Happy Easter!

easterHappy Easter from the staff and writers of eParisExtra.com!

Ratcliffe: ‘Still chasing,’ but gaining

Congressional candidate John Ratcliffe talks with potential voters during a recent event at Crawford's Hole in the Wall (eParis photo by Jeff Parish)

Congressional candidate John Ratcliffe talks with potential voters during a recent event at Crawford’s Hole in the Wall (eParis photo by Jeff Parish)

John Ratcliffe says he’s still behind in the runoff election against Ralph Hall for the 4th Congressional District of Texas, but is catching up.

“I feel like I’m still chasing, but the exciting thing to me is all my support is grassroots, and the incumbent is getting support from the establishment,” he said. “I’ve got to make up a lot of ground. I’m running against a guy who’s been campaigning in this district for 63 years, and I’ve been campaigning about four months.”

The runoff is set for May 27. Hall won 45 percent in the March primary – short of the majority needed to secure a primary win – which Ratcliffe likes to point out means that 55 percent “voted for someone else.” Ratcliffe garnered 29 percent.

The challenger said his record as a U.S. attorney, chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security for the Eastern District of Texas and mayor of Heath make him a viable alternative.

He spoke at a meet-and-greet that Gary and Sydney Young, longtime acquaintances of Ratcliffe, hosted at Crawford’s Hole in the Wall earlier this week

“Lamar County has been really good to me,” he said. “I’ve been here a lot. This is my third trip to Paris in the last 11 days.”

Ratcliffe frequently described Hall as a “nice man” who is “well liked,” but said many people feel it’s time for a change.

At 90, Hall is the oldest member of Congress and one of the longest-serving members, having been in office since 1981. His first political office was county judge of Rockwall County, a position he was elected to in 1950.

“I got in this race because I felt a majority of people in this district liked Ralph Hall, but felt it was time for a change,” Ratcliffe said. “He’s had 34 years to fix the problems in Washington, and Washington has never been more broken.”

Recent campaign finance reports show that Hall still had $177,000 on hand while the challenger had $158,000. To date, Ratcliffe has raised $314,000 from individual donors, nearly double Hall’s $176,000.

PAX Gaming Expo Comes to Texas in January 2015

paxasGamers in Texas who want to share their passion with a crowd of like-minded individuals have had a few limiting options to do so in the past. There’s QuakeCon in Dallas, which is mainly focused on PC games. If you’re into pinball and classic arcade games, there’s the Texas Pinball Festival in Frisco. The ScrewAttack Gaming Convention is a little more general, but still relatively low-key, and Austin’s South by Southwest only has a small portion dedicated to gaming. While these events are popular, with attendance in the thousands, they pale in comparison to what folks on the east and west coast have been enjoying for years. Early next year, Texas gamers will finally get to see what they’ve been missing out on with PAX South.

On April 12, during the second day of PAX East in Boston, Massachusetts, Penny Arcade announced that they are bringing their extravagant gaming festival to San Antonio, Texas starting in early 2015.

Many consider PAX to be a gaming mecca, a celebration of all corners of gaming, from video games to tabletop. Fans from all over the world congregate at PAX events to celebrate their love for games by getting together to play video games, roll dice and toss cards in board games, throw down the gauntlet in competitive “e-sports,” demonstrate their creativity with their own independently developed games, and show off their costuming skills in game-themed cosplay.

In addition to the legion of fans in attendance, large game publishers also use PAX as a means of showing off the latest and greatest in the gaming world. Previous events featured showings from big companies like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, debuting games that have never been seen before. Industry figures from games media and game development also use PAX as an opportunity to connect personally with their fans through informative and highly entertaining panels and workshops.

PAX South actually marks the fourth iteration of the convention, joining the ranks of PAX Prime in Seattle, PAX East in Boston, and PAX Australia in Melbourne.

In a press release, Penny Arcade president Robert Khoo stated, “Since its launch in 2004, PAX events have doubled in size almost every year, and our Seattle and Boston events represent the two largest gaming festivals in North America. We’ve been hearing for years that those in the south had a tough time making it to the northern corners of the country; PAX South has always been a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’”

PAX attendance numbers have grown to more than 70,000 attendees at each event. Three-day passes for the recently concluded PAX East 2014 sold out within 3 minutes of going on sale, 154 days before the actual event. For those interested in attending PAX South in January, be on the look out for when tickets go on sale in the coming months, or you might risk missing out on the biggest gaming celebration in Texas.

PAX South will be held next year from January 23rd to the 25th at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center in San Antonio.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra

“Heartbleed” security bug leaves two-thirds of the Internet exposed

heartbleedSecurity firm Codenomicon and Neehl Mehta of Google Security has recently discovered a major security flaw that affects 66% of the Internet. Officially known as “CVE-2014-0160,” but dubbed “Heartbleed,” the bug is a flaw in the OpenSSL security library that many popular websites use to encrypt valuable data, such as usernames and passwords. Yahoo, in particular, was one of the big websites vulnerable to this security issue.

The bug allows attackers to randomly pull information from a server’s memory. Not all extracted data may be useful, but because the process can be repeated, there’s potential for hackers to retrieve sensitive information such as encryption keys to break the protection on valuable data. While the bug was only recently discovered, the exploit has existed for two years. It is impossible to know if any hackers have taken advantage of the bug during this period of vulnerability.

This specific security exploit only affects specific versions of OpenSSL (1.0.1 to 1.0.1f), and a fix has already been distributed. Some websites may have never upgraded to the compromised version in the first place. However, sites that have been open to the exploit might take a long time to fix since system administrators have to manually fix the problem.

So what should users do? It’s unfortunately on a site-by-site basis. Changing your password on a potentially vulnerable website won’t result in any security until that website has patched the security flaw. Check for official statements from websites you frequent to make sure the Heartbleed bug has been patched and then change your password accordingly. If a website has not yet been fixed, try to avoid using that website until a fix is in place.

There are online tools out there, such as this one, to test whether or not a site is currently vulnerable to the flaw.

For more information on the Heartbleed bug, check out http://heartbleed.com/.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra

Amazon enters the streaming box and video game market with the Fire TV

amazon-popcornAndroid-based micro consoles seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but when online retailer titan Amazon jumps on board, it’s big news. During an event in New York on Wednesday, Amazon announced and subsequently released the Fire TV, their entry in the war for living room entertainment.

The Latest for Streaming Entertainment

The Fire TV is a $99 Android-based micro console that allows you to stream movies and TV shows over the Internet to your television. We’ve heard the exact pitch before, but Amazon is in the position to offer services and features that competing devices currently don’t provide.

Amazon claims that the Fire TV is three times faster than competing boxes, such as the Roku and Apple TV. The Fire TV has a quad-core processor, 2 GB of memory, and a dedicated GPU capable of 1080p HD video. It also supports Dolby Digital Plus surround sound via HDMI out. It connects to the Internet via either WiFi or Ethernet.

Fire TV is capable of voice search using the microphone built into its Bluetooth remote. Simply use your voice to search for specific movies or TV shows using keywords, such as actor or movie names. The Fire TV features integrated information from the Internet Movie Database and tablet integration via the Fire TV’s “X-Ray” feature, allowing you to view related movie information on your tablet device while watching said movie.

Other interesting features include a karaoke-esque music player that displays lyrics on screen, the ability to stream photos from your phone, and a parental control mode called FreeTime. FreeTime is a special mode that allows parents to control their children’s viewing experience by setting time limits or setting restrictions on what content is viewable.

The Fire TV will support the standard streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Pandora, with more to come. Certain services, such as HBO Go, are absent, however.

Despite being Android-based, Amazon is keeping the Fire TV a closed ecosystem, meaning it will make use of its own app store, separate from the Google Play Store. Amazon assures that they are partnering with multiple content creators to populate their store with a variety of different apps and entertainment items.

It Plays Games, Too!

amazon-gamepadAmazon is using the Fire TV as a means to break into the games market, as well. They are selling a separate $39.99 game controller. Amazon promises more than 1,000 games on their own marketplace, including games from Amazon themselves.

Over the past few months, Amazon has been picking up popular game developers, such as Double Helix, the studio behind the hit Xbox One exclusive Killer Instinct. They’ve also recruited other high profile game industry professionals, including Portal creator Kim Swift.

Amazon Game Studios will be bringing exclusive games to the Fire TV. You can check out a preview of what’s to come in this video. Amazon is also working with third party game developers, including Electronic Arts, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft, Telltale, 2K, Sega, Double Find and Mojang. Versions of Minecraft and The Walking Dead were showcased at the New York event.

Amazon says that paid games will start at 99 cents, with the prices averaging at $1.85. Thousands of free-to-play games will also be available.

Even with this new emphasis on games, they are still a secondary focus for the Fire TV. Though the hardware is powerful, it is nowhere near the behemoths of the new generation video game consoles, such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

The Fire TV is available now for $99 on Amazon’s online store. The device will come pre-registered to your Amazon account, along with a free month of Amazon Prime and Netflix.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra