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Scott Ertz

Scott Ertz

Former Segment Host

Current Host

Current UpStream Contributor

Current Product Reviewer

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Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLuGHiTz Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the DDR community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bar Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and judging engineering notebooks at competitions. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors.

Recent UpStream Articles

Facebook Considering Dedicated Video Service

posted Sunday Jan 31, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Facebook Considering Dedicated Video Service

Over the past year or so, Facebook's commitment to video has increased hugely, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. For example, the company decided to auto-play videos in your newsfeed as you scroll past them. It does make sense that motion will attract people's eyes, but for many the move was annoying. They have also enhanced their video player to suggest related videos and, in some cases, auto play the next video in line.

These changes have created a scenario where around 500 million users watch some sort of video on Facebook every day. One day last quarter, the network watched 100 million hours of video, meaning every one of those 500 million users watched an average of 10 minutes of video that day. This is a huge development for the company. In response, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said,

We are exploring a dedicated place on Facebook for when they just want to watch videos.

Now, this could be a dedicated Facebook Videos app, similar to how Google implemented Photos. It could also mean a video-specific landing page within the main site, more inline with Pages or Groups. Either way, this move will likely lead to what we have thus far avoided: pre- and post-roll ads on Facebook Videos.

This would not be unexpected, as Facebook's revenue is mostly from advertising and video is a popular medium for advertising. COO Sheryl Sandberg said,

Marketers also really love video and it's a compelling way to reach consumers.

That comment certainly lends credence to the idea that we will see a lot more video advertising inside this new platform, whatever it turns out to be.

read more...

Chrome to Label Unencrypted Sites as Problematic

posted Sunday Jan 31, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Chrome to Label Unencrypted Sites as Problematic

Most Internet traffic today is unencrypted. This is because security certificates are not free and can be expensive. They can be $70 per year, which makes them a little out of range for smaller sites. It is also not an essential part of a site that only provides information and never collects it. For example, looking at the sites I have open right now, Electronic Arts, VentureBeat, PC World and SlashGear all run in standard HTTP.

Google is trying to make HTTP a scary term, giving Chrome users the ability to turn on a feature that will add a red X to the address bar for sites that are not encrypted. Fortunately for smaller sites, this is a "feature" that is off by default and must be turned on manually by the user. That means that the people who will see it are people who are people who know what it means and want to be alarmed.

That is not to say that it will always be this way. Google has been an advocate for SSL, even if there is no sensitive data being transferred, for years. While they claim to not want to be too heavy-handed, this move appears to be the begging of bringing down the heaviest of hands. If they change their mind and turn this feature on by default, webmasters will be in trouble and users will be scared by nonsense.

A Google employee told Motherboard that the goal is to turn this feature on "someday, hopefully," a move that will likely alarm a lot of Internet users who are not aware of Google's redefining the icon in their browser (which currently indicates that the security certificate is flawed).

read more...

Highlighting the Industry's Disinterest, EA Exits E3 2016

posted Sunday Jan 31, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Highlighting the Industry's Disinterest, EA Exits E3 2016

Over the past 5 years, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, has been losing steam in the industry. Activision, Nintendo and others have taken turns skipping the event and, instead, make their announcements off-site. Activision rented a church for their press conference one year, while Nintendo has opted for online-only press events and in-store hands-on demos the past few years.

This year, adding to the list of major industry players skipping the conference is Electronic Arts. Rather than filling their massive show floor presence with dozens of demo stations available to attendees, EA has opted to take over nearby Club Nokia and will instead offer their hands-on demos to fans and press alike at an event they are calling EA Play.

In addition to demos, they will also offer competitions and live streaming for those who will not be in the LA area during E3 2016. They will also have exclusive items available, making their event much more like San Diego Comic-Con or PAX than the increasingly uninteresting E3. They will also be hosting a sister event in London on the first day of the event, June 12th.

The good news is that, despite not participating in the show, they will still be hosting a press conference live from EA Play. This means we will still get the spectacle that is EA's new products. We can also expect to see a bigger on-stage presence during Microsoft's and Sony's press conferences.

I believe that this is the beginning of an exodus from the conference, whose management has turned off exhibitors and press, leaving everyone looking for a better alternative. Hopefully in the next few years, we will have an industry event that is run properly and does not alienate everyone involved.

read more...

Microsoft Revenue Driven by Surface and Azure

posted Sunday Jan 31, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Revenue Driven by Surface and Azure

Over the past few years, a lot has been written about Microsoft's financial standing. Some organizations, mostly tech blogs with financial interests in Google or Apple, have said that Microsoft is old tech and is over. Others, though, especially organizations that specialize in business and investing, have said that Microsoft is about to retake the crown as kind of the tech industry.

In the midst of tech blogs announcing that Microsoft's mobile ambitions have failed, Microsoft has announced their Fiscal Year 2016 Quarter 2 (3 months ending December 31, 2015) revenue. Revenue is down slightly, but not in any percentage that matters, especially considering Microsoft didn't release a new phone until the very end of the quarter. Windows OEM revenue is pretty flat, Search Advertising and Xbox Live are growing. Those aren't the places that matter, though.

In this quarter, the Surface brand drove $1.35 billion in revenue, up from $672 million for the previous quarter, and $1.1 billion this quarter last year. That seems to indicate that Microsoft's mobile ambitions are playing out very well, not failing in the way some sites might have you believe. This is "driven by the launch of Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book," which was a big change in the way Surface was designed, marketed and sold. It seems that the revised strategy after the merging of Lumia and Surface has been a success.

Another division driving growth for the company is their cloud strategy. Investment site The Motley Fool has said Microsoft rules the cloud, which is a pretty accurate assessment. While companies like IBM may have some specialized APIs for things like image detection and facial recognition, Microsoft's Azure service offers developers and virtual IT managers the biggest selection of options and most robust platform available, and everyone seems to be flocking to it.

With revenue of $6.3 billion for its cloud services, it represents a 5% growth for the division. The growth is led by Azure and Office 365, which now has almost 21 million subscribers, up more than double in the past 12 months. These businesses are the biggest business shift for the company, no longer relying of the success of any Windows platform, but instead spreading the love across all platforms, meaning that even if Windows 10 had been a sales problem, which it has not, the company has a backbone to stay strong.

Microsoft's stock price rose 5% despite its declining revenue.

read more...

Netflix Implements Promised Ban on VPN and Proxy Services

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Netflix Implements Promised Ban on VPN and Proxy Services

From a consumer point of view, one of the annoyances about Netflix is that, if you are not in the USA, there is a lot of content missing. This is because many content producers license their content either exclusively for the US market, or have different streaming agreements for other countries. This means that a non-American will be missing some of the best content that Netflix has to offer.

To combat this, many people in other areas have begun using proxy or VPN services to make it appear to Netflix that they are in the US. This might seem like a good thing for the watchers, but it is a massive problem for Netflix. Particularly, it is a legal issue for them, as they are technically violating their licensing deals.

Because of this, Netflix has promised to begin blocking VPN and proxy services from accessing their system all together. This week, it appears that they have begun making good on their threat/promise, as users around the world have begun reporting messages on their devices.

You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again.

This will not be an easy road for the company to travel, though. Blocking proxies only works so long as they are known, and changing IP ranges is an easy task for one of these services. In fact, several users who have initially reported the new, forced outages have begun reporting that, if they used a different server, the error went away. That means that, even for the known proxies, there are gaps in the knowledge, meaning that the blocks are only partially successful.

Having partial blocks could actually open Netflix up to further legal issues. It is one of the reasons why companies often avoid even considering these types of blocks. It will be interesting to see if they continue to pursue this block or consider another alternative.

read more...

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