The Steam Link App is Finally Out for iOS & tvOS

The Steam Link app is finally available on iOS (and tvOS) after being available on Android, and then the Raspberry Pi sbc, for a year. The Steam Link app acts like the now-discontinued Steam Link box and streams your Steam library (and more) to your phone, tablet, or TV. The iOS & Apple TV tvOS app allows for Bluetooth controllers like the Steam Controller as well as Apple-approved controllers that are already available for iOS and tvOS.

Apple initially approved and then blocked the Steam Link app for iOS last year. Presumably that was because Valve’s Steam store was available to users, which was a not-great on Apple’s part but makes about as much sense (none) as Apple demanding a cut of Amazon’s ebooks. The new version of the Steam Llink iOS app doesn’t let people access Valve’s store while streaming, it only allows people to play their game library.

The newest versions of the Android app also allows people to stream games when they’re away from home, the iOS app doesn’t have that feature yet and so you’ll be stuck playing on your home network.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think it is any good that the streaming of games you own locally is controlled by any store, platform, or driver company (like Nvidia’s Shield game streaming service.)  There could be a third-party, entirely open-source effort to stream your desktop with performance in-mind, but there isn’t. The closest thing is the Moonlight project, but it is only available for people with Nvidia’s graphics cards.

All that said, I played a game of Into the Breach streamed to my iPhone from a Windows host using the new app and while that was a confusing setup process (disabling the virtual mouse, enabling the virtual gamepad) it was ultimately rewarding.

I did have one crash when I switched apps and the network connection had been dropped, but I just resumed the game once I re-launched the Link app.

Streaming from a macOS host is a giant pain in the ass, involving the installation of multiple kernel extensions, reboots, and then installing more kernel extensions and more reboots. I can’t imagine this will get any easier with macOS 10.15, if it’s possible at all. Apple delivers a warning to let you know that something Valve is doing won’t work with “…a future version” of macOS:

Screen Shot 2019 06 03 at 12 49 37 AM

That is an ominous warning for a person to read who just wants to play a fucking game. I’m sure they’ll rush out to install the next big macOS upgrade.

iPod Touch Hardware Updated After 4 Years

The last Apple product with the iPod name, the iPod Touch, has been updated for the first time in four years.

The new 7th generation (2019) iPod Touch has an A10 Fusion system-on-a-chip (SoC), which is the same as the iPhone 7. 32 gigs of storage at $200, 128GB at $300, and 256GB at $400.

The 6th generation iPod Touch had an A8 SoC at 16GB for $200, 32GB for $250, 64GB for $300, and 128GB for $400. It’s available online today, 

There aren’t any apparent design changes to the outside of this iPod Touch.

It’s apparently quite a popular device with our national embarrassment’s criminal associates and other security-minded individuals who want to avoid the cellular networks.

There is no iPod app on any iOS device anymore, that name was retired for Music in iOS 5.

Apple’s Anxiety-Inducing MacBook Pro Keyboard Situation Update

Remember how Apple released a MacBook Air last year that might have had a more reliable update to their butterfly keyboard mechanism? Joanna Stern wrote about how it wasn’t fixed for the Wall Street Journal and put the nail in that coffin.

Here’s one I missed, Casey Johnston also had an update on our long national keyboard nightmare and bought a 2018 MacBook Air. Surprise, her Air’s keyboard broke as well.

Today. May 22, 2019. Apple has a press release speed-bump for the MacBook Pro accompanied by this headline: Apple introduces first 8-core MacBook Pro, the fastest Mac notebook ever

Congratulations Apple, any updates on that keyboard business?

“Phrase not found” Uh-oh.
Ol’ Jack is starting to worry here that maybe Apple isn’t getting around to fixing this one properly

Here’s the “good news.” Apple has extended their keyboard warranty program for their laptops to include all MacBooks with this butterfly mechanism.

“But wait,” you’d say, “haven’t they done anything to possibly fix this issue in these models?” Apple has told it’s spokespersons to say, on-background (with conditions), that these updated MacBook Pro computers have:

…a new material for at least one of the components in these switches. The purpose of this change is specifically to increase the reliability of the keyboards.

That is John Gruber’s interpretation of the message. I also completely disagree with Gruber’s supposition that these keyboards “…can’t be worse and are likely better.” The new keyboards can definitely be worse, and it’s clear that Apple’s judgement on this issue is poor. Apple has shipped the same bad keyboard design for 4 years.

I’m glad that Apple is trying to fix this keyboard design, and is updating their Macs on a regular basis again. Supposedly if you bring in a 2018 model of MBP or Air for repair you’ll get the 2019 keyboard material. I’m disappointed that if my ancient MacBook Pro fails I would not choose an Apple laptop to replace it. This 4-year extended warranty program doesn’t inspire confidence when it is immediately applied to their latest iteration of this butterfly key switch design.

What happens if the keyboard dies on the first day of the fifth year you own one of these laptops? You’ve got to beg Apple to fix it, or pay them to fix it.

How long can you go without your laptop? If you don’t care, then maybe you should get an iPad Pro. Apple’s keyboard for that is more reliable.

Would you recommend, sell, or give, one of these laptops in good conscious to a friend or family member, knowing that the warranty won’t last and the keyboard is likely to fail before the rest of the computer? I wouldn’t!

After all of this. Even if, or when, Apple’s designers make a new laptop that has a new keyboard design, would you trust it? I wouldn’t.

I Hope We Don’t Get RSI From Crankin’ It (the Playdate)

Panic’s new console

Renowned Mac and iOS software developer, Panic published their first game Firewatch with Campo Santo a few years ago, are expecting to release Untitled Goose Game later this year, and have now teamed up with the teens that figured out how to monetize themselves in pursuit of wacky audio equipment at Teenage Engineering to make a portable game console called the Playdate.

The Playdate is a bizarre device. There’s a black and white 400×240 screen without a backlight, Panic promises that screen will be perfectly clear during the day and that a reading lamp will be fine at night. I have a question out to them about glare.

The button layout looks normal up until you see that crank on the right side. The crank can tuck away inside the body of the unit for games that don’t need it. The Playdate downloads new games over WiFi. There is Bluetooth, USB-C, and a headphone jack as well.

Playdate’s games promise to be real odd ducks, the current list of announced designers are Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy, Noby Noby Boy), Bennett Foddy (QWOP, Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy, GIRP), Shaun Inman (Retro Game Crunch), Zach Gage (FlipFlop Solitaire, Really Bad Chess) with more to come. Their 12 games are to be released at no other cost over the course of 12 weeks, once a week from the date a player first turns on their Playdate. There will be an option to skip the wait if you fire one up late in the “first season” of games.

Here’s how Panic describes a Keita Takahashi game for the system:

Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, from Keita Takahashi, the creator of Namco’s Katamari Damacy. This game uses the crank exclusively to control the flow of time, backwards and forwards. Your goal? Get Crankin’ to his date with Crankette while avoiding an ever-increasing series of ridiculous obstacles — obstacles that aren’t affected by the time control. Will Crankin’ make it to his rendezvous on-time? (Spoiler alert: no)

The name is supposed to make us think of setting up a time for kids to get together, but this Playdate console doesn’t have a firm release date yet or any announcement regarding multiplayer, just “Early 2020” with Panic hoping to have pre-ordering available at the end of 2019 and an e-mail waitlist that is supposed to act as a queue for the $150 handheld. The promise is that there will be a limited number of the consoles available at launch, which isn’t great since it probably means you need to pre-order this thing without knowing much about the yet-to-be-released games. Pre-orders are not necessary for anything that is produced at any scale, and it isn’t clear if Panic and Teenage Engineering are small enough to require them.

Panic promises to let us know about future game releases, and more specifications about the hardware (storage capacity, CPU, RAM) closer to the launch of the Playdate. It is not at all clear if you’ll be able to just download rando games that anyone makes, or if this thing tanks you’ll just be stuck with the single season of 12 games that Panic commissioned.

Falcon Age

Falcon Age looks very different, it’s a first-person falconeering and falcon-friendshipper where you and your falcon pal (palcon?) fight off the robo-nvaders seeking to exploit your planet. You can also dress up your falcon buddy,

Outerloop Games’ website says they’ve developed Falcon Age for virtual reality first, but it is playable on regular televisions as well. They’ve even gone to the trouble of adding a non-combat option to just spend time with your falcon friend.

Reviewers for IGN and Gamespot enjoyed Falcon Age. Vice’s (Waypoint, before Vice decided to destroy the good will that Waypoint had created) reviewer enjoyed Falcon Age less from the perspective of someone who wasn’t playing in VR.

Falcon Age is $20 and only available on the PS4 (and PSVR, optionally) for now.