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Tech Review: Apps to make your virtual Thanksgiving a hit

The Houseparty app allows users to play trivia

The Houseparty app allows users to play trivia and card games against each other online. Credit: Newsday/Life on Air

Thanksgiving 2020 is going to be very different. Because of the pandemic, many will avoid large gatherings and instead celebrate with a limited number of family and friends. But thanks to technology, you can still have a large gathering online. These apps can make a virtual Thanksgiving a success.

Zoom Cloud Meetings

(iOS, Android; free)

Since many of us have been Zooming during the winter, spring and summer, a Zoom get-together for the autumn feast almost seems normal. News to be thankful for: Zoom is lifting its 40-minute meeting limit on its free tier on Thanksgiving Day, so cousin Al won’t have to hurry his long, boring but traditional Turkey Day stories. Whoever is going to be the organizer must email a link to the meeting to all participants.

Skype

(iOS, Android; free)

One of the oldest online phone apps, Skype began in 2003, and many people in your virtual Thanksgiving may be familiar with the app. Now owned by Microsoft, Skype has grown from a one-on-one phone app to add full-fledged high-definition video conferencing, where you can gather up to 24 people. Make sure everyone in your group has everyone else as a Skype contact so you can easily enjoy a mealtime conversation.

My Recipe Box

(iOS, Android; free)

For traditional Thanksgiving feasts, everyone contributes their specialties, whether it’s appetizers, side dishes, the main course, or desserts. But this year, it’s all up to you. This app will help you find and collect recipes from websites, so you can build a Thanksgiving cookbook. It’s excellent for a virtual Thanksgiving because you can also share your recipes.

Houseparty

(iOS, Android; free)

While you might not be able to share food this year, you can still share fun. Houseparty allows users to play trivia and card games against each other online. It’s a "closed" social network, meaning only a circle of friends can participate in a single session. Only eight participants can play at a time, but the rest of the people at the gathering can look on and kibitz.

Back to the office backing off

Workers are returning to offices, but the numbers are not high and they may have already hit a peak. Kastle Systems, which analyzes office occupancy with its Back to Work Barometer, says offices in 10 major cities were at 25.1 percent occupancy as of Nov. 4, down from 27.1 the week before. New York City metro, which includes Long Island, was at 13.1 percent occupancy, down from 16.9 percent.

— PETER KING

Google Maps adds COVID-19 data

Google has added a “COVID layer” to its Android and iOS Google Maps app with data on how fast coronavirus is spreading in an area. To access the information, press the layers button on the upper right-hand side of a map and select COVID-19 info. You will see a seven-day average of cases per 10,000 people and an arrow indicating whether cases are trending higher or lower.

— PETER KING

Flight risk

Airliners carry a variety of computer systems that could become vulnerable to hackers and U.S. regulators haven’t imposed adequate counter measures, a government watchdog report concluded. The Government Accountability Office said the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t prioritized cyber-risks, developed a cybersecurity training program or conducted testing of potentially vulnerable systems, which “could lead to increasing risks for future flight safety.”

– BLOOMBERG NEWS

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