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PlayStation (Games)

You Can Now Claim Your Cash In the PS3 'Other PS3' Settlement (arstechnica.com) 85

If you've purchased a "fat" PlayStation 3 before April of 2010, you can now claim up to $55 as part of the settlement over the removal of the console's "Other OS" feature. PS3 owners with proof of purchase or evidence of a PSN sign-in from the system can receive $9 from the company. However, if you've used the "Other OS" feature to install Linux on your PS3, you can receive $55. The online claim form can be found here. Ars Technica reports: The opening of claims after a long legal saga that began in March of 2010, when Sony announced it would be removing the "Other OS" feature from the PS3. Sony claimed it was a security concern, but many class-action lawsuits filed in 2010 alleged the company was more worried about software piracy. While one lawsuit over the matter was dismissed by a judge in 2011, another worked its way through the courts until June, when Sony finally decided to settle. Though the company doesn't admit any wrongdoing, it puts itself on the hook for payments to up to 10 million PS3 owners. Note to those affected: "Claims are due by December 7, and payments should be sent out early next year pending final approval of the settlement."
Microsoft

Pokemon Go Could Add 2.83 Million Years To Users' Lives, Says Study (cnn.com) 156

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: A new study from Microsoft Research found that the most interested Pokemon Go players took 26% more steps than before using the app. The largest behavior changes were seen among sedentary users. No matter their gender, age, weight or lifestyle, Pokemon Go users began to move more -- taking an extra 194 steps a day once they started using the app. (That's the equivalent of walking roughly one tenth of a mile.) The researchers estimate that Pokemon Go has added 144 billion steps to U.S. physical activity. That's 143 roundtrips to the moon. The study was published online this month in the Cornell Library University. Since activity reduces mortality risks, the researchers estimated that Pokemon Go could add 2.83 million years to the life expectancy of an assumed 25 million U.S. users. Based off research that showed walking reduces mortality, the researchers calculated that Pokemon Go users who continued to walk an extra 1,000 steps a day would enjoy 41.4 days of additional life expectancy. The Microsoft scientists examined data shared by 31,793 users of Microsoft Band, a wearable device, and Bing, the company's search engine. They compared the movement data from the wearables with users' web search queries. Pokemon Go players were identified by web searches that indicated they were playing the game. The Microsoft team also looked at four of the most popular health apps on Apple and Android devices. They found these apps had little impact on a person's behavior. The activity levels of Pokemon Go users changed far more.
Government

How a Video Game About Sheep Exposes the FBI's Broken FOIA System (dailydot.com) 116

blottsie writes from a report via Daily Dot: Earlier this year, the FBI released a free, online video game featuring sheep in its attempts to fight terrorism recruitment efforts. The game is called The Slippery Slope of Violent Extremism, and it is a real thing that exists. You can play it here. After journalists filed a FOIA request to find out more about the game, the FBI said it would take two years to respond -- a staggeringly long wait that helps expose how the Bureau actively avoids responding to open-records requests. The information requested asked for "all documents -- specifically memos, email correspondence, and budgets -- around the development, release, and public reception of the FBI's Slippery Slope game. It's the one with the sheep." There are several reasons why it would take two years to respond. One reason is because of the lack of requests. "If 500 people want to have the FBI file on a famous dead person, that's going to be available, and it's going to be available quickly," J. Pat Brown, an employee at MuckRock, a nonprofit that helps journalists, researchers, good government groups, and interested members of the public make FOIA requests of government agencies, said. "But basic requests about agency activities are pushed into their own pile," adds Daily Dot. Another part of the problem has to do with the outdated technology used by government agencies. "Many of the computers the FBI is using to search for this material are from the 1980s and lack graphical interfaces. Outdated technology being a hurdle to government transparency is common across many federal agencies. The CIA only accepts FOIA request by fax machine, for example," reports Daily Dot. "In 2013, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which oversees the NSA among other agencies, was unable to accept FOIA requests for months because its fax machine broke and it had to wait until the next fiscal year to get it replaced." What's more is that government agencies are often not required to disclose information after long wait times for processing FOIAs. "As Ginger McCall of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told the Daily Dot in 2014, she once waited four years with near total silence on a FOIA request about the TSA's airport body-scanner technology only to get a note out of the blue from TSA saying she had to respond with 30 days if she wanted them to continue processing her request," reports Daily Dot. "When McCall reached out to others who had made FOIA requests to agencies under the Department of Homeland Security umbrella, they reported similar experiences."
Television

Sharp Unveils 27-inch 8K 120Hz IGZO Monitor With HDR (monitornerds.com) 105

Sharp has unveiled a next-gen monitor that is an absolute mouthful. It measures in at 27-inches and features a 8K resolution (7,680 x 4,320), HDR (high dynamic range), and a 120Hz refresh rate. Monitornerds reports: Sharp says that the IGZO name is an acronym for the semiconductor materials used in the monitor's backplane. It is comprised of indium, gallium, zinc, and oxygen. This material can also be utilized with several types of panels such as IPS, TN, and even OLED. The IGZO technology has benefits compared to standard silicon semiconductors in which the electron mobility is 20 to 50 times higher which translates to higher frame rates. It also uses smaller transistors, which translates to higher pixel density as well as lower power consumption. The panel which is show at the Sharp exhibit is a 27-inch model with a very notable pixel density of 326ppi: double in comparison to the average 150ppi of 4K monitors. It has a stunning 33 million pixels under its belt as well as HDR technology which promises that this monitor can deliver stunning images with ease. Sharp didn't disclose a price for the television, nor did they say whether or not the unit will be mass produced. However, we can imagine the monitor will cost a pretty penny if it ever makes it to the market.
Facebook

Zuckerberg Teases An 'Affordable' Standalone Oculus VR Headset (techcrunch.com) 63

At the Oculus Connect developers conference today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg teased a standalone Oculus VR headset that fits somewhere imbetween the Gear VR consumer headset for Samsung Galaxy users and the high-end Oculus Rift headset designed for professional gamers. TechCrunch reports: The hallmark feature of the new prototype standalone headset is positional tracking. In a brief demo video, the headset appeared to be a modified Rift with a compute module embedded into the back of the headset. This positional tracking technology allows the headset to understand where it is in physical space and adjust the onscreen content accordingly. With 360 videos, you're limited to a spherical viewpoint from a fixed point, but with positional tracking enabled you can walk through an experience and see a story from every angle. There's a reason that plenty of enthusiasts refer to this as the hallmark feature of "real VR." Zuckerberg said development is still incredibly early, but that it's on the product roadmap. Unbelievably the word "affordable" was mentioned at some point. Oculus did also announce that its Oculus Touch motion controllers will be coming out on December 6th. They will cost $199, and will put the combined Oculus Rift price at roughly $800. Pre-orders for Touch start on October 10th.
AI

New AI Is Capable of Beating Humans At Doom (denofgeek.com) 170

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Den of Geek UK: Two students at Carnegie Mellon University have designed an artificial intelligence program that is capable of beating human players in a deathmatch game of 1993's Doom. Guillaume Lample and Devendra Singh Chaplot spent four months developing a program capable of playing first-person shooter games. The program made its debut at VizDoom (an AI competition that centered around the classic shooter) where it took second place despite the fact that their creation managed to beat human participants. That's not the impressive part about this program, however. No, what's really impressive is how the AI learns to play. The creator's full write-up on the program (which is available here) notes that their AI "allows developing bots that play the game using the screen buffer." What that means is that the program learns by interpreting what is happening on the screen as opposed to following a pre-set series of command instructions alone. In other words, this AI learns to play in exactly the same way a human player learns to play. This theory has been explored practically before, but Doom is arguably the most complicated game a program fueled by that concept has been able to succeed at. The AI's creators have already confirmed that they will be moving on to Quake, which will be a much more interesting test of this technologies capabilities given that Quake presents a much more complex 3D environment.
Games

No Man's Sky Under Investigation For False Advertising (polygon.com) 261

No Man's Sky is one of the most talked about games this year. The game sees the protagonist explore the space and experience uncertain places. But its controversial promotional material may also have played an instrumental role in making the title a sleeper-hit success. Polygon reports: No Man's Sky's promotional material has come under fire since launch, and it's now the subject of an ongoing investigation. The U.K.-based Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) confirmed to Polygon that it's received "several complaints about No Man's Sky's advertising," which angry customers have criticized as misleading. "I can confirm we have received several complaints about No Man's Sky advertising and we have launched an investigation," the ASA told Polygon. A representative for the ASA declined to comment on the particulars of the investigation, but a thread on the No Man Sky's subreddit details some of the most prominent issues Steam users have with the game's store page, which they passed on to the organization. Screens and video on Steam suggest a different type of combat, unique buildings, "ship flying behaviour" and creature sizes than what's found in the actual game itself. The store page overall has also been criticized for showing No Man's Sky with higher quality graphics than can be attained in-game.
Security

Street Fighter V Update Installed Hidden Rootkits on PCs (theregister.co.uk) 126

Capcom's latest update for Street Fighter V was installing a secret rootkit on PCs. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Register: This means malicious software on the system can poke a dodgy driver installed by Street Fighter V to completely take over the Windows machine. Capcom claims it uses the driver to stop players from hacking...to cheat. Unfortunately, the code is so badly designed, it opens up a full-blown local backdoor... it switches off a crucial security defense in the operating system, then runs whatever instructions are given to it by the application, and then switches the protection back on
Friday Capcom tweeted "We are in the process of rolling back the security measures added to the PC version of Street Fighter V." This prompted one user to reply, "literal rootkits are the opposite of security measures."
Android

Google Play Starts Bringing Android Apps To Chromebooks (venturebeat.com) 14

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: As promised, Google has finally brought the Google Play store to Chrome OS. Android apps, Android games, and media content from the store are all now finally available on Chromebooks running the latest stable build. But that still doesn't mean all Chromebook owners can use the store. This continues to be a gradual rollout -- even on the stable channel, Google is limiting the launch in multiple ways. "A beta release of the Play store is available to users now on the Acer R11 and Asus Flip (and coming soon to Pixel 2015) and can be enabled from the Settings page," a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat. "The team is hard at work making the experience great for users before making the Play Store available by default on these Chromebooks." That's right -- even though we're still talking about just three devices, the Play store is disabled by default. Once you've updated to version 53.0.2785.129 (make sure to switch back to the stable channel if you aren't already on it), you'll have to enable the Play Store in Chrome Settings.
The Internet

Blizzard Is Getting Rid of the Battle.net Name (theverge.com) 31

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Battle.net name is no more. Today Blizzard announced that it's moving away from using the Battle.net moniker when referring to its online services. "Battle.net technology will continue to serve as the central nervous system for Blizzard games -- nothing is changing in that regard," the company wrote in a forum post. "We'll just be referring to it as Blizzard tech instead." Battle.net originally debuted way back in 1996 alongside the original Diablo, and since then has been used to power iconic games like Starcraft, World of Warcraft, and more recent titles like Hearthstone and Overwatch. According to the company, as online multiplayer has become an expected part of its games -- and as Blizzard expanded to new platforms like Facebook Live -- the name was no longer needed. "When we created Battle.net, the idea of including a tailored online-gaming service together with your game was more of a novel concept, so we put a lot of focus on explaining what the service was and how it worked, including giving it a distinct name," the company explained. "Over time, though, we've seen that there's been occasional confusion and inefficiencies related to having two separate identities under which everything falls -- Blizzard and Battle.net."
Microsoft

Microsoft and Sony Are Debating Over Whose Console Really Offers 'True 4K' (arstechnica.com) 147

Sony's PlayStation 4, which will go on sales in two months, comes loaded with rendering pipeline and some proprietary upscaling techniques that can improve lower resolution base signals to take fuller advantage of a 4K display. Microsoft is seemingly upset with how Sony is marketing this, and it is not shying from telling people that no amount of upscaling can fill in those missing 4K pixels and the hardware inefficiency to produce native and "true 4K" images that the Project Scorpio, its gaming console that is coming next year can. Microsoft has also said that any game that it will launch during the Scorpio timeframe will "natively render at 4K." But the debate is anything from over because Microsoft keeps reminding everyone that the processor and GPU in its upcoming console is more powerful. As ArsTechnica explains: With Scorpio, Microsoft seems to be arguing that every first-party game at launch will be able to generate and render nearly 8.3 million pixels (four times as many as a 1080p game) at an acceptable frame rate (i.e., at least 30 times a second). That would be quite an achievement. As we noted back at E3, it currently takes pricey, high-end PC graphics cards like the Nvidia GTX 1080 or the AMD R9 Fury X -- cards that run $300 or much higher -- to "barely scrape by" with a native 4K, 30fps game. And those PC cards seem to have significantly more raw power than what is being claimed by Microsoft -- 9 and 8.4 teraflops, respectively, vs. a claimed 6 teraflops for Scorpio (and 4.2 teraflops for the PS4 Pro).Microsoft's head of Xbox planning, Albert Penello said, "I know that 4.2 teraflops is not enough to do true 4K." In an interview with Eurogamer, Penello adds:I think there are a lot of caveats they're giving customers right now around 4K. They're talking about checkerboard rendering and up-scaling and things like that. There are just a lot of asterisks in their marketing around 4K, which is interesting because when we thought about what spec we wanted for Scorpio, we were very clear we wanted developers to take their Xbox One engines and render them in native, true 4K. That was why we picked the number, that's why we have the memory bandwidth we have, that's why we have the teraflops we have, because it's what we heard from game developers was required to achieve native 4K.
Games

Valve Bans Developer From Steam After It Sues Customers Over Bad Reviews (arstechnica.com) 195

From an ArsTechnica report: A game developer has been banned from Steam after users claimed that it had attempted to sue 100 users of the platform for $18 million -- for the crime of leaving bad reviews. Digital Homicide, which has released dozens of small games mostly available for a couple of quid each, had its titles removed from Valve's popular digital distribution platform on Friday night. Its boss, James Romine, was granted a subpoena by a court in Arizona apparently allowing him to demand the release of "identification and associated data" of anonymous Steam users. The lawsuit listed in turn the misdemeanours of dozens of John/Jane Does, which include counts of "harassment," "stalking," and "cyber-bullying." In a brief e-mail sent to Vice's Motherboard at the end of last week, Valve's marketing veep Doug Lombardi confirmed that "Valve has stopped doing business with Digital Homicide for being hostile to Steam customers."
Education

Microsoft Weaponizes Minecraft In the War Over Classrooms (backchannel.com) 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."
Security

Over 500K People Have Installed a Pokemon Go-Related App That Roots and Hijacks Android Devices (softpedia.com) 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.
Privacy

New York Fines Viacom, Mattel and Hasbro For Tracking Kids Online (usatoday.com) 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Companies that operate popular kids websites like nickjr.com and barbie.com 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.]

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