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England and Wales COVID-19 contact tracing app launches
by Paul Hill
The COVID-19 contact tracing app has finally launched in England and Wales. The new app is based on the Google and Apple API which is decentralised and offers a high degree of privacy that doesn’t require users to register an account.
To use the app, you must be using a device running Android 6.0+ or iOS 13.5+ that supports Bluetooth 4.0+. Additionally, you must be aged 16 or over to use the app – this has been reduced from 18+ which was the age requirement during the trials.
The new app comes with several features, immediately when you begin using it you’re asked to provide the first half of your postcode, this will tell you how high the COVID-19 risk is in your area and provides you with advice based on this. In the background, the app will use Bluetooth to keep a log of all the other devices it comes into contact with and if any of their owners report a positive COVID-19 test, you’ll be asked to isolate for a week.
In addition to Bluetooth logs, the app allows you to check-in at venues. Businesses will display QR codes that you can scan, if there are reported cases at the venue at the time you were there you’ll be notified. It's important to note that you only have to check-in, the system will automatically check you out after a certain period.
Other features in the app include a symptom checker, a link to read the latest government advice, and a section to enter your COVID-19 test result. If you enter a positive result, people who you’ve come into contact with will be notified to isolate but your identity will remain private.
According to BBC News, users that ignore the app’s self-isolation warning are in theory liable to be fined. However, because the app is anonymous, the fines will be impossible to enforce should you choose to ignore them. If you feel you cannot afford to self-isolate, be sure to check the government website for any financial assistance you may be able to claim.
People living in England and Wales ought to feel reassured about their privacy. In the first iteration of the app, the government was using a centralised model that offered less privacy. This was eventually dropped due to technical limitations. The only personal information that users will enter into the new app is the first half of their postcode.
You can download the app from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store now.
Gallery: NHS COVID-19 Contact Tracing app
By Abhay V
Pixel users are reporting issues with accessing the recent apps screen on Android 11
by Abhay Venkatesh
Google began rolling out Android 11 to all supported Pixel phones on September 8, bringing a bunch of new features such as message bubbles, notifications improvements, Pixel-specific additions such as Live View and Location Sharing in Maps, and much more. However, a few Pixel users that upgraded to Android 11 have begun reporting issues with the recent apps view.
The issue is with the phone not responding as expected to the swipe up gesture to navigate to the task switcher. In some cases, the screen freezes for a few seconds before responding, while in others, users see a blank screen. We can confirm the lag, as one of our devices too exhibits the issue where the screen takes a brief pause before opening the recent apps screen. There are multiple other reports on Reddit that suggest that more users are seeing the delay. Users in another Reddit thread could get the recent apps view to work by restarting their devices, but it seems to be a hit and miss.
Pixel owners have also taken to Google’s support forums to highlight the issue. The problem seems to be affecting people with Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 phones. The poster adds that they are unable to scroll between open apps or force shut apps without heading into the settings. While the issue does seem to be sporadic, more reports have begun flowing in the last couple of days. Another forum post entry suggested that booting into and out of safe mode fixed the issue.
While Google is yet to acknowledge the issue, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the forums to see if more users begin reporting the problem.
Are you experiencing issues or slowdowns when accessing the recent apps menu? Let us know in the comments below!
By Rich Woods
Microsoft will have more Xbox Series X and S consoles at launch
by Rich Woods
Yesterday, after a long wait, pre-orders went live for the Xbox Series X and the lower-powered Xbox Series S. As you can probably imagine, both consoles were sold out pretty quickly. If you still want one on day one, don't worry, as you'll still get a chance.
Microsoft confirmed via Twitter that retailers will have additional units available on launch day. It's not surprising, as it's common for companies with popular products to want to offer an in-store experience to fans that want one. For example, Apple's iPhones tend to sell out on day one, but it always has a stock in Apple Stores for those camping out overnight to be one of the first with the new smartphone.
Another thing the company said was to sign up with retailers for updates. This implies that there will be additional units coming in stock for pre-orders. But of course, you'll want to stay on top of it. Sign up with as many retailers as you can, and when someone says that it has the model you want, act fast.
As noted in the tweet, the next-generation Xbox consoles are set to arrive on November 10.
By Abhay V
Google brings Flutter to Windows in Alpha form, aims to add UWP support soon
by Abhay Venkatesh
Just a day after popular Apple-developed programming language Swift made it to Windows, Google has announced that it is bringing Flutter – its open-source, cross-platform framework – to Windows in Alpha form. The search giant has been working to bring the development platform to Windows for some time and there has even been a technical preview since June. The Alpha is supported on Windows 7 and newer.
Flutter provides developers the ability to reuse code when building apps for multiple platforms while also leveraging the native capabilities of each platform. The Mountain View giant says that as per its own statistics, more than half of Flutter developers use Windows and that the addition of support for native desktop elements and APIs further expands the reach of the cross-platform framework.
While the platform began with touch-based OSes like iOS and Android, it has added support for other input methods such as keyboards, mice, and more, while also adapting for larger screen sizes. This also includes support for plugins that work in unison with native code, bringing more capabilities to apps developed using the framework. The list of added components for the alpha version includes:
The company has also created sample apps for developers to reference, which can be downloaded from GitHub here. Interested users can also head here to read more about how the app was built. The firm has also updated the Flutter Gallery app with support for desktop platforms to exhibit the prowess of the framework. The Flutter SDK can be downloaded from here. Google also recommends that developers read the additional requirements here and has provided a detailed document on getting started in its blog post.
The firm has also created a few plugins, such as the URL launcher for launching URLs in the browser from Flutter apps, and more. Developers can also build their own plugins for Windows. There are various other resources that have been listed in the document here.
With the Alpha release now out, Google says that it is working towards “completing the feature set and stabilizing the product for release”. It is working to improve “accessibility, globalization and localization, enhanced keyboard and text handling, support for command line arguments, and more”.
In addition to supporting Win32 APIs, the company said that it is also working to bring a UWP version of the Flutter shell to add support for platforms such as Xbox and Windows 10X. It has also released a UWP version of the Flutter Gallery app in the Microsoft Store as a proof of concept.
Here's what's fixed, improved, and still broken in Windows 10 build 20221
by João Carrasqueira
A new Wednesday is upon us, and of course, that means it's time for a new Windows 10 build for Insiders enrolled in the Dev channel, which used to be called the Fast ring. Microsoft has just released build 20221, and it only comes with a new Meet Now feature.
In addition to the new feature, there are some smaller changes in this release. For example, Microsoft has removed the People app from the Start menu, and you can only access it through Mail and Calendar.
Naturally, the build also comes with a list of bug fixes that should also make the experience better, including a fix for Windows Update while downloading updates. Here's the full list:
And, of course, it wouldn't be a Windows 10 build without some known issues, and build 20221 has a sizeable serving of them. While updates won't get stuck in the "downloading" state anymore, build upgrades can still take a while. Here's the full list of issues:
As usual, it's worth keeping in mind that these builds are in the vNext development branch, and they're not tied to a specific public release of Windows 10. New features that get added for Insiders may take a while to make their way to the general public.