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Virgin Media announces huge shake-up of TV and broadband bundles



The Virgin Media big bundle comprises all the company’s products (Virgin Media)

Virgin Media customers may still be reeling from last week’s unexpected outage, but the company has some big news to share this morning.

The internet provider is shaking up its various bundles and introducing some new plans to give customers more choice over their broadband, TV and phone packages.

For starters, contracts will now be offered for up to 18 months, as opposed to six or 12 months. This means that customers can lock-in discounts for longer if they’re prepared to commit to extra time.

For example, the Virgin Media M100 broadband-only offer costs £28 per month on the new 18-month contract (for a limited time only, we hasten to add). It’s currently listed at £29 per month for 12 months and then £49 each month after that. Meaning that if you ran it for 18 months you’d be paying £642 over 18 months compared with £504 if you signed up for 18 months from the start.

Moving on to the bundles themselves and Virgin Media says that it’s introducing some savings for those wanting extra content. The company’s ‘Bigger Sports’ and ‘Bigger Sports and Movie’ bundles will now both include Sky Sports channels in High Definition at no extra cost – a bonus that’s usually priced at £7 per month and therefore worth £126 on an 18 month contract.

The Bigger Sports bundle costs £65 per month and includes 213Mbps broadband and Sky Sports and BT Sport. Bigger Sports and Movies costs £79 per month and also includes 213Mbps broadband, the sports channels as well as Sky Cinema HD.

The move could help parents occupy some of their kids time during the lockdown (Virgin Media)

There are a lot of different bundles out there (Virgin Media)

‘We’re adding the racing stripes to our entire bundle line-up by making our M500 Fibre broadband available with all of our packages,’ said Jeff Dodds, Virgin Media’s Chief Operating Officer.

‘It means our customers can live life in the fast lane and do everything they want online. Whether that’s streaming Spotify, binging a box set in 4K, gearing up for an epic gaming session or joining a work Zoom call – with our incredible connectivity you can do it all in the same home at the same time.’

Elsewhere, the company’s ‘Oomph’ bundles take advantage of its various different services. It may have a stupid name, but it’s a way to mix home broadband with a mobile SIM. The company says that from £8 extra per month, a customer can take a SIM and boosted broadband speeds – which are faster than those included as standard in Virgin Media’s cable bundles.

All Virgin Media’s SIMs come with unlimited texts and minutes, so you just have to decide on the amount of data you’re going to use.

Virgin Media also offers a range of SIM contracts (Newscast/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Virgin Media also offers a range of SIM contracts (Newscast/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Virgin Media says it is making customisation cheaper for those on bundles from now on.

It has something called ‘Personal Picks’ which let customers cherry-pick the kind of TV they want. If you’re on a ‘Big’ bundle you could previously add channel packs starting at £10 with each subsequent pick costing £7. Those prices are being dropped to £7 initially and £5 for every one after that.

Picks – which include drama, entertainment, documentaries and sport – can be added instantly to bundles and removed with 30 days’ notice.

Existing customers

Existing customers can also take advantage of some new deals (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Internet service providers are notorious for wooing new customers and largely ignoring ongoing patrons. So it’s nice that Virgin is making some changes to benefit existing customers as well.

The company says anyone who’s on the top-tier bundle called… *eye roll*… ‘Ultimate Oomph’ (which includes two Virgin TV V6 set-top boxes with 265 TV channels, including Sky Sports HD, Sky Cinema HD and BT Sport Ultimate, plus a SIM with unlimited data and inclusive anytime home phone calls) will get even faster broadband and see their speed upgraded from M500 broadband to M600 broadband at no extra cost when the speed tier becomes available.

In addition, Virgin Media says it’s boosting the mobile data allowance for existing customers with an Oomph bundle at no extra cost.

Customers with either 2GB, 5GB or 15GB of mobile data can more than double their data allowance by moving to the equivalent SIM in the new bundle line-up without needing to re-contract. 

A customer can get in touch with Virgin Media and ask for the new mobile data allowance to be added to their bundle.

Virgin Media's new updated Oomph data allowances (Virgin Media)

Virgin Media’s new updated Oomph data allowances (Virgin Media)

‘With our Oomph bundles you get the best of both worlds: unrivalled ultrafast connectivity for when you’re at home, and do-it-all SIMs so you can stream, scroll, TikTok and talk with all the data you need,’ Dodds said.

‘Plus, with our Service Promise, you’ve got the peace of mind that you can always stay online and connected to everything you love, even if there’s a hiccup with your connection.’

All this combined news means that Virgin Media customers will have some wiggle room to get a better deal on their service and available content. As ever though, the challenge remains keeping the service up and running at all times – something all utilities companies have to content with and something Virgin doesn’t have a great track record with.

‘Our most recent survey showed Virgin Media customers were significantly more likely to have experienced a major connection outage in the past year than customers of other major broadband providers – with one in six affected,’ Natalie Hitchins, the head of Home Products and Services at consumer group Which? said following last week’s outage.

‘The company must up its game and anyone unhappy with their broadband should consider switching to another provider.’

Hopefully for Virgin Media, today’s announcements will be enough to assuage anyone thinking of opting for another provider.

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Keyboard Shortcuts for Calendar, Reminders, and Notes on Mac



If you’re a Mac user looking for a simple and effective day planner, consider this trio of native macOS apps: Calendar, Reminders, and Notes.

Once you set up these apps to your liking, you have a fuss-free system to manage your schedule, tasks, and notes. Plus, if you learn how to control them with keyboard shortcuts, so much the better. And what’s more, you can discover various useful keyboard shortcuts for these macOS productivity apps in the cheat sheet below.

The cheat sheet contains shortcuts for navigation and search, view management, formatting, and more in Calendar, Reminders, and Notes.

FREE DOWNLOAD: This cheat sheet is available as a downloadable PDF from our distribution partner, TradePub. You will have to complete a short form to access it for the first time only. Download Keyboard Shortcuts for Calendar, Reminders, and Notes on Mac.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Calendar, Reminders, and Notes on Mac

Cmd + N Add new event
Option + Cmd + N Add new calendar
Shift + Cmd + N Add new calendar group
Option + Cmd + S Add new calendar subscription
Cmd + F Highlight search box to search for events
Cmd + 1 Switch to Day view
Cmd + 2 Switch to Week view
Cmd + 3 Switch to Month view
Cmd + 4 Switch to Year view
Cmd + Right Arrow Go to next day, week, month, or year
Cmd + Left Arrow Go to previous day, week, month, or year
Cmd + T Switch to today’s date
Shift + Cmd + T Open popup for switching to specific date
Cmd + + (Plus) Increase text size
Cmd + – (Minus) Decrease text size
Cmd + R Refresh all calendars
Cmd + E Edit selected event
Esc (when event is open) Close event editor without saving changes
Return (when event is open) Commit changes to event and close event editor
Cmd + I Show Info popup for selected event(s)
¹Option + Cmd + I Show Inspector popup for selected event
Arrow Keys Select event (if available) in adjacent row/column in relevant direction
Control + Option + Up Arrow Day/Week View: Move selected event 15 minutes earlier
Month View: Move selected event one week earlier
Control + Option + Down Arrow Day/Week View: Move selected event 15 minutes later
Month View: Move selected event one week later
Control + Option + Right Arrow Day/Week/Month View: Move selected event one day later
Control + Option + Left Arrow Day/Week/Month View: Move selected event one day earlier
Shift + Cmd + A Toggle Availability panel
Cmd + N Create new reminder
Shift + Cmd + N Create new list
²Cmd + ] Indent reminder to create subtask
²Cmd + [ Outdent reminder
Cmd + E Show all subtasks
Shift + Cmd + E Hide all subtasks
³Cmd + I Show Info popup for selected reminder
Cmd + F Highlight search box to search for reminders
²Shift + Cmd + F Set/clear flag for selected reminder(s)
Control + Cmd + S Toggle sidebar
Cmd + N Create new note
Shift + Cmd + N Create new folder
Shift + Cmd + A Open dialog for attaching file
Cmd + K Create link
Cmd + F Highlight search box to search current note
Cmd + G Highlight next search result in current note
Shift + Cmd + G Highlight previous search result in current note
Option + Cmd + F Highlight search box to search all notes
Shift + Cmd + T Apply Title format
Shift + Cmd + H Apply Heading format
Shift + Cmd + J Apply Subheading format
Shift + Cmd + B Apply Body format
Shift + Cmd + M Apply Monospaced format
Shift + Cmd + L Apply Checklist format
Shift + Cmd + U Mark selected checklist items as checked/unchecked
Control + Cmd + Up Arrow Move current list/checklist item up in list
Control + Cmd + Down Arrow Move current list/checklist item down in list
Cmd + B Emphasize selected text
Cmd + I Italicize selected text
Cmd + U Underline selected text
Cmd + + (Plus) Increase size of selected text
Cmd + – (Minus) Decrease size of selected text
Cmd + Shift + [ Align selected text flush left
Cmd + Shift + Center selected text
Cmd + Shift + ] Align selected text flush right
Cmd + [ Decrease indent level of selected content or line where cursor is placed
Cmd + ] Increase indent level of selected content or line where cursor is placed
Control + Return Add line break (soft return) to list/checklist item
Option + Tab Insert tab character in list item
Option + Cmd + C Copy style of selection
Option + Cmd + V Paste copied style to selection
Cmd + T Show Fonts window
Shift + Cmd + C Show Colors window
Option + Cmd + T Create table
⁴Return Move cursor to row below
Tab Move focus to next cell on right
Shift + Tab Move focus to next cell on left
Shift + Left/Right Arrow Select cells one by one in relevant direction current row
Shift + Up/Down Arrow Select cells one by one in relevant direction in current column
Option + Return Add new paragraph in current cell
Option + Tab Add tab character in current cell
Option + Cmd + Up Arrow Add new row above current row
Option + Cmd + Down Arrow Add new row below current row
Option + Cmd + Right Arrow Add new column to right of current column
Option + Cmd + Left Arrow Add new column to left of current column
Cmd + 0 Show main Notes window
Cmd + 1 Switch to List view for notes
Cmd + 2 Switch to Gallery view for notes
Cmd + 3 Switch to Attachments Browser
Return (when note is selected in List view or Gallery view) Open or switch focus to selected note to begin typing
Cmd + Return Open or switch focus from current note content to previous notes view i.e. List view or Gallery view
Option+ Cmd + S Toggle Folders sidebar
Shift + Cmd + . (Period) Zoom in on note content
Shift + Cmd + , (Comma) Zoom out of note content
Shift + Cmd + 0 Change note content to default size
⁵Cmd + A (When cursor is in table) Select content of active cell OR
Select table if active cell is empty
Common Shortcuts
Cmd + Z Undo previous action
Shift + Cmd + Z Reverse undo
Cmd + X Cut selected item
Cmd + C Copy selected item
Cmd + V Paste cut/copied item
Delete Delete selected item
Cmd + A Select all items
Cmd + P Open Print dialog
Cmd + , (Comma) Open app preferences
Control + Cmd + F Toggle Full Screen mode
Cmd + M Minimize window
Option + Cmd + M Minimize all windows of current app
⁶Cmd + W Close current window
Option + Cmd + W Close all windows of current app
Cmd + H Hide current app
Option + Cmd + H Hide all apps except current app
Cmd + Q Quit app
¹Shortcut does not work with multiple events, but if you switch between events when Inspector is active, its contents are updated accordingly.

²Shortcut may not be available if iCloud is not enabled.

³If multiple reminders are selected, Info popup for last selected reminder is displayed.

⁴If cursor is in last row, shortcut adds new row to table.

⁵When active cell is populated, press shortcut twice to select table.

⁶In Reminders and Notes, shortcut quits app after closing window.

Bullet Journaling With Mac Productivity Apps

The default productivity apps on macOS are not only easy to use, but also quite flexible. You can use them to bring offline note-taking methods online. For example, you can create a Bullet Journal on your Mac with Calendar, Reminders, or Notes.

Image Credit: Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Read the full article: Keyboard Shortcuts for Calendar, Reminders, and Notes on Mac

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If the coronavirus is really airborne, we might be fighting it the wrong way



This was the week airborne transmission became a big deal in the public discussion about covid-19. Over 200 scientists from around the world cosigned a letter to the World Health Organization urging it to take seriously the growing evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through the air. WHO stopped short of redefining SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes covid-19) as airborne but did acknowledge that more research is “urgently needed to investigate such instances and assess their significance for transmission of COVID-19.”

“I honestly don’t know what people are waiting for,” says microbiologist Chad Roy of Tulane University in the US. “It doesn’t take WHO coming out to make a proclamation that it’s airborne for us to appreciate this is an airborne disease. I don’t know how much clearer it needs to be in terms of scientific evidence.” 

So what does “airborne” really mean in this context? It’s basically an issue of size. We’re pretty sure that SARS-CoV-2 is spread through tiny droplets that contain viral particles capable of leading to an infection. For a virus to be airborne, however, means a few different things, depending on the expert you’re talking to. Typically it means it can spread via inhalation over long distances, perhaps even through different rooms, of small particles known as aerosols.

“That’s why when you ask some of the professionals if the virus is airborne, they’ll say it’s not, because we’re not seeing transmission over those sorts of distances,” says Lisa Brosseau, a retired professor of public health who still consults for businesses and organizations.

There is also some debate on what we mean by “aerosol.” The droplets that carry viral particles through the air can come in all sorts of sizes, but while the larger ones will drop quickly to the ground or other surfaces, the smaller ones (just a few microns across) can linger in the air for a while, giving them a chance to be inhaled. The word is mostly used to describe these smaller particles, although Brosseau would prefer the term “aerosol transmission” to cover the entire gamut of inhalable viral particles being expelled into the air—large and small alike. 

If SARS-CoV-2 is airborne, it’s far from the only disease. Measles is notorious for being able to last in the air for up to two hours. Tuberculosis, though a bacterium, can be airborne for six hours, and Brosseau suggests that coronavirus superspreaders (people who seem to eject a larger amount of the virus than others) disseminate the virus in patterns that recall the infectiousness of tuberculosis.

The evidence that this type of transmission is happening with SARS-CoV-2  arguably already exists. Several big studies point to airborne transmission of the virus as a major route for the spread of covid-19. Other studies have suggested the virus can remain in aerosolized droplets for hours. One new study led by Roy and his team at Tulane shows that infectious aerosolized particles of SARS-CoV-2 could actually linger in the air for up to 16 hours, and maintain infectivity much longer than MERS and SARS-CoV-1 (the other big coronaviruses to emerge this century). 

We still don’t know what gives SARS-CoV-2 this airborne edge. “But it may be one reason this is a pandemic, and not simply a small outbreak like any other coronavirus,” says Roy. 

How to stay safe

Whether the virus is airborne isn’t simply a scientific question. If it is, it could mean that in places where the virus has not been properly contained (e.g., the US), the economy needs to be reopened more slowly, under tighter regulations that reinforce current health practices as well as introducing improved ones. Our current tactics for stopping the spread won’t be enough.

Roy would like to see aggressive mandates on strict mask use for anyone leaving home. “This virus sheds like crazy,” he says. “Masking can do an incredible amount in breaking transmission. I think anything that can promote the use of masking, to stop the production of aerosols in the environment, would be helpful.” 

Brosseau, however, says that though masks can limit the spread of larger particles, they are less helpful for smaller ones, especially if they fit only loosely. “I wish we would stop relying on the idea that face coverings are going to solve everything and help flatten the curve,” she says. “It’s magical thinking—it’s not going to happen.” For masks to really make a difference, they would need to be worn all the time, even around family.

Brosseau does believe the evidence is trending toward the conclusion that airborne transmission is “the primary and possibly most important mode of transmission for SARS-CoV-2.” She says, “I think the amount of time and effort devoted to sanitizing every single surface over and over and over again has been a huge waste of time. We don’t need to worry so much about cleaning every single surface we touch.” Instead, the focus should be on other factors, like where we spend our time.

Crowded spaces

One of the biggest questions we still have about covid-19 is how much of a viral load is needed to cause infection. The answer changes if we think it is aerosols that we need to worry about. Smaller particles won’t carry as large a viral load as bigger ones, but because they can linger in the air for much longer, it may not matter—they’ll build up in larger concentrations and get distributed more widely the longer an infected person is around to expel aerosolized virus. 

The more people you have coming in and out of an indoor space, the more likely it is that someone who is infected will show up. The longer those infected individuals spend in that space, the higher the concentration of virus in the air over time. This is particularly bad news for spaces where people congregate for hours on end, like restaurants, bars, offices, classrooms, and churches. 

Airborne transmission doesn’t necessarily mean these places must stay closed (although that would be ideal). But wiping down surfaces with disinfectant, and having everyone wear masks, won’t be enough. To safely reopen, these spots will not just need to reduce the number of people allowed inside at any given moment; they will also need to reduce the amount of time those people spend there. Increasing social distancing beyond six feet would also help keep people safer. 

Ventilation needs to be a higher priority too. This is going to be a big problem for older buildings that usually have worse ventilation systems, and areas with a lot of those might need to remain closed for much longer. The impact of asymptomatic spread (transmission by people who don’t feel ill) and superspreaders only compounds the problem even further. But research conducted by the US Department of Homeland Security has shown that in the presence of UV light, aerosolized particles of the size the Tulane researchers studied would disappear in less than a minute. A number of businesses have begun deploying UV-armed robots to disinfect hospital rooms, shopping malls, stores, public transit stations, and more.

For many places, considerable delays in economic reopening might ultimately be the price of getting the virus under control. Otherwise the kind of thing that happened when a single open bar in Michigan led to an outbreak of more than 170 new cases could become commonplace. 

For Brosseau, the best strategy is simply to behave as we did in the early days of lockdown—stay home, and avoid coming into contact with anyone you don’t live with. And if you have to leave home, she says, “all I can say is spend as little time as possible in an enclosed space, in an area that’s well ventilated, with as few people as possible.”

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(Re)Making a ColecoVision



[Leaded Solder] found some ColecoVision game cartridges at a flea market, and like most of us would, thought, “I’ll build a ColecoVision console from scratch to play them!” Well, maybe most of us would think of that, but not actually do it. He did and you can read about the results in great detail since he wrote up two posts, one covering the design and one covering the construction.

The ColecoVision was a game console that famously could be expanded into a nice — for its day — personal computer. It even had a daisy wheel printer in that configuration. However, in either configuration, the game console was the brains of the operation. According to [Leaded Solder] the price of a unit in working order is high even though over 2 million were made because of several design problems that make them less likely to survive the decades. Rather than repair and modify an original unit, it was cheaper and much more educational to build new.

The design goal was to use composite video, a single power supply, and reduce the size of the board, mainly by using surface mount parts where possible. [Leaded Solder] admits he didn’t fully understand how address and data buses worked in a system like this when starting this project, and he documents what he learned and winds up with a pretty succinct summary of bus operation. We’d argue that the statement, “…only one chip on a bus is supposed to be enabled at a time…” is a little misleading, however. Two chips are enabled at a time, one writer and one reader. In addition, it isn’t uncommon to have several devices read at the same time (for example, some CPUs have two copies of each register). But that’s a nitpick, especially in the context of the Z80 CPU used here.

By the time the PCBs arrived, the total price tag was up to just over $68 Canadian. We remember scrambling EPROMS on circuit boards to make layout easier. After all, you don’t care that location 0 and 1 in your EPROM are actually in adjacent cells. You just care that when you ask for one, you get it. The ColecoVision apparently did the same thing with its video and audio chips. The data bus runs in reverse. That is the Z80’s D0 pin connects to D7 and D7 connects to D0. Unfortunately, the original PCB didn’t take that into account for the sound chip, so a new board revision solved that problem.

The posts are pretty blunt about mistakes made and maybe we can all learn a little from reading about them. For example, subtle differences in footprints caused several problems with the first two versions of the board. By the end, there were 6 spins of the board. Luckily, PC boards are cheaper than they used to be.

Even so, there are still some controller issues, but we have no doubt he’ll solve it and tell us about it when he does. If you’ve ever tackled a project of this size, you are probably all too familiar with the process of debugging a new board. But most of us don’t document it to this extent. If you ever wanted to watch over someone’s shoulder doing a new design like this, you’ll want to read these posts.

Maybe before making boards, a breadboard would have helped. The idea of converting a game console into a PC wasn’t just for the ColecoVision and Adam (the ColecoVision’s computer personality). There were some attempts to do the same with the popular Atari 2600.

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