PS2J 322 News – Anarchy! Only If I Run It

Free Games

  • Twitch

    • Kona

      • 2017
      • Adventure game set in the 1970 centred around a private investigator who arrives at a snowy town in northern Quebec only to find it deserted, except for some thing that’s lurking
    • Deadlight: Director’s Cut (previously free in October 2019)

      • 2016 rerelease of the 2012 title
      • Side-scrolling cinematic platforming survival horror game that has you attempting to traverse a zombie-infested Seattle to rejoin your family
  • Epic Games

    • Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs

      • 2016
      • Survival horror game originally meant to be a mod of The Dark Descent, it instead became an indirect sequel set in the same universe with a new cast and in a new time. It has you exploring eerie locations and solving puzzles while trying to maintain a grip on your own sanity
      • Amnesia: Rebirth is out on October 20th
    • Kingdom: New Lands (previously free in June 2019)

      • 2016
      • 2D pixel survival game that has you playing as a shipwrecked monarch trying to establish a long-lasting kingdom while being attacked by otherworldly monsters
  • Sega

    • As part of their 60th anniversary they’re giving away NiGHTS into Dreams if you sign up for their newsletter on sega60th.com
      • 1996
      • Action game that has you flying through a fever-dream acid trip to stop the evil ruler Wizeman from destroying the dream world and consequently the real world too
      • The development team conducted research on dreaming and REM sleep, and was influenced by Freud and Jung
      • The HD remaster is playable on Steam, and even includes the original Sega Saturn version

Apple: Hi Speed

  • HomePod Mini
    • Little ball with a flat touch surface on top
    • Lots of fancy tech to support better audio in a smaller package
      • It’ll also automatically keep in sync with other HomePods and play stereo audio if two are in the same room
    • Siri has voice recognition to personalize responses according to who’s asking
    • New Intercom features let you send messages to HomePods in other rooms
    • $99 USD, preorder on November 6 and ships on November 16
  • iPhone
    • 5G is here, for what that’s worth with the infrastructure not fully rolled out
      • We also get Smart Data Mode, so if you don’t need the 5G speed it saves battery by switching back to 4G
      • Unfortunately mmWave 5G, the tech that they were really talking up with Verizon on stage, isn’t available outside of the US so we just get sub-6GHz 5G (a boost over the old 4G LTE and with better range than mmWave, but not as fast)
    • iPhone 12
      • Design is similar to the iPhone 5, or the iPad Pro, with flat edges and curved corners
      • Same screen size as the iPhone 11, but still 15% smaller and 11% thinner
      • Screens are made of a new ceramic shield material to improve toughness (4x better drop performance)
      • Blazing new A14 Bionic processor that enables console-quality games
        • Showed off League of Legends: Wild Rift quickly, which could become the next Fortnite if Epic doesn’t get their situation sorted
      • Better camera lenses, and improved computational photography
      • MagSafe is back (kind of)
        • Similar to the Apple Watch, the iPhone now has a magnet array in its back to automatically line up with supported wireless chargers and cases
      • They’re now no longer including wired headphones or power adaptors with new iPhones, ostensibly to reduce waste and minimize packaging
        • Apparently the changes cut the equivalent of 450,000 cars worth of carbon emissions annually
        • Unfortunately the phones are coming with Lightning to USBC cables, whereas most people probably have a ton of USBA bricks laying around
        • On the plus side, the wall adapters and EarPods both went down by about $10 each
    • iPhone 12 Mini
      • Smaller and lighter than the iPhone 8, but with a bigger screen and all the same features as the full-sized 12
      • Reportedly the smallest, thinnest, lightest 5G phone in the world
      • Mini starts at $699USD $979CAD, 12 starts at $799USD $1129CAD
      • One big asterisk on those prices, in the United States at least, is that those prices are if you buy the phone through AT&T or Verizon. Any other carrier, or an unlocked phone direct from Apple, costs $30 more
    • iPhone 12 Pro
      • Stainless steel edge instead of aluminum
      • 6.1” Pro, 6.7” Pro Max (slightly bigger screen than the 11 Pro Max)
      • Even better cameras than the 12, with an additional telephoto lens
      • They’ve combined RAW photo formats with their special sauce to make Apple ProRAW, which can be edited directly in Photos and other pro tools
      • First phone camera to record in Dolby Vision HDR
      • LiDAR
        • 3D sensing tech we’ve seen in the iPad Pro, which adds a lot of features for computational photography and augmented reality
        • And it improves the focus and light quality in low-light conditions
      • Pro starts at $999USD, $1399CAD with 128GB, Max starts at $1099USD, $1549CAD
    • 12 and Pro preorder on October 16, shipping October 23
    • Mini and Max preorder on November 6, shipping November 13
  • Unfortunately there was no mention at all of putting TouchID in the power button, which would have been a killer feature right now

Epic slApple fight

  • A federal judge in the United States has officially ruled that Apple can continue to block Fortnite from its app store as they fight Epic’s antitrust lawsuit
  • Judge Gonzalez also ruled that Apple must not punish Unreal Engine or Epic’s affiliates though, so the fight remains focused on Fortnite and Epic’s decision to bypass Apple’s App Store payment system
  • The suit is expected to go to trial in May 2021

The United States Department of Justice has officially issued a statement asking tech companies for back door access to encrypted systems

  • Ringing the gong of “exploited children”, multiple governments are now demanding that tech companies “embed the safety of the public in system designs”
    • Translation: add even more surveillance of all your users and give us access
  • In effect, the group is asking for access to encrypted data via some form of backdoor meant just for law enforcement, while still keeping it secure to prevent access by hackers and other online criminals.
  • It boils down to the same fight that’s been happening for years- technology has given people a locked box that the government can’t access and some people have used that box to do bad things, so they want to take that box and drill a hole in the side labelled “Hackers keep out plz”
  • That would be adding a hell of a weak link to the kind of chains people use not just to message their loved ones, but also do their banking and keep their homes secure

Spotify, while they bang the freedom drum and crusade against Apple for allegedly tyrannical practices, has decided to threaten third party services built to transfer playlists between streaming services

  • SongShift is a slick little utility you can use to move your playlists and library between Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more, but Spotify has decided that unless they remove the ability to transfer out of Spotify they’ll be completely blocked from the service
    • Transferring in to Spotify is, shockingly, unaffected

With the release of the Quest 2 VR headset, more reports are coming in of seemingly random Facebook bans bricking devices

  • The worst instance I’ve read about was a reddit user creating a brand new Facebook account after never using the service before
    • They then merged it with their 4 year old Oculus account
    • 10 minutes later, they were banned
    • After sending in their drivers license, which is an absurd requirement for any gaming service, the ban was updated to say “We have already reviewed this decision and it can’t be reversed.”
    • And just like that, all previous Oculus purchases were locked away by Facebook with little to no recourse
  • Another redditor in the comments reported that they had something similar, where they created a Facebook account for the first time to play with their new headset but didn’t add a phone number
    • 10 minutes later their account was disabled and required a phone number to verify
    • Then Facebook demanded a video of the user so they could verify that they’re a real person
  • Facebook’s invasive data requirements have really snuck up on a lot of people, but when you have to send your passport to a social network in order to play games you’ve already paid for it just highlights the absurdity of their data gathering

Sony’s released more specs for the upcoming PS5, and the new solid state drives look amazing

  • Load times in next-gen games will likely be all but eliminated now, with their specs showing double the data loading in about 1/8th the time
  • Footage posted from the PS5 version of Spider-Man: Miles Morales shows what used to be a loading screen between areas now just throwing you in immediately
  • And since they didn’t go the proprietary route like Microsoft, you can use any M2 drive that hits at least 5.5GB/s
    • Granted that’s not a lot at the moment, but as the market catches up they’ll get much more common and Sony will be releasing a list of specifically supported models
    • And a little extra salt for the console wars, the Xbox Series X is quoted as running at 2.4GB/s

This Week in Gaming History

October 10 – 1994 – DOOM II – DOS

  • In this sequel to the original DOOM, the protagonist is still the same hero – the last remaining space marine.
  • DOOM II looks and plays very similarly to its predecessor, utilizing the same 3D graphical engine with 2D sprites for enemies.
    • The gameplay once again consists entirely of navigating the hero from first-person view through 3D environments and shooting at the demons while attempting to find the way out by flipping switches and looking for keys.
    • Unlike in DOOM, which is divided into three episodes, the 30 levels of this game (plus the 2 secret levels) form one long episode.
  • It took 24 years for someone to find the final secret for the first 100% completion, confirmed by series creator John Romero.
    • August 31st, 2018, Romero Tweeted:
    • CONGRATS, Zero Master! Finally, after 24 years! “To win the game you must get 100% on level 15 by John Romero.” Great trick getting to that secret!
    • and a follow up Tweet:
    • Secret explained: A secret teleporter is marked as a discoverable “secret”, but when you touch it, you never enter the sector. So you would never get inside the teleporter sector to trigger the secret. The only way to trigger this secret is to be pushed by an enemy into it!

October 11 – 2004 – Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door – GameCube

  • A thousand years ago there was a city.
    • One day the city was buried.
    • Another city was built on top, and all that remains of the previous city is a door.
    • This is where the title “the thousand-year door” comes from. It’s not known what could be behind this door, but everyone has different theories.
  • Mario can jump, run, hammer, talk to people, etc..
    • Mario finds many partners on his quest.
    • Battles play out on a stage in front of an audience.
    • In battle, Mario must keep his fans happy by executing action commands (hitting buttons at the right time during his attacks).
    • Occasionally, in battle, the crowd will throw things at Mario.
    • The player can attack the crowd at this time.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.
  • It also has rave reviews, from 4.5 to 5 out of 5.
    • From gamer’s I know of, this is the best of all the Paper Mario games.
    • Out of the 6 that have been released.

October 12 – 1999 – Jet Force Gemini – N64

  • Twins Juno and Vela, and their dog Lupus, are Jet Force Gemini, intergalactic police.
    • Their mission? Stop the evil space bug, Mizar, from his goal of galactic conquest with his seemingly-infinite army of Drones.
    • They’ll have to stop along multiple planets along the way, and assisting King Jeff and rescuing his subjects, the Tribals.
  • Jet Force Gemini is a third-person shooter which revels in making gigantic creepy bugs explode into dribbly mucousy bits.
    • The Jet Force team are given progressively more powerful weapons, from the Machine Gun, which rips through both enemies and ammo, the Plasma Shotgun, which you can charge up for some explosive fireworks, and the Tri-Rocket Launcher, which fires three rockets with every shot, sending explosive doom in the direction of your target.
    • There’s also the Fish Food, which, as the name implies, is used to feed fish.
  • Each member of the team has their own special abilities – Juno can walk through lava without any trouble, Vela can swim underwater, and Lupus can hover for short distances and travel through tight spaces.
    • These abilities are required to fully access areas that they previously couldn’t reach.
    • The team also get the help of Floyd the Droid, a hovering robot that can be controlled by player two as a floating gun with infinite ammo when he joins your team.
  • The game also includes three different multiplayer modes: Battle – featuring most options of an average First Person Shooter but with a third-person perspective, Target Shoot – a shooting gallery with a first-person view, and Racing, which includes some kart-like racing as well as old-school top down racing games.
  • I feel like this game gets forgotten a lot.
    • When people make lists of Rare Ware Titles for the N64, it rarely includes this bug stomping adventure.

October 13 – 2009 – Ju-on: The Grudge – Wii

  • When someone dies with a powerful grudge, a curse is born.
    • A series of Ju-On horror movies all by the same director have been popular since 2000 first in Japan and then remade in Hollywood first in 2004 as The Grudge.
    • This is a “haunted house simulator” adventure game where Erika Yamada comes into contact with a curse when looking for her dog in an abandoned warehouse.
    • Then when she returns home, all her family members who she meets also become cursed.
    • You play as each in first-person view encountering their own challenging episode.
  • The locations vary from a rundown factory to an empty hospital, an apartment building, a mannequin factory, and the cursed house from the movie.
    • The game is basically an interactive horror movie which tries to scare you as you explore the locations and attempt to survive against the supernatural forces.
    • The Wii remote controls the player’s flashlight and movement through the game.
    • If the player flinches at scare moments with the remote, their score goes down.
    • A person with a second remote can also trigger scary events for the main player.
    • The player must keep moving while finding keys to open doors and also find batteries to replenish the flashlight or else you will be attacked and die.

October 14 – 2014 – Duck Dynasty – PS3, PS4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One

  • Because
  • Hunt, race and prank to become a Robertson!
  • Take on the role of Willie’s son John Luke as he learns how to become one of the Robertson men!
    • Interact with Willie, Uncle Si, Jase and the rest of the family from the hit TV show Duck Dynasty®. Go duck hunting, varmint shooting, off-roading and play office pranks in the Robertson’s hometown of West Monroe, LA. Will you learn the way of the beards?
  • Call in ducks to your blind using a variety of calls and then fire away.
  • Hunt Louisiana wildlife including squirrels, frogs and fish for Miss Kay to cook her famous dishes.
  • Join Jase in duck call room antics as you sneak around the warehouse to trick Willie.
  • Race against Willie in an airboat as you drive across the Robertson family swampland.
  • Uncover Uncle Si’s bizarre “treasures” with a metal detector.
  • Track down pesky beavers with Phil to stop their damns from ruining the duck ponds.
  • Play through 3 game modes including the main story, duck shooting galleries and airboat racing.

October 15 – 2000 – Pokemon Gold and Silver – Gameboy Color

  • Pokémon Gold takes place several years after Red, Blue and Yellow, and puts the user into a brand new world, Johto.
    • The gameplay is very similar to the previous games, but with several improvements.
    • These include new functions for the player’s PokéGear, a Pokédex that can now be sorted by evolution type, and, of course, new Pokémon.
    • Once again, the objective of the game is to become the champion trainer, and try to complete the Pokédex.
    • To become the champion, the player battles Gym Leaders to obtain various badges.
    • Completing the Pokédex requires a different set of actions, and involves capturing wild Pokémon, battling various trainers to obtain money, and trading Pokémon with NPC’s and other owners of Pokémon games.
  • As many people our age, Pokemon was a big deal.
    • Pokemon Yellow was my first Pokemon game, but I would say Gold is my formative Pokemon game.
    • The IR mystery gift had me meeting with kids I barely knew, and forming new relationships.
    • And it was huge, literally having the new region Johto, to explore, while being able to revisit the previous region of Kanto.
    • This game has set me up for disappointment, as more powerful consoles have had Pokemon games, but never the ability to return to an old region.

October 16 – 1982 – Computer Operator – DOS

  • This BASIC game simulates the experience of running a large, multi-user mainframe system of its day.
    • As the operator, you first configure the system by choosing the memory size, the number of disk and tape drives, the maximum number of concurrent users, and the overall game speed.
    • These factors determine the difficulty of your job – which is to cope with user demands and keep the system running. If too many problems pile up, the system crashes and you lose.
  • After the system is booted, users begin to log in and do their work; you monitor the system’s status in real time, and carry out your maintenance tasks using text commands.
    • User jobs place demands on CPU time, on storage devices, and on the printer; you’ll need to balance the load, repair failed equipment, bring devices offline and online as needed, and meet the users’ storage requirements.
    • You can also force users offline, and even communicate back when they complain at you through the messaging system.

Tidbits

  • If you have an Apple TV+ subscription set to end or renew in November through January, Apple is reportedly extending them for free through February 2021 instead
  • Microsoft is working on a browser-based solution to bring xCloud to iOS early 2021, which could also mean it would run on macOS as well
  • People looking for Google alternatives will be happy to hear that DuckDuckGo, a popular privacy-first search engine, now has walking and driving directions through a partnership with Apple Maps
  • Sony announced that they’re revamping their web and mobile offerings with a brand new PlayStation Store
    • October 21st-28th we’ll no longer be able to use those systems to buy
      • PS3 games
      • PSP games
      • PS Vita games
      • Apps
      • Themes
      • Avatars
      • And the Wishlist feature is going away too
    • You can still access everything you already own, and you can buy new things through the PS Store directly on each device

Homework

  • Microsoft’s new “10 principles for the Microsoft Store on Windows”, with translation provided by the Daring Fireball
    • John Gruber: “Nothing is changing on Windows, which remains every bit as open as it always has been. Nothing is changing on Xbox, which remains every bit as closed as it always has been (which is actually quite a bit more closed than even iOS). But we’re sure hoping government regulators will force Apple to open up iOS and treat it more like a PC platform where third-party developers are free to do what they want, because we know Apple won’t do it of their own volition because we wouldn’t either if we were them.”

 

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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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