Tag Archives: videogames

PTJ 147 News: Lady Justice

Good on ya, Taylor Swift! Now, you may not care for her music or her sudden promotion to New York City’s official “global welcome ambassador,” but the young singer/songwriter knows how to stand up for herself and her fellow musicians trying to make a living. In a public post on her Tumblr page this past weekend, Ms. Swift called out Apple over the lack of artist royalties during the three-month free trial period of the company’s forthcoming Apple Music adventure — and said she’d be withholding her latest album from the service. But Apple, for its part, did the right thing. By Sunday night, the company announced that it’d be paying artists their due royalties for all the music streamed during the free trial of Apple Music. (Of course,  conspiracy theorists are suspicious about the whole thing, like they always are.)

googleplaymusicApple Music rolls out on June 30th, but Google is not waiting around for it. The Big G announced a new, free ad-supported version of its subscription-based Google Play Music service for  “giving you a new way to find just the right music and giving artists another way to earn revenue.” (Oh snap, Google.) If you’re looking for a new stream, the service is available now via the Web and will be hitting Android and IOS devices soon. If you find you like Google Play Music and want to subscribe, you get ad-free offline listening, song skips and on-demand access to more than 30 million tracks for just $10 a month. Spotify has got to be feeling a little nervous these days.

Meanwhile, the Tidal music service has hit a bit of a rough wave. The company has booted its interim CEO after three months.

In legal news, Verizon says it’s completed its acquisition of AOL on paper. The Federal Communications Commission did not actually have to approve this particular deal because AOL did not have any licenses before the FCC that would have tripped that trigger. The agency, however, has been keeping itself busy by slapping a $100 million dollar fine on AT&T for misleading consumers about unlimited data plans and throttling.

eyeballIn guv’ment news, the regular document dumps from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowdon continue. A new post over on The Intercept blog details how the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, have reverse-engineered consumer antivirus and security software products. (In more government news, the State Department of the United States is having an epic fail over in the biometrics department.)

And on the subject of biometrics, a new research paper from scientists at UC Berkeley and Facebook’s AI Research division has found that The Social Network’s facial-recognition software can often identify people in photos, even when their faces are looking away from the camera or partly obscured. The team used Facebook’s algorithm on 40,000 public photos pulled from Flickr and found it could accurately ID people about 83 percent of the time. Oh, and Facebook’s Instagram has just updated its Search tool.

echoAmazon’s Echo device is now available to members of the general public now. The voice-activated, Internet-connected  9-inch tall cylindrical Bluetooth speaker streams music and answers questions just like Siri, Cortana and Google Now. If your life needs an Echo, head over to Amazon’s site, pay up $180 and start watching the mailbox after July 14th.  Amazon is also throwing a little artificial intelligence at the problem of fake product reviews over on its main store site and is cleaning up the astroturf.

As promised, mayorships are finally back in Foursquare’s spun-off Swarm app. Let the check-in competition begin once again.

In Windows 10 news, Microsoft has tried to clarify just who gets the new system for free. Recently, there was some confusion as to whether people in the Windows Insider preview program who didn’t have legitimate copies of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 would get the free finished copy of Windows 10. (They get to stay as previewers.)

As a wrap-up of last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, The Mary Sue blog notes there are 23 games announced at the show that feature “badass playable female characters.” Lady justice, indeed.

spidermanAnd finally, with great power comes great responsibility and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan certainly knows it — as well as her old-school Spider-Man. The Court sent down a decision in the case of Kimble v. Marvel, in which the Supremes declined to overrule a precedent that kept patent-holders from collecting royalties after said patent expired. In her written opinion for the majority on the case, Justice Kagan showed off her comic-book chops with multiple Spider-Man references. Now, just imagine if she was a fan of The Punisher….

The 2015 Summer Popcorn Harvest

May is upon us and the summer movies are starting to fly fast and furious. In fact, Fast & Furious 7 has already flown by, having dominated the box office for much of April. But as geeks everywhere know, Avengers: Age of Ultron opened last Friday here in the States and quickly became the second-largest film opening of all time, scoring $191.3 million dollars at the box office. But now that Avengers: Age of Ultron is open, what else is coming up for the film-loving nerd?

How about:

Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15) Thirty years after the last installment, this fourth film in the franchise brings more gritty action in the post-apocalyptic world with Tom Hardy taking the Mel Gibson role of Mad Max Rockatansky and Charlize Theron playing Imperator Furiosa.

Tomorrowland (May 22) George Clooney and young Britt Robertson travel to a place called Tomorrowland, a mysterious place in space and time that’s probably right near Disneyworld.

Jurassic World (June 12) Another fourth-installment arrives, this time in the dinosaur-park saga. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are in with the dinos.

Inside Out (June 19) This Pixar film is set in the mind of a young girl named Riley Anderson and features the voices of Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black and Mindy Kaling as five different emotions helping her through a move from the Midwest to San Francisco.

Terminator: Genesys (July 1) Not counting TV’s The Sarah Conner Chronicles, this is fifth theatrical film in the franchise that started back in 1984. In this edition, Arnold Swarzenengger reprises his original role as the eponymous deathbot while new cast members play alternate timeline versions of Kyle Reese, Sarah Conner, John Conner and Miles Dyson.

Minions (July 10) Those little yellow things from the Despicable Me films have their own picture this summer. Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm and Allison Janney also do voicework.

Mr. Holmes (July 17) Sir Ian McKellen plays an aging and retired Sherlock Holmes recounts his final case. Laura Linney co-stars as his housekeeper.

Ant-Man (July 17) Another Marvel entry, this time with Paul Rudd as the snarky crook given super-strength and shrinking powers.

Pan (July 17) This origin tale of Peter Pan and Captain Hook got some press earlier for the casting of Hugh Jackman as the pirate Blackbeard and not-remotely-Native-American Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily. (Some people have pointed out that the depiction of Native Americans in the original Peter Pan was pretty darn disrespectful to the First Nations to begin with, sort of like that Adam Sandler movie that’s currently shooting and offending everyone around with its sophomoric script and overt racism.)

Pixels (July 24) So, about Adam Sandler… His new summer film is about aliens misinterpreting 1980s arcade games as declarations of war and attack the Earth likewise with holographic pixels in the shape of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and other retro classics.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (July 31) Tom Cruise is back doing manly action in this fifth chapter in the franchise, which started its modern incarnation in 1996.

A LEGO Brickumentary (July 31) This documentary, about the wonderful world of Lego bricks, is narrated by Jason Bateman and arrives in simultaneously in theaters and on iTunes.

Fantastic 4 (August 7) Yet another Marvel movie! The studio is really running the summer table with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creations, and this one is a reboot of the squabbling superhero quartet that had their first modern-era outing in 2005.

The Man From UNCLE (August 14) Henry Cavill, the actor currently playing Superman for Warner Brothers in 2013’s Man of Steel and next year’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, takes a break from the cape. He stars as government agent Napoleon Solo in this big-screen version of the popular 1960s TV spy show.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend (August 28) Last but not least, the sequel to the 15-year-old Chinese martial arts love story lands in IMAX theatres and streams the same day on Netflix, just in time for the end of the summer.

PTJ 120: NASA and the Troll Patrol

This week El Kaiser shares his ickiest Tech Term yet and J.D. tells us all about Twitter’s new “Troll Patrol”.  In the news NASA’s Orion spacecraft completes a successful test flight; the first Coder In Chief; Facebook modifies its search function; Princeton University puts thousands of documents written by Albert Einstein online; Amazon rolls out 4K streams; the FCC wants wireless carriers to ste up efforts to protect consumer data; researchers discover Linux-based malware that’s been active for years; the fallout from cyber-attack on SONY’s networks continues; and the father of the videogame passes away.

PTJ 120 News: Readin’, Writin’ and Roarin’ Through Space

Yes, it’s officially  Computer Science Education Week now and companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple are into it, with many sponsoring the Hour of Code project with Code.org . For instance, Apple is holding coding events at its Apple Stores and Google’s YouTube site has plenty of inspirational videos. President Obama even hosted an event at the White House with middle-school students and banged out a few lines of JavaScript, perhaps getting some training for that inevitable job switch that’ll be happening in a couple years.

mcThe past week has been great for space. Last Friday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft completed a successful test flight, with a launch at Cape Canaveral, orbit around the Earth a few times and splashdown in the Pacific less than five hours later. Just a day later, on  Saturday, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft woke up out of its hibernation state just in time for its 2015 mission to observe Pluto, the celestial body many of us still consider to be a planet at the outer edges of our solar system. And lets not forget our old pal Curiosity (left) is still hard at work up on Mars. The geographical data gathered by NASA’s busy little rover over the past 28 months of exploring has helped scientists study and theorize about the lakes and streams that used to exist on the Red Planet in warmer times. (Oh, and a Canadian company wants a little cool Mars action itself – Thoth Technology is calling for a crowdfunding campaign to make, among other things, a “Beaver” rover to represent Canada on Mars.)

Facebook is tinkering once again with the site’s search function. While its Graph Search feature was released almost a year ago, its clunky semantic search engine was too much work for a lot of people. This week, Facebook announced that is was rolling out good old-fashioned keyword search.

Einstein

Princeton University has put thousands of documents written by Albert Einstein online. The site, called The Digital Einstein Papers, is part of a larger ongoing project called The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. The new site covers the first 44 years of Einstein’s life and features digitized letters, scholarly articles and other material .

In streaming video news, Amazon announced some of its Instant Video streams are now available in ultra high-def 4K. And YouTube has overhauled its app for the Apple TV, bringing predictive search, personalized recommendations and a new visual design to the screen

The Federal Communications Commission continues its rampant news grab as it still contemplates Net Neutrality. The agency has now found time to release a 140-page report on mobile phone theft and has some suggestions for wireless carriers to help protect consumers and their data.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have discovered Linux-based malware that’s been active for years and aimed at computers in government, military, education, research and pharmaceutical networks in 45 different countries.

sonyThe recent hack of  Sony’s network is still spewing fallout. A group calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” or GOP, have dumped a whole lot of confidential Sony data out into the public, including celebrity aliases and contract information, internal emails between Sony employees, personal information about said Sony employees including 47,000 Social Security numbers, and digital copies of several new and unreleased Sony films, including the remake of Annie due in theaters December 19th. According to a message posted on the GitHub code-sharing site, one of the demands was to “stop showing the movie of terrorism,” which is believed to be a reference to an upcoming Seth Rogen-James Franco film called The Interview, which is about a plot to assassinate Kim Jon-Un, the current leader of North Korea.  North Korean officials have denied involvement but have referred to it as a “righteous deed.” Sony has hired security consultants to figure out what happened (perhaps, Team America: World Police?). This would almost make for a good videogame, if only the PlayStation network wasn’t getting hacked again.

In happier movie news, there’s a new extension for the Google Chrome browser that gives you an interactive tour of Middle-earth so you can celebrate the opening of the third-and supposedly final movie in the Hollywood “Hobbit” trilogy properly.

middleearth

And in even happier movie news, the 88-second teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens landed on the Web and in select movie theaters, sending geeks everywhere to analyze the visuals down to every last frame of video. Among the hot topics of discussion — the cross-hilt lightsaber and exterior modifications made to the Millennium Falcon. The lightsaber design seemed to draw the most attention, even drawing in late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert. And with the official teaser comes the parody teasers, including the J.J. Abrams lens-flare edition, the George Lucas version, the Other George Lucas version, the Wes Anderson Adaptation and even an amusing parody on Saturday Night Live, a show that’s been around even longer that the Star Wars franchise itself.

And finally, let us pour one out for Ralph Baer, who died this weekend at the age of 92. Mr. Baer, who was born in Germany and fled the Nazis and was an intelligence officer in the US Army by 1943. In 1966, Mr. Baer wrote out a four-page description for a “game box” designed to let people play sports and other action games on a TV set. His work eventually resulted in the Magnavox Odyssey game system in 1972 and he also invented the electronic Simon game in 1978.

Ralph Baer, father of the videogame, we salute you.

baer

PTJ 71: Righteously Rowdy

This week J.D. takes us for a ride on the video game way-back machine with a look at the new Historical Software Collection at the Internet Archive. Also in this episode Kaiser Pedro has some hopefully helpful hints about improving your battery life and protecting your privacy on an Apple device running their iOS 7 mobile operating system. In the news Google unveils its long-rumored Nexus 5 smartphone;  Apple looks to expand its manufacturing presence in the United States; hackers target a limousine service; Twitter makes its stock market debut; gamers lineup for the release of “Call of Duty: Ghosts”; and British supermarket chain Tesco wants to scan the faces of customers for advertisers.

The Games People Played

Video-based games have been around since the middle of the 20th century. Consider Tennis for Two, created in 1958 and played on an oscilloscope at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. Or Spacewar, thought by many to be the first shooter game, created in 1961 at MIT and played on a Digital PDP-1 mainframe computer. (And you thought the early Game Boys were bulky.)

But it was the next couple of decades when videogames really blasted off, with Computer Space and Pong fueling the arcade boom in the early 1970s. This lead into the microcomputer craze and the home videogame wave, Remember The Hobbit, Mystery House, Adventureland or Choplifter? If you played these in the early 1980s, you have some serious old-school gaming cred, emphasis on the old.

Now, thanks to the Historical Software Collection at the Internet Archive, you can actually re-play some of these cherished memories again. Dedicated souls have labored over the JavaScript port of the MESS computer software emulator, which gives users of any modern browser an almost instantaneous way to run these ancient programs. If you’re a fan of electronic games, it’s definitely worth checking out — especially if you want to see just how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time.

So what’s in the collection? You can revisit Lemonade Stand, an economics game popular on the Apple II in 1979, or the 1981 version of Castle Wolfenstein. From 1982, you can find the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man and KC Munchkin for the Odyssey2. How about 1983’s Chuckie Egg for the ZX Spectrum? There’s plenty more where those came from.

ETThe Internet Archive Software Collection itself is a vast trove of CD-ROM images, Linux distributions, shareware mirrors and more. You could spend an afternoon trawling the virtual exhibits in this online repository. A sub-collection called Classic PC Games lets you relive those old DOS and early Windows favorites as well. But it’s not just fun and games. The archive has other ancient artifacts like VisiCalc and even WordStar to download or try out in emulation.

Yes, you can even grab a bag of Reese’s Pieces and run a version of that horrible E.T. game from 1983, just to see how bad it was. You are, after all, a student of history and history is not always pretty.