Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Microsoft disconnects Xbox gamers

Thousands of gamers may have been cut off from Microsoft's online gaming service Xbox Live for modifying their consoles to play pirated games.
Online reports suggest that as many as 600,000 gamers may have been affected.
Microsoft confirmed that it had banned a "small percentage" of the 20 million Xbox Live users worldwide.
Microsoft said that modifying an Xbox 360 console "violates" the service's "terms of use" and would result in a player being disconnected.
"All consumers should know that piracy is illegal and that modifying their Xbox 360 console to play pirated discs violates the Xbox Live terms of use, will void their warranty and result in a ban from Xbox Live," Microsoft has said in a statement.
"The health of the video game business depends on customers paying for the genuine products and services they receive from manufacturers, retailers, and the third parties that support them."
Many gamers modify their consoles by installing new chips or software that allows them to run unofficial programs. Some chips are specifically designed to play pirated games.
Microsoft has not said how it was able to determine which gamers to disconnect.
"We do not reveal specifics, but can say that all consoles have been verified to have violated the terms of use," the firm said in a statement.
Affected gamers were met with a message during the login process. It read: ""Your console has been banned from Xbox".
Reports suggest that the ban does not stop the console from working and only affects a gamer's Xbox Live account.
Industry figures suggest that piracy may cost the video game industry as much as £750m a year.
In other news, a UK court has dismissed a man's appeal against an earlier conviction for selling modification chips - "modchips" that allow gamers to play illegal games.
Christopher Gillham's earlier conviction was upheld by Hereford Crown Court which found that playing counterfeit games on a modified console infringed copyrights.

Monday, November 9, 2009

'Road trains' get ready to roll

Road trains that link vehicles together using wireless sensors could soon be on European roads.
An EU-financed research project is looking at inexpensive ways of getting vehicles to travel in a 'platoon' on Europe's motorways.
Each road train could include up to eight separate vehicles - cars, buses and trucks will be mixed in each one.
The EU hopes to cut fuel consumption, journey times and congestion by linking vehicles together.
Early work on the idea suggests that fuel consumption could be cut by 20% among those cars and trucks travelling behind the lead vehicle.
Spanish trials
The lead vehicle would be handled by a professional driver who would monitor the status of the road train. Those in following vehicles could take their hands off the wheel, read a book or watch TV, while they travel along the motorway. Their vehicle would be autonomously controlled by the lead vehicle.
Funded under the European Commission's Framework 7 research plan, Sartre (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) is aimed at commuters in cars who travel long distances to work every day but will also look at ways to involve commercial vehicles.
Tom Robinson, project co-ordinator at engineering firm Ricardo, said the idea was to use off-the-shelf components to make it possible for cars, buses and trucks to join the road train.       
"The goal is to try and introduce a step change in transport methods," he said.
"We're looking at what it would take to get platooning on public highways without making big changes to the public highways themselves," said Mr Robinson.
A system that involved wiring up motorways with sensors to help control the road trains would be prohibitively expensive, he said.
"Each of the vehicles will have their own control and software monitoring system," said Mr Robinson. "There may well be a platoon sensor envelope that collates information and presents it to the lead vehicle so it can understand what is happening around all the vehicles."
The idea is to make platoons active so vehicles can join and leave as they need. Mr Robinson speculated that those joining a platoon or road train may one day pay for the privilege of someone else effectively driving them closer to their destination.
Sartre will run for three years. The project partners are currently doing preliminary research to find out all the elements needed for a working system and the situations in which it might be used.
There were also behavioural elements to consider, said Mr Robinson, such as whether all the vehicles will need to have their hazard lights on while in a platoon.
Also, he said, there had to be a way to ensure the vehicles in a platoon are organised to make drivers feel safe.
"Car drivers do not want to be between trucks," he said.
Towards the end of the research project trials will be held on test tracks in the UK, Spain and Sweden. There are also plans for public road trials in Spain. The first platoon will involve two trucks and three cars.

Friday, November 6, 2009 hit by ordering glitch

Customers of have contacted the BBC to report problems with the online retailer's ordering system.
Many customers have received e-mails from reporting the despatch of an order they did not place.
Those opening the orders found contact details, including names and addresses, for other customers.
The problem appears to be widespread with many reporting help lines were jammed as they called to find out what had happened.
Simon Hurley from Clevedon near Bristol said he woke up this morning to find more than 80 e-mails from
"I'm a big customer of theirs but not that big," he said. "I opened up each individual e-mail and it came up with another customer's name and their order."
Although there were no credit card details visible in the e-mails, Mr Hurley said all the messages had scrambled text at the bottom that could hide some information.
"People are being told to shred documents and then you have a big company like sending out hundreds of wrong e-mails to their customers," he said.
Mr Hurley said he rang to find out more but it took a long time to get through because the lines were "jammed solid".
Once he reached someone in customer services he was told that had a "massive problem."
So far it is not clear how many customers have received other people's e-mails nor how many e-mails have been sent out.
However, in other discussion forums on the web some customers talked about how many erroneous e-mails they had received.
On some forums customers said they were told that a "system error" was behind the sending of the e-mails.
In a statement a spokesperson said: "We were alerted to an incident that appears to have affected some customers for a short period of time in the early hours of this morning, and the first thing we'd like to say is that we apologise for any inconvenience our customers have experienced as a result.
"We'd like to reassure our customers that the cause of the incident has been identified and resolved.
"We take these matters very seriously and are now investigating how this incident occurred in the first place, so that we can prevent it happening in the future." is among the most popular online shops in the UK for DVDs. CDS, games and movies. In February 2009, was the top retailer in the National Consumer Satisfaction Index.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Nokia abandons N-Gage gaming

Handset maker Nokia plans to shut down its N-Gage games service in 2010, the firm has announced.N-Gage was a mobile gaming platform launched by Nokia in April 2008 with about 30 games available for download direct to certain Nokia handsets.
No new N-Gage games will be released, although users will be able buy existing games until the end of September 2010.
The N-Gage community website will be available until the end of the year.
N-Gage had a difficult birth - an earlier version which launched in 2003 also failed to capture the market.
In the future all games available to Nokia handset owners will be shifted to its apps store, Ovi Store.
"It's much more convenient to have one place to get all your mobile games, and this it what Ovi Store provides," said Nokia on the N-Gage blog.
"Mobile gaming is one of the most popular activities in the Ovi Store, with games being the second most downloaded category for premium content."
People commenting on the blog were generally saddened by the news.
"Sorry to hear it, N-Gage was a pioneer in many ways," posted a blog reader called Jo.
But not everybody was in mourning.
"I am so happy that we get into this point," wrote Frax. "N-Gage2 was simply a joke..."
Nokia has recently taken a financial hit after sales dropped by one fifth in the last quarter.
The Finnish company made a net loss of 913m euros (£838m) between July and September 2009 - during the same period in 2008 it made a profit of 1.1bn euros.