Fresh off the IT Block, 1st September 2020
Welcome all, back to our fresh off the block! Today's stories are about how to connect almost any device to make it a webcam, how Fortnite got its long awaited ban from app stores, and when will electric cars become the new normal?
How to connect any device and turn it into a webcam
Webcams these days are somewhat scarce. There have been supplier issues since March, and prices are now in a position where the word inflated could be seen as an understatement.
You don't have to use a webcam to record or show yourself on services like Twitch and Zoom, instead you can just use your current camera or even your smartphone.
For Android/iOS mobile phone users: DroidCam
As an Android or iOS user, you'll be glad to know that DroidCam exists. DroidCam is a tool you download on both your desktop/laptop (Dev47apps), as well as your mobile (The DroidCam Android/iOS app), and a connection is established quite easily.
Firstly, download both of these services (For free, of course!). Make sure both devices are connected to the same WIFI network, so the IP address matches for both devices. Once a connection is displayed on your Android/iOS device, you will be presented with an IP address and a DroidCam Port reference.
Head to the desktop application and select the "Connect over WIFI (LAN)" option - Enter the device IP and the DroidCam Port reference into the applicable fields. Tick the video and audio boxes if you want to have both video and sound (the audio and video will come from your mobile device, not your desktop speakers).
Test that the webcam output is displaying your phone's camera view, you can do so by going into Skype, your desktop camera app, or Zoom - Any application that requires a webcam should be good to test this out with.
If you're not getting a connection, try these steps:
– Closing and re-opening the app
– Toggle the WIFI on phone and/or laptop
– Restart your WIFI router (unplug from power, wait a few seconds, and plug it back in)
– Change the connection port number in the app & desktop client
If you have a digital, DSLR camera, or GoPro - Elgato Cam Link 4K
If you want to use your actual camera, this is going to cost you some more money unfortunately - Unless you have one of these Canon cameras, you will need to buy some additional hardware and/or software.
So, if your camera doesn't fall into that list, your best option is to invest in an Elgato Cam Link 4K, it sells for around $160 USD ($215 SGD), and is available on the Elgato website, or on sites like Amazon.
Elgato's list of applicable cameras is pretty large, so if your camera falls into any of these brands:
You're good to go!
Firstly, install the Cam Link software. You'll need to then connect the cam link device using the main adaptor and a micro HDMI wire. Once you've hooked up your camera, it will be recognised instantly.
The advantage of using Elgato's Cam Link is that the quality isn't diminished at all. Compare this to DroidCam where there is a noticeable drop in quality. To use the webcam, you will see it as one of your recognised webcams in any application. Use it to stream via OBS, make calls on Skype, or live stream on Twitch or YouTube.
How Fortnite was finally banned from Google and Apple's app stores
Fortnite developer Epic Games is now deciding to sue Apple and Google. The game developer had received criticism from the tech giants over direct payment issues. Epic Games had implemented a feature where payments for add-ons would automatically go straight to them, and would bypass any developer fees - Obviously this is against both Google's and Apple's terms of service, but it became an unsurprisingly popular incentive for mobile users.
The direct payment gave players a 20% discount, but through Apple or Google Pay, this discount wasn't available, with both Google and Apple collecting their usual 30 per cent fee on every payment. Epic recently tweeted that if Google/Apple to lower these fees, that they would have passed on any savings to their players.
In-app payments are somewhat monopolised in Apple's app store, but this further proves that Apple is flexing its massive market dominance to exploit third-party app developers. Epic reiterated that their direct payment feature would be permanent, and they were well aware this would most likely mean being removed from the App Store.
It's a huge shame for Fortnite lovers of course, but the real issue is whether the Google Play Store and the App Store make it easy enough for third-party app developers to turn a profit. With a 30% cut, any new developers must consider this in order to survive.
Even social media giant Facebook intended to post about their rival's cuts in their newest update. You won't be surprised to hear that this update was rejected by Apple, as they aim to remain as one of, if not the largest direct payment providers. The move to stop Apple charging 30% in fees comes as Facebook aims to help small businesses who are using their services like marketplace, as well as for fundraising purposes
Epic Games knew they risked being removed, their side-stepping strategy is a clear indicator that app developers such as Apple are taking too large of a cut, especially when developers must pay to even list apps on their stores.
Now that Epic has been removed, anyone who has deleted their applications won't be able to reinstall them. Not only this, but anyone who does still have the apps installed will receive little to no support, and bug fixes/updates will now be out of the window, unless Epic get their developer license back. This won't happen any time soon, as we don't think Apple will want to take back a developer that tried to sue them - The fees don't look likely to be cut down by Apple either, as they state that the fees are charged to all developers to "keep a level playing field"...
When will electric cars become the new normal?
As companies like Tesla roll out exciting new products, and their share prices soar, it is no surprise everyone is thinking the same question. When will electric cars be the new normal?
The car market has seen a huge shift from millions of buyers, from the standard patrol or diesel cars, to the lithium battery electric models. When you look at the prices however, you begin to notice one big difference - Electric cars in today's market are simply a bit too expensive. They're not out of the average buyer's budget, but two models of the same car might have a 25% jump in price, simply if you were to opt for the electric version.
There are many government grants that encourage the purchase of electric models, but it leads to an equally bigger question - When will electric cars become affordable?
It's not really about when they will become affordable, but more about when they will be consistently cheaper than diesel or petrol cars. People love the traditional way engines work, and are often opposed to the idea of driving electric.
The UK, for example, is planning to ensure petrol and diesel cars are kept out of future plans for all car makers - The big, obvious issue with petrol and diesel cars is their emissions are damaging the environment. By 2030, the UK government has pledged to ban the production of diesel and electric cars, in a bid to become the world's first carbon neutral, or fully green country.
Apart from the initial cost of buying an electric car, the maintenance costs (on paper) for electric model cars are much lower than on petrol or diesel cars.
As electric cars are built with less parts, the maintenance on these parts is considerably lower. There are less things to get checked up on, like oil changes, exhaust checks etc. The most important part of any electric car though is the lithium battery it runs for the motor.
The cost of charging the batteries is around a third of what it would set you back for a fuel top up in a traditional engine car. Essentially you are getting 3 times as much mileage per charge for the same price that you might pay for a $20 top up at your local gas station.
The cost of the lithium battery is the main talking point - They are very expensive to manufacture and get to the market. The question we asked earlier about when electric cars will be the new normal? Well, it'll be as soon as the lithium batteries for them get the grants and subsidies required to produce them faster, cheaper and at scale.
Until then, expect for traditional cars to keep going into production until countries begin imposing more restrictions, taxes, and eventually bans on petrol or diesel car models.