be reverted as and when Covid goes away, and in my base case it doesn’t go away entirely until the end of 2021.”

Still, he said some of these habits that have changed as a result of the pandemic “could last longer.”

“We’re not factoring in (the) next five, six years of Covid-driven earnings increase. What we are factoring is Playstation 5-driven upside, driven by digital sales,” the analyst added.

Looking beyond Sony’s gaming business, which accounts for a sizable chunk of its operating income, Goyal said the firm’s music business is “also spectacular” while its image sensing business is also set to recover.

“All in all, this is one of the best companies that we have seen in our coverage,” he said. “Businesses in these three areas are all duopoly or oligopoly, and Sony’s a leader in all of them, with meaningful growth ahead.”

Source: – CNBC

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Apple ramps up efforts to build own search engine to rival Google, says report – CNET

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Apple and Google

Apple is ramping up efforts to develop its own search engine, according to a Financial Times report published Wednesday, as US antitrust authorities threaten a lucrative deal that sets Google’s search engine as the default option on iPhones and Samsung phones. 

The iPhone’s latest operating system version, iOS 14, has started to show its own search results and link directly to websites when users type in search queries directly from the home screen, according to industry sources cited in the report.

This move adds to mounting evidence, according to the report, that Apple is working to build a rival to Google search, including Apple’s poaching of John Giannandrea, Google’s head of search, more than two years ago.

Earlier this month, the US Justice Department filed a long-expected antitrust lawsuit against Google over its search dominance, alleging that Google “unlawfully maintained monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets.” 

At the heart of the Justice Department’s case are Google’s contracts with other companies, which allow the tech giant’s search engine to be used as the default option. Google pays billions of dollars each year to maintain that default spot. 

Google has been the iPhone’s default search engine for more than a decade. It’s been widely reported that Google pays Apple between $8-12 billion each year for its search engine deal, which is a boon for both tech giants. If it turns out the deal is blocked by the DOJ, Apple will need to supply an alternative for its iPhones. 

 Apple couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. 

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