Geek News Roundup for 01/12/2014– The Net is Neutral No More

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The week in tech news started on a bad note for consumers when key parts of Net Neutrality rules were struck down in court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit voted 3-0 against the 2010 FCC order that prevented internet service providers from blocking content, websites or apps. Verizon sued the FCC and successfully won by stating broadband carriers are not classified as common carriers (like telephone companies). As a result the Federal Communications Commission overstepped its regulatory authority. While ISPs could start blocking content as they see fit immediately, the FCC has a few tricks up its sleeve including going to the Supreme Court or even reclassifying said ISPs as common carriers. The future of the internet in the United States as we know it just became a little more uncertain.

As one part of the U.S. government has fought for openness another agency continues to operate in the shadows. The New York Times reported the NSA has the ability to spy on computers that are completely offline.  As revealed in the documents whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked to the Times about 100,000 computers were secretly fitted with special circuit boards or USB cards. This technology allowed for the transmission of data via radio waves while a computer was offline. The targets included foreign militaries and drug cartels. Not even keeping a computer offline is enough to prevent intrusion by a determined government entity.

The majority of people aren’t interesting enough to catch the eye of government entities. Hackers, malware and viruses are still a major concern for anyone who connects to the internet on a regular basis. If for some reason you’re still using Windows XP the clock is ticking down in terms of software updates and security patches from Microsoft. On July 14, 2015 Microsoft will cease to release security updates for XP. On April 8 of this year security patches and regular updates will no longer be provided for users. The solution? Upgrade XP to an OS that isn’t Vista (I personally recommend Windows 7) or buy yourself a new computer.

If you’re more of an Apple fan and you own a mobile Apple device good news is coming. The technology giant is going refund $32.5 million to users with children who made unauthorized app purchases. Lesson learned? In app-purchases are expensive and keep an eye on your kids when they use your iPhone or iPad.

The same level of supervision is not required when children are playing with Nintendo products. Unfortunately for Nintendo, Wii U and 3DS units aren’t flying off the shelves fast enough and the company had to dramatically cut their sales projections. Instead of a projected net profit of $530 million, Nintendo is expecting a net loss of $230 million. The release of its Q3 financial results on January 29 probably won’t be pretty.

On the opposite end of the gaming spectrum is Valve. The company is reporting Steam now has 75 million active users worldwide, which is up from the 65 million reported in October. Additionally, Valve has redesigned its Steam controller by swapping the touch screen for traditional buttons. The design isn’t final and could change again before its release later this year.

In other PC gaming news the “impossible” finally happened. EA is patching in an offline mode for SimCity. Single player campaign files will be stored on a player’s hard drive now, negating the need for a constant internet connection. The patch isn’t available for download yet. That said, the patch proves EA and developer Maxis weren’t being completely truthful about their reasons for requiring SimCity’s single player campaign to be always online.

On the anime side of things Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises was nominated for an Oscar in the Animated Film category. The film recently lost to The Great Beauty for a Golden Globe but has won several smaller awards. If The Wind Rises does manage to win an Oscar it would be the second Miyazaki film to win one since Spirited Away. Black Butler may not be award winning animation material but it is popular. Production of a new anime adaptation of manga artist Yana Toboso’s long running series has been green-lit. This marks the third animated adaptation of Black Butler with the first two series airing in 2008 and 2010.

This week’s video is a Legend of Zelda fan film, The Dark Mask:

If the video gets one million views Mars Rising will continue the series. So uh, view this video, I want to see a sequel!

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