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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, why you might want to avoid using the McDonald’s app to place orders, Roku introduces guest features on streaming devices, and a video game proves successful at diagnosing precursers to dementia. But first, a look at what’s going on with Facebook.

Facebook fallout: What’s going on with the social network this week

It’s been a year since the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. Last week, a report released by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia provided specific details about the 622,000 Canadians who were impacted by the breach.

This all came about, recall, because of a “personality quiz” app, and the data shared in the report shows just how the app spread. There were only 33 people in B.C. who installed the app, but because the quiz was able to collect information on people who were connected to those users, 92,208 people were affected by those 33 people.

In Ontario, 142 installs compromised the privacy of nearly 300,000 people.

The report says that Facebook violated federal and B.C. laws and “either outright rejected, or refused to implement our recommendations in any manner acceptable to our Offices.”

Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien plans to take Facebook to court. “Canadians are at risk because the protections offered by Facebook are essentially empty,” Therrien said in a press conference on April 25.

This all happens as reports out of the U.S. suggest that Facebook is preparing to pay a US$5 billion fine related to privacy violations.

Announcements from Facebook’s developers conference, F8

The annual conference began yesterday with a keynote address by CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Highlights include a coming redesign to Facebook that reduces the prominence of the News Feed and instead promotes information from groups you are a part of.

We also learned that Canada will be the test location for a new Instagram approach that hides the “likes” on a person’s feed.

Reporter defrauded after using McDonald’s smartphone app

It’s very convenient to be able to use your smartphone to place an order at a cafe or restaurant and have it ready for you to take away when you arrive, but be careful about the security of those apps.

Patrick O’Rourke, a tech journalist at MobileSyrup, claims that he’s out more than $2,000 after trying to use the McDonald’s iPhone app to order a coffee.

And he’s not the only one who seems to have been defrauded.

In an article, O’Rourke details his experience and the claims by McDonald’s Canada that the issue is solely the result of users not following proper password protocols.

“Most of these over 100 transactions were completed over just a couple days,” he wrote. “They’re also all under $30 CAD and minutes apart from one another.”

O’Rourke’s pro tip? “Delete the McDonald’s app from your phone.”

Good advice.

Roku makes it easier for people to use its streaming devices

In an effort to make its software easier to use, Roku has introduced some new features to its Roku streaming players and televisions that use the Roku interface.

The new Guest Mode was created so that visitors can use their own subscriptions to access streaming services like Netflix or Crave. They can then specify when those credentials will expire so they don’t have to worry about other people using their subscription.

This is great for hotels and other short-term stay hosts, and as a guest it’s ideal because you can easily set up the removal of your sign-in details.

The other feature added by Roku is to make it easier to use multiple Roku devices. If you’ve logged in to a subscription service through your Roku account, it will automatically be enabled on all other Roku devices.

This automatic sign-in requires channels to integrate the functionality. So far, only CBS All Access, fuboTV, and Plex are supporting the service.

Video game may be better at detecting dementia than traditional tests

New research into methods of diagnozing Alzheimer’s suggests that a simple video game may be more effective, and cheaper, at detecting people who may be at high risk.

Results of the study were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week.

Sea Hero Quest was developed specifically to be used to test how players navigated through the game space by having them get their boat to locations on a map that they have to memorize before it disappears.

The game susses out the degree to which spatial orientation, one of the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s, may be lacking in players.

And because the app is easy to use and can be distributed widely, it’s a far cheaper method of doing research than traditional methods requiring subjects to get wired up in a lab.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, developments at Amazon and Google around streaming video and music services and Ubisoft invites you to appreciate video game artistry. But first, Samsung delays the launch of its Galaxy Fold smartphone.

Samsung postpones Galaxy Fold release amid reports of the smartphones breaking

Less than a month away from releasing the Galaxy Fold into the U.S. market, Samsung has delayed the smartphone’s release. A new shipping date has not been set.

This comes as media outlets, which were given Galaxy Folds for review purposes, have been breaking the handsets at the crease.

Some of the failures are a result of the removal of a protective layer of film from the screen that Samsung says is critical to the stability of the device, but there have been other breaks that cannot be attributed to the same issue.

There’s no word on what the delay will mean for customers in Canada. Samsung Canada had not set a date for release of the Galaxy Fold.

Amazon and YouTube are sharing each other’s videos again

A few months ago, Amazon dropped the YouTube app from its Fire TV devices. Google, in response, cut Amazon Prime Video from the Chromecast and gadgets running Android TV.

It was all part of the battle for video streaming supremacy. As of last week, though, the two companies decided to cease hostilities.

There’s been no comment as to why the hand waving has stopped. It could be because of moves Apple has made into the space but it’s more likely that the companies realized there wasn’t much to be won by restricing consumer access to a competitor’s service.

Free music services come to a smart speaker near you

Speaking of Amazon and Google, the two companies are rolling out ad-supported versions of their music streaming services in some markets.

Amazon has two paid plans already, Amazon Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, but now available in the U.S. is Amazon Music, which will deliver select playlists and stations for free to Echo devices, interspersed with ads. This free service isn’t available outside the U.S. at the moment, but it’s likely to spread to other jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, you can set YouTube Music as your default music service on your Google Home speakers to take advantage of its free service. You can’t request specific artists, albums, songs, or playlists, though. To do that you need to upgrade to a YouTube Music Premium account for $10 a month.

Put some video-game art on your wall

Most video games create characters and worlds with animation, and the artistic talent on display in games is often breathtaking.

Now, with the Ubisoft Art Gallery, you can get prints of that artistry to decorate your own spaces.

Available through the online storefront are pictures of memorable characters and stunning scenes from games including Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, For Honor, and Watch Dogs.

It’s an astoudning range of settings and styles, from medieval Europe to Renaissance Italy to cyberpunk cityscapes of the future.

The images can be printed on a variety of media including archival quality paper, canvas, and even metal, and customers can choose to have art matted and framed.

Prices start at about $100.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, all litigation worldwide between Apple and Qualcomm has ended. Plus, details about the next PlayStation console and Respawn’s next game, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. But first, Microsoft has a new, disc-less console in the Xbox One S.

New Xbox One S is disc-less, arrives on May 7

This week, Microsoft revealed a new Xbox One game console that has no optical drive. The All-Digital Edition Xbox One S is just like the other Xbox One S but with a 1 TB hard drive.

The console supports 4K video playback, gaming upscaled to 4K, and high-dynamic range video. It costs $300 and comes with three games: Minecraft, Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon 3.

The digital experience is supported by Microsoft’s cloud storage features for saves and backups, and you can pre-install games so that they are playable immediately on release. No waiting.

You can combine the new console with the Xbox Game Pass, which is a subscription model that gives you access to more than 100 games for $12 a month. You can combine the Game Pass with the benefits of Xbox Live Gold for US$15.

Here’s what we know about the next-gen PlayStation console

It’s probably going to be called the PlayStation 5, but Sony won’t confirm that name. But the company has revealed a lot of what’s going to be in the next game console.

In an interview with Wired, Sony system architect Mark Cerny explained that it will support PlayStation 4 games and 8K graphics.

The new system will have an entirely new architecture, with an eight-core CPU from AMD, and a custom graphical processing unit (GPU) from AMD Radeon which will allow for ray-tracing graphics, which provide much more accurate renderings.

But the biggest change might be to a unique solid-state drive (SSD) that can reduce load times dramatically. Cerny demonstrated a reduction in wait time on Spider-Man from 15 seconds on a PS4 to less than one second.

The new PlayStation isn’t expected before the end of 2020 so there’s lots of time for things to change. But game developers already have kits in their studios so they can be making games for the new system.

For my part, I’m looking forward to the next Horizon game on the PS5.

The battle between Apple and Qualcomm has ended

Apple – maker of iPads, iPhones, and Mac computers – and Qualcomm – maker of semiconductors, computer chips, and smartphone modems – have been engaged in multiple lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions since 2017. It all ended on Tuesday.

The settlement agreement dismisses “all litigation between the two companies worldwide.” Apple is making an undisclosed payment to Qualcomm as part of the settlement. Also part of the deal is a six-year “global patent license agreement”.

This all started back in 2017. Apple claimed that Qualcomm was using its dominant position as a supplier of smartphone components to charge high licensing fees for those products.

It’s something that Qualcomm has been accused of by other companies and regulators in other jurisdictions, including one brought by the Federal Trade Commission in the United States. The company has paid more than a billion dollars in fines over antitrust practices.

Qualcomm fought back by accusing Apple of patent infringement, and working to get iPhones banned, which worked in Germany (Apple pulled iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 from German shelves earlier this year) and China.

Apple has used only Intel modems in iPhones since the iPhone 7. The settlement means that Qualcomm’s 5G modems, which are already available, can be used in new iPhone designs. Intel, which had been providing the modems for all iPhones, has announced its decision to exit 5G smartphone modem business.

Some analysts are suggesting that Apple will buy Intel’s mobile modem IP so that they can manufacture their own.

Respawn reveals its new Star Wars game

Respawn Entertainment, a studio owned by Electronic Arts, surprised gamers last month with the existence of Apex Legends, a free-to-play, battle royale game like Fortnite and Player Unknown Battlegrounds.

On Monday, Respawn revealed details of another game in development: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

The third-person action adventure will be released for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One on November 15.

The story is set during the time just after the events of the film, Revenge of the Sith, when the Emperor attempted to slaughter everyone in the Jedi order.

In addition to Apex Legends, Respawn created Titanfall and Titanfall 2, shooter adventures in which traversal and movement have been integral, and these mechanics will be part of the new Star Wars game, which will have platforming and puzzle solving aspects.

Players will also be fighting using both a lightsaber and Force powers.

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