Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Official PlayStation Podcast Episode 394: Crash Landing

Email us at [email protected]! Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google or RSS, or download here Hey y’all! This week we sit down with composer Bobby Krlic, who shares the creative process behind crafting Returnal’s soundtrack. Stuff We Talked About Mass Effect Legendary EditionOddworld: SoulstormReturnal (interview begins at 21:20)Outer Wilds The WitnessDisco Elysium – The Final CutGames that made us see things differently in the real world The Cast Sid Shuman – Senior Director of Content Communications, SIE Tim Turi –  Senior Content Communications Specialist, SIE Thanks to Cory Schmitz for our beautiful logo and Dormilón for our rad theme song and show music. [Editor’s note: PSN game release dates are subject to change without notice. Game details are gathered from press releases from their individual publishers and/or ESRB rating descriptions.]
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    Apple rejected Parler's latest try to arrived at the App Store back

    It looks like Parler’s App Store exile will continue. Bloomberg reports that Apple recently rejected the app’s bid to get back onto iPhones, citing “highly objectionable content.” Apple had originally kicked Parler out of the App Store in January, shortly after the riots at the U.S Capitol. Apple said at the time that the app needed to improve its content moderation and make a bigger effort to keep dangerous and hateful content off its platform. The company said the suspension would be in place “until we receive an update that is compliant with the App Store Review Guidelines and you have demonstrated your ability to effectively moderate and filter the dangerous and harmful content on your service.” According to Bloomberg, Apple rejected Parler's latest bid to rejoin the App Store late last month. Apple reportedly told Parler that the latest iteration of its policies were not “sufficient to comply with App Store Review guidelines.” At issue is not just Parler’s policies, but the fact that the app is still filled with the kind of “highly objectionable content” Apple wanted it to address. ““n fact, simple searches reveal highly objectionable content, including easily identified offensive uses of derogatory terms regarding race, religion and sexual orientation, as well as Nazi symbols,” Apple told Parler. Parler didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but delivered a lengthy statement later, reiterating its mission "to provide a welcoming, nonpartisan social media platform which allows users to exercise their freedoms of speech, thought, and association, while also respecting their privacy."  According to Parler, "We have since engaged Apple to show them how we’ve incorporated a combination of algorithmic filters and human review to detect and remove content that threatens or incites violence. We’ve also explained our new feature which empowers individual users with the option to filter out personal attacks based on immutable and irrelevant characteristics such as race, sex, sexual orientation, or religion.... Parler expects and hopes to keep working with Apple to return to the App Store." The “free speech” app is still trying to find a path forward after being kicked out of Apple and Google’s app stores and being cut off from Amazon Web Services. Parler’s website is now back up and running, but its future remains uncertain. CEO John Matze was fired in February, and Bloomberg now reports seven other staffers, including all its iOS developers, were also let go. Update 3/11/21 8:45AM ET: Added Parler's response to Apple's decision.

    These Shortcuts will help you remove your iPad or iPhone

    “Spring cleaning” usually conjures up images of tedious housework, but it’s worth thinking about tidying up your smartphone and tablet, too — and I don’t mean physically, though that might also be a good idea. If you’re anything like us, your devices are full of old photos, files and apps taking up valuable storage space. Now is as good a time as any to start cleaning things out. And if you’re an iPhone or an iPad user, Apple’s Shortcuts feature just might be able to help. What are Shortcuts? In a nutshell, Shortcuts let you quickly perform a specific task, or a more complex sequence of tasks, with a single tap or voice command. This idea isn’t unique to Apple — if you’re a geek of a certain age, you probably know these as strings of actions better as “macros.” Building your first Shortcut can seem daunting at first, but relax: You don’t need to be a coder to create a truly useful setup. All it really takes is a little time to put all the pieces together. More than anything, I’ve come to think of these things as little logic puzzles. You know the result you’re looking for — it’s just a matter of thinking through the steps and finding the right sequence of actions to get you there. There are, of course, limits to what Apple will let you do. Let’s say you’re like me, and you’re just awful at remembering to clear out your notifications regularly. I would love to create a Shortcut that would automatically dismiss notifications generated more than a day or two ago, but Apple doesn’t make information about a notification’s age available to Shortcuts. Similarly, there doesn’t appear to be a way — for now, at least — to figure out the last time you used certain apps, so there’s no way to build a Shortcut that highlights apps you could delete without missing them. As you’ll see later, Apple also has a fairly limited set of tools for interacting with files stored directly on your iOS device. Granted, there are a handful of third-party apps, like Toolbox Pro, Data Jar and JellyCuts, that dramatically expand on the Shortcut tools that ship in iOS, but the thing to remember is that there are some tasks you can’t pull off with Shortcuts yet. Oh, and for the sake of your sanity, it’s best to start piecing together Shortcuts on as big a screen as possible. Since there’s no Shortcuts functionality available on Apple’s Macs — even the new ones running the iPhone-inspired M1 chipset — that means use an iPad if you have one. Don’t worry: As long as your iPad and iPhone are signed into the same Apple ID, any Shortcut you create on one will be visible in the other. How to create a Shortcut Piecing together complex actions to help clean out our devices involves a lot of trial and error at first, so let’s work through a basic example. Meet BackupNotes: It’s the first half-decent Shortcut I ever made, and as the name implies, it’s meant to help you quickly save your old notes in the cloud before you go through and start cleaning house. The logic here is pretty straightforward. First, we check today’s date and dial it back 30 days to make sure nothing relatively new and necessary gets caught in the net. And right off the bat, you have a few different ways to pull this off. At first, I actually created a separate shortcut called “MonthAgo” that takes the current date and subtracts 30 days from it. From there, I could add an instruction to the BackNotes workflow to run the MonthAgo shortcut first, then pass that adjusted date into the Find Notes action. Turns out, that whole rigmarole wasn’t actually necessary. After a little Googling, I could just define the date and adjust it directly inside this shortcut. This new approach is a whole lot cleaner, but I’m still grateful I took the long way around first since it opened my eyes to the possibility of linking multiple shortcuts together. It’s pretty much smooth sailing from there. Searching for actions related to the Notes app in the Shortcuts sidebar reveals a handful of options, including just the one we need to select notes older than the date we defined earlier. Then, just add an action for compressing those notes into a single ZIP file — you can’t see it in the image above, but there’s also a text field to give the new compressed file a name — and cap things off with a save action. I should note that while those last few steps sound like the easiest, they took a little more time to figure out than I care to admit. Originally, I had wanted my iOS devices to open the share sheet so you could more easily get that new ZIP file to contacts, or into the cloud storage app of your choice. You can do that, but there’s a caveat. If you use a Shortcut to give a file a name and try to send it via the share sheet, the name doesn’t actually stick; it winds up with whatever generic name Gmail or Telegram or Google Drive decides to give it. Naturally, the Shortcuts apps’ flexibility means there’s a fairly easy workaround, if you’re game. It just takes a couple extra steps right at the end. You could, for instance, close things out with an action to send that same file via the share sheet, plus one more to delete it after you’ve moved it where you want it. It’s functional when run, but it requires one final tap to confirm you want to delete the ZIP file, which feels a little inelegant. Thankfully, the solution I landed on does just fine for my purposes. By saving the notes backup through iCloud Drive, you can manually choose a third-party storage service (Google Drive, in my case) that you’ve already connected to the iOS Files app. Tweaking the formula Now that your notes are all safely stored elsewhere, you can now scrub through them all and delete as needed. But what could we do if we put a twist on that basic formula? Well, how about this: Let’s back up other files you’ve stored on your iOS device before you go on a cleaning spree. As you can see, the last two steps here are the same as in the previous example, but the lead-in is a little different. Because I want to be able to choose the backup’s file name rather than just tag it with the date as we did before, things start with an “Ask for text” action. The user then punches in whatever file name they want, which gets saved as a variable in the following step. (Pro tip: Once you find actions you suspect you’ll use frequently, you can save them as favorites for easy access.) With the beginning and the end sorted, it’s all a matter of getting to the files we need. That’s easier than it sounds. Rather than use the “Find Notes” action from last time, “Get File” is what we need to dig into your iOS device’s file structure. Once that action is in place, it’s important to make sure the options for showing the document picker and selecting multiple files are ticked. That way, once you actually run the Shortcut, you’ll be able to navigate through the folders on your device and pick the ones you’d like to package up and offload in the final two actions. Once again, you can store that new compressed file in almost any cloud storage service that’s connected to your Files app. (I say “almost” because Dropbox can be added to your Files app, but you can’t navigate to it when it’s time to save the file. If your life lives in Dropbox, you have to use a different, similarly straightforward action to store your backup in there.) As useful as this Shortcut can be, Apple’s limitations mean it’s not as automated as one might prefer. There’s no way that I know of to use the “Get File” action to collect all files in a specific folder, like the one all your Safari file downloads get saved to. Being able to automatically select those files, bundle them up and save them somewhere would be really helpful, but the app just doesn’t offer that kind of granularity. Adding more actions I don’t know about you, but the screenshots album on my phone is a disaster — it’s all fleetingly funny tweets, images of my homescreen I captured by accident and a screen grab of this beautiful nightmare. If your iOS device is starting to run low on storage, clearing up every little bit can help, so let’s take a stab at a Shortcut that automatically deletes some of those old images. Right off the bat, there are two new actions to dig into. The first does exactly what it says on the tin — feed it a snippet of text and the Shortcut will read it aloud. (This obviously isn’t necessary, but what’s life if you can’t goof around a little?) The second, meanwhile, is one you’ll probably find yourself returning to pretty frequently. It gives you the ability to define and display multiple options in a notification that slides down from the top of the screen. In this case, we want to be able to delete screenshots we consider old, or delete all screenshots in one fell swoop. It also introduces us to the idea of carrying out multiple tasks in a single Shortcut. This will definitely come in handy as you continue to build your own. Granted, these are pretty simple tasks — one of them does the now very familiar date adjustment trick, and uses the Find Photos action to select all of the screenshots created more than a month ago. (You can tweak this pretty easily if you’d rather, say, select screenshots that were last modified before a specific date.) Once that action applies those criteria to find the right images, it’s just a matter of adding a Delete Photos action to get rid of them. By default, you’re prompted to confirm you want to erase those files, so there’s always a chance to back out if you think better of it. As for the next task, deleting all screenshots instead of a selection of them? That's easy: Just recreate the previous task, but without specifying how old the screenshots should be. As with the other examples we’ve worked through, there’s plenty of room for experimentation and customization depending on exactly how you’d like things to work, but for now, we have a dead-simple tool for clearing out some of your old, unneeded files What next? So, we’ve created a few helpful Shortcuts — now what? Well, you should probably try them out. All the Shortcuts you make are accessible from inside the app, but there are situations where you might need quicker access to them. For those cases, you can put the appropriate Shortcuts right on your home screen, and as usual, there are a few ways to do this. The simplest way to go is by adding a Shortcut widget. On an iPhone, long-press an app icon and tap the plus sign that appears in the top-left corner. From there, you can pick out exactly the widget layout that feels right, and plop it in the middle of all your apps. If that looks a little too big for your liking, you can also create app icons on your home screen that directly execute your Shortcut of choice: Engadget Alternatively, you could always just use Siri — it can recognize all of your Shortcuts by name, and executes them (almost) the same way as if you had just poked at your screen. The only real difference is that if any of your Shortcuts require text input, like the file name prompts we built above, you’ll have to respond out loud rather than punch text in manually. This is just a crash course for Shortcut creation. If you’re interested in learning more about crafting these clever utilities, there’s no shortage of places to turn — I’ve mostly relied on the excellent r/Shortcuts subreddit and Chris Lawley’s YouTube channel to get a sense of what was and wasn’t possible early on. But, the best way to figure out how to make better Shortcuts is by pulling some apart. Pop into your iOS device’s settings and allow “untrusted” shortcuts. This allows you to install shortcuts created by other people, and looking at how their logic unfolds can be extremely informative. Just make sure you take a few moments to look at how those third-party shortcuts actually work before you run them!

    Apple releases 14 iOS.4.1 and 11 macOS.2.3 to handle a WebKit vulnerability

    Apple has released a set of updates it recommends all iPhone, iPad and Mac users download as soon as possible. No, iOS 14.5 and Big Sur 11.3 aren’t out yet. Instead, what we have are iOS 14.4.1 and macOS 11.2.3.  When you download them on your devices, all you’ll get is a terse explanation from Apple saying that they’re “important.” However, the support pages spotted by 9to5Mac provide more information. Both updates address a memory corruption issue within WebKit, the engine that powers Apple’s Safari browser. The vulnerability, which was discovered by security researchers from Google and Microsoft, may have allowed bad actors to execute code on your devices using “maliciously crafted” web content. On iOS, you can manually download an update to your iPhone or iPad by opening the Settings app, and then tapping “General” followed by “Software Update.” Meanwhile, on macOS, open the System Preferences menu and click on “Software Update.”

    iCloud locked out a user over her last name allegedly

    iCloud has had the occasional service issue, but its latest problem appears to be highly... specific. Actor and author Rachel True claims iCloud has effectively locked her out of her account due to the way her last name was written. Reportedly, her Mac thought lower-case "true" was a Boolean (true or false) flag, leading the iCloud software on the computer to seize up. The problem has persisted for over six months, she said. True said she'd spent hours talking to customer service, and that Apple hadn't stopped charging her for service. She could switch to the free tier, although she'd also lose most of her online storage if she did.  We've asked Apple for comment. This is a rare flaw if it works as described. Even if you share the last name True (or False, for that matter), you'd have to type it a specific way to reproduce the problem. Still, it raises the question of how MacOS could mistake a name for a software flag in the first place. At least it doesn't appear to respond to direct commands — though you might want to get a name change if your surname is "rm rf," just to be on the safe side. Can get your coders to free my last name from icloud jail?Been locked out for 6+ months because of an uncapitalized t in TRUE, my surname but also a computer command.Now that I a layman have explained problem to you a giant computer company, could u [email protected] @AppleSupport https://t.co/TSEjUU1nXF — Rachel True (@RachelTrue) March 6, 2021

    Apple shall stop selling the iMac Pro

    If you were hoping to buy an iMac Pro for some serious work, you'd better act quickly. 9to5Mac reports (and Apple has confirmed to Engadget) that Apple is winding down sales of its all-in-one workstation. You can still buy one, but it's limited to the base 10-core Xeon configuration and only available "while supplies last." You'll have to be patient, too, as orders are taking three to four weeks as we write this. Apple told Engadget that most pro customers would likely be satisfied by the high-end 2020 iMac, which made SSDs standard and includes more recent graphics, up to 128GB of RAM and the option of a glare-reducing nano texture display finish. Customers who need more can always buy a Mac Pro tower, the company added. It's not clear if or when there will be a replacement, but we wouldn't count on it. The iMac Pro was introduced in late 2017 as an effective stopgap system while high-end customers waited for a redesigned Mac Pro. While Apple did bump up the base spec from an eight-core CPU to 10, it never updated the hardware beyond that — however much Intel's sluggish Xeon update schedule played a role, it was also evident Apple threw most of its weight behind the Mac Pro. This iMac was mostly useful for pro users who needed a relatively easy-to-transport machine for tasks like on-set photo and video editing. As it stands, the iMac Pro faced an uncertain future. Apple's transition to in-house silicon was bound to prompt a rethink of the company's pro system strategy. Rumors have swirled of future iMacs with up to 16 high-speed cores, not to mention a mini Mac Pro desktop. If true, there wouldn't be much point to a new iMac Pro when other systems could do the job at least as well. Don't mourn the iMac Pro too much, then, as its successors may be more than capable of filling the gap.

    Huawei's smartphone struggles are hitting it hard in China

    US trade bans against Huawei are having a very tangible effect on the company's sales at home. Counterpoint Research now estimates that Huawei's China market share dropped to 16 percent in January 2021. For context, the tech giant had a 41 percent share in the first quarter of 2020. Even though the metrics aren't completely comparable (and Counterpoint is shy on numbers), there has clearly been a sharp drop. Huawei's decision to sell the Honor brand played a part, but Counterpoint pinned the decline largely on US restrictions. With components like processors and 5G modems in short supply, Huawei is focusing on premium, low-volume phones like the Mate 40 Pro to make the most of its limited stock. The fall from grace has already changed the dynamics of the Chinese market. Oppo became the country's top brand for the first time ever in January, claiming 21 percent share, while its sibling brand Vivo wasn't far behind with 20 percent. Huawei was tied for share with Apple and Xiaomi at 16 percent each. The future doesn't look bright for Huawei. Analysts expect it to continue its decline throughout 2021. The competition isn't standing still, either. Oppo is poised to launch its flagship Find X3 phones on March 11th, and has been scooping up sales of more affordable devices with the Reno 5 and A series. Xiaomi, meanwhile, recently launched the Mi 11. While Honor might carry on the spirit of Huawei's work, it's evident that Huawei itself faces bleak prospects in the months ahead.

    Apple reopens all 270 of its US stores, for the present time

    For the first time in nearly a year, all 270 Apple Stores in the US are open. When the pandemic first made its way stateside and Apple announced it was temporarily closing some of its retail locations, the company said the plan was to start reopening on March 27th, 2020. But as the pandemic progressed and the situation changed, Apple was forced to adapt. In May of last year, the company started to reopen the majority of its stores. However, following a recent set of closures in Texas, it wasn't possible to visit every store. That changed today when stores in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio reopened to the public. That said, as 9to5Mac notes, many locations are still operating with some form of restrictions in place. For example, your local Apple Store may only offer in-person shopping if you make an appointment. In yet other states and cities, they may only be open for express pickup and Genius appointments. It should go without saying, the situation could change at any moment as Apple responds to updated health guidelines.

    Google updates Gmail along with other iOS apps for the very first time in months

    Google has updated the Gmail iOS app for the first time in months, along with Meet, Sheets, Docs, Calendar and Tasks. Aside from Tasks now supporting widgets on iOS 14, these are minor updates centered around bug fixes and performance improvements. It's the first time Google has rolled out new versions of these apps since Apple started forcing third-party developers to submit privacy nutrition labels. It updated several YouTube apps in February. Some other major Google iOS apps are still on ice, however. The company hasn't made any changes to the Chrome app since November. Google rolled out the most recent version of the Drive iOS app on December 7th, the day before Apple made the privacy labels mandatory. The Drive App Store page now includes a privacy label, but Chrome's does not.

    Apple's next iPhone could include a smaller display notch and larger battery

    Apple may not announce the 2021 iPhone until the second half of the year, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill, with a new report this week coming out from reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note obtained by MacRumors, Kuo says Apple will release four different iPhone models in 2021 that will come in the same sizes as the 2020 lineup. That means the mini variant will stick around for at least another year. Corroborating a report last month from well-known leaker Max Weinbach and others, Kuo said the iPhone 13 Pro models will feature energy-efficient 120Hz LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide) displays. The Pro models will also include an updated ultra-wide camera that will feature a faster f/1.8 aperture lens that includes autofocus. The 2021 models won't feature a drastically different design than their 2020 counterparts. However, thanks to some small engineering breakthroughs, they'll reportedly include bigger batteries and smaller display cutouts. Kuo said the iPhone won't move to USB-C in 2021, but nor will Apple introduce a phone this year that doesn't include any ports at all. Internally, all four phones will feature Qualcomm's X60 5G modem. The 5nm radio is smaller and more power-efficient than the X55 modem found in the iPhone 12 lineup. Notably, the note doesn't make any mention of Apple adding an in-display fingerprint scanner to the 2021 models. According to a report Bloomberg's Mark Gurman published at the start of the year, that was one of the main upgrades Apple was considering for 2021. It also looks like Touch ID is off the table, with Kuo noting that the company doesn't plan to take a page from the iPad Air and integrate the technology into the 2021 model's power button. Kuo's note also includes some tidbits about Apple's 2022 and 2023 iPhone lineups. According to the analyst, at least some iPhone models next year will feature a Samsung-style punch-hole display cutout. Whether the entire lineup abandons Apple's divisive notch will depend on panel production yields. Kuo didn't say what the move will mean for Face ID. Apple is also reportedly preparing a new SE model with 5G connectivity and a faster processor the company could release in the first half of 2022.

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