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May 2020
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Fans Port Mario 64 To PC And Make It Way Better, So Of Course Nintendo Is Trying To Nuke The Project

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I'm lucky enough to own a decades old Nintendo 64 and a handful of games, including the classic Mario 64. My kids love that game. Still, the first thing they asked when I showed it to them the first time is why the screen was letterboxed, why the characters looked like they were made of lego blocks, and why I needed weird cords to plug it all into the flat screen television. The answer to these spoiled monsters' questions, of course, is that the game is super old and wasn't meant to be played on modern televisions. It's the story of a lot of older games, though many PC games at least have a healthy modding community that will take classics and get them working on present day hardware. Consoles don't have that luxury.Well, usually, that is. It turns out that enough folks were interested in modernizing Mario 64 that a group of fans managed to pull off porting it to PC. And, because this is a port and not emulation, they managed to update it to run in 4k graphics and added a ton of modern visual effects.

Last year, Super Mario 64's N64 code was reverse-engineered by fans, allowing for all kinds of new and exciting things to be done with Nintendo’s 1996 classic. Like building a completely new PC port of the game, which can run in 4K and ultra-wide resolutions.This is a very new and cool thing! Previously, if you were playing Super Mario 64 on PC, you were playing via emulation, as your PC ran code pretending to be an N64. This game is made specifically for the PC, built from the ground up, meaning it not only runs like a dream, but even supports mod stuff like ReShade, allowing for graphical tweaks (like the distance blur seen here).
As you'll see, the video the Kotaku post is referencing can't be embedded here because Nintendo already took it down. Instead, I'll use another video that hasn't been taken down at the time of this writing, so you can see just how great this looks.
In addition to videos of the project, Nintendo has also been busy firing off legal salvos to get download links for the PC port of the game taken down from wherever it can find them. Now, while Nintendo's reputation for IP protectionism is such that it would almost certainly take this fan project down under virtually any circumstances, it is also worth noting that the company has a planned re-release of Mario 64 for its latest Nintendo console. That likely only supercharged the speed with which it is trying to disappear this labor of love from fans of an antiquated game that have since moved on to gaming on their PCs.But why should the company do this? Nintendo consoles are known for many things, including user-friendly gaming and colorful games geared generally towards younger audiences. You know, exactly not the people who would take it on themselves to get an old Mario game working on their PC instead of a Nintendo console. What threat does this PC port from fans represent to Nintendo revenue? It's hard to imagine that threat is anything substantial.And, yet, here we are anyway. Nintendo, after all, doesn't seem to be able to help itself.

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posted at: 12:00am on 07-May-2020
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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Senator Wyden And Others Introduce Bill Calling The DOJ's Bluff Regarding Its Attempt To Destroy Section 230 & Encryption

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One of the key points we've been making concerning Attorney General William Barr and his DOJ's eager support for the terrible EARN-IT Act, is that much of it really seems to be to cover up the DOJ's own failings in fighting child porn and child exploitation. The premise behind the EARN IT Act is that there's a lot of child exploitation/child abuse material found on social media... and that social media companies should do more to block that content. Of course, if you step back and think about it, you'd quickly realize that this is a form of sweeping the problem under the rug. Rather than actually tracking down and arresting those exploiting and abusing children, it's demanding private companies just hide the evidence of those horrific acts.And why might the DOJ and others be so supportive of sweeping evidence under the rug and hiding it? Perhaps because the DOJ and Congress have literally failed to live up to their mandates under existing laws to actually fight child exploitation. Barr's DOJ has been required under law to produce reports showing data about internet crimes against children, and come up with goals to fight those crimes. It has produced only two out of the six reports that were mandated over a decade ago. At the same time, Congress has only allocated a very small budget to state and local law enforcement for fighting internet child abuse. While the laws Congress passed say that Congress should give $60 million to local law enforcement, it has actually allocated only about half of that. Oh, and Homeland Security took nearly half of its "cybercrimes" budget and diverted it to immigration enforcement, rather than fighting internet crimes such as child exploitation.So... maybe we should recognize that the problem isn't social media platforms, but the fact that Congress and law enforcement -- from local and state up to the DOJ -- have literally failed to do their job.At least some elected officials have decided to call the DOJ's bluff on why we need the EARN IT Act. Led by Senator Ron Wyden (of course), Senators Kirsten Gillbrand, Bob Casey, Sherrod Brown and Rep. Anna Eshoo have introduced a new bill to actually fight child sex abuse online. Called the Invest in Child Safety Act, it would basically make law enforcement do its job regarding this stuff.

The Invest in Child Safety Act would direct $5 billion in mandatory funding to investigate and target the pedophiles and abusers who create and share child sexual abuse material online. And it would create a new White House office to coordinate efforts across federal agencies, after DOJ refused to comply with a 2008 law requiring coordination and reporting of those efforts. It also directs substantial new funding for community-based efforts to prevent children from becoming victims in the first place.
Basically, the bill would do a bunch of things to make sure that law enforcement is actually dealing with the very real problem of child exploitation, rather than demanding that internet companies (1) sweep evidence under the rug, and (2) break encryption:
  • Quadruple the number of prosecutors and agents in DOJ's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section from 30 FTEs to 120 FTEs;
  • Add 100 new agents and investigators for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Innocent Images National Initiative, Crimes Against Children Unit, Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Teams, and Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces;
  • Fund 65 new NCMEC analysts, engineers, and mental health counselors, as well as a major upgrade to NCMEC's technology platform to enable the organization to more effectively evaluate and process CSAM reports from tech companies;
  • Double funding for the state Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces;
  • Double funding for the National Criminal Justice Training Center, to administer crucial Internet Crimes Against Children and Missing and Exploited Children training programs;
  • Increase funding for evidence-based programs, local governments and non-federal entities to detect, prevent and support victims of child sexual abuse, including school-based mental health services and prevention programs like the Children's Advocacy Centers and the HHS' Street Outreach Program;
  • Require tech companies to increase the time that they hold evidence of CSAM, in a secure database, to enable law enforcement agencies to prosecute older cases;
  • Establish an Office to Enforce and Protect Against Child Sexual Exploitation, within the Executive Office of the President, to direct and streamline the federal government's efforts to prevent, investigate and prosecute the scourge of child exploitation;
  • Require the Office to develop an enforcement and protection strategy, in coordination with HHS and GAO; and
  • Require the Office to submit annual monitoring reports, subject to mandatory Congressional testimony to ensure timely execution.
While I always have concerns about law enforcement mission creep and misguided targeting of law enforcement efforts, hopefully everyone can agree that child exploitation does remain a very real problem, and one that law enforcement should be investigating and going after those who are actually exploiting and abusing children. This bill would make that possible, rather than the alternative approach of just blaming the internet companies for law enforcement's failure to take any of this seriously.

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posted at: 12:00am on 07-May-2020
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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