Archive for September, 2013

iPhone 5S Security?

With the release of the new iPhone 5S there has been a whole lot of news about the Touch ID Fingerprint reader. In particular some security experts are warning that this may result in an increase in violent crime as thieves remove the rightful owners fingers, along with their phones. Other people have been questioning the potential for exploitation of “the worlds largest database of fingerprints”.

Fingerprint Security

Fingerprint Security

Whilst I can’t comment on the likelihood of people resorting to removing fingers, or even if the fingerprints ever make it off your phone I see a different issue with this which I can demonstrate with a simple comparison. Although comparing phone security to the way we log in to a PC might not be entirely fair – when we log into a PC we enter our user ID and our password. Our user ID identifies who we are and our password provides security. We are advised to pick passwords that are hard to crack, whilst also being advised that we shouldn’t write our password down less it fall into the wrong hands. If our password is compromised we can change it to something different.

Let’s compare this to the fingerprint system. The most logical link between the two models would be that the fingerprint takes the place of the user ID. My fingerprint is unique to me and could be used to identify me as Simon Grey. However in the iPhone the fingerprint unlocks the phone, taking the role of both the user ID and the password. So with conventional passwords we are advised not to write our password down. How often in a day do you suppose you leave you fingerprint behind, for someone else to find? Additionally, where is one place where fingerprints seem to turn up most?

My password? Well let me write it down for you!

My password? Well let me write it down for you!

Additionally, if our fingerprint is comprised, how many times can you change it, well potentially ten if you switch fingers, and at best twenty if you use your toes too!

Yes, ok, I’m poking devils advocate a bit. Using a fingerprint may be harder to replicate that existing patterns or a pin code, and most iPhones won’t contain secrets that are a matter of national security, but I think that there is an important distinction to be made between identity and security.


During Microsoft’s unveiling of the XBox One at E3 it I started to think that Microsoft seem to be trying to push towards a more digitally based software as a service distribution model. I can see their point of view – and there are lots of advantages especially when you consider the possibility of outsourcing low latency calculations to run in the cloud. Things like AI, or some physics (say – deciding in a building you’ve been bombarding with mortar is going to fall) could be processed online. It certainly seems like a bright future long term. The gaming community revolted, focussing on the obvious disadvantages of not having a physical copy of your games. Although not technically SaaS (as I understand it the games are download and run locally) offering free downloads of games could be a way to show all the gamers who were outraged that they would not be able to share or sell their games on that this model might be workable. I suspect this is also why they’ve been giving away two free games per month to Xbox Live Gold members.

The great thing is that Microsoft listened! They sweetened my preordered deal by offering bundled downloadable games and I was happy. With my new Xbox One I get a free downloadable copy of Fifa 14. Thanks Microsoft! Free is my favourite price – I’ll give it a shot even though I’m a minority in the UK and I don’t really like “soccer”. I was a bit disappointed  in rumours have it that in the US they will get to play proper football with Madden 25, which I will almost certainly be buying – why couldn’t I have that for free? Next they find some more Xbox One stock but these ones come with downloadable Forza 5. What!?! If I can’t have Madden 25 I really would prefer Forza 5 over Fifa 14 please!

If you want to choose your DLC tweet #XBoxOneChoice

If you want to choose your DLC tweet #XBoxOneChoice

I acknowledge that on some levels this seems stupid and I do feel a bit like a spoilt little brat looking a gift Fifa 14 in the mouth, and that is fair a comment. There was no bundled game when I preordered, but now there is, and some people’s free gift will be better than my free gift. That’s just not FAIR! Wah! The thing that really gets my goat about this is this is DLC we’re talking about! There should be no logistics in distributing physical copies of games. There would be some software work to do in turning one download code into a choice, but I don’t imagine that would be a huge deal. Why aren’t Microsoft saying “Hey – pick whichever game you prefer and we’ll square it with EA or Microsoft Studios or whoever at our end” – for me being able to choose the game that I want to download would better represent the Service part of Software as a Service!

I’m sure that I’m not the only person with this problem, so I’ve tagged the tweet that accompanies this message with hashtag #XBoxOneChoice. If you agree that you’d like a choice then retweet and see if we can get #XBoxOneChoice to trending topic status.

Microsoft has shown that they listen to the feedback that we’re giving them but I certainly don’t have enough followers on my extremely modest blog following to make a difference, so if you want this to happen and Microsoft to have the opportunity to make a good deal a load better then make sure that you get the message out and retweet, reblog, facebook and whatever other social media you can. If you follow any influential people, games websites or places better positioned to get the message out, then tweet at them and include them in the tweet too! According to a quick google search only need around 1000 users and 2000 tweets to start a trend!

Remember tweet #XBoxOneChoice

Hot of the press from the Tokyo Games Show is Sony’s announcement of Vita TV. In case you haven’t seen it already this is the promo concept video.

This is an intriguing move. I’m not sure it is a positive move, but it certainly makes those muddy waters a little more cloudy!

I have a series of points that I think are worth making, but they come in no particular coherent order, with no real conclusion. I guess it’s just a set of reactions that might be worth considering.

Impact on the original Vita

When the Vita came out, boasting the power of a “proper” console in a handheld I was questioning whether people really wanted that experience on the move. If you’re a hardcore gamer you want to do that in a living room on a big screen. If you are on the move you want a casual pick up and play style game. Vita delivers this to some extent through the indie development. This move is almost like saying – yeah, ok, so if you want to play real Vita games then you should do it on a big screen after all! The advantage that the Vita did seem to have was the novel interfaces, the touchscreens, the accelerometer, and the potential for augmented reality games. Now though, those things have gone, and existing games are having to be patched to make them work for the Vita TV. This is sad news. Despite heavy criticism one of the great things that the Xbox One has done is to package a Kinect 2 with every Xbox. This means that developers can now develop Kinect features safe in the knowledge that everyone has one. They aren’t reducing the market, and they don’t have to cater for Xbox One owners who don’t have a Kinect. That means that Kinect features can be created as core gameplay.

Gamers hate TV – Everyone knows that!

Ok, so gamers don’t hate TV, but the reaction to Microsoft’s TV-centric event at E3 was not positive. Microsoft were criticised because their press release was heavily focused on TV and not a lot about games. Sure, Microsoft got the market wrong at that event – you know, the games convention! Now Sony are introducing a device to stream services like hulu and Netflix. The one thing that I think this does demonstrate is how seriously Microsoft and Sony are taking competition from Apple encroaching on the games market. In fact, Gabe Newel has openly commented that the competition from the upcoming steam box is coming from Apple, and not form Sony or Microsoft.

Vita TV means Sony kills Ouya


I’ve also read a lot of articles claiming that Sony are targeting the Ouya market, and have just put the last nail in their coffin. That simply doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s almost like these reporters are saying “Hey it’s like a console, but it’s small and it’s cheap – like the Ouya. The must be the same!” Ouya is about an open source platform for independent development. I still think it does that very well – but according to reports it doesn’t sell games very well. I still like the idea of the Ouya as a creative outlet – but if it becomes about making a profit then by all accounts it’s a lame duck. The Vita seems to do a pretty good job of promoting indie development. That’s encouraging, and it’s the only context that claiming Vita TV is a competitor to the Ouya makes any sense to me.

A summary of sorts

  • I think the mobile market belongs to the phones now – although at GDC last year I was impressed with the form factor of NVidia’s Shield device.
  • I think the ability to play “fully fledged” Vita games on a TV is overrated – especially given that you probably have a PS4 sitting in the corner.
  • I think that the ability to stream PS4 to other rooms might be of use to some people.
  • I think the opportunity Vita TV provides for Indie development is interesting, but I think that losing other abilities such as touch and AR, or having to cater for both rather than making novel interfaces a core part of gameplay is a real pity.
  • I think that a PS4 with a Vita TV looks a little bit more like an Xbox One – and with a similar price.
  • I think that technologies are diverging and fast. Microsoft’s vision of one box, one media centre that does it all is a nice idea, but it doesn’t seem viable in the long  (or even the short) term.