Sam: I was going to write about Android 11 this week, but Raj already has a story that proves (once again) that Android beats Apple. I guess I will save it for next week to spread out the gloating. While the president is considering pardoning someone, perhaps he will pardon Raj for bullying everyone in our friends’ group chat. Also, GO BLAZERS.
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Raj: I will never apologize to Sam for bullying him in the group chat. I haven’t kept up with Sam’s Blazers, as cricket has been the only quarantine sport palatable to me. A couple cricket legends retired last week, and you can see them in action here at the 2015 World Cup.
It’s been a busy time for the both of us, but we wanted to make sure to get this edition out today. As always, forward this email to your friends and let us know your feedback.
Raj: #FreeThis, #FreeThat. Now it’s #FreeFortnite as Epic Games takes on the App Store monopoly.
Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store as the Zoomers took yet another L (they can’t catch a break these days). Earlier, Epic Games had rolled out a new direct payment in Fortnite that allowed players to make in-game purchases without routing through Apple and Google payment methods and thus avoiding the store fees. But this new system was short-lived, and following Apple even Google piled on to remove Fortnite from the Google Play Store. But Epic Games seemed to have been ready for this ban as it immediately filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and released a brilliantly executed video parodying Apple’s iconic 1984 Super Bowl commercial with the hashtag #FreeFortnite.
It appears that the tables have been turned on Apple. In Monday Moves v1.8, we noted how the 30% App Store fee on purchases is akin to highway robbery. This is a huge fee for apps that might not be making a whole lot of money and might be struggling to pay their developers. Apple has become a competition-crushing monopoly, joining the ranks of those it promised to slay. While there’s no way to download Fortnite on iOS, Android users can still install it from the Epic Games website.
Still, I’m not entirely on team Fortnite here. Let’s not play any games: Epic Games is acting out like a petulant child (perhaps emulating its users). They clearly planned to provoke Apple and had the video ready beforehand, possibly going back on closed door agreements. The sheeple that Epic Games claims to be freeing in its video are presumably children, the demographic comprising the majority of Fortnite players. Neither Apple nor Fortnite should have control over children; that’s the job of parents! Epic Games is metaphorically weaponizing children in their fight against Apple. The video is also proof that Goerge Orwell’s 1984 is no longer a cultural benchmark. While Orwell’s arguments are abused and further adulterated everyday in silly political arguments, it’s particularly rich for a massive corporation to act like an iconoclast toppling down an oppressive regime. Developers are the ones being screwed over, not Epic Games!
Sam: The FBI tracked down the Twitter hackers.
One night after playing video games you fall asleep thinking about how you pulled off one of the most high profile social media hacks and made $170,000; the next morning you wake up to federal agents at your door. Life comes at you fast. This is the situation that a 17 year old Florida hacker is currently in after the FBI was able to trace the Twitter hack to him through Discord messages, Bitcoin payments, and IP addresses. After compromising Twitter’s internal tools, @Kirk#5270 sold various twitter handles to other hackers before launching his bitcoin scam. The FBI’s investigation heavily relied on a database from a hacking forum that was compromised by a “rival” hacking group. Wired has an in depth article outlining the series of events which helped the FBI connect the dots. It just goes to show that even a few trace connections between otherwise anonymous accounts can be just enough to follow.
Sam: Oh boy, someone used LEGO bricks to explain the importance of interface design and I am HOOKED.
Let me start by saying this is by far the most impressively nerdy thing I have read in weeks, which is saying a lot. George Cave, an “interaction technologist and design engineer” from Austria, took a deep dive into the small control panel bricks that LEGO has available in order to explain the basics of design, layout, and organization of interfaces. Amazing right? Cave uses the various panels to explain the two main problems/questions associated with a machine interface: how to differentiate the function of the inputs, and how to organize the inputs to understand their relationship to each other. The bricks serve as examples of layouts with better or worse differentiation and organization styles all while Cave explains the importance and meanings of each component to interface design. He provides modern examples and historical anecdotes of interface layout and even chooses his favorite bricks. This is a 10/10 article for someone who is looking for a fun way to learn about something they may never have thought about before.
Raj: Telegram, the communication app of choice for both me and Sam, has rolled out video functionality on its 7 year anniversary.
I’ve been using Telegram to message friends since 2015. I initially started using it to communicate with my politically dissident friends from high school and college. As I plugged myself into the cryptocurrency and startup worlds in San Francisco, I found myself communicating with even more interesting people. Why do I prefer Telegram over other messaging apps? First, its UI/UX blows away the competition. But the main reason is privacy. Pavel Durov, founder and CEO, published a takedown of competitor WhatsApp a year ago. Here are a few of the major takeaways on why WhatsApp is not secure:
WhatsApp is not open source, meaning researches can verify neither its security nor the presence of backdoors.
WhatsApp and Facebook are required to have backdoors to be used by government agencies. The FBI has asked Durov for a backdoor to Telegram, which he has always refused. Authoritarian governments such as Russia and Iran have banned Telegram but are happy to allow WhatsApp.
Despite their advertising campaign a few years ago, WhatsApp is NOT end-to-end encrypted! WhatsApp used to send messages in plaintext. Though encryption now exists, several governments possess the secret key to decrypt messages. Moreover, if messages are stored in the cloud, they are no longer under end-to-end encryption and are readily available to hackers.
Telegram recently celebrated its 7 year anniversary by rolling out video calls. I can now, in theory, do all my communications within the secure confines of Telegram. Sam and I tested out the feature this evening. Join us!
Who’s Making Moves?
↗ UP: Android 11 is here and it is fantastic. Here are some of the best features. We will be writing more about the update in next week’s edition!
↘ DOWN: Gogo is looking to sell its commercial in-flight internet business after COVID has decimated their revenue.
↘ DOWN: Xi Jinping’s smile has turned upside down. Trump’s recent executive orders have effectively banned American companies from doing business with TikTok and WeChat. Look for more updates in next week’s edition.
↘ DOWN: A cable broke and ripped a massive hole in one of the world’s largest radio telescopes. Sorry James Bond.
🦘 KANG: The President is considering a pardon for Edward Snowden, the infamous NSA whistleblower who is hiding in Russia. Of course, this is drawing a variety of opinions from various groups and lawmakers.
That’s all for this week. Keep on moving.
Title contenders for v2.4:
Epic Games goes to war, LEGO brick interface galore
Video encryption, LEGO interface description
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Until next Monday,
Raj & Sam