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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, a new peripheral for your PS4 controller and the breathtaking Dreams. But first, scary stuff from the Canadian government and a deal with the devil in the pharmaceutical world.

Government of Canada departments and agencies mishandling citizen data

A response to a request for information from the federal government that was tabled by a Conservative MP last month has revealed that tens of thousands of Canadians were impacted by various security breaches at government departments.

As reported by the CBC, a wide range of agencies were affected, including the CRA, which reported the most breaches, Health Canada, and even the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Breaches included everything from hacks, to lost or stolen equipment, to misaddressed emails.

Major ethics breach revealed as deal between software company and opioid manufacturer brought to light

A software application that was reportedly paid for by Purdue Pharma, which manufactures Oxycontin, was responsible for pushing opioids on people whose doctors were using the app to store patient records.

Founded in 2005, Practice Fusion built a business on providing free electronic health records and generating revenue from advertisements.

The company, which has a deferred prosecution agreement, admitted to prompting doctors to prescribe opioids.

U.S. attorneys allege that Practice Fusion had similar deals with 14 pharmaceutical companies.

Playstation releases new peripheral to make controllers more customizable

A new, $40 peripheral adds unprecedented customization options to the Playstation DualShock 4 wireless controller.

The Back Button Attachment snaps easily onto your controller and gives you an additional two buttons that can be configured to almost any actions.

You can remap those buttons without having to go into a settings screen, too, and you can save up to three profiles on the attachment so it’s easier to move between your favourite games.

What’s most important, though, is that clipping the Back Button onto your controller doesn’t change the comfort or control of the DualShock 4. Extra control, all the comfort.

Dreams come true in new game experience from Media Molecule and Playstation

Dreams is utterly unique and absolutely impossible to characterize. While it’s being marketed as a game that you can play – and it certainly is that – the new PS4 title is much more.

It’s more than just a game because Media Molecule, which is responsible for the Little Big Planet games, has effectively packaged up the software that it used to create Dreams, and given it to us.

The idea is that using Dreams you can create whatever you can imagine. Typical games or videos or other, alternative media experiences. All are possible here. And after you’ve created something, you can share it with the world.

Because it’s been in a beta release for over a year, there are lots of experiences that have already been created and made available in the Dreams libraries. So if you just want to play different game experiences, you can.

But if you want to be a dreamer, a creator, it’s never been easier.

And that’s really where there’s magic in Dreams.

Creating and releasing a game engine is one thing. Being able to teach and train average people from around the world, from different cultures and with different languages and sensibilities, is the hard part.

That’s exactly where Media Molecule has succeeded. With step-by-step tutorials that are fun to play, Dreams has you learning the tool set that you can use to create without you even realizing that’s what’s going on.

Whether you choose to become a creator or not is entirely up to you. There will be lots of people who are content to play the things made by others. And that’s okay.

If you want to experiment and explore. If you want to turn your dreams into something you can play, you can do that to.

It doesn’t matter if Dreams is a game or not. It exists to be what we want it to be.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, the worst data breaches of 2019, Apple TV comes to LG screens, and playing Xbox One games on your Android device. But first, new flagship smartphones from Samsung.

Samsung Unpacked 2020 reveals host of new smartphones

February typically belongs to Samsung, and 2020 is no exception. The tech company held a press event in San Francisco yesterday at which it revealed its latest premium smarphones and a new foldable mobile.

Not everything was a surprise, as Samsung had already teased its new Z Flip during the Super Bowl. Nilay Patel captured the commercial and posted it:

The new flagship handset, the Galaxy S20, comes in three models that are now available for preorder: Galaxy S20 5G, Galaxy S20+ 5G, and Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G.

Aside from the physical size of the devices (6.2-inch, 6.7-inch, and 6.9-inch respectively), they are similar. Each version has an OLED screen with HDR and a refresh rate of 120 Hz, 128 GB of storage (expandable with microSD) and 12 GB of RAM. They all support 5G, the new mobile connectivity that may start rolling out in limited regions later this year.

But while the S20 and S20 Plus have the same camera set-up, the Ultra model sports “Space Zoom” which combines optical and digital zoom to create a 100x zoom capability.

The various configurations of the Galaxy S20 will ship on March 6, priced at $1,320 for the S20, $1,580 and $1,880 for the S20+, and $1,850 and $2,110 for the S20 Ultra.

Foldable smartphone take 2

In addition to the trio of S20 handsets, Samsung also provided more details about the Galaxy Z Flip, which is a new foldable smartphone.

This is, of course, just a couple of months after the release of the Galaxy Fold, which was delayed for months after a failed initial release.

The Galaxy Z Flip is a very different device, folding across the horizontal rather than the vertical. It’s 6.7-inches when flat, and about half that when folded. The device makes use of “bendable Ultra Thin Glass”, not plastic.

The Galaxy Z Flip handset, which will be available “in limited quantities” next Friday, will cost $1,820.

Worst data breaches of 2019 listed

Virtual private network (VPN) provider, NordVPN, collected details on the biggest data breaches of 2019.

Among them were some I knew about, like the release of biometric data from the Biostar database, the Capital One hack, and the unprotected Facebook server.

I did not know about the hack on Zynga, the developer of Words with Friends and other Facebook games.

LG adds Apple TV to televisions

While video streaming devices are cheaper and easier to use than ever, if you’re only using the standard subscription services you don’t really need them because so many services are built into television set operating systems these days.

At CES in January, LG announced that all new smart TVs would come with the Apple TV app. This month, that same functionality is coming to LG smart TVs from 2019.

Not only can you use the Apple TV app and subscribe to Apple TV+ on your compatible LG TV, but you can also use AirPlay 2 to cast media from your iOS device.

LG expects to make the same functionality available to TVs sold in 2018 soon through a firmware update.

You can now play your Xbox One games on your Android device

If you’re looking at upgrading your Samsung Galaxy handset – the screens on the S20 series look amazing – then you’ll also be interested to know that you can play games from your Xbox One on your Android smartphone or tablet.

The Xbox Console Streaming service has been in preview mode since October, but while it was only available to Xbox Insiders in the U.S. and UK, it’s now open to gamers in Canada and more than 40 other countries.

Your mobile device needs to be running Android 6.0 or later and have Bluetooth 4.0 and you need to have an Xbox One wireless controller with Bluetooth, which you’ll use to play the game. There’s even a clip that you can attach to your controller that will hold your smartphone for a measly $20.

Your Xbox One will need a high-speed connection to the Internet, because what you’re effectively doing is using it as a server to deliver your game to you on your mobile device.

This means that you can play any Xbox One game that you’ve got running on your console.

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This week, how to hack Google Maps with a wagon, BlackBerry is a step closer to obsolescence, Epson’s new laser printer is a step up. But first, what exactly happened with the Iowa caucus?

Mobile app blamed for caucus results delay in Iowa

On the first day of voting in the Democratic primaries on Monday, results were delayed because of problems with a smartphone app that was developed to simplify and speed up the reporting of results.

The app, developed by a company called Shadow, didn’t work so well.

By Tuesday, Shadow claimed that a “coding issue” was the problem and that it was fixed.

But the damage had been done.

Gerard Niemira, CEO of Shadow, said he was disappointed with the glitch, which had to do with how the app sent data.

“The app was sound and good,” he told Bloomberg.

But by numerous accounts, the IowaReporterApp was poorly planned, designed, developed, and deployed.

Motherboard reported that the app had to be installed using one of two platforms used by developers to test software, which suggests the app was never cleared for release in the Apple App Store or on Google Play.

It wasn’t even being tested by users until mid-January, with less than three weeks until it would need to be used in the field.

The app, which was paid for by the Iowa Democratic Party, cost $60,000 USD according to the Huffington Post, which is paltry.

And today, a ProPublica investigation revealed that the app was so insecure that vote totals, passwords and other sensitive information could have been intercepted or even changed.

There was no evidence that anything was compromised, but a computer science professor from the University of Michigan told ProPublica that it was “total amateur hour”.

German artist creates traffic jams with a wagon full of smartphones

Simon Weckert has been hacking Berlin. The artist loaded up a red wagon with 99 smartphones and pulled it up and down the streets, creating traffic jams in Google Maps where none existed in real life.

The number of GPS reports of slow movement were interpreted by Google’s servers as slow-moving traffic, resulting in red lines in Google Maps when there were few actual cars on the road.

BlackBerry brand on the verge of fading away

TCL, a Chinese electronics company, has had the licensing rights to the BlackBerry brand since 2016 but those rights expire on August 31, 2020. On Twitter this week, the company announced they “will no longer be selling BlackBerry-branded mobile devices”.

Epson’s new laser projector built for streaming

I’ve talked about Epson’s projectors before, but the new EF-100 Mini-Laser streaming projector, available in white and silver and black and copper, is better than all those that came before.

It’s got an incredibly small footprint and a bright and crisp picture that can display an image up to 150 inches.

And the EF-100 also comes with an Android TV stick, which connects to Wi-fi to give you access to all your streaming services including Netflix, YouTube, and Crave. The HDMI attachment allows you to connect any other system, too, like a game console.

The device, priced at $1300, is very portable. In the time I had to play with it, we set it up in the kitchen, the backyard, the bathroom, and even took it with us on a long weekend ski trip.

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