Visualization Of The Most Watched Television Series From 1951 – 2019

This is an ever-changing bar graph visualization of the most watched television series from 1951 to 2019. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t depressing to watch, and not just because most of the modern shows suck, but because I knew I didn’t have anything better to do with my time than watch all twelve minutes. "It’s five o’clock somewhere." It’s eight o’clock somewhere too. "What do you mean?" I’m already drunk, let’s order pizza. Keep going for the video.

Thanks to Jeffrey S, who informed me he was just happy Alf briefly appeared in 1989.

via Geekologie – Gadgets, Gizmos, and Awesome

May 22, 2020 at 11:59AM

Yes, the Patriot Act amendment to track us online is real

Just being able to calmly purchase toilet paper feels like reason enough to celebrate these days. But one thing a lot of people won’t be cracking champagne over this month is the renewal of the Patriot Act/USA Freedom Act — and its terrible inclusion of a provision to allow government collection of Americans’ internet browsing and search histories without a warrant.

That is, if Congress gets its collective shit together and passes it to the Oval Office for a signature. Right now, the Act has crossed the Senate and is going back to the House, with a fight over amendments already boiling over.

Yet, it was the one amendment that didn’t pass which has privacy fans ready to break their champagne bottles on a rock and use them as shivs. That amendment, from Senator Ron Wyden, would have specifically excluded internet browsing and search history from what the government is allowed to collect.

Wyden’s amendment would have countered Senate GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s amendment, which “will expressly permit the FBI to warrantlessly collect records on Americans’ web browsing and search histories,” reported Daily Beast with the scoop. The outlet added, “In a different amendment, McConnell also proposes giving the attorney general visibility into the ‘accuracy and completeness’ of FBI surveillance submissions to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.”

To recap: McConnell added warrantless surveillance of Americans’ browsing and search, Wyden countered it with the Senate version of LOLNO, and then Wyden’s amendment failed by just one vote. Engadget senior editor Richard Lawler pointed out that “Washington senator Patty Murray would have voted yes, but was still flying back to D.C. when the votes were cast.”

“Under the McConnell amendment, Barr gets to look through the web browsing history of any American—including journalists, politicians, and political rivals—without a warrant, just by saying it is relevant to an investigation,” Wyden told Daily Beast.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters following a closed Senate Republican policy lunch meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss the response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2020. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Citing the Wyden-Daines amendment, Rep. Zoe Lofgren said that “it’s now the House’s responsibility to curb this violation of Americans’ rights,” Politico reported. “I know it’s still within our grasp as lawmakers to push for the significant privacy reforms we need.” 

Because we have enough past experience that this kind of surveillance will be abused, and accountability, like Elvis, has left the Capitol building, the pushback on 2020’s version of NSA-PRISM is big enough to almost allow us a decadent sliver of hope. Organizations from the ACLU and DuckDuckGo to HumanRightsWatch and the NAACP have asked lawmakers (including Speaker Pelosi) to urgently add Wyden’s changes.

All of this is why you probably saw a bunch of histrionic headlines fly by saying the US government was going to play collect-them-all with our searches for “how to get off this planet” and our visits to websites about how to become an expat and not catch COVID-19 in ten easy steps. They weren’t wrong. But there are some interesting things you should know about how this kind of collection will probably be done.

You’re not alone if you instantly envisioned a giant NSA/FBI data warehouse in the middle of some ominous Fallout desert scene, where all of the country’s (and probably the world’s) phone calls were being Hoovered up and stored. So much data that it’s searched by agents and AI, sadly dispelling everyone’s favorite, the personal FBI agent meme.

This is probably the same fantasy some of the internet data surveillance ghouls are salivating over right now — Facebook-level access to our internet lives (Facebook being just a different flavor of slobbering ghouls). But why do the (surveillance) work when others have done it for you? I’m sure McConnell and company are thinking of it like how they’ve seen humans on TV simply go to the store for whatever it is that humans eat and drink. In this case the stores would be Google, Apple, Microsoft, and everyone else who has authorities showing up with warrants for internet search and browsing data. Just go to Big Browser! They’ll have whatcha need.

Those channels are already there: they are among the same government spying and data surveillance/collection problems for consumers and at-risk groups that existed before. Right now, there’s a step that must be satisfied unless those authorities want to be turned away by the people at those companies whose jobs it is to look at a warrant and say “yes this warrant is acceptable” or “nice try pal, this is not what you say it is.” (All of which ends up essentially paraphrased in company transparency reports.)

As Patriot Act/USA Freedom stands now, this step would be removed.

Revolution or protests. Hands holding smartphones

Interestingly, one “Big Browser” company has a feature that’s a useful tool in this context. Like the way Apple can’t “read” your iPhone’s data (specifically, Apple can’t decrypt it), Google can only share what it can “read.” You can password protect your Chrome data by following the instructions here

Anyway, to validate the concerns a lot of you are having about your surveillance and privacy defenses, it’s important to know that the company running your browser goes on your Patriot Act 2020 “adversary” list. Even though, in this instance, companies like Apple and Google (etc.) are the ones having changes forced on them — putting them in a position that’s sure to destroy user trust at scale. Engadget reached out to Apple and Google for comment on this matter and did not receive a response by time of publication.

Now, I know some of you are reading and saying, that’s it, I’m just going to use DuckDuckGo from now on, I know for a fact they oppose this and they’ve got my back. DuckDuckGo, a VPN, and a full-body condom ought to do it. Except you’ll need a VPN that already doesn’t cooperate with FISA warrants. It’s possible. Interestingly, NordVPN’s Warrant Canary has strong language stating it has never handed over user data. But to order those body condoms, you still need internet access.

That’s why your internet service provider (ISP) should probably go higher on your Patriot Act 2020 “adversary” list than Big Browser. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation into AT&T, Comcast, Google Fiber, T-Mobile, and Verizon after “T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T were selling their mobile customers’ location information to third-party data brokers despite promising not to do so,” according to Ars Technica. And in case you didn’t know the background on it, the EFF proved in court that “Verizon Wireless, Sprint and AT&T [participated] in the NSA’s mass telephone records collection under the Patriot Act.”

(If you want to get into the details of ISPs, DNS, and protecting data in that context, check out what Mozilla is trying to do in The Facts: Mozilla’s DNS over HTTPs)

In infosec lingo, when it comes to Patriot Act 2020, your ISP is an attacker in a privileged position. And right now we depend on the internet for, well, almost our very lives. Lives which require privacy — a human right.

2020 is many things, and one of those things seems to be an agonizingly long version of the infamous “Leave Britney Alone” video, except it’s us, and we’re at the tear-streaked breaking point over our data privacy. Now that we’re essentially trapped online most of our waking hours, we feel more used, stressed, poked, prodded, extorted, angry, tricked, and helplessly subjected to violations about our data than ever. It’s exhausting at a time when everything seems exhausting.

For now, we can focus on how to control the things we can, like doing privacy self-checks or take inventory of app settings. We get to know tools like VPNs and start to use things that end-to-end encrypt our communications — we practice doing things that shore up our defenses a bit more than before. 

While we do that, we’ll have to flex one of the less popular survival skills — we wait. The ghastly changes to the Patriot Act, a thing that was already a shambling disaster of failed protections and rights violations, may still face a challenge or two before getting an Oval Office signature. Though even if McConnell’s amendment doesn’t squeak through this time, we now know that lawmakers at the top want an unprecedented, Facebook-level of spying and control over our online lives. 

We just thought that trajectory was the stuff of implausible video games and far-out films — which, turns out, are a lot less entertaining to live through.

via Engadget

May 22, 2020 at 12:42PM

Hacker Permanently Solves Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Drift With a Touchpad Upgrade

After shutting down its US-based repair centers over two months ago as a result of the pandemic, Nintendo is starting to reopen them again, which is good news for Switch owners still dealing with Joy-Con drift. Hacker Matteo Pisani came up with a different solution: a Switch without joysticks is a Switch that never experiences drift problems, so he upgraded his console with a touchpad instead.

It’s an idea that was not only inspired by an embarrassing hardware gaffe from a company otherwise known for quality consoles, but by the unorthodox approach to gamepads that Valve took with its now-deceased Steam Controller. In addition to a single joystick, the Steam Controller featured a pair of vibrating haptic touchpads that Valve promised provided as much precision as a mouse and keyboard. The Steam Controller didn’t take the gaming world by storm, but it did show that using a touch-sensitive control scheme for action games wasn’t a completely awful idea.

Pisani hadn’t actually experienced the Joy-Con drift problem with his Switch yet, but he figured this hack—which he’s exhaustively detailed in a Medium post—would ensure it was a problem he’d never encounter if he managed to pull it off. Starting with a transparent green Joy-Con housing (an unnecessary upgrade but one that certainly adds some retro charm for those who owned the lime green Donkey Kong 64-themed N64) he transplanted the guts of his Switch’s left Joy-Con while removing the joystick components in the process.

The electronics were upgraded with a digital potentiometer, a capacitive touchpad wrapped in a custom 3D-printed enclosure, and an Arduino Pro Mini (among other bits) which is used to translate the digital signals from the touchpad to analog joystick signals the Switch is expecting. The hacked Joy-Con isn’t as pretty as Nintendo’s original hardware, but Pisani plans to optimize and miniaturize the added electronics so that everything fits inside the Joy-Con enclosure, allowing it to be used either attached or detached.

Gamers used to the tactile experience of ramming a joystick in all directions will probably turn their nose up at this one, as will anyone who’s struggled to play an action game on a touchscreen device like a smartphone using virtual joysticks. The one advantage Pisani’s hack has is the touchpad’s circular design which provides tactile limits so you can feel when your finger has reached the edge, preventing it from accidentally moving out of range as often happens with virtual on-screen controls. It’s not perfect, but one thing’s for certain: it’s never going to experience annoying drift.

via Gizmodo

May 22, 2020 at 09:00AM

New Airbus Blended-Wing Airplane Concept Looks Very Similar to a 1940s Design for a Futuristic Flyer

Earlier this year, Airbus unveiled a sleek new concept aircraft with a blended wing that looked incredibly futuristic. And while it looks like it could have been ripped out of a sci-fi movie from the 2010s, the plane concept also has many elements of retro-futurism. Specifically, the plane looks similar to the proposed Northrop Flying Wing of the 1940s.

The new Airbus concept is called MAVERIC (Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls) and was unveiled back in February by the company’s designers in Singapore.

The company has built a scale model that’s about 6.5 feet long and 10.5 feet wide and Airbus even posted a concept video of the aircraft to YouTube.

The MAVERIC looks cool, but if the design looks familiar to you, there might be a good reason. After World War II, Jack Northrop, designed something called the Northrop Flying Wing which promised Americans a highly futuristic flying experience was right around the corner.

In the 1930s, flying was still very much seen as an exceptional and expensive endeavor, albeit one filled with plenty of luxury. Why fly and throw away all of that money when trains could get you there just as well?

Aircraft designers wanted to change all that and provide an incredible flying experience to all Americans, promising that wealth and prosperity was coming to everyone. Enter the Flying Wing, which could seat 80 passengers and could put all of those newly idled airplane factories from World War II into good use for commercial passenger flights.

Popular Science even released an informative short film in 1948 about the hypothetical aircraft, which you can see looks very similar to the new Airbus design.

via Gizmodo

May 22, 2020 at 08:30AM

BBC Together lets you watch shows with friends

We’ve been seeing more and more apps and technologies geared towards helping you stay social while in isolation. There’s a new Chrome extension called Netflix Party that allows friends to sync up a Netflix stream. Video-calling app Houseparty also launched a new player that gives people an easy way to co-watch with friends. Now, the BBC has started testing its own tool that lets you watch or listen to its shows with other people online, according to The Verge.

BBC Together works across the broadcaster’s services. It will allow you to stream on-demand video from BBC iPlayer, on-demand audio from BBC Sounds, shows from BBC News and BBC Sports, as well educational content from Bitesize over the internet with companions. The tool is now available through Taser, which serves as a home for the company’s experimental products. You only need to paste a link of the program you want to watch or listen to with other people, and it will generate a new link you can share with them.

via Engadget

May 19, 2020 at 01:00AM

‘Crucible’ proves that Amazon is finally serious about video games

Amazon does seemingly everything. The e-commerce giant has a foothold in audiobooks, fresh groceries, Netflix-style video streaming and oh-so-much-more. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the company wants to widen its influence in the video game industry. The Jeff Bezos empire already owns Twitch, the biggest game live-streaming service, and supports developers with its CryEngine-based Lumberyard platform and AWS server infrastructure. But it’s never been a heavyweight game publisher. Multiplayer brawler Breakaway was canceled and The Grand Tour Game was a forgettable TV show tie-in

A lot is riding on Crucible, then. The third-person online shooter is the first of two blockbuster titles scheduled to come out this year. (The other is New World, a subscription-free MMORPG set in a fantasy world called Aeternum.) Its goal couldn’t be tougher: to wrestle attention away from the countless free-to-play battle royale and MOBA titles that currently dominate Twitch’s homepage. Relentless Studios — a Seattle-based developer with former ArenaNet, EA and Microsoft talent — seems up for the challenge, though. And with a surprisingly solid gameplay foundation, Crucible has a decent shot of attracting the player base and viewership it needs.

So what is it? A mish-mash of video game genres, essentially. Relentless recommends that new players start with Harvester Command, an eight-versus-eight struggle over a resource called essence. Players accrue the shiny blue substance by capturing and activating harvesters strewn across the map. The score won’t change, though, unless you control more of these giant drills than the opposing team. There are five harvesters in total, so your team is always splitting up and trying to decide when to defend, attack and abandon different points on the map.

Relentless says this “arcade” mode is a good way to experiment with new characters and familiarize yourself with the controls. When you’re ready for a tougher challenge, there’s Heart of the Hives. The four-on-four mode asks players to defeat giant monsters that spawn periodically on the map. Once defeated, they will drop a heart that needs to be defended briefly to secure a point. Score three points before the opposition and you win the game.

Finally, there’s Alpha Hunters. The 16-player mode challenges two-person teams to drop into the map and outlast their opponents. The scale is dramatically smaller than Call of Duty: Warzone, which starts with 150 players. There’s a neat twist, though, that keeps Crucible’s version interesting: If your partner dies, you can form a temporary alliance with any other solo player you stumble across during the match. Reach the final three, though, and that bond will be immediately severed. Players will have a massive advantage, therefore, if they can reach this end-game showdown with their original partner.

The game’s obvious poster child is Bugg.

Crucible has 10 colorful characters similar to Overwatch and every other ‘hero shooter’ that’s been released in the last few years. They come from different planets and have distinctive personalities that are conveyed through some top-notch voice work. 

My favorite is Earl, a friendly trucker with a massive quad cannon that doubles as a rocket for quickly traversing the map and avoiding enemy projectiles. The game’s obvious poster child is Bugg, though. The yellow robot is adorably small and packed with weapons that reflect its terraforming roots. It can crop-dust enemies to slow them down, for instance, or plant special flowers that automatically attack nearby enemies.


Every character has a primary attack and four abilities tied to Q, E, left Shift and your mouse’s right-click button. (You can remap the control scheme in the game’s settings, though.) Where possible, Relentless has tied similar character abilities to the same button. Left shift, for instance, will trigger a sprint for Captain Mendoza, a short-range teleport for Tosca and a retractable grappling hook for Ajonah. Some characters have unique control schemes, though, that defy this shared logic entirely. With Shakirri, for instance, you can alternate between a pistol and sword by pressing left Shift. Doing so will change the character’s left- and right-click attacks, but not her Holo-Shield (E) or Force Dome (Q), which prevents enemies from leaving or entering.

Crucible characters have different skill ‘floors’ and ‘ceilings’ — how difficult they are to learn and the amount of hidden complexity — to accommodate casual and expert players alike. “That being said, generally speaking, we’ve put the ceilings as high as we possibly can,” Jon Peters, combat lead on Crucible, said. The true complexity lies in how the characters synergize with each other. Unlike Overwatch, there are no conventional roles. Characters have slightly different traits — the lumbering Earl can take more damage than the agile Tosca, for instance — but they can each play offensively and carry a team to victory.

Essence provides yet another wrinkle to Crucible’s strategy. Like a MOBA, characters can use the substance to level up and gain powerful upgrades throughout each match. In the pre-game lobby, you can review and tweak the bonuses that your character will receive at level one, three and five. Tosca, for example, can pick between an explosive teleport or an increased number of Electro-Cloud charges at level five.

That flexibility adds to the game’s strategy and potential team compositions. Drakahl is a melee-focused character, for instance, while Ajonah is a long-range sniper. At first, they might seem like a bad pairing. Drakahl has an optional “blood tracker” upgrade that means he can spot enemies that are taking sustained damage within 80 meters. Ajonah, meanwhile, has a squid mine that follows the target and explodes to slow them down. The pair can, therefore, be a surprisingly deadly tracker combo. “There’s a ton of extra depth because of these upgrades,” Peters explained.

Essence also changes how you play each of the game modes. Take Heart of the Hives: Should you battle for the first spawn point, or hang back and collect essence from some AI-controlled monsters first? Similarly, during an Alpha Hunters match, I found an essence dispenser that would help me quickly level up. Other teams were sniffing around, though, so I had to decide whether it was worth leaving the undergrowth and potentially drawing enemy fire.

Capturing a heart takes time.
Relentless Studios

I know what you’re thinking and, yes, the essence system was absolutely inspired by MOBAs. Relentless isn’t the first studio to come up with this genre-blending idea, either. Epic Games released Paragon, an action-heavy MOBA with a third-person perspective, in March 2016. The title didn’t take off, though, and Epic downsized the development team after the success of Fortnite’s battle royale mode. Paragon was eventually shut down in April 2018 and all of its assets were released for free through the Unreal Engine Marketplace. 

Battleborn shared a similar fate. The frenetic first-person shooter, released by Borderlands developer Gearbox Software in May 2016, used a mid-game levelling and skill tree system lifted from MOBAs. Despite some mildly positive reviews, the game was a commercial flop. (It probably didn’t help that the title was released in the same year as Overwatch.) Gearbox tried to save the shooter with a free-to-play pivot, but it wasn’t enough. In September 2017, the developer announced that the game’s Fall Update would be its last. Battleborn has since been removed from digital stores, and multiplayer servers are scheduled to shut down next January.

Relentless is all too aware of these failures. The company believes it’s taken a different approach that will fundamentally change how it’s played and perceived. Paragon matches, for instance, had a similar setup to popular MOBAs like DOTA and League of Legends: Two teams started on opposite sides of the map, then slowly pushed down “lanes” that lead to smaller towers and, finally, the enemy’s base. Destroy the core inside this stronghold and you won the game. Crucible’s game modes, meanwhile, are nothing like this. That’s because the team focused first on its core loop — level up, hunt and adapt — before considering which modes it could and should be applied to. “So I think [the game] grew a little bit more naturally,” said Eric Flannum, creative director on Crucible.

Relentless isn’t the first studio to come up with this genre-blending idea.

The team is also quick to highlight its community outreach. Relentless pulled in many different people — including professional gamers, variety streamers and cosplayers — to playtest the game and provide feedback early on. “We hope that’s allowed us to make a game that has an inherent appeal,” Flannum said. ”And the second thing is, we hope that will establish a rapport with our players so we can continue to serve them after the game has launched.”

Crucible’s success will likely depend on its ability to attract streamers. Any game with competitive aspirations needs to build an audience on Twitch and, to a lesser extent, smaller competitors including Mixer, Facebook Gaming and YouTube Gaming. That’s why Riot Games used Twitch to distribute Valorant closed beta keys. Unsurprisingly, players flocked to the streams that would make them eligible for the randomized key drops. The clever marketing strategy boosted the game’s audience and guaranteed its dominance both on Twitch’s homepage and general social media.


According to Relentless, it made many of its design decisions with Twitch in mind. Crucible characters shoot projectiles that are easy to identify and track, for instance. Conversely, there are no ‘hit scan’ weapons that reach opponents at the speed of light. “Every little decision, we always vetted against, is this the right decision for the game, is this the right decision to keep the game viewable,” Flannum explained. 

The designers examined the pacing and objectives in each mode through a similar lens. In Heart of the Hives, players can battle over the five essence-releasing harvesters at any time. The game-critical Hives and amplifiers spawn at different intervals, though. The gaps in-between offer some downtime for teams to recuperate, collect health-replenishing med packs and prepare a strategy for the next objective. “You’re not just constantly hunting each other,” Stephen Dewhurst, a senior designer on Crucible, said. 

Relentless also believes that eight pairs is the maximum a viewer can realistically remember and keep track of during an Alpha Hunters match. Once you’re familiar with the map, you’ll understand where players are heading and when they’re likely to encounter another pair. “If there’s 15 or 20 teams, it just becomes a mish-mash and it’s hard to follow exactly what’s happening and who’s ahead and who’s behind,” Dewhurst said.

None of this would matter if the game was plagued with ill-conceived microtransactions. Thankfully, Relentless is taking a cosmetics-only stance with its economy. The game will have a battle pass — just like Fortnite, Apex Legends and others — that slowly unlocks exclusive goodies. There will also be a store with a rotating lineup of character skins, emotes and other visual extras that players can buys with credits or real money. “You can earn credits simply by playing the game or you can spend money to purchase credits,” Flannum explained. “It’s your choice.”

Crucible shows promise. But its gameplay foundation might not be enough to survive in 2020. Countless developers have struggled to market their game and rise above the deluge of titles released on Steam and the Epic Games Store every day. Relentless has something on its side, however, that others don’t: Amazon.

All future characters, maps and modes will be free to unlock.
Relentless Studios

According to Fallum, the publisher’s contributions are mostly culture and mindset-based: “Amazon as a company has these core leadership principles that guide decisions across the company, and guide the company’s DNA,” he said. “And there’s one leadership principle that rules them all, which is customer obsession. That concept is basically, in the non-creepy way, obsess over your customers, and really focus on what’s best for them. And that has really manifested itself in the way that we work in the studio and as a team.”

Amazon has other strengths that could help Crucible succeed, too. For one, the company has enormous cash reserves. Enough that it could fund Crucible’s post-launch development for eternity. For another, Amazon controls Twitch and Prime Video, which both use pre-roll ads. The company could easily run Crucible teasers on every stream and VOD playback to ensure the game isn’t lost in the deluge of new releases.

Twitch has also experimented with truly interactive games where the audience is able to influence characters and other computer-controlled elements. While playing TinyBuild’s ClusterTruck, for instance, viewers can periodically vote on three modifiers that include earthquakes and low gravity. According to The New York Times, the company is working on a suite of new casual games that broadcasters “can play alongside viewers in real time.” Crucible’s team could feasibly gain priority access to similar social and interactive features on the platform, thereby making it more distinctive and interesting for people to watch.

Crucible is a risky, but confident play for the MOBA and battle royale crowd.

Finally, Amazon is rumored to be working on a Stadia-style streaming service. The Information, CNET and The New York Times have all reported that the company is developing a platform called Project Tempo that will compete with Google, NVIDIA’s GeForce Now and Microsoft’s Project xCloud service. Crucible will be distributed through Steam at launch, but it could also serve as a launch title and technical benchmark for Project Tempo in the future. That would increase its visibility and, if the service is available on non-PC hardware, the number of people who are able to play the game.

For now, these are theoretical. I can say with absolute certainty, though, that Amazon is now serious about making video games. Crucible is a risky but confident play for the MOBA and battle royale crowd. A brand-new IP with no established movie, TV show or comic book fanbase to lean on. Regardless of how it lands, the title will be a tipping point; the moment when yet another technology giant started competing for video game fans’ time and money.

via Engadget

May 19, 2020 at 08:06AM