Facebook Now Has 901 Million Monthly Active Users : Cheaper iPhone ‘Nano’ Rumored To Launch This Year : TECH & VIDEO GAME NEWS : aforadio.com
Posted in G-News on 25. Apr, 2012
Google Now Offering Up To $20,000 For Exposed Bugs
Google doesn’t like vulnerabilities in its projects, and has discovered that one of the best ways to make them go away is to pay people scads of cash for finding them. Last Februrary at their Pwnium contest, Google offered up to $1 million in prizes to hackers who could uncover dangerous vulnerabilites in the Windows 7 version of Chrome. That wasn’t just a one time deal; Google also has ongoing awards for people who can find vulnerabilities in anything of theirs, and they just upped the ante from around $3,000 to $20,000.
When Google launched their bug-finding incentive program back in November of 2010, the max payout was the tongue-in-cheek sum of $3,133.70. Now, it seems, they hope to pull in more attention with this bigger chunk of change, either because the flow of found exploits has been slowing down, or because they’re pumping more and more products out to market.
To date, Google has dished out about $460,000 as rewards to those that have found particularly malicious bugs that will allow a user’s code to do all kinds of sketchy things in Google’s datacenter’s special parts. Of the 11,000 or so software flaws reported to Google, less than 1,000 qualified for prizes in excess of $300, so this increase is really an opportunity for Google to reach out to the really ambitious and skilled fellows.
“We want them to know the reward is there for them if they find the most severe bugs,” Adam Mein, Google security team manager, told AFP. Considering the hefty increase, it’s likely that Google is hoping to tighten up the code surrounding its Google Wallet service. In that particular case, $20,000 could prove to be a small price to pay for increased security. So if you think you have the chops to find one of Google’s mistakes, put their nose in it, and then have them pay you for doing so, get to it. It works out for all of us if you do.
Cheaper iPhone “nano” rumored to launch this year
(CBS News) Rumors of a low-cost iPhone “nano” are making rounds.
A new report by the China Times claims that Apple is planning to release low-cost iPhone “nano” this year. According to the Times, the move aims to make gains on the low-end smartphone market.
If the rumors are true, the iPhone “nano” could be released with the next iPhone. While there is no solid release date for Apple’s next smartphone, all reports hint at a June launch.
All of the buzz could amount to wishful thinking, however. There was also talk of a cheaper iPhone model leading up to the launch of the iPhone 4S. No such iteration was announced. The entry point for an iPhone is $375 for an unlocked iPhone 3GS.
This isn’t the only rumor about a low-cost Apple product. Rumors of a 7.85-inch iPad mini have been circulating. In March, DigiTimes reported that “makers” in Apple’s supply chain started “delivering samples of 7.85-inch iPads for verification.”
The most recent report by the Chinese blog NetEase claims Apple has placed an order for an iPad mini. According to the report, 6 million units have been ordered for release in the third quarter. The rumored smaller tablet is estimated to retail anywhere from $249 to $299.
Facebook grows to 901 million, Instagram details in S-1 filing
(CBS News) Facebook updated figures for its S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). New information about the social network’s purchase of Instagram and AOL patents were also revealed.
The social network now reports 901 million monthly active users, 300 million photos uploaded per day and 125 billion friendships. The filing also shows that 488 million people access Facebook via mobile products.
Previously, Facebook reported 845 million monthly active users, 250 million photos uploaded per day and 100 billion friendships when it filed for its initial public offering (IPO) in February.
Instagram was also mentioned several times in the new filing, including as a risk factor for investors.
“As part of our business strategy, we have made and intend to make acquisitions to add specialized employees, complementary companies, products, or technologies. For example, in April 2012, we entered into an agreement to acquire Instagram, Inc., the closing of which is subject to closing conditions and regulatory clearance.”
The filing revealed that if the deal with Instagram fails, Facebook will have to pay the photo-sharing app a $200 million termination fee “if governmental authorities permanently enjoin or otherwise prevent the completion of the merger or if either party terminates the agreement after December 10, 2012.”
Instagram fans will take comfort in the fact that Facebook essentially says it plans to leave the photo-sharing app alone. Stating they “plan to maintain Instagram’s products as independent mobile applications to enhance [Facebook's] photos product offerings and to enable users to increase their levels of mobile engagement and photo sharing.”
Facebook also mentioned the recent purchase of AOL patents from Microsoft, as well as Instagram, as a business development strategy that may have an affect on market performance.
The social network expects to spend “approximately $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion” in 2012. Parts of the expenses are directly attributed to the $300 million in total costs associated with purchasing Instagram and $550 million to purchase the AOL patents from Microsoft.
It was reported Monday that Facebook bought 650 AOL patents from Microsoft. The software giant paid AOL $1 billion for a total of 925 patents. The deal is to ensure that neither Microsoft nor Facebook will sue each other over AOL patents. The relationship between the two companies has been mostly harmonious. Microsoft made an early investment in Facebook in 2007, paying $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in the social network.
Facebook filed for its IPO on February 1, with Morgan Stanley as its lead underwriter and the ticker symbol FB. The social network has 901 million users and reported $3.7 billion in revenue in 2011.
Firefox Puts an End to the Favicon
In what we’ll doubtlessly look back on and declare a national day of mourning, Mozilla has announced that they have killed off favicons in the latest build of Firefox. The horrific changes will release sometime in July, with the goal of increasing user security, and aesthetically cleaning up the browser.
The change is announced on the blog of Firefox software engineer Jared Wein. The security reason he cites for the change is websites attempting to trick users into thinking a site is secure by setting their favicon to a padlock when the site isn’t actually secure and is simply boasting a padlock. Wein explains the new address bar icon system:
Websites that use SSL certificates with Extended Validation will have the green padlock and the certificate owner’s organization name, websites that use SSL certificates without Extended Validation will have a grey padlock, and everything else will be the standard globe icon.
Though Firefox will be joining Chrome in not having a site’s favicon in the address bar, Wein doesn’t state whether or not they’ll be killing off the favicon entirely, removing it from browser tabs and bookmarks. Hopefully Firefox leaves the favicons in browser tabs and bookmarks, or else differentiating between tabs is going to get infinitely more obnoxious.
(via The Next Web)
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition review
The Witcher 2 is a brutal, complex and brilliant fantasy RPG, writes Tom Hoggins ( TELEGRAPH ).
Formats: Xbox 360 (tested), PC
Developer: CD Projekt
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Released: Out now
Protagonists like Geralt of Rivia are a rarity in western RPGs. In a clamour to provide players with blank canvases, our fantasy heroes tend to be ciphers, a pair of eyes and hands dropped into a world that could be as unfamiliar to the character as it is the player.
It is a fine aim. But sometimes you need someone like Geralt, a defined character wisened by his life as a sword for hire, a battered looking glass through which the player can peer into the filth and muck of CD Projekt’s adaption of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels.
You still hold the influence, choices that you make as Geralt reverberate strongly through The Witcher 2. You can mould his skills as warrior, mage or alchemist at your whim. You can change his hair, should you find his luscious locks unsatisfactory. But he will always be Geralt: grumpy, loyal, tough as old boots and one of gaming’s very best leads.
The game he inhabits isn’t half bad either. Released on PC to widespread critical acclaim last year, The Witcher 2 now comes to Xbox 360 in this Enhanced Edition. Tweaks, concessions and improvements have been made so that the transition to console is a comfortable one but, to all intents and purposes, this is the same tough, complex RPG that it always was.
Visually it’s the gorgeous PC version on medium settings with no frame hitches and Geralt’s swordplay and magic has been wrapped around the 360 controller brilliantly. Flipping through the reams of skill and inventory screens can be slightly cumbersome without the aid of a mouse, but that’s a gripe easily aimed at most console RPGs.
And while never as regularly bugged as Skyrim, it can be glitchy too, with enemies sticking on scenery and the odd game-halting crash requiring a reload. And erratic checkpointing means it’s advisable to save often. But it’s a thoughtful, elegant adaption on the whole, bolstered by the PC DLC packs and exclusive extra content.
Technically, then, the Enhanced Edition is largely a success. And the minor niggles that do exist cannot take away from a compelling fantasy. A lot of The Witcher 2’s appeal lies with Geralt, but also the richly realised world that surrounds him. Sapkowski’s Continent is a grim, believable place, sharing much of the unkempt barbarism and political entanglement that drives A Game of Thrones rather than the whimsy of The Lord of the Rings.
Elves and sorcerers exist, but they are down-trodden and discriminated against. In the first town Geralt visits, Flotsam, he is greeted by a public hanging of a handful of non-humans, the settlement’s rabble cawing for blood. As Geralt later roams the streets, he will overhear snippets of blather from the locals bemoaning their luck at dice poker or boasting of armed larceny.
It’s a fabulously believable world, albeit a fabulously disgusting one, full of violence, sex, regicide and arm-wrestling dwarves. It’s enabled by some of the best writing the medium has to offer. Dialogue is rich and fruity, denizens speaking in their local tongue of politics, nights on the lam and hanging buckets from certain body appendages.
It’s a shame that the voice acting doesn’t always match the quality of the writing, with The Witcher 2 falling back on the tired old trope of inexplicably varied British accents coming together in an irritating clash. Fortunately, the major players are voiced well, particularly Geralt with his soft, menacing purr.
His tale is not of saving the world –Geralt is no hero– but a far more personal quest to track down the titular Assassins of Kings. The grounded nature of Geralt’s adventure translates mechanically as well as thematically. Geralt is a skilled fighter and a dab hand with magic–his powers enhanced by his witcher mutations– but combat is a slow, weighty affair. You won’t find spectacular combos here, instead fights are studious and tactical, as much about crowd control and ensuring your position doesn’t leave you open to blindside attacks.
While you will fight huge monsters in your time with The Witcher 2, it’s prudent to understand that a brief skirmish with a gang of thieves lurking behind a tree can be just as dangerous. Find yourself encircled by even the weakest enemies and you will be batted around like a squash ball, great chunks of health lopped off with every hit.
The Witcher 2 is a tough game, no doubt. Dare I say it, too tough. The Witcher 2‘s finest draw is in its tale, rather than its action, so it seems a misstep to give players a regular kicking even on the easiest setting.
It’s more an issue of balance, with the game starting off difficult before levelling out. Much of this is becoming accustomed to The Witcher 2‘s brand of combat, but the learning curve is not a smooth one.Sidequests can be failed without warning should you progress too far in the story before completing them, and essential crafting components can go missing. The Witcher 2 is a game all about consequence, so Geralt’s jobs must be tackled in a timely fashion should you wish to reap the rewards, lest you face the punishment.
The game’s quest tracking is weirdly erratic, however, with some quests giving you clear waypoints to follow and others not giving you any clue as to where to go. While the lack of waypoints can encourage exploration, there seems to be little logic in which quests have them and which don’t. It could all just be a little more user-friendly to avoid an unnecessary trudge between the high points.
And there certainly are a lot of those. While The Witcher 2 can frustrate at times, the richness of the world and its terrific writing pull you through any minor dips. Rarely is an RPG so thematically cogent and delivered with such style and maturity.
It’s timely too. With A Game of Thrones the TV show on everyone’s lips and the roaring success of Skyrim in video games, never has the appetite for grown-up fantasy been so strong. The Witcher 2 comfortably stands among the finest legends the genre has to offer and, in Geralt of Rivia, has a protagonist that is the lynchpin of its excellence.
Birds of Steel review
Birds of Steel is a dynamic World War II flight simulator.
Formats: Xbox 360 (tested), PS3
Developer: Gaijin Enterainment
Released: Out now
The true flight simulator, in all its button-pushing, knob-twiddling, slightly obsessive glory, has traditionally been the province of PC gamers. Now, with a roar of engines and a rattle of cannon fire, here comes Birds of Steel to give console players an idea of what they’ve been missing. Russian developers Gaijin Entertainment have clearly taken on board the criticism of their previous effort, the flawed but beautiful Battle of Britain simulator Birds of Prey: for this unofficial sequel they’ve transposed the dogfighting action to the Second Word War Pacific, bulked out the experience with ranks of unlockable planes and adjusted difficulty levels, and added mission generators and dynamic campaigns that will keep dedicated armchair pilots twitching well into the summer.
The historical campaigns in Birds of Steel let players fly a variety of missions as the American or Japanese, in battles from Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal. The narrative is strictly minimal — a few martial strains of Beethoven’s 7th, a cut-scene or two of planes in flight and some sombre narration from Stephen Fry over stock war footage — but it’s really only there to frame the high-tension mechanics of the flying, from ground attack missions to dogfights and dive-bombing runs. Objectives include intercepting bombers on a moonlit night as searchlights criss-cross in the skies around you, swooping low over the suburbs of Valletta in an Italian warplane or mounting a torpedo strike on the Japanese super-battleship Yamato. There’s a decent selection of novelty tasks as well, whether you’re landing a biplane on a breakwater or pancaking a wounded fighter on a narrow city street. And if the set missions get too dull, the mission editor lets you build your own, or fly in a dynamically evolving campaign where your strikes on airfields and enemy forces have knock-on consequences for the evolution of the war.
Customizable difficulty lets Birds of Steel cater for all levels of flying experience. Arcade mode turns the game into a kind of skybound FPS, much in the vein of other console stalwarts like Crimson Skies, HAWX and the Ace Combat series. Planes never stall or run out of ammo, while a burst of gunfire sends dimwitted enemies tumbling from the skies in droves. Realistic settings up the ante somewhat with a twitchier flight model, meaning that you’ll need to learn how to pull manoeuvres without spinning or stalling, but it’s on Simulator difficulty that the real action happens. The plane creaks and groans with the wind and weather, and fighting the stick as targets shudder into your sights feels an authentically fraught business. Taking down opponents becomes vastly tougher, as you close in, pick your moment, adjust prop speed and trim and aim desperately for the engines.
Graphics-wise, Birds of Steel looks as though it’s based on assets from the ageing (but still excellent) IL-2 Sturmovik series, with a bit of flash and dazzle grafted on. As such, the visuals vary between serviceable and gorgeous — there’s some jaggedness in-game that isn’t visible in the heavily anti-aliased publicity shots, and ground textures can look dubious up close. When the whole thing is rushing past the cockpit at 300mph, however, you’re unlikely to notice it much. Clever touches here and there add to the completeness of the experience: dip too low while nursing a wounded bomber in to land over a forest and you’ll hear the thump and scrape of treetops on the plane’s belly, while sending cannon rounds into an opponent’s hydraulic system risks blacking out your own canopy with splatters of oil.
Controls map surprisingly well to a pad, at least on the easiest difficulty, but the more complex aircraft management on the tougher grades will benefit from a joystick and some judicious use of the powerful remapping tool that lurks in the options. PS3 owners will find that their console is compatible with a healthy range of sticks, while options on 360 appear limited to the gigantic, fully adjustable and scary-looking Cyborg FLY 9 from MadCatz (which I used with enormous pleasure) or a new model from Hori available through Amazon. Niche peripherals these may be, but they dramatically improve an already decent experience.
With a game of such size and scope, a few flaws are probably inevitable. Unlocking the game’s hundred flyable planes becomes an exercise in tiresome grind, as the points needed to buy them are few and far between in the campaign but plentiful in multiplayer. Gaijin is clearly trying to build a serious online community (and the multiplayer modes, from versus to co-op, are seamlessly integrated) but it makes things a slog for offline-only players. Saving progress in the dynamic campaigns is prohibited, so you need to be sure of a significant chunk of time before firing them up. Most irritatingly, the campaign is clearly conceived with the arcade settings in mind and doesn’t scale — so fans of Simulation mode will find it flatly impossible to achieve most mission goals on settings even approaching realistic. Still, what Birds of Steel does right, it does far better than any similar game on consoles. If Second World War flying is your thing, you’ll find a dizzying amount of content here for the money.