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Tech News

Coinbase users can convert crypto into gift cards

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Coinbase announced today that it has teamed up with WeGift and customers in Europe and Australia will now be able to convert their cryptocurrency into e-gift cards. Gift cards are available for companies like Nike, Uber, Google Play, Ticketmaster and Tesco and Coinbase won’t collect any withdrawal fees when users buy the gift cards with their cryptocurrency balances. Customers will also get bonus credit on some of their e-gift card purchases. Gift cards for Nike, Ticketmaster and Uber offer six percent, three percent and two percent bonuses, respectively, for example.

In 2015, Coinbase launched the Shift debit card, which allows US customers to spend their bitcoin in stores and online via a Visa-backed card.

The gift card service is currently available in the UK, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Australia. Coinbase says it’s working to expand the selection of retailers you can purchase gift cards from over the next three months. It plans to extend the availability to additional countries soon after.

Tech News

Mobile-gaming titans keep ripping off indies

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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The word “casual” has long been flung out as an insult on video-game forums and social media. It’s deployed to belittle the interests of people who enjoy more relaxing experiences than gritty shooters, strategy-rich online games or time-sucking RPGs. Unsurprisingly, it’s most often hurled at anyone who says they like mobile games.

For Voodoo, “casual” isn’t an insult. It’s a cash cow.

Voodoo is a French publishing company founded by Alexandre Yazdi and Laurent Ritter in 2013 with a focus on bringing iOS and Android titles to as many smartphones as possible. This was a time when the App Store was booming, and a few high-profile developers were raking in the dough. Ridiculous Fishing, Device 6, Year Walk, The Room Two, Impossible Road and Badland all came out in 2013, for starters, and Voodoo has been capitalizing on the energized mobile market since with its own titles, including Snake Vs Block, Paper.io, Flappy Dunk and Rolly Vortex.

Voodoo proudly describes itself as a company that “develops and publishes highly casual mobile games” — not just casual, but highly so. Today, Voodoo is a ubiquitous name in mobile gaming; it’s the No. 1 publisher on the App Store in terms of downloads with more than 150 million monthly active users. Voodoo games generated 300 million downloads in 2017, and that figure is on track to hit 1 billion this year. In May, Goldman Sachs invested $200 million in the publisher.

Financially, Voodoo is crushing it. But in the eyes of many independent developers and their fans, Voodoo is a shady beast constantly hunting for scraps of game ideas that it can quickly transform into profit.

Take one of Voodoo’s latest titles for example: Hole.io. Players control holes in the ground that grow bigger as they consume objects on a city street. It’s a simple, clever idea, but it didn’t come from Voodoo.

Ben Esposito is a Los Angeles game developer who’s made a name for himself working on indie hits The Unfinished Swan and What Remains of Edith Finch. His latest project is Donut County, a game in which players control a hole in the ground that grows bigger as it eats the surrounding environment.

Esposito had this “hole in the ground” idea and began working with the mechanic in 2012, and since then Donut County has evolved into a story-driven game celebrating the sights of Los Angeles in a clean, pastel-art style. After six years of development, Esposito has recently been ramping up his marketing efforts — Donut County is due to hit iOS, PC and Mac this year, and it’ll be a reasonably priced premium title, meaning it won’t be free-to-play.

Meanwhile, Hole.io is free, and it hit the App Store, Google Play and desktops in June. It’s the No. 1 game on the App Store in the Arcade category, and it’s been

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Google adds anti-tampering DRM to Android apps in the Play Store

June 24, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Google has made a small change to Play Store apps that could prove a significant help to the security of your Android phone. The company is now adding a “small amount” of security metadata to Android APKs to be sure that they were distributed through the Play Store or an approved channel. This will make it possible to verify an app even you’re offline, Google said, making it possible to officially add that title to your store library and receive updates through Goole’s portal. It’s digital rights management by another name, as Android Central observed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s reason to panic — it may ultimately be helpful, even if there are legitimate concerns.

This is primarily helpful in developing areas where people don’t always have reliable data, and may have to go through a peer-to-peer portal or another channel beyond Google’s own. The DRM addition should help them download apps with a reasonable assurance that they’re getting the real thing, not a surreptitiously modified rogue app that could compromise their handsets. It’s no secret that malware writers will sometimes bury malicious code in familiar-looking apps, and this might catch the trickery before it compromises a device.

Simultaneously… well, it’s DRM. As with media services, there’s the potential for companies to use DRM to determine how and when you use their apps. It might be difficult or impossible to tinker with an app (say, to remove ads) without stripping the DRM. There’s also the chance that a developer could force you to move to a newer version of an app by altering the metadata and preventing you from installing earlier versions that you might prefer. As good as this may be for mobile app security, it’s possible that developers will misuse this to exert more control over how you use their software.