Brian Fagioli

Apple helps screen for Coronavirus (COVID-19) with iPhone app and website

Are you sick of hearing about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)? Yeah, me too. Fatigue is definitely setting in. Quite frankly, I'd be happy to no longer cover anything related to it on BetaNews. And yet, we must, as it is important that we are all educated on the subject. Many people are getting sick, and even worse, some are actually dying.

Unfortunately, here in the USA, testing for the disease has been woefully deficient. We are behind many other countries, such a China and South Korea, in this regard. Many people don't know how to get tested, where to get tested, or even if they should get tested. Making matters worse, you could be infected yet asymptomatic and contagious. Today, Apple announces it is trying to help regarding this, as the company launches a special app and website for COVID-19 screening. Even the much-maligned Siri voice assistant is getting in on the action. And yes, it is all based on official CDC guidance.

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KINGMAX unveils insanely fast PX4480 M.2 2280 NVMe PCIe Gen4x4 SSD

All solid state drives are fast -- when compared to a mechanical hard drive, at least. With that said, not all SSDs are created equally. SATA based SSDs are the slowest of the bunch, with PCIe-based drives being the fastest. Of course, there are different generations of PCIe that have gotten continually faster. Currently, consumers have access to some computers and motherboards with PCIe Gen 4.0.

If you have a newer computer with PCIe Gen 4.0, congratulations -- you have a nice rig. If your SSD isn't PCIe Gen 4.0, however, you might be missing out on some potential speed. There aren't many of those drives on the market, but today, one more is unveiled. Called "PX4480," this new SSD from KINGMAX is insanely fast, making SATA SSDs look like straight trash!

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Google Podcasts comes to iOS, and it’s really good

Podcasts are wildly popular these days, and it is not hard to see why. If you can think of a topic, there is probably a podcast about it! For instance, the coronavirus is the hot subject of the moment, and there are countless shows dedicated to that pandemic. If you want a distraction from the virus, however, you can listen to podcasts that cover sports, news, cooking, and more.

Just as there are many podcasts, there are also many podcast apps too. If you are an iPhone user, for instance, you can use Apple’s stock podcast app or head to the App Store to download a third-party option. Now, iPhone users are getting yet another option. You see, Google has long had a podcast app for Android, and the company recently redesigned it. Now, the search-giant is bringing the newly refreshed app to iOS.

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Bodhi Linux 5.1.0 now available

There are many Linux distributions nowadays. Some are unique, but many are largely repetitive and probably don't need to exist. One Linux-based operating system that manages to stand out is Bodhi, thanks to its use of the Moksha desktop environment.

If you aren't familiar with Bodhi, please know it is a lightweight operating system that is based on the great Ubuntu. Today, Bodhi 5.1.0 becomes available. This new version is significant, as it is the first release since development leadership was changed last year.

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HyperX unveils Cloud Alpha S Blackout headset for gaming and work from home

Black is beautiful. And so, HyperX is releasing a new variant of its popular Cloud Alpha S headset in that color. Well, technically black isn't a color, but a total absence of it, but I digress. Called "Cloud Alpha S Blackout," it is entirely black, giving it a very cool look. This is much appreciated, as not all gamers want a colorful product that looks like it is designed for millennials or gen-z.

This Blackout variant is subtle and classy. It wouldn't look out of place in a business setting. In fact, with so many people doing the "work from home" thing these days, HyperX even suggests using it for remote work and video conferencing.

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Google will lower YouTube video quality worldwide due to Coronavirus -- here's how to get around that

YouTube and popcorn

With so many people self-isolating due to the Coronavirus, the internet is getting hammered. No, people are not learning new things en masse on Wikipedia. Instead, they are doing exactly what you'd expect -- watching streaming video from services like Netflix. Look, there is nothing wrong with enjoying a little entertainment -- especially when it can take your mind off a global pandemic. The problem, unfortunately, is that high definition and 4K video use up a lot of bandwidth.

You see, if enough people watch high-quality video all at once, the internet could slow down and become unusable. And so, in some parts of the world, such as Europe, services like YouTube and Netflix are providing lower-quality video streams (480p) to reduce the overall impact on the internet. Sadly, Google has now decided to do this globally with YouTube -- including in the USA -- for at least a month. Ugh. Thankfully, there is an easy way to get around that.

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Plugable USBC-E2500 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet adapter now available for work from home and remote access needs

Back in January, we told you about an exciting new product from Plugable. Called "USBC-E2500," it is a 2.5 Gigabit USB-C Ethernet adapter. What makes it particularly cool is that while it is USB-C, it comes with an attached USB-C to USB-A adapter, meaning it is very versatile. Such a product is quite timely with so many people working from home nowadays due to COVID-19. After all, hardwired Ethernet is ideal for an optimal connection when connecting remotely.

Sadly, many laptops don't have Ethernet ports these days. By having both USB-C and USB-A, USBC-E2500 is guaranteed to work with any Windows 10 or macOS computer. In fact, it will even work with Linux. Best of all, you get 2.5 Gigabit rather than standard Gigabit. Even if you don't have the need for 2.5G today, it may come in handy tomorrow.

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System76 Lemur Pro is an Ubuntu Linux workhorse laptop

System76 sells a lot of different types of computers, including desktops, laptops, and servers -- all come pre-loaded with either Ubuntu or the Ubuntu-based Pop!_OS Linux distributions. While the company's hand-crafted Thelio desktops are probably its most exciting machines, the majority of consumers are probably better served by a laptop. Let's be honest, while hardcore power users and gamers will certainly want a desktop, notebooks are more functional for the average computer user, as it allows them to easily work in different locations.

With all of that said, System76 has several laptop models, ranging from under $1,000 for, say, the fairly basic "Galago Pro," to well over $2,000 for the high-end "Adder WS" portable workstation. In other words, there are many models to meet the needs of many -- including both budget and power perspectives.

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Google provides FREE YouTube Premium to T-Mobile customers in self-isolation

Free

The COVID-19 Coronavirus is undoubtedly a bad thing. However, there are some good things to come from the tragedy. Companies are stepping up to accommodate the needs of customers. For instance, some insurance companies are temporarily not canceling policies for non-payment, while some restaurants are offering free food delivery. From an entertainment perspective, Disney+ released Frozen 2 early, while some streaming services such as Sling TV, are offering some totally free content.

Today, Google and T-Mobile announce a really nice promotion to help some folks bored at home in self-isolation due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Starting tomorrow, T-Mobile customers can score two free months of YouTube Premium. This is a part of the carrier's famed "T-Mobile Tuesdays" where it provides weekly perks to its customers. YouTube Premium not only includes an ad-free YouTube experience, but access to the YouTube Music streaming service too. Yes, while you are stuck indoors due to the COVID-19 virus, you can enjoy truly unlimited music!

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ProGrade Digital unveils Thunderbolt 3 CFexpress+XQD reader and USB-C Dual-Slot CFexpress+SDXC reader

For most home consumers, when you need to read a card from your camera, you just insert it into the reader on your laptop. This is typically an SD card reader, although many newer computers are doing away with them. Instead, you must purchase a USB reader -- they are plentiful on sites like Amazon, and very inexpensive too. But what if you are a professional photographer? Well, then -- you might not be using SD card at all. Instead, you could be using CFexpress or XQD.

The company ProGrade Digital has a new card reader that is sure to excite professional photographers. The "PG04," as it is called reads both CFexpress and XQD cards using the super-fast Thunderbolt 3 connection. For those not yet using TB3, the company also releases the PG05.5 -- a USB-C reader for both CFexpress and SDXC.

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Donald Trump's White House launches Coronavirus (COVID-19) Roku channel

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is everywhere -- both figuratively and literally. The virus is on all of Earth's continents (with the exception of Antarctica), and it is also dominating the media. Quite frankly, it is hard to turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or surf the web without being bombarded with gloomy virus news.

With all of that said, the last thing we need is a TV channel dedicated to Coronavirus, but here we are. Actually, this one is rather good, as it is an official Roku channel from The White House. Regardless of how you feel about President Donald Trump, it is undeniably beneficial to have access to Coronavirus information coming from the US Government directly -- without added opinion from the left or right on MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News.

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Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) 4 'Debbie' is here, but you don't want it

Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) 4 "Debbie" has finally exited Beta and is ready for download. Exciting stuff, right? I suppose. The thing is, you probably don't want it.

Don't get me wrong, LMDE isn't really a bad operating system, but it isn't intended for widespread use. Most people should use "regular" Linux Mint, which is based on Ubuntu. This Debian variant is really just a backup distribution (a contingency plan) in case Canonical ever stops developing Ubuntu -- something that hopefully won't happen anytime soon. With all of that said, some people do run LMDE as their daily operating system for some reason.

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MacBook Air (2020) is the Apple laptop most folks should buy

Some people love Windows, while others prefer Mac. There are even some wacky folks (such as yours truly) that enjoy using Linux. Hey, you should use whatever makes you happy. Believe it or not, macOS is quite good -- it is a joy to use and absolutely beautiful. Of course, the big problem with Apple computers -- other than their notoriously unreliable keyboards, lately -- is they are wildly expensive. And so, consumers that desire owning a Mac are often unable to realize that dream. True, there is the affordable Mac mini, but it hasn't received a meaningful update since 2018. The base model mini is woefully under-powered too.

Well, Apple has finally done something right with the MacBook line. You see, the company has released the all-new MacBook Air (2020) and it seems to be rather impressive. Long gone is the much-maligned butterfly keyboard, as this new Mac uses traditional scissor switches for the keys -- the same as the 16-inch MacBook Pro. In other words, the keyboard should prove to be more reliable and durable. Best of all, the price starts at a mere $999 ($899 with an education discount -- wink, wink), making it the new "Everyman's Mac." That price gets you an impossibly thin laptop with an enormous trackpad, T2 Security Chip, Touch ID, Thunderbolt 3, more storage capacity (NVMe SSD starting at 256GB), speedy 3733MHz LPDDR4X RAM, and of course, Apple's legendary Retina display.

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Logitech Combo Touch Case for iPad has detachable keyboard and integrated trackpad

Earlier today, Apple shocked the world with its newest iPad Pro. While that tablet is very nice, it was an accessory for it that caused true excitement. You see, the all new Magic Keyboard has an integrated trackpad, meaning the iPad can do double duty as a tablet and a laptop. It's like a Microsoft Surface, only much better. Unfortunately, both the new iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard are quite expensive, making the combo nothing more than a dream for many consumers.

Thankfully, this trackpad support is not limited to any specific iPad, meaning it can work with a non-Pro model too. In fact, any iPad that gets the upgrade to iPadOS 13.4 will also get the compatibility. If you are someone like me that owns a meager 7th generation iPad (which will get iPadOS 13.4), I have some really great news -- Logitech has announced a keyboard case with trackpad that works with the lower-end Apple tablet. Called "Combo Touch Case," it isn't just compatible with the the 7th-gen iPad -- there is also a model for the older iPad Pro 10.5 and the 3rd-gen iPad Air. The keyboard is detachable too, offering a more comfortable experience when using the iPad as a tablet. There is even a holder for the first-generation iPad Pencil. Best of all, it will protect against drops and bumps.

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Apple unveils iPad Pro with trackpad support, signaling eventual death of Mac

Today, Apple announced the death of the Mac. Well, sort of. Actually, the company released an all-new iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard with a trackpad. In other words, the iPad is finally an official laptop. No longer must you touch the screen when using a keyboard -- you now have an official trackpad that can manipulate the interface with an on-screen pointer.  Yes, iPad has finally reached its apex, becoming the thing consumers have been clamoring for. Let's be honest, most home consumers would be better served by an iPad Pro and this new keyboard than they would with a Mac.

Keyboard and trackpad aside, this looks to be the best iPad ever. Apple promises that the A12Z Bionic chip is so powerful, that the new iPad pro is actually faster than most Windows laptops! The  Liquid Retina display can achieve an insane 120 Hz refresh -- adjustable to conserve battery. It even gains an ultra-wide camera and five studio-grade microphones, making the iPad pro an even better tool for photographers and other creators. Most exciting, however, is the new LiDAR Scanner.

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