9.26.2016

Pokemon Uranium Shuts Down

For Real This Time


Last week, the team working on Pokemon Uranium stated on Twitter that they would no longer provide updates or support for the game. Pokemon Uranium has been mentioned in passing a few times on our site, once in our AM2R article and also in our No DMCA’s Sky article.

Pokemon Uranium was developed over a nine year period, and was an unlicensed, fan-made game. The creators took the familiar gameplay and added 150 new, original Pokemon and a new “nuclear” type. The game was taken down just days after its release, and only weeks after AM2R’s takedown. The game was downloaded over 1.5 million times during its first week, after which the creators were forced to take down all official download links.

At the time of takedown, the creative team behind Uranium hoped to support the game through some sort of updates, but this no longer seems to be possible. The team has not explicitly mentioned Nintendo in their decision to stop supporting the game, but it is not hard to imagine the kind of legal pressure the team may be under right now.

Nintendo is well known for their very aggressive enforcement of their Intellectual Properties. Although they are well within their rights to shut down fan projects that infringe on characters, licenses, music, etc., their aggressive stance has come under fire numerous times, and is well known in the industry. (Take Sega’s jab at them saying fans could use Sonic’s characters however they want.)

“Nintendo is well known for their very aggressive enforcement of their Intellectual Properties.”

It really is a shame to see such a great fan project shut down. The Pokemon Uranium team created a game that arguably rivaled one of Nintendo’s own in quality, while infusing a brand new twist to the franchise.The Uranium team gained quite a following, and may be able to add the project to their resumes, or potentially use their experience in a brand new project.

The game may no longer be officially supported, but online play is still possible, and download links can be found if one knows where to look. Just be aware that the developers have warned users, "We have no connection to fans who re-upload the game files to their own hosts, and we cannot verify that those download links are all legitimate. We advise you to be extremely cautious about downloading the game from unofficial sources."

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Backlash Over New YouTube Heroes Program

Perhaps Not The Heroes We Deserve?


YouTube is currently experiencing some backlash over the announcement of their new program, YouTube Heroes. Many of the more well known YouTubers including big names like PewDiePie, Pyrocinical, and more are speaking out about the program through videos of their own.

So what is it? YouTube’s Heroes will crowdsource some of its content management to some of its users, called Heroes. These “Heroes” will perform some of the actions typically reserved for YouTube administrators, such as flagging inappropriate videos and removing nasty comments.

Users get points for performing certain actions on YouTube, eventually leveling up and gaining access to more moderator abilities and other rewards like sneak peeks of new features. Users can level up by contributing to YouTube by flagging inappropriate videos, adding captions and subtitles, and sharing their knowledge with other users on forums.

"Users get points for performing certain actions on YouTube, eventually leveling up and gaining access to more moderator abilities and other rewards."

Hero perks are divided into five levels. Starting at level one, Heroes can join the community and access the Heroes dashboard. Level two will let Heroes join exclusive workshops and take part in Hero hangouts. From level three, Heroes gain access to super tools, such as mass flagging of abusive videos and helping to moderate the YouTube Heroes community.

Level 4 will let Heroes go behind the scenes with sneak previews of product launches and the ability to contact the YouTube staff directly. After reaching level 5, users get even closer to YouTube, letting them test products before release, and allowing them to apply for the Heroes Summit. Hero points don’t expire during the YouTube Heroes program, but violating YouTube’s policies can decrease points.

This could be a very powerful system, and carries a lot of potential for abuse. From placing completely wrong (or offensive) subtitles on a video to mass flagging an entire channel, many YouTubers are worried that some of the worst people on the internet could hold positions of power in the community. There do seem to be some tools in place, such as a reputation system to prevent abuse, but we won’t see how effective these tools are for some time.

“This could be a very powerful system, and carries a lot of potential for abuse.”

The introductory video for YouTube Heroes can be found here, and at time of writing has over 2 million views and sits at a 98% dislike rating. The program is currently in beta, and YouTube hopes to refine its program as it goes. Anyone who is interested can apply here.

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9.25.2016

Davis's Tech News September 18 - 24


"Davis's Tech News" is a weekly digest of #technews curated by
D&theJM's Senior Technology Correspondent, Davis.

9.21.16 Don’t plug it in! Scammers post infected USB sticks through letterboxes
9.19.16 Password-protect your Wi-Fi hotspots and ask for user details too, rules ECJ
9.19.16 324,000 payment cards breached, CVVs included
9.19.16 HP’s DRM sabotages off-brand printer ink cartridges with self-destruct date
9.19.16 Valve bans developer from Steam after it sues customers over bad reviews
 
Editor's note: We previously used Readability, a read-it-later bookmarklet service, to curate Davis's Tech News. However, it is shutting down at the end of this month. Our hearts go out to this phenomenal platform's talented developers. Readability's design language is in the DNA of Davis and the Jake-Man; our gray background (#212324) and serif font, Mercury, were inspired by this wonderful platform that for seven years empowered users to "Read Comfortably."

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9.23.2016

Nintendo NX Release Date May Have Leaked

What do We Know About the NX?


Last week, a Reddit user found a reference to the date March 4, 2017 (04/03/2017 in Europe) on Nintendo’s European product page for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Amiibos.

Although the leak seems credible, especially since the NX is scheduled to release in March, there are a few reasons the March 4 release is suspect. First of all, it relates to Amiibo. It makes sense to release an amiibo alongside its game, but Nintendo has released amiibos months after their accompanying games, and the Wii U version of Twilight Princess already includes an amiibo which will work with Breath of the Wild.

Second, the date could be a placeholder. This is a common method used by retailers when a product hasn’t been released yet. A placeholder often lets customers pre-order a product despite an official release date being unannounced.

Now then, let’s go over what we do know about the NX. The NX’s existence was revealed at a March 2015 press conference by late Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata. Iwata described the project as “a dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept.” Nintendo confirmed soon afterward that the NX will launch in March 2017, although it wasn't shown at E3 this year.

The console is rumored to be a home/portable hybrid console, and the rumors were confirmed by Eurogamer in July. Eurogamer’s report says the NX will be a powerful handheld with its own screen and two detachable controllers for on-the-go multiplayer. This handheld will attach to a base station at home for playing on a TV.

“The console is rumored to be a home/portable hybrid console.”

Eurogamer’s report also suggested that the console would use cartridges and digital downloads for games. Supposedly, the console will use NVIDIA’s Tegra mobile processor and a new operating system (not simply Android, as earlier rumors had said). Nintendo doesn’t seem to be competing with Sony and Microsoft in terms of raw gaming power, instead aiming for portability and hardware innovation.

There are many factors in determining a console’s success during its lifecycle. First-party games, third-party support, pricing and more will be key in Nintendo’s newest console, but the greatest factor in the NX’s launch might be the controller.

“The greatest factor in the NX’s launch might be the controller.”

Nintendo’s Wii revolutionized motion in gaming, surpassing 100 million units sold, and inspiring Microsoft and Sony to do the same. Their Wii U was much less successful despite a killer offering of first-party games, with Nintendo failing to immediately establish the Wii U’s tablet controller as a crucial part of the system. The bulky tablet and its short battery life is hit or miss even in first-party games. A second screen, a companion app, a treasure map, or just a controller; third parties often found it difficult to take advantage of the tablet’s features.

So what do we know about the NX controller? In August, Let’s Play Video Games confirmed Eurogamer’s reports and added that the console’s controllers would support motion controls with the same accuracy and fidelity as the Wii’s MotionPlus controller. The controller will alo feature a vibration force feedback similar to that of the HTC Vive controller. NX will also support current Wiimotes, which will be compatible with certain multiplayer games, but Nintendo hopes to phase out the Wiimotes during the NX’s lifecycle.


Back in August, rumors circulated from Let’s Play Video Games that the NX would use a split directional pad. For those who haven’t noticed, Nintendo has used a proprietary solid directional pad since the original Nintendo, and the NX seems to be breaking tradition. The controller may also include a share button, similar to the the PlayStation 4’s Dualshock 4 controller. A share button will capture images and video for sharing with social media sites Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Miiverse, and allow storage on external media.

Always one for innovation, Nintendo might replace the familiar shoulder buttons with clickable scroll wheels, like the ones seen on mice. Last week, NeoGAF discovered a patent which describes the aforementioned replacement. The added functionality may be good for games with lots of menus, skipping back and forth in video apps, and might bring about some interesting control schemes.


All these rumors may be concerning for fans of the Zelda series, but Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma says the differences between the two versions of Breath of the Wild will be minor. In a roundtable discussion with GameSpot, Aonuma stated, “The users will be able to have the same experience with the NX version as they will with the Wii U version.” This is not surprising, as the Wii edition of Twilight Princess was graphically identical to the Gamecube version, with the exception of different controller icons.

That’s all we know for now, but the NX is scheduled to be officially unveiled sometime in September. If you’d like to hear more of our thoughts on what it will take for Nintendo to succeed, check out our Nintendo NX podcast.

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9.22.2016

Skype Messaging Anywhere Promises Sleek SMS and Messaging Integration

Microsoft’s second text message syncing service competes with Cortana and iMessage 


On Thursday, September 15th, Microsoft reintroduced its Messaging Everywhere feature as part of its Skype messaging service. This function was integrated into the Windows 10 Messaging app on several Insider Builds over the summer but was eventually dropped in favor of baking it into Skype. Dona Sarkar of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft stated in a blog post that “The experience was well-received by Insiders however we believe we can deliver an even better experience through the Skype app.”

SMS relay, as I stated in my very first article for D&theJM, is an integral part of a complete ecosystem; being able to respond to instant messages and texts on any of your devices is both useful and futuristic. As mentioned in that article, a chunk of Apple’s success can be attributed to the seamlessness of its iMessage service. Introduced in 2012, this cross-platform functionality greatly bolstered the allure of the iOS and macOS ecosystems and, at the time, their synergy offered more value than Windows and Android solutions.

“The synergy of the iOS and macOS ecosystems offered more value than Windows and Android.”

The Messaging Anywhere feature now built into Skype attempts to duplicate this recipe for success. Its hurdles are numerous: the requirement of a Skype account, shaky confidence in the platform, and an alternative solution from Microsoft itself: Cortana.

Redmond’s digital assistant is able to view and send text messages on a Windows Phone or Android smartphone with Cortana installed. The separation of the Cortana and Skype teams at Microsoft may explain why the corporation offers two solutions, but that doesn’t change the fact that Cortana renders Messaging Anywhere redundant. 


It requires a Microsoft Account in much the same way that Skype and iMessage need you to log in (and unlike WhatsApp and Google’s new Allo). In return for signing in or creating an account, the user is rewarded with a solid alternative to Apple iMessage. Cortana's SMS functionality is stable and only requires the installation of a single app (or none if your are a Windows Phone user) due to the assistant's bundling with Windows 10.

In  contrast, Messaging Anywhere is in beta (you need a Windows 10 Insider Build to use this Skype Preview feature) so it is too soon to say whether or not it will be compelling. Regardless, it faces stiff competition from both Apple and another product under the Microsoft umbrella. After four years, a true iMessage competitor has been a long time coming.

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9.20.2016

Valve Bans Developer from Steam for Suing Customers Over Bad Reviews

Has Digital Homicide Committed Digital Suicide?


Developer Digital Homicide recently filed a lawsuit against 100 Steam users seeking $18 million in damages. A subpoena was requested in an Arizona court which, if granted, will allow Digital Homicide’s James Romine to demand the real identities of the John/Jane Does, and bring a personal injury claim against them.

The lawsuit lists counts of “harassment”, “stalking”, and cyber-bullying”. The specific comments contained allegations about the studio’s games and their development, including accusations that many of their products were re-skins of the same game, among other things (death threats, most notably).

Valve’s marketing Director, Doug Lombardi, sent an email to Vice’s Motherboard last week stating that "Valve has stopped doing business with Digital Homicide for being hostile to Steam customers." Since then, Valve has removed all of Digital Homicide’s games from the Steam Store.

"Valve has stopped doing business with Digital Homicide for being hostile to Steam customers."

Over the weekend, Romine struck back, accusing Valve of not providing a safe environment by not dealing with a high number of abusive comments from Steam users and "a reckless disregard for for the wellbeing of their community for profits."

Romine stated, “We submitted numerous reports and sent multiple emails in regards to individuals making personal attacks, harassment, and more on not only us but on other Steam customers who were actually interested in our products.” Romine also provided examples of the alleged conduct.


As one might expect, Steam users haven’t taken kindly to the lawsuit. Numerous comments can be found on the developer’s pages, and some suspect the lawsuit may expand beyond the original 100 users if this keeps up.

Digital Homicide is familiar with controversy. Earlier this year, Digital Homicide pursued a separate, ongoing lawsuit against game critic Jim Sterling (known for The Jimquisition Series) demanding $10 million in damages in a series of videos going back to 2014. Romine’s GoFundMe account, which hopes to fund the suit, has made only $425 of its $75,000 goal. Romine has claimed he "received a pile of feces in the mail" and received messages like "Your wife is a whore," and "I hope you die in a fiery car crash."

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9.17.2016

Davis's Tech News: September 10 - 17

 
"Davis's Tech News" is a weekly digest of #technews curated by
D&theJM's Senior Technology Correspondent, Davis.

9.14.16 After “lewd acts,” NYC’s free Internet kiosks disable Web browsing
9.14.16 Phony Pokémon GO Android App Gave Attackers Root Access
9.12.16 Samsung Galaxy Note 7 explodes in New York, burns six-year-old boy
9.12.16 4.5 million web servers have private keys that are publicly known!
9.12.16 Netflix asks FCC to declare data caps “unreasonable”
9.12.16 FDA, DHS Investigating St. Jude Device Vulnerabilities
 
Editor's note: We previously used Readability, a read-it-later bookmarklet service, to curate Davis's Tech News. However, it is shutting down at the end of this month. Our hearts go out to this phenomenal platform's talented developers. Readability's design language is in the DNA of Davis and the Jake-Man; our gray background (#212324) and serif font, Mercury, were inspired by this wonderful platform that for seven years empowered users to "Read Comfortably."

http://www.davisandthejakeman.com/search/label/davistechnews

9.15.2016

Nintendo Makes a Run on Mobile

Super Mario Run May Become the Most Profitable Mobile Game Ever


Last Wednesday, Apple and Nintendo announced that our favorite mustachioed plumber is headed to mobile. During Apple’s Special Event, (points for creativity) Apple CEO Tim Cook and Nintendo’s own Shigeru Miyamoto announced the brand new game exclusively for IoS (for now).

Players will play through traditional 2D Mario levels collecting as many coins as possible. The players have a set amount of time, and must reach the flagpole at the end of a level. The entire game can be played with one hand (as Miyamoto demonstrates in this video), as Mario will run automatically, jumping small hurdles and certain enemies. Mario jumps and slides through the levels as players tap the screen.

“The entire game can be played with one hand.”

Super Mario Run will also feature a battle mode called Toad Rally. By playing Toad Rally, Players can challenge high scores of friends and other players worldwide. During Toad Rally, players will race a sticker Mario through the course as they collect coins and toad impressions. Toad impressions are earned by performing “daring moves”, Any toads that the player impresses will be added to the player’s own “Mushroom Kingdom”, which can be expanded and customized with coins collected in-game. Games of Toad Rally continue until time runs out.

Super Mario Run will launch at a set price, allowing purchasers to play as long as they want. An official release date is still unannounced, but Super Mario Run will be available in time for the holidays this year. A gameplay trailer for Super Mario Run can be found here.

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AirPods and their Proprietary W1 Chip are the Latest in Apple’s Closed Garden Strategy

They forked Bluetooth


At last week’s Apple Event, the Cupertino tech giant unveiled a number of new products, most notably the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. However, they also announced the successor to their smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 2. These weren’t the only products Apple was touting, however.

In addition to these core hardware upgrades, Apple’s Phil Schiller introduced the first Apple-branded headphones since the Apple EarPods at their September event four years ago. These new headphones look identical to the existing pair except that they are cordless. And Apple believes this cordlessness merits a $159 price tag, over five times the cost of their wired equivalent. Well, their cordlessness and a “smart” factor powered by their new W1 wireless chip.

This chip enables the headphones to pair in one step through proprietary measures (that is, through  methods not present in the Bluetooth standard) with any iOS device. Yes, the device must run the Apple-exclusive mobile operating system to pair the devices without a button. You can also switch from using both headphones to one by taking an AirPod out of your ear, although this presumably requires some back-and-forth communication with the host device (phone, laptop, tablet) and since a software update adds this functionality to eligible iOS 10 devices, older Apple products and all non-Apple branded Bluetooth-enabled devices will be left out.

"Other types of products are theoretically compatible, but are relegated to second-tier status."

These features are built atop Bluetooth, so other types of products are theoretically compatible with the AirPods on a basic level, but are relegated to second-tier status. This is Apple's latest expression of its wall garden ethos; to get the most out of an Apple product, you must buy other Apple products. With core products like smartphones and tablets, it is less sinister because they must run some sort of software.

The same cannot be said for accessories like mice and headphones. Apple's Magic Mouse cannot be used on Windows without third party drivers. Are Apple customers who buy the AirPods and own Android or Windows devices expected to wait for or develop their own workaround? There is something seedy and anti-competitive inherent in this decision, but nothing about it is surprising.

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9.12.2016

Google Chrome Will Soon Mark All HTTP Connections as Insecure

Insecure Pages Will Trigger Warnings in Google Chrome


In Google’s latest effort to protect its users, Google will start marking all HTTP connections as insecure. Their plan goes into effect January with the release of Chrome 56. The plan will roll out in stages, and Chrome will display a “not secure” warning before HTTP URLs in the browser’s address bar for pages which contain password or credit card fields.

HTTP, or HyperText Transfer Protocol, is used to send and receive web pages. Research into HTTP began in 1989, but it is still widely used today. An important fact about HTTP is that all data sent using it is sent in plain text; usernames and passwords included. The internet was not built with security with mind, and early protocols were built simply to send data reliably.

"Websites like Amazon and PayPal would not exist if customers could not trust that their data was safe on the web."

HTTPS, or HTTP Secure, is a more secure alternative. HTTPS uses what are known as certificates to encrypt web pages. As mentioned, without using HTTPS, anyone on your network or between your computer and the website you are visiting, may be able to see your data. The use of encryption has heavily affected the growth of e-commerce in the past decade. Websites like Amazon and PayPal would not exist if customers could not trust that their data was safe on the web.

Google’s multi-step plan will first label HTTP pages as not secure when using Chrome’s Incognito mode. At some point, Chrome will mark all HTTP pages (not just those with credit card and password fields) as non-secure and switch the security indicator from the simple “i” in a circle to a red triangle.


Google’s choice to only mark insecure pages using credit card or password fields (for now) is an agreeable move, delaying fears that they would mark all HTTP sites (like our own) with their terrible red triangle immediately. Google Chrome’s overwhelming 50% plus market share can be a death flag for smaller web sites that can’t afford (or install) an HTTPS certificate. This has been less of a problem with the recent Let’s Encrypt movement, but HTTPS is not a magic bullet. Rogue certificates and certificate authorities, stolen private keys, and other problems plague encryption, and need their own forms of security.

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9.11.2016

Nintendo Takes Down Another Fan Game

No Mario’s Sky Quickly Renamed DMCA’s Sky


Last week, Nintendo took down No Mario’s Sky, a game which has Mario hop in a spaceship and explore procedurally generated worlds. The development team received a copyright takedown notice, and they responded with the renamed game.

Two weeks ago, Nintendo made a mass filing under the DMCA, with the site Gamejolt at its center. The filing flagged 562 titles for removal from the site, the majority of which were fan made tributes or independent works. This follows the takedown of Another Metroid Remake 2 (AM2R) a few weeks ago, and Pokemon Uranium just after.

Nintendo’s recent trend of heavy handed copyright enforcement did not catch the DMCA’s Sky developers unprepared. Ben Porter, a member of the team, stated “...we had a feeling that we might get a notice, and Alex (the artist) had already begun designing new sprites.” Fellow designer Max Cahill stated in a Reddit thread, “It's definitely Nintendo's right to defend their IP. They've worked hard on cultivating an air of quality and Mario is at the heart of that. We respect their wishes and as they don't want folks playing it, we've taken it down.”

For now, Gamejolt has provided an option for game creators to quickly make their games private. These games will be far less likely to be taken down, as they will be visible only to their creators. This is good news for anyone who had an infringing game, and might allow the creator to rebrand their game similarly to DMCA’s Sky, or at least save their work elsewhere.

“No Mario’s Sky claimed close to 100,000 downloads before the takedown.”

Trademarks are complicated. Nintendo is perfectly within their rights to police the official and unofficial use of their trademark, and in fact has sort of an obligation to. If they don't protect their trademark, it is possible for them to lose it (although that requires a gross failure to police it). No Mario’s sky claim download numbers close to 100,000 before the takedown, which is great for a game developed in 72 hours during a game jam (a video game design competition, often with a central theme).

Nintendo is generating a lot of negative attention recently. With the Wii U’s successor on the horizon, Nintendo might feel they have to keep players from finding their fixes elsewhere. I just hope they don’t lose players to more open platforms.

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