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Recommended Reading: The rise and fall of ‘Mortal Kombat’

‘Mortal Kombat’s’ 1997
Was the Opposite
of a Flawless Victory

Matt Gerardi,
AV Club

The Mortal Kombat franchise was riding high… and then 1997 rolled around. AV Club takes a look at the hot streak before the release of two games and a movie in the fall of that year. All three fell flat. That trio of shortcomings didn’t kill the franchise completely, but it did enough damage to end Mortal Kombat’s reign atop the video game world.

Inside the Partisan Fight for Your News Feed
Craig Silverman, Jane Lytvynenko, Lam Thuy Vo, Jeremy Singer-Vine, BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed goes inside the partisan news push that’s taken over the internet and your social stream.

How Doris Burke Became the Best Damn Basketball Broadcaster There Is
Lyndsey D’Arcangelo, Deadspin

Doris Burke has been a fixture on ESPN’s basketball broadcasts for years now, and there’s good reason for it: She’s really good.

The Moral History of Air-Conditioning
Shane Cashman, The Atlantic

Air-conditioning is a sin? That was once the popular mindset, and it may not have been too far off.

The Very Human Return of Kesha
Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic

Kesha’s back. Her new album Rainbow is equal parts fantasy and reality following her very public personal struggles. It’s also very good.


How to use Apple’s iMessage on iOS 10

With the release of iOS 10, Apple completely revamped its iMessage platform, transforming it from a simple SMS replacement to a feature-packed messaging experience. Not only is iMessage getting much more secure with the upcoming iOS 11 update, but you’ll even be able to use it to chat directly with businesses.

We love it, and we’re sure you do as well, but are you aware of all the little features it contains, and how to access them? Maybe not, because although Apple is usually good at making its software rather easy to use, iMessage makes use of new techniques that may not be familiar. Whether you’re an iOS newbie or a seasoned veteran, here’s how to get the most from iMessage on your iPhone.

Getting started with iMessage

Does it work on my phone?

To use the new iMessage platform, you need to have iOS 10 installed on your phone, and so do the people you’re messaging. It’s worth mentioning, for those completely unfamiliar with iMessage, that it’s purely Apple-to-Apple, and you can’t send an iMessage to an Android phone (or vice versa).

You can send iMessages to iPhones, iPads, iPods, and MacOS installed on laptops and desktop computers, provided you’re signed in to the same iCloud account on all devices. There are a few settings to enable on each device to make this happen. It’s also easy to know whether you’re exchanging iMessages with someone, given the chat balloons are blue instead of the green that denotes SMS messages.

Enabling iMessage

On your iOS device, ensure iMessage is activated by checking the following:

Go to Settings, and scroll down to Messages. The iMessage slider should be in the On position. One other important thing to note is that if you have Reduce Motion turned on, then the animations won’t work. Go to Settings, General, and Accessibility to turn the feature off if they’re not working.

In MacOS, find the Messages icon in the Dock, open it, and open Accounts from the Messages menu in the top-left portion of the screen. Here, enter your associated Apple ID and password, then click Sign In. Your messages and contacts should then sync. The difference between the two is that not all of iOS 10’s super effects, apps, and GIFs show up on your Mac, nor can they be sent out via your computer.

Use iMessage on your iPhone

Sending and receiving iMessages is no different than sending and receiving SMS message, and it’s all done through the default Messages app installed on iOS. If you’ve used iMessage before and this is your first time using the latest version, you’ll notice some changes. The most obvious are the three icons in the bottom left of the screen which is the gateway to most of iMessage’s new features.

Text effects

We’ll dig into iMessage’s cool features in a moment — let’s deal with sending messages first. To send a message, simply enter what you want to say into the text field in iMessage and tap the blue arrow to send it. If you want to add effects to what you’re sending, perform a Force Touch gesture on the blue arrow before you send your message. You do this by pressing down hard on the blue arrow to bring up the Send with effect menu.

The first of two menu screens will appear, giving you the chance to add a new effect to your message. Slam, Loud, Gentle, and Invisible Ink all see your words accompanied by the corresponding effect, which gives them more impact and allows you to convey an emotion. Just tap which one you want to apply the effect and send your message.

If none of the aforementioned text effects seem appealing, tap the Screen option and select a screen effect. You can use balloons, fireworks, lasers, confetti, or a shooting star to alter the look of the screen when the message arrives. If none of these are suitable, just tap “X” to return to the standard message view.


Reactions are another fun feature. Rather than add an emoji after a message comes through, how about adding your reaction to the message itself? Say you get a message you agree with, and you want to give it the thumbs up. Long press the message, and a series of reactions will appear. These include a heart, a thumbs up or down, an exclamation point, a question mark, and a “Haha.” Simply tap the appropriate reaction to affix it to the message balloon.

Handy iMessage tips

Stickers, emoji, and apps

All the usual emoji are available in iMessage through your keyboard of choice, whether it’s Apple’s proprietary offering or an alternative. However, the new iMessage offers a wealth of additional stickers and emoji, all of which are available through the feature’s app store. Yep, iMessage has its own, dedicated store for compatible apps. Here’s how to use it.

Select the App Store icon from the three icons to the left of the text field  — it’s the third to the right. This will open a new window in place of the keyboard, and once visible, tap the four circles in the bottom left to open the menu. Then, choose Store.

All the iMessage-compatible apps are found here, including the ones already installed on your phone. Visit the Manage category along the top of the screen to activate or deactivate apps that have an iMessage function. Otherwise, just select and install your iMessage app of choice in the same way you would any other app from the iTunes App Store.

If you don’t know where to start, check out our list of the best iMessage apps, games, and stickers.

When finished, just tap Done in the top right of your display. This will bring up the menu screen in place of the keyboard, and it’s here that you’ll be able to select the apps and stickers that you’ve installed. If the screen gets overrun with apps, delete them in the same way you would elsewhere in iOS — that is, by tapping and holding, then tapping “X” when they start to jiggle.

GIFs and pictures

In addition to the emoji and stickers, you can also add images and GIFs to your iMessage conversation. Tap the App Store button next to the text field, and then the menu button in the bottom-left corner (it’s shaped like four circles). Then, tap Images and use the search bar to find the right GIF for you.

Alternatively, if you have installed Giphy on your phone, it has an extension for iMessage. Provided the extension is activated under the management section in the iMessage App Store, select that instead of Images on the main screen to see a host of other choices.

Sharing your own pictures, either live or from your Camera Roll, is easy too. From the main message screen, tap the camera icon — the furthest option on the left, next to the text field — and you’ll be given the option to choose your own picture, or capture one using a small viewfinder. Snap away, and send it in your message.

Play Apple Music

This one is primarily for Apple Music subscribers. In the app menu, the Music option lets you share songs you’ve recently listened to with someone else. However, if you don’t subscribe to Apple Music, you can only hear a preview of the song in question. Additionally, this only includes music you’ve downloaded from iTunes.

Digital Touch

One of the coolest features on the Apple Watch recently came to iMessage, and it operates in a similar way. The tiny screen found on the Apple Watch is replicated on the iPhone, so you can send your heart beat, an animated picture, or even draw and send cool effects to your friends.

Digital Touch, accessible by tapping the center button to the left of the text field, allows for a slew of gestures. To draw a sketch, move your finger around the input area, or to send taps, just tap the screen. To change colors, use the circular button to the left, located directly above the camera icon.

You can send a heart beat by holding down the display with two fingers, or a kiss by tapping your display with two fingers. You can also send a broken heart if you drag down the screen with two fingers, or a colorful fireball if you tap and hold your display with one finger.

To send a picture or video, complete with sketches, select the camera icon on the left and tap the record video or shutter release icon. Videos last for 10 seconds, and you can add your sketches once you’ve taken your shot. Afterward, simply tap the blue arrow to send your message.

Shortcuts and handy hints

  • All digital media shared in iMessage — i.e. videos, pictures, or Digital Touch images — will disappear after two minutes, but there is a way to keep them. Just remember to tap the Keep icon next to the image before they’re gone forever.
  • When the menu screen replaces the keyboard, you can scroll through your apps by swiping left or right. It’s handy to know because the menu screen opens on the first app in your list. Scrolling saves you the from having to open the app menu again.
  • Sketching anything on a small screen is a challenge. If you tap the arrow icon in the bottom-right of the screen while sketching, however, you can open the window in full-screen mode. This makes it much easier to create a masterpiece.
  • To bring up the keyboard at any time, just tap in the text field.
  • Just like the old message app, you can record audio clips and send them instead of text. To do so, tap the microphone icon to the far right of the text field and hold it down to record.

Update: We’ve rephrased some of the steps for clarity and added a few links to let you know about the upcoming iOS 11 iMessage updates.


Microsoft Surface Book 2 news: It’s time for an update, but Redmond remains silent

Microsoft hasn’t released much Microsoft Surface Book 2 news yet, but more information is on the way this fall. For now, here’s what we know and what the rumors say about the successor to Microsoft’s latest 2-in-1 laptop.

The Surface Book 2…was actually the Surface Laptop

In spring 2017 a flurry of rumors about the Surface Book 2 hit the internet windmill. They said, among other things, that the Book 2 would have a more traditional clamshell hinge, would be a traditional laptop instead of a hybrid, and would be released very soon.

That didn’t happen. Those rumors described another product, the Surface Laptop, which had all those qualities and was positioned to appeal to customers who preferred a true laptop instead of a hybrid. Our review of the Surface Laptop found it’s a beautiful system, but the decision to ditch features that make Surface unique makes the system less remarkable than its peers.

However, the Surface Laptop’s existence does tell us a bit of what the Surface Book will continue to be. It seems likely the Microsoft Surface Book 2 will retain a form similar to the current model, since ditching its tablet features would make it redundant with the Surface laptop.

An updated hinge seems likely

Will the hinge change for the Book 2? The rumors say yes. Remember that the updated version of the Microsoft Surface Book, released October 2016, came with the same hinge but a reduced gap. People weren’t big fans of the gap that the original hinge created, which increased thickness and was a dust trap. A redesigned hinge is likely for the Book 2.

Other rumors state that the Book 2 may not be detachable, either. It is likely to still be a 2-in-1, but with a reversible screen. This would be an easy way to fix some of the complaints that the original Surface Book was unwieldy when it came to detaching the touchscreen.

Coffee Lake CPUs

Here is where things get interesting: Some of the latest rumors say that the Book 2 will be using the Intel Coffee Lake CPU, also known as 8th gen Intel Core.

The latest version of the Book uses Kaby Lake, so it appears that Microsoft may want to wait for Coffee Lake for the second generation. We’ll know more about Coffee Lake by the end of August 2017.

If this information is correct — and every day we go by without a Surface announcement makes it seem more likely — then it gives reason to think the Surface Book 2 won’t show up until late in the holiday 2017 buying season, at the soonest.

Why? Intel processor releases tend to be gradual. It takes months for them to become common after the initial roll-out, and if Microsoft were to release a Surface Book 2 with 8th gen Core, the company would need a large enough supply of chips to meet at least part of demand.

Practically speaking, that makes a release shortly after the arrival of 8th gen Core unlikely. It’s not impossible, as Microsoft could specifically team up with Intel to make the Surface Book 2 one of the first 2-in-1s with its new processor. However, we’ve not heard any rumors to that effect yet, and Microsoft hasn’t announced a press event near Intel’s official 8th gen Core press event, which happens August 21.

Release date is 2017-2018

There are two possibilities for a Surface Book 2 release window. First, Microsoft announces it in the fall at a Fall Creators Update conference, and releases it in time for the holidays. Second, Microsoft waits to announce the Book 2 and plans for an early 2018 release.

Currently we suspect the second option, due to the Coffee Lake reports and lack of production rumors. However, 2017 is still very much a possibility.

This is heavily based on speculation, however. Microsoft itself has said nothing about the Surface Book 2. We don’t think that silence indicates a lack of care for it, but simply that the company is playing its cards close to its chest.


Chromecast Buyer’s Guide


Chromecasts are cheap enough to get them all, but we can guide you to make sure you get the one you need.

Streaming media isn’t a new idea. Internet radio and video sharing sites have been around for over a decade, and smartphones might not have become as popular (some say necessary) as they are today had Apple and Google not worked together in 2007 to bring H.264 YouTube streaming to the first iPhone. We want to watch and listen to the things we like on our own schedule, and we all want it to be easy to do while still looking and sounding great.

While there are dozens of different ways to stream media from the internet to your TV or stereo, Chromecast remains one of the most popular options because of the way you initiate things. Clunky and slow user interfaces are replaced by your phone or your web browser with the ability to handoff control between devices and to allow multiple people to get in on the fun. You are comfortable with the way your phone works, and you know how to use the tools it has. Adding in one button to send media streams to the television is just better than most anything else. Add in a low cost of entry and you have a recipe for success.

If you’re thinking of buying a Chromecast, the first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you pick the right one. That’s where the Chromecast buyer’s guide comes in. In five minutes you’ll be able to make the right choice and get the device that suits your needs the best.

Chromecast Audio


If you are looking for a way to get music from the internet — whether it be a subscription service like Spotify or Google Play Music or audio from YouTube or even music stored on your phone — the Chromecast Audio is a great way to do it.

It’s an audio-only device, so if you want to send video or images you’ll need to look at other options in our guide. But it’s a dedicated audio streamer done right. With a 24-bit audio decoder and both 3.5 mm and optical audio output through the mini toslink jack, you’ll be able to send high-quality audio to just about any speaker setup available. Setup is easy — provide power and plug an audio cable from the Chromecast output to the input jack on your receiver or powered speakers and you’re done. You can even run the output through a small bookshelf amplifier to create a complete stand-alone audio system that sounds a lot better than the price tag would suggest.

Best cheap Chromecast Audio speakers

The Chromecast Audio is small and lightweight, uses very little power and delivers premium sound to almost any speaker or stereo system. If you’re looking for a way to play music from the internet on the system you have now or just plugging into the back of a small stand-alone speaker the Chromecast Audio is the best way to do it.

See at Google
See at Best Buy



The Chromecast is the device that started Google down the path of streaming media. We’re currently at version two of the hardware, and there isn’t another way to get online video onto your TV screen that’s this easy or this inexpensive.

Setup is simple. Plug the Chromecast into an available HDMI port on your TV or receiver, provide USB input for power (either directly from the TV or through the included power adapter) and use the Google Home app to get your Chromecast onto your Wi-Fi and able to be seen from your phone or laptop. Speedy and robust 5GHz ac Wi-Fi means you’ll be able to stream HD content (up to 1080p) smoothly and easily. Fallback to 2.4GHz Wi-Fi is available if you have a lot of interference on your network so you won’t miss a thing. And as mentioned, watching a movie or show on the best screen in your house is as easy as tapping a button on your phone screen.

More: Chromecast vs. Chromecast Ultra. Which should you buy?

Unless you have a 4K TV and a fast connection to the internet to stream UHD HDR content, the Chromecast is the right tool to get the job done cheaply and easily.

See at Google
See at Best Buy

Chromecast Ultra


The premium offering in Google’s Chromecast lineup, the Chromecast Ultra can deliver full UHD (4K) content in HDR to your high-end television, and it’s as easy to set up and use as the rest of the Chromecast family.

The Ultra costs a little more, but everything about it is an improvement over the regular Chromecast. You’ll need a better processor and more power to deliver demanding UHD HDR content and the Chromecast Ultra has that covered. The standard 5GHz/2.4GHz Wi-Fi option is available, but the Ultra also has a Gigabit Ethernet port built into the power supply (which you’ll need to use because your TV can’t deliver enough power for the Ultra) if you want the backhaul and speed a wire can offer. You’ll also need to have a fast connection — 20Mbs sustained not peak — and have a service like Netflix that can deliver UHD content. Using the Ultra is the same as the regular Chromecast — as easy as tapping a button.

Everything you need to know about 4K streaming on Chromecast Ultra

The Chromecast Ultra is for people who have high-end equipment and the internet speed to bring 4K streams to their television. But it’s also a great way to be “future-proof” because your next TV will be 4K.

See at Google
See at Best Buy

No matter what your needs are, there’s a Chromecast that can fill them and is in your budget!

Update August 2017: This post was updated with the latest information about Chromecast devices.



  • Chromecast and Chromecast Audio review
  • Chromecast Ultra vs Roku
  • Chromecast vs Chromecast Ultra: Which should you buy?
  • Join the discussion in our forums


Best Buy

Chromecast Audio:

Best Buy

Chromecast Ultra:

Best Buy


Playing professional ‘Call of Duty’ with half a thumb

Ian Wyatt doesn’t remember the moment he lost half of his thumb. He was 1 year old, sitting in his family’s driveway against the side of an exercise bike while his 7-year-old brother played with the pedals, pumping them around and around to make the wheels fly. Wyatt, unaware of the laws of physics, stuck his tiny hand into the bike’s chain. It cleanly sliced off half of his right thumb.

“To be honest, I got quite lucky,” Wyatt says.

He isn’t talking about the accident itself, of course. Today, Wyatt is a 23-year-old professional Call of Duty player who got his start in the Halo scene when he was a teenager. He feels lucky because the standard Xbox controllers used to play Halo conformed to his injury nicely — the right analog stick was closer to the palm than the left, just like he needed.

“It was almost like a perfect fit for my right hand, my right thumb,” he says. “If I would have lost my left thumb I wouldn’t have been able to hold a controller because the analog stick would have been too far away.”

Now that he’s playing professional Call of Duty, which is tied to the PlayStation 4, Wyatt has to use controllers with both analog sticks close to the palm. “It’s not too crazy,” he says. “I do have to angle the controller a little bit to the right just to make the little adjustment that I don’t have, but, for the most part, it’s comfortable.”

Wyatt plays under the name “Enable” on North American team FaZe Clan, which is currently competing in the Call of Duty World League Championship, the franchise’s largest tournament of the year. There’s a prize pool of $1.5 million, with $600,000 for the victorious four-man squad. So far, FaZe is doing well. They’ve made it to the top 12 out of 32 teams and as of Saturday morning, they’re still in the running for the grand prize. The tournament is live now and runs through Sunday, August 13th. And Wyatt is showing up.

“In game one on Retaliation Hardpoint, Ian ‘Enable’ Wyatt led his squad to a 250-101 victory, as he went 20-10 with over two minutes of hill time,” the official Call of Duty blog reads. That’s 20 kills and just 10 deaths, all with a clear focus on the match’s main objective: control the hardpoints.

This is how Wyatt wants to make a name for himself in the eSports world — by showcasing his skills and proving, time and again, that he’s one of the best FPS players around. The fact that he’s missing half a thumb is more of an afterthought in his mind.

“I don’t want it to define me,” he says. “Because, yeah, it’s cool to talk about but there’s so much more to me, not only as a player, but just as a person. I’d rather — not like hide it, but just kind of keep it in the background.”

Part of this desire to downplay the injury comes from Wyatt’s perspective on eSports in general: He knows he’s not the only professional player with baggage.

“There are certain obstacles that I’ve had to go through, but the way I look at it, every player here, any athlete, whatever the case may be, they all have their own obstacles that they went through in their life,” he says. “Whether it be something physical, like in my case losing a thumb, or not having supportive parents or growing up in poverty.”

Wyatt has a solid support system in his mother. When he was a kid, she encouraged him to pursue anything that made him happy — whether it was trying traditional sports or diving into competitive video games.

“Once I got my first paycheck especially — I was 15 years old and I got second at a national event in Halo, and I believe the prize was like $15,000 each or something like that,” Wyatt recalls. “For a 15-year-old to bring that home, that’s when she really saw the potential to make a decent living out of it. That’s when she kind of told me and pushed me to play more video games and really see how far I can make it.”

Professional gaming has evolved rapidly since Wyatt was 15. Now he’s playing Call of Duty full-time, earning a salary and competing at the highest international level. By the end of the Championship this weekend, the Call of Duty World League will have paid out $4 million to players across the 2017 season.

The eSports industry in North America is becoming more stable by the day. Two of the largest eSports titles, League of Legends and Overwatch, recently introduced new regulations aimed at making their tournaments sustainable, profitable and fair for players, many of whom get their start in high school, just like Wyatt did. Beginning in 2018, all players in the League of Legends Championship Series will earn a minimum of $75,000 a year, plus bonuses, benefits and more access to post-career training. On the Overwatch League side, players will earn at least $50,000 a year and see similar perks.

Wyatt says Call of Duty creator Activision and World League showrunner Major League Gaming can learn a lot from these moves.

“I think the best bet for them is to kind of follow the footsteps of the other eSports that are ahead of Call of Duty,” he says. “Because they’ve shown the right ways to do it and the wrong ways to do it.”

Call of Duty occupies a unique space in eSports: It’s a console game, while other major titles are PC-based. Plus, Call of Duty is a massive, established brand with an inherent audience. These are bonuses in Wyatt’s eyes, and he says Activision and MLG are on the right track. And he would know — he’s one of the oldest professional Call of Duty players and he’s been competing in the FPS scene for nearly a decade.

“I think they’ve been going in the right direction for the past couple of years, and it’s really started to grow,” Wyatt says. “There’s an organic viewership. I’m excited, but it’s a little too early to tell.”


The Morning After: Weekend Edition

Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to the weekend. We’ll take a look back at some of the big stories from earlier this week, plus SoundCloud’s survival and a big upgrade for No Man’s Sky.

Reset the clock.SoundCloud isn’t shutting down just yet

After a crucial vote, SoundCloud secured $170 million in funding and will continue to operate. Going forward it has a new CEO, Kerry Trainor (formerly of Vimeo), as former CEO and founder Alex Ljung takes the position of chairman. Said Ljung, “This financing means SoundCloud remains strong, independent and here to stay. As I said, we’re not going anywhere.”

Say goodbye to spark plugsMazda says it’s nailed the compression-ignition gasoline engine.


While Mazda marches forward with its electric-car ideas, it’s not giving up on the gasoline engine. In fact, it’s made a major breakthrough this week that most of the major carmakers have been chasing: compression-ignition. Why should you care? Because it could offer major increases to fuel mileage. See? You should care.

Keep practicing.‘Dota 2’ will add two new heroes in the Dueling Fates update


On the next-to-last night of its The International tournament, Valve announced two new characters are coming to DotA 2. We got a brief look at both in a teaser trailer, although we haven’t actually seen them in-game or even learned their names yet.

No $50 box required.Steam Link puts PC games on Samsung smart TVs


You can now play Steam games on your Samsung 2016 or 2017 smart TVs without having to worry about beta bugs and performance issues. The Steam Link app for the chaebol’s latest smart TV models is now out of beta and available for download from the Smart Hub app store. In addition to the app’s launch, Steam has also officially announced that Link is compatible with Xbox 360 wired and wireless, Xbox One wired and Logitech F510/F710 controllers in addition to its own gamepad.

Even the tread is custom printed.Michelin’s 3D-printed tire is as stunning as it is futuristic


The Vision is both a wheel and airless tire all-in-one.

Software updates could be an issue.The ISS is getting a ruggedized computer upgrade


When SpaceX’s rocket takes off on August 14th, it will be carrying the “Spaceborne Computer,” a machine that could make things a lot easier for future deep space missions. It’s a high-performance Linux system that NASA and HP Enterprise have outfitted for use in space. Instead of upgrading the hardware, however, they used software to help it deal with radiation and other issues. We’ll find out how well they work out once it’s done with this year-long trial run.

But wait, there’s more…

  • How a tiny team in Cambridge, England brought ‘Hellblade’ to life
  • The Line messaging app inspired Times Square’s latest tourist trap
  • Behind EA’s push to put more women in sports games
  • Bad Password: MalwareTech’s arrest shows hacking is still a dangerous game
  • Back to School 2017: The best apps and streaming services for students
  • Edible robot surgeons will cure you from the inside out

The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t subscribe.


Meet the bug bounty hunters making cash by finding flaws before bad guys

Many security researchers make a living with security companies, but not everyone likes the rigidity of a corporate environment. Some work on a freelance basis. Like vigilante outlaws, they dig up bugs and exploits in some of the world’s most popular platforms, hoping to gain a reward for their efforts.

Offering a bug bounty is one of the best ways for software companies to find problems with their applications and services before they can be exploited. Offering a reward means those who find a flaw may opt to cash in, instead of selling it to those who would use it for nefarious purposes.

Companies can offer tens, or even hundreds, of thousands for specific exploits, but it’s not easy money. Bug bounty hunters must be an expert in all manner of security features and exploit mechanics. They must replicate the bugs and document them, communicating that information to the relevant company. And – most important of all – they must be first.

Profile of a bug bounty hunter

Markus Fenske is a 28-year-old penetration tester and sugar wax trader. That may seem like a surprising combination of roles, but as a fan of Tim Ferris’ “4-hour Workweek” book and outlook, he operates a business that generates a nice passive income for him while he indulges his greater passion — bug bounty hunting.

“I was always interested in hacking. I remember wanting to become a hacker from a very early age,” he told Digital Trends. “I read the – somewhat outdated – How to become a hacker HOWTO of the Chaos Computer Club when I was 10 years old.”

“I found one of my first bugs around four years later. It was a sci-fi based browser game where you could build space ships and attack other players to loot their resources. I noticed a cross-site scripting issue in the internal messaging system, so I quickly crafted a Javascript worm. If you’d open the message, it would execute a script that renamed all your planets to “Vollpfosten” (roughly translates to “fuck muppet”), forward the message with the code to all neighboring planets, and delete itself. The admin was not amused.”

Netscape was among the first to encourage employees to find problems with its software and offer monetary rewards to them.

During that era of software development, bounties didn’t exist like they do today. Netscape was among the first to encourage employees to find problems with its software, and began offering monetary rewards to them, and external testers, in 1995. Although the effort was a success, it took years for the idea to catch on with other companies. Many companies were skeptical about encouraging outsiders to look for flaws.

“[Finding bugs] wasn’t always well received,” Menske told us. “Some thanked me for helping to improve the software, but others just had their legal department send me letters, which scared my parents.”

It took Fenske many years to earn his first bug bounty payout. He discovered an exploit in the Github Enterprise management console in January 2017, which netted him $18,000, and a spot on the company’s hall of fame. While Fenske’s business allowed him the chance to pursue bug bounties for income, the long road to his first big win shows how difficult the profession can be.

Everyone starts young

Uranium238 was just 17 when they received $10,000 for their discovery of a flaw in Uber’s internal email system. This early payout certainly helped pave the way for their career in bug bounties. Yet Uranium insists the interest in hunting bugs comes from the same place as their elder colleague. Curiosity.

“I wanted to test out applications. I would see a weird response and think to myself, ‘what if I change this to that?’”

They take their role as a bug bounty hunter seriously, and see it as a great responsibility. By discovering a major flaw in a system, Uranium feels they have a duty to report the problem, rather than put the security of users at risk.

“You need to make sure that if you find something severe, you report it right away, rather than exploiting it,” they told Digital Trends.

That responsibility is reinforced by Uranium’s profession. Even at such a tender age, they are employed as a security analyst. This, they believe, gives them a unique perspective on the industry, because it allows them to see how each side of the bug bounty system operates.

“The way I do bug bounty hunting is, in my opinion, is different in comparison to others because I am on the both sides. If a company does not respond in two to five days, I do not ask for updates. I usually wait for 20 days or so, and then ask if they need any help or have any questions for me.”

Easy bugs often don’t offer the same rewards as deeper, more complex flaws.

While bug bounty hunting is important to Uranium, they claim to have little interest in low-hanging fruit. Easy bugs often don’t offer the same rewards as deeper, more complex flaws. And, just as importantly, they don’t offer the same sense of pride.

“I do not go after just simple XSS (cross site scripting) or CSRFs (cross-site request forgery). My goal is to find at least one or two critical bug in a program that I am hacking. Thinking out of the box is key for me.”

Creative thinking is a crucial skill for any hunter. Those who choose this profession must learn to make leaps of thought that the original developers didn’t. A breakthrough doesn’t always rely on finding a convoluted oversight in code. Instead, it can be as simple as not assuming developers would avoid using their own personal email address during the creation of software services. Finding a loophole like that requires imagination, and demands that a hunter constantly re-evaluating the assumptions they’ve made about the software they’re trying to exploit.

No easy money

The payout figures for bounties appear incredible, and sometimes, they are earned. Bounties of more than $100,000 for a single bug do occasionally happen. Major bounty projects like HackerOne, which is supported by Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, pay out millions each year.

Even so, most bounty hunters do it as a hobby, or as part time work. Finding a $100,000 bounty is a bit like winning the lottery. It could happen, but it probably won’t, and it’s nearly impossible for hunters to plan on such a discovery.

For Uranium, bug hunting supplements and supports their day job as a security analyst. Menske, meanwhile, believes it’s impossible to earn the money he’d need to make it a full-time job without more direct access to low-level code.

“Most bug bounty hunting is black box testing. You don’t get the source code,” he told us. “That’s bad for me, because instead of just reading the code and spotting the bug you have to do many educated guesses and waste your time on trying things. It’s also bad for the client, because they can’t be sure that the bugs will be found.”

He even suggested that, for a lot of companies, bug bounties aren’t even about making their software as secure as possible.

“I think it’s mainly an insurance for them, that if someone finds a bug, the finder will go the easy and legal way and claim a bug bounty instead exploiting the vulnerability.”

As for the elusive full-time bug bounty hunter, Menske has yet to hear of one himself. It’s possible, he said, that with ever increasing financial incentives for the discovery of exploits, that it might be possible to make a living off of them. However, the lack of guarantee a hunter will ever find the critical bugs that would deliver big, life changing reward money, means that most white hat hackers stick to more stable security jobs. It’s enticing to imagine a band of digital bounty hunters finding clever exploits from the back of a coffee shop, but even hackers have bills to pay.


Vizio TVs add the Google Play video app

Vizio has been adding streaming apps to its smart TVs these past few weeks, including Netflix and Amazon Video. The latest addition to its streaming apps collection? Google Play Movies & TV. The company is making the app available on its high-end VIA+ and D-series Smart TVs, giving you a way to buy or rent titles from the app without having to use a phone or tablet and a Chromecast or Roku.

The app features film and shows from Google’s 200 partner global distributors and recently began offering 4K movies to take advantage of your ultra HD display. If you have a Vizio VIA+ or D-Series, keep an eye on the home screen for the app icon, download it when it becomes available and check out the stuff not on your other streaming services.

Source: Google


New study confirms we can indeed learn in our sleep — but there’s a catch

Why it matters to you

New study sheds some light on the function of a good night’s sleep, and confirms that sleep-based learning is totally a real thing.

It’s the dream of any kid too lazy to study: put on a set of earphones when you go to bed and learn while you’re sleeping. The good news? According to a new study, this is absolutely a possibility. The bad news? It’s not quite as simple as that.

The research, published in the journal Nature, shows that new auditory memories can be formed as we sleep, although these are only laid down during particular phases of our slumber. In an experiment, sleeping subjects were exposed to white noise incorporating a recurring tonal pattern. Using electroencephalographic (EEG) and behavioral response analysis, the researchers demonstrated that subjects learned the sound patterns during cycles of REM sleep. This refers to the sleep phases characterized by rapid eye movements, which involve more dreaming, body movement, and faster breathing. Some learning also takes place during the N2 sleep phase, referring to the first unequivocal stage of sleep, during which muscle activity decreases, as does awareness of the outside world.

Interestingly, while learning is possible in these phases, in the deeper slow-wave N3 sleep, the opposite occurs. That is to say that, rather than learning, you may actually forget what you’ve learned and actively suppress memories.

“We think this suppression effect shows a core function of sleep, which is enabling the brain to forget,” Thomas Andrillon, a researcher on the project, told Digital Trends. “We are constantly forming new memories when we are awake, and there is a danger of packing the brain with memories that are costly to maintain and will clog the brain. Here we show that in the brain there are specific ways in which memories are suppressed to its advantage.”

Andrillon also points out that — even during the phases of sleep in which memories are formed — it may not be a good idea to force learning. “Stimulating the sleeping brain can have consequences on the function that sleep enables,” he said. “You may be able to learn a few words, but this may come at a cost. It could be that the cost outweighs the advantage.”

He notes that he remains skeptical of ideas like learning languages in your sleep for this reason. However, he says that there are certain types of learning which may be possible and effective: such as using REM sleep to condition smokers not to smoke.

Ultimately, there’s still much work to do in this area. Nonetheless, it’s an intriguing glimpse at the way the brain processes information — and just what is achieved through a good night’s rest.

Now we just need some smart techies to develop a sleep-tracking tool that recognizes REM sleep and gives you short, safe bursts of learning when these cycles are identified.


‘Dota 2’ will add two new heroes in the Dueling Fates update

Some of the world’s best Dota 2 players are doing battle at Valve’s The International esports tournament, but they may need some more practice when they get home. That’s because the company just announced it will add two more characters soon in its “The Dueling Fates” update. Neither hero has a name yet, but in the preview trailer the first attacked enemies both by rolling over them Sonic the Hedgehog-style and with a sword, while the other one flew in on fairy wings before releasing a minion to attack.

Source: Dota 2 (Twitter)

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