NASA TV Airs Cosplay Selfie in ISS Control Room

After the first British astronaut enters the International Space Station, it’s good to know that the folks at the ISS are firmly in control. I was watching NASA TV to see if they had anything about Tim Peake’s experience so far. After a brief conference with UK press, he sounded in good spirits and having a great time. The broadcast then went back live to the ISS Control Center just in time to see a whole load of folks get up and leave at the end of their shifts. And then… at 4:56am GMT… just in the corner of the feed…

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SteamOS Under-performing Against Windows

While it’s certainly not unexpected, the performance differences between SteamOS and Windows games have been nicely quantified by an article on Ars Technica that shows just how much of your system power you’re sacrificing using Valve’s free OS over the pay-for Windows. In some cases, it’s pretty shocking – Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor on medium settings under Windows gets a higher frame rate than SteamOS on lowest settings. Ouch.

It would seem the main reason for this is that Windows has DirectX while SteamOS has to rely on OpenGL. The idea that DirectX is faster that OpenGL full stop doesn’t hold any water, but the idea that games devs are better at using DirectX than OpenGL makes perfect sense and basically boils down to the same thing for SteamOS users. Let’s hope the Kronos working group can put Vulkan together PDQ – the future of open source games performance is relying on it pretty hard right now.

Taking On The Consoles – Revisited

You may have noticed that the initial idea behind was blog was self-building a Steam Machine that could compete on both price and performance with the XBox One and Playstation 4. With it’s higher specs, the PS4 was the primary target. After days of poring over price lists, benchmarks, reviews and spec sheets, I eventually pulled the trigger and built a fairly impressive system for just below the price of a Playstation 4 at the time.

You may also have noticed that all the analysis and gameplay footage and stuff that I spoke of never materialised. Why? Primarily because the system I built relied on a period of change in the PC parts market that brought the prices of several components, namely the motherboard, down to fit the budget. Those deals evaporated pretty quickly and within a week of the build, a similar spec system simply couldn’t fit inside the budget. So how about now?

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Propaganda Redefining Theft

A new advert caught my eye on TV today, part of a £3.5m government initiative to discourage piracy. I don’t know if you pay attention to such things, but anti-piracy initiatives have always been somewhat economical with the truth about what piracy is and how big an effect it has on the world’s artistic output.

This particular advert is no exception. This animation depicts YOUR piracy as the sole destructive force that’ll bring about the end of all creative output in the world, closing down cinemas, preventing all future music releases, bringing our bookshops to their knees and wiping out the video games industry. Uh-huh.

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Steam Controller Pre-Orders Shipping Soon!

If you were quick enough (and bothered enough) to pre-order a Steam Controller before the early shipping stocks were all reserved, you probably already know this and got an email from Valve asking to you to verify your shipping address today. Seems the deadline for altering your address is 25th September, so expect to hear about me getting my long, lean pianist’s fingers all over Valve’s first attempt at game control hardware very soon!

Rebooting Masterpieces

Creativity and new ideas are all well and good, but that’s never stopped some folk from watching a film and thinking “I could’ve done that better”. Sometime’s they’re right – The Thing, Batman Begins, Ocean’s Eleven, they’re all masterpieces reborn of films that were merely good to start with. But what happens when a franchise considered a masterpiece in it’s own right gets given the reboot treatment by it’s own director?

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Ashley Madison Programmers Forgot How To Security

The recent disclosures of data following the Ashley Madison hacks, including usernames and bcrypt-hashed passwords, has generated some interest in the security community over the last few weeks. The use of bcrypt had previously been thought to have rendered the passwords practically impossible to completely recover, thanks to it’s much more complex hashing scheme that drastically increases the length of time taken to perform a single hashing function, thus making brute-force attacks far slower to perform. Further research on the leaked data has shown this to simply not be the case at all.

A cracking team by the name of CynoSure Prime has discovered that a $loginkey field containing an MD5 hash of the username concatenated with a couple of colons and a plain text lower-case version of the password. MD5 hashes can be brute-forced at rates exceeding a billion attempts per second with little special effort, so attacking the MD5 hash for the lower-case password then attacking the bcrypt hash with only text case as a variable component drastically shortens the complete password recovery time. 11.2million passwords have already been recovered, helped by the fact that 9 out of 10 had no upper-case characters in them at all.

More Kerbal Space Program Launches Announced

A few months ago it was announced that KSP was being ported to the PS4 and Xbone. Around that time I was spending a lot of time hanging out in a KSP Twitch stream and the general consensus of opinion in chat was “good for Squad – gets them more money, and as long as it doesn’t distract them from continued PC dev work, we’re cool with it. But we wouldn’t buy it.”

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Pokemon Omega Ruby – Gym Leader Run

I’m amazed I’d never heard of this, or even thought of it myself. Since the very first Pokemon games were released, I’ve been a big fan of the franchise. I’ve played at least one game from every release pair/trio, with the exception of Black2/White2, and I’ve always found the game to be a bit… easy. Turns out I’m not the only person who’s been thinking along those lines, but I’d never considered self-applying some metagame rules to artificially increase the difficulty. Continue reading Pokemon Omega Ruby – Gym Leader Run

Nintendo Patent Discless Games Console

Folks around the Internet have been talking about a patent Nintendo have filed in the US for a games console with a hard drive, a network connection and no optical drive. I’m sure Valve and the folks behind the Ouya will be scratching their heads and lawyering-up if the patent is granted, but that’s besides the point.

This indication (however shaky it may be) that Ninty are considering exclusive digital distribution has a number of considerations. PS and Xbox gamers have proved highly resistant to attempts to curtail the second-hand games market. Steam’s unlimited redownloads give PC users security that they can always access their games, no matter what they do to their hardware, but Valve also run frequent deep discounts across huge swathes of the catalogue – Nintendo already charge full retail price for DD purchases on the Wii U and 3DS, could this be their traditional big new-product mistake?

Stoney Mahoney's Gaming and Tech Blog