PS2J 286 News – One Click Debt, No Refunds

Free Games

  • PS4

    • BioShock: The Collection

      • 2016
      • Remastered, 1080p ports of all three plot-driven first-person shooter games (BioShock, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite), taking you from the depths of Rapture to the skies of Columbia in some great stories in dystopias freed of “petty morality” summed up by “No gods or kings, only man”
    • The Sims 4

      • 2017
      • A reportedly decent port of the classic life simulation series that has you creating characters and households, then living their lives
    • Firewall Zero Hour

      • 2018
      • 4v4 tactical VR shooter developed exclusively for the PSVR that has you seizing or protecting sensitive information from opposing teams
  • Xbox One

    • TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge

      • 2018
      • Motorcycle racing game that has you challenging the deadly Snaefell Mountain course that has you taking on 38 miles of roads at over 180 mph
    • Call of Cthulhu

      • 2018
      • A role-playing psychological horror game inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s writing, while also being an adaptation of the 1981 RPG of the same title
    • Fable Heroes

      • 2012
      • A beat ’em up spinoff of the Fable series, with a toy-like aesthetic and mixed reviews, it’s at least the first family friendly Fable title
    • Star Wars Battlefront

      • 2004
      • The original Battlefront game for the first Xbox, it’s a first and third person shooter that primarily plays as a conquest game with limited respawns for each team and also has a Galactic Conquest mode with some strategy elements
  • Epic Games

    • Farming Simulator 19

      • 2018
      • Pretty much what it says on the tin- it’s a full farming simulator with huge American and European environments, over 300 vehicles and machines, online co-op play, and a surprisingly large mod community
    • Next week we can look forward to PC ports of some popular board games

Apparently Ring isn’t just a product that lets people surveil their neighbours and gives police access to a network of cameras, it also tracks its customers through its app

  • We talked about the Ring camera doorbells and Amazon’s shady agreements with local police to promote the products and get access to recorded footage last summer back in episodes 263 and 268
  • Well now the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) put together an investigation of the associated Android app and found it packed with third-party trackers sending out a plethora of personally identifiable information on its customers
    • This stuff includes names, IP addresses, mobile network carriers, persistent identifiers, and sensor data from the devices themselves
  • All of that info comes together to form a detailed fingerprint of the user that can be sold or used to see what people are doing in their digital lives, and most damning of all is that there is no notification, consent, or ways to mitigate the damage done
  • Ring is taking this information and delivering it to organizations like:
    • Facebook
    • Branch
      • a “deep linking” platform that builds those exact kind of digital fingerprints and associates them with other marketing and analytics data
    • AppsFlyer
      • another marketing data firm that’s now getting their hands on sensor data from all those devices
    • And Mixpanel
      • yet another business analytics service, but this one deserves special mention since Ring is sending them people’s full names, email address, details on your phone’s OS and hardware model, bluetooth settings, and how many locations you have Ring devices installed in
    • Of those services only Mixpanel is on Ring’s list of third-party services they say they work with, but they don’t make it clear just how much information they share
  • All that is to say, for being a company based around securing your home they sure don’t seem to have any consideration for your personal information. If you use a Ring device, it may be time to rethink that

Tesla’s taking heat this week because of their fairly predatory practices when it comes to buying upgrades

  • In a pretty suspicious move, about a week and a half before the end of their financial year Tesla rolled out a new feature in their phone app allowing people to buy software upgrades for their cars to enable full autopilot
  • Shortly afterward, they were hit with a lot of users complaining about unintended purchases and a terrible refund policy
    • In one case someone broke down exactly what happened- they essentially butt dialled the purchase, contacted support as soon as they could afterward and then a week later were told that there are no refunds for software purchases.
      • The support staff even compared it to “paying for an addition to a house, deciding you don’t like it, then requesting a refund from the contractor”
      • There are even some staff claiming that the upgrade can’t be removed from the car, when it’s basically just an enable/disable flag with no major download or installation involved
    • Eventually someone high-profile enough complained on Twitter and Elon Musk said that the refund situation would be addressed, but who knows if that will roll out to all the little people affected
  • The kicker here is how easy Tesla made it to accidentally make the purchase- it’s harder to download a free app
    • If you’re logged in to the Tesla app and go to the upgrades screen, the $4000 autopilot upgrade is automatically selected, added to your cart, and the payment prompt is immediately displayed
    • You then have two buttons- ApplePay, which would prompt for TouchID, FaceID, or your password, or Pay With Credit Card
      • One thing to note here is that they do have their refund denial policy shown at this point. On a black or very dark grey screen, below those buttons in slightly lighter grey text. All the other text is bright white.
      • Another interesting tidbit is that the refund policy was actually photoshopped off of the screen when it was shown in an investor presentation
    • If you do hit Pay With Credit Card it takes you to a confirmation screen with everything filled out- they don’t even ask for your card’s security code to verify, you just tap Pay at the bottom.
    • So if you’re in the Tesla app and put your phone in your pocket without locking it, whether by mistake or not, you’re three taps away from dropping $4000 without even knowing it
    • There are even some reports that the confirmation screen is new- some users last year just wanted to see the total with tax and were immediately charged
  • In investigating this I also stumbled upon some of the skeezy strategies Tesla has used on their website- when you look at the price of a car they default to showing it adjusted for “potential savings”
    • You might see that and expect some kind of rebates or sales, but in fact they bundle in the estimated savings from not buying gas for the life of the car, making a difference of thousands of dollars between the expected price and what Tesla actually charges for their vehicles.
  • All of this just really goes to show how Tesla seems to be trying to trick people into spending money, and the fact that it’s right before their fiscal year end makes it even more suspicious

The Wawa chain of American convenience stores was targeted by credit card skimming malware last month, resulting in as many as 30M cards going up for sale on the dark web this week

  • Apparently the malware began rolling out on March 4th and wasn’t discovered until December 10th, so it had gathered about nine full months worth of numbers, names, and expiration dates
  • Anyone who used a payment card at a Wawa location last year should definitely check your bills closely. Wawa is reportedly offering affected customers one year of credit monitoring but those services may not be very effective, so if you’re concerned you may want to consider putting a security freeze on your file instead

Tidbits

  • Activision Blizzard makes exclusive streaming deal with YouTube, Overwatch League and Call of Duty will be streaming on YouTube
  • 343 Industries is looking to ban Halo: Reach players abusing the experience system by frequently joining games and not actually playing
    • Apparently the new release of Reach involves a new experience progression system to unlock customizations, rather than the old system where you could just buy whatever you have enough credits for, and going AFK is one strategy players are using to grind for more experience
    • Another has been dubbed “sword lining”, where two Griffball teams line up and take turns killing each other with swords
  • Bethesda has finally fully addressed the inventory hack in Fallout 76 that we talked about last year, wherein hackers could use your inventory like a lootable chest to steal everything from your character in seconds
    • Reportedly the company is creating clones of the affected characters with their entire inventory as of December 20th, as well as about $66 worth of their premium ‘atoms’ currency.
    • Players can then make a secure trade from the clone to their original character via a private server, and Bethesda is providing support agents to help with that process
  • Zuckerberg has gone on record that Facebook’s goal for the next decade “isn’t to be liked, but to be understood”, saying they didn’t always communicate their views clearly because they worried about offending people
    • The Daring Fireball says it best: “The more you understand Facebook, the less you like or trust them. So: mission accomplished.”
  • Nintendo’s Switch has officially become their third best-selling home console of all time, behind the Wii and the NES (and almost quadrupling the WiiU)
    • Fun fact, estimates show they surpassed the Xbox One during the 2019 holiday season despite the XBone being out for more than three years before the Switch’s release
    • And just to tack on to the end of this, The Outer Worlds is officially coming to the Switch on March 6th
  • Lastly, in a little bit of heartwarming news to close things out, professional Fortnite player and streamer Aydan Conrad went on Twitch last week to stream himself calling his mom and paying off her student debt
    • He gave full credit to his viewers, saying that everyone watching made the whole thing possible

Based on this tweet, I want to know what ten games our Fanily like. See how much crossover we all have.

And I can see some cool games to check out as well
I like top tens with no order, it all depends on mood.

Josh’s Top 10

  • Rollercoaster Tycoon
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • Psyconauts
  • Overwatch
  • Slay The Spire
  • Fallout 4
  • Super Smash Bros Ultimate
  • Stardew Valley
  • Minecraft
  • The Sims

Alan’s Top 10

  • Eternal Darkness Sanity’s Requiem
  • Shovel Knight Treasure Trove
  • Kirby Superstar (honourable mention to Planet Robobot)
  • Pokemon Trading Card Game
  • God of War (2019)
  • Beat Saber
  • Titanfall 2
  • Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (honourable mention to A Link to the Past)
  • Superhot
  • Black Mesa

 

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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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