Sameer’s favourite things of 2018

A phone, a film, a video game, a court ruling and a whole lot of privacy breaches

The Earth has almost completed another complete cycle rotating around the Sun, and that means it’s time for another end-of-year list detailing some of the my favourite things.

Read on below for more information into my psyche, as well as a collection comprised of my favourite phone, movie, video game, court case and lesson.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

If 2017 was the year that every major Android smartphone manufacturer released revolutionary devices that were genuinely worth purchasing as an upgrade, 2018 was the year that Android manufacturers chose to stick to their laurels and release minor, iterative updates.

Except, however, for Japanese entertainment giant Sony, which released a pair of sequel devices to the company’s 2017 Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact smartphones. Much like the company’s Android competitors, the aptly named Sony Xperia XZ2 and Xperia XZ2 Compact at first seem like iterative updates. The devices feature an 18:9 aspect ratio, both devices carry front-firing stereo speakers, each device comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and 4GB of RAM — in Canada, anyway — as well as improved screens and improved camera software and hardware.

While the regular Xperia XZ2 is a capable device that struggles to stay afloat amid a sea of better-looking phones with better screens and better purchase points, the XZ2 Compact — chiefly due to its quirky, unique design and its smaller 5-inch display — more than stands out in the modern Android marketplace.

As a matter of fact, I believe that the Xperia XZ2 Compact is such a unique phone, that it’s my favourite Android phone of 2018. The device is sleek, it’s powerful, it’s camera is great, I can more than easily hold it in one hand, and its small 2,870mAh battery somehow manages to pump out close to a full day of battery life — all reasons why I thoroughly loved using the device in my time with it.

Ultimately, when it came time for me to make a smartphone purchase, I settled on Google’s Pixel 3, but even though I believe the Google device is better than the Sony one, the Xperia XZ2 Compact was the only phone that really stole my heart this year.

Sorry to Bother You

If there’s any reason to not completely despise the commodification of art based on its market value, it’s that every year, at least one film manages to define itself within a specific cultural context while simultaneously catering to the human tendency to want entertainment.

2018, however, was undeniably a year of cinematic protest, with movies like Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon, John M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians, and even Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther serving as a way for marginalized voices, marginalized groups and marginalized artists to break through the steady tsunami of political darkness that clouds our everyday lives.

Call me a classicist, however, but no movie spoke to me more deeply and on a more existential level this year than Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You. Starring Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson and Armie Hammer in one of the best cameos of the year, Sorry to Bother You is not only a blatant challenge to racial divides in the U.S., it also flaunts its staunchly anti-capitalist message in a way that only a filmmaker living in the era of Elon Musk, Amazon and anti-human free market ideals could possibly articulate.

In short, Sorry to Bother You is the defining film of 2018, shining a spotlight on the way in which capitalism is designed to profit off the labour of the subaltern groups pushed most to the margins of society.

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

In the interest of full disclosure, I still haven’t finished the main story in the latest remake of the first-generation Pokémon games, but that fact hasn’t at all stopped me from enjoying every single moment of Game Freak’s latest take on Pokémon Red, Blue, Green and Yellow.

It’s a simple game, but it’s one that bursts with wonder and excitement. More importantly, the title finally feels like the game that we all thought we were playing when we were still marred in the throes of our early developing years. That’s really just a fancy way of saying that Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! are probably the best versions of the first Pokémon games that players can enjoy.

I could go on and keep gushing, but that simple fact of the matter is that Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! are not only thoroughly enjoyable games, but they’re also thoroughly enjoyable Switch-exclusive titles.

Rogers Communications Inc. v. Voltage Pictures, LLC

It might seem strange that a Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruling is among my favourite things of 2018, but bear with me, since this ruling will no doubt play a major part in future copyright infringement and torrenting conversations that are set to take place in the future.

In short, Voltage Pictures, a Los Angeles-based production company responsible for producing, distributing and financing movies like The Hurt Locker, I Feel Pretty and Colossal, tried to use Canada’s notice-of-notice regime to request Rogers turn over the information of an IP address implicated in a copyright violation.

Rogers agreed to turn over the information, but wanted Voltage to pay the costs of the information’s disclosure at a rate that Voltage didn’t find completely acceptable.

Voltage sued Rogers, and the case eventually found its ways before Canada’s highest appellate court. The SCC ultimately ruled in favour of Rogers, though not quite for the reasons that some might hope. Instead, the SCC determined that Rogers should be allowed to charge whatever fee it wants, so long as the fee itself is reasonable. The catch? The SCC wrote that it would be next to impossible to determine reasonable costs of compliance, sending the issue of determining costs back to the Federal Court of Canada.

In short, Rogers Communications Inc. v. Voltage Pictures, LLC was a landmark ruling that served as a ‘sort-of win’ for anyone concerned about copyright trolling.

Privacy breaches, data privacy scandals and the world waking up to privacy concerns

In all fairness, it’s not like 2018’s privacy nightmares came out of nowhere. LinkedIn was hacked in 2012, Adobe was hacked in 2013, Ashley Madison was hacked in 2015, heck, even Uber used November 2017 to announce that it concealed a 2016 cyberattack that affected approximately 57 million drivers and passengers around the world.

Still, despite the many, many warning signs throughout the years, despite the fears of Russian hacking and meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and despite the knowledge that no website or platform is truly secure against invasion, the sheer breadth of the breaches and scandals that were confirmed throughout 2018 was astonishing.

Perhaps the most notable breach — Facebook’s breach by Cambridge Analytica — didn’t even actually take place in 2018, but an investigation from the New York Times and the Guardian served as the spark that lit the fuse for the rest of the year. Furthermore, news of a bug that allowed hackers to use Facebook’s ‘View As’ feature and the company’s Photos API exposed the fact that even one of the world’s largest internet platforms wasn’t immune.

If Facebook and its users were the most notable victims of privacy invasion, then the Marriott breach that affected almost 500 million customers around the world was perhaps the most unexpected.

Still, some Canadians might choose to argue that the most unexpected breach was actually the May 2018 Simplii Financial and BMO hack that may have affected some 40,000 accounts. Though the scale was small in comparison to other global attacks, the Simplii Financial and BMO breach once again revealed that even large, seemingly impervious companies are still susceptible.

In 2018, one of the favourite lessons I learned and that we all learned was that we need stronger passwords.