Author: John W. Daly

ZTE feels hidden hand of scaremongering

We visited Chinese device maker ZTE at this year’s Cebit, which was there for the first time in seven years, an age where feature phones were the only species in the handset realm. ZTE has been making in roads in the European market, thanks to its white label devices operators can hawk under their own brand to punters.

ZTE-branded handsets belong to the new kids on the block. All in all, ZTE sold 65 million phones last year. Smartphones accounted to 35 million units, feature phones, 30 million.

Nothing new was on display – after all, Cebit is not CES, MWC or IFA, but something inbetween. However, one announcement will be made today, namely a successor to the current, Intel Atom based ZTE Grand X In. When asked about the cooperation with Intel, ZTE’s Wu Sa (pictured, right, with Susanne Baumann) indicated all was smooth sailing. 

Unfortunately, not all things are shining bright for handset and network equipment makers from China.

Allegations have been made recently regarding the security of products made by companies such as ZTE and Huawei, including unfounded statements alleging Chineses manufacturers have deep ties with Chinese intelligence services, amounting to the notion of secret backdoors for the sinister world domination of the Yellow Peril.

In the world of evidence-backed facts, no back door has ever been found by inquisitive hackers. German expert Felix Lindner “audited” Huawei routers a while back and uncovered a few security flaws, but no evidence for any backdoor claims. Lindner’s findings can be found here.  The claims, which are usually made by those who can’t tell a programming language from their own bowel movements, border on the ridiculous. If devices made by Chinese makers in the mainland are a threat, then what about all the other products made for US or EU companies in China?

It is not hard to conclude the scare mongering in the political arena is the voice of market protectionism. Of course, such allegations do not help ZTE’s business. The  “hidden hand”, as ZTE’s Wu Sa called it, is making itself felt for Chinese manufacturers. Hopefully, anxiety about China will find itself in the dustbin of history,  sooner rather than later. 

On the consumer side of things, ZTE announced at MWC that it will be launching Firefox OS handsets in a couple of months, alongside the current roster of Android and Windows smartphones.

Intel is happy it can show off a long-term partnership with an up-and-coming emerging markets handset maker as a user of its Atom platform. Branching out beyond ARM, Android and Windows is all for the benefit of the consumer and operator. The former has a wider range of handets to choose from, the latter can use Firefox OS handsets to develop own ecosystems for their own benefit. The company’s Pre-R&D division will keep an eye on future developments that promise carriers a nice ecosystem, so perhaps there just might be a wee space for Tizen.

ZTE’s current line-up aims at the entry- to mid-level smartphone market, but does deliver some bang for your buck, offering largely untouched Android with only a few additions. Consumers shouldn’t expect ultra-cool novelties from ZTE at the moment. In the next couple of years, however, it can be expected Chinese companies will evolve in a manner similar to major South Korean makers.

German pirates set sail for change

Last weekend will find itself an entry in political history over here in Germany.  In the state of Saarland, the country’s Pirate Party (Piratenpartei) won 7.4 percent of votes and entered the federal state parliament. Up north, the state party conference for North Rhine-Westphalia elected 42 candidates for the upcoming state elections and found a successful end, after a dragging start – more than 150 party members wanted to be voted onto the candidate list. 

In Saarland, the Piratenpartei not only entered state parliament after running for election the very first time, but it also managed to attract thousands of non-voters and first-time voters. In the same election, Germany’s free democrats, the FDP, suffered staggering losses. The FDP dropped from 9.2 percent to a mere 1.2 percent, far below the five percent threshold necessary to enter a state parliament. 

On Saturday, nearly four hours were spent discussing and voting the election rules; a further nine hours later party members had voted in a team of four top candidates. The following day was spent screening the remaining candidates for list spots five to 42.

Press reports were a mixed bag. On the one side, journalists were scratching their noggins and coming up with various ideas about how the Piratenpartei managed to jump from zero to 7.4 percent the first time the party stood for election in the economically decrepit Saarland. On the other side, reporters were wondering how the hell party members were able to make a rational decision on who to elect on a list for the upcoming elections in North Rhine Westphalia. After all, the candidates running for the top team only had three minutes to present themselves, and one minute for the following spots.

Large portions of the press appear rather clueless to the inner workings of the Piratenpartei. Criticisms of the voting procedure of the North Rhine-Westphalia’s party conference was a good example. The limited, three to one minute timeframe candidates had to present themselves led a lot of outsiders to raise the question how rational decisions on who to vote for can be made.
Established political parties do not comprehend the grass-roots process of the party and are bewildered by the recent successes. Most politicians repeatedly stress they use Facebook and Twitter, are net-savvy and the like. However, they are entirely missing the point. 

What is overlooked is that the greatest part of decision-making in the Piratenpartei is internet-based. Party members can discuss and make amendments to papers and proposals in real-time, using a platform called Liquid Feedback. Party members, as well as those wishing to run for any office, can create an online profile on the party’s wiki site. They are encouraged to do so. Members can ask candidates questions online and candidates answer them online. Twitter is also used – Pirates tweet to and fro enthusiastically. Party members can inform themselves before any conference takes place – instantly. 

Thanks to the networked organisation, a short timeframe is all that is needed for candidates to present themselves at party conferences. Party members vote on whether or not to pose further questions. This seldom takes place, yet will definitely occur if the candidate is controversial. This happened during the state party conference. One candidate running for the election list for the federal state had to answer questions concerning anti-Semitic remarks he made in a mailing-list – he received no votes. Another member was accused of bullying his peers in the party’s local group in Cologne, only to face a similar fate.

This networked structure and organisation allows the Piratenpartei to involve each and every member in the democratic process, regardless of space-time constraints, making it possible to apply crowdsourced intelligence. It enables the Piratenpartei to fulfill its ideal of Basisdemokratie: grass-roots politics allowing everyone to be involved in any process. All members can vote for candidates, without delegates.

Apart from the networked nature of the Piratenpartei, the political topics central to the party also attract new members and voters. Topics include civil rights both on and offline, net politics, social justice and egalitarianism, education policies and the involvement of the greater whole in the democratic process.

The existing social system is heavily criticised. The so-called Hartz IV social benefits system is viewed as being too little for too many, and as imposing restrictions on civil rights and liberties of Germany’s unemployed, the weakest members of the state.

The Piratenpartei offers a solution – the bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen (BGE), a system providing an unconditionial basic income. This is to be financed through the redistribution of wealth and an overhauled tax system, allowing all citizens to participate in their pursuit of happiness and opportunity. Social exclusion due to economic constraints would be negated. 

Germany’s industry manufactures its products in an utterly efficient manner, allowing the country to produce high-quality goods for low costs. Higher efficiency in production also means far less jobs across various sectors, creating a systemic problem. After all, who will buy products, when hardly anyone makes them? Thanks to rapidly increasing automation, what was once a more or less philosophical question is now relevant. 

An unconditional basic income would provide citizens the means to not only participate in society as consumers, but also the opportunity to actively create and produce goods, be they tangible or intangible. Freeing citizens to create and produce would furthermore provide a basis for future wealth. This all stands in stark contrast to a benefits system creating dependency. As a side-effect, it would also raise demand and consumption in Germany itself, improving the major exporter’s rather one-sided trade balance.

As for net politics and civil liberties, the Piratenpartei has established parties running and making their voices heard all over the place. One of the greatest boons for the party was the utterly inept and uninformed handling of the digital sphere by established parties.  In recent years, various laws were proposed either as parts of election campaigns or due to lobbying, which would have drastically curtailed freedom of use in the internet and civil liberties pertaining to informational self-determination. Germany’s digital natives went up in arms, further strengthening the base of potential voters of the Piratenpartei.

One prime example was a proposal to block access to sites containing child pornography with a stop sign – instead of deleting such content and prosecuting the purveyors of such material. The proposal was also superfluous, as there are already existing processes in place. 

There are many other reasons for the success of the Piratenpartei, such as an erosion of trust in established parties and politicians to deal with current and future problems in the Information Age we are now all living in. Whatever the case, the attractiveness of Germany’s Piratenpartei is constantly growing, as well as its member base.

Open, transparent processes and the desire to apply these to the political system as a whole, alongside a grass-roots democratic process using networked methods and platforms allowing people to participate in as high a degree they wish in finding political solutions to complex problems, will remain the driving forces for the party’s increasing popularity.

And this is why the author became a member a month ago.

Asia Pacific set to rule mobile market

Punters in the Asia Pacific region are set to carve a grin on the faces of handset makers as people flock to mobile phones.

According to the GSMA and soothsayers Machina Research, 5.6 billion mobile connected devices will be thumbed, swiped and caressed by 2020 in the Asia Pacific market. This would account for 47 percent of the entire market share, compared to the 19.1 percent penned in for Europe and 9.4 percent seen for Fnord America.

Unsurprisingly, China is seen to be the big mover. Up to five billion internet-enabled handsets will be beyond the Great Wall. Total revenue for mobile operators in China should sit somewhere at $180 billion.

Revenues are estimated to be $447 billion for services aimed at “mobile connected devices” in the entire region, compared to $305 billion for data flatrates in Europe – and $1.2 trillion worldwide.

A lack of landline infrastructure in the region will see smartphones and slightly less intelligent handsets boom in that specific area of the globe, as it is easier and more cost-effective to build a few cell towers than to dig up roads and bury copper, or fibre-optic cables.

Throw in the effects climate change will have on the Asian Pacific region and permanently installed telecommunications infrastructure isn’t too much of a viable option – as various towns and cities will have to be surrendered to the forces of nature. Nonetheless, punters in first-world economies like Japan and South Korea are expected to lead the entire pack, owning approximately 11 connected devices per person by 2020. Simply because they can afford them.

One of the main drivers in terms of applications will be health services, as the bones cast by the wise ones spoke. Figures from Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) foresee the mobile healthcare market to jump to $7 billion by 2017, which would mean a compound annual growth rate of 70 percent.

China will grow strongest, while Japan will increasingly monitor its ageing population per connected device and India will use remote diagnostics to aid its rural population.

State trojan will see heads roll in Germany

On Saturday, Germany’s Chaos Computer Club (CCC) released a detailed analysis of the so-called Bundestrojaner (Federal Trojan) used by various police forces to spy on suspects.

According to the CCC, the trojan was in breach of tight limits determind by Germany’s highest court, the Federal Constitutional Court.

Rules imposed by the court limit any sort of trojan employed by police and intelligence services to surveillance of VoIP, i.e. voice chats over Skype. However, it appears the police have ignored the Federal Constitutional Court’s order by using an insecure and shoddily programmed trojan offering more features than is allowed.

Apart from being badly programmed and insecure, the trojan also allows various modules to be downloaded and installed. Theoretically, investigators would be able to search HDDs and manipulate data. As for shoddy programming, commands transmitted to the trojan are not encrypted, only one single key was used for all the trojans. Data transferred from PCs and commands were routed over a server in the USA, outside of German law.

The trojan, labelled R2D2 by various antivirus outfits due to the inclusion of C3PO, R2D2 and POE in the code, was pieced together by a German company called Digitask. In 2002, the company’s former CEO and owner was sentenced to 21 months probation and a 1.5 million euro fine for bribing state employees at the Customs Criminal Office in Cologne.

The company renamed itself from Reuter Leiterplatten GmbH to DigiTask GmbH and once more enjoys selling services to state agencies. managed to lay its hands on a small presentation by the company.

One of the trojans analysed by the CCC was forwarded to the club by German lawyer Patrick Schladt. Bavarian state police were investigating one of his clients on drug-related charges and installed a trojan on his PC, which forwarded screenshots to investigators which were in clear breach of the law. A court later determined the police had no legal basis to do so.

Furthermore, the Bavarian police shouldn’t have made use of a trojan to monitor the client. The Federal Constitutional Court limited not only the means of surveillance, but also in which cases a trojan may be used by state authorities.

Cases are limited to the most serious crimes and terrorism. The client being monitored was a drug distributor whose crime may or may not have been shipping medicines to distribute in Germany, but perhaps not legal to export. Terrorism or serious crime, this is not.

The Bavarian police recently also hit the news in Germany for various cases of police brutality.

One of the cases saw a 14 year old youth losing teeth as a result of a police beating, and his head smashed against a wall. The conservative ruling party in Bavaria, the CSU (Christian Social Union), ignored the case until press reports led to public and political pressure.

Bavaria was not the only federal state to use the trojan.

Baden-Württemberg used it, however its Green-Labour coalition government has stopped. In Brandenburg, it has been used to monitor a suspect against facing an international arrest warrant. Berlin has not used a trojan, due to legal concerns.

Germany has a political scandal brewing which will influence upcoming elections. Heads are set to roll, especially in Bavaria where the trojan has been used in clear breach of law.

The Pirate Party is set to profit. Recent polls have seen the party at nine percent, and voter approval can only be expected to grow in the following weeks and months. Should Angela Merkel’s conservative-liberal coalition drop dead before the next election, the situation will become very interesting.

Votes for the Pirate Party will mean less for the Social Democrats and Germany’s Green Party, who are more or less expected to form the next coalition government. The most likely  outcome will be either a grand coalition government between Christian and Social Democrats, or a coalition between Social Democrats, Greens and – hold your breath – Pirates.

This is a reasonable scenario, should the Social Democrats and Greens suffer losses to the Pirate Party.

It would indeed be a political earthquake if the Pirate Party pass the five percent barrier required for a seat in the Bundestag, the German Federal Parliament.

Such a result would pressure established parties to become competent in technology and place more scrutiny on the law. Lobbying would be hit hard, while the democratic process would be strengthened.

It wouldn’t be far-fetched to recognise the Pirate Party as a replacement for the liberal Free Democrats as an upholder of civil rights in the 21st century.

Nintendo to cull Nintendog Guttenberg

TechIcke will be sending back its 3DS test unit to Nintendo this weekend, spelling certain death for loveable Nintendog Guttenberg, a cute little puppy adopted and trained by TechIcke. Nintendo will cruely wipe all data saved on the unit, erase Guttenberg into the realm of mere memory and send it to the next plaice eager to review the world’s first handheld device with an autostereoscopic 3D display.

This policy raises serious moral and ethical concerns. Can a company, or an individual, simply wipe away virtual pets to which people may, to some degree, feel emotionally attached? And what about the broader implications in regards to artificial life, created in labs?

May a researcher ever flick the power switch and sap the life energy from one of his creations, playing God? May researchers only build moral and ethical AL systems in their PCs? Let us not even consider the implications of wetware, i.e. putting all that PC stuff into biological practice.

So who to ask about all those difficult ethical pickles?

TechIcke decided to ask PETA what in the name of splattered pet innards it thought about the whole confounded affair. It turns out PETA UK gave Nintendo an award for Nintendogs back in 2006!

“PETA has no objection to – and, in fact, often promotes – the use of digitised animals in films, television, video games and other media. We encourage the use of CGI and other creative technologies instead of live animals because animals in the entertainment industry are often subjected to rigorous and abusive training methods to force them to perform unnatural, meaningless tricks,” answered PETA.

“Computer-generated animal characters can do everything that real animals do, without the risk of injury and stress as they cannot feel pain, joy, love, sadness and grief as their living counterparts can,” the anti-fur organisation carried on.

Wonderful, wonderful! But what about the pain, joy, love, sadness and grief of reviewers, small children and assorted C’thulhu fodder who find their virtual pets erased from the face of flash memory?

 “The exception, of course, is when such images are used to promote violence against animals (for example, video games that glorify hunting or other forms of cruelty). Violent behaviour is already far too common in the real world – the last thing we need to do is glamorise it.”

Isn’t wiping virtual pets from SD cards violent and cruel behaviour? Has anyone actually researched if little kids who will later grow into serial killers get preteen kicks from creating cute little Nintendoggies, play with them, only to later on wipe them from the face of the earth?
And what if such polygon abuse psychopaths later become AL researchers, creating virtual life from biological matter?

Oh, what an ethical pickle indeed!

TechIcke and its member tentacles sees such moral and ethical considerations as a clear sign of the inferiority of the human race, which is why we, as Reptiloids under the all-seeing eye, are proud to be part of a vast, intergalactic conspiracy designed to ensnare humanity and reduce it to fodder, to be munched in rhythm with the beat of solar flares and supernovas.

3D handheld techwizardry and cute, beloved casual games are one part of our cunning plan. TechIcke has previously reported how, for instance, peripheral vision is subdued by autostereoscopic handsets. This makes crowd control far easier for our brethren! No one will hardly notice us eating you or stopping time to modify your wetware if you are all hypnotised by inane imagery on miniature screens.

Our corporate fronts are working in ways to translate our Inner Earth technology into ways humankind can grasp. Nvidia, for instance, will be churning out its Tegra 2 SoC (Satanic ocular Control – because we use it to look at you!) for 3D handsets soon. By the way, TechIcke fondly calls Nvidia a jolly green goblin, simply because in reality, it is. Actually  a race of green goblins dwelling in cave systems beneath the island of Taiwan,

Oh, and guess why we call Intel Chipzilla! Perhaps because its chips will become so widespread you won’t even mutter when they establish their secret silicon genetics and become a unified vassal vesses for a transdimensional being happy to eat you?

And please do remember the Yahoo and Microsoft takeover talks back in 2008. TechIcke’s previous semi-incarnation wrote, oh-so obviously, that “71 year old investor reportedly also said that he thought Microsoft were the wrong corporation, which he called an over-the-hill, green-tentacled octopus.” 

TechIcke enjoys covering up the true identity of the many-tentacled corporate godhead by simply referring to Microsoft as the Vole, a loveable small rodent that makes a nice, crunchy topping to school children roast in honey.

Yes, we are happy reptile beings, and you, dear reader, not only are the fodder that makes us fat, but also supplies us with wealth without any real counter value by delivering us Unique Page Impressions.

And none of you will believe the hapless few who understand! Oh no, for this is obviously an April Fool’s! Or is it not?!

Ah, how our bellies already bloat with giggly joy!

Germany blacklists cybermobbing site

Germany has more or less banned, a cybermobbing website aimed at school children and youths. The country’s censor body “Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien” (BPjM) (“Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons”) put the site on the so-called index list, meaning the site is only supposed to be accessed by people over 18 and may not be advertised.

Due to a non-binding agreement, a “voluntary commitment” with the BPjM, search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing will erase the site from their indexes, yet only this time next month when the indexes are updated.

Use of became contagious under pupils in Germany this year. The site provides a list of schools by town and federal state, angry kids can make anonymous entries by school saying their classmate or teacher is a rotten egg or even viler claims.

The site quickly became famous for racist slander and cybermobbing of pupils. Last week, a 17 year old “peer mediator” was assaulted and hospitalised after trying to mediate between fellow pupils in a case of cybermobbing sparked through comments posted on

Germany’s Federal Ministry for Family Affairs asked the BPjM to put the site up for review in early February. Teachers and parents had asked for a call to action and to ban the site entirely, taking it offline. However, the site’s owners have so far managed to stay anonymous, despite investigation by prosecuters.

Banning the site from search engines is more of a display of helplessness and political actionism designed to make voters happy than it is a viable strategy to counter cyberbullying and mobbing. 
From the technical side, it is basically impossible to to identify a site’s owner if the server is outside of Germany and the .com domain was registered anonymously. was apparently registered in New Zealand, is owned by a vessel called Jufax Intertainment situated in Riga, Latvia, whilst the site is hosted by Swedish free-speech webhoster PRQ, where Wikileaks‘ formerly colocated its server.

In addition, Pupils will not need a search engine to find out about the site itself, as the URL will be communicated through peers, orally or through social networks such as Facebook or Germany’s SchülerVZ. The ban may also prove counterproductive, as kids always find it exciting to do exactly the opposite of what old fogies tell them to.

It would make far more sense if teachers were to communicate to pupils how the owners of are making a fortune in ad revenues thanks to the site’s notoriety and the associated behaviour of its users.

The Onion Router is secure and very well thank you

The Onion Router (TOR) is alive and kicking, feeling secure and very healthy despite other plaices saying the contrary. recently linked to two posts on PGPBoard in the last few days, where claims were made TOR was unsecure. Eviloids such as non-hacker Adrian Lamo, famous for ratting out Wikileaks informer and whistleblower Bradley Manning to the FBI, were purported to be able to sniff  data flowing in and out and about TOR exit nodes operated by them.

Some guy without a name also went on to state TOR had a big stonking hole in its SSL layer and thus were as safe as secrets are with Adrian Lamo. On Friday, press agency UPI also reported the benevolent state of Iran, herold of freedom across the globe, had obtained deep packet inspection sniffing abilities, quoting TOR’s Andrew Lewman.

According to UPI, Iran is apparently now better equipped than China to supress its students and warn them not to listen to horrid corrupters of youth like Michael Jackson and The Ramones and get silly ideas of freedom and democracy.

However, stories claiming TOR is as unsecure as conveying state secrets by postcard are wrong, claimed Andrew Lewman when asked by TechEye. UPI apparently churned out its piece based on an article wiritten by England’s The Telegraph newspaper, yet overlooked paragraph nine, which states ” […] developers have redesigned the software so that its traffic looks just like any other when it sets up an encrypted connection, and Iranian user numbers are now back to normal.”

“We fixed the problem back in January 2011.  It’s clear the journalists are two months behind the technology.  Tor is working well in Iran and continues to be the safest choice,” Lewman told TechEye.

Lewman also dismissed the claims made on PGPBoard as “some paranoid wanting attention.  We addressed this concern over a year ago when Wired tried to create a controversy togenerate more page views”. TOR’s take on a story published by The New Yorker and rehashed by Slashdot and Wired’s Threat Level bog can be found here.

The New Yorker originally wrote about Wikileaks noticing a glut of Chinese hacking activity in the TOR network. Wired than claimed Wikileaks was founded on materials it had intercepted within TOR. Wikileaks later on stated Wired’s claim was bogus

It seems users and other places still have to figure out they also need encryption on the outside.

Bitkom says women love the mobile web

It appears German women are a bit more keen to access the web from smartphones or tablets than their male counterparts.

According to industry organisation Bitkom, 20 percent of women asked in a survey said they use their mobile to surf the web, whereas 16 percent of males, four percent less, confessed to sitting around in cafés, drinking latte macchiato and using free wireless on their iOS, Bada, Android or Symbian The Nearly Deceased and Half Undead handsets.

In total, 18 percent of Germany’s internet users use a handset to scour the WWW, compared to 10 percent last year. Bitkom expects ten million smartphones will be sold in the country over the course of this year. Nonetheless, laptops, tablets and netbooks still rank a bit higher. Around 24 percent of survey participants stated they used such a device to surf, tweet, post and look at pornography online.

It can be expected the amount of consumers accessing the net through a smartphone will overtake the notebook, netbook and tablet crowd this year.

Bitkom sees the roll-out of LTE networks as a main driver. According to the ITC trade association, around 3,500 sites will have been upgraded to LTE by the end of March this year, offering speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s (megabit per second).

Operators expect revenue from data services to grow 12 percent to seven billion euro.

Last year, a total of 70 million GB of data was transferred up and down mobile networks, the equivalent of 15 million DVDs, twice as much as two years ago. LTE will see that figure skyrocket.

3DS tickles TechEye's memory circuits

TechEye got a Nintendo 3DS sample unit to play with last week, over half a year after first manhandling it at the Gamescom show in Cologne. It has to be said, playing with Nintendogs and brawling through Streetfighter managed to make us feel 13 again.

Alas, Pilotwings Resort failed to tickle the tastebuds as flying games simply aren’t this reviewer’s cup of tea – apart from if you can blow the bejeezus out of little pixel soldiers. Does anyone here remember Wings of Fury for the Amiga?

Anyway, the 3DS came in a nice fancy box including the console, power cable, ear phones, a docking bay, six AR cards and a 2GB Toshiba SD card. Oh yes, a manual was naturally included, too. Charging the 3DS requires placing it in the docking bay, which is hooked up to the wall socket. You know you’re all set to go when the charger LED stops glowing.

Hey ho, and off we go. We shove a game card into the correct hole on the 3DS’ rear end, also home to a small place for the touch pen. An L and R button are also placed on its backside, firmly entrenching the game slot and pen hole. On the front there are no surprises, two pads on the left and the obligatory XYAB buttons on the right. Select, home and start buttons are positioned below the touchscreen.

3DS backside

First time turning it on, the unit asked us to calibrate the 3D effect to a setting which wouldn’t hurt the eyes, our give us an epileptic fit. After that, the unit asks its owner to set the country, date and asks if parental controls are desired, or not.

3D photos can also be shot using the rear lense, although the quality isn’t all that great as can be seen below in this photo of my sock. Nonetheless, pics do look rather good in full 3D on the console’s panel. Using the slider, the overlaying images can be shoved apart resulting in a schizo fix.

One right sock shot with internal rear camera

Right sock tape slip

But what about the games? 

Well, TechEye received three launch titles as above. All three were rather good.

There was a slight naming mishap in Nintendogs, where we accidentally named a puppy “Guttenberg”, after Germany’s former defense minister who had to resign last week, instead of “Gutenberg” as in Johannes Gutenberg, the man who invented the printing press. Isn’t he sweet?

Guttenberg the mutt

Nonetheless, Guttenberg was lovingly petted, taken for walkies and played with for a good hour until he went to bed.

Face Raiders was the first game TechEye had a go on, a preinstalled augmented reality (AR) game requiring the player to make a snapshot of him- or herself using the internal camera on the front.

The mugshot is saved and then featured on round flying balls, which float around the room displayed by the 3D camera module on the rear panel. Users may find it fun to hit themselves in the face, less stable sorts may experience terrifying bouts of paranoia. 

Hitting myself, the endboss

Nintendo’s 3DS comes with further AR games preinstalled, requiring users to place an AR card on a table to act as an anchor in reality for the unit. This hack found himself having to move around his desk to hit targets popping up from his desk right around the card.

On the hardware side of things, controlling and playing games is a wonderful affair, as can be expected from Nintendo.

One problem was that the hinge for the upper screen appeared to be a bit weak, as it flopped one step back while TechEye tryed to navigate a plane through hoops in Pilotwings Resort.

The major question is: will the very good autosteroscopic 3D screen be enough to top the ranks of consumers wish lists? It will certainly score high for younger age groups, but this year will also see smartphones with autostereoscopic displays sporting higher resolutions and better graphics. Wealthy adults may dismiss the 3DS as a gimmick, though we’d disagree.

Actually, Nintendo’s newest offspring is a ton of fun.

Apart from the touch-screen controls, the two main selling points for the 3DS are that it is the only unit out there on the market that currently features an autostereoscopic screen – and the games. Games sell consoles, not the flashiest graphics, as Sony and Microsoft had to learn bitterly last time around.

Sony may be releasing the PSP2, but Nintendo is bound to thrash it in terms of sales, despite again having the lower spec hardware.

3D adds a lot to the immersive quality of games, especially when they are addictive titles such as Zelda, Super Mario, or Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid. It will also be interesting to see how and if other games will make use of AR, as this offers an even higher degree of immersion.

Console makers will face an up-hill battle in the short to middle term. Handset makers will too, despite not fully sharing the demographic. In the short to mid term, we can expect the 3DS to find its place in the rucksacks of many kids, next to an iPhone or Android handset.

Long term predictions are hard to make. Nintendo has a great brand and broad legacy, but the market is charging full steam ahead and will be entirely different in years to come due to the convergence of various devices into one handset. Nintendo is already cleverly adapting, being first to market with a handheld console featuring full autostereoscopic 3D.

In future, Nintendo will probably develop AR features and games more deeply and integrate it into upcoming systems, if not even base them entirely around AR.

One thing is certain – the 3DS is set to be another success story for Nintendo and unit sales will make the company’s shareholders very happy, at least for the time being.

Streetfighter on the dock

Rovio gets $42 million investment

Maker of Angry Birds Rovio has secured $42 million to push forward into frontiers hitherto unknown to the company and its staff.

Rovio made a name for itself by developing Angry Birds, mobile game number one on smartphones, iPhones and tablets around the globe. According to Rovio, 40 million users play Angry Birds worldwide each month. In total, the game has been downloaded over 75 million times. Rovio cashes in on ads displayed in the free-to-play game.

Accel Partners and Atomico Partners had their hands in the funding round in a hope to grab a slice of a booming and potentially very lucrative market. Skype cofounder Niklas Zennström, who launched Atomico Partners after cashing in on the sale of Skype, will join Rovio’s board and pass on his arcane knowledge.

Rovio added that so far over two million Angry Bird cuddly toys have been sold to hapless punters, while 40 percent of iOS-based Angry Birdists have opted to buy extra, downloadable content.

Wired claims Rovio managed to rake in $50 million from diverse channels such as app sales, downloadable content and all other products sold to fill punter’s inner void for a quarter of an hour.