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.
On the long, long road that leads to its final target, ReactOS continues to grow and evolve thanks to the hard work made by developers contributing to the project. The latest, important changes help the system to actually advance toward the aforementioned final target, ie to reach full compatibility with software and drivers made for Windows operating systems based on the NT architecture.
In an age where malicious code has turned into cyber-crime and ransomware is asking for lot of money to unlock the access to user’s files, a particular class of malware with ancient origins is still able to survive - even though it’s forced to serve the needs of the aforementioned crime. The class I am talking about is the virus or file virus one, a type of digital pathogen that raged in the MS-DOS times and then began to slowly wane when Windows appeared and Internet worms brought their worldwide epidemics.
The new year started with the release of updated versions for two “small” 3D emulators, projects essentially managed in a personal way by developers used to take all the time that’s needed - and often more so - to cook the code and publish the resulting executable builds. And as for procrastination no one is better than ElSemi, a long-time mamedev that doesn’t fear reverse engineering on complex platforms the likes of Capcom’s CPS3 and Sega’s Model 2.
The CryptoLocker ransomware is still raging on-line and on users and companies computers, while new details about the source of this dangerous file-abducting trojan propagation come out and willing developers are trying to hinder the infection spreading. The criminal gang which created the malware even comes up with new ways to take money from users affected by the threat, even though in doing so it is forced to contradict itself.
Target reached (and exceeded) for the Set Chopin Free crowdfunding campaign, a new initiative by the Musopen non-profit organization aiming at preserving the music of Frédéric Chopin with high-quality recordings available to the public without copyright-enforced limits: the funds collected on the Kickstarter platform have reached the final sum of $92,452, namely 123% of the 75,000 dollars requested by founder Aaron Dunn and the other Musopen volunteers.
A new ransomware for Windows PCs is roaming on-line, it’s called CryptoLocker and brings a very dangerous destructive potential. Security enterprise Sophos warns - via Naked Security - users and system admins about the new threat, its features and the fact that the “prevention is better than a cure” rule is true now more than ever. Curing the damages of a CryptoLocker infection, Sophos warns, is impossible for the time being.
Recently I received a mail by Ben G., a volunteer of the Musopen.org project, which reminded me their new initiative: after having freed the great classical symphonies from copyright, this time the non-profit organization is turning to the complete works of Frédéric Chopin. The target is always the same - to record high-quality versions of the works by the renowned Polish composer for everyone to listen - just as the tool chosen to reach it, ie a crowdfunding campaign on the Kickstarter platform.
Symantec recently detected a computer threat belonging to the ransomware category, a malware that is dangerous because of the way it attacks PCs based on Windows operating systems even though it isn’t particularly complex to defeat. Trojan.Ransomlock.AF, as the malware is named, targets users of the Chinese Internet with an account on Tencent QQ (or “QQ”), an instant messaging service that is very popular within the Asian country.
The seventh generation of home consoles is about to reach the last stage of its commercial life, a new console war looms on the horizon and the emulation scene delivers the nth project with an “impossible” objective, ie a software replica of the powerful hardware components of the Sony PlayStation 3. The new emulator is called RPCS3, the development team has great ambitions but right now the software isn’t more of a multi-window shell with little to show on the screen.