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GDC’s alternative arcade: a gallery of crazy, homemade game controllers

The idea of the gamepad is so entrenched in our mind, it’s easy to forget that there are other ways to play video games. No, we’re not talking about the PC gamer’s keyboard and mouse, or even the traditional arcade stick — but custom, purpose built controllers made to augment a specific experience. At GDC 2014, we found an interactive gallery full of them. The event, Alt.Ctrl.GDC serves as a showcase for indie game experiences that aren’t fully accessible without specialized hardware, but to us, it was simply an alternative arcade of creativity.


The wooden control board for Analog Defender looks more like a missile control console than video game, but it had our attention right away. The complicated array of arcade buttons, protected toggles and switches control a complex Space Invaders clone, tasking players with managing power, weapon modes and special attacks by frantically mashing buttons and changing analog input plugs. The learning curve is steep, but the novelty of the controller makes it an easy climb — the experience is fresh, despite the game’s nostalgic familiarity.

Not every controller in the showcase was custom built from wood, switches and spare wire: Rakete, a collaborative moon lander game, cannibalized old guitar pedals to give four players their own rocket accelerators. The game forces four pilots — each controlling only one thruster — to work together to keep their craft aloft.

Some of the hardware we saw was familiar, too. Please Don’t, Spacedog uses a MIDI controller to explore the body-displacement effect of the Oculus rift — challenging players to use a complex controller without being able to physically see their hands. It’s also probably the world’s only canine-astronaut simulator.

Of course, you don’t need an Oculus Rift to create a virtual reality. The designers behind Roflpillar used a sleepingbag, some pulleys and a sensory isolation tent to create a two-player caterpillar simulator. Frankly, it’s pretty intuitive: wiggle to move. It’s also hilarious.

Ever thought you’d play a video game without a screen? Now you can — but you’ll need some help. Bonus Look is a game that splits the functions of a computer between two players, giving one player the screen and arrow keys and the other almost everything else. The “pilot” controls the player character’s actions, but can’t get more than a few steps without the help of the blind “wizard.” The screen-less second player also has access to a cryptic ASCII map, burned into a sheet of wood. It’s an absolutely bizarre twist on cooperative gameplay, but figuring it out is half the fun.

Speaking of games without screens, Choosatron was easily one of our favorite games in the exhibit. This “deluxe adventure matrix” is pretty simple under the surface: four buttons, a thermal printer and an Arduino board — but it was enough to turn choose-own-adventure fiction into a passable game. Plus, players get to keep their freshly printed epic for posterity, and we’re suckers for souvenirs.

Alternative controller types don’t always mean alternative games, either. Canabalt 100p offers the same endless running experience we all know and love — it just adds a few dozen extra runners. The game uses a standard MIDI keyboard as a control device, assigning each piano key to a specific avatar. Just how many characters you can play as depends on the size of the piano, so sadly, our demo fell short of the promised 100.

Alt.Ctrl.GDC’s exhibit of quirky controllers isn’t likely to rock the industry, but its perspective on gaming is refreshing. By discarding the standards we’ve grown accustomed to, it creates an opportunity explore the idea of what electronic gaming is. We often think about the visual aspect of the experience — but how we experience the game is just as important as how the game looks. Sometimes, the controller makes (or breaks) the game.

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EFF lawyer questions Microsoft’s ability to search our email, claims it’s open to abuse

This week Microsoft revealed that, without a warrant, it accessed the Hotmail account of a French blogger in order to track down an employee leaking source code to some of its products, ultimately leading to that employee’s arrest. Microsoft’s actions created an uproar among users, causing it to spell out both its means, and its justification. Microsoft claims it needs to establish if “there is evidence sufficient for a court order” before conducting any searches, as allowed under its terms of service (the ones you read and agreed to). In response, Electronic Frontier Foundation fellow Andrew Crocker calls Redmond’s claim that it can’t obtain a warrant on itself a false premise with massive potential for abuse. Instead of “Warrants for Windows,” he argues that bringing in the FBI and obtaining a warrant is not only possible, but that it would be in line with Microsoft’s policy to require a warrant before revealing user info to others.

Though the process may be legal, a larger queasiness arises because, as worded, Microsoft’s TOS could submit a user’s inbox to those searches merely by violating its Code of Conduct. That could happen by (for example) emailing links that depict nudity, incite or express profanity, or facilitate the sale of firearms. Crocker himself states that, presumably, Microsoft isn’t using these standards as an excuse to dig through inboxes. His problem with its actions is more that by relying only on permission given by internal and external legal teams and its TOS, but not the actual court system, a potential for abuse exists.

As The Guardian details, other providers like Apple, Google and Yahoo (or likely AOL, which owns this blog) have similarly worded policies that could be used to access user data in order to protect their property. We asked Crocker about those, and he states that the EFF’s criticism stands in regards to similar policies, and that, while this particular case likely arose from an unusual set of circumstances, the fact we have no way of knowing if a company accessed our data is troubling (In the update on its policies, Microsoft said it would include data on the number of these types of searches in its bi-annual transparency report). In one case, TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington even claimed that while he cannot be sure, he’s “nearly certain” Google may have accessed his Gmail inbox to sniff out a leaker. Whatever the case, we suddenly have some weekend reading time set aside for the topic of end-to-end encryption with GNU Privacy Guard and “how to setup your own email server.”

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Source: EFF, The Guardian


City Monkey goes bananas on Android

Like most of us, you have probably yearned for an pixel-art styled multiplayer game that lets you shoot banana rockets and pineapple grenades at your friends. City Monkey provides that in a Worms-like atmosphere where you can go bananas on your friends.

The violently fun shooter game lets you blow up your friends and random online players through an online ranking system where players meet. The concept is simple, you cannot move, but you must use precision shots and use the force of the wind to knock your enemy out. There are only a few weapons in the game in an effort to keep the game’s simplistic style fun.

The goal of the game is to rank higher and unlock your weapons by climbing the ranks. As your reach different grades in the game your monkey will experience a color change. The more points you score and monkeys you defeat the further up the rankings you will climb.

Can you climb to the top of the leaderboards? You can find City Monkey Multiplayer Shooter on the Google Play store.

The post City Monkey goes bananas on Android appeared first on AndroidGuys.


Turkish PM plugs Twitter DNS loophole, Facebook and YouTube could be blocked next

When Twitter went dark for users in Turkey earlier this week, it didn’t take long for everyone to realize something was up. Prime Minister Erdoğan had reportedly threatened to pull the plug on the popular social network previously, before coming good on his word just hours later. The attempt to silence the platform, however, wasn’t exactly well executed. People in the country were still able to send messages via SMS, and access was still available via the web by relatively simple means: using a VPN or by changing your PC’s DNS settings. Today, it’s reported that Erdoğan’s attacks on the platform continue, with new reports suggesting that access to the DNS loophole being blocked.

The Turkish leader has also allegedly addressed the San Francisco firm directly, asking it to appoint a local representative, and to block specific content (that which it deems “prejudiced”) at his government’s request. Erdoğan has also said that other social networks such as Facebook and YouTube are at risk of being taken down too, in an effort to squash leaks and opinions he evidently thinks might harm his party in forthcoming local elections.


Source: Reuters


Feedback Loop: Ultrabooks, discrete graphics, Google Voice replacements and more!

Welcome to Feedback Loop, a weekly roundup of the most interesting discussions happening within the Engadget community. There’s so much technology to talk about and so little time to enjoy it, but you have a lot of great ideas and opinions that need to be shared! Join us every Saturday as we highlight some of the most interesting discussions that happened during the past week.

Engadget Forums

Happy Saturday! This week, we took a look at Ultrabooks with discrete graphics cards, debated the merits of smartwatches, discussed viable alternatives to Google Voice, talked about how we discover new apps and fondly remembered some of our earliest RSS feeds. Head on past the break and join the conversation in the Engadget forums.

Ultrabooks and discrete graphics cards

Lightweight and powerful enough for most tasks, Ultrabooks are really convenient. But what if you want to use one for gaming? Neuromancer2701 is looking for Ultrabooks that contain a discrete video card. The Maingear Pulse 14 looks right up his alley, but are there other options he should consider in order to get his gaming on? Help him out!

What’s up with smartwatches?

Earlier this week, Google announced its Android Wear initiative, which will bring Android to more wearable devices. Additionally, Engadget readers picked the Samsung Galaxy Gear as the best wearable device of 2013. All of this love and attention for wearable devices has caused Frankspin to wonder: What’s the big deal with smartwatches? Do you think wearables like the Pebble, Galaxy Gear and Moto 360 are a passing fad or is there something bigger happening? Sound off in the forums!

Alternatives to Google Voice

This week, we had two interesting discussions about alternatives to Google Voice! In the first, I ask about viable Google Voice competitors that people are happy with. In the second, groovechicken documents his experience leaving Google services and shares his own research on how to best replace Google Voice. Do you utilize this Google service and have you thought about how you would replace it?

How do you discover new apps?

Frankspin is on a roll this week and has another interesting discussion on how to best discover new apps. Do you use a service? Do you rely on the advice of friends? Share your secrets for discovering all those hot new apps before they become trendy.

RSS is dead. Long live RSS!

It’s been awhile since Google Reader’s demise. Despite this, RSS still remains an important way for many people to get and consume content on the internet. Some of us have been using some sort of RSS service or app for a long time. Dignan17 wants to know the oldest saved RSS story you have in your feeds.

That’s all this week! Do you want to talk about your favorite gadget or have a burning question about technology? Register for an Engadget account today, visit the Engadget forums and start a new discussion!



Rhapsody and Napster leave Echo Nest following Spotify’s takeover

Rhapsody plus Napster does not equal Echo Nest

Echo Nest must have developed cooties after Spotify bought it. Just days after Rdio said it would stop using the song recommendation provider to avoid sharing data with a rival, Rhapsody has announced that it’s ramping down its own Echo Nest deal (which also applies to Napster) within several months. The company doesn’t characterize the split as a defensive move, though. Instead, it’s a chance to stand out. Rhapsody says it has “never been completely satisfied” with leaning on others for music personalization — independence theoretically lets the company improve its advice to listeners. Whether or not things pan out as planned, it’s clear that Echo Nest has lost at least some sway over the streaming radio industry.

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Via: GeekWire

Source: Rhapsody Blog


FlipBeats, getting the most out of your music [App of the Day]

Who doesn’t enjoying plugging into their phone and turning on their favorite tunes? I know there is nothing like shutting out the world and just getting lost in some of my favorite songs.  However, I never thought if I was truly getting the music experience until FlipBeats arrived!

FlipBeats takes the music experience to a whole new level by implementing a “studio listening experience” through a variety of equalizers.  You can also have predetermined equalizer modes based upon what you are listening to, so if you have some serious bass or lots of treble, you can really bring out the sound.  Even if your music is blasting through a bluetooth speaker or hooked up to your stereo via headphone jack, you can adjust the sound settings for the size room you have.

Currently there is a 20 day free trial; after that it is .99 cents to enjoy forever! Check out the specs below!

FlipBeats specs:

  • Home Screen Widget (Re-sizable)
  • Lock Screen Widget (for Android KitKat)
  • Basic Mode
  • Advance Mode
  • Multi band Graphical Equalizer
  • Bass Boost
  • Surround Sound
  • Balance Control
  • Room size configuration
  • Android 3.3 and up

The post FlipBeats, getting the most out of your music [App of the Day] appeared first on AndroidGuys.


What is the role of a colocation center?

Data plays an important role in all types of businesses. So, business owners should have the data security as a priority. Protecting data with the help of a data center is the most intelligent way to protect our business data. A remote colocation center is an off-site space where people can keep their crucial hardware such as data storage, networking equipment and servers. Although, it is a little strange to keep these things away from the business premises, there are several benefits in doing so. Some of them can include security, improved safety and reliability of our important IT assets. In the current economic condition, small business owners may find it difficult to employ security personnel for protecting their business premises throughout the day. You may think that installing a video surveillance can prevent theft. The fact is not as what people think it is. So, opting for a data center’s assistance is the best option for safe-guarding our valuable business assets. The biggest advantage of a data center is that the hardware will have increased security. For instance, if you are business owner in Spokane and you have your servers guarded in Spokane colocation center, then you can make sure that you data are protected by security guards, closed-circuit surveillance and complicated access systems.

What are benefits of a locating a data center?

On top of physical safety a remote Spokane colocation center will offer a firewall protection that will defend your business against viruses as well as hackers. So, business owners can be at peace that their data is protected round the clock by professionals. Apart from security and storage services, Spokane colocation center may also help business owners with network monitoring. When a business owner finds it difficult to monitor the networking system, he can definitely get in touch with a data center. A data center will be able to provide monitoring services to the customers. This particular service will let the business owners about the activities in the network. A remote Spokane colocation center can guard your assets against any type of disaster. Such a facility will be able to keep the data a lot more safe than your office building. Most data center facilities will be constructed in areas where flooding or fire won’t be possible. The facility will be equipped in such a way that servers and other hardware are kept in optimal temperature and humidity.

How can you manage your important IT assets?

Data loss is something that people face on a daily basis. When there is a power outage or a hardware failure, there is a possibility for people to lose important data on their computers. This could result in loss of money and time. When Spokane colocation center is in place, then people don’t have to bother about power failure, as a colocation center will 24 hours backup with the help powerful generators. If the service provider has many locations, business owners can setup secondary servers for providing failover operations when the primary servers experience unexpected outage. Such a facility will normally reduce the network outage risks. Although the server machines are not on-site, people will still have to the machines. No matter you are at home or in the office, you will be able to log onto the server though a secure access. The best part is that data center will allow you to physically access your server whenever you want. When you are linked to remote colocation center, then you can make sure that you have a partner who is an expert in terms of protecting, handling and guarding your IT assets. You can also spending on building separate area for installing the server and security personnel. All these things will be handled by the data center.


Time Warner Cable says ‘me too,’ issues first transparency report

Not to be outdone by its competitors (or future owner), Time Warner Cable has released a transparency report of its own. From January to June last year, the telco obeyed some 12,000 information requests from the government that break down as such. Of the legal requests, 82 percent were for subpoenas, 12 percent were for court orders and four percent related to search warrants. Seventy-seven percent of the time that data was requested, it was subscriber and transactional info that was disclosed, 20 percent resulted in no data shared at all and three percent of the time, content information was disclosed. Because the report doesn’t give exact numbers, though, comparing the precise amount of requests that TWC handled with its competitors isn’t exactly easy.

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Via: Kurt Opsahl (Twitter)

Source: Time Warner Cable


Telling Google Search to “Play Some Music” will now actually result in Music

Play Some MusicAs Google continues to evolve and fine-tune the functions available to Google Search and Google Now, the features they bring in with each update seem to become more and more useful and intuitive. The latest feature to join the party is the “Play Some Music” command which, as you might expect, will play music courtesy of Google Play Music.

All that you need to do to take advantage of this new command is to tell your Google Search or Google Now to “Play Some Music” and it will launch Google Play Music and start a “I’m feeling lucky radio” playlist. What should happen is that Play Music will assemble a playlist of music that either exists on your device, is in your library, or if you have an “All-Access” subscription, it will play a selection of songs like those you normally listen to.

This is a pretty cool feature to have; I’m hoping the next update will let you specify the type of music to play e.g. “Play Some Mood Music”. What do you think about this latest edition to the Google commands list? Let us know how you’d like to use it in the comments.

Source: Google+ via XDA

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