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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, a different view of Facebook vs Australia, Roku gets the Quibi videos, a Canadian composer wins a video game award, and news about what’s going on in the world of Diablo. But first, radio gaga with Radio Garden.

Listen to radio stations from around the world with Radio Garden’s globe interface

Courtesy of David Pogue is Radio Garden, which is a listing of radio stations from around the world, presented to us in the form of a globe.

As you navigate the surface of the globe, green dots appear, representing radio stations that are based in that geographical area.

The project, which has its origins in a project commissioned by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, is based in Amsterdam and led by Jonathan Puckey.

You can favourite stations, submit stations that you like to listen to that aren’t already on the list, and explore the sounds of the world.

Radio Garden is online and also available as an app for Android and iOS.

Why it’s maybe not so good that Facebook has agreed to pay for news links in Australia

Smarter people than me are thinking about what all this means. And there are a couple of things that we can remember before getting into the weeds:

  • This is about paying for links, not paying for news.
  • Rupert Murdoch has been pushing for technology platforms to pay for links for more than 10 years, and he’s been the lobbying force behind the government policy in Australia.

Canadian tech law expert Michael Geist is one. In his article, Some warning signs for Canada from the Australian government battle with Facebook, he writes that the government policy approach to propping up newsrooms is lose-lose: “Media organizations lose traffic and revenue, Facebook downgrades the value of its service to at least some of its users, and the risk of greater dissemination of low-value information increases.”

Worse, Geist suggests, is that smaller independent media outlets don’t benefit from any of the deals being made.

Mathew Ingram got into a discussion with Jeff Jarvis for the Columbia Journalism Review about the topic.

Jarvis has a contrarian opinion, but he speaks some sense: “Publishers are benefitting tremendously from Google and Facebook sending them people – audience, users, potential members or subscribers, consumers, call them what you will. In any rational market, publishers would be paying platforms the way we used to have to pay newsstands. Only Google decided from the first not to sell links in search proper and thus they never created a market value for links. For platforms to do publishers this favor of sending them potential customers, they need to give users a preview with headlines or snippets.”

Jarvis doesn’t believe that any of the money coming from Facebook and Google is going to help fund journalism or news producers. Like Geist, he thinks it’s all going to the hedge funds that now own those platforms.

It all started, Jarvis contends, with the media organizations themselves.

Here’s another lengthy excerpt from his conversation with Ingram: “I want to remind readers that Facebook was not started for news. Our readers took news there because we in our field did not provide the mechanisms for them to share it and discuss it with friends outside of awful comments sections. Twitter was not started for news; our readers, as witnesses to news, chose to share it there. Google was not started for news; our industry could not get its act together (see: New Century Network) to provide an overview of the news ecosystem. We could have started Next Door to allow our local readers to meet with neighbors years ago, but Silicon Valley beat us to it. Our readers deserted us because the net provided mechanisms we did not. And we did not because our colleagues in news have been too busy trying to find new ways to pay for old ways instead.”

Jarvis has some ideas on how to fix things: “I want to see us reinvent journalism around old needs and new opportunities. I want to see us collaborate with other fields and disciplines: anthropology to explain communites, neuroscience and psychology to explain cognition, ethics and philosopy to guide us, history and humanities to inform us. I have a long-term vision for journalism.”

Casey Newton, in his newsletter, Platformer suggests one solution: a voluntary fee the platforms distributing links pay to the publishers for the privilege. Newton equates this with how cable companies pay networks and channels to be able to distribute programming.

Axios reporter Sara Fischer shared this chart on Twitter, showing how much the traffic to Australian publishers dropped when Facebook stopped including those links.

This demonstrates just how important something like Facebook can be for traffic to journalism sites.

Roku snaps up rights to Quibi videos

Roku, the digital company that develops video streaming hardware and provides operating systems to television manufacturers, has purchased the global rights to Quibi content.

Quibi launched in April 2020 with the notion that people wanted to watch short videos on their mobile devices.

When I wrote about the platform’s release I mentioned that while there were some interesting content experiments happening on Quibi, I thought that the mobile restriction and subscription price were hindrances.

Less than a year after launching, Quibi officially folded in December, and last month all of the company’s distribution rights were acquired by Roku for its Roku Channel streaming service.

Later this year, all of the Quibi videos will be available for free, and you’ll be able to watch on any Roku device, using any web browser, or on the Roku Channel mobile app, which is available for Android and iOS.

Canadian music wins Dreams competition

Dreams is a Playstation exclusive in which you can play and create with amazingly simple and easy to use tools. And people are wildly creative in Dreams, creating game experiences, films, music, art, and anything they can imagine.

Media Molecule, the developer behind Dreams, has always supported the inventive minds that bring life from their creation, and they’ve created the Impy awards to recognize some of those achievements.

This year, Canadian creator SaucelessOne was named Best Music for the album, Grey Song a Day.

You can watch the entire 2nd Annual Impy Awards below.

All the Diablo gaming you could possibly want or need revealed

BlizzCon, the annual celebration of video games developed by Blizzard Entertainment, was online this year, but that didn’t slow down the flood of news. In addition to announcements and panels about Hearthstone, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft were some interesting reveals from the Diablo franchise.

Canadian game executive Rod Fergusson is leading the teams working on the Diablo games. Prior to joining Blizzard he was in Vancouver running the Coalition for Microsoft and guiding the development on the Gears of War franchise.

Fergusson had a lot to talk about at BlizzCon, including officially revealing the remaster of Diablo 2 which is being called Resurrected. With new visuals and improved audio, it includes the Lord of Destruction expansion, and will be released later this year for Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

Then there’s Diablo Immortal, the mobile game that was first announced in 2018. Streamer Bluddshed interviewed Caleb Arseneaux and Wyatt Cheng about where that game is at.

We also learned more about Diablo IV, including being introduced to the rogue character class, which joins the barbarian, the druid, and the sorceress, all previously revealed. There’s still no release date.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Fortnite’s film festival, Amazon’s Future Engineer program comes to Canada, and fun with Mario and Bowser on the Nintendo Switch. But first, ears-on with Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds.

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro are among the best wireless earbuds you can get

The latest wireless earbuds from Samsung are the best that company has ever developed.

Available now, Galaxy Buds Pro ($265) are small and light, and they are the first true wireless earbuds I’ve worn that fit flush, which makes them perfect for wearing under a toque in the winter.

They’ve got a better water resistance rating, too, in case the winter weather is more rain than snow.

In my use of them over the past week and a bit, I’ve been impressed with their sound and their ability to transmit my voice during calls. Call quality is improved, in part, because sound from one of the microphones is used to help get rid of background noise.

The best new feature of these earbuds, though, is the intelligent active noise cancellation, which you have control over using the Android Galaxy Wearable app. This allows you to amplify external sounds so you can better balance the world with what you’re hearing from your mobile.

The Galaxy Buds Pro can also detect when you’ve started speaking to someone and automatically adjust, so my music fades into the background so I can hear the restaurant staff confirm my order when I pick up take out. After the conversation is over, the music level comes back up again. It’s a slick and very useful feature.

There are only two things that could improve the Galaxy Buds Pro. First, there’s not yet an iOS app that unlocks all the functionality, so if you’re using them with an iPhone you can’t configure all the automatic noise cancelling features. Second, they can only connect to a single device at a time.

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro are available in black, purple, or silver (Phantom Black, Phantom Violet, and Phantom Silver, if you prefer Samsung’s brand names).

Short film festival dropping into Fortnite this weekend

On Friday at 11 a.m. Pacific (noon Mountain, 1 p.m. Central, 2 p.m. Eastern), the Short Nite film festival debuts in Fortnite. The 12 short films will be screened around the clock for 48 hours, ending on Sunday.

It’s not the first time that big fan experiences were staged in Fortnite. The online multiplayer video game developed and published by Epic Games has hosted massive music performances in the past.

The films that make up the Short Nite program combine for a run time of about 30 minutes, and viewers can either come together with others online for a virtual big screen experience or run the films picture-in-picture while playing one of Fortnite’s game modes.

Among the films that are part of Short Nite is the Academy Award winning Creature Comforts, the hilarious stop-motion animation from British filmmaker Nick Park. The full list includes:

  • Bench
  • Car Park
  • Catastrophe
  • Commuter Glitch
  • Creature Comforts
  • Lynx & Birds
  • Maestro
  • Makin’ Moves
  • Oktapodi
  • Rollin’ Wild
  • A Single Life

Amazon investing in primary school computer science programs to benefit underrepresented communities

The Amazon Future Engineer initiative is coming to Canada.

Designed to bring computer science education and opportunities to “underrepresented and underserved communities”, the company says it is investing a $3 million over three years in various programs across Canada.

These include student education in primary schools as well as supporting professional development for teachers. Female students and Indigenous communities are being prioritized.

Canada Learning Code, Kids Code Jeunesse, and TakingITGlobal are among the providers that will be supported, and depending on where students are in their education, they’ll have chances to learn basic coding, debugging, and even artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Super Mario 3D World and Bowser’s Fury provide fine family fun on Nintendo’s Switch

Nintendo’s a smart company, and over the past year has been making bank out of re-releasing games that were created for the not-very-popular Wii U for the extremely successful Switch.

The latest port is Super Mario 3D World, which is even more appealing because it has been released along with a new three-dimensional platformer, Bowser’s Fury, that puts Mario in a land of cats.

The pair of games have been on regular rotation in my household and my kids and I have been taking advantage of the multiplayer possibilities to have lots of fun.

Super Mario 3D World may be a few years old – it was released in 2013 – but like so many of Nintendo’s other Mario games, it holds up nicely, thank you very much.

It’s a free roaming world in which up to four people play together at the same time as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad. Each of the characters has a special talent. Mario is well rounded, Luigi can jump higher, Peach can float, and Toad has a speed dash manouevre,

The Switch edition allows for online multiplayer, and roaming around the world with friends to enter the various levels is the best way to play. It’s riotous when everyone puts on their cat suit and starts climbing the walls.

Bowser’s Fury takes the cat theme to a new level, as the game is set in a world of cat-like creatures. They can’t actually be cats, we’ve decided, because this world is also a bunch of islands in Lake Lapcat, and we all know cats hate water.

But the water theme means that we get to ride Plessie, the friendly plesiosaur, which was much enjoyed by my son.

Mario is accompanied by Bowser Jr in this, and a second player can take control of him, using his paintbrush to smack enemies. It’s really a sidekick role, though, as opposed to a true multiplayer experience.

The Lake Lapcat area is an open world, and your job is to explore themed islands to collect cat symbols: cat shines. If you take too long wandering around, Bowser has a tantrum which causes a storm with falling rocks and spouts of lava.

After you’ve collected a requisite number of cat shines, you can ring a particular bell to transfomr into a gargantuan Cat Mario so you can battle the equally big Bowser. The game is short, but entertaining, and plays like one long boss battle with some breaks for exploration in between bouts.

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