Weekend news round-up: Star ‘Tech’, White House joins war for talent

25 Aug 2014

In our round-up of the weekend’s tech stories, the White House has joined the war for tech talent, a start-up is creating a Star Trek communicator device, and Sony’s PlayStation Network comes under attack again.

The Star Trek Communicator is coming

One of the lovely traditions of the tech universe is the inevitable tributes to the Star Trek franchise for inspiring the creation of devices such as the mobile phone or services such as Skype. Heck, even Microsoft is working on its version of the Universal Translator.

GeekWire reported that a new start-up called OnBeep has raised US$6.25m to create a new piece of hardware modelled on the Star Trek communicator device.

“The device is designed to make it easy for groups of people to communicate with one another, without having to fiddle with a smartphone. Founder Jesse Robbins called OnBeep’s product (which is also named OnBeep) similar to one of the communicators on Star Trek.

“Users can wear it or clip it somewhere convenient, and be able to immediately get a hold of people they want to reach.

“OnBeep is built to help groups communicate with one another in real-time, like families at an amusement park, or a team of people working on an event. In order to communicate with the outside world, the OnBeep will pair with a user’s smartphone. The company isn’t ready to release exact details on what the device looks like or how much it will cost, but Robbins said that it will be available later this year.”

White House digital service bureau

As the battle for tech talent continues to heat up, even the White House has to make concessions, according to Wired, with newly recruited techies given the all-clear to abandon the shirt-and-tie dress code, among a number of other perks.

However, it ain’t all Google just yet. “So if you do take a job at the White House, you may want to bring your own snacks, expect to work at a desk, not a couch, and hold off on bringing your skateboard to work.

“Still, the feds are trying to do tech in a clueful fashion. The Obama administration has opened the door to open-source software and collaborative coding. And, hey, even the CIA is using Amazon’s web services.”

PlayStation network attacked … again

Just two years after an infamous bout of attacks, Sony’s PlayStation Network came under attack again at the weekend, along with other gaming services, such as Blizzard’s Battle.net and League of Legends, according to The Inquisitr.

“Sony originally planned to bring the PlayStation Network down for maintenance on Monday. This current outage is not part of that.

“A group or individual calling itself the Lizard Squad is taking credit for the DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack. It’s not fair to call the group hackers since systems are not being breached as an attempt to steal data. Instead, they are simply flooding the servers for various online services with more traffic than they can handle.

“The outages started late Saturday evening, eastern time, with an attack on AT&T, before the Lizard Squad moved on to League of Legends. They started by harassing a female Twitch streamer named Kaceytron and initiating DDoS attacks on games they were playing and followed their attacks as she moved from Hearthstone to Diablo III and eventually attacked Comcast to cause her to go offline.”

Microsoft goes ‘Back to the Future’

Microsoft is fashioning a service it hopes will be the ‘Netflix for gaming’, a veritable lag-free cloud experience, according to TechCrunch.

“Microsoft Research published a report that signals that the company is looking for ways that it could use its cloud expertise to create a unique cloud gaming platform at some point in the future. It discusses DeLorean, a ‘speculative execution engine’ that makes it possible to deliver seemingly lag-free gameplay from the cloud despite the myriad sources of network latency between Microsoft’s Azure servers and a player’s device.

“The report concludes that most users involved in the study couldn’t tell the difference between playing Doom 3 and Fable 3, two relatively action-heavy games, on a local system or from the cloud using DeLorean with 250 milliseconds of latency. That’s a game-changer — most gamers experiencing that kind of lag would throw their controllers in frustration.

“How did Microsoft Research pull off such a feat? The key to DeLorean is the ‘speculative’ descriptor. Video games generally can’t be buffered like a video from YouTube or Netflix because player actions affect what happens on screen — if I shoot my gun in Titanfall and the game showed me jumping, I’d be annoyed. But by looking at previous player input and sampling the most likely player actions, Microsoft found a way to predict the few actions you’re probably going to take and sends the video of each of them over ahead of time, letting it show players the most accurate guess as the game catches up.”

White House image via Shutterstock

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years