Petition Requests Visas for eSports Players



ESPN logoAre eSports a “legitimate” sport? This question has been argued on social media ever since ESPN began including eSports events on its channel. You can tune in to watch teams of people compete against each other in video games like League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, or Hearthstone on the same channel that brings you baseball, soccer, and other traditional sports.

There is a petition on We The People (the White House’s petition website) that is asking the United States government to recognize all eSports as “legitimate” sports. The goal of the petition is not simply to win the “Twitter war” about whether or not eSports is are valid as basketball. The petition is also asking for international eSports players to be able to get a permit that allows them to compete in the United States.

The petition is called: “The USCIS Should Recognize All Esports As “Legitimate” Sports So International Players Can Come to the US on P1 Visas”. The USCIS the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The petition says:

This petition arises from an ongoing situation regarding one of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world, William “Leffen” Hjelte. In 2015, Mr. Hjelte was deported from the United States because he was sponsored by an American company while using a tourist visa, when he needed a work visa. After applying for a P1 Visa, which is what professional athletes use to come to the US, he was denied due to Super Smash Bros. Melee not being recognized as a “legitimate” sport. Competitors in other eSports, such as League of Legends, have been approved for P1 Visas in order to travel to the US and compete. Given the precedent set with League of Legends, other eSports should be considered “legitimate” sports in order to let players come and compete in the United States.

There are two types of P1 visas. I’m going to assume the petitioner is thinking of the P 1A which is for internationally recognized athletes. It is for a person who is “coming to the US temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.”

The petition must get 49,667 signatures before May 29, 2016, in order to receive a response from the White House. A response does not guarantee that the petition will be granted or acted upon. At the time I am writing this blog, the petition has 50,333 signatures.


Reddit Research Nearly Proves Godwin’s Law



reddit-logo-01-674x501It’s a cliche that’s almost as old as the internet itself, and it’s summed up succinctly by Godwin’s Law:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches – that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism. The first utterance of such comparison is called the Godwin point of the discussion.

A blogger operating under the name GuriousGnu wasn’t necessarily attempting to prove Godwin’s Law. But CuriousGnu almost did, after analyzing publicly available data from Reddit. First, CuriousGnu made a list that shows the top subreddits that mention either Hitler or Naziism. This list might come as somewhat reassuring to anyone who’s spent more than a little time in online communities, as the top five subreddits for Hitler mentions are:

  • /history
  • /AskHistorians
  • /european
  • /italy
  • /de (Germany)

So it seems likely most of these Nazi-tinged threads might’ve at least been relevant to discussions on history.

CuriousGnu also made a graph that really starts to put Godwin’s Law into perspective:

Then I excluded history subreddits and looked at the probability that a Reddit thread mentions Nazis or Hitler at least once. Unsuprisigly, the probability of a Nazi refrence increases as the threads get bigger. Nevertheless, I didn’t expect that the probability would be over 70% for a thread with more than 1,000 comments.

CuriousGun goes on to state that the next logical step in the experiment would be to do advanced analyses using sophisticated text-mining techniques that would be difficult and time-consuming to complete. Still, this bit of analysis gives us some interesting (if not humorous) insight into what really happens when people congregate and communicate online.


Netflix Lets You Control Mobile Data Usage



INetflix_Web_Logot’s never good to go over your mobile data plan’s monthly limit. This can lead to higher bills as well as service slowdowns and suspensions. Tools have gotten better over the years for measuring mobile data use. But they still leave much to be desired. Consuming rich media media like streaming video on mobile devices can eat thru a data plan quickly. But by default, most mobile video apps don’t provide any indicator of how much data they’re using, and rarely are the default video quality settings in these apps configured to a lower setting that’d use less data. Netflix is hoping to take some of the pain out of mobile video consumption with new in-app settings that allow users to control how much data the app can use.

In the recently updated version of its iOS and Android apps, Netflix users will find a setting called Cellular Data Usage. This setting can now be changed from the default selection, which uses about a gigabyte of data for every three hours of viewed content, to a lower or higher setting. There’s even an unlimited data option for those who aren’t worried at all about how their video-viewing habits affect their data usage.

This change should come as a welcome relief to anyone who’s been burned in the past by Netflix-related overages. Hopefully, other video app developers will follow suit and add similar options to their own offerings.


KiddieRail Saves Children on Stairs at Gadget Show Live



KiddieRail LogoWith our penultimate visit to the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live, I’m with Lesley from KiddieRail. She saw that for children banisters on stairs were too fat and too high for them to use comfortably so it’s hardly surprising to see that children under 5 have over 58,000 accidents on stairs every year in the UK, with larger numbers in the USA. As a result, she designed KiddieRail, a child-friendly height-adjustable handrail systems that grows as the child does.

KiddieRail

The tubular handrail is fixed to an existing banister or wall with special mounting brackets that have three positions for the handrail. As the child grows up from toddler to pre-schooler and beyond, the handrail can be moved up to be at just the right height. The other clever feature of the mounting brackets is that they can support the handrail at any angle, whether the stairs are steep, shallow or even on a flat landing. If that’s not enough, if the child is holding the rail, they’re not putting sticky hands on wall.

The KiddieRail is expected to go into testing shortly and it’s hoped to be on the market before the end of 2016. Price point should be around GB£75 for approximately 3 m (10 feet) of stairs. There’s more detail at the KiddieRail website where you can sign-up to receive updates on the project.


CleanGrow’s Nutrient Analyzer at Gadget Show Live



CleanGrow LogoFor anyone who uses water on a daily basis, knowing the quality of the water is essential. For these people, CleanGrow has developed a “laboratory in a suitcase” which is able to analyse six water-based nutrients in one go. Ian from CleanGrow tells me more about it at Gadget Show Live.CleanGrow Sensor

Developed for food growers and other industries that need to accurately measure nutrients and ions in water, the Nutrient Analyzer measures six different ions at once. Using a top-secret membrane to attract the ions, the analyser detects and quantifies six from calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, sodium, ammonium, nitrate and (coming soon) phosphate, before sending the data to an iPhone or iPad. The system is very easy to use – put the water in the bottle, stick the multi-sensor in the bottle and the Analyzer tells you what’s in the water. The sensors can detect from as little as 0.05 ppm to 60,000 ppm with a sample typically taking less than 20 seconds to be analysed.

CleanGrow Suitcase

The CleanGrow system is available now for around GB£2,500.


Ransomware threat grows as April sets a new record



bigstock-Computer-Hacker-in-suit-and-ti-31750772

Ransomware is the latest phase in online fraud. Think of it as an old-time mafia shake-down. It amounts to protection money. Your data gets encrypted and you have to pay to unlock your own files. It’s a deplorable practice, but unfortunately also a lucrative one.

And it’s that promise of money that keeps the market for these things going. In fact, a new report claims April was the biggest month yet for this sector of malware.

Enigma Software Group did a study of all infections, covering more than 65 million since April 2013. The results were disturbing. It claims it “found that ransomware in April 2016 more than doubled the total from March 2016. Additionally, ransomware made up a larger percentage of overall infections in April than in any other month in the last three years”.

The trend has resulted in some high-profile attacks, including a hospital being hit. In many cases, it’s both individual users as well as businesses.

“It’s not just businesses that are being hit by ransomware”, says ESG spokesperson Ryan Gerding. “Every day thousands and thousands of people turn on their personal computers only to find their most precious photos and other files have been locked up by bad guys”.

The best defense against these attacks is to backup your data, either in the cloud or on an external drive that you can disconnect from the network, a it propagates across drives and computers to ensure that you have no access to it. There is also the usual advice — think before you click links and keep your system up to date, both OS and software.

Image Credit: Bigstock


Samsung SmartThings IoT System Vulnerable to Security Breaches



SmartThings logoThe Internet of Things and by extension, the connected home, is here. But is the world really ready for every facet of our daily lives to be connected to the internet? That smart toaster that notifies you via smartphone when your breakfast is ready might be a cool, convenient addition to your kitchen. But it’s a potential attack vector for hackers to breach your home network. And while it may be nothing more than a harmless prank for a hacker to reset your IoT-connected toaster to the “scorched earth” setting, the reality of this kind of security breach is much worse. Once an experienced hacker gets in thru the toaster, the home security system or front door lock could be their next targets.

That’s exactly what researchers discovered when testing out Samsung’s SmartThings IoT system of products. The test was conducted by computer scientists at the University of Michigan. What they found may come as shocking news to anyone considering outfitting a home with connected devices. The research team devised several exploits that worked against a SmartThing network by taking advantage of intrinsic flaws in the network’s design. One of the exploits was even able to extract the PIN from a connected door lock and send that PIN via text message to an outside recipient.

Most of the exploits were created by taking advantage of how Samsung’s SmartThings control apps interact with a network. Researchers were able to find multiple ways to intercept or redirect data being transmitted between these apps and the network. These processes made it possible to eventually gain entry to almost anything on the network.

It might be a good idea to hold off awhile on purchasing that shiny new SmartFridge. I suppose if you have only one device like this on your network, it could be OK. But once you’re adding door locks and security systems to your network, you’re potentially opening yourself up to these kinds of exploits.


Nintendo to Release Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem on Smart Devices



Nintendo logoNintendo revealed that it will be releasing its popular Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem games on smart devices. This news was part of a Financial Results Briefing for Fiscal Year ending March 2016.

Nintendo is planning to release both Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem as their next steps in their smart device business. Both are popular games and are anticipated to do well on smart devices.

Fire Emblem is described in the Briefing as “a pioneering role-playing simulation game series, combining the tactical elements of a simulation game with the character customization elements of a role-playing game.”

Fifteen titles have been released in the Fire Emblem series since 1990. Nintendo notes that “the series has many passionate fans, particularly among gamers in their 20s and 30s.”

“We are currently developing an application for smart devices based on Fire Emblem. We expect that many consumers will experience Fire Emblem for the first time on their smart device, so this application will offer a more accessible style of gameplay compared to the titles for dedicated video game systems. At the same time, we still aim to provide a fully engaging experience as a role-playing simulation game.”

Animal Crossing debuted in 2001 and is described in the Briefing as one of Nintendo’s “evergreen titles”. In the Animal Crossing series “your avatar is the main character and you can live as you please, experiencing life in real time and enjoying events across all four seasons with delightful animal companions.” Nintendo notes that Animal Crossing is popular with female and young consumers in particular.

“We are currently developing a new application for smart devices based on the characters and world of Animal Crossing. As I mentioned before, the Animal Crossing series for dedicated video game systems is well-loved for its long-term playability, so we want to offer a connection between the smart device application and the world of Animal Crossing on dedicated video game systems. This will make it even more fun to play both ways, while offering a new style of play for smart devices.”

In the Financial Results Briefing, Nintendo said it plans to release both of these applications in the fall of 2016.


GNC #1113 Road Show



Road Show today with an Audio only. Lots of hot tech topics in this episode and a little more laid back show today.

Download the Audio Show File

Support my Show Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 for a New or Transfered .com cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Business Website Builder with free domain. Promo Code: cjcgncgot
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgncwp1

Continue reading GNC #1113 Road Show


Néit Collapsible Luggage at Gadget Show Live



Neit LogoAlthough the march of technology has been towards miniaturisation and making gadgets smaller, there are some things that need to be big and there’s no value in making them smaller. For example, luggage and suitcases need to be big enough to get enough clothes and belongings in for the trip. This is perfect while the bags are needed on travel, but once home the bulk is unnecessary and a waste of space for those unfortunate enough not have storage in a garage, loft or attic. Nicky and the team at Néit have the answer with collapsible luggage.

Neit Collapsible Luggage

Winning a “Highly Commended” at the British Inventors’ Project, Néit’s collapsible luggage folds from a rigid suitcase to only 9 cm / 3″ wide. Once folded, the case can be stored anywhere convenient – upright in a cupboard, flat on top of wardrobe or hung from a clothes rail. Made from a polycarbonate shell and aircraft-grade aluminium, the picture shows the Néit case folded (the blue light strip is for effect only). In addition to space-saving, the Néit luggage has a couple of other tricks too. The handle has built-in scales, so there are no surprise excess weight charges at check-in. There’s GPS tracking too, so if the airline mislays the bag, the Néit smartphone app can track its location almost anywhere in the world.

The collapsible luggage comes in two sizes, a 90 litre hold bag and 38 litre carry-on and they’re available for pre-order from Néit’s webstore. Currently priced from GB£229 and £189 respectively, the bags are expected to ship in December 2016.

And in case you were wondering about Néit: he’s the Celtic god of War.