Free Games

– Epic Games

    – Anodyne 2: Return to Dust

        – 2019
        – Described as a combination of cinematic 3D games with the tight design and satisfaction of 2D Zelda-like adventures, it has you exploring an island, shrinking inside the bodies of infected people, and rescuing them from a mind-warping plague

    – A Short Hike

        – 2019
        – Described as one part Animal Crossing, one part Breath of the Wild, it’s a little exploration game about hiking up a mountain. You can follow marked trails, explore the backcountry, meet other hikers, discover hidden treasures, and just take in the world around you

    – Mutazione (Mu-tat-zio-ne)

        – 2019
        – A mutant soap opera where small-town gossip meets the supernatural, it’s a narrative indie gardening game set on a beautiful island inhabited by mutants

The COVID-19 Coronavirus is continuing to have impacts on the world as more people and governments are opting out of social contact

– In the workplace many are working from home as much as possible
    – Google and Microsoft have made some changes to provide free teleconferencing tools for the next few months
        – Anyone using G Suite or G Suite for Education is getting access to premium features like meetings for up to 250 participants, live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers, and the ability to record meetings and save them to G Drive – features that would normally cost $25/user/month
        – And Microsoft is offering a six-month trial for the premium version of Microsoft Teams, letting anyone using it schedule video calls and conferences with other registered users
– For those that can’t work from home, Apple is even giving their retail and hourly workers unlimited paid sick leave if they’re experiencing relevant symptoms
    – I mean, this should be the norm but in today’s society it’s newsworth
– And E3 has officially been cancelled for the first time since 1995, joining Apple’s WWDC as the latest victim of measures being taken to limit large gatherings of people in the midst of COVID-19
    – Really I don’t blame them, especially after Penny Arcade Expo 2016 when the swine flu made the rounds and became known as the Pax Pox. Conventions aren’t really known for hygiene in the best of circumstances
    – The team behind E3 will be reaching out directly to exhibitors and attendees with info about full refunds, and they’re exploring options for an online experience this June

Sensor Tower, an analytics platform that gathers app download and usage data for developers, has been secretly gathering data from millions of iOS and Android users

– Apparently the company owns a batch of about 20 VPN and ad-blocking apps like Adblock Focus and Luna VPN that have been downloaded over 35 million times
– When installed the apps prompt users to install a root certificate from an external website, which lets them get around App Store restrictions and monitor all traffic and data passing through the phone
– This serves as a good reminder to be wary of VPN and ad-blocking apps from unknown developers, and definitely ask questions when apps as for certificates to be installed
The Nintendo Playstation, the prototype CD system for the Super Nintendo, has officially sold at auction for a grand total of $380,000
– Apparently the initial spike we saw in online bidding was Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey deciding he wanted to be the highest bidder early on, but once it went to a live action there was only one bid made, and it seems that Luckey either didn’t or couldn’t follow up with one of his own

Lifehacker has a nice tip for people sharing a Netflix account- you can now avoid giving out your password by using DoNotPay

– DoNotPay is a Chrome extension that lets you send out a link that will privately share the authentication cookie from your computer with whoever you send it to, allowing them to get into your Netflix account without having to log themselves in
– Time will tell how streaming companies react to this, but since simultaneous streaming is specifically a feature of many memberships they can’t be too angry

There’s a new streaming site on the internet, and it takes you back to the days of cable with a twist

– allthestreams.fm is calling itself pirate radio for internet streaming, offering videos from Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, HBO Now, Prime Video, and Showtime
– The catch is that you don’t get to pick what’s on- you get a slider to chose which service you’re watching and then get to join whatever stream they currently have in progress
    – At the moment they have a number you text any requests to, but that’s pretty much it for user accessibility. Otherwise you get what you get with very few controls
– It’s a pretty interesting experiment, with things like Avengers Endgame, The Witcher, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine being shown when I checked it out, but you can bet that it has lawyers salivating and will soon be hit with takedown notices left and right

It looks like a batch of third-gen iPad Airs has a defect that makes the display go permanently blank, with no way to recover

– The good news is that Apple has acknowledged the defect and if offering free repairs to anyone that see the issue in the first two years. Affected models were manufactured between March and October 2019, but there may still be devices from those dates sitting unopened on store shelves so keep an eye out

Overwatch Archives is out a week early!

March 12th to April 2nd

Missions are back with some extras this year!

First week is Overwatch Uprising

  • RELIVE TRACER’S FIRST MISSION
  • Journey seven years into the past and join an Overwatch strike team fighting through the streets of King’s Row to quell an uprising led by Null Sector, a rogue group of omnics. There are no reinforcements. Failure is not an option. The future depends on you.
  • Play as one of four Overwatch agents in Story Mode
    • Tracer, Torbjörn, Reinhardt, or Mercy
  • New Challenge missions
    • Molten Cores: evade deadly lava discharged by felled enemies
    • Glass Cannons: survive the omnic incursion of King’s Row with limited health and exponential damage.

Second week is Overwatch Retribution

  • TAKE CONTROL OF BLACKWATCH
  • After the terrorist organization known as Talon launches an attack on an Overwatch facility, the peacekeeping force is unable to respond. But Blackwatch, Overwatch’s secretive strike force, plays by its own rules. Travel eight years into the past and join Blackwatch as they seek to capture one of Talon’s highest-ranking members.
  • Play as one of four Blackwatch agents in Story Mode
    • McCree, Moira, Genji, or Reyes before he becomes known as Reaper
  • New Challenge Missions
    • Surgical Strike: hone your headshot skills with critical strikes
    • Close Quarters: get up close and personal with your enemies

Third week is Overwatch Storm Rising

  • A NEW THREAT LOOMS ON THE HORIZON
  • As thunderclouds gather, four Overwatch operatives pursue the devious entrepreneur Maximilien through the streets of Havana. A clever and calculating omnic, Maximilien handles finances for the international terrorist organization Talon.
  • Play as one of four Overwatch agents in Story Mode
    • Tracer, Genji, Winston, or Mercy
  • New Challenge Missions
    • Blood Moon Rising: without support heroes, become your own vampiric support by dealing damage
    • Storm Raging: take down enemies enraged by the deaths of their comrades

There are skins exclusive to weekly unlocks

  • Win 9 games in Quick Play, Competitive or arcade to unlock the player icon, spray and epic skin
  • Week 1
    • Holi Symmetra
    • Holi is a famous Hindu festival that is celebrated in every part of India with utmost joy and enthusiasm. The ritual starts by lighting up the bonfire one day before the day of Holi and this process symbolizes the triumph of good over the bad. On the day of Holi people play with colours with their friends and families and in evening they show love and respect to their close ones with Abeer, a red dye.
  • Week 2
    • Rustclad Torbjörn
    • Torb is looking worse for wear, his amour has a green patina, and has rust buildup.
  • Week 3
    • Snowbear Mei
    • Similar to Mei’s regular outfit, but Snowball and a few patches on her outfit have a cute white bear look

And of couse some new Legendary skins to work for!

  • Aviator Pharah
    • Pharah has a leather jacket, jeans, aviator sunglasses, and the attitude to pull it off
  • King Jamison Junkrat
    • Shows what Junkrat will blow his earnings on a heist with. Crown, gold plated and jewlencusted arm and peg leg, expensive clothes, too much jewelry, his bandoleer is replaced with gold bars, and his riptire is a sack of other trophies
  • Militia Roadhod
    • Roadhog looks like the kind of doomsday prepper that bought the tactical axe, has an army helmet as his pauldron, large rounds of ammunition on his wrist, tactical belt slung over his shoulder, camo coveralls, and a grenade with a piggie on it
  • Sniper Ana
    • This may be my new favorite Ana skin, she has tan tactical gear. Her jacket has ghilie like flair, and Ana is quite young, and has a cute bob haircut. Her rifle, looks more like a sniper rifle than a tranq gun as well.
  • Workout Zarya
    • Zarya shows how beefy she is in these workout clothes. She has a workout sweater without sleeves, and shorts with compression shorts underneath. She also has support with an elbow and knee brace. And a handy mp3 player strapped to he bicep.

 

For more content, Patreon supports get access to upcoming ideas and more!

Thank you to Darren, we want to make things you’ll find interesting!

And thanks to all our ‘fanily’ that support us.
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We are a proud member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB
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PS2J 287 News – Who Knows What We’ll Name It

Free games

  • Twitch

    • Desert Child

      • 2018
      • An indie racing RPG that throws you into the role of a hungry, young hoverbike racer who needs to get off Earth before it explodes- hunt bounties, throw races, get to Mars, and win the Grand Prix
    • American Fugitive

      • 2019
      • Top-down open world sandbox that has you framed for your father’s murder, you’ll need to do whatever it takes to unveil the real culprit while evading the police at every turn
    • Steredenn

      • 2015
      • Side-scrolling rogue-like shoot-em-up in space, with sharp pixel graphics and chaotic boss battles in a never-ending combat for survival
    • Narcos: Rise of the Cartels

      • 2019
      • Turn-based action strategy based on the Netflix TV series, it has you exploring the first season from two sides with two unique stories
      • Unfortunately it seems to take the XCOM formula and water it way down, so while it seems tactical you can only move one person on each turn
    • White Night

      • 2015
      • Survival horror puzzle game where you explore the past of an old mansion in the 1930’s and solve puzzles of light and shadows in an entirely black and white setting.
  • Epic

    • Carcassonne

      • 2017
      • A competitive tile placement game of creating landscapes, claiming areas, and gaining points, with online play and a ton of replayability
    • Ticket to Ride

      • 2008
      • Another classic European-style board game that has you racing other players to build up your rail routes and reach your destinations
    • Pandemic was initially supposed to be included as well, but has actually been completely pulled from the Epic Games store. A statement from Epic said only that they’re shifting it to be free at a later date

Russia’s law against Apple devices seems to be proceeding according to plan, with the July 2020 deadline looming ever-closer

  • Back in episode 283 we talked about the new legislation passed in Russia by Vladimir Putin that would ban the sale of devices that don’t have a specific list of Russian apps pre-installed
  • This soon became known online as Russia’s law against Apple, as Apple has historically never allowed carrier bloatware or other apps to be bundled onto their devices- you get the same iOS experience regardless of where you buy your device
  • Well the list of required apps has finally been released and among them are government-produced apps for paying taxes and fines, as well as some banking, navigation, and social medial platforms with links to official government bodies
    • All of these apps have the potential to collect and send data related to finances, location, communications, and more, all without direct user permission
  • All in, it seems like a terrible idea for the privacy of any citizen of the world, and especially when Russia is behind it. If we see tech companies allowing this to go through I’m sure China won’t be too far behind
    • While Apple could leave the $3B market in Russia, and I’m sure a healthy grey or black market would crop up in the meantime, the $13B China would be a tougher proposition. We’ll just have to hope that companies don’t put a price tag on our privacy

Blizzard’s new Warcraft 3 remaster is so unpopular that they’re now offering instant refunds, but that’s still not enough for many players

  • The remastered Warcraft 3: Reforged launched late last week, meant to be a remake of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne expansion, introducing a revamped user interface and enhanced cutscenes, along with more dialogue and tweaks to the campaign to align it with the lore of WoW
  • Unfortunately the plans seem to have changed, with the UI almost identical to the old version, and though some voice lines have been tweaked there aren’t any massive changes. Even the cutscene updates are lackluster
  • Basically the only real update are the graphics- the visuals are sharper, more detailed, and more fluidly animated, but most of the improvements don’t make much difference unless you zoom too far in to be useful in an RTS setting
  • The biggest problem is that they didn’t introduce the game as a new version, but rather replaced the old version with a new client and game whether you own Reforged or not, just presenting a toggle in the settings to switch between the two
    • This wouldn’t be a big deal were it not for all the issues that come with the new client- connectivity problems, trouble getting into custom games, and a complete lack of competitive ranked game modes
    • Not to mention that the download now includes a ton of extra resources, totalling 27GB compared to the original sitting at just over 1GB, even if you don’t own Reforged
    • They even implemented a live public chat room that you get dumped in to at launch, similar to Overwatch, but with no option to report or mute users
      • Loading up custom maps just merges its chat in with the main open channel, so good luck coordinating with anyone
      • There’s also no native LAN support, so you’re stuck online even if you’re in the same room
    • Speaking of custom, custom campaigns are entirely gone
    • Oh, and if the game can’t get an online connection to Blizzard you can play single player, but it won’t save your progress even though the save files are all local anyway
  • The backlash has gotten to the point where, instead of the normal process of Blizzard looking in to what was wrong with your purchase and denying the refund if you’ve had the game for a while and been playing it, refunds are now being automatically and immediately approved
  • This doesn’t help users unable to get back to the old client through official means, but it at least offers players dissatisfied with Reforged a way to get their money back
    • For really dedicated players that want their old client back  there are a bunch of guides and videos details steps online, and they even support internet connectivity, but in the meantime they’ve actively removed features and made unwanted changes to an 18 year old game with no way to officially opt out

Amazon’s Ring home surveillance equipment is getting an update this week to address some, but not all, privacy concerns

  • The update creates a new control center in the app, adding options for two-factor authentication (which it now prompts for by default) and letting you see a list of all devices connected to your account
  • It also lets you opt out of receiving any requests from police for camera footage as a blanket setting, instead of having to refuse each request individually
    • This is a solid win for privacy with 897 police and sheriff departments listed as Ring partners with the ability to request those files
  • Unfortunately this still doesn’t fix everything, as footage uploaded to the Neighbors app has geographic info that lets you pinpoint a camera to the square inch, and they haven’t addressed the EFF report we talked about two weeks ago wherein they share a ton of information with marketing and analytics companies

Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service has left beta this week, and seems to actually fulfill many of the promises Google’s Stadia didn’t

  • All you have to do is download the app on a supported device, hook up your preferred controls, and connect to the servers. Then you can connect to a PC on the cloud and play one of hundreds of supported games from Steam, Epic Games, Battle.net, uPlay, Bethesda, and Origin (including many free to play titles)
    • The best part? They actually have a free tier right at launch!
  • Reporters at arsTechnica saw solid performance with minimal latency, to the point where they could play Sonic Mania without missing a jump or dash.
  • Whats more, because they basically just give you a virtual gaming PC you can go into a game’s full settings and tweak whatever settings you want to optimize the look and performance to wherever you want them
  • It’s never going to beat owning a gaming PC, but the ability to play these high-end PC games on a low-end Mac laptop is kind of bananas
    • It also supports Windows, mobile, and some smart TV’s, with eventual support for Chromebook coming later this year
  • Right now they’re offering two tiers:
    • Free, which gives you standard access and maximum one hour sessions (though you can immediately reconnect, you just might hit a queue depending on activity)
    • Founders, which is $5/month ($6.50 CAD) for priority access, extended sessions, ray-tracing gorgeousness, and a free three-month intro period
    • General streaming performance and game selection are the same between the two tiers, but the priority access will skip you to the head of the queue if the servers fill up
  • One big note on the game selection though is you don’t just load your existing game libraries to the service and to go town- you need to connect your other game store account, manually search for the game you want to play in GeoForce Now’s library tab, and add it to your account. Then you can launch those supported games through the GeForce Now app
    • There are also some loopholes where you can launch their Steam app and try starting games they don’t officially support, but for many games will hit errors when trying to run
    • There are even a bunch of supported games available through both Steam and Epic that can’t run from your Epic license, only Steam
  • All in all this is a pretty exciting time in gaming, with unparalleled access to this sort of thing as long as you have the internet connection to support it
    • Nvidia says that playing games will use about 15GB/hour, so be wary of your data caps!

Square Enix is releasing a brand new bundle-game this March called Kingdom Hearts All-in-One Package to bring together every game in the series up to KH3

  • The release history of this series is bonkers though. The All-in-One Package is pretty much just KH3 bundled with Kingdom Hearts: The Story So far
    • Which was Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix
    • Which is made up of Final Mix, Re: Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days, 2 FInal Mix, Birth By Sleep Final Mix, and Re:code
  • It also includes 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, which itself is
    • Dream Drop Distance HD
    • 0.2 Birth by Sleep – a fragmentary passage
    • X Back Cover
  • But even with all that it’s still not a complete version, with the DLC for the third game, Re:Mind, still being sold separately

Here is a response to our call out for peoples Top 10 Games
I am going to try for the rest of the year to get everyone’s list!

Adam Blank (Remember the Game and Wrestling with Wrestling podcasts)
  • Super Mario World
  • Link to the Past
  • Mario Kart 8
  • Shovel Knight
  • Tetris
  • Donkey Kong County
  • Earthbound
  • Final Fantasy IV
  • Last of Us
  • Super Punch Out

Fake Magic card

  • Posted by Owner of Stony Plain Games & Collectibles, Lance
  • Lesson of the day!
    • You got to get up pretty early to fool this gaming shop owner!
  • Guy called me last night, want’s to know if I’ll trade in some expensive Magic the Gathering cards?
    • I ask him to come see me about it.
  • So today, said dude and his friend came in, looking to trade two MtG revised edition duel lands for shop credit?
    • (red flag-cash is king)
  • Right the way I could tell the cards looked ‘wrong’ in some way? I thought “these are proxies!” in my head.
    • (‘homemade’ copy of original version of an actual Magic card, used for gaming when one can’t afford the real thing. The guys that do proxies are getting VERY GOOD at it!)
  • They were pretty well done as the ‘rosette’ effect on the cards print when looked at under a x20 magnifier wasn’t far off an original, though of course there were differences enough even then to indicate it was a proxie.
    • (red flag 2)
      • A rosette effect is when in print, an image magnified looks like coloured dots in a flower pattern, and when observed nomally, look like a normal image. Its so the print colours of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, are printed in grids at different screen angles.
  • The print was too dark and that was the first thing to alert me as I first checked them out but one has to be sure!
    • (red flag 3)
  • Some incredible proxy cards come in from China that are quite hard to tell the difference unless, you know what you’re looking for! If you have old MtG cards you need verifying, bring them into me!
    • Nothing worse having a fraud version of an expensive card. In this instance the real version of this card was $375! Each! Did the dude know they were fake? IMO I’d say so.
    • He listed off the good stores in the city to buy singles, with their owners names, as well as the formats he played of the game, some of which are very expensive to play! (unless you use proxies lol!) So he had some pretty good knowledge of the game and community around Edmonton and surrounding area. When I eventually said these are proxies pal, he was ready with a slack apology but really didn’t seem surprised at all?
  • Which if you just lost $750 bucks worth of cards, you’d be a little more pissed than anything else. Wouldn’t you? Just be aware that there is an industry for printing proxy cards that are very close to the real thing except,….they are not! Fraud is fraud so don’t get ripped off if you happen to be in the market for some high end MtG cards!

     

Surveillance of UK citizens by private companies embedded on UK council websites

  • Article by Brave
  • A new report from Brave reveals that people seeking help for addiction, disability, and poverty on council websites are profiled by private companies in the UK
    • What is a council?
    • Councils provide a wide variety of services to their municipalities and enforce various federal, state and local laws for their communities. These services include public health, traffic, parking and animal management
  • Brave has uncovered widespread surveillance of UK citizens by private companies embedded on UK council websites.
    • None of the data collecting companies recorded in this study had received consent from the website visitor to lawfully process data.
  • These are the Quick Facts, that Brave provides:
    • Nearly all councils in the UK permit at least one company to learn about the behaviour of people visiting their websites.
    • People seeking information about disability, poverty, drugs and alcoholism services are profiled by data brokers on some council websites.
    • 198 council websites in the UK use the “real-time bidding” (RTB) form of advertising. Real-time bidding is the biggest data breach ever recorded in the UK. Though illegality is not in dispute, the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) has failed to act.
    • Google owns all five of the top embedded elements loaded by UK council websites, giving it the power to know what virtually anyone in the UK views on council sites.
    • Over of a quarter of the UK population is served by councils that embed Twitter, Facebook, and others on their websites, leaking data about what sensitive issues people read about to these companies.
    • 6.9 million people are served by councils that allow data broker LiveRamp to track people on their sites. Until recently, LiveRamp was part of the Acxiom Group, which sold data to Cambridge Analytica.
    • None of the data collecting companies recorded in this study had received consent from the website visitor to lawfully process data.
    • This report should spur Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner, to finally enforce the GDPR. It is 17 months since formal evidence from Brave and complaints about breaches of data protection laws were filed before the ICO.
  • About Brave:

    • Brave is a new, private web browser. It has unmatched speed and battery life. And it also blocks data-grabbing ads and trackers.
    • 10 million people use Brave to make the web quicker and safer. You can download it for your phone or computer and browse the web with confidence.
    • Brave’s CEO is Brendan Eich, inventor of JavaScript, and co-founder of Mozilla/Firefox.

Google Maps Fooled by Man Who Used 99 Smartphones to Create a Fake Traffic Jam: Video

  • Article on Gadgets 360
  • Simon Weckert, a Berlin-based artist, used 99 smartphones and a hand cart to create ‘fake’ traffic jams in the German capital.
  • The slow pace of the hand cart and the fact that 99 phones were used caused Google Maps to believe that there were a lot of vehicles using a street that was actually empty.
    • Google uses this method to crowdsource traffic data the world over; smartphones in cars provide information to Google, including the speed at which they are moving, and how many smartphones are on that particular street.
  • If the pace is low and number is high, Google would show that segment of the street as red or maroon, suggesting that there is a traffic jam.
    • The video, that will be in the show notes on our website,  shows the streets on Google Maps gradually turning from green to maroon, suggesting that there was a traffic pileup on those streets.
    • Google’s navigation suggestions would then recommend that users avoid those streets, even though they were actually clear to drive on, apart from having to watch out for Weckert and his handcart.
  • Weckert hasn’t shared any further details, so it’s possible that this could have been faked entirely.
    • If it is authentic, Google should ideally be looking at ways to prevent such an exploit from being used, since this could have very real and physical implications on traffic movement.
    • In any case, don’t stop trusting Google Maps entirely; it’s not often that you have artists with 99 smartphones on a hand cart wandering around.

Tidbits

  • In an interesting prank / hack of Google Maps and their traffic data, Simon Weckert carted a wagon filled with 99 phones around simulating a traffic jam in the navigation app
    • One neat thing to note is the filtering Google uses for the data- if the phones all stopped moving entirely the traffic jam wouldn’t appear, and once a car using Google Maps drove past Google would see there was no jam and set it back to normal
  • Software engineer and blogger Robert Heaton took a trip down the rabbit hole recently and discovered that Wacom tablet drivers send a ton of identifying data when you use them, including details about every application you use and when you use them
    • Apparently the data is gathered for development purposes, but if you’re concerned about privacy and want to disable that you’ll need to open up the Wacom Desktop Center and disable the Wacom Experience Program
  • Allegedly leaked footage of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Z Flip hit Twitter this week, showing the clamshell device in action for the first time
    • Size-wise it reminds me of the Gameboy Advance SP, though flatter and wider, and fits better with what we’re expecting a folding screen on a smart phone to do- close and protect the screen
    • It also is rumoured to use special ultra-thin glass instead of the plastic used by the Galaxy Fold, which could prevent some of the display issues the Fold saw
  • Nintendo has announced that there won’t be any new Switch systems coming this year, quashing some rumours of the hoped for Switch Pro with increased power and improved performance
    • This is just going to widen the power gap already existing between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, and perhaps prevent ports of newer titles to the Switch, with the PS5 and Xbox Series X due out later this year

We want to know

What video game soundtrack would you like to soundtrack your life?

 

For more content, Patreon supports get access to upcoming ideas and more!

Thank you to Darren, thank you for believing in us!

And thanks to all our ‘fanily’ that support us.
And if you want to support us too, its as easy as clicking this link!
We are a proud member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB
And talk to us in the comments!

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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Alan heard about a movie with a ton of famous people working in it, and its not out? Josh Is excited for a post apocalyptic adventure board game. Alan recommends a book with different perspectives on A New Hope. Josh suggests a deck building card game best for 2 or 4 players.

Full breakdown on Polygon For Battlefront 2

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