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‘Super Mario Flashback’ is a stunning pixel art fan game

Run for long enough and Mario will enter a super-fast dash.

Mors rediscovered Mario through a legally dubious Nintendo 64 emulator. He also played Mario Forever, a popular fan game based on the original Super Mario Bros., with one of his classmates in the fourth grade. Mors had always been interested in computers and, aged nine, received a copy of GameMaker from a family friend. "I was the kid in middle school who would fix the teacher's computer whenever they messed something up," he explained. At first, Mors used GameMaker to build simplistic maze puzzles and platformers. But he soon graduated to Mario clones that used assets ripped from Google Images and Mario Forever.

"The very first ones were extremely bad," he said.

"At the time, I only knew what 'download' meant."

At first, Mors made games for himself and his friends. But he later discovered a site where people could share and download GameMaker creations. There was a forum, but Mors didn't know enough English to participate or learn from his more-experienced peers. "At the time I only knew what 'download' meant," he said. Still, the young developer persevered and eventually uploaded his own project called Super Mario Ztar to a Mario fan-game site called MFGG. It was a modest platformer with a special 'super flower' power-up that allowed Mario to shoot infinite fireballs until he took damage.

"The reaction was pretty negative," he recalled. "I was 12." Thankfully, his English was still so poor that he couldn't understand most of the feedback.

Ground Pounds are super-effective against stacked enemies.

Undeterred, Mors started conceptualizing a new Mario fan game called Mario and Luigi's Coin Chaos. The art style would be broadly similar to Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World; however, the story and levels would take place in an apocalyptic doomsday scenario. "Except when I was working on it, I got bored of the idea and decided to turn it into a more generic fan game," he said. Mors worked on the title for a few years while submitting the occasional mini-game, including Deadly Dart, Yoshi Dash! and Mario Teaches Japanese, for some of MFGG's fan competitions.

The Turkish programmer got bored of Coin Chaos and eventually started a parallel project in 2013. At first, he considered a game like Sonic Generations that would reinterpret levels from different Mario games. He also debated a single-level, exploration-heavy 'Metroidvania' title inspired by the Metroid and Castlevania franchises. "It would have been a really cool concept, but I wasn't sure if I would be able to pull it off," he explained. By 2014, he had canceled Coin Chaos completely and focused his efforts on the Sonic Generations idea. That game, unsurprisingly, would eventually become Flashback.

"I'm not very good at drawing. It's something I find really hard to wrap my head around."

At this point, Nintendo was working on its hugely imaginative Super Mario Maker for Wii U. Mors, however, still only had a PS2 and some Nintendo emulators that could run Mario 64 and the Gamecube-era Super Mario Sunshine. He had never played anything from the Wii and Wii U eras, such as Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Mario 3D World. Still, he planned to include levels from those games in Flashback.

Mors sees himself as a programmer first and a designer second. He also struggles with some of the artistic aspects of video-game development, such as sprite work and music. "I'm not very good at drawing," he said. "It's something I find really hard to wrap my head around. But since my dream was always to be a mostly self-sufficient indie game developer, I've kind of had to force myself to learn all that stuff."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/31/super-mario-flashback-pixel-art-fan-game/

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Google and iRobot team up to better map your home

While the companies aren't more specific than that in the release, iRobot chief Colin Angle told The Verge in an interview that it could help properly locate smart home devices. The maps could help pinpoint where your lights are, for instance, while a future robot would know where to fetch a beer by identifying the location of a connected refrigerator.

It's understandable why this would cause privacy concerns. If you're already nervous about the potential for breaches and misuses, why would you give Google a map of your home? The company's Michelle Turner emphasized that the info wouldn't be used for ads or other existing Google services, however, and map information sharing is strictly optional. Any collaboration would be limited to smart home tech, at least in the near future.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/31/google-and-irobot-smart-home-partnership/

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Google refutes reported Home Hub security flaw

Gamblin wrote in a blog post that after he purchased the Google Home Hub and set it up in his home, he noticed a number of open ports being used by the device. Curiosity got the best of him, and he started using the command prompt on his computer to text the smart display's security. What he found was that it's possible to force a reboot with a single line of code. After a bit more playing around, Gamblin was able to delete the Google Home Hub's WiFi network, disable notifications and just generally be a pest.

For its part, Google seems far less concerned about the perceived security flaw than Gamblin. "A recent claim about security on Google Home Hub is inaccurate," a spokesperson for Google told Engadget. "The APIs mentioned in this claim are used by mobile apps to configure the device and are only accessible when those apps and the Google Home device are on the same Wi-Fi network. Despite what's been claimed, there is no evidence that user information is at risk."

Essentially, for one to take advantage of such an exploit, they would have to be connected to the same network as the Google Home Hub they are trying to brick. While there should perhaps be other forms of authentication to prevent malicious actors from executing the code highlighted by Gamblin, requiring access to the same WiFi network is, in a sense, a form of authentication -- assuming your device is on a password-protected network. Google has had security issues with its Home devices before, including one that revealed user location, but this doesn't appear as serious. Any attempt to carry out an attack on the Google Home Hub using this method would have to be extremely targeted and couldn't do much widespread harm aside from annoy an individual victim.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/31/google-home-hub-api-security-flaw/

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Intel i9-9900K explained: The road to 5GHz

Intel has released its new line of desktop processors, including the i9-9900K, an eight-core CPU which can boost up to 5GHz. These chips are certainly fast, but they also showcase some of the challenges Intel and entire chip industry has had in crafting speedier processors. In the 2000s, most people would have predicted we'd have 5GHz chips by around 2008. Though the first 5GHz chips did finally appear in 2013, they were outperformed by most other high-end chips on the market. So how can a processor that runs faster perform worse than a slower chip, and how fast will the i9-9900K really be?

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/31/intel-i9-9900k-explained-the-road-to-5ghz/

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Ubisoft is adapting ‘Child of Light’ for TV

Both projects stem from the developer's Women's Film and TV Fellowship for screenwriters. Ubisoft allowed Mishna Wolff and Tasha Huo to base their projects on its intellectual property, and they opted for Werewolves Within and Child of Light respectively. After working with the company's film and TV development teams for several months, the writers both earned script deals with Ubisoft Motion Pictures following their successful pitches.

Huo is a fan of coming-of-age RPG platformer Child of Light and she hopes to capture the vibe of the "playable fairytale with a strong female heroine," as she describes it, in a live-action show. She's working on a script for the pilot.

Werewolves Within, meanwhile, is a virtual reality game in which you have to figure out which of a group of villagers (i.e. other players) is a werewolf or, if it's you, convince the others you are actually human. That, according to Wolff, is a solid setting for a live-action horror comedy, with some political satire factored in.

There is, of course, no guarantee that either project will actually come to fruition. Still, it may come as welcome news for fans of the games that Ubisoft is working on these adaptations.

Ubisoft Motion Pictures has a number of other movies in the works, including The Division with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain, as well as adaptations of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon and Rabbids. The studio's first movie was an adaptation of Assassin's Creed, which was released in 2016, and it seems the poor reception for that flick hasn't put the company off adapting more of its properties. Ubisoft is also involved with an Apple sitcom about a game development studio, and it plans to turn Assassin's Creed into an anime series.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/31/ubisoft-child-of-light-tv-series-werewolves-within/

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Starship launches robot package delivery service in the UK

You won't have to wait long to try this on the other side of the Atlantic. Service should reach the San Francisco Bay Area by the end of 2018, according to the company.

Starship bills this as ideal for people worried about packages being stolen. You won't have to stay at home, visit a locker or (worst of all) call to arrange a new delivery attempt or pickup. With that said, this isn't a seamless offering. Couriers would ideally provide robot-based delivery as a matter of course -- you wouldn't have to enlist a go-between to receive packages on your own terms. And when the robots have to travel the sidewalk, they're still relatively slow and vulnerable compared to courier drones. This gets the ball rolling, but it's far from perfect.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/31/starship-launches-robot-package-delivery-service/

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Why the new MacBook Air isn’t ‘a bigger MacBook’

Let's start with what a "Y" processor is and isn't.

Intel's ultra-low power chips used to be labeled "Atom," and had a completely different architecture to its desktop and laptop processors. That didn't go very well for various reasons, so Intel gave up on Atom. To replace it, Intel essentially took the "U-series" chips that were wildly successful in the MacBook Air and Windows Ultrabooks, slowed and trimmed them down, and created a new category of processors. They're built to sip power when compared to the U-series chips, or rather, they're built to not produce much heat, and Intel achieves that by limiting power draw.

A quick aside: Depending on the chip, Intel either refers to these processors as Core M or just throws a Y somewhere in their model number. This is infuriating. They all used to be called Core M, and so I'm just going to call them Core M for simplicity.

The chips in the entry-level MacBook trio are pretty similar. All have the same basic CPU architecture, with equal core/thread counts (2 and 4, respectively) and cache sizes. They diverge slightly in featuresets, and the U-series chip in the dual-core MacBook Pro pairs with faster, less power-efficient RAM, but the main differences you'll find are in clock speeds and integrated graphics.

The 12-inch MacBook comes with an m3-7Y32 in its $1,299 base configuration, or an i5-7Y54 chip at $1,399. Despite the "m3" and "i5" prefixes, these are basically the same chip, tuned differently. Intel even lists them at the same suggested price on its website. The m3 has a base frequency of 1.1GHz and a max turbo frequency of 3GHz, the i5 has a base frequency of 1.2GHz, and a max turbo frequency of 3.2GHz. While I don't have two machines in front of me to test this theory, the i5 will likely increase clock speed more aggressively, but beyond that they are very similar.

The new $1,199 MacBook Air hasn't been dissected yet, but it almost certainly has the i5-8210Y inside. Also a Core M, it has a base frequency of 1.6GHz, and a max turbo frequency of 3.6GHz. It appears to be a variant of the 8200Y we've seen in convertibles like the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. Where the Air differs from both the MacBook and the XPS is in its cooling: It appears to have a fan, and this would make it a much more capable machine. In fact, it pushes it closer in performance terms to the third laptop in Apple's lineup.

Apple on-stage slide

The MacBook Air's fan made a brief appearance on stage yesterday.

That laptop is the entry-level MacBook Pro. The $1,299 version has an i5-7360U, which has the same turbo frequency of 3.6GHz as the new Air, but runs at a base frequency of 2.3GHz. It also has Iris Plus Graphics 640, while all the chips I've mentioned till now have had UHD Graphics. Without going into too much detail, UHD Graphics are really just concerned with making sure things run smoothly, aiding in things like video decoding, while the Iris Plus Graphics will assist with multiple monitor setups and even let you play something light like Dota 2 on low settings.

So, on paper, all the CPUs are dual-cores capable of hitting speeds between 3GHz and 3.6GHz. But in reality, the three implementations are quite different. Intel has a helpful, but often misunderstood measurement to help us understand why: Thermal Design Power (TDP). Rather than being a measure of how powerful a processor is, TDP tells us how much heat it dissipates at a certain frequency.

All Core M chips are rated for almost identical TDPs at the same frequencies. Idling at 600MHz, they'll likely dissipate around 3.5W of heat, at 1.1-1.3GHz they reach 4.5W and at 1.6GHz they're all around 7W. Unfortunately, Intel doesn't publish Core M TDP figures above that, but the dual-core U-series in the MacBook Pro dissipates 15W at 2.3GHz, and given the architectural similarities, the Core M chips are likely in the same ballpark.

The 12-inch MacBook.

TDP is mainly useful for the manufacturers Intel sells to: It helps them to pick the right part for their device. Apple, for example, knows that if it throws a chip that dissipates 7W of heat in a chassis that can easily shed 7W of heat, it doesn't need a fan, and that's what it did with the 12-inch MacBook.

Now, everyday computing throws some curve balls -- moments when you need extra power to prevent a machine from stalling -- and that's why boost clocks exist. They let a chip kick up to higher speeds for as long as it can stay cool, before dropping the frequency back down. A desktop PC with a good cooler can sustain a high boost clock indefinitely. Outside of gaming laptops with giant vents, portable machines usually can't. It all depends on the cooling system the manufacturer has implemented.

When a system has no fan, though, it has a fixed limit for heat dissipation. Because of this, the 12-inch MacBook, for example, isn't actually capable of boosting to its advertised top clock in everyday operation. The lack of a fan also means ambient temperature plays an important role in performance. As I discovered at SXSW back in March, working in hot Texan sunlight can seriously degrade performance. That's because, unless you're doing literally nothing, the i5 MacBook's CPU won't be at its 1.2GHz base clock: It's almost always hovering above 1.5GHz during regular operation.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/31/macbook-air-intel-processor-cooling/

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‘MediEvil’ PS4 trailer previews a reinvented hack-and-slash story

Everything old is new again in gaming these days, including a game about resurrecting an old hero for another adventure. Sony and Other Ocean have released the first trailer for the PS4 remake of MediEvil, the PS1 classic that puts you in the boots of revived knight Sir Daniel Fortesque as he saves the realm from his arch-nemesis Lord Zarok. Much like the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro remakes, the core gameplay and plot are about the only things left untouched. The visuals, sound and cutscenes are much better -- Sir Dan looks more like the skeletal knight you saw on the box than the bundle of polygons from the original.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/31/medievil-ps4-remake-trailer/

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Twitter expands its reporting options for spam tweets and accounts

You can flag tweets as stemming from a bot (or a fake account) or identify those that include malicious links. There are also options to report tweets with unrelated hashtags (which scammers can use to pop up on trends, for instance) or indicate if a user is spamming replies to someone.

The expanded reporting tools arrive just after Twitter launched its midterm election hub -- which featured fake news, tweets from conspiracy theorists and what appeared to be bot accounts. With the election just days away, it's possible that more inflammatory bots will appear in your feed, so you could find yourself taking advantage of these reporting methods.

Bots pose a broader problem beyond elections, however. The company said in July that it removed 70 million fake accounts in the previous two months. Perhaps the new functions will streamline the reporting process and allow Twitter to get rid of bad actors faster.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/31/twitter-spam-reporting-tweets/

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Experimental AI lie detector will help screen EU travelers

The real guards will use handhelds to automatically double-check documents and photos for these riskier visitors (including images from past crossings), and they'll only take over once these travelers have gone through biometric verification (including face matching, fingerprinting and palm vein scans) and a re-evaluation of their risk levels. Anyone who passed the pre-border test, meanwhile, will skip all but a basic re-evaluation and having to present a QR code.

The pilot won't start with live tests. Instead, it'll begin with lab tests and will move on to "realistic conditions" along the borders. And there's a good reason for this: the technology is very much experimental. iBorderCtrl was just 76 percent accurate in early testing, and the team only expects to improve that to 85 percent. There are no plans to prevent people from crossing the border if they fail the initial AI screening.

If everything goes well, this could greatly speed up border crossings by limiting the more extensive checks to people who raise initial suspicions. There are still concerns even if it works, though. Facial recognition systems can still produce mismatches, and they can have biases that might unfairly target minorities. It could be a while before lineups at border crossings are things of the past.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/10/31/ai-lie-detector-helps-screen-eu-travelers/

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