Netflix’s Interactive Shows Let You Drive the Plot

Netflix’s first attempt at interactive storytelling hit the service on Tuesday, starting with a new standalone animated episode called Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale. During the episode, viewers – kids, predictably – will be asked to make a decision about a dozen times, which will affect the story and length of the show.

For example, viewers will have the option to choose whether the bears faced by Puss in Boots will be friends or foes, and whether it should kiss a queen or just go for a simple handshake. Depending on the choices made, the new episode – Puss in Book – will last anywhere between 18 to 39 minutes, with prompts coming in every two to four minutes.

The new experiment, as Netflix is calling it, is only available on modern smart TVs, streaming media players, game consoles, and iOS devices for now. With a TV, you’ll need a remote control, while a finger tap is enough on a phone. It won’t work on the Netflix website, Android, Chromecast, and Apple TV, where the episode will play as a linear 23-minute version.

“The children’s programming space was a natural place for us to start since kids are eager to ‘play’ with their favourite characters and already inclined to tap, touch and swipe at screens,” Netflix’s director of product innovation, Carla Engelbrecht Fisher, said in a blog. “They also talk to their screens, as though the characters can hear them. Now, that conversation can be two-way.”

Netflix's Interactive Shows Let You Drive the PlotNot only does it put viewers in control of the experience, it also gives kids a reason to rewatch the same episode to find out the different storylines if they so desire. For Netflix, as always, the data will be illuminating and all-important, as to what choices surface to the top, and how popular the format is with its over 100 million members.

Of course, creating interactive storytelling is much more cumbersome and expensive on a live-action original, though Netflix hasn’t ruled it out yet. Meanwhile, the experiment will be rolled out for two more animated kids shows: Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile on July 14, and Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout next year.

Google Play Hit by More Ztorg-Based Android Malware, Says Kaspersky Labs

In a bid to increase security on its Android platform, Google has reportedly removed more Android apps from its Google Play store for the second time this month. Google has taken strict action against two malicious apps – Magic Browser and Noise Detector – acting as conduits for attackers to remotely ‘root’ control the infected devices after a researcher from Kaspersky Lab pointed out the threat in his report. The Android malware carried by these apps belongs to the Ztorg Trojan family, which is notoriously known for bypassing Google’s safety controls to root infected Android devices.

In a report published on Kaspersky Lab’s Securelist website, senior researcher Roman Unuchek presents extensive analysis on the new Ztorg-based malware. Kaspersky Lab says Ztorg malware bypassed Google’s malware checks almost 100 times since September last year, and the malware family is best known for gaining ‘root’ privileges of infected devices to completely control them. Ztorg apps like Privacy Lock and a false Pokemon Go guide raked in huge download numbers before they were recognised as malicious and deleted from Google Play.

Google Play Hit by More Ztorg-Based Android Malware, Says Kaspersky LabsComing to the current batch of apps, the first one is Magic Browser that pretended to be a Chrome browser alternative in Google Play. It was published on May 15 and had been downloaded over 50,000 times before it was finally removed. The other app is Noise Detector that was meant to allow users to measure the decibel level of sounds and had more than 10,000 downloads before its removal.

Both the apps, as we mentioned, belonged to the Ztorg Trojan family, but didn’t root affected devices before their removal. Unuchek says the app had the Ztorg digital fingerprint, and speculates that the developers may soon have added the root ability if the apps hadn’t been removed.

Unuchek says the Magic Browser app was being used by developers to either test or use malicious text messaging functions. The Magic Browser could send premium text messages to infected phone numbers and leave no traces behind by even deleting the incoming messages and muting the notification sound. “In total, the Magic browser app tries to send SMS from 11 different places in its code. Cybercriminals are doing this in order to be able to send SMS from different Android versions and devices. Furthermore, I was able to find another modification of the Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Ztorg that is trying to send an SMS via the “am” command, although this approach should not work,” reads Unuchek’s report.

Google Allo Can Now Make Duo Calls Within a Chat

Google this week rolled out an update to its messaging app Allo that enables users make a Duo video call directly within the chat window.

To be able to use the feature, both Allo and Google’s video calling app Duo need to be installed on both ends, the company said in a statement.

“So when you’re at the mall and are finding it difficult to pick the perfect pair of shoes, quickly starting a Duo video call with your friend makes it so much easier than typing a description of those great-looking runners,” the statement added.

A Duo icon in the upper-right corner of the chat screen immediately launches a Duo call by tapping it.

With the Allo update, users can also add stickers to their photos before sending them in a chat. The latest Allo update is available for both Android and iOS platforms.

Earlier this month, Google rolled out the v12 update of Allo, bringing the big Selfie Clips feature, along with other changes like a redesigned compose bar.

Google Allo Can Now Make Duo Calls Within a ChatSelfie Clips essentially lets you use the front camera to make GIF loops of yourself or anything in the front camera view, and send them in chat conversations. Earlier, to send GIFs, you’d have to use third-party material, and a tool to create one was not available in-app. With this update, Allo adds the ability for iPhone and Android users in-app. This feature was announced by Allo team head Amit Fulay. Furthermore, the selfie sticker feature that was only launched for Android first, has now been made available to iPhone users as well.

The new compose bar was also mentioned by Fulay and it basically gets rid of the ‘+’ icon that hid all the compose buttons, and shows them all above the message bar itself. This makes them more accessible than before, as earlier they were hidden behind the ‘+’ button, and could only be seen when the button was pressed.

Windows 10 Timeline Will Let You Easily Revisit Recent Activity

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will bring a new Timeline feature that will offer a historical view of everything that you do on your devices.

Microsoft says “Timeline allows users to jump back in time with a visual timeline that displays what a user was doing previously and easily hop back into files, apps, and websites as if it was real time.”

Built-in Windows 10 apps will leverage the Microsoft Graph to automatically log your activities, and third-party developers will also be able to use the Activity APIs to create engagement records as users interact with their applications. Developers will be able to customise how these activities are visualised Windows 10 Timeline Will Let You Easily Revisit Recent Activityin the Timeline by attaching an adaptive card to the activity. Android and iOS developers will be able to use the Project Rome SDK to achieve the same effect with their apps, which means your Timeline will also include activities you do on mobile devices.

If you are working on your smartphone on a document that’s stored on your OneDrive – which is getting some new capabilities as well – this activity will show up on your Timeline as well.

The Timeline view will also be available on Android and iOS devices via the Cortana app, which now also offers the ability to pick up where you left off on other devices. Microsoft is also making it easy to copy text on one device and pasting on another.

Apple Music Now Has a Rs. 1,200 Annual Subscription; Android App Updated

Apple Music now has an annual subscription option at Rs. 1,200 in India, and $99 in the US. You’ll have to work a bit to get it, though. It seems Apple doesn’t want everyone to know about it, given the lack of an announcement despite it being available since a few months. Separately, the Android app has also been updated with performance improvements.

It’ll help you save Rs. 240/ $20 per year on the monthly individual subscription, so it’s worth the hassle if you’re committed to Apple Music. It’s also not available at first sign-up, so you’ll have to be an existing subscriber to follow these steps. Here’s how: open the App Store, scroll down to the bottom and click on your Apple ID.

Apple Music Now Has a Rs. 1,200 Annual Subscription; Android App UpdatedThen, you should see a total of four options: Individual (1 Month), Family (1 Month), Individual (1 Year), and Student (1 Month). The third option – Individual (1 Year) – is the new option, which should reflect Rs. 1,200 if you live in India. Unfortunately, there’s no annual plan for family or student memberships yet. Hopefully, that’s on its way soon.

Meanwhile, the Apple Music app on Android has received a minor update, which brings some “performance improvements”, according to the changelog on the Google Play listing. It follows the big April update that (finally) brought it in line with the iOS 10 redesign that hit iPhone and iPad all the way back in September 2016.

Android Market for Android 2.1 Eclair and Older Versions to Be Discontinued on June 30

Earlier this month, Google released its monthly Android distribution chart showing Android OS version fragmentation. While the most recent Android versions like Lollipop, Marshmallow, and Nougat enjoy a major share, older versions like Android 2.2 Froyo have now shrunk to a negligible share of below 0.1 percent. The Google Play app is currently only supported by Android 2.2 and newer versions of Android, and to serve older versions, the Android Market app existed. Now, Google has announced the Android Market app for Android 2.1 Eclair and older versions will stop working after June 30.

Google in its Android Developers blog post noted, “It has been 7 years since Android 2.1 Eclair launched. Most app developers are no longer supporting these Android versions in their apps given these devices now account for only a small number of installs.” So, starting July 1, Android Market will be put to rest once and for all on the devices running Android 2.1 Eclair and older versions. Its discontinuation will take place without any notification on the device due to some ‘technical restrictions’ in the Android Market app, says the company.

Android Market for Android 2.1 Eclair and Older Versions to Be Discontinued on June 30After June 30, users owning the devices powered by Android 2.1 and older will only have the option to manually install APK files of the apps they want – however it’s not advisable and risky to download app install packages from unauthentic and unknown sources. The devices that run on Android 2.2 and above will continue to run Play Store but Google notes that it will still provide support for later versions of Android Market “for as long as feasible.”

It is noteworthy that most of the popular apps have stopped making iterations of their versions for older Android platforms like 2.1 Eclair, 2.2 Froyo, and 2.3 Gingerbread. However, WhatsApp recently announced that it will continue to provide support for Android 2.3 Gingerbread and older till February 2020.

Firefox Focus Browser With Built-in Ad Blocker Comes to Android

Mozilla last year launched the Firefox Focus privacy-minded browser for the iPhone and iPad. The new browser from Mozilla is finally available on Android.

Much like the iPhone and iPad version, the new Firefox Focus app for Android allows users to browse the Internet without being tracked by “tracking ads,” which essentially track user behaviour without any consent, and also slow down the Web on a mobile device. The biggest attraction of the browser is that it comes with built-in ad blocker which means it works automatically without the need to switch on the feature. Apart from blocking ad trackers, Firefox Focus can also block analytic trackers and social trackers.

Mozilla has introduced some new features to Firefox Focus for Android like ad tracker counter, which counts the number of ads that are blocked per site while using the app; disable tracker blocker, which lets users disable the tracker blocker for some sites that are not loading correctly, and notification reminder, which reminds users when the Focus browser is running in the background. The Focus browser will also users erase browsing history, passwords, and cookies with just one tap.

Firefox Focus Browser With Built-in Ad Blocker Comes to AndroidAfter being available on App Store for over six months, the Firefox Focus is now available to download via Google Play.

Barbara Bermes, Product Manager, Firefox Mobile announcing the Android availability said, “I’m thrilled to announce that we’re launching our Firefox Focus mobile app for Android. For Android users we also made Focus a great default browser experience. Since we support both custom tabs and the ability to disable the ad blocking as needed, it works great with apps like Facebook when you just want to read an article without being tracked. We built Focus to empower you on the mobile web, and we will continue to introduce new features that make our products even better.”

Sega Forever Brings Retro Games to Android and iOS

Sega is re-releasing some of its most popular retro titles on Android and iOS, under a new service banner called Sega Forever. Five Sega Genesis games are available at launch: Altered Beast, Comix Zone, Kid Chameleon, Phantasy Star II, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Each title is free of cost, though players can pay Rs. 160 ($1.99 in the US) to get rid of ads.

Sonic has been available on the App Store for years, but it’s now part of Sega Forever. Every game will be available as a standalone app on its own; Sega Forever is just the name of the service, it’s not an app on its own.

While the games are being run with the help of emulation, they’ll also offer modern amenities such as cloud saves, global leaderboard, Bluetooth controller support, and offline play. In addition to the five aforementioned games, Sega will release new titles every two weeks going forward. This will include games from every Sega era, from the Master System to the Dreamcast.

Sega Forever Brings Retro Games to Android and iOSIn an interview with The Verge, Mike Evans, Sega’s chief marketing officer and development lead on Sega Forever, said that Dreamcast titles are slightly more complicated. “It’s more expensive to build the ports versus the emulations,” he said. “It’s more time-consuming.”

Sega will look to the community for future game requests, while others will be tied to “historical events”, such as the anniversary of a retro game. The bigger aim with Sega Forever, Evans noted, is to create a “Netfix of retro gaming”, which could grow out of mobile to get on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

On iOS 10, players will also get accompanying iMessage sticker packs, featuring characters, objects and game logo, all rendered in the 16-bit style of old. You can still play the Sega Forever games if you’re on an older version of iOS, with the games supporting every update north of iOS 8. As for Android, you’ll need Android 4.4 or newer versions.

Facebook Reactions Now Available in Comments as Well

Facebook took its own sweet time before it introduced Reaction emojis to the social networking site, and then some more time to bring them to Messenger, but the company has now expanded Reactions to the comments section. Notably, before this update, users only had the option to like the comment of other users and not react with the new emojis.

This means that you can now use Reaction emojis including “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “angry,” and “sad,” to react to comments while earlier you could only use these emojis to react to posts on the platform. The support for emojis in the comment section has been added on Android, iOS, and even the Web version of Facebook.

Facebook Reactions Now Available in Comments as Well“We’ve heard from people they’d like more ways to show their reaction in conversations on Facebook, so we’re rolling out the ability to react to comments,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement, as per a report by Mashable.

Again, just like everything else in this world right now, the reaction emojis aren’t everybody cup of tea and some people even find them annoying more than anything else. However, irrespective of how you feel about this feature, you can expect it to be rolling out to you if it hasn’t already been made available.

Last month, Facebook added support for Message Reactions to Messenger. The Reactions feature allows users to react to individual messages with emojis. Apart from the usual set of emojis, what stood out from this update was that users could also react to messages using a ‘thumbs down’ emoji. As users have been requesting Facebook for a dislike button for years, this thumbs down emoji was a surprise from the social giant.

Some Google Pixel Users Reporting Search Issues, Pixel Launcher Update Suspected

Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones have been increasingly facing a lot of issues and bugs. Lately, an issue causing Pixel smartphones to freeze periodically was addressed in the June Android security update. Now, a few Pixel and Pixel XL users are reporting that their devices are not performing Google searches effectively due to some bug in the Pixel Launcher. The bug makes the Google Search pill entirely non-functioning for any search made.

A Reddit thread, spotted by 9to5Google, reveals that the Pixel Launcher’s Google Search pill is not working normally. Users report that on clicking the pill, no search history appears in the widget, nor do any type of search suggestions for the entered query. To worsen the issue, the search widget is also not returning any search results even after pressing enter. The Google hotword ‘Ok, Google’ is also not reportedly working for some users. The likely cause that has been reported in the thread is an update (version 7.1.1-3862848) to the Pixel Launcher.

Some Google Pixel Users Reporting Search Issues, Pixel Launcher Update SuspectedWhile it is still unclear if the issue is caused due to the recent update for Pixel Launcher, or some hidden bug in the Google app brought by the update, a phone reboot is reportedly diminishing the search issue for some users, though it seemingly returns for them after a some time. Other users suggested force stopping or killing Pixel Launcher and Google app to solve the issue.

Since the issue was first reported, many users have joined the thread to tell about the same problem that they are facing along with some working suggestions. Though the issue looks to mounting rapidly for all the Pixel and Pixel XL users, Google is yet to officially address it. Till then, if you are one of the users facing the same issue, rebooting or killing respective apps can possibly solve the problem.