Category Archives: Tech News

QuickTime for Windows: “uninstall today”

Apple has deprecated QuickTime for Windows, but critical vulnerabilities remain unpatched

Apple has deprecated QuickTime for Windows, but critical vulnerabilities remain unpatched

On April 14th news broke via Trend Micro security that Apple is deprecating support for QuickTime for Windows, despite the fact there are two critical vulnerabilities affecting the package, both of which were identified by Trend Micro under their Zero Day Initiative (ZDI), which will not be patched by Apple despite the fact information on both vulnerabilities, as specified in Trend Micro advisories ZDI-16-241 and  ZDI-16-242 being passed to Apple in November 2015.

As a result of these vulnerabilities, which could leave Windows systems vulnerable to hijacking – although Trend Micro stress that there is no evidence so far of either being actively exploited – is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows (QuickTime for OSX is not affected).

The advice on uninstalling has most notably come from Trend Mirco, with the call being repeated across other on-line tech media, such as eWeek and The Register.  Apple apparently opted to take the route of deprecating in March 2016 – but hasn’t really gone out of its way to really tell QuickTime for Windows users it is doing so, as ExtremeTech points out: the QuickTime for Windows landing page doesn’t reflect the status of the software, but simply references the “more secure” January update, while the Apple software update tool still pushed QuickTime at Windows users.

QuickTimeis still widely used in Second Life for the shared viewing of streamed media, notably in cinemas across the grid

QuickTime is still widely used in Second Life for the shared viewing of streamed media, notably in cinemas across the grid (credit: Crap Mariner)

Obviously, the advisory is something all Windows users should heed. With or without the current ZDI vulnerabilities, the application has reached the end of its supported life. However, as Crap Mariner has been pointing out, there are still media systems which utilise QuickTime for streaming into Second Life, many within public cinemas across the grid. While it might be argued has to how widely such facilities are used, the Trend Micro advisory does heighten the need for in-world systems reliant on QuickTime to be updated  / replaced.

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Amazon Lumberyard

Image source: Amazon

Image source: Amazon

Lumberyard is the name of Amazon’s new game engine, released on Tuesday, February 9th. Based on Crytek’s CryEngine, which Amazon licensed in 2015, Lumberyard will apparently be developed in its own direction, independently of CryEngine and is being provided as a free-to-download tool (with optional asset packs) which can be used to develop games for PCs and consoles on a “no seat fees, subscription fees, or requirements to share revenue” basis.

Instead, Amazon will monetise Lumberyard through the use of AWS cloud computing. If you use the game engine for your own game and opt to run it on your own server, then that’s it: no fees. But if you want to distribute through a third-party provider, you can only use Amazon’s services, via either GameLift, a managed service for deploying, operating, and scaling server-based on-line games using AWS at a cost of $1.50 per 1,000 daily active users.Or, if you prefer you can use AWS directly, at normal AWS service rates.

Lumberyard (image: Amazon)

Lumberyard includes a customisable drag-and-drop UI (image: Amazon)

As well as AWS integration and the development of new low-latency networking code to support it, and native C++ access to its service, Lumberyard has deep, built-in support for Twitch (purchased by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million), including “Twitch play”-style chat commands and a function called JoinIn, which allows viewers to leap directly into on-line games alongside Twitch broadcasters as they stream. The aim here, according to Mike Frazzini, vice president of Amazon Games, when talking to Gamasutra, is “creating experiences that embrace the notion of a player, broadcaster, and viewer all joining together.”

Described as a triple-A games development engine, Lumberyard has already seen many of the CryEngine systems upgraded or replaced, including the implementation of an entirely new asset pipeline and processor and low-latency networking code – hence why Lumberyard will diverge from CryEngine’s core development.  And Amazon is promising more to come, including a new component system and particle editor and  CloudCanvas, which will allow developers to set up server-based in-game events in AWS using visual scripting.

"Alien Abode" a game scene rendered in Lumberjack (:image: Amazon)

“Alien Abode” a game scene rendered in Lumberyard (:image: Amazon)

All of which adds-up to a very powerful games development environment – although Amazon are clear that right now, it is only in beta. This means that things are liable to undergo tweaking, etc., and that some capabilities – such as Oculus Rift support – haven’t been enabled for the current version of the engine.However, VR support is there, with Amazon noting:

We have been actively working on VR within Lumberyard for some time now, and it looks great. We are currently upgrading our Oculus VR support to Rift SDK 1.0, which was released by Oculus in late December. We wanted to finish upgrading to Rift SDK 1.0 before releasing the first public version of VR support within Lumberyard, which will be included in a future release soon.

Further, Amazon has already signed official tools deals with Microsoft and Sony, which means game developers licensed to develop games for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 can immediately start using Lumberyard to develop games for those platforms.

There are – for some – a few initial downsides to Lumberyard where independent game developers are concerned. At launch, the engine only supports models created in Maya and 3D Max, although this may change – Blender support is promised for the future, for example.  There is also no support for Mac or Linux, although Amazon have indicated that these will be come, along with iOS and Android support.

Use of the engine includes the right to redistribute it and pieces of the development environment within games, and allows game developers to any companion products developed for a game using Lumberyard with allow end users to modify and create derivative works of that game.

The CryEngine SDK is one of the Asset Packs available for download for use with Lumberyard (image: Amazon)

The CryEngine SDK is one of the Asset Packs available for download for use with Lumberyard (image: Amazon)

As noted above, the company has already started supplying asset packs developers can include in their games, Three packs are available at launch, including the CryEngine GameSDK,  which contains everything required for a first-person shooter game, including complex animated characters, vehicles and game AI, and which includes a sample level.

Amazon clearly have major plans for Lumberyard, and some in the gaming media are already wondering what it might do to the current development environment, which is largely dominated by the likes of  Unity, Unreal Engine, or even CryEngine itself, but which all require either a license fee or a royalty fee.

Is Lumberyard competition for the Lab’s Project Sansar? The engine certainly has the ability to create immersive environments, and Lumberyard will support VR HMDs as it moves forward, as noted.

However, everything about Lumberyard points to it being pitched as a professional games development environment with a dedicated distribution service through Amazon’s cloud services available for use with it. Hence, again, why Twitch is deeply integrated into Lumberyard – Amazon appear to be a lot more interested in building an entire gaming ecosystem. Amazon’s marketing is also geared towards gaming, as their promotional video (below) shows.

Which is not to say that it couldn’t be attractive to markets outside of gaming. As such, it will be interesting to see over time just who does take an interest in it – and how Amazon might support them.

With thanks to John for the pointer to Amazon.

Sources

Microsoft acquires Havok, the Second Life physics engine

Haovk: acquired by Microsoft

Haovk: acquired by Microsoft

News has been spreading about Microsoft’s acquisition of the Havok physics engine from Intel for an undisclosed sum.

Ciaran Laval was perhaps the first SL blogger to report the news, which has been featured on the likes of the IGN website, Engadget, Venture Beat’s Gamesbeat, and other on-line tech news outlets.

For those unfamiliar with Havok, it is it the physics engine that drives a vast number of computer and console games. It allows these games to simulate effects such as gravity, friction, collisions between objects and other natural forces, without the need for them to be individually coded and accounted for on a per-game basis.

Within Second Life, Havok is used for the purposes of physics simulation, and Havok sub-libraries licensed by the Lab are also used in such aspects of the platform as pathfinding (remember that?) and the official mesh uploader.

As well as being used for in-world physics, Havok libraires are also used within the official viewer (and TPVs which have signed a sub-licence agreement) to handle aspects of pathfinding and mesh uploads (shown here)

As well as being used for in-world physics, Havok libraries are also used within the official viewer (and TPVs which have signed a sub-licence agreement) to handle aspects of pathfinding and mesh uploads (shown here)

Microsoft has been a Havok partner for a number of years, and as a part of the acquisition has promised to allow developers elsewhere to continue to use it, stating:

Havok is an amazing technology supplier in the games industry and the leading real-time physics creator. We saw an opportunity to acquire Havok to deliver great experiences for our fans. Throughout the company’s history, they’ve partnered with Activision, EA, Ubisoft, Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and many others to create more than 600 games including Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Destiny, Dark Souls and The Elder Scrolls.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Havok continues our tradition of empowering developers by providing them with the tools to unleash their creativity to the world.   We will continue to innovate for the benefit of development partners.

But, if a long-term partner with Havok, why take the step of purchasing it outright? Jeff Grubb, over at Gamesbeat takes a lead from a part of Microsoft’s announcement of the acquisition, to suggest the company are looking a the potential for cloud-based physics capabilities within multi-player games, as recently demonstrated in the upcoming Crackdown 3 sandbox-style third-person shooter title:

For that open-world crime game’s multiplayer mode, Microsoft is enabling players to go in and destroy skyscrapers and everything else in the world. That mode is only possible through the power of Azure, which means Crackdown 3 developers Sumo Digital and Cloudgine are building a cloud-based destruction engine that probably runs on Havok. Once that’s built, and now that Microsoft owns Havok, it could potentially license that destruction engine out to other developers.

In August, IGN had a demonstration of these capabilities within Crackdown 3, and the results are impressive:

It’s unlikely the Microsoft’s acquisition of Havok will have any immediate or medium-term inpact on Second Life. As it is, the platform currently uses the Havok  2011.2, and so far as has been indicated at various in-world meetings, there are no public plans to update the engine at the moment. Longer-term, it will be interesting to see if / how any new / additional capabilities brought to the engine might come to be deployed in Second Life and / or “Project Sansar” (assuming Havok might be the physics engine used with that platform, something that the Lab has not as yet revealed).

Got a question about the VR metaverse? Put it to the experts!

SVVR

The first Silicon Valley VR (SVVR) Conference and Expo will take place on Monday 19th May and Tuesday 20th May 2014, at the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California.

The conference will bring together a host of experts in the VR and in virtual environments, including the likes of Palmer Luckey (Oculus VR), Philip Rosedale, Ebbe Altberg, David Holtz (Leap Motion), Ben Lang (Road to VR), Jan Goetgeluk (Virtuix) and many more – see the list of speakers and panelists on the conference website – as well as including exhibits and demos from some of the top names in the field.

Both the Drax Files Radio Hour and New World Notes have secured discounts of $100 per person on the two-day registration for those who are able to attend. Simply enter either code “drax2014″ or “nwn2014” when registering to claim your discount.

But even if you can’t attend, you can still be involved. Here’s how.

As a part of the conference events, Draxtor Despres of The Drax Files fame will be moderating a special panel, Creating the VR Metaverse. featuring Ebbe Altberg (Linden Lab), Philip Rosedale (High Fidelity), Stefano Corazza (Mixamo), Tony Parisi (Vizi).

Creating the VR metaverse

(l to r): Ebbe Altberg, Philip Rosedale, Stefano Corazza and Tony Parisi. Ready to answer questions on “Creating the VR Metaverse”.

Together, they’ll be considering topics such as:

  • One global metaverse or many?
  • Identity and privacy
  • Virtual World Governance: democracies, the greek god model, or benevolent dictators
  • Intellectual property and legal jurisdictions
  • Avatar portability and standards

If you have a question you’d like to put to this panel during the course of the proceedings, then please leave it in the comments following this article, and it may be selected by Drax to be asked during the course of the discussion.

Perhaps your question relates to one of the topics listed above, or perhaps you’re wondering if the idea of a just a “VR metaverse” is too narrow, and any future metaverse should also embrace augmented reality (AR) as well; or perhaps you’re wondering why and how any new metaverse might enjoy wider adoption in the world at large than we’ve seen with the likes of SL and OpenSim; or perhaps … Well, you get the idea.

Panel moderator: Draxtor Drepres

Panel moderator: Draxtor Despres

You can address your question to an individual member of the panel or to all of them or any combination in between. All that’s required is that your question is pertinent to the panel’s theme, creating the VR  metaverse, is polite, and is suitable for the forum in which it is to be asked.

Obviously, and depending upon the number received, not every question submitted will necessarily be asked (as questions will also be taken from the live audience) – but if your question is liable to get the panel thinking or generate some interesting / thought-provoking replies, then it may well get selected. Just make sure you have provided it in the comments below no later than 20:00 on Monday May 19th.

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