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December 20, 2014

Microsoft apologizes for broken ‘Halo’ multiplayer with more ‘Halo’

You know Halo: The Master Chief Collection's multiplayer has been, well, problematic since launch despite numerous patches. We know it and Microsoft does, too. That's why it's making it up to everyone who's played it with freebies. Those include a remastered Halo 3: ODST campaign, an overhauled "Relic" multiplayer map from Halo 2 and a free month of Xbox Live Gold. The former two won't be available for some time yet, but 343 Industries head Bonnie Ross notes on Xbox Wire that they'll be available gratis for anyone who's played between MCC's November launch and today. What's more, you'll also get an exclusive in-game nameplate and avatar for your troubles. And before you ask about ODST's killer wave-based multiplayer mode, "Firefight" making a return, the official FAQ is out to crush more than a few dreams (ours included) -- the outfit says it doesn't have any plans to include it for now.

If you're curious about exactly when the free stuff starts flowing, here you go: The month of Gold will make its way to gamers "as early as" mid-January of next year. For ODST and the re-imagined version of "Relic," you're going to have to be a bit more patient because neither of those are scheduled for release until sometime next spring. Given the timing, we're going to imagine that ODST will be more along the lines of what we saw with Halo 3 and Halo 4 rather than a full-on remake akin to the anniversary treatment that Halo 2 saw in this package. Nonetheless, we've reached out to Microsoft / 343 for confirmation, and will let you know if we get a response.

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Source: Xbox Wire, Halo Waypoint

December 20, 2014

Staples breach may have affected over a million credit cards

Staples Possible Breach

Good grief, the hacks just don't stop. Now office-supply store Staples believes that it suffered an attack that compromised some 1.16 million payment cards. Between August 10th and September 16th this year, 115 stores were afflicted by malware that "may have" grabbed cardholder names and payment information, and two stores possibly fell victim from July 20th to September 16th this year as well. The retailer isn't fully owning up to the attacks just yet, but it's offering a mea culpa all the same: free identity protection, credit reports and a host of other security services to anyone who used a card at the affected stores (PDF). And even though four Manhattan locations had reports of fraudulent payment use from this April to September without any malware or suspicious activity taking place, the outfit is extending the aforementioned benefits to customers of those stores as well.

Staples' numbers are a drop in the bucket compared to Home Depot's 56 million compromised cards, sure, but the fact that another retailer was hacked is still an issue. Maybe, just maybe, we can go the rest of the year without news of another data breach. Is that asking too much? Sadly, it probably is.

[Image credit: Associated Press]


Source: Staples

December 20, 2014

Reddit Notes: Don’t call it a currency

Back when Reddit -- bastion of the internet's weirdest conversations -- raised another $50 million in venture funding, the investors involved agreed to give a combined 10 percent of their shares back to the site's users. For almost three months, none of us knew exactly how that would happen, but now Reddit's talking specifics... sort of. Next year, the company will distribute via lottery some 950,000 Reddit Notes, a kinda-sorta digital currency that'll let users "tip, donate, or trade" with peers who also bacon at midnight.

The key words in that previous sentence are "kinda-sorta." In interview with Inc., Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian looks at Reddit Notes as something akin to, but not quite, a currency. Instead, he considers them more of a digital asset -- they've got some sort of intrinsic value "like sugar or gold or bacon" and can be used to fuel transactions between people, but they don't have any actual financial value. That's right: Despite the fact a little back-of-the-napkin math would value each Note at roughly $5.25 ($5 million in shares divided by the tentative number of Notes outstanding), the Notes don't equate to cash in your pocket. They aren't a sign that you own a teensy, tiny fragment of the company, either. They just... are.

Painfully vague? Thankfully, Reddit cryptocurrency engineer Ryan Charles chimed in to say that there's a legal plan in action and that "the cryptocurrency will be exchangeable for something of value." That still doesn't explain too much, but it's all by design. We're still a few seasons away from seeing the first Reddit Notes trickle into the wild, and up until then Reddit's team will likely be grappling with the financial and regulatory ramifications that come with distributing digital assets to redditors across the world.

The idea that Reddit could become a home for these weird little transactions might seem a little off-kilter, but the shift has already started. Did you post a gut-wrenchingly funny comment? Or were you instrumental in helping a stranger track down a long-lost family member? There's a decent chance that someone gifted you a month or Reddit Gold, or tipped you a tiny fraction of a bitcoin as thanks. Like it or not, Reddit isn't just a place to shoot the breeze anymore. It's turning into a peculiar, tiny economy and Reddit Notes will only add fuel to that fire.

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Source: Reddit Blog

December 20, 2014

Netflix drops in a surprise ‘Bojack Horseman’ Christmas special

Wondering how to get the weekend started? If you're a fan of Netflix's original series Bojack Horseman, there's a pretty easy choice, since the service just released an extra episode out of the blue. As Bojack (voiced by Will Arnett) and Todd (voiced by Aaron Paul) get ready for the holidays, it takes a look back to when the title character was the star of a 90's sitcom "Horsin Around." It's no The Interview or surprise peek into the world of House of Cards (we do have an Orange is the New Black musical interlude embedded after the break), but we'll take it -- subscribers can click here to watch it now.

December 20, 2014

Engadget Daily: FBI confirms North Korea involvment in Sony Pictures hack, RuPaul on ‘gaymers’ and more!

Sony's had a seriously rough go of it lately, but hopefully its hacking nightmare has finally come to an end -- the FBI has confirmed that North Korea was definitely involved in the initial cyberattack and the White House is formulating its response. Catch all that and more in the gallery below, including our interview with RuPaul, MSI GT72 Dominator review and the road to Samsung's domination of CES.

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December 20, 2014

On the sidelines: how the NFL is making use of the Surface Pro 2

Now that we've talked about the design process behind the NFL's Surface Pro 2s, it's time to show you how these things are actually being used throughout the league. It's worth noting that at least for now, the functionality of the Sideline Viewing System is limited to players and coaches annotating, drawing and looking at images from plays. Still, this is a notable first step in the NFL bringing technology into the game, and Microsoft wants to play a big role in that development. Sure, it doesn't hurt that the tech titan is said to have paid a huge sum of money to the NFL for the alleged five-year partnership, but it's safe to say that it's equally beneficial regardless.

Microsoft's laptop/hybrid device began appearing on NFL sidelines earlier this year, at the start of the preseason, and the company tells us that the adoption rate of the Sideline Viewing System by players and coaches has been "great" up to now -- though a spokesperson wasn't willing to discuss specific numbers. That said, it's one thing to see these in action during games from afar, on TV, so when the opportunity to spend time with the Seattle Seahawks arose, to learn their game day workflow with the Surface Pro 2, we couldn't say no.

For the NFL Sideline Viewing System, the process begins before the start of each game, when the carts that house the devices, 13 Surface Pro 2s behind each bench, are wheeled to the field, all set up and ready for home and away team members to pick up and start using immediately. In total, each team has access to 25 Surface Pro 2s on any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday); the remaining 12 are up in the coaches' booth, and they don't sport the same ruggedized case that you see in players' hands. "Response has been really good. Every team has been using the device," James Bernstrom, Microsoft's product marketing director, says. "It helps coaches having the real-time option to teach players on the go."

Over a private network, the images being pushed over to the units, which are taken by a camera in the end zone and another on the sideline, show up almost instantaneously. This is important, since it makes the process much faster than the old printer system, one that still has a heavy presence in games. Microsoft says the NFL chooses to do this as a backup plan, in case any problems arise with the Sideline Viewing System, and because there may still be coaches or players who prefer to go the paper-based route. If something does happen with the Surface Pro 2 during a game, though, Microsoft and the NFL have placed "Purple Hats" on teams' benches -- these are people who are there specifically to troubleshoot anything related to the Sideline Viewing System app.

"We went out and did training for coaches and players, but the key was to work with the video directors," Bernstrom added, emphasizing how key every team's video director is to the system, since they are the ones in charge of making the learning process easier for staff members. Seahawks Director of Video Brad Campbell says that his team embraced the viewing system from the get-go, noting that the coaching staff was fascinated by the fact they could do things like draw and annotate the images. "I think you could probably push more data to this, eventually, if you could somehow [safely] distribute your own play-call data to it,' he added, "I think if we can expand it, you could eventually get into where you're sorting more of your own data through [the Sideline Viewing System]."

Meanwhile, Russell Wilson, Seahawks quarterback and Super Bowl champion, says the app made a huge difference for him, particularly because it lets him zoom in on the pictures to get a better view of the plays, something he obviously couldn't do with the old system. "The speed, the processing of getting the plays -- it's a lot faster," Wilson says. "You know, we used paper before, so you had to go through each slide in each piece of paper, which took a long time, and a lot of the times you only have a couple of minutes on the sidelines."

"We used paper before, so you had to go through each slide in each piece of paper."

The company says it's always working with the league on what makes sense to fit with the integrity of the game (read: more features one day, perhaps?). But it's not just the NFL. "Microsoft is proud to be working with leading sports leagues and organizations across the globe, from Formula 1 racing to Real Madrid, the most valuable sports club in the world," Jeff Tran, director of sports marketing and alliances at Microsoft, states. "We have great momentum in this space, and are continually looking for future opportunities to make teams, leagues and organizations even more productive."

For his part, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Surface Panos Panay, tells me that the goal with the NFL partnership is "to change the game so teams can be more productive, efficient and, ultimately, more competitive." He says the Surface brand represents the best in productivity and precision, and that this is what the Sideline Viewing System brings to the table.

"And while we've seen great success on the field so far, this is just the beginning," Panay says. "We're learning quite a bit this season and we will use that feedback to provide the league, teams and individuals using our products with technology that helps them succeed on and off the field."

Philip Palermo contributed to this report.

Tune in on Monday, when we'll have our full interview with Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. Part one of this series can be found here.

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December 20, 2014

Sony Pictures CEO claims ‘we have not caved’

Key Speakers And Views Ahead Of The E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo

While President Obama has joined the voices criticizing Sony Pictures for its decision to pull The Interview, its CEO claims he " In an interview with CNN set to air tonight during Anderson Cooper 360, Michael Lynton tells Fareed Zakaria that "We have not caved. We have not given in." In the pieces CNN has teased, he even says the company would still like for people to see this movie. Lynton claims that he personally did speak to senior officials in the White House about the situation, and asked for help in dealing with it, although they did not speak with Obama directly. Specifically, Lynton said that while the December 25th release will not proceed because there is no movie theater in America that will show it, there is still a possibility of premiering it in the future. In response to the question about releasing the movie in another format like streaming or on cable, Lynton said "we have considered those, and we are considering them...there has not been one major distributor, one major e-commerce site that has stepped forward." Really? Not even Crackle?

[Image credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]

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Source: CNN Money

December 20, 2014

Tesla’s first Model S battery swap station opens next week


Tesla's automated battery swap stations that boost cars with a fully charged power pack instead of a slow charge are finally becoming a reality. First shown off over a year ago, the company announced today that it's ready to start a pilot program for invited Model S owners along the San Francisco to LA route, at a facility across the street from its Supercharger station in Harris Ranch, CA. Right now Tesla says the whole process can be done in under three minutes, but with changes to the vehicle design, it says cars could be ready to go in less than a minute (a video of the process being done in 90 seconds is embedded after the break). While charging the company's flagship EV on its Supercharger network is free, for now the by-appointment-only swaps are promised to cost "slightly less than a tank of gas." When they were introduced, the suggestion was a $60 - $80 price range, but even with the price of gas falling, that may have changed too. The point of the pilot program? To figure out if the demand for battery swaps that cost money vs free charging is high enough for the idea (and the $500,000 facilities that make it work) to make sense.

[AFP/Getty Images]

Fast Pack Swap Event from Tesla Motors on Vimeo.

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Source: Tesla Blog

December 20, 2014

T-Mobile pays $90 million to settle claims it profited from texting scams

T-Mobile CEO John Legere

T-Mobile protested its innocence after the Federal Trade Commission accused it of letting text message-based scams run amok in the name of profit, but it's not going to fight that complaint to the bitter end. The UnCarrier has agreed to a settlement that will have it paying "at least" $90 million in fines to the FCC and all 50 states. Moreover, it'll have to both offer full refunds to victims and require explicit permission for third-party charges. In the future, that sketchy celebrity gossip service can't take your cash unless you offer consent. T-Mobile's decision to cry "uncle" isn't surprising given that AT&T already settled with the FTC over similar unauthorized billing. However, it suggests that Sprint faces an uphill battle in its own texting dispute -- history definitely isn't on the company's side.

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Via: Recode

Source: Federal Trade Commission

December 20, 2014

Why North Korea’s Sony hack made ‘The Interview’ required viewing


Congratulations, Guardians of Peace (and North Korea!) -- you've successfully prevented a "dangerous" Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy from getting released. But guess what? You've also made The Interview, which appeared to be just another slacker comedy from the Freaks and Geeks alums, vastly more important than it ever would have been on its own. That's what we in America call delicious irony.

Sony, in a move President Barack Obama has called "a mistake," has vowed never to release the film in any form -- no VOD, no special digital download -- but it's only a matter of time until it's on every torrent and illegal video-streaming site on the web. And how long do you think it'll be until it makes its way into North Korea? You've won this battle, but you've also ignited a war against censorship that could end up dismantling your fascist control of information. Also, didn't you realize people always want what they can't have?

James Franco totally predicted The Interview's cancellation on "30 Rock"

Sure, The Interview will forever be known as the movie that hackers and one testy dictatorship killed. But really, it's never going to die. It'll be the film deemed too provocative for release. It might actually make more people aware of North Korea's horrific treatment of its people (e.g., rampant starvation, tens of thousands dying every year in prison camps and more!). Most importantly, it could be the film that, when taken together with all of the damage from the Sony hacks and the highly original 9/11 threat against theaters, may finally prompt a response to North Korea from the US government and the rest of the world. Sony may pretend The Interview never existed, per the final ridiculous demand from the Guardians of Peace, but this whole fiasco has made the film something the rest of us will never forget.

Sony may pretend The Interview never existed, per the final ridiculous demand from the Guardians of Peace, but this whole fiasco has made the film something the rest of us will never forget.

What scares me more than Sony's cancellation of the film is the cowardly responses we're seeing from other studios. Paramount Pictures shut down screenings of Team America: World Police this week, a 10-year-old film from the South Park creators, which many theaters were planning on showing instead of The Interview. And New Regency, a production studio co-owned by Fox and Warner Bros., pulled the plug on the Steve Carrell vehicle Pyongyang, which hadn't even started shooting yet. It's hard to blame Sony -- it was basically strong-armed into doing so because major theater chains refused to show it, and no big corporation would ever take a threat of violence against consumers lightly -- but these other studios are running scared before they even see a glimmer of a threat. You can bet this whole fiasco will dramatically alter the sorts of movies that get greenlit over the next few years. Don't expect something on the level of Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, a film that criticized Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime long before the US government, anytime soon.

James Franco and Seth Rogen in "The Interview"
At the same time, GoP, you've also lost. You've turned what would have been a harmless film into something that's gotten the US government thinking of a "proportional response."

So yes, GoP, as terrorists you've sort of won. Sony's knee-jerk reactions have set a precedent for how other big companies might react to hacker demands, and it's not a pretty sight. Now any group that manages to make their way into private servers can make whatever threat they want, and there's a good chance their victims will be forced to cooperate. If anything, this hack makes it clear that major companies can no longer half-ass their cybersecurity efforts. Sony already suffered a major attack against its PlayStation Network several years ago, and Sony Pictures apparently learned hackers were in its systems a year ago, so you'd think it would have been extra vigilant. And of course, we can't forget the major data breaches at Home Depot and Target, which gave hackers access to personal data (including credit and debit card information) from tens of millions of customers.

At the same time, GoP, you've also lost. You've turned what would have been a harmless film into something that's gotten the US government thinking of a "proportional response" against North Korea. And no matter how hard you try, everyone will soon be watching your dictator's head explode. (Spoiler alert!)

[Image credits: Michael Thurston/Getty Images (lede image); raindropstace69/Reddit (James Franco GIF); Sony Pictures (movie still)]

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