UK could class loot boxes as gambling to protect children | Games – Blog – 10 minute

Loot boxes – a controversial element of video games – could be reclassified as gambling products over concern they are training children to gamble.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will this week launch a call for evidence on the increasingly common feature of games such as the football franchise Fifa.
The move has been spurred by mounting concern that the mechanics of loot boxes are encouraging gambling-style behaviour among children, potentially leading them into addiction in later life.
Loot boxes allow players to spend money on in-game rewards such as special characters or equipment, without knowing what they will get.
Their value to the video games industry has been estimated at £23bn a year and rising, thanks to revenues that keep rolling in even after the initial purchase of the game.
If ministers opt to reclassify loot boxes, the decision would have a significant impact on game developers, who could be forced to withdraw some titles or redesign them so that they can be sold to people under 18.
Although they involve an element of chance, they are not covered by existing gambling legislation – and therefore not regulated by the Gambling Commission – because the items “won” are not considered to have monetary value.
However, the DCMS select committee heard evidence last year that loot box winnings can be easily exchanged for cash on third-party websites and that their use by game developers was likely to “facilitate profiting from problem gamblers”.
In a subsequent report, the influential committee advised that they should be considered gambling products.
“They are a virtually speculative commodity that only help to normalise and encourage young people to take a chance,” said the Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs a cross-party group of MPs investigating gambling-related harm.
“All too often this will lead to youngsters developing an addiction to gambling.”
Loot boxes are already deemed gambling products in countries including Belgium, where some companies have had to pull their games from the market.
Research by academics at the University of York published last year found that loot boxes are increasingly prevalent, featuring in about 71% of the most popular titles on the gaming portal Steam, compared with 4% a decade ago.
The children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has expressed concern about the amount of money that children end up spending and the danger that they will keep feeding money in to get the items they want, like a gambler chasing losses.
Any change to how loot boxes are regulated could feature in a broader overhaul of gambling legislation, which was drawn up by Labour in 2005 and has been labelled unfit for the digital age by campaigners.

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Trash mailbox: Erase or reestablish client post boxes in Exchange Online – Blog – 10 minute

Trash mailbox: Erase or reestablish client post boxes in Exchange Online. There are a few things you ought to consider before you choose to erase a client post box.
There are various types of erasures that you can do on a client letter drop and some of them won’t permit you to reestablish or recuperate the post box. This article strolls you through the erased letter box situations, and how to erase, recuperate or for all time expel a post box from Exchange Online.

Delicate Trash mailbox
A delicate erased client letter box is a post box that has been erased utilizing the Microsoft 365 administrator community or the Remove-Mailbox cmdlet in Exchange Online PowerShell, has still been in the Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) reuse receptacle for under 30 days.
A delicate erased client letter drop is a post box that has been erased in the accompanying cases:
The client letter drop’s related Azure AD client account is delicately erased (the Azure AD client object is out of degree or in the reuse canister compartment).
The client letter drop’s related Azure AD client account has been hard-erased however a Litigation Hold or an eDiscovery hold was put on the Exchange Online post box before it was erased.
The client letter drop’s related Azure AD client account has been cleansed inside the most recent 30 days, which is the maintenance length Exchange Online keeps the post box in a delicate erased state before it’s for all time cleansed and unrecoverable.
Note
On the off chance that you run the Azure cmdlet Remove-MsolUser with the – RemoveFromRecycleBin parameter so as to expel a client from the Azure AD reuse canister, it will consistently put a current Exchange Online letter drop related with the Azure AD client in a delicate erased state, as long as the client’s permit was not evacuated. In any case, on the off chance that you evacuate the client’s permit before expelling the client from the reuse canister, the client won’t go into a delicate erased client post box state.
On the off chance that in the 30-day timeframe another Azure AD client is synchronized from the first on-premises beneficiary record with the equivalent ExchangeGuid or ArchiveGuid, this will bring about an ExchangeGuid approval strife blunder.
Look at Overview of inert letter boxes in Office 365 for more information about making a latent post box by setting a Litigation Hold on a post box before erasing it.
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Destiny 2 is getting rid of paid loot boxes for season pass holders – Blog – 10 minute

Why it matters: Since going free-to-play, Bungie has needed a way to monetize Destiny 2 to cover ongoing development costs. Paid loot boxes, aka Bright Engrams, could be purchased in the Eververse store to obtain cosmetic items. However, Bungie is now removing Bright Engrams for players who own the season pass. This consumer-friendly move is another blow in the recent efforts to monetize games that have already been paid for upfront.
Since splitting from Activision, Destiny 2 developer Bungie has since went on to release their latest major expansion, Shadowkeep. While players have been able to purchase in-game loot boxes called “Bright Engrams” for cosmetic items, the company is now removing them going forward.
Game director Luke Smith published a new “Director’s Cut” blog post in which he talked about the state of Destiny 2 and upcoming changes to the popular action MMO. Smith outlined some of the lessons learned from Shadowkeep including weapon balancing and ensuring that players who play Destiny 2 intermittently won’t get left out in favor of more dedicated players. Included in this update was the announcement that Bright Engrams will removed for players who have purchased the season pass. However, those who are sticking with the free-to-play version of Destiny 2 can still purchase Bright Engrams in the Eververse Store.
Smith emphasized that they “want players to know what something costs before they buy it.” This sentiment flies in the face of Activision’s former plans for the game as well as large publishers like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts who still use paid loot boxes as an ongoing revenue stream. That said, loot boxes and microtransactions in general have been undergoing serious scrutiny lately.
“We want players to know what something costs before they buy it”
EA, in particular, has borne the brunt of the backlash against loot boxes. Star Wars: Battlefront 2 was famously ridiculed for including pay-to-win loot boxes at its launch, leading to the most down voted comment in Reddit history. Representatives from the company spoke in front of a UK parliamentary panel where they described loot boxes as “surprise mechanics” that players find “quite ethical and quite fun.”
The tide seems to be changing as of late. Fortnite is a free-to-play battle royale shooter that’s completely dependent on cosmetic loot boxes and a battle pass. EA subsequently copied that model with Apex Legends. Destiny 2 seems to be emulating that model also on some level. The game shifted to a free-to-play model when Shadowkeep launched and allowed players to purchase seasonal passes if desired. With the removal of loot boxes from paid content, this may lead to other publishers following suit.

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Amazon is pushing Fire TV Edition to soundbars, set-top boxes, and cars this year – Blog – 10 minute

In brief: Amazon wants to integrate its Fire TV Edition experience into more devices like soundbars and car infotainment systems, as part of its plan to be at the center of your entertainment setup. The company will show off some of these devices at CES 2020, with soundbars from TCL and cars from Chrysler and BMW.
As we inch closer to CES 2020, Amazon is spilling the beans on one of its next big ambitions. By now it’s no secret the company wants to be in every modern home to govern the smart things in our lives, but it also wants inside as many cars as possible.
The idea of baking a smart TV OS into a soundbar took off with the Anker Nebula in September 2019. The $230 device is capable of 4K streaming with Dolby Vision without the need for a set-top box and comes with an Alexa-enabled remote.

Amazon has been working with TV manufacturers to get Fire TV Edition on them, but now it’s more interested in showing off new soundbars from TCL — the Alto 8+ and TS8011 — that are powered by the same software. The first is available in Canada and the US, and the other will be coming soon to most countries in Western Europe.
The company is also planning to enhance Fire TV with support for Dolby Atmos, HDMI switching, remote device control similar to Fire TV Cube, and far-field microphones for Alexa interactions.

Users will soon be able to use a soundbar to do the switching between your gaming console, Blu-Ray player, and every other device that you might want to plug into your smart TV. Amazon is essentially fighting to be the central hub for your home entertainment system through Fire TV.
Amazon says it will also push Fire TV Edition into car infotainment systems, starting with vehicles from Fiat, Chrysler, and BMW. Later this year, you’ll also be able to do things like ask Alexa to pay for gas at 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations in the US using Amazon Pay.

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Loot boxes in games are gambling and should be banned for kids, say UK MPs – gpgmail


UK MPs have called for the government to regulate the games industry’s use of loot boxes under current gambling legislation — urging a blanket ban on the sale of loot boxes to players who are children.

Kids should instead be able to earn in-game credits to unlock look boxes, MPs have suggested in a recommendation that won’t be music to the games industry’s ears.

Loot boxes refer to virtual items in games that can be bought with real-world money and do not reveal their contents in advance. The MPs argue the mechanic should be considered games of chance played for money’s worth and regulated by the UK Gambling Act.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) parliamentary committee makes the recommendations in a report published today following an enquiry into immersive and addictive technologies that saw it take evidence from a number of tech companies including Fortnite maker Epic Games; Facebook-owned Instagram; and Snapchap.

The committee said it found representatives from the games industry to be “wilfully obtuse” in answering questions about typical patterns of play — data the report emphasizes is necessary for proper understanding of how players are engaging with games — as well as calling out some games and social media company representatives for demonstrating “a lack of honesty and transparency”, leading it to question what the companies have to hide.

“The potential harms outlined in this report can be considered the direct result of the way in which the ‘attention economy’ is driven by the objective of maximising user engagement,” the committee writes in a summary of the report which it says explores “how data-rich immersive technologies are driven by business models that combine people’s data with design practices to have powerful psychological effects”.

As well as trying to pry information about of games companies, MPs also took evidence from gamers during the course of the enquiry.

In one instance the committee heard that a gamer spent up to £1,000 per year on loot box mechanics in Electronic Arts’s Fifa series.

A member of the public also reported that their adult son had built up debts of more than £50,000 through spending on microtransactions in online game RuneScape. The maker of that game, Jagex, told the committee that players “can potentially spend up to £1,000 a week or £5,000 a month”.

In addition to calling for gambling law to be applied to the industry’s lucrative loot box mechanic, the report calls on games makers to face up to responsibilities to protect players from potential harms, saying research into possible negative psychosocial harms has been hampered by the industry’s unwillingness to share play data.

“Data on how long people play games for is essential to understand what normal and healthy — and, conversely, abnormal and potentially unhealthy — engagement with gaming looks like. Games companies collect this information for their own marketing and design purposes; however, in evidence to us, representatives from the games industry were wilfully obtuse in answering our questions about typical patterns of play,” it writes.

“Although the vast majority of people who play games find it a positive experience, the minority who struggle to maintain control over how much they are playing experience serious consequences for them and their loved ones. At present, the games industry has not sufficiently accepted responsibility for either understanding or preventing this harm. Moreover, both policy-making and potential industry interventions are being hindered by a lack of robust evidence, which in part stems from companies’ unwillingness to share data about patterns of play.”

The report recommends the government require games makers share aggregated player data with researchers, with the committee calling for a new regulator to oversee a levy on the industry to fund independent academic research — including into ‘Gaming disorder‘, an addictive condition formally designated by the World Health Organization — and to ensure that “the relevant data is made available from the industry to enable it to be effective”.

“Social media platforms and online games makers are locked in a relentless battle to capture ever more of people’s attention, time and money. Their business models are built on this, but it’s time for them to be more responsible in dealing with the harms these technologies can cause for some users,” said DCMS committee chair, Damian Collins, in a statement.

“Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm. Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up. We challenge the Government to explain why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act.

“Gaming contributes to a global industry that generates billions in revenue. It is unacceptable that some companies with millions of users and children among them should be so ill-equipped to talk to us about the potential harm of their products. Gaming disorder based on excessive and addictive game play has been recognised by the World Health Organisation. It’s time for games companies to use the huge quantities of data they gather about their players, to do more to proactively identify vulnerable gamers.”

The committee wants independent research to inform the development of a behavioural design code of practice for online services. “This should be developed within an adequate timeframe to inform the future online harms regulator’s work around ‘designed addiction’ and ‘excessive screen time’,” it writes, citing the government’s plan for a new Internet regulator for online harms.

MPs are also concerned about the lack of robust age verification to keep children off age-restricted platforms and games.

The report identifies inconsistencies in the games industry’s ‘age-ratings’ stemming from self-regulation around the distribution of games (such as online games not being subject to a legally enforceable age-rating system, meaning voluntary ratings are used instead).

“Games companies should not assume that the responsibility to enforce age-ratings applies exclusively to the main delivery platforms: All companies and platforms that are making games available online should uphold the highest standards of enforcing age-ratings,” the committee writes on that.

“Both games companies and the social media platforms need to establish effective age verification tools. They currently do not exist on any of the major platforms which rely on self-certification from children and adults,” Collins adds.

During the enquiry it emerged that the UK government is working with tech companies including Snap to try to devise a centralized system for age verification for online platforms.

A section of the report on Effective Age Verification cites testimony from deputy information commissioner Steve Wood raising concerns about any move towards “wide-spread age verification [by] collecting hard identifiers from people, like scans of passports”.

Wood instead pointed the committee towards technological alternatives, such as age estimation, which he said uses “algorithms running behind the scenes using different types of data linked to the self-declaration of the age to work out whether this person is the age they say they are when they are on the platform”.

Snapchat’s Will Scougal also told the committee that its platform is able to monitor user signals to ensure users are the appropriate age — by tracking behavior and activity; location; and connections between users to flag a user as potentially underage. 

The report also makes a recommendation on deepfake content, with the committee saying that malicious creation and distribution of deepfake videos should be regarded as harmful content.

“The release of content like this could try to influence the outcome of elections and undermine people’s public reputation,” it warns. “Social media platforms should have clear policies in place for the removal of deepfakes. In the UK, the Government should include action against deepfakes as part of the duty of care social media companies should exercise in the interests of their users, as set out in the Online Harms White Paper.”

“Social media firms need to take action against known deepfake films, particularly when they have been designed to distort the appearance of people in an attempt to maliciously damage their public reputation, as was seen with the recent film of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi,” adds Collins.


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Bring More Tech (and Amazon Boxes) Into the Garage With a Smarter Opener


Most every premium garage door brand these days has a Wi-Fi remote that lets you check the status of your garage door from your smartphone and open or close the door remotely. Increasingly, Wi-Fi remotes tie into home control services including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and let you monitor who comes in and when. They all beat the old clip-on open-close remotes that attach to your car’s sun visor. Some do more than others.

After researching what to do to improve the garage of our 40-year-old house with 20-year-old openers, I decided the best technology to control garage access is the Chamberlain myQ Smart Garage Hub.SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce It’s a $50 device that connects virtually any opener of the past 25 years, regardless of brand. If your opener needs replacement, you can get the same myQ technology built into many openers from Chamberlain and sister company LiftMaster, which sells the practically identical WLED Belt Drive Wi-Fi Garage Door Opener (click to read PCMag’s full review of that model). The best feature of myQ is the Amazon Key partnership, which lets Amazon deliver packages inside the garage and monitor the delivery person with a video feed.

Read on for more on how to decide on a smart garage door opener — and if you’re game, how I also updated the rest of my garage, which cost a heck of a lot more than $50.

Ryobi’s traditional belt-drive opener, with a twist: power backup using a Ryobi power tool battery.

Choices in Garage Door Operators

Wi-Fi lets you control your garage door from anywhere. Some of the companies that have Wi-Fi operators, the industry term for a garage door opener, include:

  • Chamberlain / Liftmaster / Merlin (same company: Chamberlain Group)
  • Craftsman / Sears
  • Genie
  • Mighty Mule
  • Ryobi (a slick design lets you attach a Ryobi One+ portable tool battery to the opener for battery backup; see photo above)
  • Skylink

The cheapest operators, such as the Skylink Atoms AT61611 ($125), won’t have Wi-Fi. There are Wi-Fi-equipped openers for $175 and up that let you control and monitor the garage door remotely. If Wi-Fi is not built-in, there are more than a dozen third-party adapters that make virtually any opener accessible from the web or smartphone. These adapters work via wired or wireless signals to the opener, and by Wi-Fi to your home access point; they may require a sensor on the door.

Remote software lets the happy homeowner see a package delivered, safely, inside the garage. And the UPS person doesn’t worry about being chased back into their truck by a protective canine. In real life, the process is pretty much foolproof, and you quickly stop worrying about the safety of the stuff in your garage.

Choices in Garage Door Software

Third-party remote Wi-Fi openers (used here in the industry sense) comprise software and hardware that open the operators (the physical motor and drive chain/belt or gearing). They all can control the doors from afar. That means you can manually open the door for a service person, a neighbor, or non-driving idiot family member who again forgot the house keys (consider a keypad door lock).

Many Wi-Fi openers work with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant/Google Home, the incredibly useful IFTTT (If This, Then That) protocol, Apple HomeKit, and Samsung SmartThings. They typically show door status (open, closed) on your phone, and e-mail or text you when the door opens or closes. They may automatically close the door at a set time at night in case someone left it open. Most use the 2.4-GHz frequency of your access point or router, not 5 GHz.

Most vendors include a list of operators that aren’t compatible. Beyond that, don’t expect them to work with garage door openers — sorry, operators — pre-1993, which is when the Consumer Product Safety Commission mandated automatic reversers. In the 1980s, about five children a year were killed by automated garage doors that closed on them. No more, and nobody seems to complain the government is too intrusive.

Opener software (and necessary hardware) include:

Alcidae Garager 2, $130.SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce It’s a 1080p Wi-Fi camera with night vision and two-way audio that attaches, typically, to the bottom of the garage door operator. There’s remote opener software. You can stream audio/video to your phone or tablet. If you want stored video you can recall, up to seven days worth, that’s $5 a month. Select clips can be stored. The Garager 2 works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Chamberlain myQ, part of many Chamberlain/LiftMaster garage door operator systems, or $50 as a module, the Smart Garage Hub,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce for most any brand made 1993 or later. myQ is easy to set up, and that alone is enough to recommend it. You can open or close the garage door from anywhere (same as any other Wi-Fi opener system), a family share system that lets three others also open/close/monitor the garage doors and control up to 16 myQ accessories, typically in-house lights using wall-plug modules. myQ is compatible with Apple iOS and Android, Google Assistant / Google Home, and IFTTT (If This, Then That).

myQ supports Amazon Key for delivery inside your garage door. Oddly, support for Amazon Alexa has been lacking although some third-party workarounds have been published. Chamberlain has abandoned, at least for now, the $1 a month subscription fee for IFTTT. Some installations will also need the myQ Home Bridge ($70) to work with Apple HomeKit and Siri voice control if the system doesn’t have built-in WiFi.

Garadget WiFi Smart Garage Door Controller, $80.SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce It’s easy to install and avoids most wires by using a laser sensor pointed at some reflective tape on the garage door. It is compatible with, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, and SmartThings, among others (remember the Pebble smartwatch?).

Genie Aladdin Connect, $55.SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce It’s useful for multi-door garages, includes hardware for one garage door and supports up to three, and if your house has four or more, you can probably afford to pay someone to create a way to control that many.

Gogogate2, $140.SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce One controller supports up to three garage doors. It works with Apple and Android devices, supports third-party cameras, and uses IFTTT apps to expand its functionality, including for voice control. Setup is more complex than, say, myQ. It wires into an existing operator and uses a sensor mounted to the garage door.

Nexx Garage Remote Garage Door Opener, $100,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce that has a difficult setup offset by a simple-to-use app, customizability, and compatibility with both Amazon Alexa and Google Home / Assistant, as well as Samsung SmartThings and others. It can be programmed to open automatically when the car approaches the garage. You must run a low-voltage wire to a garage door-sensor.

Amazon Key for Garage: Packages delivered inside your garage, protected from the weather and the odd thief, with delivery information via the Chamberlain/myQ app. $100 shop jack, left, stands in for the author’s hoped-for $5,000 post lift.

Amazon Key: myQ’s Best Feature

If you want packages delivered inside not outside, hassle-free, look into the Amazon Key apps, part of the Amazon Prime subscription.

For inside-the-house delivery, Amazon Key for Home, you need a smart lock kit from Kwikset, Schlage, or Yale. (Note Amazon agreed to three partners.)

For in-trunk delivery, you need Amazon Key In-Car, a 2015 or newer General Motors vehicle with OnStar, or Volvo with On Call telematics, and a currently active telematics subscription.

For Amazon’s in-garage delivery system, Amazon Key for Garage, there is currently one compatible technology, the myQ / Smart Garage Hub system, either as a $50 module (a physical hub) attached to any brand of compatible operator, or integrated in a $200-$500 Chamberlain / Liftmaster operator, and for video with the Amazon Cloud Cam (Key Edition) camera, which adds $120. Many, but not all, Amazon packages are eligible, and occasionally I found in testing Key delivery took one day longer than normal two-day Amazon Prime. Key for Garage is in 50 cities and their extensive surrounding areas as of mid-2019 (complete list).

As for security: You have to believe (and should) that your driver is not going to rip you off – really, is anybody looking to grab a broken lawn chair, a 350-pound snowblower, or smelly hockey gear kept outside the living area? As a practical matter, a delivery person wouldn’t last long stealing things, just as a hotel maid wouldn’t because a theft pattern would quickly show up (one package a month lost on each of 10 driver routes, 10 packages a month on the 11th route). If you’re a little (if not a lot) paranoid, Key for Garage is nice versus Key for Home because you might like that access is to the garage only and then you can deadbolt the access door to the house.

So far over two months, the Amazon Key for Garage system has worked perfectly for me. We get a notification delivery is about to happen. The package shows up, in the garage. We get a notification delivery took place, and when. With the Cloud Cam, we can see the delivery taking place. After you see this happen two or three times, you’re satisfied it all works according to plan. The Cloud Cam sends you a snap of the delivery and lets you watch event clips of the past 24 hours.

Premium storage, three plans, for 3-10 Cloud Cams and 7-30 days storage runs $7-$20 a month extra. You cannot currently swap in a non-Amazon video camera, although you could rig a third party camera that captures every garage-door-open event, working outside the Amazon Key app. I found after the first two weeks that the UPS guy was going to deliver, he did, the video was boring, and no packages got wet.

It would be nice, in our opinion, if Chamberlain/LiftMaster extended the garage access app to more vendors than Amazon. The company won’t comment on how long Amazon has Chamberlain locked into an exclusive, or vice versa. But, says Jeff Meredith, Chamberlain’s president and COO, “It’s not hard to imagine a garage being configured for things like home delivery – [a garage] equipped with reserved shelving for various sized packages and a refrigerator to accommodate online grocery purchases, which are set to quadruple between 2018 and 2023.”

Currently, the myQ app allows access by the homeowner plus three guest accounts that don’t have to share passwords. Additionally, the outdoor keypad can be programmed for a controlled number of accesses using an assigned code. Meredith said, “A dog walker, nanny, service person, realty agent, neighbor, extended family or delivery person … could all benefit from myQ.” For that, you might want a dozen limited-access guest accounts.

The Chamberlain Group is the major player in garage door openers (it also does access systems), but there’s big and then there’s big: Chamberlain’s parent, the privately held Duchossois Group, has an estimated $2 billion in revenues; Amazon is two orders of magnitude larger at $232 billion. If Chamberlain remains with Amazon exclusively, makers of competing garage door systems could partner with Walmart, Costco, Sears, pharmacies, or grocery delivery services that Amazon doesn’t own.

A wall-mount garage door opener, here the LiftMaster 8500W, and torsion springs on a shaft over the garage door header. It frees up space over the car for, say, a big storage rack. Yes, Marie Kondo would weep that you’re not throwing old stuff away.

How I Made a $50 Project Become Much More Expensive

Integrating myQ and Amazon Key into our garage was part of an ongoing garage and outdoors automation project with multiple outdoor cameras (brands TBD, see David Cardinal’s in-depth article on outdoor security cams for details), smart lawn sprinklers (Racchio), water leak sensors and auto shutoffs (product TBD), and outdoor lighting (Samsung SmartThings controls). Here’s what I did.

I went the new-opener route. I also added ultra-quiet rollers, weatherstripped the doors, and bought wall-mount openers for a cleaner design and had internal battery backup. And I had the two operators professionally installed because I also wanted the doors and rails tuned up, but mostly because you shouldn’t DIY a torsion bar spring installation. All told, it cost me about $2,000 rather than $50.

This garage-improvement project was launched because I wanted to fully use a two-bay, two-door garage equipped with ancient openers, doors that didn’t keep out the winter cold, a garage filled with one bay of junk, and lots of promise because the inside ceiling rises to 11 feet, enough to allow (until you price them) a shop lift for working on a car. The 160-pound wood doors banged and clanked on the way up or down. The safety reversers sometimes reversed when nothing was in the way.

The full project – in my plans – started with an epoxy or terrazzo-look floor ($1,000-$7,000), and it required shot blasting or diamond-grinding the existing surface for proper adhesion ($500-$1,000). There would be two new doors ($250 to $5,000 apiece, with really nice wood Craftsman-style doors matching the house at least $2,000 apiece). See video below to understand some of the hassles of DIY floors, starting with learning that your concrete has already been sealed and learning the top layer of concrete has to be ground or bead-blasted off.

The garage door operator would mount to the side of the door frame opening and drive a shaft running above the door header, eliminating the drive chain/drive belt above the centerline of the car. New tracks for the rollers would follow the sloped 4-in-12 pitch of the ceiling, allowing for a shop lift ($2,500 – $10,000) in one bay and overhead storage in the other. Ideally, the garage door openers would integrate battery backups in case town power failed and so did our backup generator.

I’d add more lighting in the ceiling, additional AC outlets in the wall, a gas-heater for work on wintry days, and a couple of speakers for music. Finally, a 240-volt transformer ($500-$1,000) would go in to charge the EVs and plug-in hybrids I test. Once there’s 240 volts in the garage, you can bring in a bigger air compressor.

Reality hit hard. Even $10,000 wouldn’t do the full job and “in my plans” became “in your dreams.” New, architectural-series doors were scaled back to the existing doors plus $250 of weatherstripping and insulation. The old floor remains, and even if I chose later to DIY the epoxy painting (carefully) to save money, the surface prep is hot, noisy, and dusty — one of those jobs you want to job out. The two-post shop lift became a $150 two-ton Harbor Freight compact jack, but don’t laugh: In the past year, I saw two professional race shops with HF jacks, okay? I also added four jack stands and wheel chocks.

As for the openers, the myQ technology was the bang-for-the-buck and ease-of-use winner. Because the existing openers were 20-plus years old, I opted for new Liftmaster openers, $500 apiece, with jackshaft drive (attaches directly to the torsion bar roller), integrated battery backup, keypad remote, and one each wired and wireless in-the-garage remote controls. With this opener, there’s no center drive rail, and later I can install the door rollers in a custom metal track that follows the ceiling. That would allow the future shop lift, and in the meantime, the garage looks a little more open. The follow-the-ceiling roller tracks can be added later.

The myQ app works well. I would like the option to the status of both garage doors on one screen, rather than one screen per door. I’d also prefer to get open-close messages as texts, not e-mails. Otherwise, it’s fine.

What Makes a Garage Door Opener Worth $500?

The top-of-the-line Liftmaster opener deadbolts the door every time it closes.

The operators I chose for my garage doors are currently about $500 street, the LiftMaster 8500W (photo right; Chamberlain equivalent, RJO70). It has Wi-Fi and myQ built-in. The wall-mount design frees ceiling space, so you can put a storage rack hanging down between door rails. It’s quiet. The mechanism actually slows the last foot of travel for a softer, quieter touchdown.

An electronic deadbolt auto-engages when the garage door is shut. If the power is out, the integrated battery opens the door, helpful for people who don’t always carry house keys or forget them. Each 8,500W operator comes with four controllers: an outside keypad, an inside wired switch (usually installed next to the door), an inside wireless switch (usually next to the house entry door), and a visor-mount wireless receiver. An included LED ceiling light (quite bright) mounts near any electrical outlet (typically the one used by the old ceiling-mount opener) and is wirelessly controlled.

To see your package being safely delivered, you have one choice: the Amazon Cloud Cam, $120.

If You Want to Do It Yourself

The LiftMaster 8500W operator (opener).

You can add-on adapters that bring Wi-Fi-control-from-anywhere to existing openers. myQ is about as easy as it gets. What’s especially nice is that this is one of the few instances in tech you can retrofit new technology to an existing product without having to buy a whole new device.

With modest skills, you can DIY install a new garage door opener – operator — with Wi-Fi if it uses a drive belt or chain, which is the most common type. A torsion spring opener calls for a professional installer; the spring needs careful tensioning and if it lets go, you could be hurt or killed. (This is not the usual abstract profession-drive-closed-course warning. That spring is dangerous.) If you put in a new chain- or belt-driver operator, not torsion-bar, with the springs running parallel to the horizontal tracks, make sure the springs have a safety cable running through the middle and if not, add one, because really old springs can break apart.

If the garage is under a bedroom, you want the quietest operator. In order from high to low in quietness and price, the preferred operator is:

  • Wall-mount operator with torsion spring (quietest, costliest).
  • Ceiling mount with belt drive.
  • Ceiling mount with chain drive (least quiet, cheapest).

But: If noise is the problem with a current opener, first replace any existing steel-wheel rollers with ball-bearing nylon rollers, at most $25 for a 10-pack, the number you need for a typical four-section door. Also, replace the pulleys (two per door). Or, get a garage door tune-up for $50-$100. A door that doesn’t close square to the ground makes noise. That alone, squaring the door, plus nylon rollers, made a significant difference with 20-year-old Craftsman belt-drive openers in our old house.

Read up if you’re thinking of doing this yourself. If you want affordable, effective, and simple-to-install, you’ll probably find a myQ system is the way to go, especially if you’re a frequent Amazon shopper. You only need to automate one garage door, which means $50 for the myQ Smart Garage Hub (MYQ-G0301) or $200 belt-drive operator with Wi-Fi/myQ integrated such as the Chamberlain B550. You should also spring for a new set of nylon rollers.

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