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Super Mario Run on mobile: big for fans

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The first Nintendo game on iOS, Super Mario Run, has now made its way to Android. TIANA CLINE sacrifices beach time to give it a … walkthrough?

Nintendo’s first non-Nintendo Mario game is here. Now available on iOS and Android, this Mushroom Kingdom-themed runner is everything you would expect from the moustached plumber series – a kidnapped princess, golden coins, bonus levels.

But there’s more to Super Mario Run, besides the fact that Mario, well, just keeps on running. At the same time, it’s not really a quintessential endless runner. There’s a Farmville-esque home screen (called Kingdom Builder) to restore the castle and place decorations, buildings and special items as you level up. Fast-paced online rallies through levels you’ve already completed to pick up colourful toads.

There’s actually quite a bit to do, over and above the World Tour mode which consists of six worlds, each containing four side-scrolling levels.

Each level is familiar which stays true to all the Mario games. You start in a world of pipes and blocks, continue under ground, fly through the air bouncing on giant mushrooms, escape spiky sand-dwellers and battle it out in the castle, fire included. There are ghost mansions and pirate ships, the only scene that’s missing is a flying fish-filled underwater level and I’m actually fine with that because those were always the toughest to master.

There are coins to gather, but these (from what I’ve seen) are primarily used for buying stuff to rebuild the castle. In each level, there are five pink coins to collect. Collect them all and there will more five (more difficult) purple coins to work towards. Got all five? They’re now black. This adds a lot of replayability to the levels because you not only get rewarded for hunting down all the coins (hello rally tickets!), you get to know the ins and outs which really comes in hand when competing in an online rally. And if you connect with friends, you’ll also be able to see how well they did on the different world levels.

A new update to the app means you can even play a friendly-run through with them.

Unlike other mobile runners (Temple Run is the first which pops into my head) where the speed increases in conjunction with the difficulty of the game, Mario sprints along at the same reliable, carefully thought-out pace. He does die, but Nintendo have included two back-to-life bubbles where Mario magically reappears from the ether like Glinda the Good Witch and you can pop him down where you want so he can get back to the race. Time will stand still, just don’t let him fly to the beginning of the map as you’ll definitely run out of time. You can also use these bubbles as and when you want to go back and take a different path or try for a special coin, just tap the on-screen icon.

The only movement you control is jumping. Mario can do high leaps if you press the screen a bit longer, backwards jumps with a slight swipe and wall jumps to. And you’ll have to conquer all of his acrobatic moves if you want to get through the last of the World Tour levels.

I’m really enjoyed Super Mario Run, but do I miss the secrets that you get to uncover in other Mario platformers. The mysterious pipes, magic beanstalks, being able to stop and breathe… if anything I’m still nostalgic for the innovations last seen in Super Mario Bros. 3. (Is a raccoon suit really that hard to add to a game?)

But that said, Super Mario Run does have its quirks. Connect to your Nintendo profile, for example, and you’ll be able to change the player character and download other items. And because you’re forever online (something Mario fans are not happy with) there are continuous and seasonal surprises. I had a Christmas Tree in my Kingdom and am sure more exclusives will come up with time.

And in true Nintendo-style, the Animal Crossing guilt trip which popped up when I closed a rally by mistake was almost expected. (Really Nintendo? One mistake in Toad Rally and my toads are feeling sad and don’t want to stay in my kingdom anymore? Did the 35 odd tickets I spent yesterday on rallies instead of going to the beach mean nothing to you?)

Each mode of Super Mario Run works together – you’ll need to complete the levels to earn rally tickets. If you don’t compete in rallies, you won’t pick up toads. No toads and you won’t be able to level up or place certain items. And you’ll also want the bonus toad houses and whatnot because they replenish and give you more chances at getting rally tickets.

Even when you’ve finished the worlds, something you can probably do in half a day if you just run through each one, you’ll want to go back to learn them and earn tickets. I just wish there was something more you could do with your gold coins because they build up quickly.

The only low-point with Super Mario Run is the price, R150/$10 is expensive for a mobile game. And the fact that you need to be online ALL THE TIME to play it? That also sucks. Goodbye data. I also find myself wondering if this sort of game would have been more successful if Nintendo went the micro-transactions route because, quite frankly, some of the best iOS and Android mobile games come in cheaper than Super Mario Run’s price point. And once you’ve bought the whole game, it can be over pretty quickly if you’re not competitive or collecting everything obsessed.

That said, Super Mario Run is nothing new, but it is a lot of fun. The graphics are crisp, Mario is as you would expect and the level design is brilliant, intricate and planned with the platform in mind. It’s truly exhilarating to speed through certain levels (World 4-2: Slope to Success was my favourite) while others can be tricky at times.

Overall, Super Mario Run is a good (but expensive) add-on to a franchise we know and love. Don’t love Mario? Don’t pay for the game. Rather just download the intro levels and see how you go. But if you’re a fan, you’ll really enjoy Super Mario run. Playing with one hand is only a bonus.

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Facebook fakes behind most phishing attempts

In the first quarter of 2018, Kaspersky Lab’s anti-phishing technologies prevented more than 3.7 million attempts to visit fraudulent social network pages of which 60% were fake Facebook pages.

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The results, according to the Kaspersky Lab report, ‘Spam and phishing in Q1 2018’, demonstrates that cybercriminals are still doing what they can to get their hands on personal data.

Social network phishing is a form of cybercrime that involves the theft of personal data from a victim’s social network account. The fraudster creates a copy of a social networking website (such as a fake Facebook page), and tries to lure unsuspecting victims to it, forcing them to give up their personal data – such as their name, password, credit card number, PIN code, and more – in the process.

At the beginning of the year, Facebook was the most popular social networking brand for fraudsters to abuse, and Facebook pages were frequently faked by cybercriminals to try and steal personal data via phishing attacks. This is part of a long-term trend: in 2017, Facebook became one of the top three targets for phishing overall, at nearly 8%, followed by Microsoft Corporation (6%) and PayPal (5%). In Q1 2018, Facebook also led the social network phishing category, followed by VK – a Russian online social networking service and LinkedIn. The reason for this is likely to be the worldwide 2.13 billion active monthly Facebook users, including those who log in to unknown apps using their Facebook credentials, thereby granting access to their accounts. This makes unwary Facebook users a profitable target for cybercriminal phishing attacks.

This all reinforces the fact that personal data is valuable in the world of information technology –both for legitimate organisations and attackers. Cybercriminals are constantly searching for new methods to hit users, so it’s important to be aware of fraudster techniques to avoid becoming the next target. For example, the latest trend is spam emails related to GDPR (Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation).  Examples include offers of paid webinars to clarify the new legislation, or invitations to install special software that will provide access to online resources to ensure compliance with the new rules.

“The continuous increase in phishing attacks – targeting both social networks and financial organisations – shows us that users need to pay more serious attention to their online activities. Despite the recent global scandals, people continue to click on unsafe links and allow unknown apps access to their personal data. Due to this lack of user vigilance, the data on a huge number of accounts gets lost or extorted from users. This can then lead to destructive attacks and a constant flow of money for the cybercriminals,” said Nadezhda Demidova, lead web content analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab experts advise users to take the following measures to protect themselves from phishing:

  • Always check the link address and the sender’s email before clicking anything – even better, don’t click the link, but type it into your browser’s address line instead.
  • Before clicking any link, check if the link address shown, is the same as the actual hyperlink (the real address the link will take you to) – this can be checked by hovering your mouse over the link.
  • Only use a secure connection, especially when you visit sensitive websites. As a minimum precaution, do not use unknown or public Wi-Fi without a password protection. For maximum protection, use VPN solutions that encrypt your traffic. And remember: if you are using an insecure connection, cybercriminals can invisibly redirect you to phishing pages.
  • Check the HTTPS connection and domain name when you open a webpage. This is especially important when you are using websites which contain sensitive data – such as sites for online banking, online shops, email, social media sites etc.
  • Never share your sensitive data, such as logins and passwords, bank card data etc., with a third party. Official companies will never ask for data like this via email.
  • Use a reliable security solution with behaviour-based anti-phishing technologies, such as Kaspersky Total Security, to detect and block spam and phishing attacks.

Other key findings in the report include:

Phishing:

  • The main targets of phishing attacks have remained the same since the end of last year. They are primarily global Internet portals and the financial sector, including banks, payment services and online stores.
  • About $35,000 USD was stolen through one phishing site that appeared to offer the opportunity to invest in the rumoured Telegram ICO. Approximately $84,000 USD was stolen following a single phishing email mailshot related to the launch of ‘The Bee Token’ ICO.
  • Financial phishing continues to account for almost half of all phishing attacks (43.9%), which is 4.4% more compared to the end of last year. Attacks against banks, e-shops, and payment systems remain the top three, demonstrating cybercriminals’ desire to access users’ money.
  • Brazil was the country with the largest share of users attacked by phishers in the first quarter of 2018 (19%). It was followed by Argentina (13%), Venezuela (13%), Albania (13%), and Bolivia (12%).

Spam:

  • In the first quarter of 2018, the amount of spam peaked in January (55%). The average share of spam in the world’s email traffic was 52%, which is 4.6% lower than the average figure of the last quarter of 2017.
  • Vietnam became the most popular source of spam, overtaking the U.S. and China. Others in the top 10 included India, Germany, France, Brazil, Russia, Spain, and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • The country most targeted by malicious mailshots was Germany. Russia came second, followed by United Kingdom, Italy, and the UAE.
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Acer gaming beast escapes

Acer this week unveiled two notebooks that take portable gaming to new extremes.

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Acer  unveiled two new Predator Helios gaming notebooks this week at the next@acer global press conference in New York. They include the powerful Predator Helios 500, featuring up to 8th Gen Intel Core i9+ processors, and the Predator Helios 300 Special Edition that includes upgraded specs from its predecessor and a distinctive white chassis. Both feature VR-Ready performance, advanced thermal technologies, and blazing-fast connectivity.

“We’ve expanded our Predator Helios gaming notebook line in response to popular demand from gamers seeking extreme performance on the go,” said Jerry Kao, President of IT Products Business, Acer. “The Predator Helios 500 and Helios 300 gaming notebooks feature Acer’s proprietary thermal technologies and powerful components that, coupled with our award-winning software, deliver unparalleled gaming experiences.”

“The 8th Gen Intel Core i9+ processor for gaming and creation laptops is the highest performance Intel has ever delivered for this class of devices; purpose built for enthusiasts who demand premium gaming experiences whether at home or on the go,” said Steve Long, Vice President and General Manager, Client Computing Group Sales and Marketing, Intel. “Intel and Acer’s long relationship has produced amazing products over the years, and the new Acer Predator Helios gaming notebooks are powerful examples of what’s possible with this unprecedented level of performance.”

Predator Helios 500 is a gaming beast featuring overclocking, 4K 144 Hz panels

Designed for extreme gamers, the Predator Helios 500 is a gaming beast. It features up to overclockable 8th Gen Intel Core i9+ processors and overclockable GeForce GTX 1070 graphics. Intel Optane memory increases responsiveness and load times, while ultra-fast NVMePCIe SSDs, Killer DoubleShot Pro networking, and up to 64GB of memory keep the action going, making the Helios 500 the ideal gaming notebook for graphic-intensive AAA titles and live streaming.

Top-notch visuals are delivered on bright, vibrant 4K UHD or FHD IPS 17.3-inch displays with 144Hz refresh rates for blur- and tear-free gameplay. NVIDIA G-SYNC technology is supported on both the built-in display and external monitors, allowing for buttery-smooth imagery without tearing or stuttering. For those looking for maximum gaming immersion, dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, and display and HDMI 2.0 ports support up to three external monitors. Two speakers, a subwoofer, and Acer TrueHarmony and Waves MAXXAudio technology deliver incredible sound and hyper-realistic 3D audio using Waves Nx.

The Helios 500 stays cool with two of Acer’s proprietary AeroBlade 3D metal fans, and five heat pipes that distribute cool air to the machine’s key components while simultaneously releasing hot air. Fan speed can be controlled and customized through the PredatorSense app.

A backlit RGB keyboard offers four lighting zones with support for up to 16.8 million colors. Anti-ghosting technology provides the ultimate control for executing complex commands and combos, which can be set up via five dedicated programmable keys.

Acer’s PredatorSense app can be used to control and monitor the notebook’s vitals from one central interface, including overclocking, lighting, hotkeys, temperature, and fan control.

Predator Helios 300 Special Edition brings a sophisticated design twist to gaming notebooks

Acer’s budget-friendly Helios 300 gaming line sees the addition of a Special Edition model featuring an all-white aluminum chassis accented with gold trim, an unusually chic design for gaming notebooks.

The Helios 300 Special Edition (PH315-51) allows for ultra-smooth gameplay via its 15.6-inch FHD IPS display with an upgraded 144Hz refresh rate. The rapid refresh rate shortens frame rendering time and lowers input lag to give gamers an excellent in-game experience. It’s powered by up to an 8th Gen Intel Core i7+ processor, overclockable GeForce GTX 1060 graphics, up to a 512 GB PCIe Gen 3 NVMe solid state drive, and up to a 2 TB hard disk drive.

The Helios 300 Special Edition also comes equipped with up to 16 GB of DDR4 memory, and is upgradable to 32GB. Intel Optane memory speeds up load times of games and applications, access to information and improves overall system responsiveness. In addition, Gigabit Ethernet provides fast wired connections, while Gigabit Wi-Fi is provided by the latest Intel Wireless-AC 9560 that delivers up to 1.73Gbps throughput when using 160 MHz channels (2×2 802.11ac, dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz).

The Helios 300 Special Edition also includes two of Acer’s ultrathin (0.1 mm) all-metal AeroBlade 3D fans designed with advanced aerodynamics and superior airflow to keep the system cool. They can be controlled with Acer’s PredatorSense app, which offers three usage modes:

1. Coolboost mode:

For heavy loading games, rendering, streaming, and extended video consumption

2. Normal mode:

For productivity tools like Microsoft Office

3. Silent mode:

For web browsing and online chatting

Price and Availability

Predator Helios 500 will be available in South Africa in June starting at R34 999.00

Helios 300 Special Edition will be available in South Africa in August 2018. Exact Price will be communicated closer to the time.

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