Public Domain Internet Archive Expands with Classic Console Emulators and Roms in Your Browser

atari_2600_river_raid_1982_activision_carol_shaw_ax-020_ax-020-04_screenshot Back before these whipper-snappers took over the airwaves, console gaming meant something much more than Xboned Modern Military Multiplayer Murder Mayhem 6. It meant Atari. Yessir, the games of MY youth were ugly, repetitive affairs steeped in unfair level design and one-hit kills. And we liked it that way!

Now The Internet Archive (archive.org) has brought that old-school gaming ‘goodness’ of yesteryear back to you via a Javascript enabled web browser.

Dubbed The Console Living Room, this newest section of archive.org brings you a wide variety of your best and worst gaming memories of yesteryear from a variety of systems including the ColecoVision, Odyssey, Astrocade, Atari 2600 & 7200, and even Sega's original console, the SG-100. Not only are software emulators and the digital dumps of these cartridges available for everyone to download, but an embedded Javascript window let’s you blast back to 1982 for a game of River Raid at the click of a button.

Check out The Console Living Room at The Internet Archive. For more retro fun, see the full Software Collection at archive.org where they have terabytes of nostalgic data including the FTP Boneyard with copies of the old FTP sites from such luminaries as Netscape and Lotus, or the CD archive with copies of magazine and shareware demo disks.

PC Gaming on the Cheap: Where to Get Game Bundles

3DKP_H When hardware for your gaming platform of choice starts at $400 and knows no upper limit, you may need to start pinching pennies on the software side of things. Gaming bundles have quickly become one of my favorite ways to bolster a library full of rainy day titles. As long as you’re not looking to get in on the latest and greatest, the following links will help you find tons of great games for prices so low they make mobile app stores look downright pricy. They early bird may get the water cooler conversation, but it’s the night owl that gets the great deals.

Without further ado or bad metaphors, here’s a list of the sites that have been the most detrimental to my gaming backlog.


Japanese Anti-Piracy Campaign So Popular It’s Getting Action Figures

nomoretoys Man, I bet the MPAA wish they had this level of marketing synergy!

The ‘NO MORE Movie Thief’ series of shorts have been showing before feature presentations since 2007. The ads feature the dastardly Camera Man illegally filming and downloading the latest movies only to be busted by the heroic Patrol Lamp Man. After seven years of delaying the start of the hottest films at local movie houses, the duo have achieved a good deal of public awareness and their kitschy designs have sparked everything from fan art to cosplay. Never one to miss the opportunity to make a couple bucks on a pop culture craze, Namco-Bandai has announced an upcoming figure/charm collection featuring the two.

The action charms will set you back 3024 JYP (about $29) per set so you can wear a statement of your opposition to the most dangerous crime of the modern era: Movie piracy.

Source: TorrentFreak

Target’s Buying Everyone a Year of Credit Monitoring

target-woman In the wake of the holiday hack of Target stores, the company is footing the bill for a year’s worth of credit monitoring and identity protection. The offer is good for “All Target guests who shopped in U.S. stores", however there does not appear to be any required verification for this stipulation and anecdotal evidence indicates that the offer is open to anyone. The program is being handled by Experian’s Protect my ID program.

You can sign up for here.

Honestly, I’m not familiar with the effectiveness of these programs versus the inherent risk of dumping of all your personal information into someone else’s database. Might be a good idea or it might be a placebo. Of course if you were already affected by the Target breach (or any of the many others in the past couple years), your identity may already be out there doing unspeakable things without you anyway. Do your research, read the fine print, and be sure to check out Target’s own FAQ on this program.

Verizon Kills Net Neutrality in the U.S.

faster-wifi The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has handed down their ruling in a case where Verizon challenged the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) jurisdiction to enforcing an open and throttle-free Internet. Verizon won. Here’s an excerpt from the ruling:

“Even though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates. Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.”

According to Verizon’s defense, the FCC’s Open Internet order violates their First Amendment rights “by stripping them of control over the transmission of speech on their networks. And it takes network owners’ property without compensation.” Because, ya know, Verizon owns the Internet and we’re all stealing it.

So, what happened? Basically, when the FCC categorized ISPs as “Information Services” rather than “Common Carriers” back in 1996 they placed Internet Service Providers outside of their rights to regulate them.

So what does this mean? As of right now, ISPs answer to no one. They can allow access to whatever they want at any speed they want for any additional charges they see fit. Let’s just make up some extreme nightmare scenarios to illustrate why Net Neutrality is so important though.

As of Tuesday’s ruling, Verizon is now free to strike a deal with, say, Amazon. In this deal Amazon will pay Verizon to degrade users’ connection to Netflix and prioritize connections Amazon Instant Video. Verizon could then offer a “service” to their customers providing them with priority access to Netflix for an additional monthly fee.

In another scenario, Verizon may simply see Google as too much of a bandwidth hog to bother with and just cut all their customers off from the video hub unless Google coughs up some dough. Similarly, Verizon may simply decide that it is not in the ISPs best interests for it’s customers to have access to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a popular and powerful group crusading for consumer’s digital rights. Or they could just turn their Internet service into something resembling cable television where only large sites are offered and users pay for access to each one separately.

None of this has happened yet. But, as of Tuesday, it is all possible and no one can prevent it. We’re also not just talking about Verizon, mind you, but any ISP. This is especially worrying with a company like Time Warner who controls not just the connection, but the media as well.

Is it all over for Net Neutrality? Hardly. It is highly unlikely that the US Government will allow ISPs free reign over the telephone of the 21st century. ISPs could be reclassified as Common Carriers, the FCC could be granted jurisdiction over Information Services, or a new government agency could be created to specifically handle service providers. Still, governments move slowly and there is a ton of lobbyist money from the likes of Verizon, Time Warner, Comcast, and AT&T in Washington.

For more information, I recommend checking out ReadWriteWeb’s reporting on the verdict and some follow-up thoughts.

Install an Ad Blocking Browser Plugin for a Safer and Prettier Internet

ATT1427681 The beginning of 2014 started with a whimper for many netizens as a compromised account on Yahoo’s advertising platform led to the email and messaging giant serving up malware to as many as two million users. This type of cyberterrorism has become more common that you might think. According to Cisco’s 2013 security report:

“Cisco found that online shopping sites are 21 times as likely, and search engines are 27 times as likely, to deliver malicious content than a counterfeit software site.  Viewing online advertisements? Advertisements are 182 as times likely to deliver malicious content than pornography.”

So what’s a web surfer to do? Stop searching and shopping and start pirating and wanking? Hey! HEY! Put that down! Geez, I can’t even make a joke around you people! Besides, it said MORE likely. You still need protection. Especially with a mind like that.

Advertising is the bread and butter that keeps the Internet free. Still, we all need to watch our own buttered bread first lest it become toast. There are a few options out there for filtering your daily browsing to strip ads from web pages. Personally, I’ve been using Adblock Plus on a number of browsers for quite some time and to great effect.

So, you might want to get on that now ‘cause… ya know, gobble gobble.

Also, that rather horrific Coke ad? That comes to us compliments of the “Bad Ads from the Good Ol’ Days” archive at rense.com and they’ve got some more stuff that’s just beyond belief.

Top 5 Tech Turkeys of 2013 – 1) You and Me

flock-of-turkeys Here is a list of the top 5 passwords from the year 2011:

    1. password
    2. 123456
    3. 12345678
    4. qwerty
    5. abc123

Know what 2012’s list looks like? Swap fourth and fifth place. Guess what the most common password was from the 2013 theft of Adobe’s user database. Wrong! It’s 123456. Password (without the capital letter) was actually in third place. Way to improve. And to that “smart” guy in the back snickering: trustno1 was number 12. One more common that 1234567 at thirteenth place.

But passwords are just the tip of a very large iceberg. Now that algorithms can crack even so-called strong passwords in mere seconds after identifying a hash, this issue is more symptomatic of a general laziness than the real problem. The past decade has brought nearly everyone onto the Information Superhighway with no need for a driver’s test and, much like teens with their first taste of the open road, we just keep asking for more without giving any thought to taking care of what we already have.

Do you use the same email, user ID, and/or password for your online banking as you do for your email account or product registrations? Are you actually giving your real name, address, phone number, birthdate, and email address to any site on the ‘Net that asks for it? Do you encrypt your Web traffic when using public WiFi? When was the last time you checked your Facebook privacy settings? Have you enabled your browser’s Do Not Track feature? Are you using an ad blocker? What about on your phone? Do you read what access rights your giving a mobile app or just click ‘Allow’? Have you disabled WiFi or, perish the thought, turned your phone off in a large, connected public area like the mall? Are you using your credit or debit card number online rather than a third-party service (PayPal, Google, Amazon), prepaid credit card, or bank issued temporary card number? Do you still check your bank statement now that it’s just another email in the list? Do you know how to spot a fake antivirus warning or phishing scam? Have you taught your kids, or parents in some cases, how to properly protect themselves?

And that list is just off the top of my head. I’m ‘in the know’ and must admit to not properly taking care of my Internet security all the time. Why? Simple laziness. It’s inconvenient. You know, like putting on a helmet before getting on a motorcycle.

Have you considered ryte2byte’s system for online security?

 

Before making excuses like “How was I to know?” or “I don’t know how to do that,” let me remind you that we have access to nearly limitless information about the world right under our fingertips at this very second. We’ve just chosen to use it to read gossip rather than educate ourselves on how to secure our digital lifestyles. Here, let's Google it together.  Oh, look, the very first item is a list of topics from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team offering “advice about common security issues for non-technical computer users.” I must admit that I never knew the US Department of Homeland Security had such a resource online. Why? Because I never cared enough to look.

No, securing your online life won’t guarantee your identity won’t be stolen. Locking your door doesn’t guarantee you won’t be robbed either. It does, however, attempt to mitigate the chances of it happening. And sometimes it works.

And now we have the NSA to deal with.

Frankly, anyone still doing business or storing important documents online without a second thought is a special kind of crazy, present company included. I know, I’ve heard it before: “But I don’t have anything to hide.” Good for you, but guess what? Everything collected can be stolen. What if Edward Snowden had walked away with the NSA’s database of America’s personal information, public and private, and sold it to the Russian mafia. Don’t laugh. It is estimated that Russian cybercriminals pulled in $4.4 billion in 2011. Identity theft has increased about 30 to 50% each year since then. Heck, identity theft now costs victims more than all property based crimes combined. And Russian mobsters are not the only organized crime group to recognize this profitable new outlet. Also consider that if the US is pulling off crazy schemes as tapping underwater communications cables, other nations and powerful syndicates are as well.

And yet, here we are. Still posting personal information online. Still surfing the Web without even the most basic encryption. Government contractors are still using cloud based email and document storage. Years of being warned about identity theft and six months after discovering an international eavesdropping system beyond comprehension and the most common password is 123456. Congratulations. GUO is ashamed to name us all the biggest turkey in the world of technology for 2013.

By the way, have you backed up your important data lately? Yeah… Me neither. Gobble Gobble.

Top 5 Tech Turkeys of 2013 – 2) BlackBerry

BROKEN ROBOT Aw, man. Do we really need to take stick to this broken, ol’ bird again?

Research In Motion was once king of the hi-tech mobile world. In a time not so long ago as you might think, cell phones that could surf the web and send email were novel, almost miraculous devices. Sometimes called personal digital assistants (PDAs). Sometimes palmtop computers. Sometime they were simply known as BlackBerrys. The RIM made BlackBerry was the Kleenex of the smartphone world before the world invented the term smartphone. The modern era of pocket computers has not been kind to this venerable brand. The Blackberry persisted with its classic keyboard-n-trackball style well after the new era of touchscreen slabs had finger painted the future on the wall. Confident it its reputation as a rock-solid platform for serious enterprise users and certain that all this iPhone hooey the kids were always yammering on about would blow over, RIM kept on making traditional BlackBerrys for their traditional users. It worked. For a time. Then one day, the bottom dropped out. By the time Research In Motion sprang back into motion, the BlackBerry was teetering on the brink of irrelevance.

2012 saw the father of smartphones loose one million users even in spite of dabbling with touchscreen versions of their devices. It was a first for the company. This warning shot spurred the sleeping Canadian bear into action. 2013 would be different! The corporation was restructured. Production lines were retooled. The vaunted BlackBerry operating system was reimagined. January of 2013 would see a whole new RIM and a whole new BlackBerry.

The BlackBerry Z10 was warmly received by critics, averaging four star reviews. A sleek, black slab of a touch device reminiscent of the iPhone 5. A handsome, if not radical, device. The BlackBerry 10 OS was a bit more inventive. With an emphasis on widgets and live data, BB 10 eschewed both physical buttons and on-screen navigation and instead relied on swipe gestures for moving about the OS. It was a novel and intuitive method of input once you got your head around it. Some declared the new virtual keyboard, a sticking point with the older attempts at touchscreen BBs, as one of the best keyboards yet created . Most importantly, the OS was snappy and responsive. The app store debuted at a plump 70,000 apps, although many of these were emulated Android programs that ran… well, about how you’d expect an emulated app to run on a phone. RIM had even manage to cobble together a media store similar to iTunes or Google Play that offered music and video at the tap of a button. It was a solid first outing.

It flopped. ABC News named it one of the biggest tech flops of 2013, positioned squarely between Facebook Home and Surface RT. Why? It was a solid first outing in a world of mature devices. Users and critics alike had become comfortable in the two horse race that the smartphone market had become. Even early adopters were kept satiated by the annual iterations of their favorite devices. The Z10 review on The Verge speaks volumes about the mentality of smartphone owners in 2013: “The Z10 is a fine device, well made, reasonably priced, backed by a company with a long track record. But it's not the only device of its kind, and it's swimming against a massive wave of entrenched players with really, really good products. Products they figured out how to make years ago. Products that are mature. The smartphone industry doesn't need saving.” It was also a BlackBerry. It was your grandfather’s smartphone brand. Hip, happening movers and shakers don’t go shopping for an Oldsmobile.

So… What next? A break with tradition? Was the BlackBerry name poison in today’s marketplace? Perhaps a new product line was in order. Something new yet familiar. The RIM Vim! The Android OS you love with the legendary RIM security you need (particularly after the lid was a blown off of a coalition of the free nations of the world collecting every single one and zero you blow through the Intertubes)! Designed for business, built for you. Finally, an Android phone with secure messaging, outstanding call quality, and solid construction. It was perfect timing as the Samsung Galaxy S4 had just released to lukewarm reviews. So, how did the Vim do? It didn’t. I just made that up. The truth is much more in line with what you’d expect from a giant recently awoken to find the race half over.

In an act of utter lunacy, Research In Motion Limited changed its company name to BlackBerry, forever linking them to the sinking ship that was their flagship product line. A larger, slightly improved version of the Z10 was released as the BlackBerry Z30. Critics heralded it as, “The best BlackBerry yet,” “The company's slickest, most advanced smartphone,” and, “This phone could have saved BlackBerry from the abyss.” Critics would go on to add “But it's too little too late,” “But the competition is simply just too great now,” and “If it had been released a year ago.” Like the Z10, the Z30 failed to gain any traction in retail.

The end of 2013 sees RIM BlackBerry with a new CEO, $2.6 billion in unsold inventory, and a 56% drop in revenue leading to a staggering $4.4 billion loss in the fourth quarter alone. BlackBerry has canceled two consumer handsets planned for release in 2014 and states it will focus on high-end enterprise devices. CEO John Chen stated that the company is hoping to return to the consumer market in North America and Europe sometime in the future, but for now the company is focusing on stabilizing its finances.

Tune in tomorrow for our choice for 2013’s biggest tech turkey. You know them intimately and they just. Don’t. Get it.

Top 5 Tech Turkeys of 2013 – 3) Electronic Arts

turkey_fryer_fire SimCity.

Thank you, and goodnight!

Seriously, it takes real ineptitude to take one of the first giants of PC gaming with mass market appeal an twist it into the broken mockery of code that was SimCity 2013. If you ever wondered exactly how bad “Designed by committee” could go, look no further. The core conceit of removing abstraction from the individuals of this city simulator meant reducing city sizes dramatically. Allowing players to track their tiny denizens revealed every flaw and cheat a simulation that was, quite simply, designed to run on the wrong scale. A questionable population model and schizophrenic advisor system only added to the mayhem. Interesting features like connected cities from Sim City 4 were broken and twisted to fit a more Farmville-esque mold. Online hooks where unattended cities can poison several people’s games forced dedicated gamers to go it alone rather than play together. If you could play at all. Even after a public beta test and months of examining pre-order numbers, SimCity greeted and enthusiastic public with a bevy of broken servers and crash prone local stability problems. It would stay that way for months. Even if you could connect, there was a very good chance that all of your progress had been erased.

Under a hailstorm of criticism regarding the always online requirement of the title, EA declared that SimCity could only be possible as an online game. Concieved and built from the ground up as a multiplayer game, online was essential to this title. Outspoken members of the development team at Maxis were quick to publicly refute this claim from their corporate masters. The publisher was forced to recant their statement. It was clear that SimCity’s flawed, online-only existence was not to fulfill some vision of the game’s design, but to enforce copy protection, social obligation amongst players, and control of content. Even now, eight months later, SimCity’s update notes still feature such entries as “Should no longer complain about the lack of shoppers and not enough places to shop at the same time.” Unsurprisingly, the one thing that has always worked in SimCity was the ability to buy more virtual decorations for your broken game. An expansion pack is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2014.

SimCity was a disaster. Taken on its own, it would have been a black eye for one of the largest video game publishers in the world. Unfortunately for consumers, EA wasn’t done with catastrophic releases.

Electronic Arts elected to take advantage of the launch of the new generation of console to reboot their on-hiatus NBA basketball franchise. To fully appreciate the scope of this event, we need to set the wayback machine to 2010. EA’s basketball titles were already taking a beating at retail from competitor 2K’s releases. In 2010 the publisher announced that it was rebooting its NBA Live series into the newer, faster, better NBA Elite. The game would be canceled mere days before release over "concerns about gameplay polish.” A few leaked copies and an early demo confirmed that EA spoke the truth. NBA Elite was a train wreck. EA would not release another basketball game until November of 2013. So, how did three years in the oven help EA’s high profile next-gen sports game? The one star review on Giant Bomb calls NBA Live 14, “a mess made messier by a host of other small, nagging gameplay issues.”  It only looks worse compared to their rival 2Ks latest basketball game NBA2K14 which is one of the highest rated titles in the new console launch lineup. The executive producer of NBA Live 14 issued a public apology and claims that the team will patch in improvements to the game such as better graphics, animation, and tutorials. He also stated that the reason for the game’s shoddy release was the short 12 month development cycle.

SimCity and NBA Live 14 were disasters. Taken on their own, it would have blackened both eyes of one of the largest video game publishers in the world. Unfortunately for consumers, EA wasn’t done ruining Christmas.

2013 was the year EA had been waiting for. New game machines were out, people were open to change, and the Call of Duty juggernaut was starting to show signs of running out of steam. This was the chance they had been waiting for. This was the year for Battlefield to strike it big. How were they going to do it? By releasing and incremental upgrade to the two year-old Battlefield 3 that managed, almost miraculously, to be broken on every one of the five platforms it was released on. Learning nothing from the SimCity debacle in March, the EA server farm once again collapsed with a large sucking sound. The few who could connect discovered a whole new digital hell: Broken animations, broken reloading, broken server browsers, broken damage modeling, broken class progression, broken save files, broken party chat, a couple of broken cameras, and plenty of crashing to the desktop. One reproducible bug on the PS4 crashes not just the game, but the entire server every time a certain building is destroyed, one of the game’s most hyped features. How did EA respond to this particular catastrophe? By issuing a public apology with one hand and selling an expansion that broke the game even further with the other.

The Battlefield 4 fiasco may be the one to come back and bite EA the hardest. In December the law firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, the guys who handled the heavy lifting on the ENRON fraud case back in 2001, have filed a class-action suit on behalf of shareholders against Electronic Arts for "materially false and misleading statements" in the months leading up to the release of Battlefield 4 to raise the stock price in order for executives to sell off thousands of shares before the game’s release. EA has called the claim “meritless”. Legal documents showing EA executives selling large numbers of shares shortly before Battlefield 4’s holiday release tell a different story.

Tomorrow we examine the second largest turkey in the technical world of 2013. They once ruled the mobile world. Today… eh, not so much.

Top 5 Tech Turkeys of 2013 – 4) Microsoft

tablet turkeyCock of the walk in 2012, Microsoft’s hubris came ‘round to bite ‘em in the tail feathers for 2013. MS attempted to reforge the look of PCs with Windows 8. It would prove to be yet another nail the in the coffin of an already faltering PC market. The company would backtrack on their vision of the future slightly with the free Windows 8.1 upgrade, but even this was done with a casual arrogance. The update was not issued via the traditional Windows Update service, but as a separate download buried in the new (and mostly unused) Windows Store. While 8.1 did, in fact, bring back the much missed Start button, the button did not actually open the Start Menu as in previous version. The new Start button instead brings users back to the tablet-like Windows Start Screen many updaters sought to avoid in the first place. While the upcoming Windows 8.2 update promises to restore the Start menu this time, it is unlikely that any damage control at this point will salvage the operating system’s reputation. While Windows is unlikely to usurped as the face of PCs in the near future, there is blood in the water and the sharks are circling. The end of 2013 saw a huge push from Apple with their latest Mac operating system and Valve, a retailer and infrequent developer of video games (of all things), is launching their own custom, Linux based OS.

A similar swagger marred the launch of Microsoft’s video game console, the Xbox One. While the Xbox 360 wasn’t exactly a sensation worldwide, the system’s debut, streamed live over the Internet, focused squarely on stereotypical American college students fond of sports and TV. You know who’s not fond of stereotypical American college students fond of sports and TV? Geeky folks who watch online press conferences about video game consoles. The nerdy masses took the the ‘Net brandishing virtual pitchforks and feelings of being betrayed by a brand they helped build. Things only got worse when questions about the system’s always online requirement, questionable DRM scheme, and mandatory connection to the Kinect camera were answered with “Don’t like it? Buy an Xbox 360,” and #DealWithIt. About the time the first preorder numbers came in, Microsoft would have a change of heart. The company reversed course on all these issues in what became known as the “Xbox 180” shortly before the system’s launch.

But wait! That’s not all! Windows Phone still exists. And no one seems to care. Windows Phone arrived practically stillborn on the market with popular app makers simply refusing to devote time coding for the fledgling platform. This lack of support surfaced most famously in a months long spat between MS and Google. Lacking developer support from Google, Microsoft created their own YouTube app for Windows Phone. It was blacklisted a day later. It seems that Google requires all applications utilizing YouTube to be created in HTML5. Windows Phone is not capable of such deployment of this up-and-coming standard and MS’s version of the app had been created using the system’s native code (Ironically, just as Google did for their own Android app). After nearly two months, Microsoft was forced to create a bare bones web player for YouTube and leave the OS devoid of meaningful integration with the giant video service.

Microsoft Surface also contended with customer and developer apathy throughout 2013. Worse, poor branding sowed confusion between the Surface Pro (The one you want because it’s a laptop in tablet form) and Surface RT (The one you don’t want because it’s a paperweight in tablet form). While the Pro at least gathered some appreciation amongst those in the know, MS was forced to write off $900 million in unsold Surface RT stock. Take that, landfill! Microsoft plans to alleviate the market confusion in the future by simply dropping the RT moniker from the under-supported little Arm tablets.Yep, having a Surface 2 and a Surface Pro 2 will sure clean up all that product confusion. #FacePalm

And through it all, Microsoft hemorrhaged talent. George Andreas, Steve Coast, Mark Gillett, Don Mattrick, and CEO Steve Ballmer are just a few of the headline worthy departures in 2013.

Check back tomorrow as our pick for the number three tech turkey of the year sees how many high-profile product launches it can bungle.

Top 5 Tech Turkeys of 2013 – 5) The United States of America’s National Security Agency

This is why you don’t use contracted labor on top secret projects…

Starting in June and continuing through November of 2013 former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began supplying The Guardian and The Washington Post classified NSA documents outlining details of the US government’s global surveillance operations as well as its international partners including, but not limited to, The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, AOL, Yahoo, and Facebook. The documents show this partnership dating as far back as 2007. Week after week netizens’ heads exploded as seemingly impossible accusations of the global information siphon became validated by none other than the chief of the NSA himself. It seemed impossible. Something out of a William Gibson novel perhaps, but certainly not a real event of our current Information Age existence. Yet… There is was. Bought and paid for with the tax dollars of those dwelling in The Land of the Free. XKeyscore, Tempora, and, of course, PRISIM. All of it laid bare. Right down to the internal PowerPoint presentation.

It was one thing to half-joke about the government tracking your every move and quite another to have said government reply to accusations with “Yeah, we did that. Lulz.”

Well, at least The Man came clean. The afore mentioned tech companies, global stewards of our online lives, answerable to no one other than their shareholders, just kept on denying any involvement. Everything but the canceled check posted online, but they just keep swearing they have no idea what we were talking about. The reason would come from an unexpected source: Yahoo. Yahoo sued the NSA in September to overturn a federal gag order stating "Yahoo! has been unable to engage fully in the debate about whether the government has properly used its powers, because the government has placed a prior restraint on Yahoo!'s speech.” Microsoft and Google would join the suit. The companies are seeking (Surprise!) monetary compensation for damage done to their reputation. Too little, too late, boys.

In December of 2013, Edward Snowden declared “For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished. I already won. … All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed.” Snowden is currently considered a fugitive and wanted by the United States for espionage and theft of government property. He has been granted temporary asylum in Russia. He has dismissed allegations that he’s made any deals with the countries that have sheltered him stating, “"If I defected at all, I defected from the government to the public."

The future of the NSA’s spying program is uncertain. Congressional hearings have already begun. Courts have found both for and against the NSA’s appropriation of Verizon’s metadata detailing nearly every phone made in the United States. The tech giants that helped build the NSA’s global surveillance system now call for changes to US surveillance practices arguing that current operations undermine our freedom.

While the NSA will undoubtedly continue operating past this controversy, it is highly unlikely that they will enjoy the same level of autonomy or lack of oversight in the near future. It’s not just the agents of the NSA that face change in light of the recent revelations, of course, but all of us. Our online childhood is over. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Tomorrow we reveal our pick for the fourth biggest tech turkey from last year. See what happens when arrogance meets the worst marketing department in the western world.

Robot and Lightning Shooting Tesla Coils Play the Theme to Pacific Rim

Okay, I’m working on a series of features to run all next week, but I need some more time to get ‘em all squared away. I’m a little rusty, my PC’s just been reloaded, The Mrs. is home on vacation, I don’t like working with people in the room, and this f*&(#ing cat won’t stop biting me. So, in the meantime, please welcome back ArcAttack to GUO and enjoy this video featuring an awesome robot and two lightning spitting tesla coils performing the theme to Guillermo del Toro’s homage to classic Japanese giant monster movies, Pacific Rim.

Chasing GOTY–The Noteworthy Titles and Trends of Gaming in 2013

papers pleaseCome on, you didn’t really think I’d miss out on the chance to name a game of the year, didja?

Well, I did it again. I named an independent game that hasn’t officially released as our pick for Game of the Year. The last time I did this was a few years back for a little title a few of you might have heard about since: Minecraft. Now I’m not saying that we had anything to do with Notch’s little Lego survival game going on to to sell in excess of 35+ million copies, but… yeah, I TOTALLY did that Winking smile 

This year marks the first time we awarded an M rated title GOTY. Frankly, I felt a little better about doing it before I wrote up that disclaimer at the end. Good thing the post was mostly done by the time I got there otherwise I might have changed my mind.

As for the other titles in the Game of the Year deliberations, Papers, Please and Asphalt 8 were running neck and neck right up to the end. Papers, Please’s thought provoking setting and moral dilemmas married with a wholly original type of puzzle game pressure and capped off with one of the most nail-bitingly intense endings ever certainly puts it in a class of its own.

Asphalt 8On the flip side, Asphalt 8 saw mobile juggernaut Gameloft finally come into their own with an expertly crafted racing game that provides the most high-flying and thrilling smash ‘em up racing action on the platform. Smartphones have secretly become an outstanding platform for racing games in recent years and Asphalt 8 zooms to the head of the pack with a stunning riff on the arcade racer that gamers haven’t seen since Burnout 3. THIS is how I like my racing games: High speeds, big jumps, licensed cars, beautiful crashes, and eight-way multiplayer. Was a buck, now it’s free.

Growing Up Otaku Game of the Year 2013: Warframe

GOTY trophyMost of my favorite gaming moments of the past year have involved watching the evolution of Digital Extremes’ self-published free-to-play co-op shooter Warframe. Not since Max Payne have I been so enamored with a third-person action game and not since Doom 2 have I spent so much time teamed up with buddies running and gunning through monster infested corridors.

Warframe nails the recipe for an excellent action game. Mix great graphics, a unique art style, and buttery smooth controls for a variety of outrageous moves. Add generous helpings of MMO-styled level progression and gear customization that allows for shotguns that shoot lightning through walls and flamethrowers that belch armor-piercing viruses. Blend thoroughly a blisteringly fast pace that delivers on the concept of everything that a highly acrobatic space ninja armed with such outlandish weapons could be capable of. Serve it up for free to the pulse pounding beat of Japanese taiko drums. Presto! You’ve got the year’s most spectacular shooter that plays equally well whether you’ve got 15 minutes or three hours at your disposal.

Yep, I said free space ninja shooter set to taiko drums. If you aren’t downloading at this point, you may very well be on the wrong web site.