News & Updates

(credit: Aurich Lawson)

Calling a game “hard” would seem to be a matter of personal judgement. Not so, according to an international team of computer scientists. For the past several years, the scientists have been analyzing Super Mario Bros. as if it were a math problem and beating a particular level is the solution. Now, they’ve extended their analysis to cover any possible arbitrary level, and they’ve shown that Super Mario Bros. belongs to a class of problems called PSPACE-complete.

The team’s work benefits from how much we already know about how Super Mario Bros. operates. For example, every time the game needs a random number, its number generator isn’t actually random. Mario’s number generator starts with a fixed seed that’s updated deterministically each time a scene is calculated. It’s only when a player helps create a particular scene that the scene becomes effectively random—something that’s not at issue when a computer is solving a level.

There are also well-described cases in which, as the authors put it, “the implementation
of Super Mario Bros. is counter to the intuitive Mario physics with which most players are familiar.” These include the ability to pop Mario through a wall or to jump through a brick ceiling, provided there’s a monster on top. And, while the game tracks objects that move slightly offscreen, the game forgets about bad guys who wander too far off the edges.

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The original Love Letter in all its glory.

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage right here—and let us know what you think.

Released in 2012 by AEG, Love Letter—a card game designed by Seiji Kanai—is set the fictional realm of Tempest where players attempt to woo Princess Annette by… sneaking love letters into the palace and into her hand. (I know… and there’s even a wedding edition. But it’s still good!)

This fiction gives way to a game of bluffing and deduction that moves incredibly fast and has a surprising layer of strategy within its small deck of 16 cards. The cards fit inside a small felt carrying bag along with wooden “tokens of affection” to keep track of your score; win a round, win a token. For 2-4 players, Love Letter has become an instant classic, yielding numerous variants—three of which discussed below—and homemade knockoffs as well.

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“Monster” Tajima and his 2016 Tajima Rimac E-Runner Concept_One, a 1500-hp purpose-built machine for Pikes Peak.

In May, we were on hand to witness the 100th running of the country’s oldest car race, the Indianapolis 500. And later this June, we’ll be present for the 2016 running of the second-oldest, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The race, which was first held in 1916, is a 12.4-mile (20km) dash up the side of Pikes Peak in Colorado, with cars racing the clock to set the best time of the day. In recent years, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb has featured more and more electric cars and motorbikes, which don’t suffer the significant drop in power at altitude that affects their internal combustion relatives.

While we’re there, TEAM APEV with MONSTER SPORT and Giti Tires have invited me to embed with them to see how one of the legends of the mountain, Nobihiru “Monster” Tajima, gets on with his 2016 Tajima Rimac E-Runner Concept One. This is a 1.1MW (1,500hp) electric vehicle with all-wheel torque vectoring and a lot of aerodynamic downforce. Last year’s race went to Monster Tajima’s rival Rhys Millen, who set a new EV record for the hillclimb, getting to the top in just over nine minutes.

Those speeds are possible these days because the road up the side of Pikes Peak was completely paved in 2011. The road was initially gravel, though for many years it was paved until the halfway point.

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(credit: Jack)

A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that a case against Edward Matish, a man accused of downloading child pornography, should stand—preserving the defendant’s upcoming trial date. Also on Wednesday, an FBI agent explicitly denied that the “network investigative technique” (NIT) used to locate Matish and break through his Tor-enabled defenses is malware.

In two separate orders handed down on Thursday, US District Judge Henry Coke Morgan, Jr. denied Matish’s two attempts to have the charges dismissed. Matish’s federal public defender had argued that his client was coerced into signing a statement confessing to his alleged crimes. Judge Morgan disagreed with the arguments presented by Matish’s legal team.

“There is no evidence to support Defendant’s claim that he made his statement involuntarily,” he wrote in his orders. “Defendant put on no evidence during the hearing to support the allegations made in his brief. The evidence before the Court shows that the agents never threatened to prosecute Defendant or his family if he did not provide a statement.”

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Security researchers have discovered a sophisticated piece of malware that uses tricks from the Stuxnet sabotage malware and is specifically designed to target industrial control systems (ICS) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.

Researchers at the security firm FireEye Labs Advanced Reverse Engineering said on Thursday that the malware, dubbed “IRONGATE,” affects


Do you have remote login software TeamViewer installed on your desktop?

If Yes, then it could be possible that your system can be accessed by attackers to steal your personal details, including your bank and PayPal accounts, as several reports on Reddit and Twitter suggests.

According to recent reports, the popular TeamViewer software that is used to remotely control PCs appears to have been


(credit: modpr0be)

For more than a month, users of the remote login service TeamViewer have taken to Internet forums to report their computers have been ransacked by attackers who somehow gained access to their accounts. In many of the cases, the online burglars reportedly drained PayPal or bank accounts. No one outside of TeamViewer knows precisely how many accounts have been hacked, but there’s no denying the breaches are widespread.

Over the past three days, both Reddit and Twitter have exploded with such reports, often with the unsupported claim that the intrusions are the result of a hack on TeamViewer’s network. Late on Friday afternoon, an IBM security researcher became the latest to report a TeamViewer account takeover.

“In the middle of my gaming session, I lose control of my mouse and the TeamViewer window pops up in the bottom right corner of my screen,” wrote Nick Bradley, a practice leader inside IBM’s Threat Research Group. “As soon as I realize what is happening, I kill the application. Then it dawns on me: I have other machines running TeamViewer!”

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The second-highest administrator on Silk Road 2, the copycat site that followed the shuttered underground drug website Silk Road, was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison—the same term that government prosecutors asked the judge to impose.

The sentencing came months after Brian Farrell, known online as “DoctorClu,” pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Such crimes carry a minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Federal agents searched Farrell’s home on January 2, 2015 after they got information that he was closely involved in SR2. There, they “seized three handguns, various computer media, various prescription medications, drug paraphernalia, 20 silver bullion bars valued at $3,900.00, and approximately $35,000 in US currency.” In addition to the prison sentence, the cash and silver bullion will be forfeited to the government.

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