Archive for September 9th, 2012

New York Times: Steam Big Picture public beta starts Monday

Last August, we found out that Steam’s Big Picture interface would be moving into its beta phase “soon,” but we never expected it would be, like, soon. It is Valve after all, and our cold, dark hearts weren’t never figured that Big Picture’s public beta would be happen in our lifetimes, let alone on Monday, September 10, like the New York Times says.

For those of you who haven’t been following this song’s bouncing ball, allow us to refresh your memory: Steam’ Big Picture interface is a custom UI designed specifically to make Valve’s all-encompassing digital storefront more user-friendly on televisions. It’s being designed with controller-based navigation in mind and would represent Valve’s first primordial step into the living room. Whether Monday’s testing is truly public or invitation based like its Community beta remains to be seen.

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Vita homebrew hack underway, won’t allow users to pirate retail games

Homebrew developers without access to a PlayStation Vita development kit may have something to look forward to, as independent developer Yifan Lu has purportedly found an exploit that allows retail systems to run native, homebrewed Vita code. Lu is seeking other developers to help with the project, though neither an expected release date nor information regarding how the exploit functions have been made public.

What we do know, however, is that Lu’s exploit is being developed for the sole benefit of the homebrewing community, as opposed to purposes more suited to blacker hats. “No tool I will make will benefit piracy,” Lu told PlayStation Lifestyle. “This tool, in fact, cannot be used for loading backups/pirated content even if I want to because of the physical limitations of the exploit.”

Specifically, the exploit is “userland” and is incapable of decrypting or running retail games, Lu says. Though Lu is aware that releasing his exploit could lead to deeper analysis of the system and subsequently a more nefarious full-kernel hack, he would feel guilty if he “found something that could benefit the community (running homebrews and letting developers who can’t pay the license to develop/test games)” and kept it under wraps.

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Amazon Unveils New, Larger Kindle Fire Models

Amazon.com Inc. unveiled four new Kindle Fire models on Thursday, including ones with larger screens, as the online retailer steps up competition with Apple Inc. ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Amazon unveiled the larger Kindle Fire amid expectations of a smaller iPad from Apple.

The larger Fires will have screens that measure 8.9 inches diagonally, compared with 9.7 inches for the iPad. The original Fire had a 7-inch screen. The speculation on the mini iPad is that it’ll have a 7.85-inch screen. Apple isn’t commenting, but it has an event scheduled next week, during which it is expected to at least announce a new iPhone.

Amazon is hoping to make a dent in a tablet computer market dominated by Apple’s iPad. Amazon has been selling lower-priced tablets at thin, if any, profit margins to boost sales of digital items from its online store. As a result, it has been able to compete with the iPad on price.

The basic, 7-inch Fire model will cost $159, down from $199 for the original model. It will start shipping next Friday. The cheapest iPad costs $399 and the most recent models start at $499.

Amazon is coming out with a high-end version called Kindle Fire HD. It will have two Wi-Fi channels for faster transfers. That will be crucial for high-definition movies and other large files, CEO Jeff Bezos said.

The HD model will also have more storage, starting at 16 gigabytes, compared with 6 GB for the old Fire. The iPad also starts at 16 GB.

A 7-inch model will sell for $199 and ship next Friday. An 8.9-inch model will go for $299 and start shipping Nov. 20.

That means a device nearly as big as the iPad will sell for at least $100 less. The Fire, however, won’t have as extensive a selection of apps as the iPad. And while the HD models will have a front-facing camera for video chats, the iPad as one on the rear as well for taking photos and video.

Amazon also unveiled a premium Kindle Fire model, one with the ability to connect to the 4G cellular networks that phone companies are building. It will cost $499 and come with 32 gigabytes of memory and an 8.9-inch screen. A data plan will cost $50 a year.

Amazon also refreshed its line of stand-alone e-readers. Called Paperwhite, the new e-reader model has a black-and-white screen. It promises 25 percent more contrast. Bezos said “the whites are whiter, and the blacks are blacker.”

The Paperwhite has a light source. Bezos says the device is “perfect in direct sunlight.” Tablets such as the iPad and the Fire don’t work as well in bright light because they are lit from the back. Bezos says the light on the Paperwhite is directed down at the display. The device promises eight weeks of battery life, even with the light on.

It costs $119 and starts shipping Oct. 1. Amazon says it will start taking orders Thursday. There’s also a model with 3G cellular connections for $179. Amazon is also dropping the price of its low-end Kindle to $69, from $79. That will start shipping next Friday.

Amazon’s stock increased $4.93, or 2 percent, to $251.15 in afternoon trading Thursday.

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