Archive | July 2013

Here’s Video Of The House Debate That Almost Passed An Amendment Cutting At The NSA’s Domestic Surveillance

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Yesterday, an amendment proposed by Rep. Amash that would have dramatically undermined the NSA’s authority to collect records on the phone calls of American citizens failed to pass. Proponents of the amendment claimed that it protected the Fourth Amendment rights of the public. Those opposed argued that it would erode national security.

The debate back and forth was perhaps the best encapsulation of the current conversation in Congress concerning the pervasive surveillance of the NSA that has recently become better known, mostly through the prism of leaks from the now fugitive Edward Snowden. That information has divided Congressional representatives and senators, demanding that they choose a side, at least rhetorically, on the issue.

Yesterday was a further step in the direction of accountability, albeit only in the lower chamber of Congress. The members had to vote yes or no on whether to defund a known – and previously lied about – program that collects private data on Americans sans their status as party to an investigation.

You’ve read coverage on the NSA for months, with commentary of all sorts taking positions on both the digital and telephonic collection practices of the agency. The following debate isn’t a cable news segment stacked with paid pundits, half-neck analysts, or think-tank hacks. Instead, this is our Congress, arguing with itself, about how to handle our privacy.

The amendment failed 205-217. That’s a defeat, but those in favor of its passage were greater in number than many, myself included, anticipated.

Enjoy [Debate begins at 16:40]:

Top Image Credit: Zoe Rudisill

Pentotype Lets Developers Quickly Build And Collaborate On Interactive Wireframes From Their iPads

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Are you a developer? Do you wanna create wireframes and share them with your friends and collaborate and mashup and test out the user experience of new apps before you commit to code? Well here comes Pentotype, a new web app for the iPad (and frankly, any other HTML5-enabled device) that will let developers quickly sketch out wireframes of their apps and test out user interaction.

Pentotype is an app for creating quick wireframes of mobile apps on the iPad. While it’s based on HTML5, it’s designed to run like a native app, allowing users to sketch out their apps and see how they would work. Users can simulate their app functionality through the wireframes and then share with others to get their take. It enables both viewing and collaboration for the earliest part of the app-creation process.

Note, these aren’t fully realized apps that the service churns out, and there’s no code exported by the service. It’s really just a way to get a feel for the user experience before it’s all committed to code. Pentotype co-founder Thomas Wanschik compares the service to a “combination of the apps Paper and POP enhanced with sketch recognition.”

Pentotype follows the typical freemium model: Users of the service can try it out with a couple of free projects to see how they like it. Those who want to use it more will be asked to pay up. The team is still working out pricing, but those who want to create more projects can email the team to get more info.

The startup was founded by Johannes D rr, Thomas Wanschik, and Waldemar Kornewald, three German entrepreneurs who had studied and done contract work together. They had mostly bootstrapped the project over the last year-and-a-half, taking a small bit of funding (about $120,000) through a German/EU stipend program called “EXIST Gr nderstipendium.” They are also part of a local university incubator in Germany called “PFH G ttingen,” which provides free office space and other services for startups there.

Board game creator cans $123K Kickstarter project, reinforces the platform’s lack of accountability

P1040317 645x250 520x245 Board game creator cans $123K Kickstarter project, reinforces the platforms lack of accountability

After raising $123,000 on Kickstarter to develop a new tabletop board game called ‘The Doom That Came To Atlantic City’, creator Erik Chevalier has told backers that the project has been abandoned.

“The project is over, the game is cancelled,” Chevalier wrote in an update for the project’s Kickstarter page (spotted by CVG).

“Every possible mistake was made, some due to my inexperience in board game publishing, others due to ego conflicts, legal issues and technical complications. No matter the cause though these could all have been avoided by someone more experienced and I apparently was not that person.”

The remarks have been met with a wave of criticism from backers that have pledged potentially thousands of dollars to see the game realized and eventually own a copy of the final product. A number of these commenters have now filed complaints with the Oregon Department of Justice – the state where Chevalier’s company is based – for fraudulent activity.

Trying to make peace

A second update has since been posted by Chevalier to try to stabilize the situation. He has contacted the Oregon Department of Justice to explain the situation and will now work with them “to see what I need to do to make this right in their eyes.”

“This project has been a year of frustration on every level,” he said. “There are things you don’t know and I can’t talk about yet without first seeking legal advice, but hopefully in time everything will be made clear. I don’t expect everyone to accept my apologies, there is nothing I can say that will make every single backer forgive me.”

Chevalier has also stated that he wants to refund all of the Kickstarter backers, as well as those who pre-ordered the game after the campaign closed through his company’s webstore. He claims to have started this process already – starting with post-campaign pre-orders – although there’s no time frame as to when it will be completed.

We’ve seen this time and time again

The scenario is not uncommon for Kickstarter. Josh Dibb, a band member of Animal Collective, infamously raised over $25,000 in 2009 and never delivered any of the materials promised to backers, further highlighting the various flaws and pitfalls associated with Kickstarter.

The crowdfunding platform has huge accountability issues. It’s a tool that enables the public to make donations for projects they want to succeed. The problem lies in the ‘perks’ offered to backers with specific pledge amounts – these are often straight-up pre-orders, which come with social expectations. The main one being, of course, that they’ll eventually get the product.

Kickstarter doesn’t have a mechanism for ensuring that project creators actually deliver on their original pitch. The problem is heightened when the amount raised goes far beyond the original funding target – in the case of Chevalier, he raised well over three times his initial goal. The perception and expectation that backers have of the pitch is then changed and inevitably heightened, increasing the likelihood that the creator won’t fully deliver.

Kickstarter: Not our problem

Some projects are also downright scams. Kickstarter’s terms of use clearly state: “Project Creators are required to fulfill all rewards of their successful fundraising campaigns or refund any Backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill.”

It later adds: “Kickstarter does not offer refunds. A Project Creator is not required to grant a Backer’s request for a refund unless the Project Creator is unable or unwilling to fulfill the reward.”

This would point to some kind of structural, or perhaps contractual obligation by project creators to deliver their rewards to backers as promised. Wrong.

“Kickstarter is not liable for any damages or loss incurred related to rewards or any other use of the Service,” it continues. “Kickstarter is under no obligation to become involved in disputes between any Users, or between Users and any third party arising in connection with the use of the Service. This includes, but is not limited to, delivery of goods and services, and any other terms, conditions, warranties, or representations associated with campaigns on the Site.”

Kickstarter is, essentially, completely disconnected and won’t hold project creators to account. Just to make that crystal clear, it later states: “You release Kickstarter, its officers, employees, agents, and successors in rights from claims, damages, and demands of every kind, known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, disclosed or undisclosed, arising out of or in any way related to such disputes and the Service.”

Backers involved with ‘The Doom That Came To Atlantic City’ are therefore on their own. Reporting the matter to the Oregon Department of Justice was likely their only option.

Sky increases mobile and on-demand viewing figures more than five-fold

BSkyB 520x245 Sky increases mobile and on demand viewing figures more than five fold

British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), or known better as simply Sky, has reported full year earnings for the last 12 months revealing that the broadcaster made great strides in growing on-demand and mobile viewing figures.

Overall, revenue for the year was at 7.2 billion, an increase of 7 percent in comparison with the previous 12 months and operating profit was at 1.29 billion, an increase of 4 percent year-on-year (YoY).

Notably, Sky said that much of its growth had come from its on-demand viewing options and its Sky GO mobile TV service.

Overall viewing figures for on-demand content had increased by five times the level it was at this time last year and now delivers more than 6 million on demand streams per week.

“Over 2.7 million Sky customers, more than a quarter of total customers, have already connected their Sky+HD boxes to broadband, a rise of 170 percent on last year. This gives them access to the UK’s biggest Catch Up TV service alongside hundreds of hours of popular TV box sets and an extensive library of exclusive movies,” Sky said in a statement.

The company also said the growth of Sky GO had helped the overall perfomance during the period. For example, of the 3.3 million regular Sky GO users, the company has converted 166,000 of them to Sky Go Extra customers – which allows users to view content on mobile and tablet devices with or without an active connection.

Content house

As part of its push to increase the number of people using its streaming services, Sky has been gradually introducing new providers and programming for its on demand content.

For example, it introduced Fox and Sky Movies Disney to the line-up, while a further 14 channels joined Sky Go including 8 kids channels (Disney, Disney XD, Disney Jnr, Nick, Nick Jnr, Cartoon Network, Cartoonito and Boomerang), 5 entertainment channels (SyFy, Universal, C&I and Star Plus) plus Channel 4 and More 4 and 4oD’s VOD (Video On Demand) content.

Particular hit shows for the broadcaster over the past 12 months have been Game of Thrones, Mad Men, The Sopranos and Hannibal, it said.

In order to keep up the pressure on rival providers, such as Virgin Media and BT’s Vision packages, as well as online streaming providers like Netflix and LOVEFiLM, Sky said it would introduce another 20 channels to its catch up service over the next 12 months.

To spur the number of people using its on demand services, Sky also introduced a new 10 NOW TV box that will allow people to access content on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The broadcaster has recently been in a bitter battle with BT to retain customers that are particularly interested in football and other sports broadcasting.

Earlier this year, BT won the rights to show 38 premier league football matches this season, and added an extra lure to win over existing Sky customers by offering its sports TV service for free to customers on its Infinity fiber broadband packages. Sky, naturally, responded with its own football-orientated offers, such as broadcasting the first day of the season for free to the whole of the UK, regardless of which TV service is used.

Featured Image Credit – AFP/Getty Images

A Geeky Review – Sacred Citadel

Having just played Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite back to back, I was prepared to be underwhelmed with games for a while. The aforementioned titles really raised the bar of what games can accomplish, and both totally blew my mind. I had visions of me falling into a gaming slump or at least a chance to play catch up with my DVR until Naughty Dog‘s The Last Of Us releases. Actually that’s kind of ridiculous considering how much I love gaming but the thought of bitter disappointment on my next gaming excursion did cross my mind.

Luckily for me, the fine folks at Deep Silver hooked me up with a copy of their game Sacred Citadel. Described in a press release as an action adventure hack and slash with RPG elements. I love a good hack and slash but throw in the added bonus of RPG characteristics and well, color me intrigued!

Sacred Citadel is part of the Sacred game series, and intends to serve as a prequel to the upcoming Sacred 3. If you haven’t played any of the Sacred games, fear not, Sacred Citadel is perfectly fine to dive right into for the uninitiated like myself.

Upon starting the game you are asked to choose a character class to represent you. There are four, Warrior, Ranger, Mage, and Shaman. Each has unique abilities and characteristics.

Sacred Citadel is presented in four acts and takes place in the world of Ancaria where the evil Ashen empire has enslaved the population. Their henchmen are the Grimmoc, whose job is to wipe out the Seraphim. It’s your duty to help defeat the evil Ashen empire, and that’s when the fun begins!

You start off with lowly weapons and very few skills. Throughout the game as you progress so does your character and weapons. Dual wield with a variety of artillery including Swords and axes, better weapons become available for purchase in the towns or are often dropped along the way by enemies. I found that every weapon dropped by enemies were always better than anything you already owned, which was nice unlike in Borderlands where often I discarded a gun only to find what I left behind was much better than the new one.

Speaking of Borderlands I often found Sacred Citadel to resemble the shooter, only without guns. That comparison also extends to the style of art used in Sacred Citadel as well as the RPG leveling up of characters and weapons. Sure it’s not as dynamic of graphics but this game is much smaller scale and is download only across multi platforms. With that being said, I am in no way implying that Sacred Citadel is not top-notch quality and I had a ton of fun playing it.

Sacred Citadel offers co-op for up to three players. Do your self a favor and bring along a friend or two because it really is much more fun. However, if you are a lone wolf type of gamer, Sacred Citadel still has much to offer. Co-op can be played locally or online. I did experience a bit of lag playing online co-op but nothing too tragic.

Gameplay is very fluid and combos are pulled off with a smoothness and ease that is essential to the brawler genre. Sacred Citadel does run a little short but considering you can purchase it for $14.99 on Steam and PSN which translates to 1200 Microsoft points, it’s a deal.

Sacred Citadel is available now on PSN, XBLA and Steam and was developed by SouthEnd Interactive with publishing rights being handled by Deep Silver.

Spicy Horse Unleashes Hell Invaders This Fall

Spicy Horse has announced their next project will be a collectible card game/RTS tentatively titled Hell Invaders. Shooting for a fall release, Hell Invaders is being developed for PC, Mac, Linux and tablets.

Hell Invaders will consist of actual card battles, instead of two cards fighting on a table. The creatures of the cards will have 3D representations which will do battle as well as cards that offer upgrades and swappable skills, giving cards with identical characters a completely different experience.

Players can play in a single player campaign or fight in PVP arenas. Trading, card management and other social features will also offer more ways to enjoy your time in hell.

Spicy Horse will be unveiling more details about Hell Invaders in the coming months. Don’t Hate The Geek will relay all the information as it becomes available.

Pertinent Details

Title: Hell Invaders

Developer: Spicy Horse Games

Publisher: TBA

Genre: CCG/RTS

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, tablets

Price: TBA

Release Date: Fall

Angry Birds Friends From Facebook To iOS And Android

Angry Birds Friends crashes onto Apple and Android devices, Thursday May 2. Fans of Facebook games might already be familiar with the social version of Rovio’s Angry Birds, as it appeared as a Facebook app last year.

Play against your friends in a competitive version of Angry Birds with a familiar style of gameplay fans have come to love. Rovio added a series of power ups designed to give Angry Birds Friends a bit of variation from the original games. However, all of your favorite birds return from previous titles, with the exception of the Mighty Eagle.

In game social currency is called Bird Coins and you earn them from defeating your friends in four different competitive modes. It is also believed that more Bird Coins can be bought through micro-transactions in app.

Get Angry Birds Friends this week at the Apple App Store and all Android App retailers and join your friends in bird flinging fun.

Ghosts Are Real And So Is The Next Call Of Duty

So once again we find the month of May upon us, Spring flowers, nice weather (hopefully) and the announcement of the next Call Of Duty. In usual fashion the Internet beat the official reveal to the punch. Rumors were rampant but it was a listing by the online retailer Tesco Direct that really flamed the fire. This week a strange image on the Official Call Of Duty website appeared that has now since morphed into the confirmation that “The Ghosts Are Real” and what appears to resemble the beloved Ghost character from the Modern Warfare series.

If you are a fan of the series it should come as no surprise Infinity Ward will be handling the developing of this years installment of the COD franchise. Tina Palacios, Infinity Ward’s Community Manager, tweeted “soon” a few days ago, which I can only assume was in reference to COD. Officially Call Of Duty Ghosts will be announced today May 1st.

IGN has confirmed the title and release date of 11-05-2013 through a Gamestop promotional poster they were provided with. The poster offers no platform information but it’s widely believed Call Of Duty Ghosts will be available on PC, current generation consoles as well as next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft.

Check back real soon, I will be following up this story with all the details and a trailer once they “officially” become available.

Watch the new Lego Marvel Heroes trailer. Sneak peekage!

IronPatriot

Some of us fans have been waiting for a Marvel Lego game and were happy to hear the announcement that we would be mini-figing it this fall as our favorite Marvel heroes. Not much has come out since that spectacular Game Informer reveal until now that is.

Okay really we found out that there will be some spiffy pre-order bonuses. The coolest of the bonuses lie at your local Wal-Mart where you can snag an exclusive Iron Patriot mini-fig. Woot! Heading to the old Gamestop and plunking five bucks down will get you the pretty sweet Spider-Man keychain. Powerup Rewards members will almost score a free DLC pack. Lastly, pre-ordering at Amazon gets a fresh $10 games credit.

Hit the break to check out the trailer, pay attention to the shadow at the end! Marvel Lego heroes will hit consoles and PC this fall.

Created by MDKGraphicsEngine - Licensed to LEGO System A/S

Angry gamers pursue class action lawsuit over Aliens: Colonial Marines.

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It was bound to happen really, gamers have banded together to show just how pissed off they are about Aliens: Colonial Marines. Turns out people don’t take to well to demos not being the final product they paid hard, cold cash for.

“Each of the ‘actual gameplay’ demonstrations purported to show consumers exactly what they would be buying: a cutting edge video game with very specific features and qualities. Unfortunately for their fans, Defendants [Sega and Gearbox] never told anyone – consumers, industry critics, reviewers, or reporters – that their ‘actual gameplay’ demonstration advertising campaign bore little resemblance to the retail product that would eventually be sold to a large community of unwitting purchasers.” -Polygon post

Both Sega and Gearbox Software are named as defendants in the lawsuit and neither have bothered to comment on the news. Can’t say that I blame those folks, it certainly looks like both companies misled fans. We’ll watch and see if this goes all the way, hopefully it does. Publishers and developers should be held accountable for this horrible mess.

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