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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Free games
  • Epic Games
    • Thimbleweed Park
      • 2017
      • A haunted hotel, an abandoned circus, a burnt-out pillow factory, a dead body pixelating under the bridge, toilets that run on vacuum tubes… you’ve never visited a place like this before.
      • In Thimbleweed Park, a dead body is the least of your problems. Switch between five playable characters to uncover the surreal secrets of this strange town in a modern mystery adventure game from the creators of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. The deeper you go, the weirder it gets.
Top story this week, Reggie Fils-Aime is stepping down as president of Nintendo of America effective this April
  • After being with the company for 16 years, and leading it for 13 of them, he’s moving on to spend more time with family and friends
  • The reins will be passed to Doug Bowser, the current head of sales and marketing, who has been working with Reggie for the past four years
    • They’re already leaning into the memes, with Bowser posting a photo thanking everyone for the warm welcome that has plushes of Mario and Luigi tied up together on a shelf
  • Reggie’s posted a heart-felt goodbye on the Nintendo of America Twitter account, thanking fans for their never-ending support and passion
In a bit of a roller coaster, some large Pokemon Go YouTube channels were deleted, then restored, this week
  • Apparently they had some innocuous videos flagged, and according to YouTube they were reviewed and given strikes for sexual content, specifically involving minors
    • This process even had one user’s GMail account completely disabled, leaving them unable to contact YouTube through normal means
  • Once the channels got in touch with YouTube to argue their case though, they were reinstated before the end of the day, saying that the YouTubers were taken down mistakenly
  • The root of the mistake seems to be the titles of the videos, referring to combat power as CP
    • It’s a common term in the Pokemon Go community, but it’s also unfortunately used as shorthand for child pornography
  • In the end it’s good that YouTube is making these kinds of efforts, but considering Google’s pockets I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a human to look at cases once they’ve been flagged for review
Niantic is bringing some quality of life improvements for everyone not playing Pokemon Go, to settle the class-action lawsuit from annoyed homeowners
  • The app will delivery courtesy reminders whenever 10 or more people are playing in the same location
  • They’ll also work with public parks to remind users of a location’s hours and make the associated stops inaccessible when closed, open a complaints reporting site, and grant removals for Pokestops within 40m of a single-family property
  • The named plaintiffs are also getting $1000 each, while the lawyers are requesting over $8M in fees and expenses
Samsung unveiled a bunch of new tech at their Unpacked event this week, and we’ve got a quick overview
  • Folding phones are finally here, and they’re absurdly expensive and unnecessary!
    • Samsung has announced the Galaxy Fold, launching April 26th and starting at $1980 USD
    • It strikes me as the worst of both worlds- when unfolded it looks like a typical Android tablet, which have generally been lacking, and when folded it’s a really thick phone with gigantic bezels (seems like almost a full inch each on the top and bottom)
    • It feels like this is basically a folding tablet, with the exterior screen kind of tacked on to make it also a phone
    • If nothing else it will bring the foldable display technology some more popularity and inspire others to innovate further with the tech
  • They announced the new Galaxy S10 with an interesting ultrasonic fingerprint scanner hidden behind the somewhat excessive 6.7” edge-to-edge display
  • It’s also 5G ready, which is jumping the gun a bit because the networks sure aren’t
  • Samsung also announced Galaxy Buds, an Airpods competitor that can wirelessly charge from the S10 using PowerShare, and a fancy new batch of smartwatches to complete their matching set
Samsung Washer Video  *Josh referenced this
Facebook may be facing multi-billion dollar fines after their role on the Cambridge Analytica user information scandal
  • The root of the investigation is whether Facebook violated the terms of a 2011 settlement with the FTC, prohibiting Facebook from misrepresenting the privacy or security of user info and requiring consent before overriding privacy settings, after they were found to have “deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.”
  • The current investigation started in March of last year, after 87 million users’ info was given to a political consulting firm that did work with the Trump campaign
    • I’d be surprised if they weren’t also taking into account some of the more recent revelations, like making the posts of 14 million users public despite privacy settings set otherwise and giving away private information and photos left and right
  • If they fight the fines, which is sounds like they may based on their usual denials and non-statements, they could face a massive privacy lawsuit from the FTC and the US Government
Speaking of Facebook and bad data policies, a bunch of apps have come under fire for sending personal information to Facebook without user consent or controls
  • Among some of the worst offenders tested by the Wall Street Journal are
    • Realtor.com sends info on the listings that a user views, including location, price, and if they’re marked as a favourite
      Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor, the most popular heart-rate app on iOS, sends a user’s heart rate to Facebook immediately after it’s recorded
    • Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker tells Facebook when a user is having their period, or if they’re trying to get pregnant
Tidbits
  • Razer is closing down their game store after being open only 10 months
    • They were just reselling Steam and Uplay games, so as long as you make sure to activate your codes before Feb 28 you’ll be safe
    • They’ll also apparently still honour any existing preorders
  • Pokemon Go is now allowing players to switch teams, with a couple asterisks
    • It costs 1000 coins (earnable in gyms or by spending money), and can only be done once per year
  • The Netflix/Marvel partnership is officially over, with no more seasons of The Punisher and Jessica Jones, the last two Marvel series being made on the platform, being produced
    • The third season of Jessica Jones will still air sometime this year, but that’ll be the end
    • Time will tell if the eventual Marvel streaming service will continue the existing Netflix stories, or if they’ll need to reboot things
  • The final pieces of Shovel Knight, initially set to release on April 9th, have been delayed by “several months”
    • Originally revealed with a 2018 launch date, Shovel Knight: King of Cards, Shovel Knight Showdown, and the physical release of Treasure Trove have all been pushed back to an unspecified date this year, along with the associated amiibo three-pack
Recommend the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
  • It’s an urban fantasy series that feels like a blend of The Dresden Files and American Gods, creating a world with people, monsters, gods, and goddesses from a wide array of mythologies and pantheons
  • It all comes together really well and sucks you in, with the books feeding in to eachother pretty directly
  • Including novellas I’ve devoured 17 books in the last three weeks, and I can’t wait to read the last few and see how it ends

Bad Description of Movies and Games

War veteran trys to radicalize a young man to assassinate key members of the government. (Movie)

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