All posts by Kaushik

A mobile technology lover and a Strategy and RPG-game fanatic. I also enjoy astronomy and programming. I am a biotechnology engineer learning through this fascinating subject while poring over computer science. Hit me up on Twitter for more

Bioshock: Infinite Release Date Announced

This will be a short post with the release date in the first paragraph (it’s the 16th of October this year, by the way) and about two more paragraphs telling you just how much fun this game might be. You have been warned. Irrational Games announced today that their dieselpunk video game Bioshock: Infinite will be released on the 16th of October, 2012. That is about… eight months and some days away. You can also apparently preorder the game (although what purpose that would serve more than half a year beforehand is beyond me.)

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Do not know much about Bioshock: Infinite? Have no fear when Techie Buzz is here! (We tried making that sentence cheesier and failed) Previously known as Project Icarus, Bioshock: Infinite puts the player in the shoes of an agent asked to rescue a girl from a floating city in 1912 America. Building up on many themes such as the American Exceptionalism of that time as well as the strong voice of a people as evidenced by the Occupy Wall Street protests of the current day as well as a dieselpunk setting in a dystopic city, Bioshock: Infinite sounds like it is going to be a lot of fun. Irrational Games co-founder Kevin Levine agrees:-

After BioShock, we had a vision for a follow up that dwarfed the original in scope and ambition. BioShock Infinite has been our sole focus for the last four years, and we can’t wait for fans to get their hands on it.

I cannot wait either, Kevin.

After PayPal Playing Spoilsport Paymate Screws Over Tiny Indie Game Studio

We have all heard of PayPal playing the bearded one-eyed villain who devilishly demolishes indie studios for no proper reason in many cases. Google Checkout has also played that part – albeit to a lesser degree than PayPal. Thus, when SeeThrough Studios chose Paymate as their payment provider, they were hoping for a buttery-smooth joyride to Uncle Scrooge’s vault. Turns out that indie game studios and payment providers have some sort of jinxed relationship.

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When SeeThrough Studios’ geometric game Flatland: Fallen Angle received a fair bit of coverage across websites they also saw their coffers fill up with a reasonable amount of money via Paymate. Later, however, the developers received an email stating that the payment service will be withdrawn and all the money in escrow will be refunded to the credit cards. When questioned by the devs, the Paymate officials responded like so:-

We don’t work with online games companies, because teenagers use their parents credit cards to buy games, and then we end up having to refund them. End of story.

That’s right. To not having to end up refunding some of the customers later, they ended up refunding all the customers now. Flawless logic. Moreover, it seems that all online video game sales are made by teenagers who steal their parents’ credit cards. Very interesting statistic that I am sure Paymate has spent at least a decade investigating.

Either way, this extremely stupid reason has made a small indie studio quite broke and they are still looking for ways to get past this mess.

The White House Crafts A Consumer Bill of Rights for Internet Privacy

The leaders of the United States of America are probably quite a confused lot. First one legislative body drafts up bill after bill that curtails privacy and free speech on the Internet, while the White House issues corporate ‘guidelines’ that increase consumer’s rights to privacy as well as asking the companies to provide opt-out clauses for data collection and analysis.

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The Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World document provides clear cut definitions of why privacy is important as a democratic national right.

The White House document basically lays down a good principles path that companies must follow to ensure customer satisfaction and rights are taken care of. Directly from the document:-

The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights applies comprehensive, globally recognized Fair Information
Practice Principles (FIPPs) to the interactive and highly interconnected environment in which
we live and work today. Specifically, it provides for:

Individual Control: Consumers have a right to exercise control over what personal data
companies collect from them and how they use it.
Transparency: Consumers have a right to easily understandable and accessible information
about privacy and security practices.
Respect for Context: Consumers have a right to expect that companies will collect, use, and
disclose personal data in ways that are consistent with the context in which consumers
provide the data.
Security: Consumers have a right to secure and responsible handling of personal data.
Access and Accuracy: Consumers have a right to access and correct personal data in usable
formats, in a manner that is appropriate to the sensitivity of the data and the risk of adverse
consequences to consumers if the data is inaccurate.
Focused Collection: Consumers have a right to reasonable limits on the personal data that
companies collect and retain.
Accountability: Consumers have a right to have personal data handled by companies with
appropriate measures in place to assure they adhere to the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

Personally, it is finally good to see some progress in the line of cyber laws and rights. That too from the country that proposed SOPA and PIPA. What do you guys think?

Sony PS Vita Sells 1.2 Million Units Worldwide

Considering that the earlier Japan release’s response was lukewarm at best and that the device was fully released to Western buyers last week, Sony’s latest handheld – the PlayStation Vita – is doing extremely well. The large brick filled to the brim with sensors and input devices and a gorgeous screen was taken to by gamers – the dual analog sticks and the release of Uncharted: Golden Abyss definitely pushing the sales of the device.

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SCEI President Andy House stated that Sony will be doing whatever it can to keep this momentum up and running.

PS Vita was designed to deliver the ultimate portable entertainment experience, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the reaction we’re seeing from consumers and the pace at which PS Vita is selling .

The market has responded and there is clear demand for a mobile device capable of providing a revolutionary combination of rich gaming and social connectivity within a real world context.

To sustain momentum, we’re working closely with 3rd party developers and publishers to ensure the best games and franchises possible will be available on PS Vita, and our software line up for the remainder of 2012 will have something for everyone across the globe.

The software sales (digital distribution and retail chain) crossed the 2 million mark as well.

Origin Auto-Adds EA Game Purchases From Steam

Joystiq reports that the puke-worthy EA has actually gone and done something reasonably intelligent with its Origin digital distribution system. Apparently many users of the Day One Patch forums reported that copies of Dead Space 2 – that they had purchased over Steam – had magically appeared on their Origin game library, with the same CD Key (i.e. an identical copy). While this is slightly unnerving, some more data that surfaced said that it was not all that malicious since Origin is known to look through files of the user’s computers (much like Steam itself does) and send back relevant statistics to EA.

Origin

It seems Origin looks through the games and filenames present in the user’s computer, match it with its database and if the user had bought an EA game through another platform, it automatically adds it to its own game library. Of course there are some checks here and there built into its system. While this is actually pleasing for once it is slightly creepy and we would all be a little more comfy if Origin announced that it has found such and such game in your system and will be registering it with Origin as well. That way people will actually like Origin. But this being EA, they again missed out on a lovely opportunity to show how Origin is better than other platforms in this respect.

They still have not convinced me to buy Mass Effect 3 though.

Dent in the Great Firewall of China Pulls Hundreds of Chinese Netizens to Obama’s Google Plus Page

You have no idea how much I wanted to write an article under that headline. I did not know how much I wanted to write an article under that headline until I read the news. Apparently, a glitch in the matrix China’s nationwide firewall has allowed many Chinese users to troop around into Google +, the social networking platform with special emphasis on mobiles. These Chinese netizens have flocked to US President Barack Obama’s Google + page and written up posts that range from pleas for help to the US Green Card and applying for the same.

Official portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 13, 2009.    (Photo by Pete Souza)

Many of these Chinese users have reportedly been using the mobile platform through which Google + is accessible, rather than fixed computers, much to the chagrin of the Chinese authorities (or so I would like to believe, since there is not much information on that front). China has blocked Twitter and Facebook following ethnic riots in some parts of the country, while Google has been fighting a hard battle against censoring some search results for the country.

It would be fun to see how President Obama, already reeling under pressure from many parts of the Internet as well as the people in general, will respond to a Chinese “request” to take down the messages on Google + – many of which criticize Beijing’s censorship.

Government of India Will Set Up Rs. 800 Cr National Cyber Coordination Centre to Snoop On the General Populace

It seems that the Indian Government (probably specifically the vile, ignorant, devious, scheming leech of a person called Kapil Sibal) does not want the population of the country to enjoy the democratic right of free speech in any and all media. It is common knowledge that the censor board exists for cinema and the media companies themselves block non-sensationalist-yet-truthful stories, notwithstanding the ignorant religious zealots that declare war on every slight to their religion. However, the Government of India is taking things a little too far this time.

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Pluggd.in reports that a national spying agency called the National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) will be set up to implement ‘internet security’ by scanning tweets, Facebook updates and other units of social media. This entire arduous exercise comes at the cost of a whopping Rs. 800 crore (~$163 million). This news comes on the heels of the fact that under the pretense of e-Governance, the Indian Government wants to track mobile phone users in real time.

Funnily enough, the Government wishes to track the millions and millions of citizens of the country and what they do and will go to any lengths to make sure this happens. However, when asked to track its own polity and politicians and their malicious work the Government refuses stating that it does not have the necessary resources.

Then again, we all know how efficient the Indian Government is and just how fast this will be implemented. Stay tuned for more updates in 6 years’ time.

The Smithsonian Institution Will Make All Objects In Its Collection 3D Printable!

Every time I hear something about 3D printing, I wonder how far we have come since the first mold-based sculpting process. It would have been unthinkable at that point of time that an exact replica of whatever you have in your hand can be made by someone sitting halfway across the world with a contraption that, given some time, can build itself. 3D printing is now available to everyone for a fraction of the price it used to be. Knowing this and harnessing the power of 3D scanning with some hi-tech lasers, the Smithsonian Institute wishes to make its entire collection of objects 3D printable.

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Considering that the museum contains about 137 million items and that only 2% of this collection is available to the public at any given time, this project could certainly increase the reach and visibility of precious history without having to open up ‘vault’ so to speak. Affiliate institutions across the world could print the replica object and show it to the people that come visiting.

They’re creating what Rossi called a “digital surrogate,” a “new form of museum collection” that could mean a wealth of information that could be available to anyone with a computer, or at the very least, to a wide variety of museums, schools, and other interested institutions.

With the advent of the digital age, we may just be seeing a new kind of museum, with touchable and reproducible artifacts available to everyone to know and share. Moreover, the security of the original artifacts will also be increased since the originals need not be displayed all the time.

Very interesting times, indeed.

$1 Million Reward Offered by Google for Finding Exploits in Chrome

Google has offered a total of $1 million for hackers in the Pwn2Own hacker contest if they find security exploits in their Chrome browser, the company’s security team announced. In its sixth year of running, the Pwn2Own contest has seen vulnerabilities being exposed for fully patched and functional browsers such as Internet Explorer and Safari. However, no hacker group has tried aiming at Chrome, especially since it is well protected behind a sandbox.

ChromeLogo

Google stated that the rewards – awarded in a first-come first-serve basis to anyone who can show the exploit – will be tiered with $60,000 going for a full-browser exploit, $40,000 for a partial exploit and $20,000 as a consolation reward:-

$60,000 – “Full Chrome exploit”: Chrome / Win7 local OS user account persistence using only bugs in Chrome itself.
$40,000 – “Partial Chrome exploit”: Chrome / Win7 local OS user account persistence using at least one bug in Chrome itself, plus other bugs. For example, a WebKit bug combined with a Windows sandbox bug.
$20,000 – “Consolation reward, Flash / Windows / other”: Chrome / Win7 local OS user account persistence that does not use bugs in Chrome. For example, bugs in one or more of Flash, Windows or a driver. These exploits are not specific to Chrome and will be a threat to users of any web browser. Although not specifically Chrome’s issue, we’ve decided to offer consolation prizes because these findings still help us toward our mission of making the entire web safer.

The rewards will be given away until the $1 million mark is reached. The winners will also receive a Chromebook (yay!). However, Google withdrew from sponsoring Pwn2Own this year, since they found out that the hackers are not required to publish the entire exploit this year.

Originally, our plan was to sponsor as part of this year’s Pwn2Own competition. Unfortunately, we decided to withdraw our sponsorship when we discovered that contestants are permitted to enter Pwn2Own without having to reveal full exploits (or even all of the bugs used!) to vendors.

The Technology Behind Nokia’s 808 PureView 41 Megapixel Sensor

As many of you no doubt know by now, Nokia has unveiled a new cameraphone which resolves up to 5 megapixels. The catch here is that the sensor can capture up to 41 megapixels of data. This is no doubt the largest sensor ever made on a consumer camera phone (or indeed, any camera phone ever), but what prompted the team that worked on this phone to put such a large sensor on it?

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In a word, the answer is ‘zoom’. To implement optical zoom and keep a thin and light form factor on the phone was proving to be extremely difficult and well nigh impossible:-

We had been working for a long time (on) optical zooms and had learned the hard way how difficult it is to achieve good performance in smartphones. Their structure is very complex and hard to manufacture.

The answer came to Nokia, like all those genius answers of yore, in the dead of night. What if they could implement a large sensor on a phone, zoom digitally, and throw away the unneeded pixels (by a process called ‘oversampling’) to make an impressively high res image? The rest (about five years of work) is history, so to speak, as AllThingsD says:-

One of the key advantages is it lets you zoom in three or four times in either photos or video and still have a sharp image. The picture of the camera, here, for example, is taken from the same wide shot of the camera and its sensors. In videos, the technology allows one to zoom in close while still maintaining an HD resolution.

Another plus is that the camera uses so called “oversampling” to shrink the image while still making use of the information in the large number of pixels. Nokia said it can create a better 5-megapixel image by using the data in the seven extra pixels to inform which single pixel it uses.

Some sample pictures have been released by Nokia. While they do not hold a candle to the most basic dSLR in the market in terms of picture quality, they definitely beat the hell out of much of the competition.