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Claw Machines Are Rigged

Posted In: . By Kirhat

The Klaw Machine
Almost everyone who visited a mall and tried to play in a game station must have seen one of these claw machines. It is not to far-fetched to assume that many have tried their luck with it, hoping to score the plush toy of their dreams. But despite their skill at perfectly positioning the claw over the prize and activating it, most of the time the pincers just don't grab tightly enough to pick up a stuffed animal.

It's not an imagination. Those claw machines are rigged. But they're rigged in a surprisingly clever way — and not the way most people suspect.

Some people think the claw machine is so hard to win because the stuffed animals are packed so tightly together. But the bigger reason is more insidious than that: the claw machine is programmed to have a strong grip only part of the time.

This isn't a closely kept secret. It's publicly available information, pulled straight from the instruction guides for the biggest claw games out there. Open the manual for Black Tie Toys' Advanced Crane Machine. Look at page eight, section subheading "Claw Strength":

The machine's owner can fine-tune the strength of the claw beforehand so that it only has a strong grip a fraction of the time that people play.

The owner can manually adjust the "dropping skill," as well. That means that on a given number of tries, the claw will drop a prize that it's grabbed before it delivers it.

The machines also allow the owner to select a desired level of profit and then automatically adjust the claw strength to make sure that players are only winning a limited number of times.

This isn't isolated to one claw machine or one company — this is standard practice industry-wide.


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Online Game Hacking is Increasing

Posted In: . By Kirhat

Game Hacking
There is always high risk whenever users assume that online games are safe platforms. there are several dangers involved ranging from identity thefts, online stalking to personal data mining.

Take the case of Ryan Hamann who found himself locked out of his PlayStation. He discovered that someone had spent US$ 570 on extra points in "FIFA '15," billed directly to his credit card, and switched the account to another PlayStation somewhere in Europe.

Hamann called his credit card company to dispute the charges — the standard first move in cases of identity theft — and expected that they will be more accommodating and sympathetic. However, Sony wasn't happy about being stuck with the bill. Sony customer service told him that until someone paid for the fraudulent FIFA points, he would be locked out of the account entirely, with no access to the games he'd paid for.

It's an unsettling story, but a surprisingly common one. A string of account thefts has hit Sony PlayStation users, with Reddit users counting five separate reports in the recent weeks, leading to renewed calls for better security on the platform. The PlayStation Network has repeatedly come under digital attack — most recently when Lizard Squad brought down the network in December — but accounts like Hamann's are still vulnerable to basic social engineering attacks. Even worse, the platform still doesn't support two-factor authentication, which could have prevented many of the compromises.

In Hamann's case, he was able to escalate the issue all the way to a member of Sony's legal team, and his account was eventually restored, but it wasn't an entirely happy ending. After regaining control of his account, he found out that it was hijacked again!

"My thought is that the hacker called phone support and claimed that I was stealing the account from him," Hamann said. "I'm not really confident that I'll be protected if it happens again."

Hamann isn't the only one asking for more protections. Another user (who asked not to be named) told The Verge that his account was compromised with an extra device added for a full month before any games were purchased.

Eventually, the intruder got greedy, locking out the user's PlayStation and running up US$ 600 in charges. Again, Sony's customer service said that if the user disputed the charges with his bank, he would be locked out of the account permanently.

He was eventually able to restore the account, but the ease of the hack has left him with deep doubts about the security of the platform. "I'm not really confident that I'll be protected if it happens again," he told The Verge. "If my account can be compromised without me or Sony knowing and there is absolutely nothing I can do to protect myself, that scares me."

It's unclear exactly how the accounts were compromised, but it seems likely the attackers gained access through social engineering, impersonating the target for a customer service call. Sony customer service only requires a person's name, email, and PSN username before adding another console to a given account, making social engineering attacks unsettlingly easy.

There's also reason to believe at least some of the necessary data is already available in certain corners of the web. In 2011, Sony suffered a major data breach that leaked information on 77 million accounts. Passwords would have been changed in the five years since the breach, but most names, usernames, and emails would still be the same. For anyone who stumbled across the breach data online, it would be easy to use the information for a social engineering attack.

The scam carries a surprisingly low payout for attackers. FIFA points are highly prized by players, but they’re only useful for in-game purchases, and it’s unlikely the attackers got any hard cash out of their victims’ losses. When they tied the stolen account to a new PlayStation, they also may have left themselves seriously exposed if Sony wants to track them down. Still, that’s little comfort for victims who find themselves stuck with a bill for hundreds of dollars in stolen goods.

In the meantime, the larger issue is Sony's customer service. Both users were eventually reimbursed, but the process still left them caught between standard anti-fraud practices from banks and Sony's refusal to unlock the account until the fees were settled. "They need to be reasonable," said one target. "If someone's account is obviously hacked and unauthorized purchases are made, refund the full amount to the customer and don't threaten them with extortion."


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MS Windows Office
Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella may have defied the odds and prove to Wall Street that they can generate substantial profit and revenue in its third quarter of fiscal year 2015, but that's no thanks to the good old PC.

The good news for Microsoft is that its enterprise cloud has a projected run rate of Us$ 6.3 billion this year. That's up from Us$ 5.5 billion just three months ago. Aside from that, nothing is worth looking forward to.

Business Insider reported that Microsoft's old traditional business — licensing software like Windows and Office for use on new PCs — is shrinking like crazy, amid a tougher market for PCs in general.

Overall, Microsoft's Devices and Consumer Licensing business, the catch-all unit responsible for Microsoft Windows on new PCs, consumer versions of Microsoft Office, and Windows Phone on phones from other manufacturers, was down 24% from last year, a dip of about $1.1 billion.

Microsoft Windows licensing revenue for businesses fell 19%, and fell 26 percent for consumers, for an overall 22 percent dip in revenue. Microsoft blames this on the generally weak PC market, hard comparables with last year (when a deadline for the end of Windows XP support drove a lot of PC upgrades), and a general trend towards cheaper devices.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Office consumer revenue was down 41 percent, and Microsoft Office commercial revenue was down 16 percent. (Note that business versions of Office roll up into a different financial segment, Commercial Licensing.)

Microsoft cites this as a side-effect of huge growth in Microsoft Office 365, which has a subscription-based model. It also blamed slow PC sales — the fewer PCs sold, the fewer people and companies buy Office for them.

Also, Microsoft Office is pre-installed on a lot of new PCs in Japan, and the weak PC market there cuts into that business, Microsoft says.

All of which adds up to a strange conclusion: The businesses and technologies that made Microsoft so successful in the first place are slowly fading in favor of the cloud.

That's going to cause some short-term pain, but at least Microsoft has prepared for the shift, and its cloud growth is a nice bright spot. Plus, it's always possible that Windows 10, expected out at the end of July, will drive growth in the PC market again, as Windows 8 failed to do.


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X-Men's Iceman is Not Gay!

Posted In: . By Kirhat

Iceman and Mystique
The current team of Marvel writers and editors are just messing everything up in the Marvel Universe all in the name of “political correctness” and “diversity of characters.”

The current victim is an "X-Men" legend that the company says will be coming out of the soon – Iceman. Yep, you read it right. Iceman is supposedly gay when the “All-New X-Men #40,” comes out soon.

In a statement to ABC News, Brian Michael Bendis, the writer of the book, said, "There are thousands if not millions of stories of people who, for many different reasons, felt the need to hide their sexuality. The “X-Men”, with the conceit of time travel, give us a fascinating platform in which to examine such personal journeys. This is just the first little chapter of a much larger story that will be told.”

In the scene in the book, Jean Grey is talking with her friend Iceman aka Bobby Drake. He was describing his teacher Magik and saying how hot he thinks she is. That's when Jean steps in to let her friend know she knows he's gay and doesn't care.

However, checking back at the previous comic books will reveal that the revelation is not base on any sound logic. Iceman is not gay, and never has been, but it took 50 years for Marvel to label him as gay without sufficient back story.

Iceman's Girls
Read the past comic books again. Iceman was attracted to the opposite sex and not to pole-wielding psychopath. In issue 356 of Uncanny, Bobby Drake is even gushing all over a blonde along with Angel.

Before Bobby joined the X-Men he had a girlfriend, but Professor Xavier erased all memories of her from Bobby's head when he told her too much about the X-Men (he presumably also erased the girl's memories). Upon her acceptance into the X-Men, Bobby begins to date Rogue. The pair date for a considerable amount of time, but eventually break up due to Bobby's growing feelings for Kitty Pryde and Rogue's feelings for Gambit.

Eventually Rogue leaves, and Bobby starts to date Kitty until she dumps him after finding Bobby was still emailing Rogue. When Rogue returned to the X-Men, her original powers had been replaced with those of Gambit's and, now being able to touch each other, Bobby and Rogue rekindle their relationship.

Nobody really understood why it has to go to this path considering that Marvel already did made Northstar gay or whatever his name was. Also, Bobby was meant to be the X-Men's answer to Johnny Storm with the irony being an opposite power.

It falls under the same fallacy as Falcon being Captain America and whoever the woman is being Thor (her name is as of yet unrevealed). The fallacy being that instead of promoting current gay, black (actually, scratch black, let's promote all races thank you very much) and female superheroes in Marvel, they change up with weird stories that will either be temporary (Fem-Thor and Captain Falcon, lolz on Captain Falcon) or will be weird as they change what was previously established about the character (Iceman).

But thinking about it more, this should not be surprising to those who follow the comic book industry. It is a publication now written by Brian Michael Bendis. Marvel comics hasn't seen that kind of deviation from the previous back story of Iceman since he was introduced in “X-Men #1” way back in September 1963. No wonder the comic book series went from selling in the 6 figures to being lucky to sell US$ 30k.

Bendis has done to Galactus, Dr. Doom, The Red Skull, Green Goblin and hundreds of other super villains in the 616 universe what Jack Kirby and Stan Lee have all failed to do – he has destroyed every super hero he has come into contact with. He's an indie writer who hates super heroes and wanted to make them more like his (and other hipster, fedora wearing indie creators) books. Well, congrats you #$%$, you did it!


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Windows 10 Launch Date Leaked

Posted In: . By Kirhat

Windows 10 Launch
The release of Windows 10 will be Microsoft’s most important launches in years and is going to be one of the largest software delivery projects in history. A the company looks to regain the ground it lost with Windows 8, Microsoft will be offering full, free upgrades for every PC currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 Service Pack 1 (excluding those running Enterprise editions, which don't qualify for the free upgrade).

And thanks to slip up of Microsoft's partners in the PC supply chain, everyone now knows exactly when the final version of Windows 10 will be released to the public.

As can be seen in the transcript of AMD’s earnings call published by Seeking Alpha and spotted by The Verge, the offhand remarks from AMD's president and CEO Lisa Su revealed that Microsoft is planning to launch Windows 10 at the end of July. (Previously, Microsoft had only committed to "this summer" as a launch date.)

But what will actually happen when the appointed date rolls around? That poses some interesting logistical questions for Microsoft.

At this point it’s beyond safe to say that the company’s current desktop operating system is a flop, with many consumers and businesses alike doing everything they can to avoid it. Windows 10 dials back many of the controversial visual changes in Windows 8, however, and the press has had plenty of good things to say about it thus far.

With Microsoft offering full, free upgrades, it means 2GB+ upgrade package downloaded to each PC.

So just how big is the eligible Windows 10 upgrade base? It is certainly measured in the hundreds of millions, representing PCs running Windows in 111 languages and 190 countries worldwide.

Apple's been doing this for a few years with OS X, but on a much smaller scale, measured in the low tens of millions for each new release. Microsoft's upgrade program for Windows 8.1 was probably larger than that but still only a small fraction of the worldwide PC installed base.

There's actually a road map hidden in plain sight, included with a recent optional update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. An XML file installed with that update contains important clues about a program called GWX: Get Windows 10.


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