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Antec Kühler H20 650 Review

Antec Kühler H20 650 Review

Manufacturer: Antec
UK price (as reviewed):
£54.99
US price (as reviewed): $69.99

If you’ve got around £50 to spend on a CPU cooler, then you’ve got quite a decision on your hands. There are dozens of great examples – both air and liquid-cooled to choose from and most of these will fit into your average enthusiast case too. Decisions aren’t based just on cooling performance either; there’s also noise to consider and in some cases colours and bling too as we saw with the Phanteks PH-TC14PE.

Of course, all-in-one liquid coolers are still very much in the limelight and if we had the option, they’re probably where our money would go. They top our cooling graphs and many cost less than some of the large premium air coolers out there too. We recently looked at Antec’s Kühler H20 950, which received awards for both our test systems thanks to great cooling, excellent software control and easy mounting. However, if £60 is your limit but you still want to delve into liquid cooling, then Antec has a slightly cheaper option.

Antec Kühler H20 650 Review
The Kühler H20 650 is essentially a half height radiator, single fan-version of the Kühler H20 950 and retails for a more modest £55, which is one of the cheapest all-in-one liquid coolers we’ve seen. It still features the combined fan and pump assembly as its bigger brother as well as the directional blades at the rear to focus airflow.

Antec Kühler H20 650 Review Antec Kühler H20 650 Review
Thermal paste is pre-applied and there’s the same mounting mechanism employed as the Kühler H20 950 too with a ring locking onto the cooler and securing using thumb screws with a backplate used on LGA115X and AMD systems. There’s surprisingly few bits to contend with but that’s exactly the way it should be, especially with anall-in-one liquid cooler.

Antec Kühler H20 650 Review Antec Kühler H20 650 Review
The radiator as we’ve already mentioned is a half height model but while it won’t be able to keep up with full size examples like the larger Kühler H20 950, we’ve found they’re not far off in cooling terms and take up less space too. The contact plate and waterblock, being minus a pump, is very low profile indeed so this is one of the more compact all-in-one liquid coolers we’ve tested. The single fan is actually controlled using an on-board temperature monitor rather than tapping into the motherboard’s fan signals, with the temperature also feeding into an illuminated plate on top of the waterblock, which changes colour.

Antec Kühler H20 650 Review Antec Kühler H20 650 Review
When we looked in the box, we assumed there were two fans, however, the extra fan-shaped contraption is a standoff, which Antec claims reduces resistance at the rear of the radiator between it and the case, improving airflow. The extra screws provided can of course be used to mount an extra fan too. Sadly, one thing that is missing is software control – there’s no way to manually control the fan so you’re left at the mercy of the integrated firmware dishing out fan speeds based on the temperature.

Specifications

  • Compatibility Intel: LGA775 and LGA1366 LGA115x, LGA2011; AMD: AM3(+), AM2(+), FM2(+), FM1
  • Radiator size(mm) 120 x 159 x 27
  • Fan size (mm) 120 x 120 x 25 (W x D x H)
  • Fan(s) 1 x 120mm, 600 -2,400RPM
  • Tubing length 300
  • Waterblock height (mm) 26
  • Stated Noise not stated

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Microsoft warns of Word zero-day vulnerability

Microsoft warns of Word zero-day vulnerability

Microsoft Word’s handling of rich-text files (RTFs) has been found to have a serious code execution flaw which is under active attack, with no true patch yet available.


Microsoft has warned customers of an as-yet unpatched zero-day vulnerability in its Microsoft Word and Outlook packages, which is under active attack to take control of targeted systems.

The flaw, described in Security Advisory 2953095, relates to how both Word and Outlook deal with rich-text format (RTF) content. Typically safe from the malware and viruses that have plagued the company’s own .DOC format, ne’er-do-wells have discovered a means of embedded executable code within an RTF which is then run under the privilege level of the currently logged-in user when the file is opened in Word or automatically loaded in the preview pane of Outlook.

That latter functionality is what gives real cause for concern: because Outlook versions since 2007 automatically parse RTF content and display it in-line within the preview pane, users can be exploited simply by opening an email – bypassing the usual need for the user to manually open the attached file. This does, however, only work if the system is configured to use Microsoft Word as the email viewer.

At this time, we are aware of limited, targeted attacks directed at Microsoft Word 2010,‘ Microsoft’s Dustin Childs has confirmed in a statement to users. ‘We continue to work on a security update to address this issue. We are monitoring the threat landscape very closely and will continue to take appropriate action to help protect our global customers.

Although the targeted attacks currently concentrate on Word 2010, Microsoft has confirmed that the flaw exists in Word 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2013 RT, Word Viewer, the Office Compatibility Pack, Office for Mac 2011, the Word Automation Services plugin for SharePoint Server 2010 and 2013, and Office Web Apps 2010 and 2013. The chances of anyone in an office environment not having one or more of the above installed, then, are slim – making this a serious issue.

Currently, there is no patch available. To keep users protected while a more permanent fix is developed, Microsoft has released a Fix It which disables the loading of RTF content into Microsoft Word – closing the hole, but also making it impossible to work with the cross-platform document standard until the flaw is fixed properly.

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Akasa Tesla H Review

Akasa Tesla H Review

Manufacturer: Akasa
UK price (as reviewed): £56.26 (inc VAT) or £72 including power adaptor
US price (as reviewed): N/A
Preferred Partner Price: £56.26 (inc VAT)

Mini computing is certainly in Intel’s sights at the moment with it continuing to push its Next Unit of Computing embedded motherboards. Now in their fourth generation, the latest models are far more potent than those in the first generation (you can see here our review of the Haswell Core i5-based D54250WYB). They also now sport plenty of USB 3.0 connectivity plus SATA ports, so the scope to use a NUC as an HTPC, low-power PC or server is as strong as ever.

As we saw with the Tranquil PC Abel H2-5 NUC PC, it’s also entirely possible to house these diminutive boards in fanless cases too. The Abel H2-5 was a solid lump of aluminium, and while it was attractive, cooling-wise it’s surface area was actually fairly small, although it did just about keep pace with the temperatures, even in an enclosed space.

We’ve looked at several of Akasa’s fanless cases over the last 12 months or so, and they include both mini-ITX and NUC variants. The Tesla H is it’s latest model that is designed specifically for the D54250WYB and D34010WYB NUC motherboards. It’s a little longer than the Tranquil PC Abel H2-5 at 240mm but is just 48mm high and includes a much more elaborate array of heatsinks.

Akasa Tesla H Review
It’s extremely well-machined and feels very solid. The sides and top are riddled with small heatsinks to increase the surface area – there’s considerably more on offer here than the Abel H2-5 too.

Akasa Tesla H Review Akasa Tesla H Review
Akasa is gradually ramping up the external features of these fanless cases and there’s now a headphone jack in addition to two USB 3.0 ports and an IR port. Additional bits that could really make the difference here for the HTPC fraternity are things like a slimline optical bay – with a SATA port now included on the NUC, there’s plenty of possibilities here too.

Akasa Tesla H Review
The underside is fairly featureless as it’s a fanless case so there’s no need for dust filters. However, there are four VESA mount ports so you can secure the case to compatible monitors – highly useful for street-side businesses and offices where tower PCs or even net tops can get in the way. The rear of the case sports three antenna holes for WiFi modules plus a Kensington lock and two serial port openings as well as the standard D54250WYB board ports such as mini HDMI and Ethernet.

Akasa Tesla H Review Akasa Tesla H Review
As we saw with the Abel H2-5, some measures are being taken to deal with overheating mSATA SSDs. Akasa’s method isn’t quite as elegant but it will do the job courtesy of large thermal pads that connect the SSD to the base of the case, with the motherboard being mounted with the CPU attached to the heatsink-clad roof.

Akasa Tesla H Review Akasa Tesla H Review
The motherboard is screwed into place using standoffs, with a long strip running down the inside to make direct contact with the CPU. It’s a very easy installation, just requiring the use of thermal paste and four screws. Cables include a headphone jack to connect the on-board sound to the external minijack, power and LED connectors as per normal for a case, plus two USB 3.0 male connectors to use two of the board’s USB 3.0 ports for the front panel.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (mm) 240 x 150 x 48 (W x D x H)
  • Material Aluminium
  • Available colours Black
  • Weight 1.2kg
  • Front panel 2 x USB 3, Power, headphone minijack
  • Drive bays 2 x 2.5in
  • Form factor(s) Intel NUC D54250WYB or D34010WYB
  • Cooling passive radiator (CPU)
  • Extras VESA mounting holes, thermal paste, 120W external power adaptor (more expensive model)

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Blood testing coming to a touch screen near you

Qloudlab says the sensors normally used for finger tracking can also be used for bio-sensing detection of molecules, making blood coagulation testing possible.


(Credit:
Qloudlab)

People with hemophilia, or those taking anticoagulants to help prevent dangerous outcomes such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, or ischemic stroke, are unfortunately at a higher risk of bleeding easily. To better monitor these patients, health care professionals typically take blood coagulation tests in hospitals and clinics — which can be a real burden both financially and logistically.

But soon, thanks to startup Qloudlab, based in the microengineering lab in Switzerland’s EPFL tech university, these patients may be able to use the touch screens on their phones or other devices to test their blood coagulation, all in the comfort of their own homes — or wherever.




(Credit:

Alain Herzog/EPFL
)

It’s still a blood test, and thus still requires a drop of blood — which sounds unadvisable anywhere near a smartphone, let alone right on its screen. But the tech they hope to demonstrate sometime in 2015 is actually, at least in theory, well contained.

To take the test, the patient will have to press a small plastic sticker that is just a few micrometers thick to the surface of the screen. It’s a microfluidic sticker, which means it’s embedded with minuscule channels that absorb the drop of blood. As the sample passes through the sticker’s microchannels, the blood will come into contact with a molecule that initiates coagulation.

This is where the touch screen comes in. Using the sensors that can determine where it is being touched (i.e. where the screen’s electric field is being disrupted), the screen can detect with incredible precision when and where the blood is moving through those tiny channels across the small surface area where the sticker touches the screen. Though the phone detects this movement as simple touch, the Qloudlab app translates those signals into a blood coagulation reading.

If it works, the tech could be a boon for the patients who will get to regularly test their blood at home and shoot the results off to their docs, and it could lead to other developments medically and beyond that take advantage of the powers of touch screens.

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How to spy on your lover, the smartphone way

Perfect.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

Trust is like love.

You want to believe in it, but then your rational side kicks in and dents your faith.

Here at the Ministry of Failed Relationships, we understand this. There is nothing worse than committing yourself to someone who poses as your soulmate, only to discover that their soul has drunkenly mated with a passing half-sized halfwit.

One company has — perhaps inadvertently — stumbled upon a notion that might ease your worried brow. Or confirm your dearest fear. For it is now offering phones that have built-in spyware.

mSpy created its software with a mind to, say, help parents track their unruly teens. Now, however, with the release of preloaded phones such as the HTC One,
Nexus 5,
Samsung Galaxy S4 and
iPhone 5S, you can merely buy your lover a gift and watch it keep on giving.

Mind you, mSpy’s founder, Andrei Shimanovich, told Forbes it’s not actually his business how people will end up using this nifty software.

Or think of it this way: spy software doesn’t spy on people, but rather people spy on other people.

Indeed, though the concept of spying has enjoyed some nuanced developments over the last few months, I was reasonably sure that spying on my lover would be illegal.

So for starters I thought I’d IM with an mSpy rep to see how easy this whole thing was. I posed as a troubled lover, and in return got what seemed to be rather canned answers.

Me: “Can I really spy on my lover with this? I think she may be cheating on me.”

Karen, the sales manager: “You can do that once you install mSpy on her phone.”

Me: “Is it easy to install?”

Karen: “It is very easy and fast to install mSpy on the target phone.”

Me: “But how can I do it without her knowing?”

Karen: “We can walk you through installation after purchase.”

I then told Karen which type of phone I’d like to track. An iPhone 5. Yes, I imagine my perfect, imaginary lover has an iPhone 5.

Karen’s reply: “Dear Customer, please be advised that an iPhone must be jailbroken before the installation, but the process is very fast and easy – it takes only few minutes to jailbreak an iPhone. You can check on how to jailbreak an iPhone on http://iclarified.com/jailbreak and http://evasi0n.com/ for iOS 7 +. Kindly be advised that we’re the only company who assists with jailbreak. Once an iPhone is jailbroken Cydia icon will appear on the Springboard. But you can hide it after you install the app, so there will be no traces left.”

I confess that there was a certain side of me that felt excited, although if I was to spy on my imaginary lover there would surely soon be no traces of the relationship left.

Moreover, the legalities were still preying on my conscience. When I asked “But how can I do it without her knowing?” I fear that my IM buddy heard only “how can I do it” and provided merely a practical response, missing the “without her knowing” portion of the question and its deeper foray into the ethics of the situation. Or maybe that was something for later in the discussion, when we got down to brass tacks.

Still curious, I wandered over to the mSpy legal agreement. It reads, in part:

It is a considered federal and/or state violation of the law in most cases to install surveillance software onto a mobile phone or other device for which you do not have proper authorization, and in most cases you are required to notify users of the device that they are being monitored. Failure to do so may result in a violation of federal or state laws, if you install this software onto a device you do not own or if you do not have proper consent to monitor the user of the device.

After these words of warning, in large blue type is: “We absolutely do not endorse the use of our software for illegal purposes.”

But I always thought that all was legal in love and war.

Still, was mSpy just ever so slightly encouraging me to spy on my lover?

I’ve had lovers sneak into my emails and probe my phone. When I discovered them, their reply was always: “What? You thought I wouldn’t? Do I look stupid?” Or expressions to that effect.

So perhaps all this spying is, indeed, quite normal. But it won’t have mSpy’s official seal of approval.

An mSpy spokeswoman told me:

mSpy does advocate notifying users of the device that they are being monitored. During the installation stage (which had yet to be approached), users need to tick off a few boxes confirming that they have informed the monitored party and got his/her consent. As well, customer services representatives are required to share with you this information as you navigate the process. mSpy’s disclaimer clearly state that we do not approve of the illegal use of our software and in the case when the legal breach has been identified we will cooperate with relevant authorities, if required.

I leave all this, therefore, to your conscience, just as I leave national security to the consciences of those who direct it.

Most people will admit that they’d dearly wished they had evidence to back up their suspicions, when they thought their lovers were less than faithful.

But those suspicions in themselves surely described the truth of the relationship.

The difficulty, of course, is waiting for that truth to emerge. Some wait for days, months or even years to discover that what they’d feared was true. Or, more painfully, to discover that the truth was even worse than they’d feared.

Spying can never save a relationship. All it can save is time.

A sample of my chat with Karen, whom I trust completely.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

So there.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

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I backed ‘Veronica Mars,’ but DRM is hobbling my reward

Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars, ready to snark her way back into your heart.


(Credit:
Veronica Mars)

When I heard the “Veronica Mars” movie was up on Kickstarter, I ran over to the crowdfunding site and elatedly flung my $35 pledge at the project. Along with 91,584 other people, I helped raise $5.7 million to fund the film. This past Friday, it was officially released into theaters. My town of Albuquerque, N.M., however, was not on the theater list. But, never fear, my pledge included a digital copy of the film.

My official Kickstarter email arrived, with a link to a Digital Ultraviolet version of the film, accessed through the Flixter streaming video service. Cool. So, I went through the sign-up, got a Flixster and Digital Ultraviolet account, and settled in to watch it stream. It started to load. Then, it stopped.

I got this message, like a stab in my crowdfunding heart: “Your screen configuration does not support protected playback.” Huh? I went to the FAQ for explanation and discovered my dual-monitor desktop setup violates Flixster’s DRM restrictions. I wonder if Flixster thinks dual monitors are a gateway to pirating activities.

If I had ever tried to use Flixster before, I would have been aware of this ban on dual monitors, but I had to meet the ugly truth while in a “Veronica Mars” fever of fan fervor, which quickly slapped a big cold damper on my excitement. There are ways around the issue. I ended up downloading the Flixster app to my computer and running the movie from there. I could have switched to my laptop. Really, I just wanted the convenience of streaming my reward right then and there.

I’m not the only person who tripped over a Flixster-shaped “Veronica Mars” stumbling block. Other backers have reported issues with Flixster working with Roku boxes, along with a lack of Flixster support for
Apple TV. The result was a number of upset comments on the Kickstarter update page. Backer Sarah Zaslow wrote, “I am beyond angry that I had to use Flixster to get my digital download.”

There is a bit of a happy ending to all this. An official Kickstarter backer update arrived with an explanation and a way around the whole Flixster thing. First, the explanation: “In the end, Flixster was the best option for getting the digital movie reward out to all of you, worldwide, at the same time.”

Now, the options: “We understand that some of you prefer other platforms or services for watching digital content. If you contact our Customer Support team, they can help.” If you complain and share your technical issues with Warner Bros. customer support, you get the option to buy the movie on a service of your choice and get a refund for the purchase price.

After all this, am I down on “Veronica Mars?” No. The project has done so much right, I’m not going to torpedo the whole thing just because of the ill-advised method of doling out the digital copies. We didn’t get a “too bad, tough luck” answer to complaints, we got a work-around. It’s not ideal, but it gets you the movie on your terms.

The larger issue here is the ongoing weirdness with DRM efforts. Flixster’s DRM prevented me, a legitimate backer, from streaming the movie in my browser. If you head over to the Pirate Bay, you’ll see “Veronica Mars” sitting near the top of the current Top-100 movies list. Annoying me and plenty of other people with overzealous DRM hasn’t done anything to prevent the spread of the movie through illicit means. It won’t keep me from backing other Kickstarter films, but I hope future projects will have the faith to offer a DRM-free download.

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Could bionic plants save our lives one day?

Bionic plant

The leaf of a plant embedded with carbon nanotubes is examined under a near-infrared microscope.


(Credit:
MIT/Bryce Vickmark)

Bionics, such as this device invented to replace the functionality and feeling of a man’s hand lost in an accident, are steadily finding their way into human lives. Thanks to new research conducted at MIT, such devices may soon be infiltrating the plant world as well — leading to plants that could monitor their surroundings, communicate via cell phone signals, act as living streetlamps, and create more robust crops.

To engineer their bionic plants, the researchers applied a solution containing carbon nanotubes to the underside of the leaves on a Arabidopsis thaliana plant. The plant sucked up the tubes through its leaves using a process known as vascular infusion, incorporating them into its chloroplasts, the structures responsible for photosynthesis. The researchers found that the energy subsequently produced by the plant increased 30 percent, as measured by the amount of electrons that got flowing during the photosynthetic process.

In addition to the plant getting a boost in energy production, the researchers believe the nanotubes could act as a kind of micro antenna. In such a capacity, the tubes would allow plants to soak up certain wavelengths of light they can’t currently use, such as ultraviolet, green, and near-infrared.

The scientists published their findings on “plant nanobionics” Sunday in the journal Nature Materials.

Michael Strano, an MIT professor of chemical engineering and leader of the research team, told Crave that “increasing photosynthesis within plants and chloroplasts is the first step to enhancing plant growth, increasing crop yields, etcetera. Growth is a complex process with many rate-limiting steps, potentially. But there is merit to helping the plant capture more light, especially if our vision is to use some of this energy to do other exotic functions.”

Strano and research partner Juan Pablo Giraldo, a plant biologist, have already incorporated one such “exotic function” — plants that can communicate with humans, and not just to tell us when they need to be watered via Twitter, or or phone calls. These plants could actually help save our lives one day.

Send us a sign, leaf
Strano and Giraldo injected a plant with carbon nanotubes that could sense nitric oxide, a pollutant caused by combustion, in effect turning it into a living gas detector. According to Strano, when the plant senses gas, “the nanoengineered leaf emits a near-infrared light signal, like in a TV remote control, that can be read by an external detector. This type of scheme can be used for stand-off detection from the plant, with say a camera or imaging array.”

“We could someday use these carbon nanotubes to make sensors that detect in real time, at the single-particle level, free radicals or signaling molecules that are at very low-concentration and difficult to detect,” Giraldo added in a statement. Just imagine if all those plants at the airport were doing double duty as sensors for toxic airborne particles, or if your potted ficus started glowing if there was a gas leak in your home.

Next up for the researchers? “We are also interested in bionic versions of self actuating plants — like the Venus flytrap,” Strano told Crave.

Uh-oh. Bionic Venus flytraps? I want in on the movie rights. Who’s with me?

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First Ubuntu Phones to cost $200-$400

First Ubuntu Phones to cost $200-$400

The first Ubuntu Phone handsets will be distinctly mid-range devices, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has admitted, and far from the top-end Edge concept.


Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has claimed that the first Ubuntu Touch-based smartphones will sell for around $200 to $400 when they launch later this year, putting them in the upper reaches of the mid-range market.

Canonical’s recent announcement that it had partnered with two manufacturers to build Ubuntu Touch-based smartphones was welcomed by fans, but thin on details. Particularly absent from the company’s press release were specifications for the first devices to come from either company, and how they would compare to the ultra-high-end Ubuntu Edge smartphone which so dramatically failed in its bid to raise $32 million in pre-orders via crowd-funding site Indiegogo.

Now, we have at least a hint of where the devices will sit – and it’s nowhere near the top-end Ubuntu Edge concept. Speaking at the CeBIT event in Hanover this week, as reported by The Register, Shuttleworth claimed that the first Ubuntu Touch handsets would sell for around $200 to $400 a piece – putting them closer to the budget-friendly Motorola Moto G in specifications than the Ubuntu Edge’s promised top-end CPU and 8GB of RAM.

Shuttleworth indicated that his company still planned to aim for the high-end, stating that ‘we want people who are looking for a very sharp, beautiful experience,‘ but at the prices he is quoting it seems that the initial Ubuntu Touch experience will be a distinctly mid-range affair.

Thus far, Canonical has not indicated whether the handsets due later this year will support Ubuntu Touch’s main feature: the ability to dock with a monitor, keyboard and mouse in order to transform from a smartphone into a fully-fledged ARM-powered Ubuntu Linux desktop.

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15 space organizations join hunt for missing Malaysian jet

An Indonesian Air Force military surveillance aircraft searches the Malacca Strait for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.


(Credit:
Indonesian Air)

As the latest piece of technology to be enlisted in the search for missing Malaysian flight MH370, satellites have the eyes of the world watching them as they watch us.

On Monday, a crowdsourcing platform called Tomnod, along with parent company DigitalGlobe, launched a crowdsourcing campaign to enlist the help of citizens in scouring satellite images to search for the plane that disappeared on March 7.

China has followed that up by activating the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters to join the hunt on Tuesday. The goal of the charter is to enlist space data from 15 member organizations to provide assistance in the case of a “natural or technological disaster.” The charter describes such a disaster as “a situation of great distress involving loss of human life or large-scale damage to property, caused by a natural phenomenon, such as a cyclone, tornado, earthquake, volcanic eruption, flood or forest fire, or by a technological accident, such as pollution by hydrocarbons, toxic or radioactive substances.”

Now that the charter has been activated, space scientists around the planet will enlist the satellites available to them to gather images from the suspected area in which flight MH370 disappeared. The hope is that one of those images will pick up something that can direct search and recovery efforts.

Satellites are just one of the tech tools involved in the massive multi-national aircraft hunt that already includes the use of 42 sophisticated ships and 39 high-tech aircraft combing the waters according to the BBC. For example, listening devices are being lowered into the water to pick up the “ping” of the black box, and sophisticated MH60 Seahawk helicopters from the United States are employing Forward Looking Infra-red (FLIR) cameras that arm the searchers with night vision.

The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was most recently activated on February 13 to help with monitoring the Mount Kelud volcano explosion on the Indonesian island of Java. Prior to that it’s been used to monitor flooding, forest fires, snowfalls, cyclones, oil spills and other damaging events around the world. It was also used to assist in recovery efforts from earthquakes, including the one that rocked Japan in March 2011 and caused a devastating tsunami and the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant. The charter has been activated 400 times in its history, but Tuesday represents the first time it was called into service to look for a missing aircraft. The only other transportation-related event for which it’s been used was to assist in gathering data after a train full of dynamite exploded in North Korea on April 23, 2004.

The charter, which began after Vienna’s Unispace III conference in 1999 with three agencies, has grown to its current membership of 15 organizations with the Russian Federal Space Agency being the most recent to join in 2013. Other member organizations include the European Space Agency, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute and China’s National Space Administration. The US member organizations include the United States Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. After the charter has been activated, data typically starts coming in within 24 hours, according to a report in Phys.org.

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Twitch Plays Pokemon: In conversation with the phenomenon’s creator (Q&A)


(Credit:
Screenshot by Nick Statt/CNET)

Thirty-six million views. 1.16 million unique players, with 121,000 connected simultaneously at one point. For a major videogame publisher, those numbers would be nothing to scoff at. (Indeed, that’s more people than are playing Battlefield 4 online currently, across all five platforms.) For an independent port of an 18-year-old game originally intended to be played on the humble Nintendo Game Boy, that’s nothing short of a marvel.

Built on top of the Twitch game streaming platform, Twitch Plays Pokemon (or TPP) was an attempt to play through Pokemon Red, where everyone in the chat room had a chance to control the game. It was all handled through the attached chat room, where viewers would enter commands. A straightforward IRC bot monitored the whims and fancies of the crowd, aggregating the results passing that on to the emulator running the game.

Its success was certainly a surprise to most, even to its creator, an Australian programmer who prefers to remain anonymous but who kindly agreed to give us an audience — virtually, at least — to look back at the project one month after it first went online on February 12, and to look forward toward what comes next.

Q: It’s been just about a month since the initial Twitch Plays Pokemon began, where over a million people chipped in to play through Pokemon
Red. Did you have any idea it would see this kind of success?

I had no idea it was going to be this successful, I was expecting ~300 concurrent viewers at peak as a best-case scenario.

I find the success of Twitch Plays Pokemon to be a little annoying. It’s extremely unlikely anything else I would make would be this successful.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Nick Statt/CNET)

Q: How long did it take you to implement the code necessary to make this work? About how much time would you estimate you’ve spent making updates to the system since then?

I wrote the code and put it up on a server all within a few days, I didn’t put much effort into it because I didn’t expect it to be successful; I just wanted to test to see if interacting with a game in this manner would have any interest at all. I was expecting to let it run for a short while (until interest died) and then take what I learnt and applied it to something more complex.

Since the explosion in popularity I’ve made extensive modifications to the software. It has a lot more functionality now, and it is also more reliable. I’ve also made many improvements to the overlay — it’s strange to go back and see the old one now.

I’ve lost track of how many hours I’ve spent working on TPP, and I expect there to be many more.

Q: Was it ever difficult to keep the system operational, given the volume of players?

No, not really — my server just listens to a chat channel and sends a video stream to Twitch. It doesn’t make much difference if there’s one viewer or 100,000 viewers.

Twitch, on the other hand, has seen a a big strain on their servers due to the popularity of Twitch Plays Pokemon and its heavy usage of Twitch’s chat functionality.

Q: After about a week, a change was made, adding a “democracy” mode in the hopes of giving more power to the majority to keep the game moving. This though, created a huge debate about the intrinsic nature of the project, with some saying that it compromised the core experience. Did you expect this sort of negative reaction?

Yes, I expected a negative reaction; people don’t like change. Early on in TPP’s life, I realized that the movement was too imprecise for parts of the game to be possible — something needed to be changed.

The intrinsic nature of the project was to exist for a week before being shut down due to disinterest.

Q: Most people rate Pokemon Red as taking between 40 to 50 hours to complete when playing solo. It took the players on Twitch just over two weeks. Did you have an idea of how long it would take the group to complete the game? Did you think they could complete it at all?

I didn’t think it was possible. I thought the number of viewers would be too low allowing for trolls to easily release every Pokemon, delaying the game’s progression indefinitely.

Q: Now that the project has moved on to other Pokemon games, do you think the group will get faster at completing them, or even slower?

I think that now that many people in the group are experienced, it will be easier for them to communicate and perform (relatively) complex tasks.

Q: What are your thoughts on the other Twitch Plays games that this effort has spawned?

Seeing how other games worked with the same format made me feel right in saying that Pokemon is by far the most ideal game for such a simple method of input.

I was a little disappointed in seeing how many of the streams had the same functionality as TPP. I was hoping to see much more variation and experimentation.

Q: In your estimation, how long will gamers remain interested in this sort of social experiment? Will Twitch gamers still be collaborating to get through Pokemon and other games a year from now? Five years?

I was expecting to shut the stream down within a week or two due to disinterest; inputting button presses into a chat window and waiting to see the effect didn’t sound like it would be all that appealing.

I’m not sure how much longer this sort of thing will be relevant, but I’m planning on running my stream for as long as there’s still interest.

Watch live video from TwitchPlaysPokemon on www.twitch.tv

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