Epic is skipping Google’s Android app store (the advertising publisher calls it Google Play as if that meant anything) for their upcoming Android version of the free-to-play Fortnite (which is already on iOS and almost every gaming and computing platform.) There’s a beta signup here and the compatibility situation on Android is already a nightmare, check out the list of supported devices. It is extremely specific and the few Android devices I have aren’t supported.
There’s typically a 30/70 split, and from the 70 percent, the developer pays all the costs of developing the game, operating it, marketing it, acquiring users and everything else. For most developers that eats up the majority of their revenue. We’re trying to make our software available to users in as economically efficient a way as possible. That means distributing the software directly to them, taking payment through Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, and other options, and not having a store take 30 percent.
I’m not sure how well this is going to work out for people playing Fortnite. Google’s app store security is awful and routinely distributes software that compromises user privacy and security already, but at least they can moderate that. To get started with Fortnite on Android users are going to have to disable built-in security functionality that disallows third-party apps. Sideloading applications is useful and should be possible on any computer we use, but there are going to be negative consequences for users who don’t fully understand the risks involved.
Parents and tech savvy folks helping their friends and family are going to be busy when they realize their devices are compromised by installing a phony version of Fortnite, or a version that works but steals their credit card data. Try searching your favorite web search engine for the premium currency in the game, “Fortnite Free V-Bucks”, those scammers are oiled up and ready for anyone who falls into their trap.
Since Fortnite’s meteoric rise, there have been multiple YouTube videos running as ads that pitch Fortnite players easy ways to get free V-Bucks. (V-Bucks are Fortnite’s premium in-game currency, which lets them purchase limited-edition skins, gear and weapons.) Search “free V-Bucks” in YouTube’s search bar, and more than 4.3 million results will populate.
Google is selling a DIY smart speaker kit in the US through Target stores. They call it an AIY Voice Kit with the sub-heading of a “Do-it-yourself intelligent speaker.” Is it a kit that lives up to what the box promises for only $50? Let’s find out, together.
I’m not super fond of Google, they’re great at search but really make their money today by selling advertising space on websites. In my opinion, their “don’t be evil” motto has shifted as their priorities changed. There’s always the upfront cost of a product ($50) but with any smart speaker device there’s also the intangible cost of allowing a company to listen to, and process, whatever it can hear.
Ideally a smart speaker would only listen after a physical input, or most smart speakers also have a wake word to summon the device to interpret your speech and do something with it. This kit has an arcade button on top for physical input if that’s your game.
The do-it-yourself aspect is mostly fun, you assemble the included bare speaker, wires, cardboard, arcade button, and a Raspberry Pi Zero WH with Google’s Voice Bonnet add-on board to make the smart speaker. It’s not very difficult to put this kit together, the instructions are clear, but it is missing two things you’ll need, and one critical component of the setup requires other tools or devices.
You’ll need a very small flathead screwdriver to connect the speaker cables to the terminals. I happen to have the right screwdriver, but these terminal screws are incredibly tiny. Your regular household tools aren’t going to work with them.
It only takes about an hour before you’re putting the included Micro SD card in and powering the speaker up, or you would be. If there were a power supply included. You get a USB cable in the box, but no power connection.
Why not include the power supply and the screwdriver in the box? The screwdriver is almost understandable, because you could own one already if you’re into technology. The power supply is just necessary for the device to function, it makes no sense to me that it isn’t included in a general-purpose kit.
There’s one other small issue with the connections inside the kit. The wires to connect the arcade button are not friendly to the color blind. I am only mildly color blind, so I can’t differentiate between some colors with red and green in them. The arcade button wires are blue, green, grey, black, red, and orange. I had a hard time picking out the green from the grey and the red from the orange.
Okay you’ve got the kit assembled, and you’ve found a power supply to turn it on.
How do you connect to the box so that you can get it on your home WiFi?
The Rapsberry Pi Zero WH included with the kit has USB, it has HDMI, but they’re all mini connectors that need adapters and a hub to connect a keyboard and mouse. The other option, and this is what I chose, is to use an app that is only available for Android devices to get the diy smart speaker onto WiFi and find out the IP address so you can connect to it via SSH.
Once you get that IP address, and learn SSH and the Linux shell, you’re in business with a shell prompt at a Linux terminal running a variant of Raspian that Google’s engineers modified to support their Voice Bonnet.
Finally, you’ve got a smart speaker, right?
This is the real thing that kills this project, it doesn’t include any kind of hot-word, or wake-word, detection. Just like hotkeys, hotwords like “Hey, Siri,” and “Okay, Google” tell our phones and other smart speakers to start listening. Ideally the processing for these prompts happens on the device so they’re not just uploading everything you say to Apple’s, Google’s, or Amazon’s, servers.
This AIY smart speaker box promises, on the back, a “…smart device that understands and responds when you speak.” I don’t think that is truthful. It is not at all a smart speaker that listens when you speak, you have to press the arcade button before the included Python code will fetch Google’s assistant to start listening and interpreting your words into a reply. It’s an infuriating experience to have to press that button, especially whenever Google’s assistant demands interaction.
Google’s assistant can play a MadLibs game with you. Just like the real game, you supply the nouns, verbs, and adjectives and the assistant fills in a virtual MadLibs sheet to make a silly story. Unlike the real game, you have to press the stupid button each time the assistant needs the next word.
The times when I’d press the button there was no guarantee the assistant would listen. Many times it would just ignore me and I’d have to press the button again. I ended up pressing the button about 25 times to get 18 words into the MadLibs game. I don’t think I will ever do that again.
This built-in python-based assistant code was just slow to react and frustrating to interact with.
It was also incredibly limited compared to other assistants and even the iOS version of Google’s assistant is easier to use. This smart speaker version of Google’s assistant can’t even access your calendar or other information tied to your Google account.
Some of the replies from Google engineers on these forums indicate that more functionality could come to the device soon, but I don’t think they have any plans to add hot-word detection.
The most surprising thing I’ve found on that forum is that there was an older version of this project that included hot-word detection. This was possible when version 1 was based on the more capable Raspberry Pi 3 single-board computer. Apparently this is version 2 of their voice kit.
I don’t understand a lot of the choices Google made here, but the most important question is: Why did they drop the hot-word detection? Why don’t they mention anywhere on the box that you need an Android device or a bunch of adapters so that you can get this device on the network?
Maybe parents buying this kit for teenagers (the box lists it as appropriate for ages 14 and up) were concerned about it listening to them all the time. That’s the only reason I can think of as to why Google decided to drop the smartest feature of a smart speaker, otherwise it’d just be down to cost. The Raspberry Pi Zero WH is about $10, the Raspberry Pi 3 is about $35.
When I first saw this project in the store I knew there had to be some limitations to hit that $50 price point, and it went lower than even my wildly low expectations. I don’t think most people would be happy with the device as a “smart speaker.” Years ago, when you assembled a transistor radio kit, you ended up with a radio. What you end up with here is a very versatile Linux computer kit with microphones and a speaker that could be incredibly useful in the right hands. I turned it into an AirPlay speaker without having to write any code at all, and I haven’t even remarked about the quality of the sound yet — it’s fine in general, but turn it up loud and you’re gonna get distortion — but without hot-word detection this kit is just too dumb to be called smart.
Many people realize that smartphones track their locations. But what if you actively turn off location services, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even inserted a carrier SIM card?
Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet, a Quartz investigation has revealed.
Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.
Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice.
Google claimed they weren’t doing anything with the data received from Android devices, and says they’ll stop doing it (at the end of the month) now that they’ve been caught by Quartz.
I’m not sure why anyone should trust Google’s word about what they were doing with this information when they explicitly use location information to target ads and were pulling this shit with no way for a user to disable it.
You can bet that companies like Google (photos), Facebook and their subsidiaries such as Instagram, and Twitter, also scrape location information whenever you upload photos to their services by reading the EXIF data attached to every photo. You can download apps like Metapho on iOS to remove the EXIF information from your photos before you share them.
Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the US Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women.
Google officials testified in federal court on Friday that it would have to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators’ ongoing demands for wage data that the DoL believes will help explain why the technology corporation appears to be systematically discriminating against women.
Noting Google’s nearly $28bn annual income as one of the most profitable companies in the US, DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph scoffed at the company’s defense, saying, “Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water.”
In your latest sign that VR software development is totally unsustainable as a standalone business, Owlchemy Labs has been bought by Google:
Today, we’re thrilled to welcome Owlchemy Labs to Google. They’ve created award-winning games like Job Simulator and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality which have really thoughtful interactive experiences that are responsive, intuitive, and feel natural. They’ve helped set a high bar for what engagement can be like in virtual worlds, and do it all with a great sense of humor!
This doesn’t bode well for Owlchemy’s future output. I look forward to their shares vesting and the developer’s inevitable exit back to independent companies who actually make games again.
With a celebrity like Kjellberg, it also invokes the idea that, if being a “fan” is part of your identity, any questioning of him is an indictment of you on at least two levels: both as a heroic independent thinker, and as a man with refined enough tastes to like the thing that you like. An exploration of your culture, whether that’s video games or YouTubers or white supremacy, is absolutely an attack on you, from an angle you’re no more likely to see than you are the back of your own head.
The title of the article was “PewDiePie Isn’t a Monster, He’s Someone You Know” before it was edited to “The Downfall Of YouTube’s Biggest Star Is A Symptom Of A Bigger Illness.” I suffer from the same syndrome of changing headlines, but I believe the first title was more appropriate.
There’s a combination of a 27-year-old with money and fame, and a regular theme from gaming culture online that it is standard and expected to say bad things and prove how little you care, that created this. It’s the smug attitude you might expect if you picture a late-90s hacker, or all of the communities on reddit, 4chan, IRC networks, and elsewhere that celebrate hate as a matter of course.
They will be up-in-arms at every attack on PewDiePie and their right to be assholes. I left one of my favorite gaming communities on IRC when it turned into a place where anti-semetic, racist, and homophobic views couldn’t be questioned. My hope came from the others that left first when we met up again in another online place.
Are they monsters? No. But you use the “monsters” to keep yourself from recognizing this about them, to avoid talking to them about it, to keep from opening the can and seeing what’s inside. You’d prefer to wait, and hope that the endpoint of the story in his case is something different. Violence, hatred, and organized activity are for the ones other people associate with, not the ones you know and love.
PewDiePie’s response, besides deleting the videos with anti-semetic messages, is that the reporters are to blame. He spends the first few minutes of the video explaining that because he’s rich, and he pushes back on “the media,” that’s why, he says, they highlighted his anti-semetic videos.
During the video Kjellberg says he’s sorry that although some people thought what he did was funny, others didn’t think like his jokes. His joke was hiring people to hold up a sign that says “Death to all jews.” It’s the kind of apology that a teacher would describe as “Not good enough.”
Kjellberg also complains in the response video that it’s a generational gap that makes people not understand his not-at-all-funny anti-semetic jokes.
Finally, Kjellberg ends the video by thanking the people that support him and flipping off the camera with a sarcastic “Thanks, Wall Street Journal.”
Kjellberg is not a monster, he’s not sorry, and he will continue to receive advertising dollars from every video he puts up. Google’s YouTube business will still get paid, as well, they only removed ads from some of his videos before but declined to remove them from YouTube. If he had actually made a sincere apology, I wouldn’t have a problem with him continuing, but without that he has emboldened his fans to make their own anti-semetic jokes and nothing has changed.
To that end, today we’re launching a portal for podcasters to start uploading their shows to Google Play Music before we open up the service to listeners.
Translated from Google-speak: The Google Play Music app for Android (and iOS) is going to download podcasts to Google servers and rehost them on their own servers. Podcast publishers will only have access to listener metrics for Google Play Music listeners through Google’s interface. Google will also insert extra ads around the podcasts that aren’t from, and won’t benefit, the podcast publisher:
Google reserves the right to show display (image) ads alongside podcast content. Google will not insert any pre-roll ads before podcast content starts or mid-roll ads during a given podcast episode. Google reserves the right to serve post-roll video or audio ads after podcast content. Google Play Music does not provide direct payment or revenue share for podcast content.
Today, podcast publishers put up an RSS feed that anyone can use. It’s an open standard that any client can download one of these RSS feeds, get a list of episodes, and download them. Publishers interpret the one metric that matters, downloads, and use that in addition to occasional surveys of their listening audience to sell ads to advertisers if they choose to run advertising. If Google Play Music becomes the way that most people listen to podcasts it will destroy the open standard and increase the number of advertisements that people are forced to listen to. This is not good.
Attack code that allows hackers to take control of vulnerable Android phones finally went public on Wednesday, as developers at Google, carriers, and handset manufacturers still scrambled to distribute patches to hundreds of millions of end users.
The critical flaws, which reside in an Android media library known as libstagefright, give attackers a variety of ways to surreptitiously execute malicious code on unsuspecting owners’ devices. The vulnerabilities were privately reported in April and May and were publicly disclosed only in late July. Google has spent the past four months preparing fixes and distributing them to partners, but those efforts have faced a series of setbacks and limitations.
Can Apple ship that switching app for Android before stagefright gets patched in the majority of devices?
Will anybody even be able to find it in the Google play store among the scam apps that claim to support iMessage and make your Android device have an iOS-style (but terribly implemented) home screen?
The way you experience YouTube may be dramatically different before the end of the year. According to multiple sources, the world’s largest video-sharing site is preparing to launch its two separate subscription services before the end of 2015 – Music Key, which has been in beta since last November, and another unnamed service targeting YouTube’s premium content creators, which will come with a paywall. Taken together, YouTube will be a mix of free, ad-supported content and premium videos that sit behind a paywall.
How much do I have to pay YouTube to prevent copyright trollbots from destroying the service?
YouTube’sTwitch-competitor, YouTube Gaming, launched yesterday as an app on mobile devices and as a website. There are three major improvements that the announcement touts:
YouTube Gaming is your go-to destination for anything and everything gaming because it automatically pulls in all gaming-related videos and live streams from YouTube.
Viewers get personalized gaming recommendations based on the games and channels they collect. With over 25,000 game pages and even more gaming channels, it’s never been easier to connect with your gaming community.
We’ve also made it easier to create a live stream – check out the beta version of our new way to go live at youtube.com/stream today.
Lets talk about them in reverse order, starting with the streaming improvements.
If you wanted to stream to YouTube before, you had to manually schedule a start time and end time as an upcoming event. Scheduling didn’t suit the unplanned streams that are typical of Twitch and other game streaming sites. There’s a new dashboard for streamers as well that is a definite improvement over the Twitch dashboard because it seems like someone at YouTube actually put some thought into the design and what information streamers want to see when they’re streaming. Large text lets you know the health of your stream’s quality, how many people are watching, and how long you’ve been streaming for.
When you’re finished streaming, the stream will be archived by YouTube and begin processing immediately. Twitch only saves your videos temporarily and waits a short time for you to create highlight reels from them with a YouTube export option. For people who don’t have storage space or the upload bandwidth and time to dedicate to editing and re-uploading a local copy of their recorded stream this could be a great improvement.
Of course there are the typical launch-day issues.
Yesterday, when I first attempted to stream Black Ops 3 to YouTube Gaming from Open Broadcaster Software, the new live video dashboard said that my stream was fine but all viewers saw was a blank “offline” message. Later in the day the issue cleared up and streaming worked.
Overall, the front-end for viewers on YouTube Gaming is redundant when all of the same content is available through YouTube proper. Scrolling through the homepage can best be described as an experience in wondering how a website from a major technology company in 2015 with so many resources can perform so poorly and slow your browser down so much if the new site loads at all. Today when I browse to gaming.youtube.com in Chrome I get a 404 page. Now we’re into launch week issues.
When it does load, YouTube Gaming’s front-end is fine and replaces the most common textual searching for live and archived game videos that users do with graphical box art of games to follow and click on to find what they’re looking for. The carousel of the most popular live video streams at the top of the page is a major improvement over the similar feature on Twitch’s front page. Twitch’s front-door carousel immediately starts loudly defiling your speakers or headphones even if you’re just momentarily browsing the front page while looking for something else or logging into the site. YouTube is nice enough to mute the audio.
The duplicated content just makes me think Google is getting ready for when, like other Google products have done after 6 months to a year, YouTube Gaming goes kaput and reintegrates with YouTube. This is a product that doesn’t need to exist. It is a sub-brand of a sub-brand of a product at a company that was fine without a gaming-specific site. At a time when the major improvement YouTube needs is a reduction in automated copyright notices that deny gaming video creators the ability to monetize their work on that platform YouTube is instead focused on recapturing a group of live streamers that long ago departed for the more live stream friendly waters at Twitch.
Competition for Twitch is good, but in order for a site to compete with Twitch effectively it needs to be useful from day one. YouTube Gaming is not quite there yet.