PS2J 303 News – Screws Not Included

Security alert

  • Microsoft Security is tracking a massive campaign that installs remote access tools on your computer using malicious Excel macros, embedded in a spreadsheet purporting to show COVID-19 stats
    • The emails in question pretend to be from Johns Hopkins Center about the “WHO COVID-19 SITUATION REPORT”
    • Steps to avoid:
      • Don’t open random emails
      • Don’t open unexpected attachments
      • And most importantly, definitely don’t run Excel macros on anything you don’t know the full provenance of

Free Games

  • PS4

    • Star Wars Battlefront II

      • 2017
      • Third and first person action shooter that, as you can tell from its name, is the fourth major release in the series and seventh overall, it caught a lot of flack early on for its predatory microtransactions to the point that EA completely revamped the system to avoid gameplay advantages
      • Content based on the Star Wars movies up to and including The Rise of Skywalker
    • Call of Duty: WWII

      • 2017
      • First-person shooter following a squad in the 1st infantry division and their battles during the events of the Battle of Normandy
  • Xbox One

    • Destroy all Humans!

      • 2005
      • Action adventure game set in the 1959 United States that has you playing an alien harvesting DNA from humans to continue the cloning process of his species
      • A remake is due for release in July
    • Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

      • 2016
      • Metroidvania-style adventure platformer that has you playing the half-genie Shantae out to save Sequin Land from the Pirate Master
    • Sine Mora

      • 2012
      • 2.5D bullet hell shoot ’em up in a diesel punk inspired world filled with anthropomorphic characters
    • Coffee Talk

      • 2020
      • Visual novel that follows a barista working in a coffee shop in a fantasy version of Seattle, as they listen to the concerns of the shop’s patrons and prepare drinks
  • Epic Games

    • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection

      • 2015
      • Improved versions of Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel, the popular action RPG sci-fi loot shooters with a good sense of humor, with all their DLC, enhanced local multiplayer, and the ability to transfer save data from the PS3/Xbox 360 versions
  • Twitch

    • The Last Tinker: City of Colors

      • 2014
      • Indie developer Mimimi’s take on action adventure like Jack and Daxter or Banjo-Kazooie, minus the jump button
    • Pulstar

      • 1995
      • Horizontal-scrolling shooter, similar to R-Type, that has you defeating a hostile race of aliens threatening mankind
    • Blazing Star

      • 1998
      • Shoot ’em up sequel to Pulstar with improved graphics and less challenging difficulty
    • Fighting games

      • Samurai Shodown II

        • 1994
        • One of the first games to incorporate parrying, where you can block at the last second to deflect the attack and leave your opponent vulnerable
      • The King of Fighters 2000

        • 2000
        • 7th entry in the KoF series for the NeoGeo and the last one produced by SNK before their bankruptcy
      • The King of Fighters 2002

        • 2002
        • Ninth game in the KoF series that discarded the previous titles’ 4-on-4 striker match format and returned to the 3-on-3 battles that KoF used until ’98
      • Fatal Fury Special

        • 1993
        • An updated version of Fatal Fury 2 with tweaks to the gameplay system and an expanded roster
      • Art of Fighting 2

        • 1994
        • Set as a prequel to the Fatal Fury series, it was the first fighting series to allow players to perform a “super attack”

Trump is up in arms after Twitter decided to flag some of his misinformation as false, though the rest of his bull is still coming through strong

  • With the current COVID-19 situation, Twitter has decided to make some improvements to their platform so that incorrect information gets flagged
    • So when Trump tweeted about mail-in voting, claiming that there’s no way that they’ll be anything less than substantially fraudulent, Twitter threw a link at the bottom so that readers could “Get the facts about mail-in ballots”, and directs them to articles about his unsubstantiated claim
    • Trump’s response was to claim that they’re interfering in the 2020 election, and that Twitter is now stifling free speech. Even though that really only applies to the government, and companies are not required to give you a platform to say whatever you want
    • Then the Trump administration took to Fox News to single out Twitter’s head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, after digging up some tweets he had posted that were critical of the current US government
      • Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway called on listeners to go after him, causing a flood of abuse, harassment, and death threats online
    • So this is the government of a world power having a tantrum against a social media website because the president posted verifiably false information online
  • Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Twitter is enforcing these policies strongly enough
    • Another of Trump’s tweets has invented a conspiracy theory accusing MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of murder
      • Trump basically said that the former congressman killed a staff member in 2001 even though he was 800 miles away at the time and her death was ruled an accident (she suffered a heart condition that caused her to fall and hit her head on a desk)
      • Trump then doubled down on the accusation even after her widower pleaded unsuccessfully with Twitter to take down the posts about his late wife in an open letter, saying that they’re causing her family a lot of emotional pain
        • He went on to say that the president is perverting the memory of his dead wife for perceived political gain, and if an ordinary user was throwing around these kinds of lies they would get banned from Twitter altogether
      • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s usual insistence that they’re sticking to the letter of their terms of use, commonly gamed by internet trolls and the president of the US, can’t even be used as armour in this case because they’re so solidly in the wrong- even by their own terms of use these posts should be removed and the account should be flagged if not banned altogether
    • This isn’t even new behaviour, after Trump used deluded conspiracy theories in 2016 against Ted Cruz, saying his father was involved in the JFK assassination, when going for the republican nomination in the presidential election

According to US courts, just turning on your phone’s lock screen may count as a search by law enforcement and require a warrant

  • While police can run a search without a warrant under special circumstances, if the phone is currently in police custody the device cannot be turned on even to take a screenshot of the lock screen. As soon as a physical intrusion is made, even just to press a button to wake up the screen, even though the lock screen is something somewhat publicly accessible, it counts as a intruding on a constitutionally protected area

Fans rejoice, you’re finally getting the Snyder Cut of Justice League

  • Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the film after Zack Snyder left the film’s production due to family tragedy, but he drastically changed the tone of Snyder’s unfinished version
  • Synder’s personal cut of the Justice League will be a long-form series coming to HBO Max in 2021, and is expected to cost over $30M in development and reshoots

More than half of Apple Stores worldwide have reopened now, and their precautions are pretty solid

  • Multiple staff are stationed around the store’s entrance to direct people to different lineups either for shopping, walk-in repair work, or genius bar appointments
  • They also have guards doing screening, temperature checks, handing out masks, and directing the use of hand sanitizer
  • In store they’re keeping physical distancing in effect by helping people across tables and continually cleaning things with sanitizing wipes
  • All in it was quite a good experience, and I felt like the store was really taking the pandemic seriously while still taking care of my laptop repair
    • If you have a MacBook with USB-C ports that just aren’t holding on to cords like it used to, you should definitely get it checked out. Just make sure they put the screws back in
    • Anecdotally, keep in mind that the Apple Store isn’t a free mask dispensary. I saw one argument while in line with a couple maintaining that, because they bought an iPad yesterday, they should get a free mask from Apple even though they weren’t entering the store at all

Fallout 76 Tips and Tricks from Foam Forge Cosplay

  • Some lessons I’ve learned about FO76 in the past 2 weeks for anyone looking to optimize their end game.
  • Start building early.
    • Pick what weapon kit out you want and start engineering yourself towards it.
    • An endgame respec right now can cost up to 50 levels of points. (ask me how I know.)
  • Auto Rifles are still viable but you need a good back pack.
    • You won’t be using power armor.
    • Charisma is a dump stat.
    • Get ready to abandon it down to 3 points once you hit 50.
    • It’s only useful for dialogue checks.
    • Grape mentats help with that.
    • The perk Glow Sight is a must have.
      • At max rank it gives +60% damage to glowing enemies.
  • A good 1  Legendary > Decent 3  Anything with armor piercing is a god send.
    • Enemies in FO4 and FO76 don’t get more health.
    • They stack “armor”.
    • This is Bethesda’s way of dealing with game balancing.
      • IE: it’s broken too.
    • VATS kills fusion cores so build your Power armor build to avoid Vats.
    • Getting a targeting hud makes enemies glow in the dark
      • Much easier to kill them when you can see them without having to “ping” them with VATS
      • Physical Damage Resistance > Any Other Kind.
  • Best end game armor is T-51B or the much coveted Ultracite armor for base game.
    • The Strangler Heart is better than both but you gotta run Vault 94 for that.
    • The total difference is almost negligible so if you want (Like me) the X-01 is still a solid set of armor to run around in.
  • Staggering opponents makes them useless and unable to fight you.
    • If you hit hard enough and frequently enough they sort of just stun lock.
    • Heavy guns and shotguns are great for that.
    • Best end game guns come from Wastelanders.
  • Farm lots of rep for both factions to get you one of the new Gauss weapon types.
    • Shotgun or Minigun. They melt enemies.
    • If you’re heavy weapon specced Becket just gives you a fantastic .50 CAL at the end of his quest chain.
    • No spoilers for his quests though. Enjoy them.

Tidbits

  • It looks like Apple has been re-issuing many app updates this week, with some users reporting 100+ apps flagged for updates over the course of a couple days
    • There’s no solid info on why, but this may have been the fix to a problem causing some apps to stop opening properly, showing an error saying “This app is no longer shared with you”
  • macOS 10.15.5 is out now, including new battery health management features to extend the overall lifespan of a Mac’s battery, especially when you keep a laptop plugged in all the time
    • It also brings options to turn off Facetime video resizing to show the active speaker, issues with Finder freezing during large file transfers and a bunch of other bugs
  • With the iOS 13.5 release last week Alberta’s ABTraceTogether contact tracing app is apparently getting an update to support the secure Apple/Google exposure notification API, but there’s still no solid word on when that’s happening
    • Unfortunately many can’t even use it in its current state, with some devices purchased brand-new even three years ago unable to run the version of Android it requires
      • The app requires Android 8 or newer, leaving about 2/5 of Android phones unable to download it
      • To contrast, more than 95% of all active iPhones support the minimum iOS 11 required
  • The new Unc0ver jailbreak for iPhones is now available, and can hack anything from iOS 11 to the latest 13.5 that was just released
    • Apparently this is the first time a jailbreak has worked on all devices on launch day since iOS 10, according to the security researcher who discovered the vulnerability
  • Facebook is reportedly planning to allow its staff to work from home on a permanent basis even after the current crisis is over
    • Zuckerberg is expecting about half of his workforce to take advantage of the new program, though salaries will be adjusted according to living costs in their location
    • Apparently they’ll be verifying employee home addresses by monitoring their access to company systems
  • Due to pandemic concerns, Blizzcon 2020 has officially been cancelled
    • The convention’s executive producer, Saralyn Smith, released a statement saying that they still want to connect with fans online but, because this is new-ish territory with a lot of factors involved like their esports competitions, rather than having anything this fall it will likely be sometime early next year

Alan finished Network Effect, the first full-length Murderbot Diaries novel, this week, and it was damn good

  • Martha Wells does a fantastic job of showing a future that is equal parts exciting, promising, and bleak, with a very realistic balance of utopian and dystopian worlds
  • For not being interested in being at all human, Murderbot is such a good example of our foibles and fallacies while also being basically super-human at times
  • If you liked the novellas you’ll love this book, and if you’re interested in solid sci-fi you’ll be in for a good time

 

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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

 

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

Thank you to Breanne, for being so kind and helpful!

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

PS2J 301 News – The Boy Who Cired YouTube

Free Games

  • Twitch

    • Anna’s Quest

      • 2015
      • Point-and-click adventure game following Anna as she attempts to escape an evil witch and save her dying grandfather by solving puzzles, collecting items, and talking to characters throughout the game
  • Epic Games

    • Grand Theft Auto 5

      • 2013
      • Action-adventure sandbox game by Rockstar following three criminals and their efforts to commit heists while under pressure from a government agency and powerful crime figures
      • It quickly became the highest selling entertainment product in history, earning $1B in its first three days, and still consistently sits on Steam’s list of most popular games
      • So popular that it’s singlehandedly taken down the Epic Games Store website, even causing issues with the Epic Games launcher and Fortnite
        • As of recording the site is still down

Utah’s joined the contact tracing game with their new Healthy Together app, aimed at letting people know if they’ve come into contact with someone later diagnosed with COVID-19

  • Unfortunately they decided not to use Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification API, and instead opted for a less private GPS and Bluetooth option
  • According to the Utah state website, they opted to use their own framework because they say Bluetooth alone “gives a less accurate picture” than the combination of Bluetooth and GPS
    • I can get how the extra location information could assist in identifying transmission areas, but at the end of the day this is a government app that logs not only who you’re in contact with but also everywhere you go
    • It’s also another case of needing to have the app open and active at all times on a iPhone in order to fully function, which can not only affect battery performance but also the overall longevity of your device
  • At the moment about 45,000 people have signed up for Healthy Together, amounting to about 2% of the state’s population, and some estimates have shown that in order to be effective the apps will need to be used by 60%.
    • Hopefully once the more secure and efficient apps come onto the market we’ll start to see the numbers rise

We’re seeing another dark side to the wild west that is exposure notification- spam and phishing attacks

  • Police in Maine are warning cell phone users of a text message scam in which people are sending things like
    • “Someone who came into contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested. More at <link>”
    • These are not official messages and are doing nothing but spread panic and, depending on where the link is pointed, could give hackers a way in to get your personal information
  • The Better Business Bureau has also said that scammers are targeting seniors with messages posing as the US Department of Health and telling them they need to take a mandatory online COVID-19 test to receive their recently approved government stimulus payment
  • It’s tough to say exactly how to tell the scam messages from real ones, but one giveaway is if you aren’t running a contact tracing app then the government has no way to identify that you’ve been exposed, never mind text you about it
  • Once tracing apps start using the Apple/Google exposure notification features I think we’ll be in much better shape, as you’ll see proper system notifications from trusted government apps rather than a hodgepodge of whatever your area has put together themselves

Epic Games has unveiled the new Unreal Engine 5, and it’s very pretty

  • Unreal Engine is a game engine used by the developers of a lot of high-profile games from Yoshi’s Crafted World to the Batman: Arkham titles and Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • The new engine focuses on photorealism on par with movie CG and live-action video, and there’s a very pretty demo video online of it running on developer PS5 hardware
  • The coolest thing is that it’s not just for next-gen- the engine will support current consoles, computers, and even iOS and Android
  • As part of the same announcement Epic has also changed how its royalties work regarding use of the engine, retroactively taking 5% of sales only after a game has earned its first $1M in sales. And that 5% is waived for games published on the Epic Games Store
    • On top of that, any Oculus-exclusive games made with Unreal don’t start paying until they hit $5M in sales
    • So you can get access to triple-A game development tools for free and only start paying royalties if your game is a big success. Pretty solid deal!

Wink, a company that makes a smart home hub that links different smart home devices together, has decided to switch from a purchase model to subscriptions and completely screw over their current users

  • Previously Wink would work like most other smart home devices, you buy it once, set it up, and it works with no additional costs
  • Now, 5 years in, they’ve decided that hardware sales don’t cover their costs and you need to pay $5/month to continue using hardware you own
    • Even if you don’t use their cloud services, your access to the app, voice control, API, and automations all get deactivated if you don’t pay their ransom
    • Part of their justification is that they don’t make any extra money by selling your information, like other platforms might, but that’s less of a bonus and more of an essential feature
  • In response to backlash they went from a one-week notice period to two weeks, allowing an extra 7 days before users start being charged the monthly fee
  • I could see it if they introduced new devices reliant on a subscription, or maybe if they had a buy-back program for people that don’t want to subscribe and therefore no longer have any use for the product, but nothing like that has been announced
  • This seems like a fairly customer-hostile move, and I’ll be surprised if Wink manages to move forward without introducing something to justify the added cost

Apple has started reopening its retail stores and some of the safety measures it’s taking may violate EU privacy rules

  • One of the measures Apple’s taking to protect everyone includes temperature checks before customers are allowed to enter, using a non-contact forehead thermometer
  • However a data protection agency in Germany is concerned those checks violate EU privacy and data protection rules and has launched a probe, according to Bloomberg Law
  • Assuming they’re not storing the data or linking it to people in any way, I’m guessing this won’t amount to anything. It sounds comparable to nightclubs checking ID before allowing people to enter

New Paper Mario on Switch!

  • Paper Mario: The Origami King
    • Coming out July 17th!
  • Nintendo’s page is letting you know you can pre-order it now
    • If you pre-order it will install the data now
    • And at midnight for on the 17th you can play the game
  • A beautiful paper world to unfold
    • The devious King Olly has transformed Princess Peach into origami, uprooted her castle and sealed it shut with magical paper streamers.
    • Join Mario and his new companion Olivia on a comedic adventure that will take you to the far corners of a papercraft world
      • With the help of Olivia’s paper-folding powers, use the far-reaching 1,000 Fold Arms and other paper transformations to save those imprisoned by the Origami King’s henchmen, and help restore peace to the world.
    • Face off against the Origami King and his army of paper invaders, team up with some extraordinary companions and master magical powers on your quest to save the world.
    • Journey across the land – from scorching deserts to sailing the high seas – and recruit a revolving cast of wacky travel buddies, as you seek to sever these sinister streamers and save your paper pals from being turned into one of the Folded Soldiers!
    • Repair the damage done by the Folded Soldiers and rescue Toads trapped in all manner of wacky scrapes!
    • Put a stop to King Olly’s plans by engaging in battles which will put both your tactical thinking and puzzle solving skills to the test – against his origami army, as well as humongous bosses under his command!
  • From what I could tell from the video and screen shots
    • Paper Mario is teamed up with the origami Olivia for special powers
      • One featured has him with extended origami arms
      • It looks like the arms will be using joycon motions to work
      • Like pulling a cardboard tab along a perforated edge
    • It also looks like all the paper denizens are teamed up with Mario
      • Enemies pictured behind him facing the origami threat
      • Bowser looks like he got folded down to just his face to diminish his power
    • Game play looks very familiar
      • Traversing crafted 3D enviroments
      • RPG combat with bonuses for timing
      • Might have an over-world where travel is done not to scale
    • And it looks like some things are 3D papermache
      • Perhaps its different from the 2D paper but weaker than Origami?
        • The ending has a silly clip of Paper Mario with a giant papermache Samus helmet
          • He is running back and forth making a fist pretending his arm is a blaster
        • The scene also has a papermache DK head, adding more questions to how Paper Mario ties into the Nintendo franchises

Tidbits

  • The latest rumours for the expected over-ear AirPods Studio look very interesting with technology expected for head/neck detection (similar to ear detection in AirPods that pauses your media when you take one out), and automatic left-right side assignment
    • Analysts say that instead of having a specific left or right speaker, the headphones will detect which way they’re being worn and adjust accordingly
    • They’re expected to retail for about $349 USD
  • A remastered version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 was announced this week in text messages from the man himself
    • Apparently Tony has a text message service you can sign up for to receive messages from him throughout the year, and he took to it to announce that every skating level from the two PlayStation 1 games would return, along with every pro skater in the original games, and the custom skate park feature from Pro Skater 5
    • Activision says it will be coming to the Xbox One, PS4, and PC (via Epic Games) this September for $40 USD, $60 CAD
  • To promote learning from home, Ubisoft is making their Discovery Tour series completely free for anyone with a Uplay account
    • Discovery Tour: Ancient Greece and DT: Ancient Egypt are versions of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and AC: Origins that strip out the combat in favour of education
    • You can explore multiple regions, learn about daily life in the period, and hear about myths, legends, and philosophies of the cultures
  • In an effort to get around Trump’s ban on American companies from doing business with them, Huawei is re-releasing old phones that still support Google apps
    • Apparently the ban has worked is that any devices launched before the ban, and even some slightly afterward, can still be sold with Google apps installed
    • Since then though it’s been expected that Huawei will have a 20% drop is sales this year, and that may only be the initial impact as the Google-enabled Huawei phones become de-supported and fall off the market
    • So Huawei’s solution is to release “New Edition” versions of last year’s phones- new software and more memory, but otherwise the exact same phone
    • These can’t really take the place of their flagship line of devices, but it’s something they can put out there and see if people will buy, at least

 

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Thank you to Breanne, for being so kind and helpful!

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PS2J 275 News – Bushel of Apple

Security alert

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

Free games

  • Epic Games

    • Surviving Mars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The LEGO Group is putting old bricks to use

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

Josh wants to get into Streaming

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

Tidbits

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

Recommend The Adventures of Ichabod and Mister Toad from 1949

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

Literally Misleading

Last Week:

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

This Week:

Game – Sadistic architect values efficiency over safety.

 

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The Internet Archive is trying to catalogue what it can of Soundcloud. Apple is in another battle for your privacy, but this time… its down unda’. Josh recommends a free to watch wrestling series, Alan has a classic book you may want to check out.

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