PS2J 325 News – Shadow of Servers

Security PSA: Update your Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader software

  • There have been a bunch of new security threats patched recently, open up Reader or Acrobat and go to Help > Check Updates to make sure you have the latest version

Free games

  • PlayStation

    • Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (free 4K Cinematic Pack is also available)

      • 2017
      • Assassin’s Creed-style action RPG set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that has you continuing the story from Shadow of Mordor to forge a new ring of power and amass an army to fight Sauron, including an improved nemesis system that has you gathering followers and making lasting enemies
      • It initially had microtransactions and lootboxes, but they were removed about a year later.
      • There’s also a free 4k cinematic pack, and the DLC season pass is 80% off until the 21st
    • Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition

      • 2017 Metroidvania with some influences from the Soulsborne games, where you traverse an ancient plague-infested kingdom, fighting bosses and unlocking new abilities. It’s got great atmosphere and tight controls, and deaths aren’t overly punishing
      • Voidheart Edition is the 2018 port of the game to PS4 and Xbox One, including the four DLC packs
    • Bugsnax (PS5)

      • 2020
      • An indie adventure game where you explore a mysterious island and attempt to find and capture the titular half-bug-half-snack creatures, taking inspiration from Pokémon Snap, Ape Escape, Dark Cloud, and Viva Piñata
  • Xbox

    • Aragami: Shadow Edition

      • 2016
      • Action adventure stealth game with solid reviews where you take the role of Aragami, an assassin with supernatural abilities like teleporting between shadows
      • Shadow Edition includes the prequel Nightfall DLC
    • Maid of Sker

      • 2020
      • First person survival horror based on Welsh and British folklore, where it’s 1898 and you’ve been invited by your lover to uncover the mysteries of the Sker Hotel after she notices her family’s strange behaviour
    • Swimsanity

      • 2020
      • Multiplayer 2D underwater shooter with co-op and versus game modes, and both online and local play
    • Lego Indiana Jones

      • 2008
      • Lego-themed action adventure game that loosely follows the first three Indiana Jones films with the same kind of tweaks, humour, and classic drop in/out co-op play that characterizes Lego games
    • Full Spectrum Warrior

      • 2004
      • Squad-based real-time military tactics game where you’re commanding two fireteams to cover eachother and complete objectives
      • It was initially developed to be a simulator for the United States military in an experiment to leverage the original Xbox for training simulations, and then was retrofitted into a retail release with improved graphics and sound
  • Twitch

    • A Knight’s Quest

      • 2019
      • Action adventure game that puts you in the role of Rusty, a clumsy adventurer who accidentally sets about the end of the world. Solve mind-bending puzzles, fight challenging enemies, defeat huge bosses and platform your way through a fantastic open world.
    • Smoke and Sacrifice

      • 2018
      • Open-world narrative-driven RPG with hand-painted graphics that has you playing a mother forced to give up her son, adventuring into a grotesque underworld on a quest that will lead her to a darker truth
    • Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan

      • 2016
      • Action RPG that was successfully Kickstarted in 2015 and is based on African mythology, it has you playing a prince betrayed by your future brother-in-law and forging alliances to bring him down, with real-time brawler-style combat that has an emphasis on making combos to defeat enemies
    • Victor Vran Overkill Edition

      • 2017 port of the 2015 PC release
      • Action RPG resembling a Gothic-fantasy fairy tale where both magic and science have a place in the world, and it’s up to you to help the city of Zagoravia fight off a demon infestation of unknown origin
    • Lethis – Path of Progress

      • 2015
      • Old school 2D city builder set in a Victorian Steampunk universe called Lethis, that has you building and managing cities to provide resources for the inhabitants and make your citizens happy
    • Extreme Exorcism

      • 2015
      • “A paranormal platformer where every move you make comes back to haunt you”
      • 2D pixel platformer that has you jumping around and taking down ghosts with a deadly arsenal from rocket launchers to boomerangs, but at the end of each round a ghost appears and mimics your every move from the round before. The longer you survive the more extreme the game becomes
  • Epic Games

    • Dungeons 3

      • 2017
      • A combination dungeon builder and RTS, you’re tasked with creating an underground dungeon for creatures to live in as well as defending it against invading heroes from the world above. You can also send units out of the dungeon and take over areas of the world map, RTS style

Epic slApple fight

  • Plans are in place to get Fortnite back on iOS and iPadOS using Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service
    • Apparently Nvidia has developed a version of GeForce Now that works in Safari on Apple’s mobile devices, likely similar to what Microsoft’s xCloud and Amazon’s Luna cloud gaming services are aiming to use
  • Though there’s been no official announcement of the Safari launch, if this is true then GeForce Now will be the one and only way to play Fortnite on iPhones and iPads
    • I’d be curious to see what the details of this deal are, if Nvidia is getting the 30% cut now or if they’re just happy with the subscription cost for the service

Apple’s released a bunch of software this week

  • iOS 14.2 and iPadOS 14.2 are here with new emoji, wallpapers, bug fixes, and more
    • There’s a fantastic new accessibility feature included specifically for people with impaired vision, and it sounds like an amazing idea
      • The feature is called People Detection, in your accessibility settings under the Magnifier, and it uses augmented reality and machine learning to detect where people and objects are around you
      • Particularly well-suited for the LiDAR sensor in the 12 Pro, it can help blind or low vision users understand their surroundings better, such as knowing how many people are in line at a grocery store or where the end of a subway platform is
        • It can even tell you if you’re within six feet of another person
      • Users can set up a minimum distance for alerts, and receive feedback though vibrations or through their AirPods
        • People Detection is fully compatible with VoiceOver, Apple’s screen-reader tech
      • This seems really useful on the iPhone, but with rumours continuing to mount of eventual AR glasses from Apple this could be a gamechanger for people with vision problems
    • Intercom is here, letting you send and receive messages between HomePods
    • HomePods can now be connected to the Apple TV 4K for wireless surround sound and Dolby Atmos audio
    • Built-in Shazam music recognition can be launched from the Control Center
  • WatchOS 7.1 is out now, with improvements and fixes like notifications if your headphone volume could permanently affect your hearing, and a fix for issues some people were having with their watch not unlocking their Max as expected
    • They’ve also added ECG support for the Republic of Korea and Russia
  • macOS 10.15.7 Supplemental Update is available for download, improving the security of your Mac

Cloud gaming on the Nintendo Switch has come west with two new games for the device

  • Previously the Switch saw games like Phantasy Star Online 2, Resident Evil 7, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey playable through the cloud, but only in Japan
    • They were using the Taiwan-based Ubitus GameCloud service so they could run the technically demanding titles on the portable hardware of the Switch
  • Now they’re releasing Control and Hitman 3 on the service as well, this time including the rest of the world in the fun
    • The games need a <100MB install on the Switch, then they stream gameplay to and from the cloud using checkpoint saves in case you lose connectivity
    • Control Ultimate Edition – Cloud Version is out now and includes the base game and the first two expansions, The Foundation and AWE. It also includes the Expeditions end game mode, photo mode, and all of the additional updates since the release of the original.
      • According to early reports, thanks to the cloud infrastructure it can get up to 30fps with ray tracing and 60fps without
    • Hitman 3 – Cloud Version is the conclusion of the World of Assassination Trilogy. The game is expected to be released on Windows PC as an Epic Games Store exclusive in January 2021. No launch date for the Switch version was offered. Expect the final product to include plenty of sandbox locations to explore, and creative ways to bring down your assassination targets.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor will be losing online features, and thus the access to come achievements, on December 31st

  • The 2014 title will be losing:
    • The Nemesis Forge, which means players won’t be able to transfer their nemeses from Shadow of Mordor to Shadow of War
    • Vendetta missions and leaderboard
    • And WBPay will no longer be available, but the epic runs “Orc Hunter” and “Gravewalker” will automatically be given to all players
  • Those vendetta missions being removed means that there will be some achievements that it’s no longer possible to get, so if you want to 100% Shadow of Mordor you have till the end of the year

Apple has launched a new service program for AirPods Pro sound issues, which had many users hearing static or crackling noises as well as problems with Active Noise Cancellation

  • I experienced this myself multiple times in a row, with replacements thankfully being smooth and relatively painless through the mail
    • The biggest issue I saw was when I had the AirPods in my ears and then anything somewhat loud happened, either me clearing my throat or listening to loud audio
  • The issue may affect AirPods manufactured before October 2020 (so, basically all of them), so if you’re having issues it’s definitely worth reaching out to Apple Support and having them replaced

This Day In Gaming History

October 31 – 1997 – Diddy Kong Racing – N64

  • It’s an island takeover when the evil space wizard, Wizpig, discovers Tiger Island!
    • After the islands prized racetracks become sealed up, Timber Tiger contacts his friend Diddy Kong to help him reclaim the racetracks and save the island before his parents return.
    • Along for the ride are the Kremling spy Krunch, Bumper Badger, Banjo (prior to meeting Kazooie in Banjo-Kazooie), pre-sweary Conker, Tiptup Turtle, and Pipsy Mouse.
  • Diddy Kong Racing is a racing game with similarities to Mario Kart 64, in that you race with a variety of cheery racers while using weapons.
    • However, the similarities end there.
    • DKR includes an adventure mode, which features bosses, an overworld to explore, many hidden secrets, the addition of hovercrafts and planes, and a unique way of racing called the “Silver Coin Challenge”. In this mode, in addition to coming first, you must also find the eight Silver Coins deviously hidden throughout the courses (some in alternate paths).
  • The game also features a strategic method of using weapons.
    • Each colored balloon on the track matches a specific weapon, and collecting the same type of balloon multiple times in a row powers it up (to a maximum of three times).
    • This gives the player the choice of snatching every balloon available and using it immediately, or storing the existing weapon, and using a more powerful version of it later.
  • Up to four players can compete in the races, but in order to play new tracks, they must first be unlocked in the single player game.
    • There are also four battle modes of play – two standard deathmatch maps, a capture-the-flag style battle where you must nab eggs and hatch three of them in your home nest, and another where you must be the first to return ten bananas to your treasure chest (with the limitation of only being able to hold two at any one time).

November 1 – 1994 – Donkey Kong Country – SNES

  • King K. Rool has stolen Donkey Kong’s banana stash, and Donkey Kong needs your help to get them back.
    • In search of K. Rool, the Kremling horde impedes your progress. Kremlings, crocodile-like creatures, include Kritters (they succumb to a simple jump on the head), Krushas (they are virtually indestructible), and others.
    • There are also other enemies that block your path, such as beavers, snakes, vultures.
    • Leading them are dastardly bosses, including Very Gnawty, Necky, Queen B., and Dumb Drum, and they all bar the way with their own special blend of villainy.
  • Donkey Kong is joined by Diddy Kong: these two primates differ significantly.
    • For example, Donkey Kong is generally stronger; he can destroy most enemies with a single jump and can lift barrels straight over his head to throw them farther.
    • On the other hand, Diddy is faster and not as strong as Donkey; he can run really fast and do cartwheels. Diddy carries barrels in front of him, creating a shield against frontal attacks.
  • The original Super Nintendo game was later released for Nintendo’s handheld systems.
    • The Game Boy Color version has an exclusive level (Necky Nutmare) and additional bonus games, Funky’s Fishing and five Crosshair Cranky minigames.
    • There was also the addition of collectible DK sticker packs scattered throughout the levels.
    • These sticker packs could be printed out using the Game Boy Printer.
    • The game also has two more difficulty options that become available after beating the game.
    • Beating the game once lets the player turn off DK barrels and beating the game a second time will let the player turn off checkpoint barrels.
  • The Game Boy Advance version also had additional bonus games.
    • It to has a version of Funky’s Fishing but instead of the crosshair themed games, there is now Candy’s Dance Studio, which hosts six dance games.
    • There is also the additions of a time attack mode called DK Attack, a harder difficulty mode called Hero Mode (can only play as Diddy Kong and the game no longer offers Donkey Kong barrels and checkpoints throughout the levels), and the sticker book idea from the Gameboy Color version was replaced with collecting scrapbook pictures instead.

November 2 – 2001 – Burnout – PS2, Later on Xbox

  • Burnout is an arcade style racing game in the mold of the Test Drive or Need For Speed series.
    • In this game, you are racing on realistic streets with real traffic to contend with.
  • There are 6 courses on which to race, 3 of which are reminiscent of Europe, and 3 from the USA.
    • There are several vehicles to choose from, ranging from compact cars to pickups.
    • However, they are not based on real makes and models.
  • One notable feature of Burnout is the “Burn Meter.”
    • The Burn Meter is a gauge that is filled by performing reckless stunts, like racing into oncoming traffic or power-drifting through corners.
    • Once the Burn Meter is filled, your car gets a super speed boost.
    • If you crash, the Burn Meter is reset and must be filled again to achieve a boost.

November 3 – 2006 – Nacho Libre – Nintendo DS

  • Based on the upcoming feature film starring Jack Black, Nacho Libre offers fans comedic wrestling mayhem–exaggerated moves, wacky props and lots of pratfalls delivered with a unique photo puppetry look.
    • Jack Black stars as Ignacio (friends call him “Nacho”), a cook by day in a Mexican orphanage, who moonlights as a lucha libre wrestler to raise money for the orphans.
  • Six play modes:
    • Story Mode (single player, tied to the movie plot)
    • Vs. Mode, Team Mode (2 vs. 2)
    • Battle Jam (2-4 player wireless brawls)
    • Quick Match
    • Championship Match (multiplayer only)
  • Wrestle in four different arenas from the movie
    • Play as 20 different luchadors based on characters from the movie.
    • Each has his/her own wrestling moves and special attacks.
    • Take on your opponents with headlocks, grapples, holds and pin moves or create combos for devastating, and comical, results
    • Use the Touch Screen to play eight themed mini games including Nachoball, Footrace, Bee Swat, Bullrun, Cliff Climber, Chariot Jump and more
    • Unique “photo puppetry” art style lends the game a distinctive, humorous look
    • Includes recreated cut scenes from the movie in between the action
    • Unlock bonus material after playing through Story Mode

November 4 – 2010 – Kinect – Xbox 360

  • The origins of the Kinect started around 2005, at a point where technology vendors were starting to develop depth-sensing cameras.
    • Microsoft had been interested in a 3D camera for the Xbox line earlier but because the technology had not been refined, had placed it in the “Boneyard”, a collection of possible technology they could not immediately work on.
  • In 2005, PrimeSense was founded by tech-savvy mathematicians and engineers from Israel to develop the “next big thing” for video games, incorporating cameras that were capable of mapping a human body in front of them and sensing hand motions.
    • They showed off their system at the 2006 Game Developers Conference, where Microsoft’s Alex Kipman, the general manager of hardware incubation, saw the potential in PrimeSense’s technology for the Xbox system.
    • Microsoft began discussions with PrimeSense about improvements in the capabilities of depth-sensing cameras, a reduction in size and cost, and a means to manufacturer the units at scale was required.
  • Nintendo released the Wii in November 2006, where motion control was the focus.
    • Microsoft felt pressure from the Wii, and began looking into depth-sensing in more detail with PrimeSense’s hardware, but at that time, could not get to the level of motion tracking they desired.
    • Microsoft also looked to create an equivalent of the Wii Remote, but it was discarded as it was still ultimately Microsoft’s goal to remove any device between the player and the Xbox.
  • Nearing the planned release, the problem of widespread testing of Kinect in various room types and different bodies accounting for age, gender, and race among other factors, while keeping the details of the unit confidential. Microsoft engaged in a company-wide program offering employees to take home Kinect units to test them.
    • Microsoft also brought other non-gaming divisions, including its Microsoft Research, Microsoft Windows, and Bing teams to help complete the system.
    • Microsoft established its own large-scale manufacturing facility to bulk product Kinect units and test them.
  • Somewhat recent Kinect news!
    • On May 7, 2018, Microsoft announced a new iteration of Kinect technology designed primarily for enterprise software and artificial intelligence usage.
    • It is designed around the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, and is meant to “leverage the richness of Azure AI to dramatically improve insights and operations”.
    • It has a smaller form factor than the Xbox iterations of Kinect, and features a 12-megapixel camera, a time-of-flight depth sensor also used on the HoloLens 2, and seven microphones.
    • A development kit was announced in February 2019.

November 5 – 1998 – Hey You, Pikachu! – N64

  • Hey You, Pikachu! is a Pokémon adventure game.
    • The game allows you to speak directly to Pikachu via the Voice Recognition Unit (VRU) included with the game, in order to tell Pikachu what to do and help direct the adventures the two of you embark on.
  • The game features 20 different minigames which you and Pikachu play together.
    • Some involve you catching water Pokémon, while another might send you search for ingredients for stew.
    • When the minigame is over, you go back home and sleep, waking up the next day to play another game.
    • As the game progresses more of the features and minigames are unlocked, and Pikachu’s friendship meter will grow.
  • Pikachu will understand around 200 different words or simple phrases like “come here”, “stop that”, and “eat it”. Voice communication is the primary method of interacting with the game, though the analog stick is used for navigation.

November 6 – 2012 – Halo 4 – XBox 360

  • The game sets the stage for a new story in which Master Chief returns to confront his destiny and face an ancient awakened evil that threatens all life in the universe.
    • The main campaign also heavily explores the relationship between Master Chief and his AI companion, Cortana.
    • Cortana is nearing the end of her life, before devolving into a state called Rampancy in which an AI begins to think itself to death.
    • The campaign features both first-person shooter and driving elements, and can be played either single player or co-cooperatively (either over Xbox Live or split-screen).
    • It features new weapons and an entirely new class of enemy characters called Prometheans.
  • And for some PS2J History
    • We did our first Live episode on Alan’s phone
    • I made the link ps2jshow.com/halo4 for anyone interested in some of our podcasting history

Tidbits

  • Development on Friday the 13th: The Game is coming to an end, with its last patch releasing sometime this month
    • The dedicated multiplayer servers will be shut down, but online play will continue with peer-to-peer hosting
  • The Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity demo is now up on the Switch eShop, and it looks pretty cool
    • It includes the first chapter of the game, and progress will carry over to the full release on November 20th
    • Without getting in to spoilers, they may be settings things up so that the story doesn’t end how we’re all expecting after seeing Breath of the Wild
  • There’s yet another Apple Event going on this year, scheduled for November 10th
    • Titled “One more thing”, there aren’t many clues about its focus but people are expecting AirTags (Apple’s new lost item tracking devices) and new computers with Apple’s fancy custom processors
    • We may also see more information on macOS 11, Big Sur
  • The new Apple One subscription bundles went live this week, offering a few different plans to save money if you subscribe to services like Apple Music, Apple TV, Apple Arcade, and iCloud Storage
  • Apple’s also spinning up their new “nutritional labels” for apps, giving people a breakdown on each app’s product page for what data types they may collect, what data may be used to track you, and what data isn’t linked to you at all
  • 2K Games and EA are under fire for misleading info when it comes to NBA2K card packs
    • Apparently one of the players, James Harden, was completely missing from the gatcha packs that he was supposed to be included in for the first 23 minutes of release, and enough whales were trying to get him right away that thousands of dollars were wasted
  • The source code for Watch Dogs Legion has already leaked, leading the way for mods and cracks ahead of its November 10th release
  • Mark Zuckerberg is trying to make the case that Apple’s ad tracking blocks will damage economic recovery from COVID-19
    • He specifically pointed the out mandatory notification when an app or website wants to track users, saying that letting people know they can opt out will hurt “small businesses and economic recovery in 2021 and beyond”, though I’m guessing this is just a redirect for how hard Facebook itself will be hit by the changes

iPhone 12 Pro mini review

  • The Pacific Blue is very pretty, and makes me want to use my phone without a case
    • The frosted glass back feels very nice, but I worry about drops and scratches
  • The extra RAM (6GB instead of 4GB) is actually noticeable when resuming games
  • The overall performance has been great too, and according to PhoneBuff tests have it out performing the Samsung Note 20 Ultra (that actually has double the RAM)
  • The camera is a huge upgrade over the X, especially night mode
    • It automatically runs long exposures if needed, and if the gyroscope detects it’s attached to a tripod it offers even longer options
  • The extra size isn’t really noticeable
  • Magsafe is slick for chargers, especially if you already use a lot of wireless charging, but from what I’ve seen online accessories like the leather wallet don’t really seem to stick in day-to-day use

Dead by Daylight mini mini review

  • Asynchronous 1v4 slasher game
  • Bit of a cash grab with its DLC, but on GamePass it’s a lot of fun
  • Wraith is my boy!

 

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PS2J 275 News – Bushel of Apple

Security alert

  • Google’s October 2019 Android security fix is here for the majority of Android devices and has a fix for a major vulnerability present on a bunch of different phones
    • The bug allows a hacker to remotely root and take complete control of the device if an infected app has been installed or if a Chrome-based loophole is used
    • If you have an Android device you should go into your Settings app and search for System Update to download and install it as soon as possible

Free games

  • Epic Games

    • Surviving Mars

      • 2018
      • City building simulation from the developers of the Tropico series modeled after real Martian data that has you building a colony on Mars by manufacturing resources and constructing buildings to ensure the survival of the colonists

Apple’s under fire this week for their wishy-washy capitulation to the Chinese government during the Hong Kong protests

  • Most of the controversy, involving Apple at least, revolves around an app called HKMap.Live that allows users to flag locations on a map. It’s being used to warn the public about things like concentrations of riot police, tear gas, and zones that are currently being locked down
    • According to people within Hong Kong, tear gas is routinely being deployed without warning in densely populated neighbourhoods just because the cops were being verbally taunted, and the police are firing bean bag rounds without warning at people that, for example, walk out of a subway station in a locked-down area
  • It originally hit headlines because Apple rejected the app, saying that it facilitates, enables, and encourages the evasion of law enforcement. Which is no more true that being able to flag speedtraps on Waze- it’s not like the app has GPS on every cop in the region
  • The app eventually did get approved and released, so people chalked it up to an overzealous App Store reviewer and left it at that
  • Then Apple came under fire in the Chinese state media, being accused of protecting “rioters” and enabling illegal behaviour
    • Interestingly enough, the same story made no mention of the fact that it’s also a web app and available on the Google Play store- it completely targeted Apple
  • In response to those stories, and presumably pressure from Chinese officials, Apple then removed the app from the App Store citing claims that it was used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and that criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement.
    • They went on to say that the app violates Apple guidlines and local laws, but despite many inquiries neither Apple nor Chinese officials seem to be able to point those laws out
      • The Secretary for Transport and Housing laid the decision solely at Apple’s feet, saying to ask them for the reasons why
      • Tim Cook released a company-wide email talking about the situation, but still didn’t or couldn’t back up the claims that it was used to target individual officers for violence, or to victimize people or property where no police were present. And no one at any point has said what local laws in Hong Kong this app is violating.
  • At this point the app remains available Google Play and its webapp, and anyone that already installed it on their iDevices can still use it, but it’s not available for purchase or download any longer
  • For all Tim Cook’s talk of free speech and human rights, this really seems like a failure to stand up for what’s right. They’re just 100% buckling under the pressure of the Chinese government

In related news, Blizzard is in a similar situation but they’ve 100% embraced their Chinese overlords

  • After a professional Hearthstone player declared his support for the Hong Kong protest movement Blizzard handed him a one year suspension and rescinded his $10,000 tournament prize
  • This has even caught the attention of American senators, with Marco Rubio and Ron Wyden both calling Blizzard out for the censorship
  • This is a really bad look for a company with supposed values like “Think globally” and “Every voice matters”
  • Many are boycotting Blizzard games in protest, to the point where they have basically crashed the account deletion part of the Blizzard site
    • Early reports were suspicious of them trying to prevent a mass exodus by changing the requirements (ie needing photo ID to close the account, instead of the usual authenticator, sms, email, or secret question), but further testing has shown that they’ve either backpedaled on that strategy or, more likely, gotten a little-used part of their website some more resources
      • Interesting part there is that you don’t need to send in your id to make the account in the first place, so what exactly would they be verifying?

The latest iOS may be a bit of a mess, but it at least has a couple of new privacy features to go with it

  • If you’ve already updated you might have noticed a new security prompt when using some apps, asking if you want to allow them to use Bluetooth
  • It mentions that it’s used to connect to Bluetooth accessories, which makes sense, but also says apps can use it to know when you’re nearby
  • Apparently some retailers were using bluetooth beacons to track customers that had their app open, since they previously by default had the ability to see nearby Bluetooth devices without a prompt
  • They could also learn your location if you were near a public WiFi hotspot, but Apple now has things locked down so that’s no longer possible
  • The worst part about that tracking was that it wasn’t limited to apps you might expect like Best Buy, but also things like games, flashlights, or other one-off apps from sketchy developers
  • So now with the additional prompts users can basically deny everything that doesn’t make sense, and then if they notice that actual functions within the app are affected they can look at allowing the needed access
  • The next challenge will be apps from companies like X-Mode, which get permission to collect location data by plugging in to apps that actually do need your location
    • For instance they have an earthquake alert app, which would make sense to let track your location, but buried in the ToS is language that says they can use that location data for other means
  • End of the day it looks like we still need to be conscious of what apps we’re installing, but at least now iOS lets us know if that wallpaper app you downloaded is secretly trying to get your location data

macOS Catalina is here, and because I haven’t learned my lesson from installing iOS 13 on day 1 yet we’ve got the full scoop

  • One thing to note is that they’ve drawn a line in the sand and you can no longer run 32 bit apps. That should be limited to older software, but even some newer 64 bit apps may rely on 32 bit plugins
    • There’s a free download available called Go64 that will flag the applications on your system that won’t work after the update, as well as let you know when they were last used, and it was a handy way to make sure I was ready
      • I actually found you need to delete/reinstall Steam to get the new 64 bit version, even though the Blizzard launcher updated itself smoothly
  • iTunes has been split into three separate apps- Music, TV, and Podcasts. Gone are the days of a single bloated hub for all your media, but it’s shifted iPhone and iPad syncing to an unlikely new home- Finder
    • Once your device is plugged in you should see your phone near the bottom of the navigation bar on the left side of Finder. You can click on that to see the familiar sync and update options that used to live in iTunes
    • You’ll also see an option for “Show this device when on Wi-Fi”, which you’ll need to manually enable to get WiFi sync back the way it’s been for the last few years
    • Apple notes in their support documentation that things set to sync with the cloud, like Apple Music, may not be available through the new Finder sync, possibly in a move to push more people into the iCloud and away from local syncing and backups
    • Also, despite its name, TV is the new home for all the video content including movies
  • They’ve also released Mac Catalyst, allowing developers to port iPad apps directly to macOS with the addition of multiple windows, drag/drop, and keyboard shortcuts
  • Photos has been updated with more sorting/filtering options and some automatic curation similar to Facebook, highlighting important moments like birthdays and vacations
  • Notes and Reminders have also been updated with the new iOS 13 features and finally sync properly across all your updated devices! And there was much rejoicing
  • Apple Arcade is now up on Mac in addition to iOS and AppleTV, meaning you can really take your game subscription anywhere
    • I’ve been itching to give it all a try, so expect my impressions in the coming weeks
  • Sidecar is brand new in Catalina, letting you use your iPad as a second monitor for your Mac. You can even use your Apple Pencil to control things, giving you a solid tablet interface for your computer for things like Adobe Creative Cloud, Maya, ZBrush, and more
  • Screen Time has come to the Mac, giving you insight into how you’re spending your time and allowing you to monitor usage, schedule downtime, and set limits for apps and websites across all your devices for yourself or your family
    • You’ll even be able to set communication limits as of this spring, if you want to limit who your kids can contact at certain times of the day (or night) without blocking their ability to contact you if they need to
  • On top of all that we also got a bunch of new security features, like better encryption, activation lock for lost or stolen hardware so only you can erase and reactivate your Mac, better controls to prevent accidental overwrites of system files (I’m looking at you, Chrome update we discussed in 273), and permissions prompts before apps get access to your files, keyboard activity, or images of your screen.
    • They’ve also set up the new Find My app with a couple tweaks to help locate a missing Mac, even if it’s offline and sleeping, by sending out Bluetooth signals that can be detected by Apple devices in use nearby so they can then relay the location so you can find it. And it’s all encrypted end-to-end so not even Apple knows the identity of the reporting device or the location of your hardware
  • Plus some great new accessibility features that let users control their Mac, iPhone, or iPad entirely with their voice, and tools to let users with low vision adjust magnification or visiblity on the fly
  • All that is available now, free, for most Mac hardware from 2012 or later.

The internet has found a way to get official Google apps back on Huawei phones, and you definitely shouldn’t do it

  • Recently the Trump administration banned US companies from doing business with Huawei as part of the trade war between the US and China
  • This has made their latest phone, the Mate 30 Pro, the first to launch without Google apps even though it uses the Android operating system
    • So it can’t access apps like the Play Store, YouTube, Chrome, Google Assistant, and more
  • Generally this wouldn’t be a big deal- gray market distribution of Google apps is something the modding community has been doing for years, but the Mate 30 has locked down the loopholes that are normally used for devices like the Kindle Fire
  • Instead the new method is to install them through a website called Lzplay.net, which has been promoted by many major Android news sites and is very easily searchable
    • It’s easy to see why it’s so popular too- you just go to the website, install the app, hit ‘next’ a few times, and it installs a batch of Google system apps in the blink of an eye
  • Unfortunately the method it uses to do so is suspect at best and a security nightmare at worst
    • The website plugs in the Android’s Mobile Device Management framework, usually meant to give your IT department full control over a company-issued device. The goal there being that they have as much control remotely as you do physically- they can install/uninstall apps, change passwords, wipe lost or stolen devices, and all kinds of other things
    • These are permissions that should only ever be given to someone you 100% trust- I don’t even like giving that access to my employer, even though they pay my phone bill
  • The big problem here is that no one knows who or what owns Lzplay.net, so you’re essentially giving full ownership of your phone and its data to a random website registered somewhere in mainland China, which historically doesn’t sound like a great idea
  • On top of that, a lot of the write-ups and video guides out there really gloss over how it works and just how many permissions you’re granting. Almost none of them mention the fact that you’re left with this massive backdoor to your phone, and removing the app as your device administrator requires digging through a lot of settings
  • Lzplay might not do anything malicious today, but tomorrow it could fill your phone with bitcoin miners, install ransomware, or brick your phone
  • If you want more details on just how suspicious the site’s background is, like how it uses secret Huawei code and launched three days before the phone even came out, check out ArsTechnica’s article on the whole debacle

Watch out, there’s a new sneaky phone scam making the rounds that looks like one of the most credible phishing attempts out there at the moment

  • Twitter user Pieter Gunst reported that he got a call from someone claiming to be his bank, asking if he’d used his card in another city. When he said no, the caller apparently blocked the transaction and asked for his customer number to verify his identity (red flag number 1)
  • Not realizing things weren’t on the up and up quite yet Gunst gave it, and the person on the phone then said they were sending a verification PIN for him to read back (red flag number 2). He later realized the scammer was resetting his online banking password through the Forgotten Password link, and used that verification number to do so
  • The scammer then read off a few other charges to sound legitimate, now that they’d gotten access to his online statements, and after he’d confirmed he made them the scammer said they then wanted “to block the PIN on your account, so you get a fraud alert when it is used again.”, and asked for his current PIN (at this point dozens of red flags were raining from the heavens and luckily Gunst realized something was up)
  • He hung up on the scammer and called his bank’s actual fraud department, as well as his local police department to file a report on the number that called
  • Based on my experience, as well as common sense if you think about it, if the bank is calling you then they know who you are. When my card was compromised the fraud department called me, verified which charges were legit, and then cancelled/reissued my credit card without ever asking me for passwords, or my PIN
    • If you ever do get a call and they start asking weird questions or you’re at all worried about its legitimacy, let them know you want to call them back and then get the number either from the back of your card or your bank’s website (don’t use any phone numbers they give you). That way you can be sure who you’re talking to, even if you have to jump through a couple extra hoops to do so

The LEGO Group is putting old bricks to use

  • The LEGO Group announced the start of LEGO Replay.
    • This pilot program will accept old bricks, wash them and donate them to children’s non-profit charities
    • its a collaboration with Give Back Box, Teach for America, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston
  • They made it easy to donate as well
    • collect any bricks, sets, lego figures you’re not using in a cardboard box
    • Vist Lego.com/replay to get a free UPS shipping label
    • Ship it, Lego takes care of the rest!
  • Your package is sent to the Give Back Box facility
    • They will sort the Lego
    • Inspect for damage
    • And clean it thouroughly
  • Tim Brooks, Vice President of Environmental Responsibility at the Lego Group had this to say:
    • We know people don’t throw away their LEGO bricks
    • The vast majority hand them down to their children or grandchildren.
    • But others have asked us for a safe way to dispose of or to donate their bricks
    • With replay, they have an easy option that’s both sustainable and socially impactful
  • The founder of Give Back Box, Monika Wiela, also said:
    • I am excited to join the LEGO group in this pilot program
    • Growing up in Poland, I didn’t have many toys as a child, so this collaboration is rather personal for me
    • What’s better than giving a child the gift of play?
    • For us, the number of donations we receive is critical to a successful campaign, so we’ve made it as easy as possible for folks at home to send in their idle bricks
  • Among the bricks sent out
    • There is a portion going to Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston for thier after-school programs
    • First shipments in November 2019.
    • Once the pilot is complete in Spring 2020, the LEGO group will evaluate a possible expansion of the program
  • LEGO replay is one of the many sustainable and philanthropic efforts the LEGO group has announced in the past year
    • Recent efforts include bricks made from plants, braille bricks and audio & braille instructions.

Josh wants to get into Streaming

Trying XSplit Gamecaster
They have a camera app that can capture just you with, I dunno, machine learning?
I want to stream Overwatch, HotS, and whatever I play. Like Sims 4, Rollercoaster Tycoon, any whatever free game I get from Alan’s free games list.

Tidbits

  • Bose has discontinued their noise-masking Sleepbuds earbuds due to battery and charging issues, and are offering full refunds as long as you put in your request by the end of the year
    • They also note that if you want to keep using them their newer Sleepbuds are less likely to see problems, and they’ll continue replacing them while supplies last
  • PS4 remote play has gotten amped up on iOS with the ability to connect your Dualshock 4 controller to iPhones and iPads
    • Previously we were stuck with on-screen controls, which aren’t great for the sheer number of buttons involved, but with an actual controller it makes remote place a lot more useful
  • Spotify has been updated on iPhone to include Siri support, and it works almost exactly how I’d hoped- you just ask it to play a song, artist, or playlist followed by “with Spotify” or “on Spotify” and it picks up the command easily
    • One annoying nitpick though, it doesn’t play nice with Siri on my watch so changing music while driving continues to be slightly more awkward than it needs to be
  • Steam has announced their Remote Play Together feature coming near the end of this month, giving a couch-coop experience online
    • The idea is that the host computer runs as if it was a local multiplayer session, split screen and all, then streams the video to your remote friends while they stream their controller inputs back

Recommend The Adventures of Ichabod and Mister Toad from 1949

  • Especially the second half, where it does a full Disney take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow narrated and voiced by Bing Crosby
  • It’s charming and just a real treat in the fall season to hear more of Bing not limited to Christmas carols, and it’s a solid delivery of the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman
  • Plus as a bonus you also get The Wind in the Willows, narrated by Basil Rathbone, which is another excellent example of Disney animation at its finest
  • Each segment is about half an hour, which leaves neither of them feeling padded or cut short. Just the right amount of two great Disney films

Literally Misleading

Last Week:

Movie – A typical cowboy saves the princess tale.  (Shanghai Noon, Movie)

This Week:

Game – Sadistic architect values efficiency over safety.

 

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The wrestling event of the year comes to Heroes of the Storm. A local comic shop falls victim to an awful movement. Josh recommends a board game and Alan shares a manga.

Thanks @vanillabeanpuff for the suggestion, we will try it out!

For more info, Patreon supports get access to our show notes!

A huge thanks to Dalton, our favourite fan. And thanks to all our Official Fans that support us.
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