Nintendo’s stock jumps 17%; Switch approved for China

Nintendo's stock had jumped up 17% on the Tokyo Stock Exchange because the console will be headed to China.

Nintendo’s stock had jumped up 17% on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. This was following news after the Switch has been approved for sale in China. The Switch has been a huge success all over the world, especially in the US. Since its release just two years ago in March 2017, the Switch has shattered sales … Read more Nintendo’s stock jumps 17%; Switch approved for China

Google Fiber will be discontinued for Louisville, KY residents

Google Fiber will be discontinued for Louisville, KY residents 1

Google Fiber will be discontinued in Louisville, Kentucky. The service launched just about 1.5 years ago and the reason that residents will now have to bear is a pretty annoying one- the gigabit network was installed poorly. Google used a method to build a network called micro-trenching, which was a series of trenches that weren’t … Read more Google Fiber will be discontinued for Louisville, KY residents

Sony releases 2018 PS4 sales data; 91.6M total units sold

Sony's freebies aren't that bad.

PS4’s lifetime sales reports have been released after 6 years on the market, and they’re nothing short of profitable. While the PS4 has always had an edge over the competition for this generation, the 2018 holiday season proved to be a very strong one for the PlayStation due to exclusive first-party games. The company released … Read more Sony releases 2018 PS4 sales data; 91.6M total units sold

Facebook and ZeniMax Media settle on 2014 lawsuit

Facebook and ZeniMax Media settle on 2014 lawsuit 2

ZeniMax and Facebook have finally settled their agreement on an ongoing lawsuit. The lawsuit was first filed back to 2014 when ZeniMax Media claimed that Facebook’s Oculus had infringed against their intellectual property. A jury ruled in favor of ZeniMax for $500M later during a Federal District Court in Dallas last year. The court then reduced … Read more Facebook and ZeniMax Media settle on 2014 lawsuit

Red Bull and PAC-MAN team up for special, limited edition cans

Red Bull and PAC-MAN team up for special, limited edition cans 3

Like PAC-MAN? Like Red Bull? Then here’s the perfect beverage for you.

A partnership that no one saw coming is now live in retail stores near you. Red Bull and PAC-MAN have teamed up to make PAC-MAN-themed Red Bull cans- a special, limited time can with a slick new design featuring the classic PAC-MAN 80’s look.

You’ll see a maze with those ghosts in the background headlined with a special code under each can. These codes unlock free Red Bull-themed levels for the PAC-MAN mobile game (which is free to play).

PAC-MAN is published by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment. Director of Mobile, Toshihiko Naoe said in a press release:

“We’re excited to unite these two revolutionary brands for an electrifying partnership. We can’t wait to see fans take a bite out of the brand-new in-game content, available via Red Bull Energy Drink PAC-MAN cans.”

The mazes also have a special powerup to get PAC-MAN energized. Can you guess what those powerups are?

Red Bull cans.

Red Bull and PAC-MAN team up for special, limited edition cans 4

They’re littered around the new mazes and allows PAC-MAN to eat ghosts without turning blue. Although this may make the game too easy, it’s all in good fun. The ghosts don’t run away like they usually do, and PAC-MAN doesn’t get wings. After he eats them, they get sent to the prison. The Cherry fruits are also replaced by various Red Bull letters around the maze.

Grab a limited edition can at your local store and download the free game if you’re up for it. These cans will surely go up in value later on given that the fan base for PAC-MAN is still huge. Collectors may shell out a pretty penny for these cans later on when they’re no longer being sold in stores.

Xbox One October 2018 update; New Avatars, Dolby Vision, Alexa support

Xbox One October 2018 update; New Avatars, Dolby Vision, Alexa support 5

The latest update for Xbox One is a huge one. Microsoft’s latest October 2018 update for the Xbox One is headlined by the return of Xbox Avatars with a new look and style.

The update went live today and introduces the “new Xbox Avatars.” This update was supposed to be launched last year since it’s been in development ever since the reveal at last year’s E3 conference. Microsoft has delayed the release and started a beta program with Xbox Insiders this June. Now, the update is live and ready to deploy.

So, let’s get to the details.

Players can now easily customize themselves with an expanded take on personalization. Your new Avatar will show up on your profile pages, feed, community posts, and pretty much anywhere you can make yourself show up. You can also switch back to the original Avatars if you don’t like the new ones- AKA Xbox 360 Avatars.

The new Avatars offer plenty of customizations such as a variety of body types, clothing, and gender-neutral selections. People with disabilities can also represent themselves with the use of prosthetics and such. Naturally, skin hair, clothing, and accessories can all be customized indivually to the player’s choice- all the way down to the color of the object. Players can also buy themed merchandise from popular games like Halo in the Avatar Store.

Besides Avatars, the new update also adds support for both Cortana and Alexa for voice control. This means you can ask Amazon’s Alexa to launch a game or shut down the Xbox. Players who use Amazon devices can now integrate it with their Xbox if they’d rather use Alexa over Microsoft’s Cortana.

Another feature is the awesome support for Dolby Vision. The update can be used for Xbox One X and S, but only for streaming apps, not 4K Blu-Rays. Right now, you can test out Dolby Vision in video apps like Netflix (if you have the right 4K HD plan). However, other apps will soon support the same update.

Lastly, there will be a special offer for players interested in Xbox- Microsoft will give a free Amazon Echo for players who buy select Xbox One S or X bundles at Amazon. This offer is limited to US residents only.

This is a huge update and adds a lot of improvement to the overall capabilities of Xbox’s online service and gives it the boot over Sony’s limited feature set. PS4 can only support HDR to HDR10 standards. Though, Sony has been making headlines recently with the ability to finally change PSN usernames and backward compatibility for the PS5.

Source: Polygon

Blizzard removes loot crates in Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm for Belgium players

Blizzard removes loot crates in Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm for Belgium players 6

Blizzard has just announced that paying for loot crates in two of their major titles has been removed for Belgium players due to a report from the Belgian Gaming Commission. It states that option falls under the “gambling” category according to local law, and thus, can’t be a feature in videogames. Blizzard has fought against this decision and expressed disagreement, but they’ve gone ahead and removed loot crates in Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm in order to comply.

To obtain the crates, players will have to play well by performing well in a game or leveling up, or even buying them with in-game currency. Content hasn’t been affected by this removal:

In April 2018, the Belgian Gaming Commission published a report that was endorsed by the Belgian Ministry of Justice in which they concluded that paid loot boxes in Overwatch are considered gambling under local law. While we at Blizzard were surprised by this conclusion and do not share the same opinion, we have decided to comply with their interpretation of Belgian law. As a result, we have no choice but to implement measures that will prevent Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm players located in Belgium from purchasing in-game loot boxes and loot chests with real money and gems.

This decision originated from the Battlefront II loot creates which allowed players to use cash on the game with the chance of getting gameplay boosts that gave unfair advantages to those not willing to spend on the game. Some players who don’t want to shell out their cash are forced to play on an uneven playing field.

EA has removed the paid option hours before its launch due to this blowback, but European courts began on investigating the issue across all games. blizzard has removed the option from Chinese players due to their gambling laws also.

Other countries haven’t really made a decision yet and are still deciding. The UK ruled that loot crates aren’t legally gambling and has kept them within their games.

Source: PlayStation Life.

Microsoft explains why they bought Ninja Theory

Microsoft explains why they bought Ninja Theory 7

At this years’ E3 showcase, Microsft made some big announcements regarding the fact that they acquired five new developers. One of them happens to be a new team called Playground Games, based in Santa Monica and are best known for their Forza Horizon games. They also bought Compulsion Games (We Happy Few), Undead Labs (State of Decay), The Initiative, and Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword).

This was pretty big news because although they’re not huge companies, they’re still pretty significant in the titles they’re known for. Seeing how Ninja Theory is now an in-house developer, people got excited about the future game lineup from this developer. Head of Microsoft Studios Matt Booty talks about the reasoning behind buying a studio like Ninja Theory in a recent interview:

“When you think about our existing content as it relates to Game Pass… you can see that we’re fortunate to have some really large franchises, with Halo, Gears of War, Forza, Minecraft, Age of Empires… these are all well-established franchises.”

“I use the world franchise deliberately, because these games are typically multi-platform, they have a presence off of Xbox, they have millions of players and iterations of the game going back a decade or more.

“An amazing thing about Ninja Theory is that it is very clear that the studio orbits around ideas and creativity, and the characters, storytelling, and settings really come first for them. That just meshes really well with our desire to provide our players, especially those in Game Pass, with content that is new, unique, has variety, and sits outside of the stuff we are doing with our bigger franchises.”

The main reason is Game Pass, which is Xbox’s subscription service aside from their Gold Service for online play. Game Pass allows players to unlock over 100 indie and first-party titles for just $10 a month with unlimited play. New games are always added and older games are rotated out. Some third-party titles are also in the mix- even some AAA titles like DOOM.

Twitch Prime users now have to watch ads; Amazon rids 20% discount for pre-orders

Twitch Prime users now have to watch ads; Amazon rids 20% discount for pre-orders 8

Twitch Prime users now have to watch ads like the rest of the internet now. And they won’t get the 20% discount off pre-order titles on Amazon anymore. Subscribers aren’t happy.

Twitch announced the new changes coming to the world’s most popular live streaming service, noting that they’ve “continued to add value to Twitch Prime,” yet they’ve also” re-evaluated some of the existing Twitch Prime benefits.” Twitch announced ad-free viewing for subscribers back in 2016, but now they’ve reverted back to the original plan of having all viewers watch ads.

Amazon announced that instead of the 20% discount off new titles, subscribers get a $10 promo credit for pre-ordering select titles starting on April 28, 2019.

It’s a pretty bleak time to be a subscriber to Amazon/Twitch. Twitch’s explanation for the purpose of reinstallation ads:

“Advertising is an important source of support for the creators who make Twitch possible. This change will strengthen and expand that advertising opportunity for creators so they can get more support from their viewers for doing what they love. We want Twitch to remain a place where anyone can enjoy one-of-a-kind interactive entertainment, and ads allow us to continue making Twitch the best place for creators to build communities around the things they love and make money doing it.”

Former Twitch VP, Justin Wong, explained that the reasoning behind it is “BS” in a tweet:

“Partners don’t see any direct benefit from the Twitch Prime ad-free removal. There are possibly indirect benefits depending on whether viewers will subscribe to avoid ads. In other words, the ‘benefiting creators’ shtick is BS.”

In retaliation, some streamers on twitch have been asking their viewers to block the ads, such as Rober Moran:

“Please install an ad blocker if you watch my content on Twitch/YouTube because ads are a waste of your time, and I have no interest building a business off ad dollars.”

This has led to increased usage of ad blockers on Twitch. These are some dark days for the streaming giant. What do you think will happen? Will Twitch revert? Or will the community just “deal with it?”

Patrick Söderlund steps down as EA’s CDO

Patrick Söderlund steps down as EA's CDO 9

Earlier this week, Electronic Art’s CDO Patrick Söderlund has stepped down and left the company. A memo shared by the current CEO Andrew Wilson, he states that Patrick was a “pioneer” with over 20 years of experience for EA. He was also known to be a great friend and an “inspiring leader” for EA as a whole.

Söderlund recently was promoted to the office of Chef Design Office back in April of 2018. Before that, he was the CEO of DICE. When he entered EA, he was appointed to the Worldwide Studios where he oversaw many franchises in EA’s household. He’s also credited for advocating the Frostbite engine and making it EA’s primary in-house game engine.

Last year, he was also given a bonus of $20M USD in 2017, based on a SEC filing and a report by Jason Schreier of Kotaku. His total salary for 2018 totaled to $48M. The median salary for the typical employee at EA is $96K. His position demands this level of pay and his expertise was priceless. This was to keep him working for the company.

Even with this level of pay, he’s left the company. Wilson noted that some teams within EA will definitely see changes following his departure. The SEED team which is currently led by Johan Andersson will join the studio’s group along with EA Originals and EA Partners Programs joining the Strategic Growth group.

No other news has been reported about the other executives at EA regarding changes. They’ll likely stay in their current positions. As for a when and who the new CDO will be and when this person will be appointed is TBA.

Hackers turn Amazon Echo into a spy device

Hackers turn Amazon Echo into a spy device 10

With the push of companies launching their virtual assistants (VAs), security should always be a concern since these things are mass-produced on a large scale. A small security loophole could put thousands or even millions at risk, whether it be Google Home or Amazon’s line of Alexa-equipped devices. Since they’re all connected to the internet at all times, it enables hackers to potential siphon information about the data it collects and can be exploited.

A hack was demonstrated at Def Con 26, where hackers used multiple vulnerabilities to demo how the Echo could be used as an eavesdropping device:

“In this talk, we will present how to use multiple vulnerabilities to … remote attack some of the most popular smart speakers. Our final attack effects include silent listening, control speaker speaking content and other demonstrations. And we’re also going to talk about how to extract firmware from BGA packages Flash chips such as EMMC, EMCP, NAND Flash, etc. In addition, it contains how to turn on debug interfaces and get root privileges by modifying firmware content and Re-soldering Flash chips, which can be of great help for subsequent vulnerability analysis and debugging. Finally, we will play several demo videos to demonstrate how we can remotely access some Smart Speaker Root permissions and use smart speakers for eavesdropping and playing voice.”

For the plain-English person, this roughly translates to tweaking Alexa’s onboard firmware content in order to use it to spy on its surroundings. it can listen silently, be controlled to speak, and have the speech module overwritten from a remote location. this means a hacker could potentially hack into an Echo device and force it to speak or listen to its environment and relay the sounds back to the hacker’s computer.

As companies jump onboard the VA bandwagon, security is an issue that needs to be addressed. Simply having it in the household doesn’t mean it’s safe from hacking and vulnerabilities. Companies that are new to the scene like Facebook, who plans to launch their own version of a smart speaker very soon, will only create more demand for these types of products, which means a larger audience to safeguard from hacks and a more appealing target for hackers to bypass the security.

Although Amazon’s Alexa already listens to what its users say, it follows and purges in a timed interval (trailing five seconds after its name), unlike this hack which actually relays the information without a purge.

Amazon has fixed and patched the security issue that was demonstrated with a patch and quickly resolved.

Image via Amazon.

Only 2% Amazon Alexa users actually buy something

Only 2% Amazon Alexa users actually buy something 11

A new report claims that only a very small percentage of their customers that own Alexa devices shop with voice commands. Analysts have been optimistic in their predictions about consumer shopping via virtual assistants.

Most customers who do actually place an order only do it once or stick to a very limited scope of products. Two people who were briefed on Amazon’s figures said that only around 2% of people who own Alexa-equipped devices have ever bought something with said device. And of that 2%, 90% tried it only once. That’s a very small percentage of people who buy using Alexa and isn’t really “optimistic” at all.

An Amazon spokesperson told ArsTechnica that they “do not agree with the numbers represented in the article” that was published. The full statement reads:

We do not agree with the numbers represented in the article. Millions of customers use Alexa to shop because it is the most convenient way to capture needs in the moment. It’s as simple as saying, “Alexa, order dish detergent” while you are doing the dishes or “Alexa, order copier paper” as you reach for the last one. We want to enable customers to shop in whatever way is easiest for them.

Purchasing with Alexa usually involves low-cost products out of impulse or minor repurchase decisions. Things like toilet paper or toothpaste are purchased because of consumer familiarity. This is what composes regular shoppers with Alexa. You can simply tell it to “order some more toothpaste” and that’s it. you don’t have to consider your decision because you already know what you want. And you don’t really care because you’re familiar with it and it’s cheap. Alexa will likely buy “Amazon’s Choice” products to fulfill your order.

But in the case of expensive items like electronics or appliances, consumers don’t really opt for virtual assistant purchases. Making decisions like this requires reading reviews, specs, and even finding cheaper retailers before buying.

However, Amazon is well-aware of this and has tried to incentivize Alexa buy offering special discounts for using it. Some third-party analysis reports confirm that Alexa usage is actually much higher than what the report from earlier states. Alexa sales continue to do well in sales numbers and has a growing user base. Even with just 2% of people making purchases, that 2% will continue to encompass a growing number of users as Amazon continues to develop the user base of Alexa-powered devices.

Source: ArsTechnica

Image via Amazon.

Project Loon signs its first commercial deal with Telkom Kenya

Project Loon signs its first commercial deal with Telkom Kenya 12

Project Loon, an internet-delivery ballon system has announced its first commercial deal. It’s a system that spawned from Alphabet’s Project X division where recent Project X will partner with Telkom Kenya to increase internet connectivity in the country. Public details of the deal are still sparse. There’s no timeframe for deployment, financial details, nor press. BBC notes that Telkom Kenya will provide the signal for internet, and Loon will distribute across the country in remote areas.

The project started in 2011. The idea is that instead of building permanent structures to distribute signals with limited range, balloons with antennas could fly 60,000 feet in the air and follow wind patterns to cover about 2,000 square miles at once. The company has simulated over 30 million kilometers of navigation paths every day to understand how weather conditions will affect the predetermined balloon routes.

Loon’s solar-powered air structures have been improved a lot over time. Project Loon started off with just 3G-levels of connectivity but then provided 4G instead in 2015 across an area as big as Rhode Island. The project was recently toured by Wired as Loon showed off its factory and smoother launch with powerful signals. Testing areas including New Zealand, Central California, Brazil, Peru, and Puerto Rico. Loon works with local governments and provided internet access to over 200,000 people in Puerto Rico after Hurrican Maria.

They plan to improve connectivity for large areas of Kenya currently not covered by mobile providers rather than building structures due to the difficulty of erecting such towers. Some local experts expressed concerns stating that dependency on a foreign company may be an issue. Regardless, Project Loon is an amazing idea coming to reality in the world.

Photo: Project Loon.

The Clone Wars gets a 12 episode commission on Disney’s streaming platform

The Clone Wars gets a 12 episode commission on Disney's streaming platform 13

At this year’s Comic-Con, a panel celebrating the 10-year anniversary of The Clone Wars had a special announcement at the end of it- a surprise season of 12 episodes has been confirmed and commissioned to run on Disney’s streaming service which launches in 2019.

Back in 2003, there was the first animated series of the Clone Wars with Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2D take that ran until 2005 with a few Emmy awards in the process. The Clone Wars then came out in 2008, this time another fully-animated but 3D series of episodes developed by Dave Filoni which ran for 5 seasons on The Cartoon Network and got a final 6 episodes on Netflix in 2014.

Now that Disney is competing directly with Netflix and developing its own streaming platform, we’ll be getting another full season of 12 episodes. With Disney’s demonstration on Netflix, there’s definitely fan demand for their shows with its Marvel series.

Whether or not the 12 episodes will be reruns is unsure. Now that Disney has the own platform, they may create some original content. Besides The Clone Wars, there will be some live-action Star Wars directed by Jon Favreau that takes place somewhere between Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens.

It’s a good time to be a Star Wars fan.

Netflix may have hit its saturation point

Netflix may have hit its saturation point 14

Netflix didn’t make its subscriber growth targets in the three months ending in June. It missed by about a million subscribers, which scared off some investors. There are rumors that the streaming giant may have finally hit a saturation point, where it strikes a balance between subscribers subscribing and subscribers leaving. In other words, Netflix has reached all the interested audiences available and there aren’t enough people to make any significant growth for the platform overall.

Following this missed target, the stock dropped a huge 14% as reported by the BBC. This came after an impressive run that the stock was gaining over the past year.

Currently, the giant as 130M subscribers globally and projected 6.2M, but only hit about 5.2M instead. The streaming service is expected to face even more competition in the coming year. HBO Chief Executive John Stankey told his employees that the company needs to move away from prestige-programming and focus on Netflix’s high-content volume strategy. Apple also plans to launch a competing streaming service that’s in direct competition with Netflix. Disney, which currently dominates Hollywood’s landscape in properties like Marvel and Star Wars and brands with high-value will launch its own streaming platform following Netflix.

Netflix currently accounts for 8% of TV viewing overall, but it’s nothing to consider a dominant force. It’s been an investor darling in the past and many who thought it would take over TV, but that’s not the case. Netflix is often thought of as the service that’ll take over cable, but the landscape is looking for something like the old cable model in a custom built your own package. Subscribe to your channels and pay a fee. It’s not possible to bundle all of it into a service and sell it for $15/mo like Netflix.

CEO Reed Hastings told investors that they can expect good news regarding frequency and length of viewing sessions. CNBC suggests that subscribers watch an average of 10 hours per week and traditional viewers watch 20 hours, with cable being the top dog.

Netflix will spend up to $8 producing TV shows and films this year. Several series are yet to be announced, but some include Disenchantment, House of Cards, and Making a Murderer.

Walmart rumored to be starting a streaming platform

Walmart rumored to be starting a streaming platform 15

Walmart is rumored to be the next contestant in the streaming arena, based on the report from The Information. The retail giant is working on its own video streaming provider platform to compete with Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.

How does Walmart get into the already saturated market? By selling its service cheaper, of course.

The report states that Walmart plans to offer it at $8/mo or lower. Netflix and Amazon are dominating the East and West coast cities because that’s where the money is.

But Walmart wants to cater towards Americans living in the midwest and other areas where Netflix and Amazon haven’t had their stake yet.

Both Netflix and Amazon are charging about $8 at the bare minimum. Netflix recently raised the price for 4K streaming and its mid-tier plan and Amazon just increased the price for their Prime membership- which is required to get Amazon Instant Video. Walmart could sneak in and dominate the lower-budget market by offering its service to middle Amerca. They’ll have to compete with Netflix and Amazon regardless of what demographic they want to target.

However, Walmart may offer it for free using an ad-based kind of like the Roku device which runs by the same concept. Walmart currently owns Vudu which is a service for buying and renting movies. But its nowhere near the popularity of Netflix or Amazon.

Walmart has also partnered with Microsoft to develop cashierless stores.

Classic Skype is being killed off; Users need to upgrade to new Skype

Classic Skype is being killed off; Users need to upgrade to new Skype 16

Skype has long been the go-to VoIP program and now has a confusing distribution. You have the Classic client which dates back to the days before Skype was bought by Microsoft. And then you have a modern version which is the one equipped on today’s computer by default. Microsoft hasn’t really pushed for universal development across its Skype apps across all platforms- Windows, macOS, Linux, and mobile.

Just last week they’ve released a new version of the application which allows for some new features.

It can now allow video chat with screen-sharing in full HD up to 1080p with a maximum of 24 people at once. It also allows @mentions and chat alerts with full file sharing up to 300MB of content. It’s also easier to find historically shared files with a built-in gallery like a phone’s album.

Microsoft also plans to add integrated call recording, read receipts, and fully secure audio and video calls. They’ll also be adding support for the NDI API to allow Skype to be used as an audio/video source on streaming platforms like Twitch.

In August of this year, they’ll be ending support for the Classic version. Users will be forced to upgrade in order to continue using Skype. Perhaps this will speed up development now that they just need to focus on one platform rather than two. Some features are way overdue.


Nintendo building more “hack-proof” Switch Consoles

Nintendo building more "hack-proof" Switch Consoles 17

A few months back, there was the word of a new “unpatchable” exploit on the Nintendo Switch which allowed hackers to run custom firmware, homebrew consoles, and of course, pirated games and software on the Switch’s existing hardware.

Nintendo has been reported that they’ve patched the exploit by selling newly-patched hardware in newer Switch models that have been fixed at the factory-level in order to prevent the exploit.

The report comes from SciresM, a well-known hacker in the Switch world, who wrote that some Switch units on retail shelves are not vulnerable to the exploit known as “Fusée Gelée.” SciresM also suspects that Nintendo has used the iPatch system on the GPU to burn the protective code into the boot ROM, which cuts of the USB recovery mode overflow error that was the previous entry point.

The iPatches are simple for Nintendo to patch in while the console is being produced in the factory, but it’s impossible to load onto the millions of Switch units that are already in circulation.

The newer “patched” units are running firmware version 4.1.0, which has been outdated since the 5.0.0 release in March. This means that they’re not really new in terms of firmware, but rather suggests that the “patched” units were already built earlier this year and Nintendo was on the case.

Nintendo is reported to have utilized data from various hacking groups like Team fail0verflow and Team ReSwitched to get the head start in order to protect their hardware before the hack was released to the public. These groups told the big N about the vulnerabilities before they released their hacks, which gave Nintendo some time to patch it in the next update. That explains the older firmware version.

Regardless, the older firmware is still vulnerable to a software-level exploit called deja vu, which was patched in systems with 5.0.0 or later. This puts Nintendo in a cycle between the two exploits.

So to keep things simple: the 4.1.0 units are “patched” against “Fusée Gelée,” but are vulnerable to deja vu. Whereas the new 5.0.0 units are safe from deja vu, but vulnerable to “Fusée Gelée.” Quite a pickle.

For now, Nintendo continues to ban hacked systems from its network.

Netflix getting rid of user reviews – permanently

Netflix getting rid of user reviews - permanently 18

User-written reviews on streaming giant Netflix will soon dissipate into thin air. Based on a report from CNET, Netflix has plans to completely remove user-generated reviews from its platform this summer. It’ll take place in a few different phases- by July 30, writing reviews for shows and movies will be halted. In August, existing reviews will be completely wiped from the servers.

Netflix stated that the reviews had “declining usage over time” and therefore have become obsolete. Therefore, they’ve decided to remove the written reviews and stick with the thumbs up/down system. It’s also been reported that they’ve notified any user who has used the feature recently.

The ability to write and read user reviews have been already limited to the desktop version of Netflix. They don’t show up in any of Netflix’s apps across any platform, but the rating system is still intact on both the desktop and apps.

Previously, they used a star rating system which was replaced with a thumbs voting system. They claim that it’s easier to use the thumb system and it’s more accurate for personal recommendations of shows and movies, which may increase user engagement. A report from Variety says that the company saw a whopping 200% increase in ratings when they switched to the thumb rating system.

Netflix has also been testing a new subscription tier in Europe. It’s called Ultra and it allows an account to watch Ultra HD content for just about $20 USD.

Tesla partners with California utility company PG&E to build another facility

Tesla partners with California utility company PG&E to build another facility 19

California’s utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) requested that the state approve four lithium-ion battery storage initiatives last week. One would be built by Tesla and owned by PG&E while the others would be operated by a third-party. Tesla and PG&E project is a huge battery storage facility that would deliver 730MWh of power.

Tesla’s contrast with PG&E hints that it could be increased to 1.1GWh. It’s expected to discharge 182.5MW over a span of 4 hours, but it could be increased up to 6 hours with just 1.1GWh of storage owned by PG&E. Tesla is the current pioneer in electric power. Last year, Tesla built the largest lithium-ion battery in the world. It’s located in S. Austrailia and has a 100MW of battery storage.

This kind of storage allows more renewable energy because it’s independent of wind speed fluctuations or weather conditions such as a cloud cover. The battery would delivery necessary power during those fluctuations. The project will be located in California near Monterey Bay at the Moss Landing. PG*E expects it to be finished by 2019 with the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission.

One other project is being built by energy company Vistra. They want to build the world’s first grid-scale lithium-ion battery installation that can store more than a GWh of energy. The company hasn’t chosen a provider for its batteries yet, but it plans to use existing points at Moss Landing just like the PG&E/Telsa project.

All of these projects depend on the CPUC’s approval. A response is usually expected within 90 days following the project proposal. If approved, the project should be relatively quick given that it’ll be completed within a year from now.

Tinder beefs up security in response to “disturbing vulnerabilities”

Tinder beefs up security in response to "disturbing vulnerabilities" 20

Tinder has beefed up security in its popular “dating” app due to a letter from Oregon Senator Ron Wyden asking for the app to fix security loopholes and other privacy and data incursions.

Match Group, which owns Tinder, has responded to Senator Wyden by documenting recent changes to the app as of June 19th. Jaren Sine of Match writes that “swipe data has been padded such that all actions are now the same size.” Other issues on Tinder were called out by a research team at Checkmarx stating that it had “disturbing vulnerabilities” and the possibility of privacy invasion and blackmail.

The vulnerabilities, found in both the app’s Android and iOS versions, allow an attacker using the same network as the user to monitor the user’s every move on the app. It is also possible for an attacker to take control over the profile pictures the user sees, swapping them for inappropriate content, rogue advertising or other type of malicious content (as demonstrated in the research).

While no credential theft and no immediate financial impact are involved in this process, an attacker targeting a vulnerable user can blackmail the victim, threatening to expose highly private information from the user’s Tinder profile and actions in the app.

In February, Wyden addressed the issue and requested Tinder to pad data to obscure it as it moves from server to app and vice versa. Tinder has hardened security in response to Sen. Wyden. Sine states in a letter to Sen. Wyden:

“Like every technology company, we are constantly working to improve our defenses in the battle against malicious hackers and cyber criminals.”

Tinder is now safer to use, but that never means full privacy. At least they’re making strides to a more protected platform.

Sony Pictures goofs by uploading whole film instead of trailer

Sony Pictures goofs by uploading whole film instead of trailer 21

Sony Pictures Entertainment released a new trailer for its new limited release film Khali the Killer online in order to get more viewers to watch the film- whether it be on Blu-Ray, select theaters, or streaming platforms.

But there was a big oopsie.

Sony released the whole film instead. Not just the teaser.

The movie is a violent crime film based on western movies and ’70s films. It was originally released on DVD last year in reverse order like many indie films do. It’s not set for theater release until this year. But seeing it uploaded in its entirety online is just a big goof. Seriously.

To put some salt in the wound, it wasn’t removed quickly either. It was online and accessible to the public for several hours and there were tons of comments poking fun at Sony. The full presentation is about 1.5 hours and some people even got to see the whole thing- for free.

Whether or not it was done intentionally is unknown. Some believe it was done to attract viewers over a marketing play, while others say that Sony is still recovering from some other hacks and problems its encountered recently- like having thousands of employees’ private information leaked in 2014. Things like this could really hurt shareholders.

Sony has not commented on the error as of yet.

Image via Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Microsoft is developing technology to automate retail stores

Microsoft is developing technology to automate retail stores 22

A recent report from Reuters states that Microsoft is looking to fight Amazon and compete in the retail space. The computer giant is working on a new technology that removes casheres and checkout lines in stores that’s very similar to Amazon’s tech used in its Amazon Go brick-and-mortar retail space.

Microsoft’s technology allows customers to place items in their carts and tracks it. It’s unknown how it works exactly, but the company has already shown it off to some retail giants like Walmart. It’s rumored to be linked to the Kinect for Azure project, which was detained at Microsoft Build in May which adds to Kinect’s capabilities and also includes a computer power and sensor device with a camera that can detect depth and spatial presence, such as tracking movement of customers’ hands when they grab an item.

Selling this tenchoology in order for stores to compete with each other is like shelling shovels to the gold diggers. While Microsoft and Amazon don’t compete directly in the retail store world, they’re definitely direct competitors in the cloud computing space, with Amazon taking the lead.

This technology is designed to help other retailers compete with Amazon as they expand into the physical world. Retailers who want to use this tech and adopt it have a better chance to compete with Amazon Go, which is currently run automatically without cashiers and lines. It’s expected to launch new stores in San Francisco and Chicago.


CEO of Intel’s affair ended before he took the position in 2013

CEO of Intel's affair ended before he took the position in 2013 23

CEO Brian Krzanich resigned from Intel on Thursday when it was discovered that he had relationships with his colleague. It’s reported that the woman he was having an affair with still works for the company and the whole thing started over a decade ago. When she met Krzanich, she was working in a distant position as a middle manager.

Krzanich’s wife Brandee had also worked at Intel before as a process engineer before he became CEO of Intel in 2013. The affair was stopped before he took the position, but the policy that prohibits any sexual and romantic relationships with co-workers was put into place in 2011. So thus, he was still in violation of such acts. Before there was the policy, Intel already had multiple office relationships going on.

Krzanich’s resignation is not the only one in the industry. Many people of high positions have been fired or forcefully resigned across many industries as scandals and the #MeToo movement snowballed. His resignation was thought to be triggered when a current employee talked about the affair to another who then reported it to Intel’s counsel on June 14. This sparked the process and made headlines after it went up in flames.

Intel’s stock has been dipping due to this news and has dropped a few dollars to the $52 mark from mid-$55.

Elon Musk builds the world’s largest lithium-ion battery

Elon Musk builds the world's largest lithium-ion battery 24

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO has built the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in existence. It comprises of building hundreds of smaller battery modules and linking them up together. It was contracted for 100 days and began on 9/29/17. The project was completed on 11/23/17- ahead of schedule. The battery still hasn’t been tested yet, but the … Read more Elon Musk builds the world’s largest lithium-ion battery