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Microsoft Weaponizes Minecraft In the War Over Classrooms ( 55

Minecraft: Education Edition offers lesson plans like "City Planning for Population Growth" and "Effects of Deforestation," and a June preview attracted more than 25,000 students and teachers from 40 different countries. Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes: In the two years since Microsoft acquired Minecraft's parent company, it's discovered a brilliant new direction to take the game: it's turning it into a tool for education, creating both an innovative approach to classroom technology and an inspired strategy for competing with Google and Apple in the ed-tech market. 'I actually never believed there would be a game that would really cross over between the commercial entertainment market and education in a mainstream way,' says cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito—but Minecraft has managed to do just that.
In 2015 Chromebooks represented over 50% of PC sales for U.S. schools, while Windows PC accounted for just 22%, the article reports. But Minecraft is the second best-selling game of all time, behind only Tetris, and in the two years since Microsoft acquired it, "Sales have doubled to almost 107 million copies sold... If you were to count each copy sold as representing one person, the resulting population would be the world's 12th largest country (after Japan)." And as the article points out, "wherever Minecraft goes, Microsoft is there."

Over 500K People Have Installed a Pokemon Go-Related App That Roots and Hijacks Android Devices ( 57

An anonymous reader writes: Over 500,000 people have downloaded an Android app called "Guide for Pokemon Go" that roots the devices in order to deliver ads and installs apps without the user's knowledge. Researchers that analyzed the malware said it contained multiple defenses that made reverse-engineering very difficult -- some of the most advanced they've seen -- which explains why it managed to fool Google's security scanner and end up on the official Play Store. The exploits contained in the app's rooting functions were able to root any Android released between 2012 and 2015. The trojan found inside the app was also found in nine other apps, affecting another 100,000 users. The crook behind this trojan was obviously riding various popularity waves, packing his malware in clones for whatever app or game is popular at one particular point in time.

New York Fines Viacom, Mattel and Hasbro For Tracking Kids Online ( 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Companies that operate popular kids websites like and agreed to a $835,000 settlement and to change their practices after an investigation found the sites were enabled with technology that tracked kids' internet activities. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his office reached settlements with Viacom, Mattel, Hasbro and JumpStart Games after an investigation into the companies found violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. The investigation, called "Operation Child Tracker," found that websites operated by the companies enabled third-party vendors, such as marketing and advertising companies, to track children's online activity -- which violated federal law. Federal law prohibits the unauthorized collection of children's personal information on websites aimed at children under age 13. Viacom will pay $500,000; Mattel will pay $250,000; and JumpStart will pay $85,000. [Hasbro will not pay a penalty because it is part of a "safe harbor program" through the Federal Trade Commission that already requires more disclosures of web activity, Schneiderman said.]
The Almighty Buck

Pokemon Go's Paying Population Drops By 79% -- Still Most Profitable Mobile App In The US ( 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Metro: The world's obsession with Pokemon Go was clearly never going to last, but the incredible thing about its success is that although the paying population of the game is now down by 79% from its mid-July peak it's still easily the most profitable mobile app in the U.S.. According to analysts at Slice Intelligence, at its peak Pokemon Go inspired twice as many people as normal to spend money on mobile games, but that's now returned to normal. But Pokemon Go still accounts for 28% of all money spent on mobile games in America, bringing in six times more than nearest rival Candy Crush Saga. The obvious problem for Pokemon Go is that there's not really much gameplay to keep you coming back, and as winter approaches wandering around the countryside is going to lose some of its appeal somewhat. But there's a huge range of new features that could be added to the app, and just this week has seen the introduction of the buddy feature that lets you walk around and team-up with a particular Pokemon. There's also the delayed release of the Pokemon Go Plus Bluetooth device and the recent announcement of the Apple Watch app.

Video Games Are So Realistic That They Can Teach AI What the World Looks Like ( 87

Jordan Pearson, reporting for Motherboard:Thanks to the modern gaming industry, we can now spend our evenings wandering around photorealistic game worlds, like the post-apocalyptic Boston of Fallout 4 or Grand Theft Auto V's Los Santos, instead of doing things like "seeing people" and "engaging in human interaction of any kind." Games these days are so realistic, in fact, that artificial intelligence researchers are using them to teach computers how to recognize objects in real life. Not only that, but commercial video games could kick artificial intelligence research into high gear by dramatically lessening the time and money required to train AI. "If you go back to the original Doom, the walls all look exactly the same and it's very easy to predict what a wall looks like, given that data," said Mark Schmidt, a computer science professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC). "But if you go into the real world, where every wall looks different, it might not work anymore." Schmidt works with machine learning, a technique that allows computers to "train" on a large set of labelled data -- photographs of streets, for example -- so that when let loose in the real world, they can recognize, or "predict," what they're looking at. Schmidt and Alireza Shafaei, a PhD student at UBC, recently studied Grand Theft Auto V and found that self-learning software trained on images from the game performed just as well, and in some cases even better, than software trained on real photos from publicly available datasets.
PlayStation (Games)

Every PlayStation 4 Gets HDR This Week With System Update 4.00 ( 41

Sony announced today it is rolling out a new system updated -- dubbed Shingen -- to all the PlayStation 4 to bring High Dynamic Range (HDR) support. The new update, in addition, also brings Spotify integration, LAN data migration transfer, and tweaks to interface. From a CNET report: Other refinements to the system's interface include a redesigned content info screen -- the thing you see when pressing down after highlighting a game on your home screen. Similarly, the What's New screen has been updated with a new layout. 4.00 also adds support for HDR to all play PS4s, something Sony announced last week. This will be an option located in the Video Output Settings menu for existing PS4s and the new slim PS4, as well as the PS4 Pro. Those who get a Pro when it launches in November will also find support for several new features added in this update. As we learned recently, the system features 1080p streaming for Share Play and Remote Play (but only to PC/Mac and Xperia devices, not Vita), as well as 1080p/30 FPS streaming to Twitch and 1080p 30/60 FPS streaming to YouTube.

A Very Detailed Dissection of a Frame From DOOM ( 113

DOOM 2016 "cleverly re-uses old data computed in the previous frames...1331 draw calls, 132 textures and 50 render targets," according to a new article which takes a very detailed look at the process of rendering one 16-millisecond frame. An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: The game released earlier this year uses the Vulkan API to push graphics quality and performance at new levels. The article sheds light on rendering techniques, mega-textures, reflection computation... all the aspects of a modern game engine.
Some of the information came from "The Devil is in the Details," a July presentation at the SIGGRAPH 2016 conferences on graphics by Tiago Sousa, id's lead renderer programmer, and senior engine programmer Jean Geffroy. (And there's also more resources at the end of the article, including a July interview with five id programmers by Digital Foundry.) "Historically id Software is known for open-sourcing their engines after a few years, which often leads to nice remakes and breakdowns," the article notes. "Whether this will stand true with id Tech 6 remains to be seen but we don't necessarily need the source code to appreciate the nice graphics techniques implemented in the engine."

Super Mario Is Coming To The iPhone ( 108

One of the first announcements made at Apple's iPhone 7 launch event was that Nintendo's Super Mario Bros franchise will be coming to the iPhone. The announcement was short, sparse with details, but certainly well received. Popular Mechanics reports: "Nintendo head Shigeru Miyamoto took the stage early in Apple's iPhone 7 reveal in San Francisco today to announce and demonstrate the new game Super Mario Run, the first Mario game for the iPhone. The game is simple: Mario runs completely, a la Temple Run, and you push buttons to make him jump and try to reach the end of the levels. Miyamoto says 'you can play the game one-handed for the very first time.' There's a battle mode, too, where you try to top friends' scores. Super Mario Run will come out sometime this fall before the holiday season. Pricing is TBA, but Miyamoto promises there will be a single price and no in-app purchases." In a separate report via Kotaku, Nintendo said, "We do intend to release the game on Android devices at some point in the future." The news sent Nintendo's stock soaring, up 29 percent in U.S. trading after the announcement.

Sony Announces Two New Versions of PlayStation 4: One Slimmer, Other More Powerful ( 82

Sony isn't done with the PlayStation 4. The company today revealed the PS4 Slim, a thinner version of its latest console that's been lurking around the rumor mill for months now. The Slim lands on September 15th for $300. The PS4 Slim features all the guts of a standard PS4 plus a few cosmetic and convenience upgrades, including a lightbar at the top, more space between the front-facing USB ports and the removal of the optical port, Engadget reports. From the report:The console is about 30 percent smaller than the standard PS4, which came out in 2013, and it plays all existing PS4 games.
The company also launched a more powerful version of the PlayStation 4: the PS4 Pro, which offers support for 4K. It is priced at $399, and goes on sale November 10. The Verge reports: The PS4 Pro can output 4K and HDR video, which is powered by an upgraded GPU. Sony also boosted the clock rate for the new PS4 Pro. It will also come with a 1TB hard drive. "PS4 Pro is not intended to blur the line between console generations," Mark Cerny, the chief architect for the PS4, said on stage. "Instead, the vision is to take the PS4 experience to extraordinary new levels."

Niantic Responds To Senate Inquiry Into Pokemon Go Privacy ( 73

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechCrunch: Senator Al Franken has questioned Niantic, the makers of Pokemon Go, about how it handles user's information. He asked the company to explain several key details about how Pokemon Go works, including whether all the data collection was necessary, how data will be shared and how parental consent is obtained for kids who play the game. The game was under the spotlight soon after it launched when it was revealed that users had to provide the game full access and control over their Google accounts. Niantic general counsel Courtney Greene Power responded to Franken via a letter (PDF): "Country is collected and stored, to provide a user the appropriate experience; language may be stored in future updates, for the same purpose. The app collects certain information to facilitate important quality and stability objectives and to prevent abuse. This includes information such as mobile operating system, mobile device identifier, and hardware build information. This information is used to debug phone-specific game problems and to detect and deter cheating in the game. She went on to explain that players under 13 are redirected to the company's website when they register to play, where their parent must also register. Parents are then asked to verify their identity through third-party vendor, Veratad. "Niantic does not and has no plans to sell Pokemon Go user data -- aggregated, de-identified or otherwise -- to any third party," Power wrote. The company also adds that data is shared with mobile app analytics companies and with marketing and analysis companies, but these companies agreed to keep user data secure. The data shared with third parties does not include the data of users under 13, the company said, and no user data will be shared with investors. In response to the response, Sen. Franken said in a statement: "The launch of Pokemon Go earlier this summer represented a new era in gaming, but shortly after the app's release, there were strong concerns about how it treats its users' digital data. I appreciate Niantic's response, but I intend to work further with the company in the future to ensure that we're doing everything possible to protect the privacy of Americans -- particularly American children -- who play Pokemon Go."
PlayStation (Games)

PlayStation Now Streaming Service Available On Windows PCs ( 54

Earlier this month, Sony announced PlayStation 3 games would be coming to Windows. Specifically, the company would be bringing its PlayStation Now game-streaming program to Windows PCs. Today, the service has officially launched and is available on Windows PCs. TechCrunch reports: "A 12-month subscription to PlayStation Now will run you $99.99 as part of a limited-time promotion to celebrate the PC launch. Normally, a PS Now subscription will run you more than double that. What does PlayStation Now actually provide? Access to a library of over 50 'Greatest Hits' games, which include popular titles like Mafia II, Tom Raider: GOTY edition, Borderlands and Heavy Rain. There's also over 100 console exclusives available to PC users for the first time, and a total library north of 400 games." If you're interested, you can download the app here. A USB adapter is set to go on sale September 6 that will allow you to use a DualShock 4 wireless controller with your PC.

Players Seek 'No Man's Sky' Refunds, Sony's Content Director Calls Them Thieves ( 467

thegarbz writes: As was covered previously on Slashdot the very hyped up game No Man's Sky was released to a lot of negative reviews about game-crashing bugs and poor interface choices. Now that players have had more time to play the game it has become clear that many of the features hyped by developers are not present in the game, and users quickly started describing the game as "boring".

Now, likely due to misleading advertising, Steam has begun allowing refunds for No Man's Sky regardless of playtime, and there are reports of players getting refunds on the Play Station Network as well despite Sony's strict no refund policy.
Besides Sony, Amazon is also issuing refunds, according to game sites. In response, Sony's former Strategic Content Director, Shahid Kamal Ahmad, wrote on Twitter, "If you're getting a refund after playing a game for 50 hours you're a thief." He later added "Here's the good news: Most players are not thieves. Most players are decent, honest people without whose support there could be no industry."

In a follow-up he acknowledged it was fair to consider a few hours lost to game-breaking crashes, adding "Each case should be considered on its own merits and perhaps I shouldn't be so unequivocal."
Emulation (Games)

ReactOS 0.4.2 Released: Supports Linux Filesystems, .NET Applications, and Doom 3 ( 145

Continuing its rapid release cycle, ReactOS has unveiled version 0.4.2 of its free "open-source binary-compatible Windows re-implementation." Slashdot reader jeditobe reports that this new version can now read and write various Linux/Unix file systems like Btrfs and ext (and can read ReiserFS and UFS), and also runs applications like Thunderbird and 7-Zip. ReactOS 0.4.2 also features Cygwin support, .NET 2.0 and 4.0 application support, among other updated packages and revised external dependencies such as Wine and UniATA. The team also worked to improve overall user experience...

ReactOS is free. You can boot your desktop or laptop from it. It looks like Windows (a 10-year-old version, anyway), so you already know how to use it. And it'll run some Windows and DOS applications, maybe including DOS games that regular 64-bit Windows can no longer touch.
These videos even show ReactOS running Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Doom 3.

Belgians Are Hunting Books, Instead Of Pokemon ( 38

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report:Inspired by the success of Pokemon Go, a Belgian primary school headmaster has developed an online game for people to search for books instead of cartoon monsters, attracting tens of thousands of players in weeks. While with Pokemon Go, players use a mobile device's GPS and camera to track virtual creatures around town, Aveline Gregoire's version is played through a Facebook group called "Chasseurs de livres" ("Book hunters"). Players post pictures and hints about where they have hidden a book and others go to hunt them down. Once someone has finished reading a book, they "release" it back into the wild. "While I was arranging my library, I realized I didn't have enough space for all my books. Having played Pokemon Go with my kids, I had the idea of releasing the books into nature," Gregoire told Reuters. Though it was only set up a few weeks ago, more than 40,000 people are already signed up to Gregoire's Facebook group.

Second Confirmed Death In Japan Involving Pokemon Go ( 153

An anonymous reader writes: The Japan Times reports another death. This time a 20 year old woman has died after being hit by a car while riding her bicycle. The man driving the car claimed he was distracted changing the battery because it was nearly flat from playing Pokemon Go. Police have already charged him with negligence resulting in injury. The penalty for causing death is a maximum 7 years jail. The Japanese National Police agency said there have been 79 bicycle and car accidents linked to the game. Another death was reported yesterday

PSA: PlayStation Network Gets Two-Step Verification ( 42

Consider this a public service announcement: Sony has (finally) added two-factor authentication to PlayStation Network accounts. If you're a PlayStation user and are reading this right now, you really should go set it up so that someone doesn't try to take over your account and steal your password. Ars Technica details how you can set up the new security features: "Turn on your PS4 and go to Settings -> PlayStation Network Account Management -> Account Information -> Security -> 2-Step Verification. You can also set it up through the web by logging into your PSN account on the web and going through the Security tab under the Account header. From there, on-screen instructions will walk you through the process of using a text message to confirm your mobile device as a secondary layer of security for your PSN account. Two-factor support is not available when logging on to older PlayStation systems, so Sony recommends you generate a 'device setup password' to help protect the PS3, Vita, or PSP." Two-factor authentication comes five years after hackers breached PSN's security and stole 77 million accounts.

You Can Now Play Solitaire and Tic-Tac-Toe in Google's Search Results ( 55

Paul Sawers, writing for VentureBeat: Google announced a couple of fun little nuggets today: you can now play Solitaire and Tic-Tac-Toe directly in Google's search results. Available through the desktop and Google mobile apps, anyone searching for the keywords "solitaire" or "tic-tac-toe" will see the usual search results, but featured prominently alongside them you'll also now see a "tap to play" option which whisks you off to play the game. Google is no stranger to hiding so-called "easter eggs" in its products, including Search -- for example, last year it had a surprise in store to mark the anniversary of Super Mario. Moreover, Google already lets you play some games within Search, including Pacman.

Driver Killed a Pedestrian in Japan While Playing Pokemon Go ( 175

An anonymous reader writes: One woman was killed and another injured. In what police are calling Japan's first death linked to Pokemon Go, a driver playing the smartphone game hit two pedestrians on Tuesday night, officials said. The collision broke the neck of one woman, killing her, and left another woman with a broken hip, the Wall Street Journal reports. Police in Tokushima, on the western Japanese island of Shikoku, told the Wall Street Journal the women were crossing the street when the car struck them. The man driving the car did not see them because was playing Pokemon Go.
The Military

The US Army Has Too Many Video Games ( 82

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard report:The US Army sees itself in a transitional period. Unlike a decade ago, soldiers are training less today on how to conduct "stability" operations for a counter-insurgency campaign, and more on what the Army does best: fighting other armies. But training is expensive and requires time and a lot of space. Training a gunner for an M-1 Abrams tank means reserving time on a limited number of ranges and expending real ammunition. So to lower costs and make training more efficient -- in theory -- the Army has adopted a variety of games to simulate war. There's just a few problems. Some of the Army's virtual simulators sit collecting dust, and one of them is more expensive and less effective than live training. At one base, soldiers preferred to play mouse-and-keyboard games over a more "realistic" virtual room. Then again, the Army has cooler games than you do. M-1 tank gunners, for example, can train inside a full-scale, computerized mock-up of their station called the Advanced Gunnery Training System, which comes inside a large transportable container. Instead of looking through real sights down a range, the soldier squints through a replica and sees a virtual simulacrum of, say, an enemy tank. Push a button and the "cannon" fires. The Army fields similar systems for the Stryker, a wheeled armored troop transport that fits an optional 105-millimeter gun. Soldiers train inside another simulated gunnery station for the M-2 Bradley fighting vehicle. Another system, Common Driver, simulates a variety of military vehicles.
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Tries To Remove News Articles About PlayStation 4 Slim Leak From The Internet ( 85

Sony is expected to announce two new PlayStation 4 consoles at a scheduled event on September 7th in New York City, but as that date nears more leaks of the consoles have emerged. The most recent leak appears to show the upcoming PlayStation 4 Slim, which Sony is trying to remove from the internet by taking down news articles from social media accounts about the leak. Erik Kain via @erikkain on Twitter tweeted (Tweet no longer exists): "Sony issued a takedown and had this post removed from my Facebook page: (Warning: may be paywalled)." Techdirt reports: "[The Forbes post] references the work Eurogamer did in visiting the leaker of the image to confirm the console is for real (it is), as well as generating its own image and even video of the console working for its story on the leak. But if you go today to the Eurogamer post about the leak, the video has been replaced by the following update. UPDATE, 7.30pm: Upon taking legal advice, we have removed the video previously referenced in this article. Left unsaid is whether or not any contact had been made by Sony with Eurogamer, thus prompting this 'legal advice,' but one can imagine that being the case, particularly given Sony's threats to social media users sharing images and reporting of Sony leaks and, more to the point, threats against any media that might report on those leaks."

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