Legal Ruling Threatens Second-Hand Game Sales

Games are licensed, not sold says Courts of Appeal.

UK, September 14, 2010

 Following a protracted case involving the sale of second-hand software on eBay, the US Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld the right of software companies to deny their customers the right to resell their products.

Although the court case revolved around AutoCAD, software for computer aided design, the knock-on effect could have huge implications for the used game market, as the judge reiterated that – "A software user is a licensee rather than an owner."

As video games are also subject to license agreements, the court ruling could potentially prevent users reselling their used games in the future, as well as putting rental companies under draconian restrictions.


7 Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook

by Consumer Reports Magazine
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Using a Weak Password
Avoid simple names or words you can find in a dictionary, even with numbers tacked on the end. Instead, mix upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. A password should have at least eight characters. One good technique is to insert numbers or symbols in the middle of a word, such as this variant on the word "houses": hO27usEs!
Leaving Your Full Birth Date in Your Profile
It's an ideal target for identity thieves, who could use it to obtain more information about you and potentially gain access to your bank or credit card account. If you've already entered a birth date, go to your profile page and click on the Info tab, then on Edit Information. Under the Basic Information section, choose to show only the month and day or no birthday at all.
Overlooking Useful Privacy Controls
For almost everything in your Facebook profile, you can limit access to only your friends, friends of friends, or yourself. Restrict access to photos, birth date, religious views, and family information, among other things. You can give only certain people or groups access to items such as photos, or block particular people from seeing them. Consider leaving out contact info, such as phone number and address, since you probably don't want anyone to have access to that information anyway.
Posting Your Child's Name in a Caption
Don't use a child's name in photo tags or captions. If someone else does, delete it by clicking on Remove Tag. If your child isn't on Facebook and someone includes his or her name in a caption, ask that person to remove the name.
Mentioning That You'll Be Away From Home
That's like putting a "no one's home" sign on your door. Wait until you get home to tell everyone how awesome your vacation was and be vague about the date of any trip.
Letting Search Engines Find You
To help prevent strangers from accessing your page, go to the Search section of Facebook's privacy controls and select Only Friends for Facebook search results. Be sure the box for public search results isn't checked.
Permitting Youngsters to Use Facebook Unsupervised
Facebook limits its members to ages 13 and over, but children younger than that do use it. If you have a young child or teenager on Facebook, the best way to provide oversight is to become one of their online friends. Use your e-mail address as the contact for their account so that you receive their notifications and monitor their activities. "What they think is nothing can actually be pretty serious," says Charles Pavelites, a supervisory special agent at the Internet Crime Complaint Center. For example, a child who posts the comment "Mom will be home soon, I need to do the dishes" every day at the same time is revealing too much about the parents' regular comings and goings.



6 Things You Should Never Reveal on Facebook

by Kathy Kristof
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The whole social networking phenomenon has millions of Americans sharing their photos, favorite songs and details about their class reunions on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and dozens of similar sites. But there are a handful of personal details that you should never say if you don't want criminals — cyber or otherwise — to rob you blind, according to Beth Givens, executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

The folks at Insure.com also say that ill-advised Facebook postings increasingly can get your insurance cancelled or cause you to pay dramatically more for everything from auto to life insurance coverage. By now almost everybody knows that those drunken party photos could cost you a job, too.
[See 7 Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook]
You can certainly enjoy networking and sharing photos, but you should know that sharing some information puts you at risk. What should you never say on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site?
Your Birth Date and Place
Sure, you can say what day you were born, but if you provide the year and where you were born too, you've just given identity thieves a key to stealing your financial life, said Givens. A study done by Carnegie Mellon showed that a date and place of birth could be used to predict most — and sometimes all — of the numbers in your Social Security number, she said.
Vacation Plans
There may be a better way to say "Rob me, please" than posting something along the lines of: "Count-down to Maui! Two days and Ritz Carlton, here we come!" on Twitter. But it's hard to think of one. Post the photos on Facebook when you return, if you like. But don't invite criminals in by telling them specifically when you'll be gone.
[See Burglars Picked Houses Based on Facebook Updates]
Home Address
Do I have to elaborate? A study recently released by the Ponemon Institute found that users of Social Media sites were at greater risk of physical and identity theft because of the information they were sharing. Some 40% listed their home address on the sites; 65% didn't even attempt to block out strangers with privacy settings. And 60% said they weren't confident that their "friends" were really just people they know.
You may hate your job; lie on your taxes; or be a recreational user of illicit drugs, but this is no place to confess. Employers commonly peruse social networking sites to determine who to hire — and, sometimes, who to fire. Need proof? In just the past few weeks, an emergency dispatcher was fired in Wisconsin for revealing drug use; a waitress got canned for complaining about customers and the Pittsburgh Pirate's mascot was dumped for bashing the team on Facebook. One study done last year estimated that 8% of companies fired someone for "misuse" of social media.
Password Clues
If you've got online accounts, you've probably answered a dozen different security questions, telling your bank or brokerage firm your Mom's maiden name; the church you were married in; or the name of your favorite song. Got that same stuff on the information page of your Facebook profile? You're giving crooks an easy way to guess your passwords.
Risky Behaviors
You take your classic Camaro out for street racing, soar above the hills in a hang glider, or smoke like a chimney? Insurers are increasingly turning to the web to figure out whether their applicants and customers are putting their lives or property at risk, according to Insure.com. So far, there's no efficient way to collect the data, so cancellations and rate hikes are rare. But the technology is fast evolving, according to a paper written by Celent, a financial services research and consulting firm.

Windows Phone 7: Here's What You Can Pin to the Start Screen

File under: News
By: Brandon Miniman | 2:49 PM 14-Sep-10 | 18 Comments
The more we use Windows Phone 7 on our pre-release device, the more goodies we find in terms of what you can pin to your Start screen. It's pretty remarkable the extent to which you can draw forth your favorite content from your phone and put it within easy reach. Granted, other operating systems like Android have done this for years, but who's keeping track?

Here's a list of what we've found so far, and we'll add to it if and when we find more.

1. Apps. We knew this from the start...you can put your favorites apps within easy reach.

2. Live tiles. Live tiles change dynamically, and third parties can tap into them. There may be live tiles for sports scores, weather, and news. So far, there are live tiles for email and SMS, people, calendar, and others.

3. Multimedia: We recently discovered that you can not only pin videos to your Start screen, but also favorite artists, albums, or songs. If you're pinning a video, you'll see a thumbnail appear on your Start screen. If you're pinning a music artist/album/song, you'll see the album cover. Neat!

4. Places. Find a sushi restaurant in the city you want to find your way back to you? You can pin places to your Start screen via the Bing maps app.

5. Contacts. Call the same three people the most? Pin them to your Start screen. You can also use this feature to instantly stalk your friends, since clicking on a contacts tile will also let you see their Facebook updates if you're set up for it.

6. Photo Favorites. You can pin your Favorites album to your start screen.

7. Websites: This certainly isn't that exciting, as all other smarpthone operating systems can do this, but you can pin your favorite websites (like pocketnow.com, wink) to your Start screen for easy access.

Our wishlist...

8. Twitter, weather, sports scores, stocks (all should be possible via third parties)

9. System indicators like battery life percentage

10. Links to other documents/files (PDFs, etc)

11. Folders!


Microsoft launching Windows Phone 7 on October 11th?

With a gold master OS, plenty of devices raring to show themselves, and a more or less obvious October launch window, it's clear that Windows Phone 7 is right around the corner. Pocket-lint is reporting today that its sources, "senior figures within the industry," are pegging October 11 as the special day, with a New York launch event to make it all official. The handsets will then be available later that month, according to one of those sources. It sounds like everybody is ready for Microsoft to start fighting back in the world of phones, the question is: are you?


Windows 7: What Happened to Gaming?

In 2006, then Microsoft Vice President Peter Moore apologized for what he called a dereliction of duty to the company's number one gaming platform: The PC.
Now more than three years after promising, and some say failing, to deliver a PC gaming renaissance with the Vista operating system, Microsoft is set to roll out Windows 7.
But this time there are no apologies or promises. PC gaming, it seems, has taken a back seat.
When Windows 7 goes on sale on Oct. 22, PC gamers will have little reason to run out to buy it, says Matthew Murray, managing editor of ExtremeTech.
"I don't think there's a lot about (Windows 7) that's going to make it that much more compelling to gamers than Vista," Murray said. "It's a bit better using memory, and it's a bit faster in certain areas, but the performance overall isn't really that much different. If you have Vista and you're happy with it, you can probably keep it, at least for now."
To be fair, much of that promised renaissance in 2006 was tied to the Games for Windows initiative, which launched alongside the Windows Vista operating system.
While the two hit at the same time, they're not directly connected.
The biggest idea behind Games for Windows was to make it easier to play games on your PC. This was done by creating a set of criteria that computer games needed to meet to have the Games For Windows label on their box.
Those criteria included compatibility, easy installation and including parental controls. There were also a number of neat ideas tested out, but never fully realized. Most computer games require an installation before playing, but the Tray and Play option was meant to allow gamers to pop a game in their computer and start playing almost immediately, similar to what most console gamers experience now. Unfortunately, only one game, Halo 2 for the PC, currently uses this system.
The most noticeable way in which Vista and Games for Windows crossed over was the operating system's Game Advisor and Games Explorer.
The Game Advisor ranks a person's computer and available games making it easier to tell if a title would play on a PC.
The Games Explorer was meant to collect all the games installed on a computer and display them in one folder. It's here that Window 7 does bring a modicum of improvement for gamers.
One of the biggest issues with Games Explorer was that it often didn't detect games that were purchases through online retailers and providers like Steam.
While Windows 7 still doesn't seem to include Steam in the Game Explorer, it now has the ability to if the company wants to support the service. If a game provider does choose to be listed in the Game Explorer, computer owners will be able to view news from the service and information about the service's games, all inside the window.
Another update to Games Explorer allows you to be notified when a game you own has an update or patch and then install the update from the explorer without having to launch the game.
Finally, Games Explorer will track statistics for the games you play, showing you how many times you've played, how long and your win and loss ratio.
Currently only the included games seem to support this function, but I'm sure more will include it after the operating system officially launches.
Murray says the only improvement he can find in Windows 7 for gamers is in the Games Explorer, but even he doesn't find it that useful.
"Being able to check for updates for all your games in one interface is a nice feature, but since it doesn't install the updates automatically (the way Windows Update itself does), I don't know how useful that's going to be to a lot of people," he said. "And I've never gotten that into using the Games Explorer anyway—I tend to just add icons to the new taskbar, as with everything else. Aside from that, there aren't a ton of game-friendly changes I've come across."
The problem I have with Windows 7, though, isn't its failure to vastly improve the gaming experience, it's Microsoft's failure to take advantage of the attention brought by the launch of a new operating system to once more thrust PC gaming into the spotlight.
The biggest promise the Games for Windows initiative made when it initially was unveiled was that it would be backed by a huge marketing campaign, one similar to the push Microsoft gave the Xbox 360 when it hit.
But that was never fully realized and PC gaming was left to suffer as a second favorite system next to the Xbox 360 and Microsoft's continued marketing blitz for its gaming console.
In the vacuum left by Microsoft game developers, chip manufacturers and PC builders have come together to try and reinvigorate PC gaming though the PC Gaming Alliance. But even this effort seems oddly absent during Window's big week?
If Microsoft want its PC gaming platform to thrive they will need to do more than offer lip service in the future. But with the lasting success of the gaming console and PC gamers' ability to seemingly put up with anything, why should they?
Microsoft declined to comment for this article.


Ways to Recover Your Lost Windows Phone 7 Device

File under: News
By: Anton D. Nagy | 12:52 AM 6-Sep-10 | 7 Comments
We've seen the first blurry image of the Windows Phone 7 MyPhone Portal bring a Kin Studio-like arrangement with thumbnails of your photos and pictures of your Contacts and then we were presented with another screenshot of the Portal in action with the Find My Phone section.

Windows Phone 7 users will have four tools handy to find their lost or stolen devices right from launch and these will come for free for those adopting the platform, via the Windows Phone 7 MyPhone Portal's Find My Phone section. These are: Map it, Ring it, Lock it and display a message and Erase it.

Map it is able to display a Bing Maps representation of the location the Windows Phone 7 device is currently being at. Judging by the size of the circle on the map, besides GPS, the Device is communicating its location using cell tower data triangulation. And while you might be searching for your device within that particular circle, you can use the Portal to Ring your Device with a special ringtone. The ringer will be triggered regardless if the Device is set to Silent or Vibration and it will last 60 seconds.

If you fail to recover your Device, you have two more drastic tools of both protecting it and your data. After you create a unique four digit password to assist you in Unlocking should you recover it, you can use the Portal to lock the Device and have a message of your choice displayed on the screen. You have the option to ring your phone at the same time - same as above - so that people hear it ringing. This, together with the message displayed increases the chances of someone noticing a lost phone and even seeing the message displayed.

If everything else fails and you want to protect the information contained on your Device (Contacts, Pictures, Documents, etc.), you can Erase it which will do a Factory reset on your Windows Phone 7. Not quite sure whether that after this step you will be able or not to use the MyPhone Portal for recovering it since it loses its link to the Portal.

While some of these features and services were available before in a one form or the other, these free services undoubtedly increase your chances of finding your lost device. Also, after launch, more services will be ready for Windows Phone 7 users - rumor has it for free.


Which is the Hardest Halo Game?

We rank the all five games and come up with the one experience that is truly Legendary.

September 16, 2010


With Halo: Reach being Bungie's swan song for the series, it seemed the right time for a group of Halo experts to figure out which Halo game is the hardest. Among the committee that spent dozens of hours debating (and by hours, I mean minutes) are Halo aficionados Hilary Goldstein (that's me!), Will Tuttle, David Clayman, Erik Brudvig, Arthur Gies, and Nate Ahearn.

We judged the overall campaign difficulty for each game, considering both the single-player experience and the co-op experience. And always with a mind on the Legendary difficulty, since that's the true measure of each Halo experience. Co-op difficulty was a major influencing factor in the overall rankings, since many of the single-player experiences are fairly comparable for most of the games in the series.

Here are our picks from easiest to hardest.

Halo: Combat Evolved

Scared Little Grunt
It might have seemed tough nine years ago, but give Halo: CE a try now and you'll likely find yourself giggling at how easy it is to take down the Covenant. Despite the lack of cool moves like vehicle jacking, the weapons hold a ton of ammo, you can stock up on grenades, and the assault rifle is a beast. All the years of playing Halo make the original a cake walk. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The series should continually get tougher.

Halo 3
Non-Sniping Jackal
Even Bungie admits that Master Chief had turned into a super hero by Halo 3. Though the single-player may be comparable in difficulty to some of the other games (Flood snipers, really?!), the challenge is negated the minute your friends join in. Halo 3's co-op campaign doesn't scale. That means the challenge is three times less when you have three friends playing with you. Not an exaggeration: We beat Halo 3 on Legendary with four players in just a couple of hours at the review event.

Halo 3: ODST
Angry Brute
Putting you in the shoes of an ODST meant your character's abilities had to be stifled. No more super-human Master Chief stuff. You get one weapon to wield and, in the spirit of the first Halo, you have health that doesn't automatically regenerate but requires health packs. ODST is actually toughest at the outset, because it's hard to accept that, as a lone wolf ODST, you just shouldn't try and stand toe-to-toe with every enemy you encounter. It takes some time to acclimate, and once you do, caution is often the smarter choice over the usual Halo bravado.

Halo 2
Sword-Wielding Elite
Those God damned Jackal snipers, am I right? Anyone who played Halo 2 on Legendary can attest to how incredibly annoying those snipers could be. They could snipe the pixel off a gnat. But where Halo 2 gets really tough is when you play co-op. When one person dies, you're both sent back to the last checkpoing. When you have some truly tough (and unfairly accurate enemies) this can make progression through the campaign with a buddy close to impossible at times.

Halo: Reach
Many, Many Hunters
Bungie promised that Halo: Reach was the hardest Halo game and that was no lie, due to scaling cooperative play. The campaign has some tough difficulty spikes towards the end, but nothing a seasoned vet can't fight their way through. It's hard, don't get me wrong, but it's not impossible on your own. However, the difficulty scales in co-op, meaning that if you have three friends in tow, the game is basically three times as hard. Considering that Halo: Reach is already a pretty hard game to beat, upping the difficulty provides, well, a legendary challenge that only the best group of Halo players can hope to overcome.