PS2J 323 News – 10 23 2020

Reminder: Get your flu shot, if you can!

Free Games

  • Twitch

    • Stick it to the Man! (free on Epic last month)

      • 2013
      • Indie adventure platformer that puts you in the role of Ray, a hard hat tester that suffered a bizarre accident and woke up with a giant pink spaghetti arm sticking out of his brain. With his awesome new powers he can read minds and change the world with stickers but he’s on the run for a crime he didn’t commit.
  • Epic Games

    • Costume Quest 2

      • 2014
      • Action RPG from Double Fine that has players assuming the identity of one of two twin siblings, Wren or Reynold. Explore spooky time-traversing landscapes, don adorable new costumes that transform into powerful Hallo-warriors, and collect even Creepier Treat Cards to wield in combat against a legion of hygiene obsessed baddies.
    • Layers of Fear 2

      • First person psychological horror game with an emphasis on exploration and story. Players control a Hollywood actor who heeds the call of an enigmatic director to take on the lead role in a film shot aboard an ocean liner.

The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Google for antitrust violations, after a 16 month investigation into anticompetitive practices in tech

  • With how much control and breadth Google holds over the technology landscape right now, from search to email to cloud storage to mobile to collaboration tools to streaming video to web browsers… it’s a lot
  • The DOJ is alleging that Google uses their position to block competition and prevent rivals from getting a foothold in any of their related businesses, including deals that make its search platform the default on iPhones and Android
    • Android devices can’t even delete the Google Search app
  • The lawsuit also mentions Google’s advertising practices within its search business, controlling over 70% of the search advertising market, 80% of general searches, and 95% of searches from mobile devices
  • Kent Walker, a Google Senior VP, said the lawsuit is “deeply flawed” and “would do nothing to help consumers”, noting that people use Google because they choose to and that users can change their default settings to use alternative services
  • I could see this resulting in, at the very minimum, phones and browsers giving you a selection of search engines at setup instead of always defaulting to Google. Duck Duck Go has been a great alternative, but even I didn’t think to switch my default settings for a long time
  • Depending on how this case goes it could result in a lot of other government actions against tech companies, including Facebook, Amazon, and Apple

Ahead of the next-generation of Xboxes next month, the Xbox app on iOS has been updated with Remote Play

  • Similar to Sony’s PS4 Remote Play feature, this has the games being played on your own Xbox using a Bluetooth controller paired to your phone, with audio and video streamed to your device
  • It’s pretty slick and even supports play outside of your own Wifi network, so you can have a full Xbox experience on the go wherever you are as long as you have a data connection
  • When the connection is first made you have to boot up your console to enable the feature, and it will run through a few tests to make sure things will work smoothly, but then when you use it your Xbox will run silently with no indication it’s being played- no power light or startup chime
  • Unfortunately at the moment it seems like there’s an audio glitch on some devices, where the sound coming through the phone is choppy and distorted, but a fix is in the works and once they release that everything else seems great- visuals are clear, and latency is minimal
  • One neat feature though is that when the console is being played remotely it looks like you can still play it locally as well, so depending on if that’s a bug or a feature we could see couch co-op games played from anywhere with a cell signal

It looks like Xbox All Access is coming to Canada as well, offering a Series X and 2 years of GamePass Ultimate for $40/month, or a Series S for $30/month with no interest

  • All said, assuming you’d have paid for full-price GamePass anyway the plan saves you $40 on the X and $60 on the S
  • One thing to note is that Game Pass Ultimate maxes out at three years, so if you already have more than a year banked you’ll want to wait before redeeming the included 2 year code
  • All Access should be available at launch on November 10th

NBA 2K21 has apparently added unskippable ads to their full-price game, on top of all the microtransactions and gambling they’ve already shovelled in

  • Ads for the Oculus Quest 2 have reportedly appeared during loading screens, regardless of how long the game actually takes to load, with the button to proceed disabled until the ad plays in full
  • This is on top of having paid $70 for the game, and being charged extra if you want to upgrade to the next-gen version coming next month
  • This might sound like familiar ground, with EA having done something similar by adding ads to UFC4 and its replays, but that move drew so much fire that they quickly reversed course and removed them
  • Time will tell how long it takes 2K to do the same

One day after launching their Apple TV app, short-form video service Quibi is shutting down

  • In case you missed it, in the 6 months it existed, the idea behind Quibi was to be like Netflix but for quick 5-10 minute videos for about $5/month
  • It also had a gimmick where you could switch your phone between landscape and portrait while you watched and the video stream would adjust accordingly, showing you video formatted for that orientation
  • Unfortunately it failed to really take off, aiming for people waiting for coffee or on the bus but launching right when the pandemic initially hit hardest, and ended up with less than 1/10th of their projected subscribers
  • It also doesn’t help that they had some pretty unappealing licensing deals and some say their contracts were specifically set up to avoid involvement with the Screenwriters and Screen Actors Guilds to cut costs
  • They attempted to sell to companies like Facebook, Warner Media, and Apple, but there weren’t any takers, so things are just shutting down

Ubisoft is revamping its Uplay and Ubisoft Club platforms into Ubisoft Connect, and the future looks pretty dang bright

  • The new service will include the Uplay reward structure, but more importantly its biggest addition is cross-platform progression
    • You’ll be able to take your save files from Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Immortals Fenyx Rising, and Riders Republic, as well as future Ubisoft games, from one platform to another seamlessly with crossplay and cross-progression
  • Ubisoft Connect will be launching alongside Watch Dogs: Legon on October 29th

GM has unveiled a new electric Hummer this week, with a 350+ mile range and “crab mode” for diagonal off-road movement

  • If you’re confused by why I’m talking about this I have yet to get to my favourite part- the digital cockpit system was designed in the Unreal Engine with Epic Games
  • It kind of makes sense when you think about it- modern vehicles run on computers, so bringing advancements from gaming regarding performance and interface is a logical next step

This Week In Gaming History

October 17 – 2001 – Devil May Cry – Playstation 2

  • Legend has it that 2000 years ago in the depths of hell, a demon rebelled against the devil, waging a one-man war in support of the human world.
  • In the present, Dante, a private investigator of the supernatural, realizes that the devil is rallying to rise again against mankind.
    • Deep within Dante’s blood lies the power of ancient demons and as his power builds he transforms into a demon state where he can use his power against evil he encounters.
  • Josh’s commentary
    • First horror game I enjoyed and played completely!
    • Was the first game I wasn’t allowed to play, so of course I played it in secret, sorry Mom
    • It appealed to my inner Edge-Lord and the Way Too Cool attitude Sonic reinforced in me.

October 18 – 1994 – Sonic and Knuckles – Genesis

  • Sonic and Knuckles continues the story directly from where Sonic the Hedgehog 3 left off.
  • Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were originally planned as a single game
    • According to designer Takashi Iizuka, the team “really wanted to hit a home run”, with larger stages that took longer to develop.
    • As ROM cartridges were too small to contain the game and publisher Sega wanted it released in time for a promotional deal with McDonald’s, Sonic 3 was split in two, with Sonic & Knuckles as the second part.
    • Despite the split, the developers wanted the games to feel like a single experience.
    • According to Roger Hector, vice president and general manager of STI, the lock-on technology was conceived two and a half years before the release of Sonic & Knuckles, between the releases of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
    • The team explained their situation to Sega’s hardware division, which gave them the lock-on adapter.
    • The team knew that players would likely use the adapter to insert games beside Sonic 3, so they implemented the Blue Sphere minigame for most games.
    • They made Knuckles playable in Sonic 2 if that game was inserted because the team found his playstyle suited its levels.
    • However, the team did not implement the same feature for the original Sonic the Hedgehog as it “didn’t really feel right”.
  • I love the logo that is shown on the cartridge and box.
    • This and Sonic 3, are games that I would be able to rent, but buying my own copy always eluded me.

October 19 – 2010 – Fallout: New Vegas – PS3, 360, Windows

  • The followup to Fallout 3, but developed by Obsidian Studios
  • Lots of people think of New Vegas, when it comes to great Fallout titles.
    • The consensus on this game, from what I remember, is that it is a cool new story, with all the popular mods that came out for Fallout 3 built in.
  • Reviews are consistently high
    • With the caveat that it is really fun, but buggy as well.

October 20 – 2020 – Amnesia: Rebirth – PS4, Windows

  • You can’t let out a breath. The creature is only inches away.
    • Its sole purpose – to feed off your terror. And so you crouch in the dark, trying to stop the fear rising, trying to silence what lies within you.
  • “I know you. I know what you’re capable of.”
  • In Amnesia: Rebirth, you are Tasi Trianon, waking up deep in the desert of Algeria.
    • Days have passed.
    • Where have you been? What did you do? Where are the others?
    • Retrace your journey, pull together the fragments of your shattered past; it is your only chance to survive the pitiless horror that threatens to devour you.
  • “Do not allow yourself anger, do not allow yourself to fear.”
  • Time is against you.
    • Step into Tasi’s shoes and guide her through her personal terror and pain.
    • While you struggle to make your way through a desolate landscape, you must also struggle with your own hopes, fears, and bitter regrets.
    • And still you must continue, step by step, knowing that if you fail you will lose everything.
      • First-person narrative horror experience
      • Explore environments and uncover their histories.
      • Overcome puzzles that stand in your way.
      • Carefully manage your limited resources, both physical and mental.
      • Encounter horrific creatures and use your wits and understanding of the world to escape them.

October 21 – 2003 – Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III – Rebel Strike – GameCube

  • Be a part of the epic battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire as a member of Rogue Squadron, an elite group of fighters who are the best chance for the Rebel’s to destroy the Empire once and for all.
  • Taking the part of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Wedge Antilles, your mission is to re-live the battles of the original Star Wars trilogy, from escaping the first Death Star to riding Tauntauns on Hoth, to the final battle at Endor.
    • For the first time you can fight the good fight in the air and on the ground, swapping between your X-Wing, a speeder bike and many other attack craft.
  • Included in the game is the complete version of Rogue Squadron II, specifically built for two player co-op play.
    • Plus there are multiplayer battle modes and full cutscenes straight from the original trilogy.
  • Critics rated the game quite highly
    • In the 80s and higher
    • Good for a licensed game, but Rogue Squadron stands on its own like the Jedi Knight or Knights of The Old Republic games.

October 22 – 2007 – Bee Movie Game – PS2, Wii, Windows, XBox 360

  • Once a week I like to find a terrible looking licensed movie game
  • Play as Barry B. Benson and prove that there’s more to being a bee than just making honey.
  • Playing as Barry, you retell your story through a series of flashbacks, while you work odd jobs around New York and Barry’s hive.
    • There are various mini-games that need to be completed to continue the story.
    • Gameplay includes controlling Barry on foot, in the air, and driving around town.
  • Exclusive to the Wii version are 3 Bee speedway tracks, 4 additional maxi-games and 6 new competitive 2-player arcade games.

October 23 – 2017 – Fuzion Frenzy – Xbox One Compatibility Update

  • When Xbox was trying to compete with Playstation 2 and GameCube, they needed a party game
    • And this is the one with no follow up whatsoever
  • Fuzion Frenzy is a party game with six arenas and more than 45 different mini-games for up to four players to partake in.
    • Fuzion Frenzy provides real-time play for all players in both the main game and the mini-games, no waiting for your opponent to take their turn.
  • After typing this I am learning there is a Fusion Frenzy 2
    • Reviews tanked by a glance
    • Going a google image search, looks like a lot of the same or similar games but with a 360 polish

Tidbits

  • There are some reports of the new Apple Watch SE overheating and, in some cases, even burning a visible yellow patch on the top-right of the display
    • Given how consistent the spot’s placement it this is likely a hardware defect, and if you notice anything like that you should absolutely contact Apple Support
  • The UK is set to close a loophole in their distracted driving laws that currently allow drivers to take photos or play games
    • Apparently the law was originally worded to ban devices that “perform an interactive communication” while driving, but many have successfully argued that filming or playing games doesn’t count since there’s no communication happening
  • Addressing issues of users being locked out of their hardware, Facebook’s Head of VR is now telling users to make sure their Facebook accounts are “in good standing” before buying an Oculus Quest 2
    • Considering how arbitrary the lockouts have been lately, and how they can ban you for things like not providing your legal name or your behaviour even in single-player games, it really feels a lot more stifling than any other platform’s account requirements
  • NASA has announced they’re teaming up with Nokia to install a 4G network on the moon, as part of their Artemis program aiming at making the moon habitable by 2028
    • This would greatly improve astronauts’ ability to communicate with the earth via voice or video, as well as transfer important data
    • As an added bonus, NASA also says that the moon network will eventually be upgraded for 5G
  • Early adopters of the Oculus Quest 2 have been having a rough time with the Elite headstrap, with many reports online of the arms cracking or even breaking under normal use
    • Some blame the issue on how people are taking the headset off at the end of a session, but either way it seems very fragile for such a new piece of hardware with some people saying they’ve gotten maybe 2 hours of play before it broke
  • The Halo Master Chief Collection has been confirmed as getting a free upgrade for the Series S & X, amping things up to 120fps in campaign and multiplayer, supporting 4K resolutions on the X, and cross-generation play for those still running an Xbox One
    • The upgrade hits for existing owners or anyone with GamePass on November 17th

 

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PS2J 287 News – Who Knows What We’ll Name It

Free games

  • Twitch

    • Desert Child

      • 2018
      • An indie racing RPG that throws you into the role of a hungry, young hoverbike racer who needs to get off Earth before it explodes- hunt bounties, throw races, get to Mars, and win the Grand Prix
    • American Fugitive

      • 2019
      • Top-down open world sandbox that has you framed for your father’s murder, you’ll need to do whatever it takes to unveil the real culprit while evading the police at every turn
    • Steredenn

      • 2015
      • Side-scrolling rogue-like shoot-em-up in space, with sharp pixel graphics and chaotic boss battles in a never-ending combat for survival
    • Narcos: Rise of the Cartels

      • 2019
      • Turn-based action strategy based on the Netflix TV series, it has you exploring the first season from two sides with two unique stories
      • Unfortunately it seems to take the XCOM formula and water it way down, so while it seems tactical you can only move one person on each turn
    • White Night

      • 2015
      • Survival horror puzzle game where you explore the past of an old mansion in the 1930’s and solve puzzles of light and shadows in an entirely black and white setting.
  • Epic

    • Carcassonne

      • 2017
      • A competitive tile placement game of creating landscapes, claiming areas, and gaining points, with online play and a ton of replayability
    • Ticket to Ride

      • 2008
      • Another classic European-style board game that has you racing other players to build up your rail routes and reach your destinations
    • Pandemic was initially supposed to be included as well, but has actually been completely pulled from the Epic Games store. A statement from Epic said only that they’re shifting it to be free at a later date

Russia’s law against Apple devices seems to be proceeding according to plan, with the July 2020 deadline looming ever-closer

  • Back in episode 283 we talked about the new legislation passed in Russia by Vladimir Putin that would ban the sale of devices that don’t have a specific list of Russian apps pre-installed
  • This soon became known online as Russia’s law against Apple, as Apple has historically never allowed carrier bloatware or other apps to be bundled onto their devices- you get the same iOS experience regardless of where you buy your device
  • Well the list of required apps has finally been released and among them are government-produced apps for paying taxes and fines, as well as some banking, navigation, and social medial platforms with links to official government bodies
    • All of these apps have the potential to collect and send data related to finances, location, communications, and more, all without direct user permission
  • All in, it seems like a terrible idea for the privacy of any citizen of the world, and especially when Russia is behind it. If we see tech companies allowing this to go through I’m sure China won’t be too far behind
    • While Apple could leave the $3B market in Russia, and I’m sure a healthy grey or black market would crop up in the meantime, the $13B China would be a tougher proposition. We’ll just have to hope that companies don’t put a price tag on our privacy

Blizzard’s new Warcraft 3 remaster is so unpopular that they’re now offering instant refunds, but that’s still not enough for many players

  • The remastered Warcraft 3: Reforged launched late last week, meant to be a remake of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne expansion, introducing a revamped user interface and enhanced cutscenes, along with more dialogue and tweaks to the campaign to align it with the lore of WoW
  • Unfortunately the plans seem to have changed, with the UI almost identical to the old version, and though some voice lines have been tweaked there aren’t any massive changes. Even the cutscene updates are lackluster
  • Basically the only real update are the graphics- the visuals are sharper, more detailed, and more fluidly animated, but most of the improvements don’t make much difference unless you zoom too far in to be useful in an RTS setting
  • The biggest problem is that they didn’t introduce the game as a new version, but rather replaced the old version with a new client and game whether you own Reforged or not, just presenting a toggle in the settings to switch between the two
    • This wouldn’t be a big deal were it not for all the issues that come with the new client- connectivity problems, trouble getting into custom games, and a complete lack of competitive ranked game modes
    • Not to mention that the download now includes a ton of extra resources, totalling 27GB compared to the original sitting at just over 1GB, even if you don’t own Reforged
    • They even implemented a live public chat room that you get dumped in to at launch, similar to Overwatch, but with no option to report or mute users
      • Loading up custom maps just merges its chat in with the main open channel, so good luck coordinating with anyone
      • There’s also no native LAN support, so you’re stuck online even if you’re in the same room
    • Speaking of custom, custom campaigns are entirely gone
    • Oh, and if the game can’t get an online connection to Blizzard you can play single player, but it won’t save your progress even though the save files are all local anyway
  • The backlash has gotten to the point where, instead of the normal process of Blizzard looking in to what was wrong with your purchase and denying the refund if you’ve had the game for a while and been playing it, refunds are now being automatically and immediately approved
  • This doesn’t help users unable to get back to the old client through official means, but it at least offers players dissatisfied with Reforged a way to get their money back
    • For really dedicated players that want their old client back  there are a bunch of guides and videos details steps online, and they even support internet connectivity, but in the meantime they’ve actively removed features and made unwanted changes to an 18 year old game with no way to officially opt out

Amazon’s Ring home surveillance equipment is getting an update this week to address some, but not all, privacy concerns

  • The update creates a new control center in the app, adding options for two-factor authentication (which it now prompts for by default) and letting you see a list of all devices connected to your account
  • It also lets you opt out of receiving any requests from police for camera footage as a blanket setting, instead of having to refuse each request individually
    • This is a solid win for privacy with 897 police and sheriff departments listed as Ring partners with the ability to request those files
  • Unfortunately this still doesn’t fix everything, as footage uploaded to the Neighbors app has geographic info that lets you pinpoint a camera to the square inch, and they haven’t addressed the EFF report we talked about two weeks ago wherein they share a ton of information with marketing and analytics companies

Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service has left beta this week, and seems to actually fulfill many of the promises Google’s Stadia didn’t

  • All you have to do is download the app on a supported device, hook up your preferred controls, and connect to the servers. Then you can connect to a PC on the cloud and play one of hundreds of supported games from Steam, Epic Games, Battle.net, uPlay, Bethesda, and Origin (including many free to play titles)
    • The best part? They actually have a free tier right at launch!
  • Reporters at arsTechnica saw solid performance with minimal latency, to the point where they could play Sonic Mania without missing a jump or dash.
  • Whats more, because they basically just give you a virtual gaming PC you can go into a game’s full settings and tweak whatever settings you want to optimize the look and performance to wherever you want them
  • It’s never going to beat owning a gaming PC, but the ability to play these high-end PC games on a low-end Mac laptop is kind of bananas
    • It also supports Windows, mobile, and some smart TV’s, with eventual support for Chromebook coming later this year
  • Right now they’re offering two tiers:
    • Free, which gives you standard access and maximum one hour sessions (though you can immediately reconnect, you just might hit a queue depending on activity)
    • Founders, which is $5/month ($6.50 CAD) for priority access, extended sessions, ray-tracing gorgeousness, and a free three-month intro period
    • General streaming performance and game selection are the same between the two tiers, but the priority access will skip you to the head of the queue if the servers fill up
  • One big note on the game selection though is you don’t just load your existing game libraries to the service and to go town- you need to connect your other game store account, manually search for the game you want to play in GeoForce Now’s library tab, and add it to your account. Then you can launch those supported games through the GeForce Now app
    • There are also some loopholes where you can launch their Steam app and try starting games they don’t officially support, but for many games will hit errors when trying to run
    • There are even a bunch of supported games available through both Steam and Epic that can’t run from your Epic license, only Steam
  • All in all this is a pretty exciting time in gaming, with unparalleled access to this sort of thing as long as you have the internet connection to support it
    • Nvidia says that playing games will use about 15GB/hour, so be wary of your data caps!

Square Enix is releasing a brand new bundle-game this March called Kingdom Hearts All-in-One Package to bring together every game in the series up to KH3

  • The release history of this series is bonkers though. The All-in-One Package is pretty much just KH3 bundled with Kingdom Hearts: The Story So far
    • Which was Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix
    • Which is made up of Final Mix, Re: Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days, 2 FInal Mix, Birth By Sleep Final Mix, and Re:code
  • It also includes 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, which itself is
    • Dream Drop Distance HD
    • 0.2 Birth by Sleep – a fragmentary passage
    • X Back Cover
  • But even with all that it’s still not a complete version, with the DLC for the third game, Re:Mind, still being sold separately

Here is a response to our call out for peoples Top 10 Games
I am going to try for the rest of the year to get everyone’s list!

Adam Blank (Remember the Game and Wrestling with Wrestling podcasts)
  • Super Mario World
  • Link to the Past
  • Mario Kart 8
  • Shovel Knight
  • Tetris
  • Donkey Kong County
  • Earthbound
  • Final Fantasy IV
  • Last of Us
  • Super Punch Out

Fake Magic card

  • Posted by Owner of Stony Plain Games & Collectibles, Lance
  • Lesson of the day!
    • You got to get up pretty early to fool this gaming shop owner!
  • Guy called me last night, want’s to know if I’ll trade in some expensive Magic the Gathering cards?
    • I ask him to come see me about it.
  • So today, said dude and his friend came in, looking to trade two MtG revised edition duel lands for shop credit?
    • (red flag-cash is king)
  • Right the way I could tell the cards looked ‘wrong’ in some way? I thought “these are proxies!” in my head.
    • (‘homemade’ copy of original version of an actual Magic card, used for gaming when one can’t afford the real thing. The guys that do proxies are getting VERY GOOD at it!)
  • They were pretty well done as the ‘rosette’ effect on the cards print when looked at under a x20 magnifier wasn’t far off an original, though of course there were differences enough even then to indicate it was a proxie.
    • (red flag 2)
      • A rosette effect is when in print, an image magnified looks like coloured dots in a flower pattern, and when observed nomally, look like a normal image. Its so the print colours of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, are printed in grids at different screen angles.
  • The print was too dark and that was the first thing to alert me as I first checked them out but one has to be sure!
    • (red flag 3)
  • Some incredible proxy cards come in from China that are quite hard to tell the difference unless, you know what you’re looking for! If you have old MtG cards you need verifying, bring them into me!
    • Nothing worse having a fraud version of an expensive card. In this instance the real version of this card was $375! Each! Did the dude know they were fake? IMO I’d say so.
    • He listed off the good stores in the city to buy singles, with their owners names, as well as the formats he played of the game, some of which are very expensive to play! (unless you use proxies lol!) So he had some pretty good knowledge of the game and community around Edmonton and surrounding area. When I eventually said these are proxies pal, he was ready with a slack apology but really didn’t seem surprised at all?
  • Which if you just lost $750 bucks worth of cards, you’d be a little more pissed than anything else. Wouldn’t you? Just be aware that there is an industry for printing proxy cards that are very close to the real thing except,….they are not! Fraud is fraud so don’t get ripped off if you happen to be in the market for some high end MtG cards!

     

Surveillance of UK citizens by private companies embedded on UK council websites

  • Article by Brave
  • A new report from Brave reveals that people seeking help for addiction, disability, and poverty on council websites are profiled by private companies in the UK
    • What is a council?
    • Councils provide a wide variety of services to their municipalities and enforce various federal, state and local laws for their communities. These services include public health, traffic, parking and animal management
  • Brave has uncovered widespread surveillance of UK citizens by private companies embedded on UK council websites.
    • None of the data collecting companies recorded in this study had received consent from the website visitor to lawfully process data.
  • These are the Quick Facts, that Brave provides:
    • Nearly all councils in the UK permit at least one company to learn about the behaviour of people visiting their websites.
    • People seeking information about disability, poverty, drugs and alcoholism services are profiled by data brokers on some council websites.
    • 198 council websites in the UK use the “real-time bidding” (RTB) form of advertising. Real-time bidding is the biggest data breach ever recorded in the UK. Though illegality is not in dispute, the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) has failed to act.
    • Google owns all five of the top embedded elements loaded by UK council websites, giving it the power to know what virtually anyone in the UK views on council sites.
    • Over of a quarter of the UK population is served by councils that embed Twitter, Facebook, and others on their websites, leaking data about what sensitive issues people read about to these companies.
    • 6.9 million people are served by councils that allow data broker LiveRamp to track people on their sites. Until recently, LiveRamp was part of the Acxiom Group, which sold data to Cambridge Analytica.
    • None of the data collecting companies recorded in this study had received consent from the website visitor to lawfully process data.
    • This report should spur Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner, to finally enforce the GDPR. It is 17 months since formal evidence from Brave and complaints about breaches of data protection laws were filed before the ICO.
  • About Brave:

    • Brave is a new, private web browser. It has unmatched speed and battery life. And it also blocks data-grabbing ads and trackers.
    • 10 million people use Brave to make the web quicker and safer. You can download it for your phone or computer and browse the web with confidence.
    • Brave’s CEO is Brendan Eich, inventor of JavaScript, and co-founder of Mozilla/Firefox.

Google Maps Fooled by Man Who Used 99 Smartphones to Create a Fake Traffic Jam: Video

  • Article on Gadgets 360
  • Simon Weckert, a Berlin-based artist, used 99 smartphones and a hand cart to create ‘fake’ traffic jams in the German capital.
  • The slow pace of the hand cart and the fact that 99 phones were used caused Google Maps to believe that there were a lot of vehicles using a street that was actually empty.
    • Google uses this method to crowdsource traffic data the world over; smartphones in cars provide information to Google, including the speed at which they are moving, and how many smartphones are on that particular street.
  • If the pace is low and number is high, Google would show that segment of the street as red or maroon, suggesting that there is a traffic jam.
    • The video, that will be in the show notes on our website,  shows the streets on Google Maps gradually turning from green to maroon, suggesting that there was a traffic pileup on those streets.
    • Google’s navigation suggestions would then recommend that users avoid those streets, even though they were actually clear to drive on, apart from having to watch out for Weckert and his handcart.
  • Weckert hasn’t shared any further details, so it’s possible that this could have been faked entirely.
    • If it is authentic, Google should ideally be looking at ways to prevent such an exploit from being used, since this could have very real and physical implications on traffic movement.
    • In any case, don’t stop trusting Google Maps entirely; it’s not often that you have artists with 99 smartphones on a hand cart wandering around.

Tidbits

  • In an interesting prank / hack of Google Maps and their traffic data, Simon Weckert carted a wagon filled with 99 phones around simulating a traffic jam in the navigation app
    • One neat thing to note is the filtering Google uses for the data- if the phones all stopped moving entirely the traffic jam wouldn’t appear, and once a car using Google Maps drove past Google would see there was no jam and set it back to normal
  • Software engineer and blogger Robert Heaton took a trip down the rabbit hole recently and discovered that Wacom tablet drivers send a ton of identifying data when you use them, including details about every application you use and when you use them
    • Apparently the data is gathered for development purposes, but if you’re concerned about privacy and want to disable that you’ll need to open up the Wacom Desktop Center and disable the Wacom Experience Program
  • Allegedly leaked footage of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Z Flip hit Twitter this week, showing the clamshell device in action for the first time
    • Size-wise it reminds me of the Gameboy Advance SP, though flatter and wider, and fits better with what we’re expecting a folding screen on a smart phone to do- close and protect the screen
    • It also is rumoured to use special ultra-thin glass instead of the plastic used by the Galaxy Fold, which could prevent some of the display issues the Fold saw
  • Nintendo has announced that there won’t be any new Switch systems coming this year, quashing some rumours of the hoped for Switch Pro with increased power and improved performance
    • This is just going to widen the power gap already existing between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, and perhaps prevent ports of newer titles to the Switch, with the PS5 and Xbox Series X due out later this year

We want to know

What video game soundtrack would you like to soundtrack your life?

 

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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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