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11 PC Games You Can Play Forever

April 17, 2022 No Comments

There’s always something new to play, but these are our favorites when you’re seeking something tried and true.
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Gambling on Basketball: Where & How to Play

December 22, 2021 No Comments

A comprehensive guide on how to gamble on basketball, including the best online sportsbooks in India and bonuses for new players.
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Malicious Google Play Apps Stole User Banking Info

December 1, 2021 No Comments

Using tricks to sidestep the app store’s restrictions, malware operators pillaged passwords, keystrokes, and other data.
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Google faces a major multi-state antitrust lawsuit over Google Play fees

July 8, 2021 No Comments

A group of 37 attorneys general filed a second major multi-state antitrust lawsuit against Google Wednesday, accusing the company of abusing its market power to stifle competitors and forcing consumers into in-app payments that grant the company a hefty cut.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is co-leading the suit alongside the Tennessee, North Carolina and Utah attorneys general. The bipartisan coalition represents 36 U.S. states, including California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Colorado and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

“Through its illegal conduct, the company has ensured that hundreds of millions of Android users turn to Google, and only Google, for the millions of applications they may choose to download to their phones and tablets,” James said in a press release. “Worse yet, Google is squeezing the lifeblood out of millions of small businesses that are only seeking to compete.”

In December, 35 states filed a separate antitrust suit against Google, alleging that the company engaged in illegal behavior to maintain a monopoly on the search business. The Justice Department filed its own antitrust case focused on search last October.

In the new lawsuit, embedded below, the bipartisan coalition of states allege that Google uses “misleading” security warnings to keep consumers and developers within its walled app garden, the Google Play store. But the fees that Google collects from Android app developers are likely the meat of the case.

“Not only has Google acted unlawfully to block potential rivals from competing with its Google Play Store, it has profited by improperly locking app developers and consumers into its own payment processing system and then charging high fees,” District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine said.

Like Apple, Google herds all app payment processing into its own service, Google Play Billing, and reaps the rewards: a 30 percent cut of all payments. Much of the criticism here is a case that could — and likely will — be made against Apple, which exerts even more control over its own app ecosystem. Google doesn’t have an iMessage equivalent exclusive app that keeps users locked in in quite the same way.

While the lawsuit discusses Google’s “monopoly power” in the app marketplace, the elephant in the room is Apple — Google’s thriving direct competitor in the mobile software space. The lawsuit argues that consumers face pressure to stay locked into the Android ecosystem, but on the Android side at least, much of that is ultimately familiarity and sunk costs. The argument on the Apple side of the equation here is likely much stronger.

The din over tech giants squeezing app developers with high mobile payment fees is just getting louder. The new multi-state lawsuit is the latest beat, but the topic has been white hot since Epic took Apple to court over its desire to bypass Apple’s fees by accepting mobile payments outside the App Store. When Epic set up a workaround, Apple kicked it out of the App Store and Epic Games v. Apple was born.

The Justice Department is reportedly already interested in Apple’s own app store practices, along with many state AGs who could launch a separate suit against the company at any time.


Social – TechCrunch


The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box makes any home theater a bit more theatrical

August 19, 2020 No Comments

Signify has steadily expanded its Hue line of smart lighting products to cover the entire home, inside and out. But while the ability to remotely control your lighting, including adjusting color, intensity and brightness is great, one of its more recent products focuses more on how to turn all those connected lights into a dynamic, at-home interactive entertainment experience. The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is a relatively simple device that sits between your video sources, including things like game consoles and the Apple TV, and your television, enabling synced light shows that can take advantage of a wide range of Hue products.

The basics

The Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is at its core an HDMI switcher, offering four HDMI inputs and a single HDMI output. Signals from your input devices (e.g., Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, PS4, etc.) go into the box and are passed through to the TV, with switching happening automatically depending on which device was most recently active (you can also change them manually with the app and with voice controls).

The Sync Box supports a range of modern quality standards for display and audio. It supports 4K 60Hz resolution, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision standards, as well as Dolby Atmos surround sound. It also supports HDMI 2.0b with HDCP 2.2 compliance for copyright protection.

You will need not only Hue colored lights, but also a Hue Bridge (the second-generation, rounded-square version) to ensure that the Hue Sync Box is more than just a particularly expensive HDMI hub, but it does that job very well, too. If you do have Hue products, like the Hue Play light bars that can easily mount on top of your TV stand or to the back of your TV itself, or the Hue Signe multicolored floor or table lamps, then you can use the Sync companion app to ensure your lights reflect what’s going on on screen — for any video that plays through the box from any source.

Image Credits: Philips

Design and performance

Why would you want this? Well, mostly because it looks really, really cool. Hue Sync has already been available as a software feature for you to use with video played back on Macs and PCs when used in combination with a monitoring tool. But that has a lot of limitations, including not being able to work with official Netflix apps and Netflix in the browser. The Sync Box eliminates any potential roadblocks and also means you can use regular streaming and gaming sources without having to run a media center PC.

The box itself is relatively large, but that seems like it’s mostly to accommodate the multiple HDMI ports. It’s very short, despite being about twice the surface area of an Apple TV, so it should be very easy to integrate into your existing home theatre setup, whatever that entails.

Setting up the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is very easy and requires only installing the app and pressing the sync button on your Hue Bridge when instructed to do so. As mentioned, you can plug in up to four sources and the box will switch between them automatically when you use an input device or you can also manually change the input (and rename them) using the app. The app also allows you to tweak the intensity, brightness and responsiveness of the light, making it more subtle or more extreme, depending on your preferences and your activity. A “Game” setting, for instance, sets it to maximum intensity and responsiveness for a more dynamic effect befitting fast-paced interactive content.

Image Credits: Philips Hue

I found that the lighting was extremely good at mimicking the colors and brightness of a scene, especially if you take the time to accurately set up the position of your Hue lights for a dedicated “entertainment area” in the official main Hue app. It’s an effect that, when used in its most subtle settings, can basically fade away but still provide genuine enhancement for the watching experience, making it feel more immersive. At its maxed out settings, it’s much more noticeable, but still something that basically fades away into the background over an extended period of use, in a good way.

Especially since the firmware update, the Hue Play Sync Box has proven a fantastic addition to my home theater setup, providing an extra bit of flair to every TV watching experience. It’s obviously more effective in dark rooms, but it really seems to especially complement high-quality OLED screens that produce vibrant colors and true, deep blacks.

Bottom line

The Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is a bit of an extravagance at $ 229.99, but it definitely adds to the overall home TV-watching experience, for movies, streaming and for gaming. The four HDMI inputs mean you can also use it to add more ports to your TV, if that’s something you need, and the recent updates mean you’re not going to sacrifice any video quality while doing so.

 

Gadgets – TechCrunch


Dell’s debt hangover from $67B EMC deal could put VMware stock in play

June 24, 2020 No Comments

When Dell bought EMC in 2016 for $ 67 billion it was one of the biggest acquisitions in tech history, and it brought with it a boatload of debt. Since then Dell has been working on ways to mitigate that debt by selling off various pieces of the corporate empire and going public again, but one of its most valuable assets remains VMware, a company that came over as part of the huge EMC deal.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Dell is considering selling part of its stake in VMware. The news sent the stock of both companies soaring.

It’s important to understand that even though VMware is part of the Dell family, it runs as a separate company, with its own stock and operations, just as it did when it was part of EMC. Still, Dell owns 81% of that stock, so it could sell a substantial stake and still own a majority the company, or it could sell it all, or incorporate into the Dell family, or of course it could do nothing at all.

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy thinks this might just be about floating a trial balloon. “Companies do things like this all the time to gauge value, together and apart, and my hunch is this is one of those pieces of research,” Moorhead told TechCrunch.

But as Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research, points out, it’s an idea that could make sense. “It’s plausible. VMware is more valuable than Dell, and their innovation track record is better than Dell’s over the last few years,” he said.

Mueller added that Dell has been juggling its debts since the EMC acquisition, and it will struggle to innovate its way out of that situation. What’s more, Dell has to wait on any decision until September 2021 when it can move some or all of VMware tax-free, five years after the EMC acquisition closed.

“While Dell can juggle finances, it cannot master innovation. The company’s cloud strategy is only working on a shrinking market and that ain’t easy to execute and grow on. So yeah, next year makes sense after the five year tax free thing kicks in,” he said.

In between the spreadsheets

VMware is worth $ 63.9 billion today, while Dell is valued at a far more modest $ 38.9 billion, according to Yahoo Finance data. But beyond the fact that the companies’ market caps differ, they are also quite different in terms of their ability to generate profit.

Looking at their most recent quarters each ending May 1, 2020, Dell turned $ 21.9 billion in revenue into just $ 143 million in net income after all expenses were counted. In contrast, VMware generated just $ 2.73 billion in revenue, but managed to turn that top line into $ 386 million worth of net income.

So, VMware is far more profitable than Dell from a far smaller revenue base. Even more, VMware grew more last year (from $ 2.45 billion to $ 2.73 billion in revenue in its most recent quarter) than Dell, which shrank from $ 21.91 billion in Q1 F2020 revenue to $ 21.90 billion in its own most recent three-month period.

VMware also has growing subscription software (SaaS) revenues. Investors love that top line varietal in 2020, having pushed the valuation of SaaS companies to new heights. VMware grew its SaaS revenues from $ 411 million in the year-ago period to $ 572 million in its most recent quarter. That’s not rocketship growth mind you, but the business category was VMware’s fastest growing segment in percentage and gross dollar terms.

So VMware is worth more than Dell, and there are some understandable reasons for the situation. Why wouldn’t Dell sell some VMware to lower its debts if the market is willing to price the virtualization company so strongly? Heck, with less debt perhaps Dell’s own market value would rise.

It’s all about that debt

Almost four years after the deal closed, Dell is still struggling to figure out how to handle all the debt, and in a weak economy, that’s an even bigger challenge now. At some point, it would make sense for Dell to cash in some of its valuable chips, and its most valuable one is clearly VMware.

Nothing is imminent because of the five year tax break business, but could something happen? September 2021 is a long time away, and a lot could change between now and then, but on its face, VMware offers a good avenue to erase a bunch of that outstanding debt very quickly and get Dell on much firmer financial ground. Time will tell if that’s what happens.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


New Google Play policies to cut down on ‘fleeceware,’ deepfakes, and unnecessary location tracking

April 16, 2020 No Comments

Google is today announcing a series of policy changes aimed at eliminating untrustworthy apps from its Android app marketplace, the Google Play store. The changes are meant to give users more control over how their data is used, tighten subscription policies, and help prevent deceptive apps and media — including those involving deepfakes — from becoming available on the Google Play Store.

Background Location

The first of these new policies is focused on the location tracking permissions requested by some apps.

Overuse of location tracking has been an area Google has struggled to rein in. In Android 10, users were able to restrict apps’ access to location while the app was in use, similar to what’s been available on iOS. With the debut of Android 11, Google decided to give users even more control with the new ability to grant a temporary “one-time” permission to sensitive data, like location.

In February, Google said it would also soon require developers to get user permission before accessing background location data, after noting that many apps were asking for unnecessary user data. The company found that a number of these apps would have been able to provide the same experience to users if they only accessed location while the app was in use — there was no advantage to running the app run in the background.

Of course, there’s an advantage for developers who are collecting location data. This sort of data can be sold to third-party through trackers that supply advertisers with detailed information about the app’s users, earning the developer additional income.

The new change to Google Play policies now requires that developers get approval to access background location in their app.

But Google is giving developers time to comply. It says no action will be taken for new apps until August 2020 or on existing apps until November 2020.

“Fleeceware”

A second policy is focused on subscription-based apps. Subscriptions have become a booming business industry-wide. They’re often a better way for apps to generate revenue as opposed to other monetization methods — like paid downloads, ads, or in-app purchases.

However, many subscription apps are duping users into paying by not making it easy or obvious how to dismiss a subscription offer in order to use the free parts of an app, or not being clear about subscription terms or the length of free trials, among other things.

The new Google Play policy says developers will need to be explicit about their subscription terms, trials and offers, by telling users the following:

  • Whether a subscription is required to use all or parts of the app. (And if not required, allow users to dismiss the offer easily.)
  • The cost of the subscription
  • The frequency of the billing cycle
  • Duration of free trials and offers
  • The pricing of introductory offers
  • What is included with a free trial or introductory offer
  • When a free trial converts to a paid subscription
  • How users can cancel if they do not want to convert to a paid subscription

That means the “fine print” has to be included on the offer’s page, and developers shouldn’t use sneaky tricks like lighter font to hide the important bits, either.

For example:

This change aim to address the rampant problem with “fleeceware” across the Google Play store. Multiple studies have shown subscription apps have gotten out of control. In fact, one study from January stated that over 600 million Android users had installed “fleeceware” apps from the Play Store. To be fair, the problem is not limited to Android. The iOS App Store was recently found to have an issue, too, with more than 3.5 million users having installed “fleeceware.” 

Developers have until June 16, 2020 to come into compliance with this policy, Google says.

Deepfakes

The final update has to do with the Play Store’s “Deceptive Behavior” policy.

This wasn’t detailed in Google’s official announcements about the new policies, but Google tells us it’s also rolling out updated rules around deceptive content and apps.

Before, Google’s policy was used to restrict apps that tried to deceive users — like apps claiming a functionally impossible task, those that lied in their listing about their content or features, or those that mimicked the Android OS, among others.

The updated policy is meant to better ensure all apps are clear about their behavior once their downloaded. In particular, it’s meant to prevent any manipulated content (aka “deepfakes”) from being available on the Play Store.

Google tells us this policy change won’t impact apps that allow users to make deepfakes that are “for fun” — like those that allow users to swap their face onto GIFs, for example. These will fall under an exception to the rule, which allows deepfakes which are “obvious satire or parody.”

However, it will take aim at apps that manipulate and alter media in a way that isn’t conventionally obvious or acceptable.

For example:

  • Apps adding a public figure to a demonstration during a politically sensitive event.
  • Apps using public figures or media from a sensitive event to advertise media altering capability within an app’s store listing.
  • Apps that alter media clips to mimic a news broadcast.

In particular, the policy will focus on apps that promote misleading imagery that could cause harm related to politics, social issues, or sensitive events. The apps must also disclose or watermark the altered media, too, if it isn’t clear the media has been altered.

Similar bans on manipulated media have been enacted across social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and WeChat. Apple’s App Store Developer Guidelines don’t specifically reference “deepfakes” by name, however, though it bans apps with false or defamatory information, outside of satire and humor.

Google says the apps currently available on Google Play have 30 days to comply with this change.

In Google’s announcement, the company said it understood these were difficult times for people, which is why it’s taken steps to minimize the short-term impact of these changes. In other words, it doesn’t sound like the policy changes will soon result in any mass banning or big Play Store clean-out — rather, they’re meant to set the stage for better policing of the store in the future.

 

Mobile – TechCrunch


Why Dogs Now Play a Big Role in Human Cancer Research

July 12, 2019 No Comments

There’s a strong chance your aging dog will get cancer—but your pupper could also help humans survive it.
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Why Dogs Now Play a Big Role in Human Cancer Research

July 12, 2019 No Comments

There’s a strong chance your aging dog will get cancer—but your pupper could also help humans survive it.
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