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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Amazon and NYC are fighting, CRTC finds Canadian telecoms are jerks, and Activision Blizzard are only there to serve shareholders. Plus, a look at Crackdown 3, exclusive to the Xbox One. But first, news about Samsung’s folding smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, and other new products from the Korean tech company.

Samsung unveils the Galaxy Fold and other new products

It’s not the first folding smartphone, but so far it seems to be the standard setter. The Galaxy Fold sports two batteries and 12 GB of RAM, and is a small, 7.3-inch tablet that can be folded in half. When it’s folded it has a 4.6-inch display. It can run three apps at the same time, and will adjust automatically when you move between folded and tablet modes. It’s only going to be available in the U.S. for now, and it’s going to cost a whopping US$2,000.

Also revealed by Samsung today was the new line of Galaxy S10 smartphones, including the S10e (5.8-inch), the S10 (6.1-inch), and the S10 Plus (6.4-inch). These are available in Canada starting on March 8.

Among the new features of the S10 is a fingerprint sensor that is under the screen allowing for a full-screen, notchless display. The S10 and S10 Plus have three cameras on the back, and the S10 Plus has two cameras on the front. The S10 Plus is also configurable with up to 1 TB of storage.

Also revealed today were three new wearables:

  • Galaxy Watch Active
  • Galaxy Fit: fitness tracker
  • Galaxy Buds: Cordless in-ear listening

Amazon HQ2 not going to Big Apple after all

So Amazon has decided not to put a campus in New York after all. Curbed has a great timeline of the affair.

The cancelled plans could be considered as a win for activists who were concerned about the tax breaks that were being offered and what the deal would do to Long Island City, which is in Queens just across the East River from Manhattan.

Big business proponents, though, decry this as a lost opportunity.

I suspect that metro New York is going to be just fine.

Canadian telecom providers are misleading customers, finds CRTC

Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released its report on Misleading or Aggressive Communications Retail Sales Practices.

“Having considered the matter in depth, we found that it is apparent that misleading or aggressive retail sales practices are present in the telecommunications service provider market in Canada and, to some extent, in the television service provider market. These practices exist in all types of sales channels, including in store, online, over the telephone, and door to door. They occur to an unacceptable degree; they are harming Canadian consumers, in particular vulnerable Canadians; and they are a serious concern for us.”

I think they are a concern for everyone with a mobility plan, internet plan, and/or television plan.

So what should be done?

“In our view, consumer protections should be strengthened to address the occurrence of misleading or aggressive sales practices and to ensure that Canadians are empowered to make informed decisions and are treated fairly.”

The federal government is currently reviewing the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act, which the CRTC enforces.

Activision Blizzard celebrates profits while laying off staff

Last week, just before CEO Bobby Kotick reported Activision Blizzard had “achieved record results” last year, the company laid off 800 people.

Polygon has a good analysis of what’s going on.

It’ll be an interesting year for the game publisher, which appears to be down to a couple of titles: Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch.

Crackdown 3 is a perfect power fantasy at play

Crackdown 3, developed by Sumo Digital and published by Xbox Game Studios, is an Xbox One exclusive, and is the latest open world game in the series that started on the Xbox 360 with 2007’s Crackdown.

This third game is much the same in concept. You play as an “agent” in a city that is entirely open and available to you. It’s a sandbox in the truest sense, a place where you can run, jump, and throw down with the bad guys.

Here, the bad guys are Terra Nova, an evil corporation that orchestrated a worldwide power outage and has complete control over the city of New Providence. Your task is to take out the various arms of the corporation, and the lieutenants running them, all in service of taking down the company.

You improve your character just by playing. Using explosives improves your explosive abilities. Using vehicles improves your driving ability. Collecting agility orbs, which are scattered around the city, improves your ability to navigate the environment.

The campaign story is sparse but clever, with interesting dynamics developed between the evil Terra Nova characters, but the characters themselves come perilously close to stereotype.

If you’re not expecting anything more than exploring the geography, blasting away at the enemies that swarm you, then Crackdown 3 is the power fantasy for you.

The multiplayer experience, Wrecking Zone, feels kind of stapled on and thin. The core idea is that everything in the environment is fully destructible, including those skyscrapers you’re leaping off. This only adds to the feeling of power. It will be a much better experience once Microsoft updates it to allow for you to play with friends in a party, something that is pending, but until Wrecking Zone can bring more than simple destruction, it’s limited.

Crackdown 3 isn’t an earth shattering game, but I was perfectly content to play it for about 15 hours to play through the campaign. I’ll go back someday.

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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about whether Netflix’s Black Mirror episode, Bandersnatch, was designed from the start for data mining and Netflix’s Smart Downloads feature for mobile devices. I also talked about the latest data breaches, the importance of passwords (and my love of 1Password), and the new short film from Neill Blomkamp, Conviction, set in the world of BioWare video game, Anthem, which you can watch below.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Netflix brings smart downloads to iOS and Neill Blomkamp brings a short film based on Anthem to YouTube. But first, news on the latest data breaches and why a subscription to 1Password is the way to go.

Data breaches and stolen account details proliferate online

Early this year, the website, Have I Been Pwned reported that some 773 million email addresses and passwords had been discovered on a hacking site by Troy Hunt, a security expert who runs HIBP.

Many of the email addresses in that collection had already been revealed, leading Hunt to posit that this data dump was an amalgamation of different data breaches.

Then, this week, the Register reported that “Some 617 million online account details stolen from 16 hacked websites are on sale from today on the dark web, according to the data trove’s seller.”

This includes data from companies – Canadian photography site 500px among them – that had not previously disclosed data breaches to customers.

These incidents simply underscore how necessary it is to be vigilant with your passwords. Use different ones for every account and change them regularly.

Using a password manager helps. I use 1Password.

Why I’ve subscribed to 1Password

I’ve been using 1Password to manage my passwords for years, but I’ve just upgraded to a subscription. Previously, I’d just pay for a license when a new version of the software came out. Like many other software companies, though, 1Password has added the option of getting password management as a service, instead of a standalone product.

This means that I’ll always have the latest and best version of the software, and it also means that I have access to 1Password on all of my devices and operating systems without having to purchase additional licenses. Before, I’d have paid for the macOS software and the iOS software separately.

The math was actually simple. It’s cheaper to subscribe if you’re purchasing the software on multiple platforms and upgrading with every release.

I’ve gone one better with my subscription, though, by getting a Family subscription. This gives five people in my family the full service I’ve been enjoying. As my kids get older and start creating their own online accounts, this is critical.

It’s also helping me with my parents. Now, instead of trying to teach them how to stay secure while using the internet, I can just help them understand how to use 1Password. Plus, I can set up a separate vault for their passwords and I can be an administrator, to help them if they need it, and so that if the worst actually happens, I have access to critical information.

Because you don’t just store passwords in 1Password. I’ve got identity information, credit card and banking details, and all kinds of account data locked in the 1Password servers.

And I know they are secure. Matt Davey, the “Chief Operations Optimist” for 1Password, told me that their cloud solution has a $100 million bounty to whoever is able to break into the system. It remains unclaimed.

The cloud service that comes with the 1Password subscription is how I can access my information from anywhere. And with the travel mode, I can flick a switch when I hit an international border, and all of that login information disappears from my mobile devices. Once I’m across, I flick the switch again, and the data floods back onto my device.

It’s painless. It’s useful. And all I need to do is remember one password.

Smart downloads from Netflix makes watching easy

It’s not like tapping on screen is difficult, but Netflix has made it easier to watch shows on your mobile devices with the introduction of “smart downloads”. And while it’s a small, minor thing, it’s appreciated. Smart downloads has been available to Android users since last summer, but now it’s available on iOS, too.

Here’s how it works. When you’re watching episodes of a show, I suggest “Russian Doll”, when you’ve finished an episode Netflix will automatically download the next episode and delete the one you’ve just finished.

If you’re concerned about data usage, you can set it to download only over Wi-Fi (or you can disable the feature entirely), but not having to manage episodes and data storage on your mobile devices is just another thing that Netflix is doing to keep audiences happy. And watching.

Neill Blomkamp creates live-action short film based on Anthem video game

Tomorrow, Conviction will premiere on the YouTube channel of Neill Blomkamp’s Oats Studios.

The live-action short film is set in Fort Tarsis, the city that is the hub of action in Anthem, the video game developed by BioWare and being published next week by Electronic Arts.

The Vancouver-based director had been tapped by Peter Jackson to direct a movie set in the Halo universe. When that project died, Blomkamp went on to direct District 9, Elysium, and Chappie.

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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about the business relationship between Apple and Microsoft, evidenced by the release of Office 365 in the Mac App Store, how OpenMedia has been working on behalf of all of us to keep the internet neutral and our mobile pricing low, Bell’s request that the federal government work a VPN ban into NAFTA renegotiations, and Apex Legends, the new, free-to-play game from Respawn and Electronic Arts.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Bell lobbies the regulatory framework to get things working in their favour, while OpenMedia works for the people. Plus, Respawn surprises with the new game, Apex Legends. But first, Apple flexes and Facebook flounders, while Microsoft is all smiles.

Apple plays well with others when they play nicely

Last week, after finding out that Facebook had been circumventing the app publishing process to get user data, Apple revoked some permissions.

That left many Facebook employees unable to work.

In stark contrast, Apple and Microsoft have never been better friends, with the former adding Office 365 to the Mac App Store for the first time ever.

It’s an acknowledgement by Apple that office productivity is owned by Microsoft, and by Microsoft that it can best serve customers by giving them the services they need, on the devices they use.

OpenMedia worked to keep the internet free in 2018

OpenMedia is a non-profit set up to “safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet, and toward informed and participatory digital policy”.

Last year, the organization was involved in a number of initiatives.

For example, it led the protest against Bell’s FairPlay Canada scheme which aimed to give it and other internet service providers the ability to independently blacklist websites. Representatives also drove efforts to have Canada’s Privacy Act reformed to prevent Statistics Canada from accessing financial data on citizens.

In 2019, Canada’s Broadcast and Telecommunications Act is being reviewed and this has implications on the amount we pay for mobile and internet services, as well as how free and open those platforms remain.

OpenMedia submitted a brief to the committee.

You’re lucky you’ve got them in your corner.

Bell asked government to block virtual private networks as part of NAFTA renegotiations, documents show

Last week, news broke that Bell asked the federal government to include virtual private networks (VPNs) in its NAFTA renegotiations.

Originally reported by the Wire Report and covered by Torrentfreak, the submission from Bell Canada Enterprises makes it clear the company wants a ban on VPNs that can be used by Canadians to access the U.S. Netflix library, for example.

The USMCA did not include anything on VPNs.

Electronic Arts surprises gamers with free-to-play Apex Legends

Respawn, a game developer that is part of Electronic Arts, surprised everyone this week when it dropped Apex Legends, a free-to-play battle royale game. Player Unknown Battlegrounds and Fortnite have some competition.

This is rarely done in the video game industry. With big budgets and big teams, normally games are announced a year in advance, and publicity campaigns carefully designed to trickle out information.

With Apex Legends, gamers were treated to a fully-formed experience. And Respawn, which has some of the creators of the Call of Duty games on its roster, has taken the battle royale genre and made it just a bit different.

It’s team-based, for one, pitting groups of three against each other. And players can be regenerated while the game is going on, as opposed to having to wait and watch after getting sniped.

Apex Legends is set in the Titanfall universe, which Respawn created, and while there are no big suits of weaponized armour to wear, the slick run-and-gun mechanics that are part of that series are also here.

The game has got great character design and is free to download and play on PS4, Windows, and Xbox One. You can pay real money for cosmetics and to progress faster, but it is by no means necessary.

And just in case you might be thinking that this game means no more Titanfall, don’t worry. Respawn head Vince Zampella says more Titanfall is coming this year.

Apex Legends had a million players before launch day had ended.

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