Portland Retro Gaming Expo: Hacked carts, Tetris battles, and Atari legends

Video filmed by Sam Machkovech, edited by Jennifer Hahn (video link)

Everything old was new again at October’s annual Portland Retro Gaming Expo, which overtook the city’s major convention center for two full days of arcade play, retro tournaments, and presentations from some of gaming’s biggest legends.

If you’ve never attended a retro-themed expo—as opposed to more modern gaming expos such as PAX—it can be a little harder to come away with something to describe at length, but not for lack of content. Retro gaming shows feel both enormous and small because they distill down to a seemingly endless number of micro-niches. Love the Atari Jaguar console? You and maybe 50 other people will find a few booths full of merch and rarities to make your heart swell. How about old light gun games? You’ll find a range of gun-mounted arcade games that you can play without a single quarter, from later-gen gems like Area 51 to early delights like Cheyenne.

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Take 5 minutes and up your opsec game with Tor Messenger

(credit: Samuel Huron)

On Thursday, the Tor Project released its first public beta of Tor Messenger, an easy-to-use, unified chat app that has security and cryptography baked in. If you care about digital security, you should ditch whatever chat program you’re using and switch to it right now.

The app is specifically designed to protect location and routing information (by using Tor) and chat data in transit (by using the open source Off-The-Record, or OTR, protocol). For anyone who has used a similar app (like Pidgin or Adium), Tor Messenger’s interface will be fairly self-explanatory, but there are two notable quirks.

First, by default, it will not allow you to send messages to someone who doesn’t support OTR—but there is an option to disable that feature. (We’ll get to that in a minute.) Second, unlike Pidgin or Adium, Tor Messenger cannot log chats, which is handy if you’re privacy-minded.

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Take 5 minutes and up your opsec game with Tor Messenger

(credit: Samuel Huron)

On Thursday, the Tor Project released its first public beta of Tor Messenger, an easy-to-use, unified chat app that has security and cryptography baked in. If you care about digital security, you should ditch whatever chat program you’re using and switch to it right now.

The app is specifically designed to protect location and routing information (by using Tor) and chat data in transit (by using the open source Off-The-Record, or OTR, protocol). For anyone who has used a similar app (like Pidgin or Adium), Tor Messenger’s interface will be fairly self-explanatory, but there are two notable quirks.

First, by default, it will not allow you to send messages to someone who doesn’t support OTR—but there is an option to disable that feature. (We’ll get to that in a minute.) Second, unlike Pidgin or Adium, Tor Messenger cannot log chats, which is handy if you’re privacy-minded.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Need For Speed reboots successfully for the stanced generation

Need For Speed is one of the longest running game franchises in the industry—and quite possibly the most veteran in the racing genre. The first NFS appeared back in 1994 and was as close as console gamers had ever gotten to a sim racer, featuring realistic (for the time) handling and real-world cars. Over the years sequels came and went, as did NFS‘s reputation among gamers. Now, NFS is old enough to buy itself a beer, but is this latest version—a reboot developed by Ghost Games and the series’ 22nd entry—any good?

NFS is an open world racing game, a subgenre we first saw with games such as Test Drive Unlimited back in 2006. The action takes place in Ventura Bay, where no one ever sleeps and the sun never shines, because the entire game takes place at night. You play an unnamed driver who meets up with Spike, a trustafarian and young Brad Pitt lookalike (played by Adam Long) who introduces you to his rather engaging crew of underground racers, drifters, and tuners.

As with most games of this sort, you start out off with a rather cheap and underpowered car—in this case either a Honda Civic Type-R (the EK9 version), Ford Mustang (Fox body), or Subaru BRZ. You’ll be able to supe your car up with prize money from races and drifting competitions, or you can save your winnings and upgrade to something faster and more exotic, including bona fide icons like the 1973 Porsche 911 RSR, Ferrari’s legendary F40, or even the just-released McLaren 570S. Choose wisely; your garage will only hold up to five cars, so you’ll have to sell one if you fill it up and want to drive something else.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Need For Speed reboots successfully for the stanced generation

Need For Speed is one of the longest running game franchises in the industry—and quite possibly the most veteran in the racing genre. The first NFS appeared back in 1994 and was as close as console gamers had ever gotten to a sim racer, featuring realistic (for the time) handling and real-world cars. Over the years sequels came and went, as did NFS‘s reputation among gamers. Now, NFS is old enough to buy itself a beer, but is this latest version—a reboot developed by Ghost Games and the series’ 22nd entry—any good?

NFS is an open world racing game, a subgenre we first saw with games such as Test Drive Unlimited back in 2006. The action takes place in Ventura Bay, where no one ever sleeps and the sun never shines, because the entire game takes place at night. You play an unnamed driver who meets up with Spike, a trustafarian and young Brad Pitt lookalike (played by Adam Long) who introduces you to his rather engaging crew of underground racers, drifters, and tuners.

As with most games of this sort, you start out off with a rather cheap and underpowered car—in this case either a Honda Civic Type-R (the EK9 version), Ford Mustang (Fox body), or Subaru BRZ. You’ll be able to supe your car up with prize money from races and drifting competitions, or you can save your winnings and upgrade to something faster and more exotic, including bona fide icons like the 1973 Porsche 911 RSR, Ferrari’s legendary F40, or even the just-released McLaren 570S. Choose wisely; your garage will only hold up to five cars, so you’ll have to sell one if you fill it up and want to drive something else.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Need For Speed reboots successfully for the stanced generation

Need For Speed is one of the longest running game franchises in the industry—and quite possibly the most veteran in the racing genre. The first NFS appeared back in 1994 and was as close as console gamers had ever gotten to a sim racer, featuring realistic (for the time) handling and real-world cars. Over the years sequels came and went, as did NFS‘s reputation among gamers. Now, NFS is old enough to buy itself a beer, but is this latest version—a reboot developed by Ghost Games and the series’ 22nd entry—any good?

NFS is an open world racing game, a subgenre we first saw with games such as Test Drive Unlimited back in 2006. The action takes place in Ventura Bay, where no one ever sleeps and the sun never shines, because the entire game takes place at night. You play an unnamed driver who meets up with Spike, a trustafarian and young Brad Pitt lookalike (played by Adam Long) who introduces you to his rather engaging crew of underground racers, drifters, and tuners.

As with most games of this sort, you start out off with a rather cheap and underpowered car—in this case either a Honda Civic Type-R (the EK9 version), Ford Mustang (Fox body), or Subaru BRZ. You’ll be able to supe your car up with prize money from races and drifting competitions, or you can save your winnings and upgrade to something faster and more exotic, including bona fide icons like the 1973 Porsche 911 RSR, Ferrari’s legendary F40, or even the just-released McLaren 570S. Choose wisely; your garage will only hold up to five cars, so you’ll have to sell one if you fill it up and want to drive something else.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Need For Speed reboots successfully for the stanced generation

Need For Speed is one of the longest running game franchises in the industry—and quite possibly the most veteran in the racing genre. The first NFS appeared back in 1994 and was as close as console gamers had ever gotten to a sim racer, featuring realistic (for the time) handling and real-world cars. Over the years sequels came and went, as did NFS‘s reputation among gamers. Now, NFS is old enough to buy itself a beer, but is this latest version—a reboot developed by Ghost Games and the series’ 22nd entry—any good?

NFS is an open world racing game, a subgenre we first saw with games such as Test Drive Unlimited back in 2006. The action takes place in Ventura Bay, where no one ever sleeps and the sun never shines, because the entire game takes place at night. You play an unnamed driver who meets up with Spike, a trustafarian and young Brad Pitt lookalike (played by Adam Long) who introduces you to his rather engaging crew of underground racers, drifters, and tuners.

As with most games of this sort, you start out off with a rather cheap and underpowered car—in this case either a Honda Civic Type-R (the EK9 version), Ford Mustang (Fox body), or Subaru BRZ. You’ll be able to supe your car up with prize money from races and drifting competitions, or you can save your winnings and upgrade to something faster and more exotic, including bona fide icons like the 1973 Porsche 911 RSR, Ferrari’s legendary F40, or even the just-released McLaren 570S. Choose wisely; your garage will only hold up to five cars, so you’ll have to sell one if you fill it up and want to drive something else.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fossil Q wearables reviewed: Smartwatches that actually look good

(credit: Valentina Palladino)

Until recently, wearables had an image problem. If the very first fitness trackers and smartwatches didn’t look like a random piece of silicone with a honking module on top wrapped around your wrist, they were considered a fashionable success. Within the past year or so, companies like LG and Huawei have gotten a bit more style-savvy with their wearables, making smartwatches that closely resemble analog timepieces.

Now Fossil, the fashion company well known for its focus on American vintage styles, is coming out with its own line of wearables. The Q range consists of the Q Reveler and Q Dreamer smart bands, the Q Grant non-display smartwatch, and the upcoming Q Founder Android Wear watch. Fossil has experimented with wearables in the past, but it was nothing like this—the Q devices aim to be both fashionable accessory and smart device, pieces you can wear all day long that say something about your personal style while keeping you in touch with your digital life.

While the Q Founder isn’t quite ready for us to test yet, we did get our hands on a Q Grant and a Q Reveler. Compared to other smart bands available now, both of these Q devices have fewer bells and whistles than most. They focus on tracking activity, delivering you notifications from your smartphone, and encouraging you to stay curious about the world around you. However, when we would normally consider that compromising, these devices don’t make you feel like you’re compromising at all. The Q range certainly provides a different type of wearable experience—but possibly a better one.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fossil Q wearables reviewed: Smartwatches that actually look good

(credit: Valentina Palladino)

Until recently, wearables had an image problem. If the very first fitness trackers and smartwatches didn’t look like a random piece of silicone with a honking module on top wrapped around your wrist, they were considered a fashionable success. Within the past year or so, companies like LG and Huawei have gotten a bit more style-savvy with their wearables, making smartwatches that closely resemble analog timepieces.

Now Fossil, the fashion company well known for its focus on American vintage styles, is coming out with its own line of wearables. The Q range consists of the Q Reveler and Q Dreamer smart bands, the Q Grant non-display smartwatch, and the upcoming Q Founder Android Wear watch. Fossil has experimented with wearables in the past, but it was nothing like this—the Q devices aim to be both fashionable accessory and smart device, pieces you can wear all day long that say something about your personal style while keeping you in touch with your digital life.

While the Q Founder isn’t quite ready for us to test yet, we did get our hands on a Q Grant and a Q Reveler. Compared to other smart bands available now, both of these Q devices have fewer bells and whistles than most. They focus on tracking activity, delivering you notifications from your smartphone, and encouraging you to stay curious about the world around you. However, when we would normally consider that compromising, these devices don’t make you feel like you’re compromising at all. The Q range certainly provides a different type of wearable experience—but possibly a better one.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments