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20 Nov 18:41

15 countries and one US state team up to fight gambling in video games

by Kyle Orland
An Overwatch loot box

Enlarge / Buying this innocuous-looking Overwatch loot box could be considered a form of gambling.

Thus far, the fight to regulate video game loot boxes has been a piecemeal effort moving forward in very different ways in different jurisdictions. Today, though, an international group of regulators from 15 European regulation bodies and Washington state in the US signed a declaration stating their increasing concern "with the risks being posed by the blurring of lines between gambling and other forms of digital entertainment such as video gaming."

The declaration identifies four specific areas of concern:

  • Skin betting—Third-party sites that allow users to wager money or in-game items for a chance at earning better items. Valve has already faced pushback from Washington State regulators for Steam's role in "facilitating" such skin-gambling schemes.
  • Loot boxes—In-game purchases that offer randomized rewards. Some loot boxes have already been ruled as illegal in the Netherlands and Belgium, and there have been some attempts to do the same from some US lawmakers.
  • Social casino gambling—Apps like Big Fish Casino in which users can optionally spend money on virtual gambling chips if they don't feel like waiting for the in-game currency to replenish. A US District court ruled Big Fish Casino constituted illegal gambling earlier this year, and there are multiple active lawsuits surrounding other such games.
  • "The use of gambling themed content within video games available to children."—In addition to the above, this would seemingly apply to games with poker or slot-machine-style minigames (or, uh, Casino Kid for the NES).

The declaration says that the types of games and services listed above have "similar characteristics to those that led our respective legal frameworks and authorities to provide for the regulation of online gambling." But the signatories don't commit to any specific actions against such games for now, beyond "working together to thoroughly analyze the characteristics of video games and social gaming." The declaration also notes that there are different frameworks for gambling regulation in different countries.

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24 Oct 20:46

ROM sites are falling, but a legal loophole could save game emulation

by Kyle Orland


In the last few weeks, a renewed bout of legal action from Nintendo has led to the shutdown of a handful of ROM sites, which previously let users download digital, emulation-ready copies of classic games. This has, in turn, led to a lot of good discussion about the positive and negative effects this kind of ROM collection and distribution has brought to the gaming community.

From a legal standpoint, it's hard to defend sites that revolve around unlimited downloads of copyrighted games. As attorney Michael Lee put it in a recent blog post, "this is classic infringement; there is no defense to this, at all." But as Video Game History Foundation founder Frank Cifaldi tweeted, "there is no alternative BUT piracy for, like, 99 percent of video game history" due to "the completely abysmal job the video game industry has done keeping its games available."

But what if there might be a middle ground that could thread the needle between the legality of original cartridges and the convenience of emulated ROMs? What if an online lending library, temporarily loaning out copies of ROMs tied to individual original cartridges, could satisfy the letter of the law and the interests of game preservation at the same time?

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24 Oct 20:45

Minigame integrated into EVE Online helps scientists understand cells

by John Timmer

Enlarge / Yes, those are real human cells inside a fictional galaxy.

Citizen science, which asks the public to help out science projects, has produced some spectacular successes. But finding a way to grab and maintain hold of the public's attention can be a challenge. That has led to a number of projects that turn the science challenge into a game, finding ways of making a "win" into scientific progress.

But scientists have also figured out ways of hijacking existing games, including using pre-existing fan bases that recruit players through in-game rewards. Now, there's a progress report on an effort to turn EVE Online players into cell biology experts. Thanks to some in-game rewards, more than 300,000 players contributed roughly 33 million calls on where in a cell a protein was located. This not only greatly expanded a public database of information on proteins, but it enabled the researchers to better train a neural network to do the same thing.

Call it

While in many cases it has been possible to determine or infer what a protein does, that only gives us a partial idea of its actual function. That's because many proteins are shipped to specific locations in cells. So while two proteins may look similar in terms of the order and identity of their amino acids, one may be shipped to the nucleus, where it interacts with DNA, while its relative gets sent to the cell's surface, where it acts on proteins in the surroundings. So figuring out where a protein normally resides within cells can go a long way toward helping us figure out its normal functions.

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24 Oct 20:45

Pay now or kiss Twitch Prime’s no-advertising perk goodbye starting Sept 14

by Sam Machkovech

Some of Twitch Turbo's icons, with its special smiley face flipped in light of today's Twitch Prime news. (credit: Twitch)

On Monday, Twitch announced a major downgrade coming soon to its paid Twitch Prime service. Starting September 14, any renewal of the paid service (as part of a paid Amazon Prime subscription) will have its no-advertising benefit lopped off.

On that day, existing paid Amazon Prime (and thus Twitch Prime) subscribers will continue receiving an ad-free viewing experience on the site, which revolves primarily around video game live-streaming. Any renewals paid for after that date, either on a monthly or annual basis, will flip the switch and turn video ads back on, to be played at random intervals during Twitch video streams.

In short: if you want to reap ad-free Twitch benefits via Amazon Prime for as long as possible and you like paying for Amazon's service, re-up that subscription ahead of September 14.

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18 Oct 21:12

Road Safety

by KatSwenski

Twist!: they weren't getting pulled over for the air freshener, but for all the other stuff. 

03 Oct 14:52

Cat Interview

by Matthew Inman
Cat Interview

What would you say is your best quality?

View on my website

03 Jul 19:20

MC Hammer Age

Wait, sorry, I got mixed up--he's actually almost 50. It's the kid from The Karate Kid who just turned 40.
03 Jul 16:55


03 Jul 16:39

Bird Party

by KatSwenski

Mixing alcohol and energy drinks is dangerous, kids. So is drinking four straight solo cups worth of energy shots.

26 Jun 13:19

My Face When...

26 Jun 13:15

A Father's Touch

20 Jun 15:30

Air Force ready to work on Trump’s Space Force idea, but…

by Eric Berger

Enlarge / Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Gen. David L. Goldfein, right, chief of staff, prepare for a Senate Armed Services Committee in 2017. (credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

On Monday, President Trump went off script and announced that he would remove responsibilities for the space domain from the US Air Force and create a sixth branch of the armed forces he calls the Space Force. "We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal," Trump said Monday, at the outset of a meeting of the National Space Council. "It is going to be something. So important."

The idea isn't new. For several years, some members of the US Congress have talked about creating a new discipline in the Air Force dubbed the "Space Corps" to focus exclusively on developing "warfighter" capabilities in space. The Air Force and some allies in Congress have pushed back against this idea, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis prefers to keep management of space activities as they are within the Air Force.

Air Force letter

On Tuesday, in a letter to US Air Force personnel obtained by Ars, the Air Force's leadership responded to Trump's proposal. The letter—signed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein, and Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth O. Wright—noted that the president's announcement emphasizes the Air Force's important role in meeting potential adversaries in space and recognizes the significance of space as a warfighting domain.

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31 May 21:19

The Expanse has officially been saved

by Samuel Axon

Enlarge / Martian Marine Bobbie Draper and her team get ready for action. (credit: Rafy/Syfy)

Amazon will become the home of The Expanse's fourth season, after cable network Syfy announced that it would not air any episodes after the conclusion of season three. The third season will continue airing on Syfy, but the series will become an Amazon Original in the United States for season four.

The news was announced by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos himself at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles, with cast members of The Expanse present. A session on The Expanse had taken place at the same conference earlier that day.

Last week, news hit that Bezos was a big fan of the series and that he was seeking a deal to save it. However, it was not a done deal at that time. The Expanse is produced fully by a company called Alcon Entertainment, but the show's continued production was dependent on Syfy's deal to air the show on cable. However, for myriad reasons, Syfy is locked in a strategy focused on traditional OTA (over-the-air) viewing—a mismatch with the genre's audience. The cable station also did not have the OTT rights to stream The Expanse on digital platforms. Amazon streamed the program in the United States some time after air, whereas Netflix streamed the program in some other regions.

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02 Apr 13:47

Solving a Dispute

by KatSwenski

Problem solved.

21 Mar 19:02

Rachel, My Love

by KatSwenski


05 Feb 19:16

An Intimate Look at a Family on the Rocks Trying to Get Their Sh*t Sorted out with the Help of Doctor Feels

27 Dec 17:59

The Ghosts of Technology


Submitted by: (via xkcd)

14 Dec 18:31

Is Bitcoin a bubble? Here’s what two bubble experts told us

by Timothy B. Lee

Enlarge (credit: Thomas Claveirole)

Is Bitcoin a bubble? It's a natural question to ask—especially after Bitcoin's price shot up from $12,000 to $15,000 this week.

So we decided to ask a couple of experts on bubbles what they thought: Brent Goldfarb is a business professor at the University of Maryland, and William Deringer is a historian at MIT. Both have done research on the history and economics of bubbles, and they talked to Ars by phone this week as Bitcoin continues its surge.

Both academics saw clear parallels between the bubbles they've studied and Bitcoin's current rally. Bubbles tend to be driven either by new technologies (like railroads in 1840s Britain or the Internet in the 1990s) or by new financial innovations (like the financial engineering that produced the 2008 financial crisis). Bitcoin, of course, is both a new technology and a major financial innovation.

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

04 Dec 19:07

Charter brags about big speed boost—after saying Title II stalled investment

by Jon Brodkin

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Oppenheim Bernhard)

Charter Communications is really excited to tell you about all its new broadband network investments.

"Increasing Flagship Broadband Speeds; Giving Customers More For Less," is the title of the company's latest announcement on this topic. The second-largest cable company in the US has increased its standard download speed from 60Mbps to 100Mbps—"at no extra cost to our customers"—while providing speeds of 200Mbps or 1Gbps in some markets. Gigabit service is available in "Oahu, Hawaii with additional markets to be launched in the weeks ahead," Charter said.

The amazing thing is that Charter is doing all this despite the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules and related Title II regulation of ISPs as common carriers. In July, Charter told the FCC that the "broad and vague prohibitions" in the rules "have caused broadband providers to reconsider innovations and investments out of concern that regulators could squelch, or force significant modifications to, those ventures after funds had been expended."

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29 Nov 16:37

Tight Budget, Tough Times for Mr. Toothpaste


Submitted by: (via kylemcr)

21 Nov 19:07

How to fix a program without the source code? Patch the binary directly

by Peter Bright

Enlarge (credit: Flickr user: Ivan T)

When a company like Microsoft needs to fix a security flaw in one of its products, the process is normally straightforward: determine where the bug lies, change the program's source code to fix the bug, and then recompile the program. But it looks like the company had to step outside this typical process for one of the flaws it patched this Tuesday. Instead of fixing the source code, it appears that the company's developers made a series of careful changes directly to the buggy program's executable file.

Bug CVE-2017-11882 is a buffer overflow in the ancient Equation Editor that comes with Office. The Equation Editor allocates a fixed-size piece of memory to hold a font name and then copies the font name from the equation file into this piece of memory. It doesn't, however, check to ensure that the font name will fit into this piece of memory. When provided with a font name that's too long, the Equation Editor overflows the buffer, corrupting its own memory, and an attacker can use this to execute arbitrary malicious code.

Curious how a buffer overflow works? Previously on Ars we did a deep-dive explanation. (video link)

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17 Nov 17:26

Two Minutes Too Late

austin powers comedy Death From the Movies late slow steamroller - 5412624128

It's Not Your Fault, Austin!

Comic by: Unknown

17 Nov 17:26

The Neverending Matrix Story

16 Nov 21:45

J.J. Abrams Turns Jimmy Kimmel’s Childhood Comic into Major Motion Picture [Video]

by Geeks are Sexy

Back when he was a kid, Jimmy Kimmel created a comic book called “The Terrific Ten,” and in honor of the man’s 50th birthday, Ben Affleck and J.J. Abrams got their hands on the comic and created a trailer of the story and turned it into a major motion picture.

Here is the WORLD PREMIERE EXCLUSIVE trailer of The Terrific Ten starring Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jennifer Aniston, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Cousin Sal, Jon Hamm, Shaq, Ty Burrell, Billy Crudup, Jake Tapper and Wanda Sykes.

[Jimmy Kimmel Live]

The post J.J. Abrams Turns Jimmy Kimmel’s Childhood Comic into Major Motion Picture [Video] appeared first on Geeks are Sexy Technology News.

16 Nov 21:41

Dragon Ball Z: Light of Hope – FULL FAN FILM

by Geeks are Sexy

Dragon Ball Z: Light of Hope is a non-profit live-action fan film by the folks over at Robot Underdog and is an adaptation of “The History of Trunks” TV Special. The story features Gohan & Trunks in their battle to survive against the Androids during a timeline where Goku and the other Z warriors are dead. Check it out!


The post Dragon Ball Z: Light of Hope – FULL FAN FILM appeared first on Geeks are Sexy Technology News.

16 Nov 21:41

Fix All the Things with this Thor Hammer Tool Set (On Sale!)

by Geeks are Sexy

Yep, that’s right: It’s a 44-piece tool set (officially licensed) that comes inside a molded case that looks like Thor’s hammer. Now how awesome is that? The set was massively popular last year, and it’s now back in stock and on sale today!

This 44-piece tool set, a ThinkGeek creation and exclusive, comes in a molded case that looks like Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Inside it has all your basic tool needs, including a hammer (duh), a tape measure, a level, a screwdriver, a wrench, a ratcheting wrench, and a utility knife you can conveniently use to open your next box from ThinkGeek. It’s perfect for someone worthy of their first place or a great extra set of everything to have around in case of emergencies (like having to replace your lock set because Loki got a copy of the key AGAIN). We predict it’s a gift your recipient will return to repeatedly and get a chuckle out of every time.

[Marvel Thor Hammer Tool Set]

The post Fix All the Things with this Thor Hammer Tool Set (On Sale!) appeared first on Geeks are Sexy Technology News.

10 Nov 22:20

Don’t Smile at Wolves [Comic]

by Geeks are Sexy
10 Nov 22:13

Why Are Some Theaters Refusing To Play The Last Jedi?

by Geeks are Sexy

thats awful

When Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters on December 15, it’s guaranteed to be one of the biggest box office hits of the year, if not all time. So why are some theaters flat-out refusing to screen the movie at all?


The post Why Are Some Theaters Refusing To Play The Last Jedi? appeared first on Geeks are Sexy Technology News.

10 Nov 20:41

45 Scary Mythical Creatures from Around the World

by Geeks are Sexy
10 Nov 20:39

The Flat Earth Society Wins a Free Trip to Space [Comic]

by Geeks are Sexy