Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our brief breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special event releases. This review comes from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
The unspoken hope of attending a film festival like Sundance is that you could just stumble upon some small, incredibly effective film that might otherwise have never crossed your radar. That’s precisely the case with The Guilty, an engrossing Danish thriller from first-time feature director Gustav Möller that’s playing in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition category.
The story of an emergency dispatcher who’s suddenly caught up in trying to solve a kidnapping from behind his desk, the movie takes place entirely in real time, and is set in just two tiny…
Mark Zuckerberg has announced some big changes are coming to Facebook’s News Feed. Going forward, the feed will prioritize personal content shared by friends and family over “public content” posted by businesses and media outlets.
“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being,” Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post detailing the overhaul. ‘We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”
The Facebook product team has apparently been told to shift its focus from delivering relevant content toward promoting “meaningful social interactions.” The shift began in 2017 but it will take several months for the changes to take effect.
Zuckerberg acknowledges that as a result of these tweaks, people will probably end up spending less time on Facebook — an end result he’s reportedly fine with, as long as the time users do spend using the service ends up being more meaningful to them.
In the 14 years of Facebook’s existence, the platform has strayed from its initial purpose of connecting friends. Whether or not these changes have the desired effect of, perhaps, recapturing the platform’s original intent, the announcement marks a major shift in the way Facebook operates.
While the benefits of promoting personal content over other posts may be obvious, the overall effect of online social interactions is still being studied. On social media, people are free to pick and choose what they share about their own life. For those seeing the posts, however, a constant, curated stream of these idealized representations can be harmful.
“The endless portrayal of fabricated and idealized self-presentations is one of the causes of these negative outcomes.”
“Some researchers have explored whether passive usage of Facebook and other social media is associated with negative outcomes and found that it is,” Serge Desmarais, Associate Vice-President (Academic) at the University of Guelph, told Futurism. “In fact, it is associated with heightened levels of social anxiety and significant declines in perceived well-being.”
We know that people can all too easily become addicted to the internet, and the act of scrolling through a social media feeds seems to be particularly habit forming. “There are many negative consequences to the use of social media (in general),” Desmarais said. “The endless portrayal of fabricated and idealized self-presentations is one of the causes of these negative outcomes.”
In today’s world, where a great many of us use social media (including the 80 percent of children who have an online presence by the age of two) it’s high time that we take stock of how we interact using technology.
The Future of Facebook
Facebook has come under fire for various reasons in recent months, ranging from criticism of its inability to remove inappropriate content to incendiary comments from former Vice President of User Growth Chamath Palihapitiya regarding its negative impact on society.
In theory, the internet should enhance our ability to stay in touch with friends and family no matter where they live. In reality, there can be a tendency for people to passively observe what others share, choosing instead to participate only in a walled community without making an effort to go beyond that bubble.
Ultimately, these issues are a result of human behavior, and a new algorithm alone won’t address the root of the problem. For its part, though, Facebook does seem to be making an effort to promote healthier social media usage.
It’s Full of Sparks [Free] is the latest release from prolific App Store publishers Noodlecake and developer Dabadu Games, and it’d be understandable if there were lingering doubts about whether quantity would eventually come at the expense of quality, and if some titles would make less of a bang amongst the iOS community. Thankfully, It’s Full of Sparks lives up to its name – from the outset, Dabadu Games have made a game full of sparks, new ideas and an abundance of charm from start to end. While a ‘platformer’ in the loosest sense of the word, It’s Full of Sparks suits the iPhone and iPad perfectly with its simple but incredibly solid central premise, and inventive level design means it remains engaging even as the novelty begins to wear thin.
In It’s Full of Sparks, you control one of infinite sentient firecrackers on their quest to discover the meaning of their cruel, cruel existence and, ultimately, stop exploding. To accomplish such a task, you’re put in control of one such firecracker, and at first can only run left or right. However, you’re quickly introduced to red, green and yellow environment-changing glasses, which conjure up and conceal similarly colored obstacles and utilities at the press of a button. For example, a red spiked wall obstructs the path between your firecracker and the end goal (represented, comically enough, by a pool of extinguishing water). To get past this without the ability to jump, you activate the red goggles through a button on the right side of the screen and poof, the spikes have vanished.
While this may sound quite basic, It’s Full of Sparks fleshes out this concept by introducing multiple colors, and also a variety of objects that can both help and hinder your progress. This can include things from bridges to springs, and even occasionally magical propellers that can be turned on and off at will. As only one color can be ‘erased’ at once, having to dodge a number of differently colored bullets, for example, can become a frantic challenge of co-ordination, which has to be the closest thing to Guitar Hero that the iOS platforming genre has dared to experiment with (but do leave a comment if such a strange mash-up exists elsewhere!). The amount of gimmicks and the frequent change of pacing throughout – with some levels requiring lightning-fast reactions, and others needing a more methodical approach – keep It’s Full of Sparks interesting throughout its 80+ levels.
Outside of merely its gameplay elements, It’s Full of Sparks has had a lot of careful consideration in other aspects of its design. The graphical style is a luscious, cel-shaded delight, which really brings the character of the firecrackers to life and adds greatly to the game’s overall charm. While the environments are relatively mundane, and the change of location is mainly used to group levels as opposed to take the game to unique new worlds, their overall appearance does go some distance to reinforcing the cutesy and comical style that It’s Full of Sparks champions. Similarly, the music isn’t specific or particularly reminiscent of the various climates, but the soundtrack is incredibly well done, and the catchy beat drives your firecrackers on with a swagger that contrasts well with the aesthetics of the game. It’s almost a shame that the developers didn’t take the title into a more minimalistic and fast-paced direction, as there is a lot of potential for some rhythmic puzzle-platforming here if things were slightly tighter.
As with the aforementioned music and graphics, the controls do work well, and give the game its own style. That being said, I was occasionally frustrated by the physics of the game, and the overall experience would be enhanced if things were a bit more responsive. It takes a while for the firecrackers to accelerate and slow down, and with relatively small margins of error in both the ranking system and the actual obstacles themselves, I was occasionally left frustrated by the inputs letting me down. Again, this takes It’s Full of Sparks away from a rhythmic pacing that would best complement its core mechanics. The level design can also occasionally rely too much on trial and error in its obstacles – while the quick restarts greatly mitigate this, tighter controls would perhaps reward players more for quick-witted reactions rather than require repeated attempts. It is a minor issue, and maybe even one that was intentional in the game’s design, but my enjoyment of the majority of It’s Full of Sparks leaves me wanting the developers to further build on the latent potential here.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a review without mentioning It’s Full of Sparks’ monetisation method, and I’m pleased to say that the approach the developer has taken is fair and enjoyable for all types of players. You have a limited quantity of firecrackers (read: lives), and these will inevitably disappear quickly as you fail to complete a level in time or explode at the behest of nefarious obstacles. However, you can get more firecrackers through either waiting, by watching videos or by purchasing an infinite amount through a $ 2.99 IAP. These methods are all entirely reasonable, and more advanced or patient gamers may end up not needing to refill their supply too many times. For the rest of us, you’ll likely literally explode through your lives in a matter of minutes, especially if you indulge in the game’s additional leaderboard-focused content.
Each level has a three-star ranking that necessitates almost perfection to achieve, and an extra Diamond Jump mode lets you explore levels in different ways, forcing your firecracker to take a more protracted route in the ultimate test of platforming prowess. These achievements and modes are a nice way of extending the game’s relatively brief lifespan, but do come at the cost of lives. However, when the puzzles are this much fun, $ 2.99 is ultimately an absolute bargain. Best of all, each firecracker has their own bizarre name and design, which is a particularly nice touch that conjures charm out of the relatively mundane and stale concept of video game lives.
Whether it’s the hilariously helpless sheep boss, or the way in which the developers never introduce too much mayhem in terms of environment-manipulating madness (a colorblind mode is even included for complete accessibility), It’s Full of Sparks impressed me throughout with how well thought out virtually all of its individual elements are. The resulting package is one that harnesses the arcade free-to-play zeitgeist of the App Store whilst adhering to some surprisingly complex and compelling concepts, and as a result It’s Full of Sparks makes the most out of both its lengthy overall content and bespoke gameplay mechanics. Whether the developers decide to experiment with more rhythmic, twitch-based platforming, or even do the opposite and emphasise some of the more lengthy levels and their elements of exploration and intrigue, there is so much potential in It’s Full of Sparks for refinement and expansion, despite a few minor flaws along the way. Hopefully, unlike the game’s firecrackers, the developers aspire to explode with more creative ideas on the App Store in the near future.
Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile cellular service is now offering an in-store “Bring Your Own Device” option for owners of certain unlocked iPhone models.
Of course, that news will likely only mean something to those who have heard of the Comcast mobile plan. If you have no idea what Xfinity Mobile is, you’re probably not alone. Here’s everything you should know about the nascent cellular service.
What Is Xfinity Mobile?
Xfinity Mobile, basically, is a low-cost cellular plan that Comcast rolled out last year. It’s only available to people who already subscribe to the firm’s Xfinity mobile broadband service.
The service also has some unique characteristics (some of which we’ll get to later), including the fact that your device is automatically switched from cellular data to Xfinity Wi-Fi when hotspots are available.
Despite its quirks, the service has seen some surprising success in a market already dominated by juggernaut rivals. According to Bloomberg, Xfinity Mobile hit 200,000 subscribers in October 2017 — less than five months after it launched.
Xfinity Mobile Pros
Basically, if you’re already a subscriber to Comcast’s Xfinity broadband, the budget-friendly Xfinity mobile might be a decent option for you. As Comcast is the largest broadband and cable provider in the country, there are probably quite a few people reading this already subscribed to Xfinity.
Xfinity Mobile could also be an economical solution for those who just don’t use that much data. It offers a unique “Pay By the Gig” option, where each gigabyte of data is $ 12 and users are only charged for the gigs that they use. Also on the table is a $ 45-a-month unlimited plan (although it’s throttled after 20GB).
Xfinity Mobile also uses Verizon’s networks. And while the competition in terms of fastest internet speeds is usually neck-in-neck, Verizon does have some of the speediest in the country.
Xfinity Mobile Cons
The main catch is that you have to be a subscriber to Comcast’s Xfinity broadband. If you don’t use it, then Xfinity Mobile isn’t an option for you — and it’s probably not worth switching from your own broadband provider.
Similarly, for the most part, you can’t bring your own device to the network. As stated above, the company has recently offered an exception for certain unlocked iPhone devices. But any Android users or owners of carrier-locked iPhones are just out of luck. You either have to purchase or rent a device from Comcast.
Lastly, and this is important, if you’re already a Xfinity subscriber and you get Xfinity Mobile, you’ll have another reason to possibly deal with Comcast’s infamously bad customer service. Just something to keep in mind.
Facebook recently announced a major change to its News Feed: Namely, that it was shifting away from brand and news posts and prioritizing what your friends and groups post. This comes after Facebook spent several months being raked across the coals for its inability to police its fake news and propaganda– so it comes across as Facebook not fixing its own problems so much as giving up and excising the symptom completely. Even if Zuckerberg says he wants to bring Facebook back to its roots, it’s also a reaction to outside criticism, one that won’t necessarily fix Facebook’s news problems.…