Geek News Roundup for 03/09/2014– A SxSW Video Call From Somewhere in Russia with Love


After a very short hiatus the Geek News Roundup is back. The week began with an appearance by the infamous (or famous) Edward Snowden at Austin’s South by Southwest Interactive conference. The former NSA contractor turned whistleblower spoke to the conference via video using seven proxy servers to conceal his true location in Russia. Snowden urged internet experts to focus their efforts on producing stronger communication encryption for everyday use. He also blasted the NSA’s mass data collection efforts for being a waste of resources. If Snowden speaking to SxSW wasn’t enough bad press for the NSA, more of the former contractor’s leaks were released to the public. The latest report revealed the NSA often hijacks the botnets of other hackers in order to use the compromised machines for their own purposes. In other words, many of those zombie PCs may not be controlled by a criminal hacker but one of the most powerful surveillance agencies in the world.


All is not well on the entertainment side of the intenet either. There’s still the looming proposed buyout of Time Warner Cable by Comcast Cable and the latter’s deal with Netflix. What does it all mean? A modern guided age for the large cable company. Wired writer Art Brodsky outlines how Comcast will use its amassed economic power to shape the future of the internet and television.


Before this news roundup gets any darker let’s shift gears to lighter articles and focus on the gaming world. In February the PS4 outsold the Xbox One but Microsoft’s third console led in dollar amounts. It makes sense given the console costs $100 more than the PS4. Additionally, the Xbox One has sold much better than the 360 did at its launch in 2005. The $100 difference between the two new consoles will be coming to an end in Canada. Citing the weakness of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar Sony is actually raising the price of the PS4 by $50. It doesn’t end there. The price of the Dualshock 4, the PlayStation Camera and two exclusive Sony games are going up by $5. In this case waiting to purchase a console turned out to be financially counterintuitive. Ouch. As of this writing, Microsoft has no plans to raise the price of the XBONE.


Are you uninterested in the seventh generation of consoles?  Valve, Google and Amazon have you covered. Valve released images of its redesigned Steam Controller. The touchscreen has been completely replaced with a more traditional button layout. The trackpads have been moved higher and now sit where analog sticks would sit on other controllers. Google has edged further into video games by purchasing Green Throttle Games, a firm dedicated to creating gaming peripherals. The company is best known for creating a Bluetooth controller for mobile games. Many are speculating Google’s acquisition will allow the search giant to create a set-top box for playing Android games on TVs. Amazon is supposedly getting into the business of games and the first pictures of a Bluetooth controller have been leaked. The pictures have not been confirmed by Amazon so we’ll have to put this one into rumor territory for now. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if the retail giant announced a gaming set-top box or microconsole by the end of the year.


The month of March has been packed with game releases. Looking back to February, two Square Enix titles landed firmly in the best-sellers category. Bravely Default and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII made the top ten games sales list for the month. The news is pretty heartening for fans of JRPGs. Speaking of RPGs, Costume Quest is making a glorious return on Halloween in the form of Costume Quest 2. The original game was released in 2010 and left the door open for a sequel. (Both Joseph and I reviewed the game in 2012.) Double Fine recently acquired the IP rights from Nordic Games after THQ went bankrupt.


Sequel madness must be in the air. A new Durarara!! anime series is currently being produced although a broadcast date has not been given. The original staff from the first series is returning but Brains Base has not been credited as the production studio. Call me cranky but I am among the many fans who felt Ryohgo Narita’s other work, Baccano! ought to receive a new anime series instead. Still, Durarara!! is the more popular series so the announcement isn’t a huge surprise. NIS America is best known for releasing subtitled-only anime in North America. That will be changing with the re-release of Toradora! featuring an English dub on Blu-ray. (Alex reviewed the series in 2010.) If you prefer older shows Anime Sols has your back with the upcoming release of Creamy Mami’s final DVD set. The crowdfunding streaming site managed to surpass its goal of $18,000 with a few hours to spare on the deadline. Watching the funding for DVD sets roll in at the last minute on Anime Sols is its own kind of entertainment. In a different type of entertainment, Kadokawa has announced it is releasing Comic Walker, a smartphone app designed to let manga fans legally read their releases for free. The system works by releasing a free chapter for a period of two weeks. After two weeks the content moves to Comic Walker’s store section where fans must pay to read it. Kadokawa is including classics such as Sgt. Frog and Mobile Suit Gundam.


I close this week out with a video from Man At Arms. This time the Hollywood blacksmith recreates the sword Pokemon, Honedge:


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