Quick! Win 1 of 20 Star Wars Battlefront Beta keys from Logitech G and LucasArts!

Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2015 - 10:53 PM |
Tagged: logitech g, logitech, gleam, giveaway, contest

Look, time is short, and we want to get you these keys SOON!

Sign up using the form below to enter to win 1 of 20 keys for the PC version of Star Wars Battlefront beta on-going RIGHT NOW. I played for a couple of hours today and I have to say the game is looking very impressive - both visually and in terms of fun gameplay.


Our thanks to Logitech G and LucasArts for the key for our readers!!

SW Battlefront Keys

StarCraft II 3.0 Patch Is Released

Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2015 - 08:20 PM |
Tagged: Starcraft II, starcraft, blizzard, pc gaming, legacy of the void

And oh boy is it a big one. Turning on the Battle.net launcher automatically downloads about 14GB worth of StarCraft II code and content. The patch includes the new user interface that we reported on earlier, but it also opens the Whispers of Oblivion prequel campaign for Legacy of the Void to the masses, changes the file format of game content to CASC, which might explain the huge download, and gives the option of a 64-bit game executable, and more.


About the CASC format, it was introduced in Heroes of the Storm and Warlords of Draenor as a method of storing content. It should be faster, more error resistant, easier to patch, and easier to extend the functionality of. I'm not sure how this will affect modders, authorized or otherwise, but I'm guessing that Blizzard is happy to deprecate a 20 year-old format. I'm not sure if they're migrating the content from MPQ to CASC on the client machine, or just re-downloading the content in the new format, but a 14GB patch is doing something. Lastly, this new format and the 64-bit launcher might even allow for bigger games and mods. If anyone has any experience with modding Blizzard games, be sure to leave a note in the comments, even anonymously.

Legacy of the Void will arrive on November 10th.

Source: Blizzard

Google your local nuclear plants infrastructure? That's not terrifying at all.

Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2015 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: nuclear, security

Stuxnet hit the news five years ago when it was discovered infecting the industrial Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition systems of factories all across the world, up to and including nuclear plants.  The breadth of the attack was a bit more than what Israeli intelligence and the NSA originally intended but they did succeed in severely damaging their actual target which was an Iranian uranium enrichment plant.  Unfortunately it seems the development of Stuxnet might have been somewhat of a waste of resources as they could probably have achieved the same results with a simple man in the middle attack. 

The  Chatham House recently released a report on the state of security in nuclear power plants and facilities across the globe and the results are horrifying to say the least.  From the overview that The Register provides the level of security present in many of these facilities is commensurate with your average high school.  The idea that these plants are air-gapped is a fallacy and the code for the control systems can be easily altered remotely without the need to design a complex virus to infect them.  Thankfully it is very difficult to cause a nuclear plant to go critical but these vulnerabilities can still cause damage to machinery and interfere with the plants ability to provide power to customers.  You may not want to read the whole story if you want to sleep well tonight.


"The report adds that search engines can "readily identify critical infrastructure components with" VPNs, some of which are power plants. It also adds that facility operators are "sometimes unaware of" them."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk


Source: The Register

Star Wars Battlefront Shouldn't Have Microtransactions?

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 06:24 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, ea, battlefront

So I'm reading PC Gamer and I see an article that says, “Star Wars Battlefront Will Not Use Microtransactions”. Given the previous few Battlefield games, this surprised me. Granted, these titles weren't particularly egregious in their use of payments. Everything (apart from expansion packs of course) could be achieved through a reasonable amount of play. That said, it takes a lot of restraint for a developer to not just ratchet the requirements further and further to widen their net, so I can see the problem.


Regardless, by the third paragraph I notice that the representative never actually said that they won't (according to the snippets that PC Gamer quoted). The phrase is simply, “not part of the core design of how it works”. Granted, I would expect that EA would poke PC Gamer to correct them if they did intend to release a game in about six weeks, so I feel like their interpretation is correct.

That doesn't change that, according to the quotes, the only thing they promised is for the currency system to be fully accessible without payments. I'm not fully convinced that it will only be accessible without payments, though.

Source: PC Gamer

Linux turns 24 in time for the party in Dublin

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: LinuxCon Europe, linux, open source

LinuxCon Europe has just kicked off and there are some interesting projects being discussed at the event.  ARM, Cisco, NexB, Qualcomm, SanDisk and Wind River have formed the Openchain workgroup to bring some standardization to Linux software development, such as exists in Debian, to ensure that multiple companies are not attempting design their own wheels simultaneously.  The Real-Time Linux Collaborative Project is developing software for application in robotics, telecom, and aviation and includes members such as Google, Texas Instruments, Intel, ARM and Altera.  They will be working towards developing Linux applications for those industries where shaving a few milliseconds off of transaction times can be worth millions of dollars.  The last major project announced at the convention will be FOSSology 3.0 which will enable you quickly and easily run licence and copyright scans, something near and dear to the heart of the Free and Open Source Software community.  Check out more at The Inquirer.


"Tim Zemlin, chief executive of the Foundation, said in his opening remarks that this year's opening day falls on the 24th anniversary of Linux itself and the 30th of the Free Software Foundation, giving credit to delegates for their part in the success of both."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk


Source: The Inquirer

Humble Bundle Launches Humble Monthly Bundle

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 08:31 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, humble bundle

Humble Bundle is an organization that sells games for charity. It started with a service that let users pay pretty much whatever they want for DRM-free titles, and let them choose how much went to the developers, the organization, and the selected charities of the moment. They have branches out since then, sometimes with praise, sometimes with concerned murmors.

Humble Bundle mumble, if you will.


Now they have created a subscription service. Basically, on the first Friday of every month, subscribers will receive the game that is promoted. In other words, it is a service that acts similar to what we're used to, except that you don't know what you're getting ahead of time, you cannot select how much you pay for it, and you cannot choose the proceed distribution. Unless it leads to a unique palette of games that are decidedly better than the typical bundles, I cannot see how this is anything more than a restrictive subset for the sake of it.

Still, that doesn't mean said subset isn't worth your money (be careful of the double-negative). If it is, then you can subscribe now and pick up Legend of Grimrock 2. The title is apparently available on Steam for $24, so this would be a half-price deal if it was something that you were interesting in buying.

I guess that's a decent first impression.

Windows 10 IoT Core Starter Pack for the Pi 2 Released

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 5, 2015 - 08:01 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, iot

Microsoft has released the Windows 10 IoT Core for the Raspberry Pi 2. It retails for 75$ without the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, or $115$ with it. Apart from the optional Pi, it is basically a pack of electronic components and an SD card that's pre-loaded with Windows 10 IoT. It is available at the Adafruit store, although both packs are currently out of stock... because of course they are.


Beyond jumper wires, a case, breadboards, resistors, LEDs, switches, and sensors, the pack also comes with a WiFi module. Interestingly, Adafruit claims that this will be the only WiFi adapter for the Raspberry Pi 2 that's supported by Windows 10 IoT. This is weird, of course, because Windows is kind-of the go-to when it comes to driver support. It makes me wonder whether Microsoft changed anything under the hood that affects hardware compatibility and, if it did, whether Windows 10 IoT loses its major advantage over Linux and other OSes in this form factor.

The kit is currently sold up, but retails for $75, or $115 with a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B.

Source: Microsoft

GOM eXP Shuts Down and Sells GSL to afreecaTV

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 07:32 AM |
Tagged: starcraft 2, starcraft, pc gaming, esports

I'm not really seeing anyone pick up this news in English outside of StarCraft II forums, so I'm not sure whether this news will be fresh, or completely irrelevant to anyone's interests. Either way, GOM eXP was one of the leading broadcasters of StarCraft tournaments in South Korea. They operated GSL, which was one of the three Blizzard-endorsed leagues for StarCraft II.


Image Credit: Wolf Shröder via Twitter

They have just shut down, but their GSL tournament will not.

afreecaTV, a video streaming service, has bought out the tournament. For viewers, this means that high quality, 1080p streams will be available for free. Previously, GOM was a bit strict about forcing Twitch subscriptions for anything other than Low quality. The quality was bad enough that you often couldn't even read the on-screen text, such as how many units or resources each player has.

Beyond hosting the 2016 GSL tournament, they will also have a couple of StarCraft II show matches and even a StarCraft: Brood War league. I wonder how the original StarCraft holds up for viewers after we have gotten used to the sequel's updated graphics. Hmm.

Source: TeamLiquid

Microsoft Buys Havok from Intel

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: physics, microsoft, Intel, Havok

Microsoft has just purchased Havok from Intel for an undisclosed price. This group develops one of the leading physics engines for video games and other software. It was used in every Halo title since Halo 2, including Halo Wars, and a fork of it drives the physics for Valve's Source Engine. It has been around since 2000, but didn't really take off until Max Payne 2 in 2003.

And the natural follow-up question for just about everything is “why?”


Hopefully this isn't bad taste...
Photo Credit: Havok via Game Developer Magazine (June 2013)

There are good reasons, though. First, Microsoft has been in the video game middleware and API business for decades. DirectX is the obvious example, but they have also created software like Games for Windows Live and Microsoft Gaming Zone. Better software drives sales for platforms, and developers can always use help accomplishing that.

Another reason could be Azure. Microsoft wants to bring cloud services to online titles, offloading some of the tasks that are insensitive to latency allows developers to lower system requirements or do more with what they have (which is especially true when consoles flatten huge install bases to a handful of specifications). If they plan to go forward with services that run on Azure or Xbox Live, then it would make sense to have middleware that's as drop-in as possible. Creating a physics engine from scratch is a bit of a hassle, but so is encouraging existing engines to use it.

It would be better to just buy someone that everyone is using. Currently, that's Havok, an open-source solution that is rarely used outside of other open-source systems, and something that's owned by NVIDIA (and probably won't leave their grip until their fingers are frigid and lifeless).

That's about all we know, though. The deal doesn't have a close date, value, or official purpose. Intel hasn't commented on the deal, only Microsoft has.

Source: Microsoft

StarCraft II v3.0 Gets Another New UI

Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2015 - 11:04 PM |
Tagged: Starcraft II, legacy of the void, blizzard

Third time's the charm, unless they plan another release at some point.

The StarCraft II interface isn't perfect. Even though it is interesting and visually appealing, some tasks are unnecessarily difficult and space is not used in the most efficient way. To see what I mean, try to revert the multiplayer mode to Wings of Liberty, or, worse, find your Character Code. Blizzard released a new UI with Heart of the Swarm back in 2013, and they're doing a new one for the release of Legacy of the Void on November 10th. Note that my two examples probably won't be fixed in this update, they are just examples of UX issues.

While the update aligns with the new expansion, Blizzard will patch the UI for all content levels, including the free Starter Edition. This honestly makes sense, because it's easier to patch a title when all variations share a common core. Then again, not every company patches five-year-old titles like Blizzard does, so the back-catalog support is appreciated.


The most heartwarming change for fans, if pointless otherwise, is in the campaign selection screen. As the StarCraft II trilogy will be completed with Legacy of the Void, the interface aligns them as three episodes in the same style as the original StarCraft did.

On the functional side, the interface has been made more compact (which I alluded to earlier). This was caused by the new chat design, which is bigger yet less disruptive than it was in Heart of the Swarm. The column of buttons on the side are now a top bar, which expands down for sub-menu items.


While there are several things that I don't mention, a final note for this post is that Arcade will now focus on open lobbies. Players can look for the specific game they want, but the initial screen will show lobbies that are waiting to fill. The hope seems to be that players waiting for a game will spend less time. This raises two questions. First, Arcade games tend to have a steep learning curve, so I wonder if this feature will slump off after people try a few rounds before realizing that they should stick with a handful of games. Second, I wonder what this means for player numbers in general -- this sounds like a feature that is added during player declines, which Blizzard seems to hint is not occuring.

I'm not sure when the update will land, but it will probably be around the launch of Legacy of the Void on November 10th.

Source: Blizzard