Recent Articles By Andrew Orr [RSS]

The Sims FreePlay Adds AR Features to iOS

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The Sims FreePlay has an awesome update out today that adds AR features. It’s part of the Brilliant Backyards update, which includes seasonal content for decoration as well as a couple of live events.

  • Brilliant Backyards Live Event – Starting now through October 25, players can show off their green thumb and customize lush gardens with new plants, planter boxes, birdhouses, water features, and even unlock the ultimate prize – a Brilliant Backyard House.

  • Fashion Designer Stockings Hobby Event – From October 24 through November 3, players can step up their Sims’ style with a variety of colorful and patterned stocking styles.

  • Day Spa Live Event – From November 4 through November 18, Sims are treated to some R&R at the spa.

  • Halloween Ghost Flustered Seasonal Quest – From October 23 through October 31, fans can unlock quirky colored body paints and sleepwear, and enjoy spookier activities where Sims summon and scare away cheeky ghosts.

You can see the AR features shown off in the YouTube video down below.

 

How Do Companies Make Money off our Data?

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Big Data is a huge money making business, and a big example of this is AOL. No longer an ISP, AOL is now a data broker.

The collected data has value because of how it’s used in online advertising, specifically targeted advertising: when a company sends an ad your way based on information about you, such as your location, age, and race. Targeted ads, the thinking goes, are not only more likely to result in a sale (or at least a click), they’re also supposed to be more relevant to consumers.

While some people might want better ads that are more relevant to them, the article makes a good point: “I have targeted ads that are more attuned to my desires and my wants… But if you have someone who has an alcohol abuse problem getting a liquor store ad…” 

And I’m cynical enough to believe that the average advertiser wouldn’t care about that in the slightest.

Smart Speakers Take Advantage of Wikipedia

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Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo take advantage of Wikipedia, and Wikipedia deservers way more of our money.

But it’s not just the fact that this donation is, in the scheme of things, paltry. It’s that this “endowment” is dwarfed by what Amazon and its ilk get out of Wikipedia—figuratively and literally. Wikipedia provides the intelligence behind many of Alexa’s most useful skills, its answers to everything from “What is Wikipedia?” to “What is Slate?” (meta). Tech companies that profit from Wikipedia’s extensive database owe Wikimedia a much greater debt.

Amazon recently donated US$1 million to Wikimedia, but that’s a drop in the bucket when you think just how many people and services use Wikipedia. Especially since it’s a non-profit organization that gets most of its money through donations.

Privacy Search Engine DuckDuckGo Hits 30M Daily Searches

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Privacy search engine DuckDuckGo announced it has reached 30 million daily searches. This is good news, because unlike other search engines DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you.

We’ve been growing by approximately 50% a year pretty consistently so at a macro level it isn’t too surprising, just the numbers are getting bigger! That said it has been even increased on top of that this year, especially in the past two months.

I’ve been using DuckDuckGo exclusively for a couple years now, and its gotten much better in that time. I don’t miss Google at all.

Why Do Many Fantasy Books Feature Academia?

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Jason Kehe writes about an interesting trope in fantasy books: wizard schools. Specifically, orphans who go to wizard school, meet friends along the way, and finally defeat a villain.

Authors change; the story stays the same. In the darkness a child is born. The child suffers, but he has mysterious power. Posthaste, destiny leads the child to the same place it herds all the courageous orphan-protagonists of speculative fiction: a storied and exclusive institution of magical learning, where he unnerves the faculty, demonstrates arrogance, and forms lasting friendships on his way to vanquishing evil.

Ancestry Sites Can Potentially Expose Your Identity

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Researchers have determined that ancestry sites could potentially expose anyone’s identity.

Much like the Golden State investigators, the team found they could trace back someone’s identity in the database with relative ease by using these distant relatives and other demographic but not overly specific information, such as the target’s age or possible state residence.

Well isn’t that just a bucket of awesome.

Rare Bipartisan Push to Scrutinize Silicon Valley After Google+ Fiasco

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Google+ recently suffered an incident where a bug potentially exposed the data of thousands of users. Now we’re seeing a bipartisan push to reign in tech companies after a deluge of leaks.

At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R., S.D.) said it is increasingly clear from Google+ as well as Facebook Inc.’s earlier Cambridge Analytica scandal that industry self-regulation is no longer sufficient to protect users’ privacy.

We should never have trusted corporations to be able to self-regulate in the first place. That’s like telling a criminal to voluntarily turn themselves in.

The Internet of Things Will Bring a Creepy Future

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The Internet of Things will turn everything into a computer, and will also create a creepy future for us with less privacy than ever before.

Mr. Schneier argues that the economic and technical incentives of the internet-of-things industry do not align with security and privacy for society generally. Putting a computer in everything turns the whole world into a computer security threat — and the hacks and bugs uncovered in just the last few weeks at Facebook and Google illustrate how difficult digital security is even for the biggest tech companies. In a roboticized world, hacks would not just affect your data but could endanger your property, your life and even national security.

Stardew Valley Coming to iOS

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Popular game Stardew Valley is coming soon to iOS. It will arrive in the App Store on October 24. The app is being developed by London-based studio The Secret Police.

Chucklefish has been handling the business and marketing side of things. While the game will launch first on the iOS App Store, The Secret Police are currently working on finishing up the Android version, and I hope to give you more news about an exact launch date soon.

It will be available for US$7.99.