4.27.2016

Dark Times for Nintendo

Nintendo struck out last game and needs a home run to make up for the Wii U's failure


This is a tough time for Nintendo. They have announced that they intend to sell their majority stake in the Seattle Mariners baseball team, keeping only a 10% stake. Additionally, Nintendo profits are down 61%. In an effort to reassure investors, Nintendo has given a release date of March 2017 for their still unnamed NX project.

The NX will be very different from the Wii and Wii U, as Nintendo aims to distance themselves from the recent commercial failures of the Wii U. The NX is expected to be a console/handheld hybrid, and will likely use industry-leading chips (likely to be AMD). At this point, no information about controller design is available. Many will recall that controller design was a contributing factor in the Wii U’s failure.

"Nintendo aims to distance themselves from the recent commercial failures of the Wii U. "

Nintendo has also delayed the upcoming Wii U Zelda game, and will also release it on the upcoming NX console. The delay aims to “improve the quality” of the game, although I can only see challenges being added to development. The likely different chipsets might cause a difference in performance, and depending on how far Zelda Wii U is in development, might result in the NX version being a mere port of the Wii U version (although Nintendo did remarkably well with Twilight Princess) Additionally, Zelda games are known for their ingenuity in using a console’s unique controls, and this may force the development team to alter or remove some features or items from one or both games.

Adding fuel to the fire, Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima stated that production of the Wii U might cease by March of 2018. A new console might be what Nintendo needs, but as mentioned in our podcast, this will likely kill the Wii U entirely.

Opera Now Includes a Pseudo-VPN

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is one of many methods someone can use to protect their web traffic. A VPN encrypts data sent between two points, often from one physical location in a company to another. This can provide a secure connection over an unsafe network (such as your local free Wi-Fi hotspot).


These days, many VPN providers offer free and/or paid VPN services. Some of the more popular ones include Private Internet Access, HideMyAss and Express VPN, however a few days ago it was announced that Opera would add a “sort-of” VPN to its web browser. As it turns out, this is a bit of a marketing misnomer, as the Opera web browser will be using a proxy rather than a VPN. A proxy is different in that it will send the data to a third-party (in this case Opera’s own servers) before sending the data to the intended destination. Depending on the settings of the proxy, not all of a user’s web traffic may be encrypted. 


As of now, the service is optional, requires no subscription and is as easy as a single click. The service is based on the SurfEasy VPN Opera acquired in March 2015, and operates by sending API requests to a server owned by SurfEasy using proxy servers owned by Opera. Some privacy minded individuals (myself included) will be wary of all their data going through Opera’s servers, although this is no different from any other VPN provider. 


Opera’s “VPN” is only available in developer builds at this time, but may be a step in the right direction for privacy.

4.25.2016

Davis & the Jake-Man 05: Is the 4K Cost-Effective Console a Myth?

4.23.2016

The Internet is a Privilege


The United Nations was formed in 1945 after World War II, with the goal of maintaining international peace and security. One of the most important results of this may be "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights." This fairly straightforward document contains 30 articles, some of which are very similar to the United States’ own Bill of Rights and Constitution.

Back in 2003, the UN issued a report as part of its World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which declared an internet connection as a human right (however, it was not added to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights mentioned above). In today’s society, this seems like a no-brainer. 

Our computers, phones, and more and more “smart devices” have been connected to the internet with mixed results. The Internet has become such a staple that not having constant access to it can become a handicap in areas such as school and business. It is essential that the freedom of speech be protected in this “global economy”, however, this freedom is not without limits.

"Freedom of speech is not without its limits."

Let me ask you: Am I free to yell “fire” in a crowded theater? Absolutely. I am also free to suffer the consequences. Without a doubt, I will go to jail (if I’m not trampled to death by panicked moviegoers).

But what about the U.S. Constitution’s “unalienable Rights” [sic]? “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” don’t belong to just me, but to all U.S. citizens. Destroying another’s rights by killing, enslaving or distressing them is the very thing our laws protect against and, naturally, putting someone in prison is also infringing upon their rights.

This is why people can be legally banned from the World Wide Web. Although we tend to forget these days, there are other methods of reaching the outside world. SMS and dumb phones still exist, the postal systems still accept pen and paper, and God forbid, you could talk to someone in person. Not being able to access the internet may seem like a harsh punishment, but ask yourself: If someone pulled a Craigslist sex prank on you, what other punishment would seem more appropriate?


4.19.2016

GameStop Doubles Down on VR

With this latest piece of news, virtual reality (VR) is poised to be the next big thing in gaming.

A few weeks ago, it was announced that HTC Vive headsets will be demoed in select retail stores, and just yesterday it was announced that GameStop would also be demoing Playstation VR headsets.

HTC Vive
Credit: The Verge

As of this writing, three Microsoft stores already have HTC Vive headset demos and by the end of this month, so will 12 more. Microsoft has stated that customers must be 18 years or older to play, although this seems to be for liability reasons rather than the games’ content. Currently, HTC plans for 30 Microsoft stores to have HTC Vive headsets by the end of the year, with GameStop deploying headsets in 10 locations beginning April 16.

Not to be outdone, Sony has declared that they will bring Demo Playstation VR headsets to a “significant” number of GameStop locations between June and December (just in time for the holidays).

PlayStation VR
Credit: The Verge

With the HTC Vive sitting at $799 and the PlayStation VR at $399 (the PlayStation 4.5 is expected to cost around $400), I don’t expect either of these headsets to be this holiday season’s “must-have” item without some serious PR. Watching famous YouTubers freaking out is far less impactful than experiencing VR for yourself.

So far, the demo headsets are few in number and placed in heavily-populated cities like New York and Salt Lake City, so many holiday shoppers will not be able to try one by the time Christmas rolls around.

4.14.2016

Chrome OS Captures Half of Education Market, Becomes Viable Platform

Kids and seniors alike can be free from viruses and complicated updates


Chrome OS has been a sleeper success. You don’t hear about it as often as you should, considering its highly impressive adoption rate. For those who don’t know, Chrome OS is an operating system (OS) developed by Google and based on the open-source Linux operating system (similar to Android). The only application it runs is Google’s Chrome web browser.

Take the machine I’m writing this article on; it’s a six-year-old MacBook Air that has been repurposed as a Chromebook. The Macintosh OS was beginning to bog down after five major iterations (10.6 > 10.11) and memory was being hogged by the vestigial desktop environment. All it could do anymore was run a web browser, so I made the switch. And let me tell you, the difference is night and day.


It has been a mini-revolution. Offering freedom from the hassles of bloatware, viruses, time-consuming administration, and resource-intensive desktop environments, Chrome OS has deployed across both business and, especially, education markets. In addition to relieving administrators of many headaches, Chrome OS provides an attractive alternative to Windows on the low end of the consumer market; Chrome OS operates better with limited resources (2GB RAM and 16GB SSD are standard on Chromebooks) than Microsoft’s OS.

The thinking here is that a vast majority of what people use a computer for is web browsing. Think about what the typical user does on their computer on a day-to-day basis: social media, email, the weather... It's all online. You don't need a lot of horsepower to check your Twitter feed or to see who won the NFL game.

"A vast majority of what people use a computer for is web browsing."

When announced in 2009, it truly seemed as though Google was jumping the gun, “Nothing but Chrome?! But what about Microsoft Office?” But in reality, what they were doing was investing in the the future of computing and accurately predicting a paradigm shift in the way we use our machines.

Many consumers buying a Chromebook, the successor to the value subcategory of laptop once called a netbook (a device category from last decade killed off by Apple’s MacBook Air and iPad), likely will not want to leave the convenience and simplicity of Google’s platform. That’s bad news for Apple’s hardware sales and Microsoft's Office subscription numbers.

4.11.2016

Netflix Announces Second Screen Functionality in its Apps

Howling at the Moon

 
What is second screening? It’s one of those technology buzzwords that you hear on the news or read in esoteric, arcane market research and industry coverage. Here’s the breakdown:

The act of second screening has been around for nearly a decade. It’s an activity many of us engage in without even knowing it; two-thirds of American, internet-connected households second screen.

Second screening is the act of using web-capable device while watching a TV show or movie. That’s it. So why the fuss? This activity has been lauded for years as the next way to differentiate the offerings of content providers. What’s the difference from Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse? Well, aside from pricing and content selection, it’s their second screen experience.


Despite many new mediums coming to market since the original iPhone (the first commercially successful smartphone) including 3D, virtual reality, viable internet video streaming services, and a flood of user-generated content freely viewable by billions, second screening has been lauded time and again as a way to stimulate growth in the stagnant television marketplace.

It’s beginning to sound like The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Remember the Wii U? It was going to be the equally compelling follow-up to Nintendo’s commercially successful Wii console. It was a beefier Wii with a mandatory tablet controller and its sales were horrendous. This is a testament to consumers’ antipathy towards being force-fed a multi-screen experience.


Users instead prefer at-will engagement acting as a supplement to the “big screen” like Netflix’s recently-announced new app feature. This is a restrained approach in that the second screen only initiates when casting from the app (so Netflix is sure the viewer has the second screen in hand).

Netflix isn’t taking a major chance; this is opt-in and hardly more ambitious than grassroots social media, “OMG cant bleve wut just happened on @MadMen!” Time will tell how useful Netflix’s subscribers will find this newest implementation of a tired concept but rest assured, the boy will cry again either way.

Upcoming: Crackle announces revolutionary companion app that integrates with Google+