28 years after the original release, Prince of Persia continues to be the obsession of a community made up by enthusiasts that never forgot their first, stunning encounter with Jordan Mechner’s platform game. And they are not just freaks like yours truly, who considers PoP his first computer love and that is still trying to beat his own personal record by playing the game every now and then under DOSBox. Nope: here we are talking about developers that are capable, determined and willing to dig the secrets hidden in the code of an ancient software to keep alive a myth that doesn’t fear the effects of obsolescence.
That particular computer passion known as retrocomputing requires to use ancient hardware components unable to support the most recent programs, but this doesn’t mean fans have to feel obliged to exclusively run software dating back to 10, 15 or even 20 years ago. On the contrary: the “scene” of the new releases designed to keep the retro hardware alive with recently produced code provides non-stop announcements - some of them stealing the spotlight, for a bit at least, next to the latest version of Windows 10 or Google Chrome.
Rather than taking a vacation from writing code and reverse engineering the chips inside old gaming machines, emulator developers use the hottest period of the year to release updates for some of most significant projects in the modern emulation scene. During the last three months new versions of ScummVM and Dolphin arrived, while a project seemingly started to absorb all the emulators in the world presents an important innovation regarding one of the most beloved consoles from Nintendo.
After their well-deserved moment of glory which lasted from 1981 to 1995, command line-based operating systems for PC better known as “DOS” (Disk Operating System) should be extinct by now. And yet DOS, and particularly Microsoft’s MS-DOS and the open source projects directly inspired to it, still is a market niche populated by extremely peculiar usage scenarios, old users and enthusiasts that have no intention to quit the command line for good.
By ending a wait that lasted almost two years, the developers of ScummVM announced the arrival of a new version for the virtual machine preferred by graphic adventure fans: also known as “Lost with Sherlock”, ScummVM 1.8.0 is hailed as one of the most hefty releases ever prepared by the team with the addition of many games and game engines, the substantial update of graphics and sound sub-systems and the availability of new conversions for minor platforms.
Two years after the arrival of the eighth generation of home gaming consoles, the market situation and the endless speculations allow us to identify some firm points next to many uncertainties: Sony PlayStation 4 is still enjoying a seemingly unapproachable success, while Microsoft is trying to come out of its beaten-up boxer corner by playing the card of exclusive features - which in the end aren’t so exclusive, or at least not quite so. The uncertainties? They mostly apply to Nintendo, a company with an outlook that never seemed so frail.
After spending years turning piracy into a state affair and a business opportunity for copyright parasites, the media majors must now face a more and more obvious reality: fighting the sharing of digital contents on-line, on the Web or P2P networks bears no positive result at all. At least according to a growing collection of “official” researches and not just to sharing activists. The industry’s reply? More anti-piracy, more complaints and even more years in jails for wrongdoers.
After unveiling the partnership with DeNa for smartphone games and the new console known as NX, Nintendo recently said not to feel like a loser in the home console market: the corporation isn’t “cornered” at all, president Satoru Iwata has stated, even though it is aware of the need to be up to date in a constantly changing world. Nintendo had more than a chance to enter the mobile casual gaming business, so the DeNa partnership comes from a thoughtful choice and not from desperation.
The content industry can rely on a growing number of tools for trying to censor, sue and damage the users of file-sharing, but said users have more and more ways to share, search and download music, videos or software as well. The Pirate Bay (TPB) is on of the most known names and one of the majors’ main targets as always, yet the old lion of BitTorrent P2P has got its own problems and it has to give way to competition as the most popular torrent site on the Internet.
The last time I was talking about surprising news coming for the home consoles, and in these two weeks it was mostly Nintendo that stirred things up with unexpected announcements that (partially) confirm specific analysts’ anticipations and the need to stimulate a merciless market. But let’s start from the beginning: NPD Group numbers about sales of gaming hardware and software reinforce Sony’s lead on February too, at least for the home consoles, and the Japanese corporation’s business grows accordingly.
Trend Micro recently discovered a new malware family, classified as PE_VIRLOCK and designed as a combination of two different types of malicious code. The first type is related to a past when we still talked about computer “viruses” and not cyber-crime, while the second one is one of the most successful malware-based businesses of the past years. VIRLOCK is a ransomware which is capable of spreading through file virus techniques, and the worst part is that its evolution isn’t complete yet.
One of the small, frankly surprising news brought by the beginning of 2015 is the return of Ninjai, a historical Flash animated web series released on-line during the first years of the second millennium. The Ninjai Gang, a small group of authors, animators and martial arts fans that created the series, has recently updated the official site with a short sneak peek of what will be the feature animation film featuring Ninjai, his world and above all his enemies. Starting with the mad clan lord Takagawa.
2015 started well for fans of old-school graphic adventures, thanks to a new official release of ResidualVM and the addition of a couple new titles to the always-growing list of games supported by ScummVM. The two gaming virtual machines are related, seeing that ResidualVM was created by the same developers of ScummVM, and they both are projects defined by a steady advancement process devouring new games like a Grue devours players lost in the Zork underground world.
Good news are coming for ResidualVM and PCSX2, two virtual machines that in the near future should improve considerably (in the PCSX2 case) and add support for new games beyond the software’s original mission (ResidualVM). Both cases are a useful reminder for the fact that, unlike someone’s opinion, emulation is a world that doesn’t stop moving forward and it’s far from having reached saturation as for ideas, techniques and new old things to replicate on modern PCs.
Before growing into a worldwide phenomenon run by the worst cyber-criminals gangs out there, spam was an annoyance limited to the few intimate users of the ARPANET network. It was there, before the technology at the foundation of ARPANET gave life to the modern Internet, that 36 years ago the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) marketing manager Gary Thuerk sent what is officially acknowledged as the first mass marketing e-mail in history.
One March many years ago, when the IT industry was rather different compared to the modern one, two computer viruses brought panic because of an out-of-scale media attention. Born out of a time when the “malware” (an unknown term then) creators were largely interested in fame more than money, the viruses ended up making substantial damages valued (in one of the two cases) more than 1 billion dollars.
The month of March 2014 marks the (possibly) definitive stop for LLOOGG, a service for real-time Web traffic analysis that was appreciated quite a lot by Sir Arthur for its simplicity and for giving an extremely clear picture of the site’s visitors activity. The service has been closed, the developers say, the lloogg.com domain name is on sale and the source code for the server-side application has been released on GitHub for everyone to download and review.
DICE is a small emulator dedicated to recreating on a modern computer the arcade games based on discrete circuits, ancient and bizarre entertainment machines where the electronic components required for the game experience were soldered individually on the circuit board and where there was no trace of a CPU. It’s an obscure and fascinating kind of emulation, the one served by DICE, and the offering of emulated games grows richer and richer with every new version of the software.
The month of February 2014 marks the 32nd anniversary of the debut of the Intel 80286 CPU, a historical processor of changing fortunes which helped to build what would have later become the market domination of the x86 instruction set. As Computer Hope reminds, the 286 processor (also known as “iAPX 286″) was introduced on February 1st in 1982 bringing important technology innovations a bit too ahead of the times.
A year and half after its first major release, in the last days PCSX2 got updates again with the release of two new versions in a short timeframe: the only existing (open source) emulator capable of replicating in software the complex hardware of Sony’s PlayStation 2 console reached release 1.2.0 at the beginning of February, followed the day after by release 1.2.1 aimed at correcting some last-hour bugs. PCSX2 is now able to run 2130 games in playable state, a remarkable result considering the about 3900 games making up the total PS2 titles library.