The UpStream

RiffTrax Meets MST3K in New Television Mini-Series

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Scott Ertz

RiffTrax Meets MST3K in New Television Mini-Series

The guys who used to do Mystery Science Theater 3000 are back and doing what they do best: making fun of media. From blockbusters to Batman: The Fatal Blast, there is something for everybody. The way it works is: you download the MP3, play it along with your DVD, Netflix, etc. and laugh and laugh and laugh. And you can find out all of the content available by going here. At least, that used to be the only way to make it happen.

Next Tuesday, April 1, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett will be bringing their unique sense of humor back to television for the first time in almost 15 years. After MST3K was canceled by Sci-Fi (now SyFy) in 1999, the guys went off to found RiffTrax, a way for them to continue doing what they love, and what people loved of them. Now, under that same brand, the guys are joining National Geographic for a 3 episode special.

They are expected to take on television programming of some sort, but being on National Geographic means we have NO IDEA what kind of content to expect. The good news is, no matter what media these guys are put in front of, the results are always funny. There is also no better day for, what I suspect is a pilot run of sorts for a regular series, April Fools' Day.

Honestly, I'm not sure exactly how I feel about RiffTrax being on television. In the past 10+ years, the team has gotten used to getting away with whatever they want and not having the FCC involved in what they do. Being back on television means they will have to tone down their natural tendencies, and trying to cap a comedian is almost never a success.

We won't have to wait long, however, as the premiere is only 10 days away. In the meantime, check out some of their unrestrained content.

Mt. Gox Claims to Have 'Found' $116 Million

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Mt. Gox Claims to Have 'Found' $116 Million

Bitcoin is the story that won't die lately. Between the disaster that is Mt. Gox and Newsweek's editorial blunder, the tech industry seems to be unable to avoid Bitcoin this year. This week has not changed this fact, as Mt. Gox is back in the news following an incredibly weird revelation.

After their bankruptcy filing and subsequent class-action lawsuit, Mt. Gox claimed on Thursday evening that they had "found" 200,000 Bitcoin which had been stored in "old-format wallets." Based on the exchange rate at the time of the announcement, that equated to $116 million. That is a tremendous amount of money to have just totally lost track of, rather than having been heisted from inside or outside. Gil Luria of Wedbush Securities, a company with a precarious grip on gaming, but a pretty rational understanding of Bitcoin, said,

I think that it's yet another illustration of how incompetently managed that hobbyist operation was. That you can lose that much Bitcoin and then find it tells you that we're not talking about robust levels of security and control.

Where we are now is in this period of quiet transition before we see the emergence of actual exchanges. The hobbyist operations are behind us and the robust, enterprise-grade operations are ahead of us.

While I don't entirely agree that we are on the verge of professional exchanges, I do see the end of the hobbyist organizations coming quickly. The problem with enterprise operations coming into the Bitcoin world is the fact that the underlying technology behind Bitcoin is so unsound. This has never been better illustrated than the fact that there is such a thing as an old-format wallet, and that money can be lost within one, despite still controlling said wallet.

For as long as stories of Bitcoin exploits, heists and insecurities continue to be published, the currency will never have the perception of any sort of security. At least with standard currencies there is a perception of security, despite the fact that physical dollars can be stolen from a physical bank just like Mt. Gox seems to have experienced.

For as long as Bitcoin is perceived to be an insecure currency that is used mainly for illegal or illicit activity, I don't see any major financial institution attaching their name to it. Banks like Bank of America have enough trouble controlling their brand image through actions that they control, let alone having their brand affected by outside activities of an outside organization.

Bear Simulator: Where No Game Has Gone Before

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Bear Simulator: Where No Game Has Gone Before

Tired of always playing as a human in a game? It seems that the trend is always human, human, human, kids (also known as humans) who battle using their pets, or plumbers and toads. Some call it a disturbing trend. That's why Portland-based Farjay Studios has brought to life a Kickstarter campaign for a revolutionary game: Bear Simulator.

Throw away your notions of a typical simulator or open-world game, because in Bear Simulator, you are the bear! As the intro video says, you can forage for berries, steal some honey, defend yourself from dangerous animals (like bunnies), rest in your den to replenish health and even explore a huge open world to find secrets that will blow your mind! But tread carefully, because not all secrets are worth finding. Plus, you do this all in FPB, or First Person Bear.

From the explanation on the Kickstarter page of what Bear Simulator is,

A few games in the past got it right and have been rewarded with universal praise, notably Banjo-Kazooie and EnviroBear, but there hasn't been many solid, somewhat realistic bear simulation games (if at all). That's where this comes in.

Sure it may seem like a "dumb idea" or a "really dumb idea" but you can't honestly tell me you've never secretly wanted to be a bear wandering around the forest. That's just an outright lie.

As the developers put it, it's like a mini Skyrim but you're a bear. I don't need any more convincing, but if you do, there's some interesting backer rewards for funding the campaign. Things like creating your own edible thing for the bear to eat, showcasing your artwork in the world or getting to play the game early are all available if you decide to invest in this insanely different, yet awkwardly cool take on a simulator.

All gameplay and animations are still in very early Alpha stages, but the Kickstarter page is full of well-detailed, extremely rich information that explains every aspect of the game's development and time tables. Farjay Studios looks to launch the game in November of this year and if you want to see some gameplay footage, check it out after the break. The Kickstarter page is in the source link below if you're interested in supporting the bear movement. The only question left is, what kind of bear will you be?

EA Servers and Websites Hacked to Snatch Apple IDs, Origin Passwords

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

EA Servers and Websites Hacked to Snatch Apple IDs, Origin Passwords

On the Internet, nothing is safe, regardless whether it's an individual or a company. This week, another big shot succumbs to the cruel world that is filled with hackers. Electronic Arts suffered a data breach that compromised Apple IDs.

Hackers were able to get into EA Games servers and use them to set up phishing sites in order to grab Apple ID information. Netcraft, who initially reported this breach, alerted EA within 10 hours of the findings to tell the company about the security issues. It is believed that the hackers used a known security exploit in an outdated version of WebCalendar, an Internet app used to maintain calendars for a single user or a group of people.

Obviously having older software on a system can raise security concerns, especially when updated editions have fixed known flaws. On the matter, a Netcraft spokesperson said,

The mere presence of old software can often provide sufficient incentive for a hacker to target one system over another, and to spend more time looking for additional vulnerabilities or trying to probe deeper into the internal network.

So how did the site work? Well, if you visited in the past couple of weeks, you may have been asked to enter either your EA, Origin or Apple ID and password. It then would ask you to supply your full name, credit card number, expiration date, verification code, birthdate, phone number and many other pieces of vital information. After submission of your Apple ID, the site redirected you to the Apple ID website. For Origin, the phishers were using an EA Games server to accomplish the same goal. This shouldn't have to be repeated in another outlet, but nobody from EA nor any other company will ever ask you for your password or other identifiable information without you triggering a password reset first. If you entered your information in the past month, change your password on EA/Origin and Apple, and change it on sites that you used the same password.

EA spokesperson John Reseburg said this week that,

We (EA) have found it, we have isolated it, and we are making sure such attempts are no longer possible. Privacy and security are of the utmost importance to us.

Like I said, nobody is safe anymore and precautions need to be taken on an individual level because data breaches happen on a weekly basis now.

Former Microsoft Employee Arrested for Years of Code Leaks

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Former Microsoft Employee Arrested for Years of Code Leaks

Over the last few generations of Windows software, there has been a scenario that most of us were surprised by: constant, up-to-date leaks of development builds. During the lead-up to Windows 7 and Windows 8, it seemed like every time the development team hit build, the installer was available online. While none of us knew exactly where the builds were coming from, it was clear someone inside the company, and someone inside the team, was responsible.

As it turns out, I was not the only one to know it was an employee on the team that was leaking the code, and the company has been investigating the problem for years. That investigation came to a head this week when former employee Alex Kibkalo was arrested in Seattle on March 19th. Microsoft has charged him with leaking pre-release versions of Windows 8 as well as the company's Activation Server Software, which is the technology that lets Microsoft protect their software. In addition, according to Seattle PI,

Investigators contend Kibkalo was also caught bragging about leaking Windows 7 program files, as well as an internal system meant to protect against software piracy.

So, while he has bragged about his involvement in the Windows 7 leaks, they investigators have not been able to actually pin it to him yet. The big question is, "how did someone inside of Microsoft manage to get away with releasing SO MUCH of Microsoft's code for SO LONG?" Apparently pure dumb luck.

As it turns out, the guy in question was not the brightest of individuals. His leaks were always directed at the same individual, an unnamed French blogger, who would then release them to the world in whatever means they used: usually BitTorrent. The only problem is that Kibkalo used his personal SkyDrive (now OneDrive) account to upload the code, and his personal Hotmail account to send the links to the blogger.

Now, while I applaud Kibkalo's unrelenting dedication to Microsoft and their technologies, it is probably a bad idea to steal from the company that writes your checks and, therefore knows who you are, and use their own monitored technology to make the handoff. An investigation into his OneDrive and Hotmail accounts is what finally sealed the deal.

It is believed that he leaked the code after a particularly negative personnel review. The review system in place at the time was controversial, to say the least. Based on the "stack ranking" concept, the review system forced supervisors to rank their subordinates in relation to one another. This forced developers who would be considered superstars at any other company to look like underperformers compared to the superstars of Microsoft, who are without comparison outside of the company. Before leaving his CEO post, Steve Ballmer saw the review system axed, but not before doing tremendous damage to the morale of the corporation.

Unreal Engine No Longer Just for AAA Titles

posted Sunday Mar 23, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Unreal Engine No Longer Just for AAA Titles

If you have been a serious gamer for a long time, you will certainly know the name Unreal Engine. If you have been around even longer, you will probably remember the games Unreal and Unreal Tournament, for which the engine was named and developed by Epic. You probably are also aware that the engine is one of the most popular for many AAA titles for Windows, Xbox, PlayStation and mobile.

Now, it's not to say that the engine has not had interest from smaller developers, but its licensing costs were such that only the top-tier developers could afford to work with it. The world of gaming is changing, however, with small developers completely owning the mobile gaming space, leaving the big guys out in the cold completely. With the increase in indie games' successes comes a collection of new indie-focused tools, like Unity.

Unity is a platform which allows you to develop a videogame using their gaming engine and deploy it to all of the usual suspects. While Unity has a tremendous amount of potential, it is no Unreal Engine. As it turns out, Epic has recognized that there is a need for a product of their caliber in the smaller market space and has decided to fill that need themselves.

Available right now to early adopters who are interested in trying out the new release of the engine, Unreal Engine is available to any developer for $19/month and 5% revenue share. This is a very different revenue model compared with Unity, which, to license the platform for Windows, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, iOS and Android runs $225/month, but has no revenue sharing requirement. Epic, on the other hand, is really counting on their developers to release games of value.

Personally, as a developer, I like that these different companies are experimenting with different pricing models. The up-front cost of developing any application is very high, and the ability to cut down that cost, even by forfeiting future revenues, can be attractive to start-ups. Our sister company, Sumo Software has been in this very situation several times, and we have offered the Unreal model versus the Unity model successfully.

If any of our readers are currently developing a game with either Unity or Unreal Engine, let us know in the comments.

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