PS2J 318 News – OOPS! All Events

Free games

  • Twitch Prime

    • Q.U.B.E. 2

      • 2018
      • Sequel to the original Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion, and a physics-based puzzle game, interacting with specific blocks in the world to solve puzzles and make it to the end of each level
    • Bridge Constructor

      • 2011
      • Physics-based simulation puzzle game that has you working with different gaps, materials, and cost limitations to make bridges that can support different combinations of traffic
  • Epic Games

    • Football Manager 2020

      • 2019
      • European football-management simulation game offering playable teams in 53 different countries across 5 continents
    • Stick It To The Man!

      • 2013
      • Indie adventure platformer that puts you in the role of Ray, a hard hat tester that suffered a bizarre accident and woke up with a giant pink spaghetti arm sticking out of his brain. With his awesome new powers he can read minds and change the world with stickers but he’s on the run for a crime he didn’t commit.
    • Watch Dogs 2

      • 2016
      • Action adventure open world game where you play a hacker trying to take down the city’s advanced surveillance system, completing missions in a variety of ways in increase the follower count of your group DedSec

Apple- Time Flies event

  • No iPhone announcement after all, so we can likely look forward to that in October

  • Apple Watch

    • New initiative from Mount Sinai health system, where researchers are using Watch data to research COVID
    • WatchOS 7 will track VO2 Max, the volume of oxygen you consume when exercising at max capacity, a good indicator of fitness and overall health
      • Notification if it drops to low levels
    • Series 6
      • Blue aluminum, gold stainless steel, graphite stainless steel, and PRODUCT(RED)
      • Blood oxygen
        • 15 seconds to measure, takes periodic readings including while you sleep
        • Helpful indicator of respiratory and cardiac health
      • Fancy dual-core processor
      • Improved always-on display
      • New always-on altimeter
      • New watchfaces
        • GMT shows multiple timezones
        • Count-up lets you track elapsed time
        • Chronograph pro has multiple time scales
        • Typograph give you custom styles focusing on large numbers
      • New stretchable one-piece loop band, in both solid and an attractive braided silicon
    • Family Setup
      • One iphone can set up multiple watches, for kids or other people without their own phone
      • Includes location notifications and movement tracking
    • Apple Watch SE
      • Uses slightly older chips (still twice as fast as the series 3) along with the fancy new display
      • Same accelerometer, gyro, compass, and altimeter as the 6, but no ECG or blood oxygen
    • New lineup starts at:
      • Series 3 $199
      • SE $279
      • Series 6 $399
  • Officially removing the USB wall adapter from the Apple Watch, marketing it as an environmental initiative

  • Apple Fitness +

    • Fitness service with trainers and music (integrated with Apple Music if you want to save a playlist)
    • Workout videos shown on your TV along with biometrics from your watch
    • Launching with yoga, cycling, dance, treadmill, strength, core, hiit, rowing, and meditation
    • New workouts every week, with different levels and recommended workouts
    • Three month free trial, and will be available before the end of the year
    • $9.99/month, $79.99/year
  • Apple One

    • iCloud storage
    • Music
    • TV+
    • Arcade
    • News+
    • Fitness+
    • Individual plan- $14.95
      • Includes Music, TV+, Arcade, 50GB storage
      • $19.95 for family access
    • Premier- $29.95
      • Adds News+ and Fitness+, along with 2TB storage
  • iPadOS 14

    • Better Pencil integration with automatic writing-to-text
    • Scribble lets you handwrite in any text field
  • iPad

    • New 8th gen base model is getting the A12 chip from the XS and the iPad Air
      • Also works with Apple Pencil
      • Smart connector for the fancy Apple smart and magic keyboards
      • Starts at $329 ($299 for education)
    • Air
      • Redesigned, more similar to the iPad Pro
      • USB-C, rounded corners, smaller bezels, and the smart connector
      • New colours including rose gold, green, and sky blue
      • TouchID integrated into the power button
      • No FaceID or TrueDepth camera
      • Brand new 6 core processor, 40% faster than the previous model
      • This all brings the Air ($599) close to parity with the Pro ($799), especially if you don’t want FaceID
  • New software for iPads, iPhones, Watches, and AppleTV’s all hit this week, with no mention of macOS

    • All kinds of fanciness that we’ve talked about previously including home screen widgets and better sleep tracking, along with picture-in-picture video
      • They’ve added an App Library, so iPhone users don’t need to have every app installed available on one of their homescreen pages
      • Not to mention additional options with Shortcuts and Automations that Reddit immediately took to to make their iPhones moan when power cords are plugged in
    • They’ve also released a new firmware for AirPods Pro that adds spatial audio and dynamic head tracking, so when paired with iOS14 supported audio will always sound like it’s anchored to your device

Sony’s announced more details on the PS5, and we’ve got some highlights

  • Pricing of the disk-version of the PS5 matches the Xbox Series X at $499USD, and the diskless model is $399
    • That’s a good chunk more than the Series S’s $299, but considering you get the same specs rather than a pared down version it makes sense- the PS5 blows the Series S out of the water, spec-wise
    • You could even look at it like they’re coming in at $100 less than the Series X, with an optional upgrade to include a disk drive
  • Demon’s Souls Remake looks amazing, with everything rebuilt from the original art, sound, music, and feel along with fancy new haptic feedback
    • You can still see the trailer mirrored on other sites like IGN, but Sony had to pull the original because it mistakenly said it was coming to other consoles and PC
    • This alone might sell me a PS5
  • Spider-Man Miles Morales looks pretty solid
  • Hogwarts Legacy could be the open world Harry Potter game we’ve been waiting for
  • Deathloop looks like a lot of fun, especially for fans of the Groundhog Day genre
  • God of War Ragnarok was revealed, and after the last title in the series is yet another reason to buy a PS5
  • Playstation Plus Collection
    • It feels like conceptually they’re trying to compete with GamePass, and they might get there eventually, but right now it’s mainly a selection of excellent PS4 games that all PS+ subscribers can play on the PS5 at launch for no additional cost
      • God of War
      • Bloodborne
      • Monster Hunter World
      • Final Fantasy XV
      • Mortal Kombat X
      • Fallout 4
      • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
      • Ratchet & Clank
      • Days Gone
      • Until Dawn
      • Detroit: Become Human
      • Battlefield 1
      • Infamous: Second Son
      • Batman: Arkham Knight
      • The Last Guardian
      • The Last of Us: Remastered
      • Persona 5
      • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
  • Pre-orders are available now, with launch on November 12th in North America, Japan, Australia, NZ, and SK, and the 19th everywhere else

Facebook has announced the Oculus Quest 2- the new king of VR, if you don’t mind Zuckerberg’s ever-tightening fist

  • It’s kind of ridiculous how good the headset is, especially for its price and the fact that it’s wireless
  • $299USD gets you a thinner, lighter Quest with higher resolution with 50% more pixels per eye
    • And for $100 more you can get 256GB of storage, which you might end up needing if games start really using the increased pixel-count. The base model only getting 64GB of storage is nearly criminal nowadays
    • It actually just edges out the Valve Index when it comes to resolution, and that one goes for $1000
    • It’s using LCD instead of OLED though, so expect blacks to look less black, and the field of view is a fair bit narrower than the Index so you’re locked to only 90 degrees
    • They’ve also increased the framerate from 72hz to 90hz, but currently that’s only supported on the main menus
  • Another change is the IPD adjustment, to set the distance between your eyes
    • The Quest had a slider for a range of measurements, but the Quest 2 only has three set positions that Facebook says accommodates between 68mm and 58mm
  • The base head strap is even more basic than the Quest’s, more matching the Oculus Go, but they’re handling it a lot better with first party peripherals
    • You can get alternate face linings, protective lenses, a higher-quality Elite Strap, and even better an amped up Elite Strap with an additional battery to help counterbalance
  • Facebook definitely hasn’t skimped on the processor though, going from one that was midrange even at launch to a top of the line Snapdragon XR2 that is more than twice as fast
  • They’ve also improved the battery life on the slightly redesigned controllers, while at the same time making them a little bigger to be almost a hybrid between the original Oculus controllers and the first gen Quest
  • But now where it gets ugly
    • The Quest 2 will be the first piece of Oculus hardware that requires a Facebook account to run
      • This combined with the low price reminds me of the adage “If you get something for free, you might be the product being sold”
    • And on top of that, Facebook has said that if you link your Oculus account to a Facebook account that violates their rules, like not using your real name or birthdate, your account could be completely disabled and you might lose access to any games or content you’ve already paid for
      • In many cases Facebook has asked for an unredacted picture of a user’s driver’s license to be sent in to verify that information, but it seems ridiculous that they have any business getting all that information just so I can play VR games. Beyond billing info they have no use for my personal info, besides to sell it to someone else
  • All that said, if you’re okay with what Facebook does and want what is unfortunately one of the best VR headsets available, you can pick yours up on October 13

The App Store slapfight continues

  • Court documents in the Epic vs Apple lawsuit show Apple saying that Epic Games can’t re-apply to their developer program for at least one year
    • Epic is trying to overturn that ban, but assuming no changes it’s unlikely we’ll see Fortnite back on iOS before summer 2021
  • Apple also seems to be accusing Epic of using this whole situation as a publicity stunt
    • Apparently compared to October 2019, July 2020 had seen interest in Fortnite decrease by nearly 70%, and this mess that Epic Games has invented for themselves is an attempt to boost their own reputation
    • They also deny that Epic is losing huge amounts of money, saying that though Epic says iOS is their biggest platform based on number of users only 10% of consumers play regularly on iPhone, and that according to Epic’s own disclosures Apple is the smallest piece of the pie when it comes to revenue
    • An excellent quote from Apple’s filing:
      • Epic started a fire, and poured gasoline on it, and now asks this Court for emergency assistance in putting it out, even though Epic can do so itself in an instant by simply adhering to the contractual terms that have profitably governed its relationship with Apple for years. This Court was right when it previously ruled that “‘self-inflicted wounds are not irreparable injury.’”
  • In addition to that, a new filing today from Mark Grimm, a Game Developer Manager at Apple, highlighted the lengths to which Apple went to accommodate Epic in recent years
    • Apparently engineers on both sides remained in near-constant contact for the last two years to make sure Fortnite could run smoothly at all times and across a variety of devices, including substantial engineering support to help it to run on older iPhones
    • Grimm also wrote about the amount of hardware and software resources shared, saying that they’ve even coached Epic about unreleased iOS tech and even sent engineers to their HQ to help get them up to speed, on top of Apple optimizing their iOS and Mac systems to improve the performance of Unreal Engine
  • A separate filing from Mike Schmid, Apple’s Head of Games Business Development, added even more background
    • Apparently Epic threatened on multiple occasions to essentially hold Fortnite hostage, threatening to release updates on competing platforms first and even in some cases said they would terminate their relationship with Apple and remove their games from the App Store, if Apple didn’t comply with demands
    • This reportedly got to the point where Apple staff in Australia were brought in to the Epic relationship team, to provide 24 hour coverage
    • On top of all that, Schmid says they even worked closely with Epic to allow in-game features that were not previously allowed, such as gifting within apps, by amending App Store Guidelines
    • “This example,” Schmid writes, “demonstrates Apple’s attentiveness to the developer community, including the needs of developers like Epic, which in this instance made a request that Apple could accommodate on terms that would apply equally to all developers, large and small, and that would at the same time adequately ensure user safety and security.”
  • It almost seems like Epic got so used to Apple giving them whatever they demanded that they threw a tantrum when told they couldn’t have their own App Store on iPhone, but we’ll have to see how the Epic Games team responds to the latest filings
  • I agree that the App Store has some room to evolve, but Epic really shot themselves in the foot repeatedly here

In a new interview with IGN, Xbox director of program management Jason Ronald gave some more detail on the differences between the Series S and X

  • Apparently the core capabilities between the two consoles are basically the same, so the primary difference will be resolution- 1440p on the S and 4k on the X
    • Even though theoretically the Series S could have performance somewhat comparable to the One X, it will not apply any of the One X specific enhancements for better framerates or 4k resolutions
    • Backwards-compatible titles could benefit from improved texture filtering and other bits and bobs though, so the Series S isn’t completely left out in the cold
  • They’re leaving a lot up to developers though, like whether to allow ray tracing, increase the framerate, or even try for 4k on the S
  • The goal is apparently not to have exclusive titles on the X, but rather to get lower-res options for the S
  • And as an added bonus, game file sizes could be around 30% smaller for the S if developers stick to 1440p textures
  • It will likely still lead to some fragmentation but hopefully not as much as previously thought

Apple’s made some changes that are kind of good news for game streaming services, but with a BIIG asterisk

  • They’ve announced updates to their App Store review guidelines introducing new rules for things like Microsoft xCloud
    • They’re allowed, which is great, but apparently all of the games included in the subscription need to be downloaded directly from the App Store…?
    • From the looks of it, all 150+ xCloud games would need to hit the App Store separately, with updates going through the full review process and all in-app purchases going through Apple
    • They’re allowed to have a catalog app to help users sign up and find games, but all games must have their own App Store product page
  • All said and done, this feels like a PR move so Apple can say they’re not blocking streaming game services while at the same time making the way forward as torturous as possible, when really it should work as smoothly as Netflix or YouTube

Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia: Sands of Time remake leaked, and it looked rough, so they released the reveal trailer, which also looks rough

  • With a high nostalgia factor you’d think this would be a priority, but it was seemingly shunted off to Ubisoft India
    • While I can understand that studio being excited to sink their teeth into potentially one of the biggest AAA games developed in the country, doing it for the first time with a remake of something this high-profile could have been a misstep
  • Honestly, I think they would have been better off just upscaling the original assets. It definitely doesn’t look like a game from 2020
    • Reddit user Bolt_995 put it well: “This is a PS2 game remade to look like a PS3 game on a PS4 and the release date is set during the launch window of the PS5”

The saga of TikTok continues, with Beijing opposing the sale that the US is dead set on forcing

  • According to Reuters the Chinese government would rather see the video app shut down in the US instead
  • Oracle is trying to get around that by becoming their “trusted tech partner”, not their owner, but the exact details have yet to be hashed out
    • From the sounds of it Oracle would house data from US TikTok users on its own servers, to hopefully alleviate security concerns
  • The US Treasury Secretary also floated the idea of them opening a TikTok Global HQ in the US and creating 20,000 jobs, but who knows what kind of basis that has in reality if any
  • Yet to be seen is:
    • If this deal will satisfy Trump’s government
    • If it will satisfy the Chinese government
    • What will happen to TikTok’s fancy algorithm, likely the driving force behind any offer, with China saying it’s off the table

This Week In Gaming History

September 12 – 2002 – Battlefield 1942 – Windows

  • Battlefield 1942 is a massive online multiplayer shooter roughly based on World War II, but with emphasis on balance and fun.
    • Join armed forces of United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany or Russia, and battle up to 63 of your friends online.
    • Have access to up to twenty different authentic weapons. Control any of the 30+ vehicles over land, on water, or in air.
    • Combat takes place in four theaters; South Pacific, North Africa, and Eastern and Western Europe.
    • Have epic battles with up to 64 players on the same map, or hone your skills in single-player mode against AI bots.

September 13 – 2003 – Star Trek: The Neutral Zone – Windows

  • Star Trek: The Neutral Zone is a free, simple deathmatch game where players (and bots, named after characters from the Star Trek series, but unlicensed) choose a ship to destroy others in order to reach the frag limit.
    • There is a variety of ships available with their graphics taken from Star Trek: Bridge Commander and possibly a few of its mods.
    • But apart from the visuals, they do not differ in any way. All of them are armed with phasers and photon torpedoes, with the colour of phasers chosen by the player in the options menu.
    • Occasionally, certain power-ups appear on the map.
  • Up to two players can play on the same computer, and a TCP/IP multiplayer mode is available.
  • On Moby Games, the site I reference, this was the only game released this day on 2003.

September 14 – 1994 – Math Blaster: In Search of Spot – Genesis

  • The Genesis release was the one release that was confirmed to a firm date
  • A follow-up to the original Math Blaster! games, Math Blaster: In Search of Spot is an educational title with arcade elements designed to help students learn maths while having fun.
  • The game allows students to practice basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills in addition to fractions, decimals, percents, estimation, and number patterns.
    • The subjects can be practiced separately or together in review. Six levels of difficulty are provided.
    • Like the previous titles, the game also includes an editor to create new problem sets (present in the PC version only).
  • Math Blaster’s friend and assistant, Spot, is kidnapped by the evil Trash Alien at the beginning of the game.
    • The Galactic Commander gives Math Blaster the mission to follow the Trash Alien to his home planet and rescue Spot.
  • The game starts with a complete mission (story mode).
    • The mission consists of a series of four (three in the console versions) math activities (mini-games) strung together with cut-scenes. The activities can also be played separately, for practice or for score.
  • The activities you can do are:
    • Trash Zapper – Solve equations to gain tractor beam power, then use the tractor beam to collect space trash.
    • Number Recycler (PC version only) – Create equations by pushing around columns of numbers and operators. Correct equations allow you to turn the trash you collected into fuel.
    • Cave Runner – Use Math Blaster’s jet pack to fly through a cave. He has a number on his chest, and it must be arithmetically between the numbers on each side of an opening in order for him to pass through. Droplets of water falling from above can change this number by performing an operation on it. There are also gems which can be collected for bonus points, and in higher levels, monsters appear that can knock Math Blaster down.
    • Math Blaster – The Trash Alien’s spaceship displays an equation, and the four portholes serve as multiple-choice answers. Use the jet pack to fly into the correct portholes while avoiding floating trash and energy blasts from the ship. Bonus gems also appear at random, and after five problems a bonus round occurs where players get a chance to collect as many gems as they can within a time limit.
  • Upon finishing the complete mission, the player is presented with a certificate that can be printed out (PC version only). Their final score is also added to a high score board for their account.

September 15 – 1990 – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – DOS

  • A good example of the difference a little multimedia can do, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes plays like a textmode proof-of-concept of the better-known Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective.
    • The basic investigative elements remain the same: managing time dashing to various locations around Olde London Towne in search of clues, but here instead of successfully receiving them as video clips you often get cryptic encoded messages in “fill-in-the-blank” form, intended in total to spell out, some directly and some through phonetic wordplay, the name of the killer, the method they used, and their motive for committing the crime.
    • Characters from the original tales including Dr. Watson, Mrs. Baker and Inspector Lestrade help to establish the flavour of literary canon as you investigate all-new crimes (some user-contributed!)

September 16 – 1998 – Fuck Quest – DOS

  • This is a parody of the Sierra-style games like Space Quest, King’s Quest, etc. Similar interface, sounds, and graphics.
  • This is a small game that’ll make people who have played the Sierra games laugh, although I don’t think anybody else will understand the point.
    • Probably R-Rated because of not-so-subtle sexual content. Can be finished quickly.
  • The art appears to be done in a single pass on MS Paint
    • Includes level design, like The House Of Porn, which is a pair of breasts.
  • Has an average score of 1.4 out of 5

September 17 – 2002 – Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer – GameCube, PS2, XBox

  • You know Tony Hawk, Matt Hoffman but now it’s Kelly Slater’s Pro sport game
  • Do you like to surf? Have you ever imagined surfing at different remote locations around the world? Well, Kelly Slater takes you around the world on his boat to surf some of the more famous beaches. With a control scheme similar to all the other Activision O2 brand games, it’s easy to jump into the game and surf.
  • Game Play Modes:
    • Infinite Time – With no clock, no objectives, and nobody around, this gives you the best opportunity to just enjoy the surf.
    • High Score – With 3 minutes, how high of a score can you get?
    • Icon Challenge – See how many icons you can collect and how high of a score you can get before time runs out.
    • Career Mode – Select a surfer and journey around the world to surf the best waves on the best beaches. As you progress you will unlock new beaches, new surf boards, and new tricks which will be usable in all the other modes of play.
    • Multiplayer Modes:
    • Push – Two players surf simultaneously in an attempt to “push” the split screen towards their opponent’s half of the screen. As you score points the screen gets pushed more. The winner is decided once one player is pushed from the screen.
    • Head to Head – Similar to Push but the screen is stationary and the winner is the person with the highest points when the time runs out.
    • Time Attack – Players take turns to achieve the most points possible. The more points you get the less time is alloted to your opponent.
  • The Pros in the game: Kelly Slater, Lisa Andersen, Tom Carroll, Tom Curren, Nathan Fletcher, Donavon Frankenreiter, Bruce Irons, Rob Machado, Kalani Robb, and some other secret characters.
    • Secret characters which I looked up!
      • Tony Hawk
      • Travis Pastrana – A extreme Motorsport athlete
      • “Tiki God”
      • “Surfreak”
  • The beaches in the game: Sebastian, Trestles, Mavericks, Antarctica, Jaws, Pipeline, Teahupoo, Bells, Curren’s Point, Kirra, G-Land, J-Bay, Mundaka, Cortez Bank, and perhaps some other tucked-away hide-aways.
  • The PS2 version of the game also includes a playable demo of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4.

September 18 – 2018 – Nintendo Switch Online service – Switch

  • The Nintendo Switch was formally announced in January 2017, with its release on March 3, 2017.
    • Nintendo stated in its pre-release announcements that the system would eventually require purchase of a paid “online service”, but that they would be available to all users at no charge until the service launched.
    • Features announced included a companion smartphone app, as well as access to a free Nintendo Entertainment System game per-month. The service was initially planned for late 2017.
    • By June 2017, Nintendo pushed back the service’s release until 2018, but did establish the pricing plans for the service, with an average annual price of US$20, depending on region.
    • Then-Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé explained that the delays were to ensure that the service was “world-class”, and had enough of its announced functionality available on-launch to justify its cost.
    • Nintendo aimed for a lower price point in comparison to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, as the service does not include the same range of features as these subscription services provide.
    • Then-Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima stated that the price point was a subject of importance in designing the Switch’s online services, and that regardless of what competitors were doing, “it’s a matter of getting our content to the consumer at a price point that would make them happy, and then we’re willing to look at what else we can do going forward.”
  • A Nintendo Direct two days before the release detailed the full set of features that would be part of the Online service, including a larger and persistent library of NES games for subscribers, as well as cloud save support.
  • The 20 games at launch were:
    • Balloon Fight
    • Baseball
    • Donkey Kong
    • Double Dragon
    • Dr. Mario
    • Excitebike
    • Ghosts’n Goblins
    • Gradius
    • Ice Climber
    • Ice Hockey
    • The Legend of Zelda
    • Mario Bros.
    • Pro Wrestling
    • River City Ransom
    • Soccer
    • Super Mario Bros.
    • Super Mario Bros. 3
    • Tecmo Bowl
    • Tennis
    • Yoshi, A puzzle game

Tidbits

  • Borderlands 3 has joined the growing number of games that are releasing free updates to next-gen consoles for anyone playing it on the current generation
    • They’re also adding 3 and 4 player split screen, as well as 4k 60fps single player
  • Super Mario 3D All Stars has leaked onto the internet, showing that all the games are just emulated and upsampled versions with no real tweaks
    • On the plus side, the fact that there are now internal Nintendo emulators for Wii, GameCube, and N64 games on the Switch could mean there are more classics coming
  • Fall Guys has released a mid-season update increasing the chaos and the fun
    • They’ve amped up the anti-cheat, added extra random obstacles to familiar levels, and thrown in Big Yeetus- a large hammer that can launch you to victory or hilarious defeat

 

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PS2J 302 News – Aztec and Japanese

Free games

  • Twitch

    • Silence: The Whispered World 2

      • 2016
      • Point and click adventure game that won awards for its visuals and sound design, following a young girl lost in the magical realm between life and death, and her brother trying to bring her home
  • Epic Games

    • Civilization VI

      • 2016
      • Turn-based 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) strategy game in the Sid Meier’s Civilization series, where you develop a civilization from an early settlement through millennia to become a world power and achieve military domination, technological superiority, or cultural influence against human or computer-controlled opponents

Apple software updates

  • watchOS 6.2.5 has brought ECG functionality to Saudi Arabia, as well some new Pride watch faces to go with Apple’s new Pride-themed watchbands
  • iOS 13.5 has brought the ability to share your medical ID information during an emergency call, security fixes for Mail, mask-detection for FaceID so the password prompt appears more quickly, and most important the exposure notification API
    • Exposure notification settings are available under Settings, Privacy, Health once your region has been set up, including options to enable/disable it on demand, a list of active tracing apps on your phone, records of all requests to check your exposure log, and the ability to delete your exposure log altogether
    • Apple’s reported that several US States and 22 countries around the world have requested and received access to date, with more expected to join in the coming weeks
    • Now that this is available to the public I’m looking forward to contact tracing apps that handle privacy and device performance well, alongside giving people more tools to see if they may have been exposed to COVID-19
    • In the ABTraceTogether’s FAQ for the Alberta-based contact tracing app they mention updating once the API is released, so as soon as I see that I’ll definitely be installing it

The latest battle in iPhone encryption is already here, hidden behind NDA’s for the last year

  • Among more news of the FBI claiming Apple is willfully not decrypting the phones of suspected criminals and accusing them of aiding terrorists, and Apple replying that they seriously can’t decrypt those devices because they’re secure by design but they provided literally everything they have access to, we’re hearing more talk of the secret hacking tools that government agencies and law enforcement are spending tens of thousands of dollars on. Each.
  • Grayshift, the company behind the GrayKey iPhone brute-force cracking device we’ve talked about more than a few times over the years, apparently has an additional tool for passcodes that are too long to crack
    • Four to six digit pins can be cracked in less than a day, but adding the alphabet and increasing length can easily stretch that time to years
  • It’s a piece of software called Hide UI, and it’s basically spyware that the GrayKey box can install on devices to record passcodes as they are entered into the device
    • The idea is that basically law enforcement can try to crack the phone, then instead install the Hide UI spyware and give the phone back under the pretence of allowing a phonecall or other access to the data on the phone.
    • Then, even if the phone is locked again, the passcode will have been stored in a file that can be extracted the next time it’s plugged back in to the GrayKey device
      • According to a screenshot posted online, the GrayKey even snapshots the phone’s file system to prevent the deletion of any data, disables Airplane mode, and blocks attempts to wipe the phone
      • So now not only do we need to have long, alphanumeric passcodes for any semblance of security, but if your phone has been in the hand of law enforcement you can’t trust it enough to use it
  • One of the biggest problems with this is it’s another tool used by law enforcement, which needs to be accountable to the public in a democratic society
    • So far though GrayKey has been mentioned in court documents we haven’t seen any search warrants outlining the capabilities of Hide UI, and if it’s been in use that could be a problem when it comes to our rights and freedoms
    • Some civil liberties groups including the ACLU are concerned that, rather than disclose how the tech works and subjecting it to public scrutiny, prosecutors may be dropping cases when it comes up.
      • This previously happened with the use of stingray devices, which spoof a cell phone tower to intercept nearby phonecalls and text messages
  • And even though law enforcement sources say a warrant is required, it’s not clear whether the prosecutor or judge are aware of subterfuge and malware involved. It feels like this is moving from the territory of a search warrant and into surveillance or wire tapping
  • On top of all that, because Grayshift is using these NDA’s to prevent law enforcement from being transparent, defence attorneys may not get the same access to exculpatory data
    • One NDA from 2018 requires law enforcement to notify Grayshift if details of the tech are likely to be disclosed through something like a subpoena or court order, so that Grayshift has the opportunity to “obtain a protective order or otherwise oppose the disclosure”, so we officially have a company that could interfere with the courts and due process because they don’t want people to find out about the hacking tools they’re selling

id Software caught a lot of flak this week for the May 14th update of Doom Eternal, which added in anti-cheat software with dangerous implications

  • Separate from the Denuvo Anti-Tamper software, which is built to make it harder for pirates to crack the software through reverse-engineering, the new piece is Denuvo Anti-Cheat
    • DAC is a PC-only piece added to Doom for its multiplayer game modes, to ensure everyone’s on an even playing field, but the way it was added after the fact even for players not going in to multiplayer has many up in arms
  • The big problems with DAC?
    • It completely ruined Linux compatibility
    • It seems to have been causing blue-screen errors, performance degradation, as well as issues launching the game at all
    • It can be updated silently in the background, giving it even more access and control
    • And, because of the level of access it is set up with, it can collect information on everything your computer is doing and transmit/affect it however it pleases
      • Any security vulnerabilities found in DAC would immediately affect everyone with Doom Eternal installed, whether they wanted DAC or not
  • Things got so bad so quickly that, after a campaign of review-bombing on Steam, id has already announced plans to remove DAC in the next patch
    • They’re saying that, at the very minimum, they will consider giving campaign-only players a way to avoid anti-cheat software altogether while also re-evaluating what they use to prevent cheating in multiplayer
    • They’ve also stated that the performance issues are unrelated, and that other fixes are coming in the patch to address them, but with the way they worded it (“It’s also worth noting that our decision to remove the anti-cheat software is not based on the quality of the Denuvo Anti-Cheat solution.”) it almost seems like they’re trying to avoid a liability/defamation problem with Denuvo
  • Either way, anyone playing Doom Eternal on PC may want to uninstall the game while we wait for the next patch. Or at the very least, check your Uninstall Programs app on Windows and remove Denuvo Anti-Cheat and Denuvo Anti-Cheat Updater

Users of the popular email app Edison Mail had a major privacy breach this week, with many reporting that they suddenly had access to other peoples’ email accounts

  • A new sync feature was recently rolled out to allow connected email accounts to show up across all your devices, but there are a lot of reports from users on sites like Twitter saying that they now had full access to complete strangers’ email accounts
    • They could also see in their settings that other peoples’ devices had access to their accounts as well
  • Edison has been replying to users saying they’re “urgently working to resolve this technical problem” and that they’ve reverted the change that introduced the problem for a “small percent of our users”
    • A followup blog post says that it exclusively affected iOS users, totalling about 6,500 accounts, and was fixed 30 hours after first being reported
    • They’re also saying that your credentials weren’t exposed, but that you should change your password just in case
  • Either way, this will likely lead many to reconsider using Edison Mail going forward

The BBC has launched a new online service to let users watch or listen to programs, podcasts, and radio together remotely

  • BBC Together is available now on Taster, the BBC’s experimental platform, and can be accessed with any web browser.
  • Once one user finds a link to something they want to watch with others, from iPlayer, Sounds, Bitesize, News, or Sports, and pastes it into BBC Together it creates a new group session with a link that can be sent to friends and family
  • Each session can be watched by up to 50 people, with the host able to control the content or choose something new to watch
  • Overall it seems pretty similar to Netflix Party, the Chrome extension that lets you watch Netflix shows simultaneously online, and it couldn’t have come at a better time

Dumb news item of the week- The US Department of Homeland Security has had to issue alerts to wireless telecom providers and law enforcement agencies about potential attacks on cell towers and telecom workers

  • Apparently coronavirus conspiracy theorists have decided that COVID-19 can be spread by the new 5G cellular frequency (it can’t), and that has led to dozens of cell tower burnings in the UK and mainland Europe

Overwatch Anniversary

  • May 19 to June 9th

    • Log in for a free Legendary Lootbox!
  • Each day features a seasonal brawl

    • It runs through this list, one a day and repeats when it ends:
    • Lucioball
    • Junkenstein’s Revenge
    • Mai’s Snowball Offensive
    • Yeti Hunter
    • Capture the Flag
    • Uprising
    • Retribution
    • Storm Rising
    • Archive Challenges
      • The harder effects added to Uprising, Retribution and Storm Rising
  • During the anniversary you are able to use your in game currency and purchase any cosmetic from events that you may have missed
  • This event brings 5 new legendary skins

    • Dragoon Mercy

      • Mercy’s armour is styles like a green dragon
    • Huitzilopotchli Zenyatta

      • Pronounced Weetsee-low-potched-li (Josh’s pronunciation breakdown)
      • Huitzilopotchli is a the Mesoamerican deity of war, sun, human sacrifice and the patron of the city of Tenochtitlan. (Ten-o-cheetch-lon) Which is now in Mexico City.
      • His body looks like ancient Aztec stone, has a statuesque face, some omnic flare for joints and lighting, and he is wearing a ceremonial headdress and skirt
    • Little Red Ashe

      • Ashe is dressed like an armed Little Red Riding Hood
      • And Bob is the bag bad wolf, dressed like granny
    • Masquerade Reaper

      • It is very similar to the masquerade outfit in the comic, big exceptions are:
        • the lack of fluffy collar
        • his mask is not a full skull, but a gold masquerade mask with a top jaw of a skull
        • and unlike the comic, he has a full cape
        • and his shotguns are styled like handcannons with writing on the bottom
          • “Beneath your dancing feet are the tombs of tortured men!”
          • Which is a quote from The Phantom of the Opera
    • Submarine Wrecking Ball

      • The mech is nautical themed like an old diving suit
      • Hammond has a captains outfit and a big moustache
  • And again, they are giving away Epic skins with a player icon and spray with 9 wins in Quick Play, Competitive Play, or the Arcade

    • Week 1

      • May 19th to 26th
      • Carbon Fiber Sigma
      • His armour is black carbon fiber
      • With extra details and visor that are yellow hexagonal glass or hardlight
    • Week 2

      • May 26th to June 2nd
      • Fleur de Lis Widowmaker
      • Her clothing is purple and gold
      • Parts look somewhat like armour, like shoulders and boots
    • Week 3

      • June 2nd to June 9th
      • Masked Man McCree
      • A recolour of McCree making him a teal with white trim and white hat
      • His poncho reads Ranger
      • His belt buckle is HYSA
        • Given the Lone Ranger flair its probably “Hi-Yo Silver Away!”

Tidbits

  • Chrome is taking aim at bad ads with new features to block advertisements that affect your computer’s performance through either bad or malicious code
    • The idea is that they’ll block ads that use more resources or network data than the other 99.9% of overall ads, to prevent things like surreptitious bitcoin mining
    • They’ll be experimenting with it over the next few months with an expected release by the end of August
  • Spotify is continuing their slow but hostile takeover of the podcast ecosystem, with Joe Rogan hitting the service in September and going Spotify-exclusive this January
    • I understand that the money is attractive, but at the end of the day podcasting is supposed to be an open standard. Once you start limiting things to specific apps and services you’re going to lose people, especially if you go to a service with as much user tracking as Spotify
  • Twitter has started testing new conversation options, letting people limit replies to their tweets to either everyone, people you follow, or only people you mention
    • It’s not a bad idea, but it will definitely increase the echo-chamber effect that Twitter already has issues with
  • HTC is working on their new U Ear earbuds that, according to photos in regulatory documents, took some design cues from the original AirPods
    • And by “took some design cues”, I mean “they took AirPods and spray-painted them black”
  • Facebook has acquired the GIF sharing website Giphy for $400M, and has announced plans to further integrate it into Instagram and other Facebook apps
    • This is really going to highlight which companies with Giphy integration care about your data- some, like Signal or Slack, will outright tell you how they protect your data and disassociate your information from the Giphy images you use, while others are going to be conspicuously silent
  • Apple Stores have begun reopening in Canada and the US this week, with safety precautions like required face coverings, temperature checks and screening questions at the door, and limited occupancy of the stores
    • I’ll have a first-hand account of their new safety precautions after I take my computer in on Saturday

 

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