Free Games

  • Epic Games

    • Surviving Mars

      • 2018
      • City building simulation from the developers of the Tropico series modelled 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
      • This was given away by Epic back in October 2019, so you may already have it in your library

Security updates are available for Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches now

  • The updates aren’t flashy, and they haven’t released the fancy new watch-unlock for masks yet, but they fix a nasty vulnerability where attackers could use a malicious website to execute arbitrary code on your device, giving them the ability to hijack it
  • You’re safe if you’re running at least iOS 14.4.1, watchOS 7.3.2, and macOS 11.2.3

An estimated 60,000 US organizations, along with hundreds of thousands more worldwide, have been hacked recently thanks to holes in Microsoft’s Exchange mail software

  • A previously unidentified Chinese cyber espionage group that Microsoft dubbed Hafnium has apparently been using a combination of four newly-discovered flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server to gain complete remote control over affected systems
  • This has allowed them to siphon email communications from targets ranging from small business and local governments to banks, police, infectious disease researchers, and defence contractors
  • According to security researchers these hacks have been going on since at least January, and though Microsoft released emergency security updates on March 2nd there are still many organizations that have not yet patched their systems, leading to the Hafnium group amping up their attacks and actively scanning the internet for vulnerable systems
  • The worst part is that even if you’ve installed the security updates, if you were already compromised there is still a high chance that the hacking group has installed remote access tools on your server
  • Microsoft has commented that they’re working closely with the US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), along with other government agencies and security companies, to provide guidance and mitigation for its customers, and encourages anyone impacted to contact their support teams for help and resources
  • In the meantime the CISA has issued an emergency directive ordering all federal departments and agencies to either update the software or unplug the servers, and they’re urging scanning all Exchange Server logs with Microsoft’s detection tool to help determine if you’ve been compromised

Rumours of an upcoming Apple event are ramping up, with signs pointing to it occurring on March 23rd

  • We’re expecting more information about iOS 14.5 and App Tracking Transparency, as well as the release of the now-essential Unlock With Apple Watch feature for times when FaceID fails because of a mask
  • Other rumours circling have the release of AirTags, Apple’s Tile-like tracker, popping up around this time
    • I’ve also seen a new beta feature called “Item Safety Features” that will alert you if there is a tracker following you that you don’t own, so that they can’t be used as easily for nefarious purposes
  • And there have been suggestions that new iPads will be coming with mini-LED displays and faster processors
    • This one seems especially likely after reddit user nanosplitter21 found an iPad case on a shelf in Target marked as being compatible with the “New iPad 11” (2021)”, and when they tried to purchase it the till said it could not be sold until April 6th

Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media is officially complete, and they’ve publicly welcomed Bethesda, id, Arkane, and more to the Xbox team

  • The announcement wrapped up by saying that more Bethesda games are coming to Game Pass later this week, adding more value to the juggernaut subscription service
  • As of March 12 we’ll be able to play the DIshonored and Doom series, Fallout New Vegas, Fallout 4 and 76, Prey, Rage 2, Elder Scrolls Morrowind, Skyrim, and Online, The Evil Within, and the new Wolfenstein series
  • It’s a good time to have an Xbox

You might have heard that Denuvo software has come to the PS5- well the good news is it’s not as bad as you may have feared

  • Denuvo anti-cheat software made a bad name for itself causing performance issues on PC games like Doom Eternal and demanding the ability to access a worrying amount of information on your computer
  • The Denuvo piece on PS5 is actually a pretty different beast- it’s a lot more like the anti-cheat and anti-piracy software that was available on the PS4 (which was also by Denuvo)
  • All that’s happening here is that code from the same company (but not the same code that caused problems on PC) is being made available in the PS5 tools library, making it easier for developers to prevent hacking and modding of their titles

This Week In Gaming History

March 6 – 1996 – Ripper – DOS, Macintosh

  • Ripper is an interactive FMV adventure that is played out in the New York of 2040.
    • Brutal killings reminiscent of Jack the Ripper soon get personal and you, crime reporter Jake Quinlan, must solve the mystery.
  • The game plays much like other Take 2 Interactive works, such as Black Dahlia.
    • Solve puzzles and react quickly in combat settings to survive. There are 4 possible endings, and 3 hours of video footage.
  • Thank you to Jeanne and J. Jones for this interesting trivia I found on the Moby Games site.
    • Your CD-Rom drive may not be recognized if it is not designated as Drive D.
      • In addition, it appears that Ripper was not made as a Windows “native” game.
      • While it will run within a DOS window when started in Windows, problems with stuttering sound and lagging graphics are common. The game plays best from the DOS prompt using a Boot Disk.
    • If at the command prompt you accidentally type RIPER (one P) instead of RIPPER (two P’s), instead of going into the game you are greeted with a movie of a rotting apple!
    • Features an all-star cast including Christopher Walken, Burgess Meredith, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Paul Giamatti, Jimmie JJ Walker and Scott Cohen.
      • Ripper also features music from the Blue Oyster Cult.

 

March 7 – 2000 – ChuChu Rocket! – Dreamcast (North America)

  • ChuChu Rocket is an action puzzler, designed predominantly as a multi-player game.
    • You have indirect control over mice, and must guide them to the safety of a rocket, and away from a cat.
    • You do this by placing arrows on the ground, which they will follow.
    • The multi-player game is a frantic all-against-all duel, in which each player’s mice will only follow instructions of their own colour.
    • You can play this mode on your own against CPU opponents, or take on a series of predefined puzzles
  • After closing their hardware development branch, ChuChu Rocket! became the first video game released by SEGA on another console, namely the Game Boy Advance, in 2001.
  • The Dreamcast and Game Boy Advance versions of ChuChu Rocket appear in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

March 8 – 2011 – Dragon Age II – PS3, Windows, Xbox 360

  • Plot:
    • One of the key events early in the first game was the destruction of the village Lothering by the Darkspawn.
    • However, we weren’t told that there was at least one person who survived the onslaught: a human named Hawke.
    • Having become a refugee, Hawke travels to an area known as the Free Marches – more specifically, the city of Kirkwall. Hawke’s family shares the fate with many other Ferelden refugees; the authorities of Kirkwall are suspicious of the newcomers, and the path to financial stability is anything but easy.
    • Meanwhile, the appearance of the mysterious race of Qunari heralds more trouble to the inhabitants of Kirkwall, as does the growing tension between the Templars and the mages.
    • Hawke is caught in the middle of these political and social conflicts – what shall be the hero’s own path?..
  • Dragon Age II uses a “framed narrative” format: the story is narrated over a decade later by one of Hawke’s companions.
    • Similarly to Alpha Protocol, the narrative is rather flexible; motivations and events vary depending on the player’s moral choices during the game.
    • The game also adopts the “wheel-based” dialogue system from Mass Effect games: short responses that reflect different tones and attitudes the player wishes to choose for Hawke.
    • Also similarly to Mass Effect, the main character’s race and name cannot be changed; however, everything else (appearance, gender, classes) can be freely customized.
  • The combat system is quite similar to the one used in the previous Dragon Age game (which, in its turn, dates back to the combat style used in Baldur’s Gate), though it has been noticeably sped up.
    • Hawke can only be human, but the player can customize his or her physical appearance and character class (warrior, mage, or rogue).
    • The player controls Hawke and up to three active party members, either “programming” their actions by assigning actions that should be taken under certain conditions (for example, healing a party member if his HP drops below 20%), or issuing commands to each character manually.
    • The ability tree is also similar, the player being able to learn new abilities as the characters level up. Many abilities from the first game return, but some are absent or replaced with new ones.
    • The abilities are divided into various disciplines, which correspond to the fighting style of the character.
  • Cancelled expansion
    • An expansion to Dragon Age II, named Exalted March, was planned, but cancelled before announcement.
    • Bioware’s reasoning was that other opportunities for the franchises came up, and that there was no room for it because Bioware’s team sizes are fixed and all of them were busy with projects.

March 9 – 1998 – Yoshi’s Story – Nintendo 64

  • Loosely based on the Super Famicom/SNES game Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Yoshi’s Story follows the adventures of six Yoshis as they search through sunny woods, dark caves, soaring mountains, steaming jungles, vast oceans, and gloomy castles for the Super Happy Tree, which has been stolen by the dreaded Baby Bowser.
    • Yoshi can walk, run, swim, leap, flutter, and fire his payload of eggs. The action takes place in storybook “pages” made up of bookmaking materials and other familiar textures, including cut-paper forests, denim clouds, inflatable plastic islands, and stacks of colored spools.
  • The game pioneers use of the Rumble Pak as a key element of the gameplay experience, the player being able to feel invisible but treacherous currents when Yoshi swims through oceanic depths.
    • The Rumble Pak can also help the player locate hidden fruit or other objects by rumbling when Yoshi smells something.
    • With a light touch of the Control Stick it becomes possible to float on a leaf, ride a friendly dragon, and tiptoe past a swarm of angry bees.
  • Cancelled GBA Port
    • One of the first Game Boy Advance demos was a level from Yoshi’s Story.
    • However, it was eventually decided that the downgrades would be too significant, so it wasn’t made into a full game.

March 10 – 2009 – MadWorld – Wii

  • MadWorld is a stylish action beat-em up game, that puts player in the role of a police detective gone rogue and taking part in a violent TV show, in which contestants are encouraged to mutilate each other in increasingly violent and gruesome ways.
  • The game’s unique presentation is achieved through a three-colour palette scheme.
    • All the environments, objects and characters are rendered in black and white, as if drawn in a comic book.
    • The only other colour present is red, which accounts for the gallons of blood flowing from the victims of Jack, the game’s protagonist.
    • Aside from being inspired by comic books, MadWorld’s presentation is also taking hints from the competitive TV shows, with two over-enthusiastic hosts commenting every event happening in the game.
  • The core of the MadWorld experience is a series of challenges, player must take part in.
    • Each challenge presents a confined arena, in which player should score points by defeating his enemies in the most elaborate way possible and take part in the so-called Bloodbath-Challenges, which present additional rules and timed mini-games (like ManDarts or ManGolf) for racking up the points.
    • Once a sufficient amount of points was met, players must fight a unique boss enemy for the current challenge.
    • When boss is defeated, the player will be free to proceed to the next challenge.
  • The game also features a heavy use of quick time events in conjuncture with Wii motion-sensitive controls for the finishing moves, mini-games and general tasks, such as avoiding being hit by the enemy.

March 11 – 2014 – Titanfall – Windows, Xbox One

  • Titanfall is a first-person multiplayer shooter for up to twelve players simultaneously.
    • Set on a war-torn planet with two factions (Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) and the Militia), it features battles between pilots on foot or boarding large mech-style Titans.
    • The game can be played in six game modes: Attrition (team deathmatch with hostage rescuers against kidnappers), Capture the Flag, Hardpoint (capture and hold three locations), Last Titan Standing (last player alive wins, all players start in a Titan), Pilot Hunter (score for the team by killing pilots, not Titans – at the end of the match there is an epilogue where respawns are disabled and the losing team needs to reach an evacuation point/dropship for additional experience points), and Variety Pack (mix of all game modes).
    • There is also a Campaign mode for each faction with a mix of different game modes and bits of story between each mission.
  • The game is fast-paced and while on foot pilots are able to wall jump and link jumps in a parkour style using a jet-boosted belt.
    • In a general game players start by choosing a pilot type.
    • Some of the available weapons include assault rifles, SMGs, shotguns, sniper rifles and smart pistols.
    • During the match a timer counts down (generally three minutes) until a Titan can be deployed.
    • The timer countdown can be shortened by killing other players.
    • When a Titan drops down from the sky a pilot can board it. Playing as a Titan has completely different movement, but it is still agile.
    • The pilot’s double jump is for instance replaced by a dash as a Titan cannot jump, crouch or seek cover.
    • A Titan has very different weapons and is much stronger to take on other Titans.
    • It can be ejected at any time when under attack and it is possible to issue commands to have it follow or guard you.
    • Other players can attempt to board and throw out a player.
    • These can be repelled by activating electric smoke and a Titan has also distinct abilities such as the vortex blocker to stop incoming projectiles, gather them and return them in midair.
    • It is also possible to crush pilots.
    • When a Titan is destroyed a new countdown timer is started.
  • Other game elements include burn cards (up to three per match) for temporary power-ups and AI-controlled minions with three types: grunts, marvins and spectres.
    • The game has a persistent experience system and pilots can level up.
    • This influences for instance the loadouts for both pilots and Titans prior to each match.
    • The available slots for pilots offer room a primary weapon with mod and/or attachment, an anti-Titan weapon, sidearm, tactical ability (for instance cloak, stim or active radar pulse) and kits with specific abilities for different tiers.
    • For a Titan the loadout consists of the chassis, primary weapon with mod, tactical ability, ordinance weapon and different kits.

March 12 – 2018 – Oedipus Dating Sim – Windows

  • “Thousands of years ago, lived a man named Oedipus, king of Thebes and slayer of The Sphinx.
    • A man whose fate was to kill his father, Laius, and then marry his own mother, Jocasta.
    • But what if he could have gamed the system and cheated his own fate?”
  • With the generous help of three fates and Dionysus, the Olympian god with his own TV show, your task is to find a date for Oedipus
    • But it won’t be as straightforward as it seems. At first, you won’t know their true identities.
    • Once you romance each character to a certain level, their true identity will be revealed to you.
    • After that, you must avoid pairing Oedipus with Jocasta.
    • A piece of cake, right? Well, other complications will certainly arise and maybe, with a little ingenuity, you can even end up with Jocasta and not be punished for it. But how?
  • This game was designed with replayability in mind.
    • That means that there are many different choices to make, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore.
    • While the overall structure of having 15 days with 4 time periods each remains the same every time you play, each character’s American name, location in the Casino Hotel and alcoholic beverage of choice will change.
    • If you have additional questions not answered by the dialog trees, you can also try typing the question directly to the character.

Tidbits

  • Tesla has admitted to California that their ‘Full Self Driving’ mode is not actually capable of being fully self driving
    • The feature costs Tesla owners up to $10,000 to unlock on top of the original purchase price of their car, but according to correspondence between Tesla’s general counsel and the California DMV it is not an autonomous system, and currently no features on the car make their vehicles autonomous
  • Utah legislature has passed a bill mandating a default “porn filter” on any electronic devices sold in the state starting in 2022
    • What exactly that might entail is anyone’s guess, and how they plan on enforcing it is an even better question
  • T-Mobile announced that, starting April 26, they’ll be selling their customers’ web and mobile app data to advertisers unless they specifically opt out
    • A spokesperson said “We’ve heard many say they prefer more relevant ads so we’re defaulting to this setting,”, and I’m sure this has nothing to do with advertising companies paying top dollar for tracking information going forward
  • Apex Legends hit the Nintendo Switch on Tuesday, and early reactions are that is just isn’t very good, running at both lower resolutions and frame rates than other platforms and leaving its players at a competitive disadvantage
    • Worst part is that, though you can opt to only play with other people on Switch, by default you’re thrown into the wild with all the players on other consoles that can see and react better than you can
  • Daylight savings is coming up this Sunday, and since it happens twice a year it’s a good reminder to do general maintenance like clean your gutters, change the batteries in your smoke alarms, and rate/review us!

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PS2J 299 News – Virtual Cataracts

Free Games

  • Cross-platform

    • Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is available for free until May 10 on PS4, PC, and Xbox One
  • Twitch

    • Old School Musical

      • 2015
      • A rhythm game that takes you through 50 different chiptune tracks on a tour of old favourite retro games to teach you where all the bugs in those classic games come from
  • Epic Games

    • Amnesia: The Dark Descent

      • 2010
      • Survival horror adventure game that has you exploring a dark, foreboding castle while trying to avoid monsters and maintain your sanity
    • Crashlands

      • 2016
      • Action-adventure RPG originally built for iOS and Android described as a story-driven crafting game comparable to Don’t Starve, wherein you need to collect items in order to make weapon and armour
  • PS4

    • Cities: Skylines

      • 2017 port of the 2015 PC game
      • Open-ended city building simulation in the spirit of SimCity after the critical failure of EA’s 2013 franchise reboot
    • Farming Simulator 19

      • Pretty much what it says on the tin- it’s a full farming simulator with huge American and European environments, over 300 vehicles and machines, online co-op play, and a surprisingly large mod community
      • This entry brought in horse farming as well as oat and cotton crops
  • Xbox

    • V-Rally 4

      • 2018
      • Rally racing game with 51 different cars that takes you from through Monument Valley, Niger, Romania, Malaysia, and more
    • Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr

      • 2017
      • Action RPG with a top-down view and a focus on melee and ranged combat set in the Warhammer 40K universe, frequently compared to Diablo
    • Overlord 2

      • 2009
      • Action RPG that has you destroying or conquering the land by commanding your hordes of minions and taking down the Roman-styled “Glorious Empire”
    • Sensible World of Soccer

      • 2007 HD enhanced version of the 1996 Amiga classic
      • 2D European football game with a comprehensive manager mode, with data on 1,500 teams and 27,000 players. This game is notable as the only sports game included on the list of “the ten most important video games of all time”, as compiled by the curator for the History of Science and Technology Collections at Stanford along with notable game designers and researchers

Apple and Google’s new exposure notification framework, previously referred to as contact tracing, is continuing to evolve and and develop

  • They’ve settled on the different name because of what it is- a framework for notifying people if they’ve been exposed. It’s a tool that can be used in conjunction with contact tracing, but because they’re focused on privacy as a top priority that’s not a part of the developing specifications
    • More details have been coming out with the framework’s introduction into the iOS 13.5 beta, and it sounds like notifications will be handled by phones  downloading a new list of identifiers for positive tests regularly and then notifying you if any of them match ones you’ve come into contact with
    • Users will be able to opt out of exposure notifications under Settings, Privacy, Health
  • Germany, originally set on developing a home-grown contact tracing app with centralized data available to health authorities, has changed course and now is working with the Apple-Google approach
    • Also running with the decentralized plan is Switzerland, Estonia, and Austria
  • The UK, unfortunately, is dead set on having their National Health Service manage all the data and not working within those parameters
    • The NHS says it has a way to make the software work “sufficiently well” without users needing to keep it active and on-screen, without “excessively affecting battery life”, but that “excessively” has me concerned
      • Apparently it will work by having the app wake up in the background every time another device running the same software is detected. Then it runs some code to log the contact before going to sleep again
      • Australia said they also had a workaround, but they’ve since acknowledged power consumption problems as well as interference if users have other Bluetooth and location-tracking apps open
    • Not to mention the fact that they’re so set on taking all this data in that I worry they’re not giving full weight to the privacy argument- if you’re going to expect your citizens to use this app, you can’t treat it like an ankle-bracelet on a felon.
    • I get that having all the data kept in-house seems like a good idea, but Apple and Google are pretty smart and they’re building a seemingly solid platform that allows for notifications and battery performance without compromising integrity and privacy

Good news, Google Stadia has now launched PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds! Bad news, it’s filled with terrible bots!

  • Everyone with a Gmail account still has a free two-month trial of Stadia Pro, which now includes the ability to play PUBG on the service
  • Unfortunately it looks like they’re filling matches with bots- players with underscores in their names that don’t actually jump out of the plane, but appear randomly through the world with pre-filled inventories
    • The game normally drops 100 players on an island to fight it out for supremacy, but ArsTechnica had matches with 98 or even 99 bots
  • I can get why they have bots, to ease new players in without throwing them to the wolves that have been playing religiously for years, but this really seems like a terrible way to do it

Oculus Quest Follow-up

  • Knuckle grips are great and really help with Beat Saber
    • AMVR
  • Battery pack counterweight works well, but hampers the pick-up-and-play a bit
    • Anker, Aukey
  • Prescription lenses are really comfortable
    • WidmoVR
  • The Room VR is a creepy escape room that’s a lot of fun
    • Casting to my phone turned it into a co-op game, but the visibility is a little rough with fast movements causing lag and text not being very readable
  • Oculus store really needs a way to gift games to someone

Josh’s day was ruined very early

VSGO professional lens pen, the buffing pad scratched my left lens on my Oculus Quest
  • Now its like I have cataracts in my left eye playing VR
  • I tried a rubbing alcohol and water solution and it helped a LITTLE bit
Hope is on the horizon
  • a redditor had a family member clean their quest with a shirt or something abrasive.
  • polyWatch is a product that fixes surface scratches
    • polyWatch Plastic Polish offers a simple and reliable solution for removing scratches from plastic watch crystal.
Some people have been using watch glass protectors for their lenses
  • I’m nervouse about adding anything like that to the lenses

Josh guested on Podzilla 1985’s Mr 100 and the 5 Star man

Mr. 100 (or should we say the PHOENIX) and the 5 Star Man are finally back after a TWO MONTH hiatus with a special guest from up north – Josh from PS2J! Come for the Canadian politeness, stay for the talk about American Horror Story, Final Fantasy, Buffy, and more!

Assassins Creed Valhalla

The history of the Assassins versus the Templar travels to Norhtern Europe
Settlements play a big part in the game
  • Trailer opens up on a viking village in Norway.
  • The trailer follows the protagonist Eivor
  • It seems that the viking religion plays a part in the game
    • Unsure of it being supernaturally or just spirtually
Eivor
  • A viking raider from Norway, leaving to the shores of England
  • Eivor is able to be male or female as the player prefers
The story is trying to show a full culture of people
  • The English are shown as terrified of Viking settlers and trying to show them in a bad light
  • At the time of the game 870 AD, England is not united, and is run by many kings
  • The game seems to be about Viking trying to settle on England
    • And fighting for the territory already held by the Saxons.
Alfred the Great, the King of Wessex
  • He is the main antagonist to the vikings in the game and history
There is a lot of viking tactics in the game
  • Longships are used to strike and retreat quickly
  • Some battles of soldier to soldier combat on fortifications
  • Raiding, where the objective is to steal resources rather than fight an enemy
Combat is quite a focus
  • You will be able to dual-wield any one handed weapons
    • Even dual-wield shields
  • And I feel there will be the ability to steal the weapons from the enemy
  • There is a face-off where Eivor is tossed around by a very large opponent
    • Heavily armored and seems to wield a claymore as a long sword
    • Avor wins with the “surprising” reveal of a hidden blade gauntlet
      • It is strapped to the top of his arm, rather then concealed below
      • It doesn’t mean Eivor is a born an raised assassin, but it is confirmed that they are working together
There will also be RPG elements
  • The usual skill trees and gear collecting to fit your playstyle
  • You will also be forming strategic alliances
  • Wins in combat and conversation both pave your path the greatness.
  • You get to grow and customize your settlement
    • recruit clan members
    • upgrade structures
    • make a barracks to get better recruits
    • have your blacksmith improve your weapons
    • new customization options at the tattoo parlor
    • and they promise more
  • Seems like in Blackflag, you will be able to send your recruits on missions for your friends
    • create and customize your own viking mercenaries
    • share them online
    • share in the spoils when they help your friends in their own sagas
    • all while recruiting your own player made mercenaries
  • There are also side quest activities
    • hunting
    • fishing
    • dice
    • drinking games
    • and the traditional Norse competition of flyting
      • basically Viking rap battles
Will be a launch title for Xbox Series X and PS5, and coming to current generation consoles this holiday season.

Tidbits

  • The Last of Us Part 2, originally slated for release back in February and then pushed to May 29th, has been delayed once more to June 19th of this year
    • This latest delay is due to the COVID situation, but has some really bad timing considering there was a massive story leak purporting to show the entire game just a few days ago. People wanting to avoid spoilers will need to be careful for the next couple months
  • Google has launched its second-gen Pixel Buds this week, bringing a couple of my favourite AirPods features to Android
    • They use a pairing process Google calls Fast Pair- you just hold the case near your phone and open it, then a screen pops up to automatically pair them and link them to your Google account
    • They’ve also brought the wireless earbuds into their Find My Device app, similar to Apple’s Find My app that lets you ring them and see the last location they were connected
  • The latest iOS beta software will now detect if you’re wearing a mask and skip from FaceID to the passcode prompt faster
    • You can also speed up the passcode prompt before this releases if you tap on the text saying “Face ID” on your screen while it tries to identify you
  • Huawei, for the fourth time, is taking heat for advertising campaigns that make it look like photos are being taken with their phones but in reality the photos are being taken with professional Nikon or Canon DSLR cameras and lenses
    • Their excuse is that they never actually say the photos are taken with the phones they’re advertising, but when you have you model hold their hand out toward the camera as if they were holding it you’re definitely setting some expectations on purpose

 

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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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