PS2J 307 News – Ransomware Quality Control

Free games

  • Twitch

    • Melbits World

      • 2018
      • Co-op puzzle platformer where you team up and use your phone as your controller to guide your characters through challenging, intricate levels
    • Kunai

      • 2020
      • Billed as a quirky, fast-paced action platformer, you play as Tabby, a tablet who joins the fight against a robot uprising using his kunai and ninja-parkour
    • Dear Esther: Landmark Edition

      • 2017 remaster first released in 2008 as a free-to-play mod for the Source engine, then later redeveloped into a commercial release in 2012
      • First person exploration and adventure game that is considered to have started the “walking simulator” genre, it has you exploring an unnamed island in Scotland, listening to a troubled man read a series of letters to his deceased wife
    • Dark Devotion

      • 2019
      • Action adventure game where you explore the secrets of a mysterious fallen temple and put your Templar’s faith to the test
    • Turok 2: Seeds of Evil

      • 1998
      • First person shooter originally released on the N64, it follows Turok’s efforts to stop a powerful alien entity from escaping the confines of his Lightship
    • Reus

      • 2013
      • God game where you control giants that can modify the nature of the planet through terraforming, creating life, and altering genes
    • GRIP: Combat Racing

      • 2018
      • Originally a Kickstarter campaign that I backed in 2015, it raised $154K of its $657K goal before it was taken down, but it was still announced to be pushed into early access
      • High octane hardcore combat racer inspired by Rollcage, Wipeout, Motostorm, and Podracer with gravity-defying twists and heavy weaponry
  • Xbox

    • WRC 8 World Rally Championship

      • 2019
      • The official game of the 2019 World Rally Championship, it’s a simulation rally racing game with new physics for all surfaces and a redesigned career mode
    • Saints Row 2

      • 2008
      • Sandbox action-adventure game that has you leading the Third Street Saints gang against three rivals and the corrupt Ultor Corporation, with a more comedic tone to set the game apart from Grand Theft Auto
  • PS4

    • NBA 2k20

      • 2019
      • Basketball simulation game featuring current and past players and teams, along with up to six custom expansion teams and the ability to relocate and rebrand any time
      • It also included, for the first time, all 12 teams from the WNBA, though they can only be played in one-game exhibition and single-season modes, and the game drew criticism for its gambling-based minigames that overshadowed the basketball in early trailers
    • Rise Of The Tomb Raider – 20 Year Celebration

      • 2016 update to the 2015 release, with updates including coop play and classic outfits as well as combat-free exploration and zombie modes
      • Action-adventure sequel to the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, it has standard ruins exploration and bowplay but this time set in Siberia
    • Erica

      • Bonus for the 10th anniversary of PS Plus
      • 2019
      • Live-action interactive adventure thriller with multiple endings that feels Heavy Rain-esque, putting you in the role of Erica, a brave young lady who is plagued with nightmares of her father’s murder and has to unearth the truth behind the tragedy
  • Epic Games

    • Hue

      • 2016
      • Puzzle platformer where you explore a grey land while searching for your missing mother, and along the way you uncover coloured pieces that reveal new puzzles. The more colours you find, the more complex the puzzles become

Co-Founder of Cards Against Humanity Max Temkin has stepped down following accusations of racist and sexist office culture (courtesy of Polygon)

  • For anyone unaware, it’s like a lewd version of Apples to Apples with references to politics, pop culture, sex, and so on
  • It started as a DIY print your own game distributed for free, but after a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign it became the focus of a multi-million dollar game company
  • In the past few weeks multiple former employees have shared stories of racist and sexist behaviours that largely affected Black employees, as well as some accusations of sexual assault by Temkin
  • Many people reporting these behaviours remained anonymous due to fear of retaliation, and that seems to have been well founded after several employees described being fired for confusing or unexpected reasons after raising concerns about discrimination at work
  • Cards Against Humanity’s official response is that “some of these accounts are true, others are not, and a few we are continuing to investigate”
  • It seems almost inevitable that a company trading on humour powered by shock and racial stereotypes, like all the variations on “A big, black dick” that exist in the game, would have some problems, but though they’ve tried to increase sensitivity and remove some cards deemed offensive, there are still many packs being sold today that include cards that marginalize vulnerable groups of people
  • There have also been stories shared from the writer’s room about how the head writers like Temkin would push for the inclusion of cards like “Saying the N-word”, despite the protests of the one Black employee on the team
  • A spokesperson pointed Polygon to 14 cards, out of the hundreds available for the game, that “reflect Black culture, history, and perspectives”. In a follow-up they clarified that the game has “well over 100” cards that do that, and the examples were merely a favourite sampling, but the gesture reeks of “I’m not racist, I have a Black friend”
  • Many former employees described their departure from the company as “escaping”, and since there was no real HR department to speak of they felt unheard and powerless even after leaving, for fear of lawsuits and reprisals. The Chief Operating Officer was the sole HR department, and was also in charge of finance, operations, and legal. His close working relationship with Temkin led to concerns about bringing issues forward.
  • Apparently Cards Against Humanity is hiring an independent third-party HR consultant to audit and improve its practices, but from the sounds of it a lot of damage has been done to a lot of lives
  • Former employees also spoke of Temkin yelling at employees, and said that people on staff often spoke on Slack about the most private places to cry after encounters with him, and that he exerted undue influence over not only people’s livelihood but also their personal lives- in one case, Temkin decided that an employee would have to stop seeing someone or they would get “kicked out”
  • And all of this from a company that has opposed Trump, donated money to charity, and given scholarships to women in STEM programs has left many with whiplash after experiencing what the company culture was like internally
  • As of June 9th Temkin has stepped down from the company and will have no staff interactions, and though he maintains 1/8th of the company’s shares he will not receive a salary.
  • With these reports becoming public and the employees gaining courage and support they’ve established the Cards Against Humanity Workers United union and begun to demand recognition from the company’s owners, looking to establish better collaboration and transparency between workers and management after the trust has been eroded so thoroughly already
  • In a statement provided to Polygon, the company’s leadership says that it intends to recognize the union, and that if the majority of their employees want a union they’re all for it

Reddit has officially, finally, banned the “The_Donald” subreddit

  • The ban was part of the site’s overhaul of its hate speech policies, and will affect the more than 790,000 users that used it to post memes, videos, and messages supportive of Trump
  • This came down because of the group’s consistent breaking of its rules by allowing people to target and harass others with hate speech
  • Reddit’s chief executive, Steve Huffman said “Reddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking people. ‘The_Donald’ has been in violation of that”
  • At the same time, Twitch temporarily banned Trump from the service for hateful conduct, for things like video of his kickoff rally where he claimed that Mexico was sending rapists to the US
    • Twitch has apparently begun issuing permanent bans to other streamers because of hate speech, with long-time popular streamer Dr Disrespect receiving one without specific details on why
    • It sounds like Twitch is taking moderation a lot more seriously, and not just allowing racist or hateful language just because it’s newsworthy due to its source
  • In the words of the Daring Fireball, “It’s a race to get out of Dodge as the whole world gets its footing back on the rightful notion that bigotry is shameful and must be shunned.”

Warning to all pirates running macOS, there’s a new ransomware making the rounds

  • The new EvilQuest ransomware variant is being spread through pirated Mac apps, according to Malwarebytes, and was initially found in a download for Little Snitch found on a Russion forum
  • The infected installation does install Little Snitch, a tool for monitoring network traffic on your computer, but also moves and installs files throughout your system to encrypt both system and personal files on your computer before prompting for a $50USD ransom
    • The malware apparently doesn’t work very well though, as the ransom instructions are often not displayed properly and you don’t actually get your files back if you pay it
  • Malwarebytes says their software can remove the infection, but any encrypted files will need to be restored from backups

Clone High is coming back!?!

  • For the multitude that missed it the first time around, it was an animated series about the teenage clones of historical figures going to high school together, that worked as an out-loud parody of teen soaps like Dawson’s Creek with things like every episode opening with “Tonight, on a very special episode of Clone High…”
  • It was cancelled after one season due in part to its depiction of the clone of Mahatma Ghandi and controversy outside of North America. Even the DVD release never made it outside of Canada
  • Well apparently Clone High’s creators went on to make a few films like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie, and Spider-Verse
  • So it seems like now that they’ve got some pull after a few hits, they’re bringing the show into the era of Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars, and 13 Reasons Why, so maybe we’ll finally get some closure to the first season’s cliffhanger two decades later. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with this

Tidbits

  • Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa has officially apologized for the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con drift issue, saying “Regarding the Joy-Con, we apologize for any trouble caused to our customers. We are continuing to aim to improve our products, but as the Joy-Con is the subject of a class-action lawsuit in the United States and this is still a pending issue, we would like to refrain from responding about any specific actions.”
    • Nintendo began offering free repairs for controllers afflicted with drift shortly after the lawsuit was filed, but with its built-in controllers the Switch Lite was also added to the class action suit a week after its September launch
  • Microsoft has updated their enforcement guidlelines for Forza Motorsport, banning players using the custom design feature to put confederate flags or swastikas on their cars
    • Some have raised issues with this, complaining that iconic cars like the Dukes of Hazard’s General Lee had nothing to do with race and featured a large depiction of the flag on its back, but just because an unproblematic show used the flag doesn’t mean it’s not a problematic symbol itself
    • Even the General Lee car itself, owned by pro golfer Bubba Watson, had its flags removed in 2015
  • According to rumours, Apple may be removing the charger and EarPods from new iPhone boxes, leaving just the phone and a USB cord
    • The switch would allow them to reduce packaging and waste, and for many long-time iPhone users it wouldn’t be a large issue, but it seems like the option should still be there to make sure you have everything you need if you’re buying for the first time
    • One idea I’ve seem on reddit is to either have two different versions, which could get confusing, or include a coupon for the value of the charger inside the box. Then you can get one for free or use the savings on another Apple device, though it’s still an additional step
  • Now through July 10th Apple is giving you an extra 10% bonus when adding funds to your AppleID
    • On your phone you can go to Settings, tap on your name, iTunes & App Store, tap on your AppleID, View AppleID, then tap Add Funds to Apple ID
  • After taking fire for reading iPhone clipboards every time users type a single character into the app, TikTok has promised to release an update to stop reading that information from devices
    • iOS 14 beta shows a notification each time an app reads your clipboard and so this was really highlighted in TikTok, but it’s also behaviour being seen in other apps like AccuWeather, Overstock, AliExpress, Call of Duty Mobile, Patreon, and Google News
    • TikTok claims it’s part of an anti-spam feature and they don’t actually read what you may have copied from another app, but there’s no way to verify that. With it being a Chinese company whose algorithm is a complete black box, you can assume that they’ve stored copies of whatever you had on your clipboard while using the app
  • Microsoft is officially shutting down their physical stores worldwide, except for four specific locations in the US, England, and Australia that will become “experience centers” that no longer sell products
    • The stores were originally inspired by Apple Stores both in concept and execution, but failed to really get a foothold in the market
    • verynicewebsite.net put it well – “I do enjoy their PR headline: “Microsoft Store announces new approach to retail.” The new approach: not doing retail.”

 

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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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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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