One of the biggest criticisms of Microsoft's recently-announced Xbox One console was that it would require an internet connection once every 24 hours in order to keep playing games. Enough people complained about the DRM, and Microsoft listened. Today, they announced that they're removing the phone-home requirement. "After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360." They've also scrapped the game trading and resale system they'd built, which allowed publishers to set their own rules with regard to used game sales. "There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360." Unfortunately, that also means users won't be able to take advantage of the good parts of the original system, such as trading and gifting games without needing the disc, or sharing games with remote family members. "While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds." Also noteworthy: they've dropped region-locks as well.
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Contributor Tom Geller writes: "I recently wrote an article about Bitcoin and the law for Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery. In researching it I ran into plenty of wishful thinkers, ridiculous greedheads, and out-and-out nutbags promising a rosy future. I also found the expected blowback from vehement naysayers who think the best way to combat crazy is with more crazy. But despite that, I walked away believing that Bitcoin — or a decentralized cryptocurrency like it (let's call it "Coin") — is here to stay. As an interested outsider to the Coin economy, and a long-time technology commentator, here's what I think its future holds." Read on for Tom's predictions.
Taco Cowboy writes "Most of the younger /. readers never heard of the PDP-11, while we geezers have to retrieve bits and pieces of our affairs with PDP-11 from the vast warehouse inside our memory lanes." From the article: "HP might have nuked OpenVMS, but its parent, PDP-11, is still spry and powering GE nuclear power-plant robots and will do for another 37 years. That's right: PDP-11 assembler programmers are hard to find, but the nuclear industry is planning on keeping them until 2050 — long enough for a couple of generations of programmers to come and go." Not sure about the OpenVMS vs PDP comparison, but it's still amusing that a PDP might outlast all of the VAX machines.
wwphx writes "According to Wired, 'German researchers have created a new DRM feature that changes the text and punctuation of an e-book ever so slightly. Called SiDiM, which Google translates to 'secure documents by individual marking,' the changes are unique to each e-book sold. These alterations serve as a digital watermark that can be used to track books that have had any other DRM layers stripped out of them before being shared online. The researchers are hoping the new DRM feature will curb digital piracy by simply making consumers paranoid that they'll be caught if they share an e-book illicitly.' I seem to recall reading about this in Tom Clancy's Patriot Games, when Jack Ryan used this technique to identify someone who was leaking secret documents. It would be so very difficult for someone to write a little program that, when stripping the DRM, randomized a couple of pieces of punctuation to break the hash that the vendor is storing along with the sales record of the individual book."
Rick Zeman writes "Showing once again that once a privacy door is opened every law enforcement agency will run through it, The Washington Post details how state drivers license photo databases are being mined by various LEOs in their states--and out. From the article: '[L]aw enforcement use of such facial searches is blurring the traditional boundaries between criminal and non-criminal databases, putting images of people never arrested in what amount to perpetual digital lineups. The most advanced systems allow police to run searches from laptop computers in their patrol cars and offer access to the FBI and other federal authorities. Such open access has caused a backlash in some of the few states where there has been a public debate. As the databases grow larger and increasingly connected across jurisdictional boundaries, critics warn that authorities are developing what amounts to a national identification system — based on the distinct geography of each human face.'"
MojoKid writes "Odds are, if you've purchased anything that uses Flash memory in the last 20 years or so, you already own a piece of SanDisk technology. The company has been in Flash storage since the late '80s and manufactures products used in everything from smartphones to digital cameras. Even though it enjoys a long history in the Flash memory business, SanDisk is perhaps not as well known for its Solid State Drive (SSD) solutions for desktop and mobile PCs. However, SanDisk recently expanded their product stack with new, high-performance SSDs that leverage the company's own NAND Flash memory and Marvell's popular 88SSS9187 controller. The new drives are SanDisk's Extreme II family of SSDs targeted performance enthusiasts, workstations professionals and gamers. The initial line-up of drives consists of 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB models. Performance specifications for the three drives come in at 545MB/s – 550MB/s for reads with write performance from 340MB/s to 510MB/s, depending on density. In the benchmarks, SanDisk's Extreme II SSD showed it has the chops to hang with some of the fastest drives on the market from Samsung, Corsair and OCZ."
First time accepted submitter Clarklteveno writes "New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his San Francisco counterpart, Ed Lee, said at a news conference Friday that they are sponsoring a pair of technology summits over the next year. The mayors said the 'digital cities' summits — one in New York in September and another in San Francisco early next year — will seek to find ways to use technology to solve problems the cities face. The mayors made the announcement after touring the office of San Francisco-based mobile payment company Square with co-founder Jack Dorsey, who also helped found Twitter. Bloomberg pointed to power outages and dangerous winds and flooding from Hurricane Sandy as examples of issues the summits would seek to address."
Iddo Genuth writes "Videographer Tom Antos developed an advanced DIY camera stabilizer which can hold almost any DSLR or mirrorless camera steady for video photography. Although this surely isn't as sophisticated (and super expensive) as the professional MVI M10 handheld 3-axis digital stabilized camera gimbal, its still quite impressive especially when you consider it only costs a few hundred dollars rather then tens of thousands — that is if you feel like building it yourself." Antos' design takes advantage of stabilized gimbal systems made for hanging cameras on remote-controlled helicopters, and does a very impressive job for its price.
New submitter afarhan writes "India will pull the plug on its 160-year-old telegram service on 14 July, this year. This will probably be the last telegram ever sent in the world. However, telegrams are still relevant in this vast country. More than 500 million people are still without access to a phone or Internet. For these people, telegram still remains the only digital communication available. 'At their peak in 1985, 60 million telegrams were being sent and received a year in India from 45,000 offices. Today, only 75 offices exist, though they are located in each of India's 671 districts through franchises. And an industry that once employed 12,500 people, today has only 998 workers.' In India, telegram is also considered a legal correspondence."
New submitter BrokenHalo writes "Google has revealed that it has 30 balloons floating over New Zealand in a project to bring free Wi-Fi to earthquake-stricken, rural or poor areas. They're calling it Project Loon. '[W]e’ve built a system that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster. As a result, we hope balloons could become an option for connecting rural, remote, and underserved areas, and for helping with communications after natural disasters.' Eventually, as the balloons move across the stratosphere, consumers in participating countries along the 40th parallel in the Southern Hemisphere could tap into the service. The technology will be trialled in Australia next year, possibly in Tasmania. If the latter happens to be true, then you'll probably hear the telcos' screams in New York."
An anonymous reader writes "Simply put, the US government has failed in its role as the 'caretaker' of the internet. Although this was never an official designation, America controls much of the infrastructure, and many of the most popular services online are provided by a handful of American companies. The world is starting to sober up to the fact that much of what they've done online in the last decade is now cataloged in a top-secret facility somewhere in the United States. The goal has been to promote internet freedom around the world, but we may have also potentially created a blueprint for how authoritarian governments can store, track, and mine their citizens' digital lives."
An anonymous reader writes "Some journalists ran into Steve Wozniak at the airport and asked him about iOS 7 and PRISM, where he made an interesting comparison about how the US is becoming what it once feared most. In communist Russia 'you couldn't own anything, and now in the digital world you hardly own anything anymore (YouTube video). You've got subscritpions and you already said ok, ok, agree and you agree that every right in the world belongs to them and you got no rights and anything you put in the cloud, you don't even know,' says Woz. 'Ownership was what made America different than Russia.'"
First time accepted submitter jarle.aase writes "It's doable today to use a mix of virtual machines, VPN, TOR, encryption (and staying away from certain places; like Google Plus, Facebook, and friends), in order to retain a reasonable degree of privacy. In recent days, even major mainstream on-line magazines have published such information. (Aftenposten, one of the largest newspapers in Norway, had an article yesterday about VPN, Tor and Freenet!) But what about the cell-phone? Technically it's not hard to design a phone that can switch off the GSM transmitter, and use VoIP for calls. VoIP could then go from the device through Wi-Fi and VPN. Some calls may be routed trough PSTN gateways — allowing the agencies to track the other party. But they will not track your location. And they will not track pure, encrypted VoIP calls that traverse trough VPN and use anonymous SIP or XMPP accounts. Android may not be the best software for such a device, as it very eagerly phones home. The same is true for iOS and Windows 8. Actually, I would prefer a non cloud-based mobile OS from a vendor that is not in the PRISM gallery. Does such a device exist yet? Something that runs a relatively safe OS, where GSM can be switched totally off? Something that will only make an outgoing network connection when I ask it to do so?" And in the absence of a perfect solution, what do you do instead? (It's still Android and using the cell network, but Red Phone — open sourced last year — seems like a good start.)
Nerval's Lobster writes "In an open letter addressed to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and FBI director Robert Mueller, Google chief legal officer David Drummond again insisted that reports of his company freely offering user data to the NSA and other agencies were untrue. 'However,' he wrote, 'government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.' In light of that, Drummond had a request of the two men: 'We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope.' Apparently Google's numbers would show 'that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made.' Google, Drummond added, 'has nothing to hide.'" Another open letter was sent to Congress from a variety of internet companies and civil liberties groups (headlined by Mozilla, the EFF, the ACLU, and the FSF), asking them to enact legislation to prohibit the kind of surveillance apparently going on at the NSA and to hold accountable the people who implemented it. (A bipartisan group of senators has just come forth with legislation that would end such surveillance.) In addition to the letter, the ACLU sent a lawsuit as well, directed at President Obama, Eric Holder, the NSA, Verizon and the Dept. of Justice (filing, PDF). They've also asked (PDF) for a release of court records relevant to the scandal. Mozilla has also launched Stopwatching.us, a campaign to "demand a full accounting of the extent to which our online data, communications and interactions are being monitored." Other reactions: Tim Berners-Lee is against it, Australia's Foreign Minister doesn't mind it, the European Parliament has denounced it, and John Oliver is hilarious about it (video). Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked the information about the NSA's surveillance program, is being praised widely as a hero and a patriot. There's already a petition on Whitehouse.gov to pardon him for his involvement, and it's already reached half the required number of signatures for a response from the Obama administration.
coolnumbr12 writes "In a recent New York Times article called 'No TV? No Subscription? No Problem?' Jenna Wortham noted how she used, 'the information of a guy in New Jersey that I had once met in a Mexican restaurant.' Dave Their of Forbes admitted that he used his sister's boyfriend's father's account in exchange for his Netflix information. But this is stealing under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which makes it a misdemeanor with a maximum one-year prison sentence to 'obtain without authorization information from a protected computer.' It is also a violation of the Digital Millennium Copy Act because it is knowingly circumventing a protection measure set up to prevent someone from watching content like 'Game of Thrones' without paying. Forbes points out that a crafty prosecutor could also claim that using an HBO Go password without paying is a form of identity theft."
another random user writes "Apple has applied for a patent on a combined virtual currency and digital wallet technology that would allow you to store money in the cloud, make payments with your iPhone, and maybe communicate with point-of-sale terminals via NFC. The patent application, published [Thursday] by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Organization, details how iPhone users could walk into a store, pay for goods with their phone, and walk out with their merchandise. Though Apple is late to the virtual wallet game, that doesn't seem to stop them trying to patent the process. There does not appear to be anything in the patent application which describes something that can't already be done."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Strengthened by an agreement with Apple that set the prices for their respective e-books higher, publishers strong-armed Amazon into giving them similar terms, an executive for the online retailer has testified in Manhattan federal court. The U.S. Department of Justice has taken Apple to court over the alleged price-fixing, after reaching out-of-court settlements with five publishers (HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group, and MacMillian). Apple, which competes with Amazon in the e-book space, refused a similar settlement. "Certainly if someone offered reseller, we would have taken them up on that offer," Russell Grandinetti, Amazon's vice president for Kindle content, testified before the court, according to Reuters. "Reseller" means a company sells goods to a retailer for a particular price (usually wholesale), allowing the retailer to set the actual sales price. Under the terms of that model, Amazon could sell e-books for super-cheap, even if it meant going beneath the publisher's wholesale price. Macmillan and Amazon ended up in conflict over the issue, with Amazon temporarily yanking the publisher's e-books from its digital shelves. "We will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books," Amazon wrote in a statement at the time. "Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it's reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book." But Amazon eventually relented to Macmillan's demands, along with those of other publishers, and submitted to the agency model, in which publishers have a heavier hand in setting retail pricing."
An anonymous reader writes "Amazon today announced an initiative to help indie game developers promote and sell their games: the Indie Games Store. The dedicated storefront is a new category in Amazon's Digital Video Games Store, designed specifically to help indie games for PC, Mac, and the Web get noticed. The store appears to be US-only, but if you don't live there you should be able to get away with just putting in an American address. Most of the games are Steam downloads, so where you are in the world shouldn't matter too much."
An anonymous reader points out a report in Wired of an American woman at a "renowned academic institution" who received targeted malware from what was most likely a foreign government. "... analysis of [the downloader] showed that it was the same downloader that has been used in the past to install Remote Control System (RCS), a spy tool made by the Italian company Hacking Team and sold to governments." What's significant about this malware is that it is made by an Italian firm who claims they sell it only to government and law enforcement bodies, and it isn't of much use to your standard botnet operator. "The RCS tool, also known as DaVinci, records text and audio conversations from Skype, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk and MSN Messenger, among other communication applications. It also steals Web browsing history and can turn on a computer’s microphone and webcam to record conversations in a room and take photos. The tool relies on an extensive infrastructure to operate and therefore is not easily copied and passed to non-government actors outside that infrastructure to use for their own personal spy purposes, according to a Hacking Team spokesman." There's no solid proof indicating who is responsible, but the malware email contained a link to a website in Turkey. "Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance. If authorities there were behind the hack attack, it would mean that a NATO ally had attempted to spy on a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, presumably without the knowledge or approval of U.S. authorities, and for reasons that don't appear to be related to a criminal or counter-terrorism investigation."
dcblogs writes "Vinton Cerf is warning that digital things created today — spreadsheets, documents, presentations as well as mountains of scientific data — may not be readable in the years and centuries ahead. Cerf illustrates the problem in a simple way. He runs Microsoft Office 2011 on Macintosh, but it cannot read a 1997 PowerPoint file. 'It doesn't know what it is,' he said. 'I'm not blaming Microsoft,' said Cerf, who is Google's vice president and chief Internet evangelist. 'What I'm saying is that backward compatibility is very hard to preserve over very long periods of time.' He calls it a 'hard problem.'" We're at an interesting spot right now, where we're worried that the internet won't remember everything, and also that it won't forget anything.