PS2J 328 News – Year in Review

This is our last episode of the year before we take our traditional December vacation, but we’ll be running feed drops through to the end of the year of some other great episodes from the Alberta Podcast Network. Hope you enjoy them, have a fantastic holiday season, and we’ll see you in January!

Free Games

  • Twitch

    • Battlefield 3 (on Origin)

      • 2011
      • First person military shooter set during the fictional War of 2014, taking place in the Iran-Iraq region, with missions framed as flashbacks during your interrogation
    • HyperDot

      • 2020
      • Minimalist action arcade bullet hell with one rule- dodge everything
    • The Spectrum Retreat

      • 2018
      • First person narrative driven puzzle game set in the near future that has you exploring the peaceful yet unsettling Penrose Hotel, trying to unearth the truth
    • Wizard of Legend

      • 2018
      • Indie top down 2D roguelike where players take control of a wizard travelling a procedurally generated dungeon, killing monsters and collecting spells to become the Wizard of Legend
    • Lost Horizon

      • 2010
      • Historical point and click adventure game in 1936 where you have to travel the world protecting powerful relics while staying one step ahead of the Third Reich
    • Sigma Theory: Global Cold War

      • 2019
      • Turn-based strategy game in a futuristic cold war where you have to run an intelligence agency to secure control of the singularity
    • Turmoil

      • 2016
      • Indie strategy and management sim inspired by the 19th century oil rush, that has you drilling for oil to become North America’s next big entrepreneur
    • Close to the Sun

      • 2019
      • First person horror adventure game set in an alternate 1897 that has the journalist Rose Archer setting out to save her sister
  • Epic Games

    • Cave Story+

      • The enhanced 2011 release of the 2004 title
      • Metroidvania style game that has you playing Quote, a robot who has suffered amnesia and must blast his way through cavernous areas to find his backstory. Often considered the quintessential indie game because of its one-man dev team and influence on gaming

2020 year in review

  • 290 free games across PC, Xbox, and Playstation platforms
    • Some highlights I’ve personally enjoyed are:
      • Gato Roboto (Xbox) – Streamlined Metroid-style game where you play a cat in an armoured mech trying to save your stranded captain and his crashed ship
      • Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation) – Gorgeous remake of the action adventure game that has you taking down a series of monolithic enemies
      • A Short Hike (PC) – One part Animal Crossing and one part Breath of the Wild, it’s a small exploration game that has you exploring an island and (eventually) climbing a mountain
      • The Stanley Parable (PC) – An exploration game with many endings, that starts with you exploring an office building and going along with the narrator, then can get pretty surreal
      • Hollow Knight (PlayStation) – Metroidvania by way of Soulsborne, with tight controls and a nice art style
  • January

    • Quibi was introduced at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, but unfortunately its dynamic portrait/landscape video player couldn’t keep it afloat among so many other streaming services and it was shut down in October
    • The Xbox Series X was unveiled, the PS5’s logo was shown off, and the FBI kept trying to convince the world that encryption is bad because the only way to stop a bad guy with a lock is a (hopefully) good guy with omniscient, unblinking access to everyone’s data
    • CD Projekt Red pushed back Cyberpunk 2077 for the first time, saying it’s done but just needs more polish
      • Despite that and even though they went ahead with crunch time development, it was delayed two more times but should hopefully be here in another week
  • Feburary

    • Simon Weckert managed to simulate a traffic jam in Google Maps by carting a wagon with 99 smartphones around, causing vehicles using the service to avoid his route
    • E-cigarette maker Juul was sued for predatory advertising, including ads on sites like Cartoon Network and Nick Jr
    • Bioware announced that they would halt Anthem’s seasonal updates in favour of an overhaul, and if they pull it off we could see another No Man’s Sky style rebirth
    • Sonic the Hedgehog achieved the biggest opening weekend of any video game movie at $57M in the US, dethroning Detective Pikachu’s $54M
  • March

    • Apple settled with the US class action lawsuit regarding performance throttling on devices with older batteries
    • A Nintendo PlayStation prototype, the planned CD system for the Super Nintendo, sold at auction for $380,000
    • allthestreams.fm launched in a weird experiment, playing content from the six major streaming services but not letting you choose what each of them played
      • The site is still up, but all the streams have been replaced with the old VHS FBI warning
  • April

    • Zoom’s video conferencing app had a lot of shady practices come to light, including Facebook data harvesting, bypassing normal installation procedures on Mac, not properly encrypting chats, and exposing thousands of videos online thanks to easily-predicted file names
    • The Internet Archive shifted its online Open Library to allow two-week book checkouts of any ebooks, regardless of how many copies were purchased by the library or how many are checked out
    • Sony’s DualSense controllers were first unveiled, and it turns out the haptics and triggers are even nicer to use than we were expecting
    • Apple and Google first announced their joint exposure notification effort to make reliable, meaningful contact tracing easier for the COVID-19 pandemic. This has seen decent adoption, but some jurisdictions are still adamant on using their own home-rolled solutions regardless of efficacy or efficiency
  • May

    • We started to see spam and phishing attacks related to fake COVID exposure notifications, cementing why it’s important to have this kind of thing standardized
    • Wink, a smart home hub manufacturer went from a buy-once system to a subscription model requiring $5/month or your smart home would no longer work with less than a month’s notice
      • Based on the winkhub subreddit, this marked the beginning of the end and had many users migrate to alternatives that don’t rely on the cloud
    • Reports found a new piece of keylogging malware used by law enforcement to trick people into revealing their phone passcode, hidden behind nondisclosure agreements and protective orders
    • Conspiracy theorists began attacking 5G cell phone towers under the impression that the new frequency was somehow causing the coronavirus outbreak
  • June

    • George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who spent almost nine minutes kneeling on Floyd’s neck asphyxiating him while Floyd did not resist, sparking protests and reigniting the Black Lives Matter movement
      • We can’t forget how law enforcement evolved from oppressive practices in white societies, be it union busting, slave catching, or the relocation and elimination of indigenous people, and we need to do better
      • The tech world tried to show respect by delaying events, posting supportive messages, making donations, and even shutting down online services during the memorial
      • There has also been a push to include underrepresented and marginalized people in corporate leadership, with the SEC considering regulations forcing diversity
      • And Juneteenth has become a more widely recognized holiday milestone in the US, celebrating the federal order declaring that all slaves were to be set free and marking a true independence day for the country
    • Star Citizen became the most expensive game in history, reaching $350M invested and still no release date in sight
    • And we got our first taste of Apple’s new processors, which have since proven to be a radical jump in computing
  • July

    • A reboot of the cult classic series Clone High was announced, but we still have yet to hear many details about what it will look like
    • Nintendo’s president officially apologized for the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con drift issues
    • Apple’s iOS 14 beta began highlighting just how common it was for apps to access your phone’s copy/pasted data without permission, or even use your camera and microphone when you’re not expecting it, leading to many updates and “fixes”
    • High profile Twitter accounts were hacked as part of a bitcoin scam, including Barack Obama, Elon Musk, and Apple
  • August

    • Trump first announced his planned TikTok ban / forced sale, citing security concerns, which has been pretty messy with the US and Chinese governments trying to affect who it’s sold to and if the sale will even go through
      • The original deadline was September 15th, but there’s still no end in sight
    • Epic threw down the gauntlet, violating Apple’s App Store guidelines with the iOS version of Fortnite in a seemingly calculated move to look like the little guys getting smacked down but really it looks like they just got greedy and wanted to stop paying the industry-standard 30% on in-app purchases
      • Their lawsuit against Apple for removing the game from the App Store is slated to move forward in the Spring, but with Apple recently announcing that developers making <$1M a year only need to pay 15% their case doesn’t look good
    • Republicans in the US tried yet again to pass laws against proper digital encryption, trying to make the case for adding backdoors that magically only good guys can use
  • September

    • Microsoft and Sony released all the details on their new consoles, with Xbox All Access looking like a solid choice for a good console with no money down, and the PS5 Digital Edition competing with the Series S on Price but the Series X on performance
    • Apple announced that they were delaying the cross app tracking prevention features originally slated to be part of iOS 14, much to the relief of advertising companies like Facebook and Google, but we should be seeing them early next year
    • Facebook announced the Oculus Quest 2, a very, very shiny piece of hardware luring many into the clutches of the social network
      • There’s a reason it’s the cheapest VR out there
    • Microsoft purchased ZeniMax Media for $7.5B, one of the largest purchases in gaming history, and brought a whole slew of IP under their control, including everything from id and Bethesda
  • October

    • Google announced a new standalone ChromeCast model that doesn’t need your phone to control it, but were suspiciously silent about Stadia support
    • The quintessential Facebook game, FarmVille, announced that they would be shutting down at the end of 2020
    • LA Comic Con announced that they would be hosting their full in-person event in December, but then two weeks later completely cancelled any events for 2020
    • The UK started closing the loophole in their distracted driving laws that allowed people to play mobile games or record video while driving
    • NASA announced plans to install a 4G cellular network on the Moon
  • November

    • Cloud gaming on the Switch came to North America, with triple-A titles Control and Hitman 3 announced for the console through a <100MB download
    • Google revamped their Google Pay app, highlighting peer-to-peer payments, and including a bunch of data-scraping features if you want it to show nearby deals and discounts
    • The UK set up a ban on misleading mobile game ads, like those pull-the-pin ones that don’t actually show the real gameplay of the app
And hey.com gave us all the ability to email a literal dumpster fire

A comment on YouTube summed up what happened since Cyberpunks announcement

  • Cyberpunk 2077 – Teaser Trailer
    • 10 Jan 2013
  • Fiii Rahman 3 weeks ago (edited)
  • Things that have happened since Cyberpunk was announced:
    • 2 Resident Evil Remakes
    • 2 The Last of Us
    • 2 Rockstar open world games
    • 2 Dark Souls
    • 3 Gears of War
    • 11 Call of Duty’s
    • 9 Assassins Creeds
    • 2 God of wars
    • 3 Miyazaki games
    • 2 Uncharteds
    • 2 Devil May Crys
    • 3 Watch Dogs
    • 2 games and 1 Kojima demo
    • 2 Nomura games
    • 1 The Last Guardian
    • Announcement that Final Fantasy Versus 13 became FFXV and launch
    • Baldurs Gate 3 launched
    • Diablo 4 has been announced
    • Kingdoms hearts and a prologue
    • Announcement and launch of Shenmue 3
    • Announcement and launch of FF VII Remake
    • 2 Fallouts
    • 4 Battlefields
    • Ouya was born and died
    • 2 World Cups
    • 1 entire Star Wars trilogy
    • Crash came back with a remastered trilogy, won a racing spin off and a mainline sequel.
    • 6 Yakuzas
    • 5 JOJO animations
    • 2 Popes
    • 2 Spider-man reboots in theaters
    • 3 Avengers movies
    • Death of the Wii U and birth of the Switch
    • Launch of PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5
    • Xbox One and Xbox Series launch
    • Stadia’s birth and his future death
    • Shingeki no Kyojin was in its first season and now Cyberpunk will launch 3 days after its last season
    • Skyrim in the Fridge

This Week in Gaming History

November 28 – 2005 – Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time – Nintendo DS

  • The famous Mario Brothers return in this sequel to the humorous Superstar Saga. In this adventure, Princess Peach takes a trip in a time machine, but when it returns, there’s only a monster inside!
    • The heroic brothers travel back in time only to discover that evil alien life forms known as the Shroobs have taken over the Mushroom Kingdom, and no-one is safe!
    • They soon meet up with their younger selves, and set out to stop the alien menace, not to mention rescue the Princess!
  • Although the game has turn-based battles, it follows the tradition of the previous Mario RPG games, in that button commands can be pressed during battle to increase your attack, defend, and counterattack, to give the impression of a more interactive battle.
  • Battling can also become quite hectic, as players now have to control the each of the four brothers with the four different face buttons.
    • This can make for some very tricky situations when using special power-ups that randomize the brothers’ turns.

November 29 – 1975 – Square – Mainframe

  • Square is a game for two players. Players take turns claiming free points in a grid.
  • The first player to have four points that together make a square wins the game.
  • The game allows for multiple grid sizes and an expert mode where the centre position is unavailable to both players.

November 30 – 2010 – Disney Epic Mickey – Wii

  • Disney Epic Mickey is an action-adventure platforming game for the Wii console that sends Mickey Mouse on an epic journey of creativity and discovery.
    • As Mickey, the player is propelled into Wasteland, an alternate world made up of Disney’s long forgotten characters and attractions, and is given the power to wield paint and paint thinner to dynamically change the world while determining Mickey’s path to becoming an epic hero.
  • Features:
    • Use paint and paint thinner to change the world, interact with friends and enemies and solve challenges
    • Choose the best path to become an epic hero because “Playstyle Matters” and choices will change the outcome of the game
    • Explore and solve challenges in an alternate Disney world ruled by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s first cartoon star
    • Travel between lands in Wasteland through classic platforming levels inspired by animated films and shorts
    • Experience an innovative mix of platforming, action-adventure and light role playing game elements
    • Collect over 75 virtual Disney pins in the game by completing specific challenges, quests and discovering hidden collectibles
  • Josh says:
    • “This game was released right when the rights to a bunch of Disney properties were about to enter public domain. And the new original use of these characters put a reset on everything going free. Disney may have the lawyers to keep him theirs though”

December 1 – 1995 – Virtual Boy Wario Land – Virtual Boy

  • On a vacation in the Awazon river, Wario stumbles across a hidden cave filled with treasure.
    • Of course, being Wario, he wants it all to himself.
    • But the treasure is guarded and soon he finds himself deep within the Earth as the floor crumbles underneath his feet.
    • Now Wario must find his way back to the surface, all the while collecting the treasure he believes rightly belongs to him.
  • This 3D style platform game, following the tradition of the Mario and Wario platform games of the Game Boy, will have you using Wario’s unique abilities (butt stomping for one) to crash his way through the earth to the surface.
    • His other abilities depend upon the hard hat he wears, and different ones are available that can come as an advantage.

December 2 – 2001 – Super Smash Bros.: Melee – GameCube

  • The hit sequel to the N64 smash hit party fighting game.
    • Made such an impact, people still play it as their preferred Smash Bros.
  • The game is a Nintendo fighting game with different rules to it. Instead of knocking your opponent’s health down, you knock him or her out of the battle field.
    • You choose from the wealth of Nintendo characters like Mario, Bowser, Yoshi, different Pokémon, and even Link and then either fight through the single-player portion, featuring modes like Classic, Adventure, and Event Mode or battle it out with your friends in a four-player frenzy.
    • More characters and stages are unlocked as hidden objectives are met, and coins rewarded for playing in all modes can be spent on a capsule toy machine.
    • The toys in the machine represent games from Nintendo’s entire video game history, and each can be viewed in 3D with a brief description.
    • Also, with the simplified fighting controls, it’s pretty easy for even your non-gaming friends to just pick-up and play.
  • Default characters
    • Mario
    • Donkey Kong
    • Link
    • Samus Aran
    • Yoshi
    • Kirby
    • Fox McCloud
    • Pikachu
    • Ness
    • Captain Falcon
    • Bowser
    • Princess Peach
    • Ice Climbers
    • Princess Zelda
    • Sheik
  • Unlockable characters
    • Luigi
    • Jigglypuff
    • Mewtwo
    • Marth
    • Mr. Game & Watch
    • Dr. Mario
    • Ganondorf
    • Falco Lombardi
    • Young Link
    • Pichu
    • Roy

December 3 – 1996 – Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire – N64, Windows

  • Set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire tells the story of Prince Xizor’s quest to replace Darth Vader as the leader of the Sith, and wipe out the Rebels’ chances of victory.
    • The only man that can stop him is the interstellar bounty hunter Dash Rendar.
    • The game is based on the novel of the same name, with locations including ice planet Hoth, Mos Eisley and the sewers of Imperial City, all in full 3D.
  • Levels each have very different objectives, ranging from piloting snowspeeders on Hoth and racing speeder bikes on Tatooine to shooting stormtroopers and droids on foot throughout the galaxy.
    • Dash primarily uses a blaster with unlimited ammo, but can also find more powerful weapons with limited ammunition.
    • Each level has optional “challenge points” that are hidden throughout the level, and finding all of them will unlock a cheat dependent on which difficulty setting the save file is on.

December 4 – 2008 – Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars – Wii

  • In Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars is a 3D platform game.
    • After a comet passes Earth, narrowly missing it, but leaving a trail of green dust that enters earth’s atmosphere.
    • The dust causes plants and fungi to become sentient and forming tribes in order to survive the harsh human world.
  • After a period of peace however, a war begins between four mushrooms tribes, the Boletes, Amanitas, Leopiota and the Morels.
    • The player takes control of a Bolete Mushroom named Pax who travels out into the giant human world in order to find a new meteorite for a mushroom village who’s meteorite he absorbed, but soon realizes there is more at stake.
  • The gameplay includes a platforming, exploring levels, defeating enemies, complete certain objectives and collect normal household items.
    • Some of these Items can be fashioned into weapons, while others like the green meteorite chunks make the player stronger.
    • Along the way Players must also avoid obstacles and defeat smaller and boss enemies such as insects, animals and other mushrooms that can easily crush and kill the character.
    • A telekinetic ability can be used to pick up items and throw them at enemies or to activate switches.
    • The game can also be played in co-op mode and a number of mini games is included under options.
  • Josh says:
    • “I remember this game getting advertised really hard, like it was the next big franchise.”

December 5 – 2006 – Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops – PSP

  • The two previous Metal Gear Solid games for PSP, were not the MGS experience people expected like in this game.
    • Portable Ops was the tactical espionage action, people wanted
    • While Ac!d was a turnbased card strategy game
  • It’s been six years since the events in Snake Eater.
    • Snake has been captured and imprisoned in an abandoned missile silo in Colombia, and with no support this time. At least, not at first.
    • With the help of a fellow prisoner, Snake escapes and the game truly begins.
  • Portable Ops is a classic Metal Gear game in almost every sense.
    • The controls will be familiar to anyone who has played previous console entries in the series.
    • Snake can peek around corners, sneak up behind guards… they even carried over CQC (Close Quarters Combat) from Snake Eater.
  • Gathering supplies is also essential due to the main new mechanic found in Portable Ops: recruiting.
    • While Snake starts out on his own, he can enlist disgruntled guards, frustrated technicians, stubborn doctors and more.
    • These soldiers can be used in your “Sneaking Unit” (the team you take into battle for each mission), or in one of the many support units, with certain soldiers having a more natural talent for certain areas.
    • If you put someone who has medical bonuses in your Medical unit, they can produce rations, help your troops recover faster between missions and more.
    • Technicians can create new items for your team, and Spies can steal ammo and give you intel on specific maps, which can open up new side missions or allow you to grab some heavy weaponry.
  • Missions themselves range from recon to rescue to demolitions and beyond.
    • You can only take four troops into a mission, and usually one of them has to be Snake.
    • However, you don’t have to always use Snake during the mission, he just has to be present.
    • You can only control one character at a time, while the rest of the team hides safely inside boxes (usually right by the entry point).
    • On the field, the soldier you use can make a big difference.
    • Many times you can totally bypass a building’s defenses just by playing as a guard.
    • If you do not do anything to draw attention to yourself, you can oftentimes walk right past the enemy, plant some TNT, and walk away.
  • The game supports multiplayer for up to six player simultaneously, over WiFi Ad Hoc and Infrastructure, with game modes such as Team Death Match, Death Match and Capture Mission.

Tidbits

  • With so many shopping online this year, apparently it’s reached the point where UPS told its drivers to stop picking up packages at some major retailers including Nike and the Gap to maintain performance standards
    • Amazon is even offering small rebates on some products if you select a “No-Rush Shipping” option, to reduce strain
  • Reuters is reporting that the Samsung Galaxy Note series may be discontinued as early as next year, with styluses coming to the S21 and next foldable phone instead
  • More than 8.5 months later, Doom Eternal is finally launching on the Switch next week
    • It will be a 19GB digital-only release, and if you get it before December 23rd it includes the early purchase bonus Rip & Tear Pack, as well as a playable copy of Doom 64

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PS2J 293 News – Ctrl Alt Leak All Your Data

Free Games

  • Epic Games

    • The Stanley Parable

      • Started life as a Half-Life 2 mod in 2011, it became a standalone game in 2013
      • You play as the titular Stanley, and going through an office building in first person perspective, with everything that happens being narrated by the lovely British voice actor Kevan Brighting. You end up finding a bunch of diverging pathways, with options to disobey the narrator, that all get incorporated into the story with many different endings.
    • Watch Dogs

      • 2014
      • Third-person action-adventure game that follows hacker Aiden Pearce’s search for revenge after the killing of his niece, set in an open-world version of Chicago that has you going through different puzzles to hack a ton of different technology. There are also RPG mechanics with a reputation system and skill trees for hacking, crafting, combat, and driving
  • App Store

    • Alto’s Adventure

      • Join Alto and his friends as they embark on an endless snowboarding odyssey. Journey across the beautiful alpine hills of their native wilderness, through neighbouring villages, ancient woodlands, and long-abandoned ruins.
    • Alto’s Odyssey

      • Join Alto and his friends and set off on an endless sandboarding journey to discover its secrets. Soar above windswept dunes, traverse thrilling canyons, and explore long-hidden temples in a fantastical place far from home.
    • Kingdom Rush

      • Original, Frontiers, and Origins
      • Highly rated tower defence games
      • Get ready for an epic journey to defend your kingdom against hordes of orcs, trolls, evil wizards and other nasty fiends using a vast arsenal of towers and spells at your command!

COVID-19

  • According to the CDC, water temperature doesn’t matter at all when washing your hands
    • Hot or cold, the important factors are to use soap for at least 20 seconds and to use clean, running water. Standing water in a basin could be contaminated
    • They also mention turning off the faucet after wetting your hands to save water while you soap up, saying there is little data to prove significant numbers of germs are transferred between hands and the faucet
    • And also remember that while hand sanitizer also does the job, you’ll want to use soap and water if there is any visible dirt or grime to clean off. The best approach is to use both tools frequently
  • In some solid marketing spin, Apple is kicking off WWDC 2020 in June with an all new online format
    • Though it’s clearly a cancellation of the in-person sessions due to COVID-19, the way they’ve phrased it, and indeed the way it will exist this year, is an online format equally accessible to all developers no matter their location
    • They gave brief mention to the “current health situation”, but never actually mentioned COVID-19 or coronavirus
  • Many internet companies like TekSavvy and Shaw are making changes to remove data caps, offer flexible billing, and open up access points like Shaw Go WiFi to the general public
    • The FCC in the US is left scrambling to protect consumers though, after aggressively deregulating and removing their own power
      • They’ve convinced many ISP’s to waive late fees and not terminate services due to unpaid bill during this crisis, but glaringly omitted is any mention of removing data caps and overage fees
      • Ajit Pai arguing that ISP’s shouldn’t disconnect people in a time of emergency is making many wonder- isn’t this an admission that the internet is a utility, a basic service nowadays like power and water, and thus should be regulated as such?
  • The vast majority of business are either closing down completely or transitioning to online-only or limited delivery/takeout options to limit personal contact
    • Apple is even offering returns up to 14 days after they re-open their retail stores, as long as it’s not a phone bought on contract
    • Gamestop, though, has made the controversial decision to stay open in the US. They’re limiting the number of customers allowed in and cancelling midnight releases, but it’s still not a great situation
      • Many staff have reported on reddit that they haven’t even received disinfectant cleaners from corporate, instead being expected to provide their own and request reimbursement
      • Gamestop also still appears to be accepting trade-ins. Workers have apparently been told they can use gloves when accepting them, but they again have to buy their own
  • With movie theatres closing to keep up social distancing, Universal is releasing new movies as 48-hour rentals on the same day as their planned theatrical release. Current options include Trolls World Tour, The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma, which cost $20 to rent (about two movie tickets)
    • I can see a lot of other studios doing the same, if they haven’t already, to try and keep up their revenue on new releases
  • Conan O’Brien is taking an interesting route in sorting this out, allowing his crew to work from home while he shoots his show from his house on his iPhone
  • The WWE is still going strong, performing their hearts out to completely empty stadiums and arenas in some entertaining and somewhat surreal Twitter videos I’ve seen
  • The European Union is calling on Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming services to temporarily reduce video quality to ease the strain on broadband networks while many work from home
    • Italy, one of the countries hit worst by the pandemic, saw a 75% rise in broadband and mobile network traffic over the weekend
  • Israel has passed an emergency law allowing them to track the smartphone data of people with suspected COVID-19 and others they come into contact with to make sure they follow quarantine rules, which is kind of terrifying when you think of the ramifications

Apple has announced a bunch of new hardware coming down the pipe, and DaringFireball has a solid breakdown of what we can expect

  • New iPad Pro models are coming with faster CPUs and GPUs
    • They also come with more storage, with the base model up to 128GB from 64GB, all for the same prices
    • They’ve also added a LiDAR sensor (basically a laser range-finder) which could mean much faster and more effective augmented reality apps
  • iPadOS 13.4 is coming this Tuesday and will include full system-wide pointer support for mice and trackpads
    • This looks pretty slick, being a round cursor when mousing around and then disappearing and highlighting buttons and controls when hovering over them
  • There will be a new Magic Keyboard iPad case coming in May with an integrated trackpad and backlit keys
    • It looks pretty powerful with no kickstand and adjustable angles, converting the iPad Pro into an actual , albeit topheavy, clamshell laptop
  • And the new MacBook Air has double the storage, greatly improved performance, and the prices have dropped significantly
    • With the price drops and storage increases, you can compare the previous generation’s slower 256GB model costing $1299USD to the brand new faster equivalent at $999
      • If you do want to spend $1299, you end up with a much beefier processor and double the storage
    • And as a bonus, they now have the new scissor-switch keyboard that solves many of the issues with Apple’s butterfly mechanism

China deploys a ton of ‘No touch’ Hologram elevator buttons

http://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/demand-china-surges-no-touch-hologram-buttons/
  • A technology company in the city of Hefei, west of Shanghai, has attracted more than 100 orders for its holographic lift buttons as Chinese look for ways to avoid touching surfaces that may harbour the Covid-19 virus.
  • The device works by projecting an image of buttons in the air, and allowing users to “touch” them. The maker, Easpeed, says it can be fitted to all elevators, and has a response time of less than 30 milliseconds.
  • The system is relatively expensive, at about $2,000, prompting some building owners to opt for retrofitted voice controls, at a cost of around $500.
  • This has been done in hospitals in Yichang, Hubei Province, and Beijing’s Xiaotangshan Hospital.
  • Zhu Yongzhi, vice president Easpeed, told Global Times that the accuracy of voice control varied depending on noise levels, and the languages and dialects of the speaker.
  • He added that his company had received orders from Shanghai, Beijing, and Hangzhou in east China’s Zhejiang Province, and that the price may fall once Easpeed begins mass production.
  • Another approach has been taken by Huawei, which has developed an app that allows users to use a mobile phone to call elevators and select levels.
  • Meanwhile, those Chinese citizens who find themselves in unimproved lifts have taken their own measures, by using pens, toothpicks and keys to call their transport. Some may even have taken the stairs …

Watch Netflix with friends all from the comfort of you own homes!

https://www.gamespot.com/articles/netflix-party-lets-you-watch-movies-online-togethe/1100-6474858/
  • Netflix Party is a new way to watch Netflix with your friends online.
    • Netflix Party synchronizes video playback and adds group chat to your favorite Netflix shows.
  • How it works.
    • Install Netflix Party
    • Clicking the “Install Netflix Party” button on this page. Once you are redirected to the Chrome Web Store, click “Add to Chrome” to finish installing Netflix Party.
  • Open a Video in Netflix
    • Go to Netflix’s website. Choose any show you would like to watch and start playing the video.
  • Create your party
    • To create your party, click on the red “NP” icon located next to the address bar. Then click “Start Party” to get the party started, and share the party URL to invite friends.
  • Join a Netflix Party
    • To join a party click on the party URL, which will redirect to Netflix’s website. Then click on the “NP” button next to the address bar, and you should automatically join the party.
  • Has some customization options
    • User icon and nickname
    • Upload screenshots, emojis and GIFs
  • Netflix Party claims they have over 500 thousand users already
    • Is is not clear is they are affiliated with Netflix
    • Since they have a Patreon of $5 a month, I feel they are not
    • And with all participants needing their own access to Netflix
      • I doubt this will be taken down
      • But we never know

Tidbits

  • Microsoft’s been confirming the nuts and bolts of the Xbox Series X this last week, including a fancy solid-state drive, but they’ve made a bit of a misstep when it comes to expansion
    • They’re going to be selling the Xbox Series X Storage Expansion Card, a proprietary mcguffin developed with Seagate that you’ll need if you want to install more games than the internal storage allows. USB is allowed for backup, but not for gameplay
      • The cards will apparently offer some portability though, letting players bring a card loaded with games to a friend’s Xbox and play them there
    • Almost in response, Sony announced that the PS5 will have an expansion bay for an off-the-shelf solid-state drive, though they will be certifying specific drives to meet the new PCI Express 4.0 standard
  • After founding Microsoft in 1975, Bill Gates has left the its board entirely last week to dedicate more time to his philanthropic endeavours
    • It was a surprisingly quiet announcement, snuck in on a Friday under the headline “Microsoft announces change to its board of directors”
  • Apple has been fined a record $1.23B in France for price-fixing with their Apple Premium Reseller program
    • The French competition agency said that under the program, Apple published recommended prices and tightly restricted promotional materials distributors could use. One distributor said that if it ran a promotion Apple didn’t like, the company would retaliate by limiting product supply
    • The agency also found that Apple limited supplies to partners during moments of heavy demand around new product launches, to steer customers to its own stores
    • All in all some pretty nasty business practices that don’t sound very legal at all
  • Comcast has mistakenly published the names, phone numbers, and addresses of nearly 200,000 customers that pay monthly fees to remain unlisted
    • The information was made available on Ecolisting, a directory run by Comcast, and shortly thereafter picked up by third party directories
    • Comcast has shut that directory down, paid each customer $100 in credits, and offered free number changes, but the last time something like this happened in 2015 it resulted in a $33M settlement
    • This could be a very big deal for people that need to stay anonymous online for things like personal safety reasons, as even though they can change their phone numbers their names and addresses are out there now

New Overwatch Character #32, Echo

Backstory

  • Dr Mina Liao, Expert in robotics and artificial intelligence
    • Joined the Omnica Corporation and helped create the omnic race
    • During the Omnic Crisis, she was enlisted by Commander Morrison to join Overwatch
    • Mina created the Echo Project, to create an adaptive AI highly advanced robot to help with her vision of the future

Abilities

  • Primary attack
    • Tri-Shot – 15 shots before relead
    • Shoots 3 projectiles in a triangle pattern
  • Secondary Attack
    • Sticky Bombs – 5 second cooldown
    • Shoots a volley of bombs that stick to enemies and detonates after a short time
    • can be combined with Primary attack
      • Unlike Zenyatta’s charge attack
  • Primary Ability
    • Flight
    • Initial boost forward
    • Followed by a short time of free flight
    • She can also glide
      • Faster falling than Mercy’s similar ability, but more maneuverability
  • Alternate Ability
    • Focusing Beam
    • Deals significantly more damage to characters that are under 50% health
    • Also deals more damage to Barriers that are below 50%
      • Funfact – The first cracks on a barrier are when it falls to 50%
  • Ultimate
    • Duplicate
    • Echo will duplicate an enemy character for 15 seconds
    • Echo replicates the appearance of the hero and gains all their abilities
    • Damage done or healed, in this transformed state will accumulate more Ult charge than in regular gameplay
    • If you are defeated, you lose your transformation, and become Echo again
    • Quality of life enhancement added to confirm the character selected before transforming
      • It is also added to Ana’s Ultimate, to confirm the character you will be boosting
  • She is a very advanced character and will have a long time on the PTR

 

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