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India Proposes Tougher E-Commerce Rules

The new proposal is intended to address complaints of 'widespread cheating'

Wednesday, June 23, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Personal Computing

Amid complaints from brick-and-mortar retailers in India, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs proposed a ban on flash sales on e-commerce platforms and preventing affiliate entities from being listed as sellers on Monday evening. These policies are in response to a rise in concern about what retailers allege as unfair practices employed by Amazon and Flipkart in the second largest market in the world.

In its proposal, India's Ministry of Consumer Affairs suggests that e-commerce firms should not be allowed to hold flash sales in India. These sales - akin to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S. - are very popular during the country's festive seasons. E-commerce firms have traditionally seen the largest spike in customer orders because of the heavily discounted products, which is impacting the sales of stores that don't have the same enormous online presence.

In a statement, the Ministry said: “Certain e-commerce entities are engaging in limiting consumer choice by indulging in ‘back to back’ or ‘flash’ sales wherein one seller selling on platform does not carry any inventory or order fulfilment capability but merely places a ‘flash or back to back’ order with another seller controlled by platform. This prevents a level playing field and ultimately limits customer choice and increases prices.” 

This new proposal may prohibit Amazon, Flipkart, and other e-commerce platforms from running in-house or private labels. The proposal asks that e-commerce firms ensure that none of their related or associated parties are listed on their platforms as sellers for selling to customers directly. 

India already does not allow e-commerce firms to hold inventory or sell items directly to consumers. In order to bypass this, many firms have operated through joint ventures with local companies that basically operate as inventory holders in this way. The new proposal also asks e-commerce firms to introduce a mechanism for identifying goods based on their country of origin and suggest alternatives to "ensure fair opportunity to domestic goods."

Amazon has invested over $6.5 billion into the India side of its business and has said that it will be reviewing its policies. Flipkart's majority stake was acquired by Walmart back in 2018 for $16 billion and currently has made no comment on this new proposal. The Ministry will be seeking industry feedback over the next 2 weeks. 

Online marketplaces have greatly changed the way that many of us shop. On one hand, it's obviously very convenient and has made finding things that are perhaps out of season or not readily available in our areas much easier than ever before. On the other hand, it's true that many brick and mortar stores have suffered because of that convenience. I, admittedly, shop online more than ever (thanks especially to the pandemic).

What do you think - should there be methods in place in order to curtail the growing dominance of online platforms and drive more business to traditional brick-and-mortar stores? Share your thoughts with me!


Amazon to Launch Experimental Wireless Mesh Networking on Devices

This means that your Amazon devices will automatically share your Internet with neighbors

Wednesday, June 2, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Personal Computing

Over the weekend, a friend shared an article discussing the new Amazon Sidewalk service that will be debuting as an experiment on June 8th. If you live in the U.S. and use Alexa, Echo, or any other Amazon device (this includes Ring doorbells, security cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors, etc.) you will be automatically enrolled in this service unless you manually opt out.

This new wireless mesh service will share a small bit of your Internet bandwidth with nearby neighbors who don't have connectivity and will help you to their bandwidth when you don't, too. Amazon's website claims that Amazon Sidewalk can help your devices "work better at home and beyond the front door. When enabled, Sidewalk can unlock unique benefits for your device, support other Sidewalk devices in your community, and even locate pets or lost items."

The goal of Sidewalk is to help devices work better by simplifying new device setups, extending the low-bandwidth working range of devices to better locate things with Tile trackers, and help devices stay online even if they are outside of the range of the home wi-fi. Amazon says users should participate in the experiment because it helps your devices get connected and stay connected, and there are no fees charged for this service.

The first thing I thought when I saw this (other than my security concerns) was, "how much is this going to affect my personal wireless bandwidth?" According to Amazon, "the maximum bandwidth of a Sidewalk Bridge to the Sidewalk server is 80Kbps, which is about 1/40th of the bandwidth used to stream a typical high definition video. Today, when you share your Bridge’s connection with Sidewalk, total monthly data used by Sidewalk, per account, is capped at 500MB, which is equivalent to streaming about 10 minutes of high definition video."

Amazon has published a white paper detailing Sidewalk and all of its benefits. Users have been assured that data is encrypted and privacy is protected, but I'm personally not so sure that I want to participate in this experiment. You can opt-out your devices using their associated apps, and I think that I will be doing that myself. If you're also looking to opt out of this service, here are some instructions on how to do so:

Where can I change my Amazon Sidewalk preferences?
Ring customers who own an eligible device can choose to update their Amazon Sidewalk preferences anytime from the Control Center in the Ring app or Ring website. Echo customers who own an eligible device can update their Amazon Sidewalk preferences anytime from Settings in the Alexa app. If you have linked your Ring and Amazon accounts, your Sidewalk preferences on either your Alexa or Ring app will apply to all of your eligible Echo and Ring devices.

Amazon also provided a white paper detailing all of the service's security measures which you can read here.

What do you think - are you absolutely opting out of this service, or does it sound appealing to you? I would love to hear your thoughts in order to better inform my own decision on this.

Microsoft is Looking for their Next Default Font

Thursday, April 29, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing

Microsoft has commissioned five new custom fonts that could be the new default font going forward. 

"Calibri has been the default font for all things Microsoft since 2007, when it stepped in to replace Times New Roman across Microsoft Office. It has served us all well, but we believe it’s time to evolve. To help us set a new direction, we’ve commissioned five original, custom fonts to eventually replace Calibri as the default. We’re excited to share these brand-new fonts with you today and would love your input. Head over to social and tell us your favorite. And don’t worry if the font you love best isn’t chosen as the next default; all of them will be available in the font menu, alongside Calibri and your other favorite fonts in your Office apps in Microsoft 365 and beyond."

Read more here: Beyond Calibri: Finding Microsoft's next default font - Microsoft 365 Blog

They are going to be evaluating them over the next few months and getting feedback from their social channels to decide what the next default font will be. It seems they will all be available to use, and it looks like they can already be downloaded and used now.


AMD Ryzen 9 5900X Dominates CPU Sales on Amazon

Trouble for Intel?

Wednesday, April 28, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Personal Computing

I haven't been looking into building a new computer or upgrading the one I have recently, but that doesn't mean I haven't been hearing the buzz about all of the hard-to-find CPUs that have hit the market over the last year or so.

I know, for instance, that AMD's Ryzen 5000 series has been fairly impossible to find. A few of my friends have been looking and the only luck they've had locating it is with a pretty inflated price tag attached. These processors have been around for a little while now, with its mid-range and high-end CPUs powering popular desktop PCs like the Alienware R10 Ryzen Edition or gaming laptops like ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo SE. 

TechRadar, Hot Hardware, and other sites all report that AMD's sales of this particular card are extremely high on Amazon. Despite it selling for $800 USD - which is well above the MSRP of $549 - it has reached the number one sales spot on the online retailer's site, proving just how much demand there is for this particular card. 

According to Tech Radar, this could spell some bad news for Intel, which finds itself out of the top six sale spots on Amazon's CPU best seller's list. All of the spots are dominated by AMD chips, and only three spots in the top 10 happen to be Intel processors. Intel's most popular CPU on Amazon at the moment is the Intel Core i7-10700K, a 10th gen 8-core processor that sells for around $319 USD.

Historically, Intel has dominated the market on places like Amazon, so it's a bit of a surprise to see AMD doing so well in one of the largest retail markets in the world. Their lead could slip as time goes by, since Amazon's best-seller list is constantly changing, but it does seem to bode well for the Red Team right now.

Tech Radar has a pretty thorough review on the Ryzen chip here. I have been trying to learn more about the tech lately - I admit that a lot of this is above me since I don't really live in PC hardware on the daily - so I'm curious about the experience of all the PC enthusiasts out there. What CPU do you use, have you been thinking of upgrading? Where does this chip fall on your priority list? Share with me!


Future Windows 10 Update Targets Optimum Device Performance

The "Device Usage" feature was originally announced back in October

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Personal Computing

I've been a Windows user for a long time. 

Admittedly, that's rather by default - Windows was what came with my family's first PC and is the most accessible OS for most consumers, so it's obviously a fairly natural choice. It's been interesting to see Windows evolve over the years, although I, like many others, abhorred some of the changes (let's just ignore Windows Vista, shall we?).

Back in October, Microsoft announced a new "Device Usage" feature they were working on for a future Windows update. This feature would allow users to optimize the performance of their device for a range of uses, including gaming, business, and schoolwork. The idea is that users would select what they intend to primarily use their PC for during the setup process, and then the software will tailor how it operates in order to ensure the best experience.

Image from Microsoft's Windows Insider Blog

The feature first appeared in preview build 20231, which Microsoft discussed in a blog post stating that it was frequently requested by users. Recently, the feature has been undergoing internal testing and is even available to some preview build users now, which indicates a possible release for it later this year.

According to Windows Latest, which has been able to access the feature, the Device Usage tool offers a number of ways to customize your Windows 10 for specific cases. Currently, the options that are offered are:

  • Gaming - Play and discover games, keep up with new releases
  • Family - Connect with the whole family, edit safety settings, and give everyone their own profile
  • Creativity - Bring ideas to life - from novels and presentations to photos and videos
  • Schoolwork - Take notes, write essays, and collaborate on projects
  • Entertainment - Watch videos, browse the web, and connect on social media
  • Business - Track expenses, manage customers, and run your business

Toggling one or more of these options at setup will allow Microsoft to access your data in order to create "personalized experiences," which could include suggestions for tools and services to download from the Windows store. Right now, there's nothing that indicates that this optimization extends anywhere past just a software solution - for example, it probably won't help solve your RAM-hogging applications or battery draining very much.

Ideally, selecting what you intend to use the machine for might cut down on annoying or unnecessary suggestions from Microsoft, as well as making prominent apps like conferencing or presentation software more visible for first-time users.

Do you tend to give preview builds for Windows a try before they're released, or do you wait for the updates? Tell me about it!


Checking Out Vertical Tabs in Microsoft Edge

Friday, March 26, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing

I've been using Microsoft Edge as my main browser for quite a while now, and I've been quite happy with it. I really like the Collections feature and I really haven't had any issues with the browser overall.

A new feature that came out earlier in the month I believe is vertical tabs. It's a simple idea but for those of us who have been using "regular" tabs for years, might be not so sure about it. That's where I am with it. Using tabs in a browser is just natural now, and I don't even think about it, but now this puts the tabs in a vertical layout and now I don't know what's right with the world.

I'm glad it's an option now, but I just need to try it out some more and see if I like it better than the normal tabs in a browser.

Have you tried vertical tabs yet? Let me know what you think!


ID's Great PC Build of 2021

Wednesday, February 3, 2021 by Island Dog | Discussion: Personal Computing

I recently picked up a new 4K monitor for my PC as I gave my current ultrawide to my wife for her work at home setup. I realized I had purchased that monitor in 2016 for this PC which means it was even older. Looking back at my receipts and my previous blog on my PC build, I was a bit surprised that I built it in 2015. I've updated a few things over the years with the last upgrade being a GTX 1660 Super video card, but otherwise it was mostly the same. It has worked very well over the years, but it was time for a new build.

After doing some research and using tools like the PC Builder on Newegg, I had a list of the parts I needed to get. Since I was going to put this PC on my desk, I wanted an RGB build so I went with mostly a Corsair build since I have a Corsair keyboard and I could sync all the colors up using their iCue software. Since the video card was fairly new, I just moved that to the new build as it works great, and I didn't want to deal with the current pricing and availability of video cards with the current situation. I also kept my data and games SSD drives as they were also a recent upgrade and it made it easier as I wouldn't have to move a lot of data around.

Parts used:

CaseCorsair iCUE 4000X RGB Mid-Tower ATX PC Case

MotherboardAsus Prime Z390-A

CPUIntel Core i5-9400F

RAMCorsair Vengeance RGB Pro 16GB

PSUCorsair CX650F RGB

M.2 SSDSamsung 970 EVO 500GB

CPU coolerCorsair iCUE H100i Elite Capellix

I ordered everything off Amazon as they had the best prices, and it would be here in just a couple of days. Everything arrived on the same day and I was excited to start the build. I pulled everything out and then I noticed something wasn't right about the motherboard. The M.2 heatsink was only attached with one screw, and the plastic covering the thermal pad was gone. Maybe it came loose during shipping, so then I moved on to putting the CPU on. Then it was pretty obvious I was sent a used motherboard.

Someone left their CPU cooler plate attached to the back of the motherboard, and then I saw the CPU pins were bent! 

After a quick chat with an Amazon rep I had a replacement arrive the very next day. This one was brand new so now the build could continue!

For the most part this was a pretty easy build. The Corsair 4000X case was easy to work with and all the parts went in with out any issues at all. There was a tight squeeze between the top fans/radiator and the RAM, but it all went together just fine. The Corsair case has a nice cable channel in the back where most of the included cables were already ran, and i added a few more to help manage all the cables. I routed and cleaned up all the cables as best I could, but I didn't go crazy with cable management in the back as it's not visible at all, but I just wanted to make it organized for any future uprades I might make.

I got everything installed, double-checked all the wiring, and got the monitor and power cables all hooked up. Pressed that button, lights came on, and that's it. It didn't POST or anything. It had power and everything seemed like it was working, but I could not get it going. Thankfully this ASUS motherboard has LED status lights which will give an indication what might be wrong. The VGA and boot lights were lit so it was off to Bing to look for a solution. After just a few minutes I found a couple posts with similar issues, and what seemed like a strange solution. For whatever reason, this motherboard wants both a DisplayPort and HDMI cable plugged in at the same time. 

Since I was using a DisplayPort cable already, I grabbed an HDMI from my parts box and plugged it in. And it worked. Went right to the BIOS and made sure everything was set up, and then put in my USB drive with Windows 10 on it. One more reboot and Windows was loading!

I'm incredibly happy with the build and excited to have a new PC!


Which extensions do you use with your browser?

Friday, January 29, 2021 by DrJBHL | Discussion: Personal Computing

I'm using Brave as my default, but am looking at Opera and Edge, and I'm wondering which extensions you guys use and if they slow you down.

I might also take a look at Vivaldi with its stacked tabs.

Cool stuff at CES 2021

Last week's digital conference had a ton of neat announcements

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 by Tatiora | Discussion: Personal Computing

CES was alive and active this year, even if the format was just a little bit different. Completely virtual for 2021, the Consumer Electronics Show lived up to its name by showcasing many of the top names in tech - not to mention more than a few startups! - and playing host to plenty of exciting product launch announcements.

There's obviously so much for me to cover here so that I'll barely scratch the surface, but let's take a look at some of the things I thought were pretty cool that popped up during the conference last week!

AMD Keynote

AMD made some pretty big announcements last year and made big waves in the market with the Ryzen 5000 desktop processors and Big Navi graphics cards. As was to be expected, this year was no exception as Dr. Lisa Su, President and CEO of AMD, detailed what exciting things AMD has been working on and what's coming in 2021.

Stealing the show was the much-anticipated AMD Ryzen 5000 series of mobile processors. Based on the same Zen 3 architecture as the desktop CPUs, AMD promises incredible performance, longer battery life, and "the only 8-core x86 CPU for ultrathin laptops."

Dr. Su's keynote is linked above if you'd like to hear all of the details and start budgeting for your next PC.  

LG Rollable Smartphone

Image credit: LG

Rumors of a rollable smartphone have been circulating for awhile, but LG confirmed at CES that the phone is officially on its way. During their segment, LG showed a short teaser trailer which showcases a phone which can extend its edges to create a small tablet. Called the LG Rollable, the company confirmed that the phone will release sometime in 2021. 

The tech is pretty cool, but I typically don't jump on the newest latest and greatest phones. Although no price has been confirmed, some leaks suggest that the price point may be around $2,300, and that's a little too steep for me! Anyone thinking about getting this gadget at launch? I want to hear about it if you do!

AARP Innovation Lab

AARP is a United States–based interest group focusing on issues affecting those over the age of fifty, and this year at CES they sponsored presentations from several start-up companies who are focused on making life easier for the aging population. There is so much that tech can do for seniors and their caregivers, and it was AARP's goal to shed some limelight on these types of innovations.

One of the main goals was to focus on tech that helps elderly people "age in place" - in other words, the hope is to keep them in their homes and communities rather than in a nursing home. An app called Mighty Health pairs seniors with health coaches and certified trainers, for example, while another startup, Zibrio, features a scale that assesses users' balance to predict whether or not they are fall risks.

All of my grandparents are, sadly, gone, but a lot of these startups and their ideas really interest and intrigue me because I can see things that I sure wish I'd had access to while they were still alive. I found the smart lamp, Nobi, to be an especially enlightening (sorry not sorry!) idea: it automatically turns on when users stand up and sends alerts to family members in case they fall. You can learn more about it in the YouTube video I've embedded above.

There were plenty of other fantastic ideas showcased during the Innovation Lab, so if you have an aging senior in your life be sure to check out some of the tech that's being developed!

Airpeak Drone

Sony offered the first glimpse of its new flying machine at CES this year, showcasing the drone flying above a snowy landscape while keeping pace with a prototype Sony Vision S car during a road test. Unfortunately for drone hobbyists, the Airpeak is definitely meant for professional cinematographers, but Sony has left the door open for possible future iterations on the brand, which may include consumer drones, too.

The Airpeak is set to launch in the spring of this year. Any drone hobbyists out there? I want to hear about what you fly!

Everything Else

I know, this is kind of a broad sweeping "and all this other stuff," but really - there's so much to cover! Plenty of sites out there have some great summaries of the various aspects of CES and some of the major announcements that occurred over the week. There were new TVs and home theater innovations, new gaming laptops, new soundbars, and so, so much more.

Want to see more of what was announced at CES? Check out their website! Did you watch the conference at all this year? Tell me what you're excited about!

Berlin startup company, Wonder, raises $11 million for new video conferencing program

Wonder offers a unique approach to online meetings by allowing people to wander and join "groups"

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 by Tatiora | Discussion: Personal Computing

An image taken from Wonder's website showing off their new app

There is no substitute for organic mingling and in-person interaction. Planned calls on Zoom or Teams isn't the same as mingling with your friends or coworkers at a social event, no matter which way you slice it, but Wonder, a Berlin startup, has built a platform for people to come together in video-based groups.

How is this any different from Zoom, Teams, or the multitude of other video chat options there are out there now? This new program replaces the traditional video conference with something a little more unique. With it, users can meet up, network, and collaborate, all while maintaining a "bird's eye" view of a larger space where they can more intentionally interact with others, somewhat similar to an office or business venue.

While other conference apps dominate the market right now as many of us turn to remote work, Wonder's new program fills a gap that is sorely lacking in the other apps' overall experiences. Particularly, it addresses what's missing from being in physical spaces with other people. 

Wonder is built around the idea of a "shared space" that you enter. You get a single window where you can "see" from an aerial view all of the other people whoa re in the same space and in areas of that space where they might cluster together. The clusters can be designed around a specific interest relevant to the people gathering (for example, if it's a company, you can have separate clusters for marketing and for HR). If the product is being used at a career fair, each "cluster" can represent a different organization participating in recruiting and interviewing. 

Users can move around all of the clusters - or start their own - or sit in the margins with another person. When you come together to interact, you can join in a video chat. You can move your icon around the room by clicking and dragging, which will let you join into groups that are already chatting or having discussions. If you need to have a private meeting, you can make your cluster private, as if you were in a physical meeting room. The overall intended effect is that, without actually being in a physical space, you get this sense of a collective group of people in motion.

Wonder announced on Monday that it has raised $11 million for this endeavor in a substantial seed round. The funding was led by European VC EQT Ventures, with BlueYard Capital also participating. Wonder has seen some impressive traction this year with over 200,000 monthly users from a diverse set of organizations, including Deloitte, NASA, Harvard, and others. The organizations are using Wonder's program for a variety of purposes anywhere from team collaboration to career fairs. 

According to co-founder Stephane Roux, Wonder will use their funding to add in more user-requested features and to hire more people for its team. Some of the features they are planning to implement includes sharing files and other technical services. Wonder is currently free to use, and will be until sometime in 2021.

What do you think of this? Does it sound like something you'd prefer to use either at work or to mingle and communicate with larger groups of friends who don't live nearby? As someone who personally has lots of friends who live all over, I'll admit that I'm rather intrigued.

Share your thoughts with me!