Archive for November 20th, 2012

Call of Duty: Black Ops II Multiplayer Impressions

Black Ops II marks perhaps the best multiplayer outing the series has had since Modern Warfare, five years ago. I’ve played 19 hours in total and reached level 55, which is the last level before you ‘prestige’ and start it all over again.

The biggest difference that Black Ops II makes to the Call of Duty formula is the elimination of the traditional Create a Class system that was introduced in the original Modern Warfare, which determines which weapons, equipment and perks that you spawn with. That system always entailed the same thing: picking a primary and secondary weapon, three perks in three slots, and a lethal and a nonlethal consumable.

In Black Ops II, that’s replaced by the ‘Pick 10’ system. Here, you’re able to choose from up to 10 items including all of the equipment and perks that I mentioned above. For each weapon, attachment, perk or piece of equipment you equip you’ll spend 1 point, up to the limit of 10. There are also ‘wildcards’ that you can equip in their own slots, which allow you take additional items in a given category – so you can choose to take two Slot 1 perks, three attachments on your primary weapon or replace your lethal slot with another non-lethal slot. The catch is that each wildcard also costs one point, so going for a more general class is still viable.

The new system allows for a much more creative class design space – if you want to eschew a primary weapon for a well-augmented secondary, you can do it. If you want to have four non-lethal grenades, you can do it. If you want to have an entire class focused around knifing people, spawning with no weapons at all and just getting loads of perks – you can do that.

It’s a very cool idea, and I’m really enjoying the creative freedom that it allows. While there are still some dud loadouts (one weapon with little ammo and no Scavenger perk, any LMG), I’ve seen a much wider variety of weapons and class setups than ever before.

Having said that, there are still some weapon imbalances in play that somewhat dilute that creative experience. For instance, the PDW-57 SMG, R870 MCS shotgun and KAP-40 pistol seem quite overpowered compared to other weapons in their class. That latter item, the KAP-40, seems quite ridiculous – it’s as good or better than most SMGs even without attachments, making it an excellent backup to a long-ranged Assault or Sniper class.

Still, the game feels reasonably well balanced and I’m having a lot of fun so far – the weapons are satisfying, the creative element is much improved and the maps are well designed. I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

This article was written by William Judd. William writes for Mobile Fun, the UK’s leading online retailer of Google Nexus 4 cases.

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Scientists at Toshiba, Cambridge University find cheaper way to ensure internet security

Scientists at Toshiba and Cambridge University have perfected a technique that offers a cheap expensive way to ensure the security of the high-speed fiber optic cables that are the backbone of the modern Internet.

The research, which will be published Tuesday in the science journal Physical Review X, describes a technique for making infinitesimally short time measurements needed to capture pulses of quantum light hidden in streams of billions of photons transmitted each second in data networks.

Scientists used an advanced photodetector to extract weak photons from the torrents of light pulses carried by fiber optic cables, making it possible to safely distribute secret keys necessary to scramble data over distances up to 56 miles.

Such data scrambling systems will most likely be used first for government communications systems for national security. But they will also be valuable for protecting financial data and ultimately all information transmitted over the Internet.

The approach is based on quantum physics, which offers the ability to exchange information in a way that the act of eavesdropping on the communication would be immediately apparent. The achievement requires the ability to reliably measure a remarkably small window of time to capture a pulse of light, in this case lasting just 50 picoseconds – the time it takes light to travel 15 millimeters.

Public key cryptography uses a key that is publicly distributed and a related secret key that is held privately, allowing two people who have never met physically to securely exchange information. But such systems are vulnerable to a number of things.

If it is possible to reliably exchange secret keys, it is possible to use an encryption system known as a one-time pad, one of the most secure forms. Several commercially available quantum key distribution systems exist, but they rely on the necessity of transmitting the quantum key separately from communication data, frequently in a separate optical fiber, according to Andrew J. Shields, one of the authors of the paper and the assistant managing director for Toshiba Research Europe. This adds cost and complexity to the cryptography systems used to protect the high-speed information that flows over fiber optic networks.

Weaving quantum information into conventional networking data will lower the cost and simplify the task of coding and decoding the data, making quantum key distribution systems more attractive for commercial data networks, the authors said.

Modern optical data networking systems increase capacity by transmitting multiple data streams simultaneously in different colors of light. The Toshiba-Cambridge system sends the quantum information over the same fiber, but isolates it in its own frequency.

“We can pick out the quantum photons from the scattered light using their expected arrival time at the detector,” Shields said. “The quantum signals hit the detector at precisely known times – every one nanosecond, while the arrival time of the scattered light is random.”

Despite their ability to carry prodigious amounts of data, fiber-optic cables are also highly insecure. An eavesdropper needs only to bend a cable and expose the fiber, Shields said. It is then possible to capture light that leaks from the cable and convert it into digital ones and zeros.

“The laws of quantum physics tell us that if someone tries to measure those single photons, that measurement disturbs their state and it causes errors in the information carried by the single photon,” he said. “By measuring the error rate in the secret key, we can determine whether there has been any eavesdropping in the fiber and in that way directly test the secrecy of each key.”

Source: The New York Times

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