Why Atari’s New Console Could Be Just What The Gaming Industry Needs

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Yesterday, I reported on the recent GamesBeat interview with Atari CEO Fred Chesnais, a chat that confirmed the existence of an upcoming Atari console. The news came as a bit of a surprise, and since that break, speculation has been running wild. Forbes’ own Paul Tassi posted an interesting take on the whole situation, and honestly, I think he makes a great point—the market is indeed full, and introducing a brand new platform, especially one potentially poised to take on those of industry giants like Sony and Microsoft, may be an exercise in overzealous futility. And yet I can’t sit still, so break out the one-button joysticks and dusty Combat cartridges—we’re going to play devil’s advocate.

Even with everything seemingly stacked against such a machine (and there’s a lot, believe me), I still can’t manage to shake my naive excitement. I’ve been gaming for a long time, since the late 80s if I’m counting right, so the prospect of a legitimate Atari revival has set my imagination on fire. I know they’re not even close to the same company that released the 2600 and the Jaguar (or the criminally underappreciated Lynx handheld), but I feel like the potential for something compelling lay not only within this recent hardware announcement, but also amongst the remnant echos of Atari’s yesteryear 8-bit greatness. Before the infamous video game market crash of 1983, they all but owned the digital entertainment market, so who’s to say that they can’t stage a screaming comeback?

The deck is, without a doubt, stacked against such an impromptu market breach. Why? Because as it stands, Sony and Microsoft are in a constant and incredibly expensive battle for console market dominance. And while Nintendo occupies some strange, PG-rated corner of said market, one filled with jovial plumbers, wacky hardware innovation and awful online implementation, they absolutely dominate that space with consistently good first-party titles and an insane degree of consumer loyalty. When paring out the market shares, precious space for an additional dedicated gaming hardware option shrinks to almost nothing. And for the most part, it’s been this way since Sega bowed out of the race back in 2001 with its legendary Dreamcast. So beyond mobile devices and PC, we have three major options for gaming platforms. But what if people want more? What if they’re eager to try something different but lack the opportunity to jump ship?

Believe it or not, there was a time in gaming history when we did have more options. Way more, in fact. Back in the 1990s, all over the span of roughly ten years, the gaming market saw the introduction of a crazy amount of original, completely unique home consoles. Some were weird. Others ludicrously bizarre. Many were quirky experiments that only lasted several months before disappearing forever. Huge mainstream successes like the SNES and N64 were simply the machines that bubbled to the top. For every PlayStation sold there was an Apple Pippin left to forlornly rot on a lonely Circuit City shelf, ignored and forgotten by the gaming masses.

There was Panasonic’s 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, which introduced Gex—and an insane MSRP—to the world. Sega released the Sega CD and 32X, the bulky combination of which made for quite the conversation piece (and a heavy means by which you could defend your house from lions and swooping pterodactyls). And oh God, the Virtual Boy, which didn’t even last a full year before Nintendo pulled the plug. Still, that’s just the tip of the hardware iceberg: CD-i, Amiga CD32, Saturn, and Neo Geo CD are all among the onslaught of consoles that ran the gamut from world-changing to painfully obscure. The failure rate was high, though through all the pricey risks, gamers had choices. Sure, many of them weren’t the best and absolutely didn’t pan out in the long-term, but we weren’t strictly relegated to two or three major sources for our gaming needs. There was a power in that pool of options, and if we wanted to game on a Pioneer LaserActive, we could (though we might cry about it during, after and later).

If Atari’s new product ends up being a proper console with properly powerful innards, it could bring back that sense of choice, something that’s sorely missing from today’s market. Just imagine if they were able to entice several AAA developers and secure a handful of compelling exclusives; Ataribox-only titles you couldn’t find on Xbox, PlayStation or Switch. At the very least, it would make for an interesting 2018 E3, or at least one more exciting than this year’s ho-hum showing.

Oftentimes I’m struck by how homogeneous the gaming industry has become, so I think a gutsy newcomer (in the form of a wise old-timer) would do well to stir up the pot. We need something less, shall we say, predictable. And if the product is solid enough, if it bucks enough trends and pushes the right boundaries, customers may shock analysts and wander outside the comfortable camps that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have set up.

It’s all just speculation at this stage, of course, but it’s fun to wonder. I just hope it’s nothing like the Ouya, bless its tiny Android heart.

[Source”GSmerena”]

Dell’s eDellRoot certificate screw-up – what dazed admins need to know

Image result for Dell eDellRoot certificate screw-up – what dazed admins need to know

For PC users it’s a case of here we go again. Earlier in 2015, PC giant Lenovo was infamously caught shipping Windows computers with a piece of useless adware containing a self-signed root certificate that opened a massive security hole for customers. This week, it was Dell’s turn. Crowdsourced researchers revealed that the company had suffered the same egregious weakness not once, but twice, this time inside a pair of tools used for remote support.

Lenovo’s issue was more embarrassing than Dell’s – the vulnerability was part of a program called Superfish witlessly put there to serve adverts inside browser sessions – but frankly from a security point this sort of distinction makes no odds. Embedding a self-signed SSL certificate with the private key in an application shipped to large numbers of users is asking for trouble and should not have happened. This sort of configuration would be normal for a development application, not the final software, which should have used a signed certificate in the filestore from a Certificate Authority (CA).

The problem in more detail: Dell’s Foundation Services remote support tool was discovered to have installed a self-signed root certificate identifying itself as ‘eDellRoot’. In common parlance, that offered anyone aware of the issue the possibility of extracting the certificate’s private key to create a means to impersonate any HTTPS website connection they fancied as part of a TLS man-in-the-middle compromise. This is very bad – browsers would accept this borrowed certificate as genuine and in most cases throw up no browser warning. Criminals could also sign malware to make it appear legitimate not to mention delve into encrypted data such as website logins by sniffing laptops connecting through public Wi-Fi.

The size of the risk? Potentially huge for any system lacking remediation (see below). This must be addressed urgently.

That all? Apparently a second tool, Dell System Detect (DSD), has been discovered trying the same insecure trick with a self-signed certificate called DSDTestProvider. The Dell private PKI keys used to create these certificates are now insecure.

How was it discovered? Technical users and interested researchers talking to one another on Reddit and other sites.

 

[Source:- Techworld]

 

What is the BBC micro:bit – Gary explains

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The BBC micro:bit is part of an initiative to get kids coding, primarily in the UK, however its influence is starting to spread world wide. The micro:bit itself is a small credit card sized computer with an ARM Cortex-M0 microprocessor on it, plus a variety of sensors and LEDS. You can program it via MicroPython, JavaScript, a visual blocks editor, or in the C programming language. It is cheap, child friendly and has been given free to every child in year 7 or equivalent across the UK. So regardless of your age, if you find the prospect of learning to code interesting then read on to find out more in my full review of the BBC micro:bit.

History

There is a whole generation of computer scientists, software engineers, coders and hackers who first got into computing due to the home computer revolution of the mid-1980s and early 1990s. Machines such as the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, the Commodore 64 and the BBC Micro became the entry point for whole swathes of young people to learn about computing. Unfortunately as we entered the era of the PC and game consoles the “roll up your sleeves” attitude of the home computer revolution started to fade and in turn universities started to see a drop in the number of applications for computer science related studies.

This decline has been partly addressed by the great work of the Raspberry Pi foundation and now by the work of the Micro:bit foundation. You may have noticed the similarities between the name of the 1980s BBC Micro and the new BBC micro:bit. That is of course intentional. The British Broadcasting Corporation was a major partner in the release and the original BBC Micro and now the corporation is playing a significant role with the launch of the new micro:bit.

The micro:bit

The micro:bit itself measures 4 x 5 cm and includes 25 LEDs, 2 programmable switches, Bluetooth, an accelerometer, a compass, 5 ring type connectors and a 23-pin edge connector. This makes it ideal for not only learning about software but also for learning the fundamentals of electronics. The board can be programmed in a number of different ways including in Python and using JavaScript. The board is actually based on ARM’s mbed OS platform and the various programming environments offer higher level programming access. However the fundamental principle is the same: you write a program, compile it and then flash it onto the board. Once programmed the software on the board remains in the flash memory and will run whenever the board is powered on. This means that you can make standalone projects which just run whenever you power up the micro:bit.

 

Blocks

Probably the easiest introduction to coding for the micro:bit is using Microsoft’s micro:bit Programming Experience Toolkit (PXT). It supports both block-based coding and JavaScript. If you haven’t seen block-based coding before, the premise is very simple. The programmer uses drag-and-drop to pick blocks from a predefined set and stitch them together to make a program. Maybe picture will help:

 

On the left is a micro:bit emulator which demonstrates how the program will run on a real micro:bit. On the right is the program. There is a forever loop with two blocks inside of it. The first tells the micro:bit to scroll the message “Android Authority rulez!” and the second tells the micro:bit to pause for 1 second after the message has finished. Then the program will loop back and do it all again.

To add a new block you click on one of the menu items in the middle and then drag the desired block from the palette. The program in the screenshot above is for a very simple dice program (or should I say “die” as it is singular) that will display a random number between 1 and 6 when someone shakes the micro:bit.

There are blocks for controlling the LED matrix including showing strings, numbers and user-defined images. There are also blocks for reading the inputs like the compass and the accelerometer, plus blocks for all the normal programming stuff like conditions, loops, variables and simple arithmetic. On top of all that there are also blocks for controlling the input/output pins and even a way to do peer-to-peer communications using Bluetooth.

When you plug the micro:bit into your PC it will appear as a USB flash drive, called “MICROBIT.” To flash a blocks program onto the micro:bit you hit the download button and then drag-and-drop the resulting “.hex” file onto the MICROBIT drive. The micro:bit will automatically start the flashing process and then reboot when completed.

JavaScript

Microsoft’s micro:bit PXT also doubles as a Javascript editor. All block programs can be shown as JavaScript, in fact the block editor is just a front end to a JavaScript generator. If you modify the JavaScript the IDE will attempt to convert it back to blocks, however if it is too complex it won’t work and you need to continue in JavaScript only.

 

What this means is that if you are familiar with JavaScript, maybe because you have done some web development or maybe because you have used some of the popular JavaScript frameworks, then you can jump straight into micro:bit programming with little effort. It also means that if you have little or no programming skills then you can start to learn JavaScript using the micro:bit and you can use the blocks editor to help you get started. In either case it is a win-win situation!

Microsoft’s PXT editor isn’t the only way to write JavaScript for the micro:bit, you can also use the Code Kingdoms editor. Similar to Microsoft’s offering you can use blocks and JavaScript and switch between the two.

 

The only problem with the JavaScript approach is that the frameworks used by the two editors aren’t compatible. For example, to pause for 0.5 seconds under PXT you would use basic.pause(500) but under Code Kingdom’s IDE you need to use wait(500). The same thing applies to all the API calls related to the micro:bit including controlling the LED matrix, reading the button inputs, picking random numbers and even how to respond to events like shake.

This incompatibility will certainly be confusing to anyone just starting out and could cause frustration if an inexperienced user tries to switch from one environment to the other.

MicroPython

Python is a very popular high-level programming language that is often used to teach programming as it is simpler than languages like C and C++. MicroPython is a lean version of Python specifically designed to run on microcontrollers (like the ARM Cortex-M0 on the micro:bit).

There are several ways to code in Python on the micro:bit. One is to use the web-based IDE on the official micro:bit website, another is to use an offline editor like Mu. Mu is itself written in Python and works on Windows, OS X, Linux and Raspberry Pi. It is designed specifically for the micro:bit and also includes a built-in flash tool. Like the blocks editors and the JavaScript implementations, MicroPython for the micro:bit includes an API for controlling the hardware like the LED matrix and reading the inputs like the buttons.

 

C

mbed OS is ARM’s open source microcontroller development platform. It allows developers to build microcontroller based solutions using C and C++. The platform also includes everything you need to build IoT products and has a full networking stack along with support for Bluetooth. The micro:bit is in fact a mbed OS product, so while it is designed to be used by the higher level programming languages like JavaScript and Python, you can in fact program it via mbed in C and C++.

To program a micro:bit from mbed you first need to add the board to your setup and then import the micro:bit library into your project. From there you have access to some very low level classes and functions which provide a similar API to that of JavaScript and MicroPython. In fact if you study the mbed OS API you will see lots of similarities between what is available in the higher level languages and what is provided in the support library.

The screenshot above shows how to write the dice program in C++. As you can see it is a little longer than say the JavaScript version as you need to do more setup and handle things at a slightly lower level. This probably isn’t the best place for beginners to learn about the micro:bit. However if you have some C/C++ experience then this is a great way to explore the nitty-gritty of the platform.

Wrap-up

There is no doubt that the micro:bit is a excellent learning tool. It takes a different approach than the Raspberry Pi (which is also an excellent way to get into programming) since it doesn’t need a keyboard, mouse or monitor to use it. However you will need access to a PC for the coding and flashing. Well, actually that isn’t strictly true. It is possible to program the micro:bit from a smartphone or tablet. There are micro:bit apps available for Android and iOS. These apps basically take the place of the PC for the flashing process, which is done over Bluetooth rather than over a USB cable. However the programming environment offered within the app are actually just links to the online web environments.

The aim of the micro:bit is to encourage creativity in terms of software and hardware among young people and it certainly does just that. My kids are keen to play around with the micro:bit (now that the review is done) and I think that because the LED matrix is simpler to program than say sprites in a game on something like the Raspberry Pi then entry point is lower (which is a good thing).

If you are thinking about getting a young person a present which might actually be educational rather than just provide amusement, then you should certainly think about the micro:bit.

 

 
[Source:- Androidauthority]

Android antivirus apps are useless — here’s what to do instead

Google Play

It seems like you can’t go a week without one security firm or another producing a statistic illustrating just how much Android malware there is in the wilds of the internet. More often than not, these reports come with a few reminders that the company’s own security suite can protect you from these nasty bits of code, which is true some of the time. However, Android is by its very nature more secure than a desktop computer, so maybe you don’t need these security apps. You’ve probably already got what you need.

The scare tactics

The most recent Android malware report comes from Check Point, which says nearly one billion android devices have critical vulnerabilities in the underlying Linux kernel. Shocking and upsetting, right? It’s a legitimate security issue, but the reporting is, as usual, overly breathless and dramatic. The PR certainly makes it seem like your phone is ripe for infection, but the real situation is much more nuanced.

The latest QuadRooter scare is actually a set of four issues known as CVE-2016-2059,CVE-2016-2504, CVE-2016-2503, and CVE-2016-5340. They are rooted in the Linux system code provided by Qualcomm to partners like Google. The way this is presented by many mainstream reports, you’d think Google is in panic mode and rushing out patches. In fact, the Android security model is much more mature now. Several of these vulnerabilities are already patched in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), and the others will be soon. As OEMs build new updates, they’ll include updated patch levels, which you can see in your software info.

We’ve all been programmed by PC malware, which can sneak onto your system simply because you visited the wrong website with a vulnerable browser. These “drive-by downloads” aren’t feasible on Android without a pre-existing infection. On Android, you have to physically tap on a notification to install an APK downloaded from a source outside the Play Store. Even then there are security settings that need to be manually bypassed.

What if a QuadRooter app were to make it into the Play Store before then? Google’s platform has the ability to scan for known malware when it’s uploaded. There’s also a human review process in place for anything that looks even a little bit questionable. Google just started doing this a few months ago, mainly as a way to keep copycat apps and obvious scams from slipping through the cracks.

Google Play

The solution pushed by AV companies is to install a security suite that manually scans every app, monitors your Web traffic, and so on. These apps tend to be a drain on resources and are generally annoying with plentiful notifications and pop ups. You probably don’t need to install Lookout, AVG, Symantec/Norton, or any of the other AV apps on Android. Instead, there are some completely reasonable steps you can take that won’t drag down your phone. For example, your phone already has antivirus protection built-in.

What you should do to stay safe

Your first line of defense is to simply not mess around with Android’s default security settings. To get Google certification, each and every phone and tablet comes with “Unknown sources” disabled in the security settings. If you want to sideload an APK downloaded from outside Google Play, all you need to do is check that box. Leaving this disabled keeps you safe from virtually all Android malware, because there’s almost none of it in the Play Store.
There are legitimate reasons to allow unknown sources, though. For example, Amazon’s Appstore client sideloads the apps and games you buy, and many reputable sites re-host official app updates that are rolling out in stages so you don’t have to wait your turn. If you do take advantage of this feature, the first time you do so a box will pop up asking you to allowGoogle to scan for malicious activity. This is known as Verify Apps and it’s part of Google Play Services on virtually all official Android phones. Google has confirmed that QuadRooter is detected and disabled by Verify Apps. So, even if your device is lagging on security updates, you shouldn’t have to worry.

Users have been rooting their Android phones ever since the first handsets hit the market, but it’s less common these days. The platform offers many of the features people used to root in order to acquire. Using rooted Android is basically like running a computer in administrator mode. While it’s possible to run a rooted phone safely, it’s definitely a security risk. Some exploits and malware needs root access to function, and otherwise it’s harmless even if you do somehow install it. If you don’t have a good reason to root your phone or tablet, just don’t open yourself up to that possibility.

 

 

[Source: Extreme Tech]

What Makes A Difficult Game Worth Playing?

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With gamers all over spellbound by the punishing magic that isDark Souls 3, one writer sets out to identify which qualities make these kinds of difficult games enjoyable.

It will come as a surprise to roughly no one that my background as a RPG enthusiast has left me ill-equipped to battle through games like the recently released Dark Souls 3. Some gamers spent their childhoods platforming through Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie while some spent hours running around in circles on an island populated by strange cactus-men in order to make the numbers beside their characters names slightly higher than they were the day before. I fell into the latter camp, and thus I’ve never been particularly attached to any of the more popular skill-testing action titles.

That is, of course, unless those titles go out of their way to punish me for every single mistake I make. For reasons I’ve never been able to adequately put into words, games like Bloodborneand Super Meat Boy have managed to keep me coming back for more despite my obvious lack of affinity for their gameplay mechanics. Although I’ve only scratched the surface of the game myself, every video I’ve watched regarding Dark Souls 3 makes me believe the same will hold true for From Software’s latest iteration of the beloved series as well. That has me wondering, though – just what is it about these kinds of games that makes them so fun to play despite the fact they can be immensely frustrating at any given moment?

At first, it seemed there was a simple answer. All of these games, I reasoned, have a fascinating and unique gameplay system at their core. While many of them borrow elements from other successful games within their respective genres, games like BloodborneSuper Meat Boy, or even the old school Ninja Gaiden titles all fall back on small gameplay decisions that make them a little bit different and a lot more challenging. Yet, upon further inspection, this line of thinking doesn’t necessarily hold up. I’ve played lots of games that did something differently that made the gameplay harder that simply didn’t click with me – some to the point that I swore off every other installment ever made (here’s looking at you, Sonic the Hedgehog 2006).

As it turns out, it isn’t the nuanced gameplay and punishing repercussions for failure that made these games great – that element is the baseline, something that should be expected from IPs that want to set themselves apart for their lack of hand-holding and relatively higher levels of difficulty. The trick is to package that gameplay into something that is aesthetically appealing as well.

dark souls 3 greirat the thief character

Take, for instance, the poster child of the hard-to-beat-harder-to-put-down genre of video games in the modern era. The Dark Souls series, as well as weird step-sibling Bloodborne, both pit gamers against hordes of unforgiving monsters in a setting ripped straight out of the Victorian Gothic era. Dungeons are creepy, light comes at a premium, and the drip of water in a cave is as unsettling as the grim knowledge that noise was likely implemented to distract you from an unseen, lurking enemy ready to end your playthrough prematurely. The world of From Software’s extremely popular franchise is a perfect setting for the brutal gameplay that follows the character creation screen in each game.

Even in a game like Super Meat Boy, where the graphics are largely two-dimensional and cartoony, the setting simply works. Often times, the challenges in truly difficult games feels like going through the meat grinder, and whenever my poor Meat Boy would find himself splatted against a wall or impaled in a pit of spikes, I’d feel like it was the perfect representation of my own emotions being beaten down by the game’s truly beautiful and nefarious level design.

Super Meat Boy captures the essence of how these games push the boundaries of frustration and fun in the industry, and does it while providing gamers with ample physical comedy and sparse dialogue. Evidently, not all games need to have several novels worth of dialogue in order to make their narratives compelling, and, to be quite honest, an entire novel written about Meat Boy would probably read like a mash-up of bad science fiction and a Hamburger Helper recipe. That’s the sublime appeal of it, though – successful and meaningfully challenging games like these don’t try to be anything more than what they are, framed by a story and visuals that provide a little extra variety and appeal to the already exact science that is their gameplay mechanics.

super meat boy animation

Even the old NES version of Ninja Gaiden has the aesthetic appeal to push gamers through its notoriously punishing level schemes. Although the graphics are so dated they look like they were created on an old Nokia cellphone, there’s something to be said for playing the role of the silent, skilled assassin fighting his way through hordes of enemies in pursuit of justice (and, later, romance as well). It’s the kind of game that is synonymous with the kind of nostalgia that has pushed the gaming industry towards making a large quantity of remakes and remasters despite its aged plot and relatively straightforward gameplay.

Ultimately, all of these games also possess the holy grail of game design: detailed and interesting levels that feel different enough from other locations in the same game that there is a real sense of progression, even if that sense stems from a different color background or slightly different looking enemies. After all, there’s nothing like playing through a few hours of Dark Souls, beating a boss after, in my case, several hundred tries, and finding the nearest bonfire before shutting a console down for the night. There’s a tangible level of satisfaction and progression within the best examples of difficult games that makes slowly grinding away at their increasingly maddening boss fights worthwhile in the end.

While that sense of achievement might have been given a visual representation in the age of trophy hunting in video gaming, the pursuit of it has existed long before then. At the heart of each well-loved and difficult video game is the sense that they were well-designed, featured appealing aesthetics to compliment the gameplay, and were fair. Developers aren’t presenting players with insurmountable challenges in these titles, but rather the invitation to develop a skillset that takes time and rewards patience. In an era where the correct length of a video game is always hotly debated, it seems like titles like Dark Souls 3 and Super Meat Boy never really enter that discussion – and there’s a good reason for that.

 

[Source:- Gamerant]