Images of two iPhone models and an Apple Watch coming out this September 12. Will you be surprised at all by their looks?
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Five and half years after it launched, one of the more popular apps for kids’ reading and entertainment has finally arrived on the iOS. Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, the e-commerce giant’s subscription service for children 3-12 that gives unlimited access to 10,000 books, movies and TV shows starting at $2.99 for one user per month for Prime members, and going up to $9.99 per month for non-Prime members for a family plan of up to four users across tablets, phones, e-readers, and smart speakers, is now available on the App Store.
Apple is promoting the new app at the moment on the home page of the App Store, where a reader saw it and flagged it to us. Prime members get a discount to $6.99 per month for the family plan, but you’d need to buy that via Amazon’s site, not iTunes.
“We launch new products and features as they’re ready,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “We’re excited to bring the FreeTime Unlimited experience to iOS devices, including iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.”
FreeTime Unlimited is already available on Amazon devices and on Android. Now, when users sign up for a subscription on any one platform, they can use it across all of them — whether it be a Fire tablet, a Fire Kids Edition tablet, compatible Android phones and tablets, or compatible Echo devices.
The move is a significant one both for Apple and Amazon. At a time when other media companies are launching kid-friendly versions of their services that bring in more parental controls and better filters to help block out content that is inappropriate for young ones, FreeTime Unlimited has proven to be one of the most popular kids-focused entertainment apps of them all — content includes video from Disney, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, PBS Kids, National Geographic and Amazon Originals for Kids — and yet it wasn’t available on one of the most popular (and well reviewed) tablets used by children.
While Amazon initially kept it as an Amazon-only product for its early years — as a way of driving more sales to its own hardware — last year it finally launched a version for Android devices, but it’s taken over a year more to finally bring it to iPhone and iPad devices.
One of the reasons for this could be the ongoing struggle between Amazon and Apple. In some regards, the two are complementary companies: Amazon ships a lot of Apple products, and iOS is a very strong platform for Amazon in terms of online sales, for example.
But in others — such as in hardware, increasingly online entertainment and “owning” customers, and for talent to build its products — the two are rivals. Apple, for one, has not allowed apps on its iOS platform to enable Amazon book purchases directly from their apps, and Amazon doesn’t sell books and movies from its own app to avoid Apple’s cut. So it’s not surprising to see Amazon also delay certain content and features from the Apple platform in some kind of tit-for-tat.
I’m guessing those skirmishes will go on for a long time to come, but for now, iPad and iPhone users will have a little more Amazon than they did before on their devices. Why now? It could be that Amazon felt that user growth was tailing off on the other platforms, so now is a good time to boost with new availability.
It’s also likely influenced by Apple’s increased attention to parental control features on iOS, which may have some parents feel like they have enough options to lock down their kids’ devices while still allowing them access to more wholesome and educational content. That could limit the appeal for a subscription service like Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited. But iOS 12 – which includes the new parental controls – doesn’t launch to the public until later this fall. That gives Amazon time to attract users to its own service in the meantime.
As with the existing version of FreeTime Unlimited, the app is divided into age groups and will have parental controls by way of the Amazon Parent Dashboard, as well as Discussion Cards that give them talking points about the work and summaries of what the kids are watching.
There may be variations based on geographies, but in the US the content will include films like Frozen, Moana, Star Wars, and Inside Out; TV shows like Sesame Street, Arthur, and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood from PBS; Bubble Guppies, Team Umizoomi, and Dora the Explorer from Nickelodeon; Marvel comics including Spider-man, the Avengers, and Captain America; and Amazon Originals such as Just Add Magic, The Kicks, Thunderbirds are Go, Creative Galaxy, and Tumble Leaf.
One drawback to the iOS implementation of FreeTime Unlimited is that, unlike on Amazon’s own tablets, you can’t configure FreeTime Unlimited to completely reskin the device’s user interface to keep kids locked into the experience. Apple simply doesn’t allow third-party apps to have that level of control. Instead, FreeTime Unlimited works like any other app – you can launch it and exit at any time.
As with other apps, subscribing to FreeTime Unlimited will come via a user’s iTunes account (and thus Apple will get a cut) and will get automatically renewed until you turn off the auto-renewal 24 hours before the renewal date. There is also a free 30-day trial.
Updated with clarified pricing for individual, family and Prime family tiers.
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Everything you wanted to know about the quirky mobile game publisher from Saskatoon!
The folks at Noodlecake Studios have been busy as beavers lately, helping to polish and publish outstanding games such as Suzy Cube and Alto’s Odyssey, amazing new titles for Android gamers to check out. All told, the team has helped publish well over 100 games to the Google Play Store.
Based out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, this plucky studio is far removed from Silicon Valley and Canadian tech hotspots in Montreal and Vancouver but has managed make a major impact on the Android gaming industry.
The following is a Q&A we had with Ryan Holowaty, one of the core members of the Noodlecake team who talked to us about porting games to Android, the latest trends in the gaming industry, and most importantly what’s the story behind the name Noodlecake?
The history of Noodlecake Studios
Noodlecake Studios has been developing and publishing games to Android for seven years. What started as a group of friends wanting to try their hands at developing a game for Apple’s new iPhone has evolved to become one of the premier mobile game publishers.
Android Central: How was Noodlecake first founded? Is there a story behind the studio name?
Ryan Holowaty: Noodlecake was founded way back when the iPhone was first being released in Canada. Jordan Schidlowsky and Ty Haugen, our two co-founders, created the first version of Super Stickman Golf, called Stick Golf back then, and released it to the App Store as a bit of an experiment. The game took off and warranted the creation of Super Stickman Golf and the formation of the studio. At the time I and many others including Jordan and Ty were all working at a local software firm. When the game became successful, they took the leap to form the company and brought me and other key members over to help run things.
The name came purely from dealing with the lack of domain names available. We knew that all one-word domains are gone unless you create some new fake buzzword so instead we wanted to take two easy to spell and fun sounding words and mash them together. After a few beers at the local pub, Noodle cake or Noodlecake was born.
AC: For a studio in a small market like Saskatoon, how important is it to find local talent from the University of Saskatchewan? How has the industry evolved in world-class Canada over the past seven years?
RH: It is very important. Almost our entire staff are U of S grads. The computers science program here is top notch and has been producing world-class talent for years now. The industry isn’t huge yet here as many other provinces have grant systems in place for supporting game development, so it is a bit harder to get started without that help.
The University is teaching a game design course now, so that helps prepare students for the industry and small studios are starting to pop up all over the place. Most notably Studio MDHR, the creators of Cuphead, are partially based out of Regina. There was a time when it was only us and it is exciting to see that change.
AC: What were some of the challenges and/or advantages of starting a mobile game studio in the “middle of nowhere”?
RH: The lack of government support is definitely a roadblock for new studios. There are small-scale programs you can find but Saskatchewan is a resource-based province. So unless you are in agriculture, oil and gas or mining, the government really hasn’t set much up for technology.
However, that has formed a bit of a “we are going to do it without you then” attitude and a lot of cool technology companies have been created here. It is also hard to bounce ideas off other studios or go visiting other developers unlike in big centers like Montreal or Vancouver where game dev meetups are happening all the time.
But on the flip side, the cost of living is so much more acceptable it is much easier to turn a profit. Unlike the obscene costs of living in the valley, you can retain so much more of your earnings on reasonable rent and other lower costs of living. And as long as we make trips to conferences like GDC, we are able to do the face to face meetings that are so important for growth, so it all balances out nicely.
Porting to Android
Noodlecake has done a fantastic job porting games to Android, from quality ports of gaming classics (realMyst), outstanding indie game releases from Steam (Death Road to Canada, Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, and helping iOS developers publish their games for Android audiences (Really Bad Chess, Random Heroes, Suzy Cube, Alto’s Odyssey).
AC: How does the team decide which game studios to work with, and which titles are worthy of the time and effort required to port over to Android? Do you reach out to developers or are indie studios constantly knocking at your doors looking for help bringing their games to Android?
RH: The porting aspect of Noodlecake has shifted over the past few years. Initially, we offered to port games as a way to bootstrap our publishing division. Over time as our publishing network grew, porting became more of an add-on for some developers who need help, but not the main focus of the studio. So most times that we do ports only — for example, Death Road, Alto’s Adventure and more — they are for more high-profile developers who focus on iOS only. So we have become a bit more selective in our porting process and lean to these types of established games if we are not doing a full publishing deal on iOS as well.
AC: What are the steps involved to port a game to Android? Are there some genres or Android devices that are especially tricky to work with?
RH: It really depends on how the game was developed. A few years back many developers were using Cocos2d which could not compile to Android. This is where our porting tech really came from. We were able to cross-compile their iOS code to an Android device. However, today most developers are using Unity which can already compile to Android. The catch here is optimization and support.
There are so many Android devices out there that they range wildly in their costs and hardware quality. The easiest rule of thumb is to develop for the lowest-end device. This can be either the oldest device you can get your hand on or the cheapest. Usually, cheaper hardware is cutting corners in places by using lower RAM or more basic touch controllers, which can cause serious issues on new games.
AC: What are the biggest hurdles developers face when porting their game from Steam to mobile, or from iOS to Android?
RH: Steam to mobile or mobile to Steam can be a big hurdle purely due to player expectations. Even though full console quality games are available on mobile first, there is a stigma that they are small baby games if they debut on mobile first. And in some instances this is true. If a game is designed to be more of a quick, one-touch arcade game, then it probably doesn’t belong on desktop however the lines continue to blur in that respect these days.
From a technical standpoint, the big one is how you control the game. Touch screens games are designed differently than ones you have to use a keyboard and mouse or controller for. So adapting them can be both technically challenging and also time-consuming. For example on a mobile device, you select a button by pressing it with your finger. So in many cases, you don’t need what is referred to as a selected state for the button.
However, using a controller you need to use the D-Pad to move to the button. So to show players what they have selected, you have to create a newly selected state of the button by either changing the color or adding some sort of marker to it. This extra level of development for all your UI can be very time consuming when going from mobile to PC.
The mobile game industry
AC: What’s the Noodlecake philosophy behind making the decision to make a game paid vs free-to-play with ads vs free-to-play with microtransactions? For example, Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey were paid apps on iOS but was ported to Android as free-to-play games with in-app purchases.
RH: For us, it is a combination of what the developer wants to do and what we advise to do. In many cases, the developer wants to keep the game always premium or F2P on both and that is what we do. However, it is our job to educate the developer as to what we think would be the best model. It is our philosophy that in the end, the game is the developer’s art and we are not here to mess with that. We just want to help them bring the best product they can.
In the case of Alto’s Adventure, the Snowman team acknowledged that there is a big difference in player behavior on iOS and Android and that premium games have a much harder time on the Android platform. So it was actually their idea initially to do the conversion. We just helped them develop a free-to-play version we thought would ride the balance of still feeling like a premium experience but make F2P monetization choices.
AC: It’s been almost a year since ZPlay, a Chinese tech firm, bought a 70-per-cent stake in Noodlecake. How has that partnership impacted your reach into the Chinese market? What are some of the biggest differences between Chinese and North American gamers?
RH: It has given us access to a new market that is really just starting to show its potential. Because of the recent crackdown by the Chinese government on piracy, all games now require a registration number that is given to games after they apply to the government. This process is slow and very hard to complete if you are not in China, so having a partner on the ground opens the doors to the market there.
As well platforms like WeChat are now integrating HTML 5 versions of games into their platforms and those are proving to be very lucrative if you have the right type of game. For example Leap On! has been converted for H5 and is being sold on WeChat and QQ as a free game with advertising support. The revenue numbers coming in from that are topping anything we did on iOS and Android.
AC: With more smartphone makers testing the waters of “gamer phones” and flagship specs allowing for nearly console-quality gaming experiences on your smartphone, where do you see the mobile gaming industry headed?
RH: I think the more interesting side of this is how Nintendo, one of the biggest names in video games, has bridged the gap in the other direction with the Switch. I think what we are going to see is more of a unification of consoles becoming more portable and phones becoming more console-like and meet somewhere in the middle.
What you’ll see then is adapters and things that allow you to swap out large screen experiences with portable ones through docks and cables etc. Razor is working on a shell that you actually just drop the Razor phone into and it turns the phone into a full-fledged laptop.
AC: The app stores are often dominated by flash in the pan trends or imitators that try to copy successful formulas (see: match-3 games, Flappy bird, Pokemon Go AR-style games, Battle Royale games, etc.). Any predictions as to what the next trendy game style will be?
RH: There is definitely a shift towards multiplayer games using the “games as a service” type model and I do not think that is going away anytime soon.
We really have no time for imitators/clones of games and I think that is a whole can of worms that needs to be addressed by the platform holders like Apple and Google. But if I knew the answer to what the next big trend was going to be, I think I would be working on the game and probably wouldn’t tell you until it was out 😉.
Read more: androidcentral.com
The Internet of Things is fueling the data-based economy and bridging the divide between physical and digital worlds.
Consumers, companies, and governments will install more than 40 billion IoT devices worldwide through 2023.
The next five years will mark a pivotal transformation in how companies and jurisdictions operate, and how consumers live.
Being successful in the digital age doesn’t just require knowing the latest buzzwords; it means identifying the transformational trends – and where they’re heading – before they ever heat up.
BI IntelligenceTake the Internet of Things (IoT), for example, which now receives not only daily tech news coverage with each new device launch, but also hefty investments from global organizations ushering in worldwide adoption. By 2023, consumers, companies, and governments will install more than 40 billion IoT devices globally. And it’s not just the ones you hear about all the time, like smart speakers and connected cars.
To successfully navigate this changing landscape, individuals and organizations must understand the full extent and functionality of the “Things” included in this network, the key drivers of each market segment, and how it all relates to the work they do every day.See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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Strange ‘Teenager’ EntitiesParanormal researcher, Edward Shanahan, described an encounter that happened to a paranormal group that he was investigating with:“We’re going out to some Indian burial grounds (near Chicago). The last time we were out there, we had some… We had the Latino American Paranormal Society (LAPS – a paranormal organization based out of Chicago) with us and there was some teenagers that came out of nowhere with no flashlights or anything like that. The way it was told to me was that they walked around and they came up to the one guy with the tools and the tape recorder and he talked to him in Spanish, asking about the tools. He answered back in Spanish and they were satisfied and left. But, not only did he but Patti (another researcher) also took photographs of them leaving and what happened is when he got home and listened to the tape, the teenager that was talking to him in Spanish all of a sudden was coming out in English on the tape. And the photographs that they took of these, I guess, teenagers, well behaved by the way, there was nothing there but orbs.”Source: The Unexplained World – June 16, 2008Beyond Creepy**********RCMP, UFOs and Missing PersonsPonoka, Alberta, Canada – 2017-08-08 – 20:13: One of the first things with public safety, is to identify oneself in the bounds of law to the local authorities. In the central Alberta area it is the RCMP. New definition, identities have been getting identified. Also being confirmed with the Canadian military and US military. Constable Southerland and Constable Desjardins dealt with the this with a missing persons cold case. They have heard of the identification of terms of Indo-Aryan, Sky-beings etc. Constable Southerland had also worked with me identifying communications, etc. Constable Southerland also did legal agreements with some male individuals here for a missing persons case/cold case regarding myself. There has been a lot of controversy about secret societies such as an Eastern Star group, the Illuminati, made up code language. I have never heard of this with these groups before and the police have been investigating this, so has Interpol around some program. There is controversy and rumors about government experiments that the RCMP, gang units, Interpol, etc are aware of and are investigating also. The justice department is aware of this, Court of Queen’s Bench, provincial court etc. An UFO in unidentified. It is no longer a UFO if such has been identified in the bounds of the law, with new legal definitions for safety. The RCMP, the gang units, and Interpol are dealing with a cease fire program around this, that also address public health as well as public safety. As a victim in the legal system I started I was a child once myself and grandma’s house is what I wanted to see with Constable Southerland. – MUFON**********Exorcism Results in House Burning DownIn a rather bizarre sequence of events, a woman in Louisiana, USA, ended up burning down her house after she set her sofa on fire, believing that it was haunted by the Devil. The woman, identified as 53-year-old JoLynn Winn decided to perform an exorcism on her couch as she was convinced that the devil resided in her piece of furniture, The Sun reported.The incident is said to have taken place on August 11 at Arnold Road in Louisiana, as per the report. Firefighters were called on the scene after reports of a trailer house on fire, where they found Winn suffering due to smoke inhalation. The Fire Marshal later arrested the 53-year-old when it was discovered that it was she who had started the fire. Read more at Louisiana: Woman performs exorcism on sofa ‘possessed by Devil’; ends up burning down her house **********Big Cat Photographed in PACLARKS SUMMIT, Pa. — The sighting of a big cat over the weekend in Lackawanna County has caused a debate over what was lurking in the Dodge family’s backyard.That large cat was spotted in Clarks Summit and then it was gone.But once WNEP’s Kurt Aaron posted the photo to Facebook, people started guessing at what the animal was. Was it a bobcat or something else?Nick Dodge and his family are used to seeing foxes, but what they saw over the weekend was rather unusual. The family’s surveillance cameras caught a large cat of some sort outside the fence late Saturday afternoon.”When I first saw it, I was like, ‘Wait, is that a mountain lion? No, they don’t live around here.’ Then I saw and was like, ‘It could be a bobcat, possibly mountain lion,’ ” Nick Dodge said. Read more at What is This Big Cat Caught on Camera?**********ARCANE RADIO IS BACK! on the Paranormal King Radio NetworkFacebook event announcement: Dr. Raymond Keller – UFO Researcher and Author – Arcane RadioJoin me as I welcome UFO researcher and author Dr. Raymond Keller to Arcane Radio. Ray is a retired history professor, who has lived and worked in 44 different countries and has been writing about UFOs and paranormal activity since 1967. He was the founder and director of the Outer Space International Research and Investigations Society (OSIRIS). He has written several books, including his Venus Rising Trilogy with the titles ‘Venus Rising: A Concise History of the Second Planet’, ‘Final Countdown: Rockets to Venus’ and ‘Cosmic Ray’s Excellent Venus Adventure.’ Ray is a popular guest on Arcane Radio. This should be a very informative show! Join us this Friday, August 31st at 9PM ET / 6PM PT on ParanormalKing.com – Meet us in the chat room…just click the banner or go to www.paranormal.olicentral.comListen to our podcast at Arcane Radio on Stitcher – iOS, Android and the Webplayer. You can also listen to the podcast at Arcane Radio on Podbean. Please consider becoming an Arcane Radio patron. Thanks…Lon**********TODAY’S TOP LINKSEarth is the warmest it’s been in 120,000 yearsTwo Loch Ness Monster Photos Taken in One Day at Same SpotUkrainian Villagers Terrified as Sheep Are Mysteriously Drained of BloodWho’s Killing Buck Birdsong’s Cows?We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage**********Bigfoot: West Coast Wild Men: A History of Wild Men, Gorillas, and Other Hairy Monsters in California, Oregon, and Washington state.Ultraterrestrial Contact: A Paranormal Investigator’s Explorations into the Hidden Abduction EpidemicMen In Black: Personal Stories and Eerie AdventuresSlenderman: From Fiction to FactStrange Secrets: Real Government Files on the UnknownUPDATED WEEKLY: Lon’s Suggested Reading List – Books & Films / DVDs**********ARCANE RADIO PODCASTS:PodBean – iTunes – Stitcher – YouTube – Spotify – Google Play – blubrry – Player FM – TuneIn – Podbay FM – Spreaker – acast – iHeart RadioGoFundMe – 3 Nice Guys Looking For A HomeYour help is truly appreciated. Thanks…LonThis newsletter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.Disclaimer:The publication of any and all content e.g., articles, reports, editorials, commentary, opinions, as well as graphics and or images on this web-site does not constitute sanction or acquiescence of said content unless specified; it is solely for informational purposes.Fair Use Notice:This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which may not be specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, social justice, and religious issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. 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