Former Segment Host
Current UpStream Contributor
Current Product Reviewer
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
posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz
When Apple announced the rebranded Beats Music, now called Apple Music, a few weeks ago, they made a lot of waves announcing that the first 3 months would be free for all users. The problem for Apple was the waves were not all positive. In fact, very few of the talks surrounding the announcement was positive. Most tech sites and even Apple fans were pretty unimpressed with the rebranding, as well as the majority of the announcements that day.
Those who were least impressed, however, were musicians who were to have their music on the platform. As it turns out, Apple's genius idea for how to support a full quarter without revenue was to pass every penny on to the artists. That meant that for 3 whole months, artists were going to make absolutely no money from Apple. With Apple's plans to damage the plays from other services, this meant that artists were actually going to be hurt overall, rather than helped.
Taylor Swift, you remember her, wrote an open letter to Apple, complaining about the policy. Apple responded quickly by changing their policy and offering as much as 2 cents per listen. That is a lot of money, and certainly more than could have been decided upon in the short window between the letter and the decision. After Apple's reversal, Taylor Swift came out of her streaming isolation and announced that her most recent album would be available on Apple Music.
The natural line to be drawn here is that the initial policy was not true and that Swift's "open letter" was likely penned by Apple themselves, with Swift being paid to publish it. The result of the letter being published is that Swift looks tough on bullies, yet remains "America's sweetheart" and Apple looks like they are giving fans and artists what they want; everyone wins. Except, potentially consumers, who might be upset about what appears to be a paid publicity stunt to promote an exclusive streaming deal.
The Attorneys General of New York and Connecticut are crying fowl, launching an investigation into whether or not Apple is pressuring artists and music groups to sign exclusivity deals. In addition to the Swift announcement, which she ensures is not exclusive to Apple but is currently exclusive to Apple, other artists, including Pharrell, have announced Apple Music exclusivity deals. Unless Apple is offering A LOT of money, which could be possible, though not probable, or threatening the artists or music groups with overall delisting, exclusive deals like these don't make sense.
The best way for consumers to speak out against deals like these is to not support the platforms that are, ultimately, trying to hurt the streaming industry as a whole: consumers, artists, producers, etc. It will be interesting to see what the final finding from the states is, because another major suit against Apple on intimidation practices will likely not go well for them.read more...
posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz
If you are not an open-sourcer, you are unlikely to know about Chromium. Chromium is Google's open-source basis for their Chrome browser. The parts of the browser that Google does not necessarily care about get included into the base, and that code is released to the world for whatever purposes. I'm not sure why anyone would want it, but there it is in case you do.
Recently, Google began post-loading an extension into the browser: its OK, Google voice prompt feature. This extension was not directly included into the open-source release, but the call to install it was. Therefore, this does not EXACTLY violate general open-source policy, but it certainly rubbed the open-source community the wrong way. Mostly for two reasons: the code for the extension is not open-source, and the extension was always listening to you waiting for "OK, Google" to be spoken.
Now, it is important to mention that this community is interesting. They believe that data should be open, but are afraid of their privacy. So, information that is collected about you online should be shared with everyone, but not about them, I suppose. Because of this, and the lack of code for the extension, the community panicked about what Google might be storing and how it might be used. This is a good fear, as Google has never proven itself to be particularly trustworthy or ethical about its intentions.
In this particular case, however, it is easy to see in the task manager that the feature is disabled and that the microphone is not engaged, nor is any data being transferred, but that was not enough to satisfy them. Google has since decided to stop including the feature as part of the standard install, hoping to pacify the loudest of the loud, and possibly to try and do a little damage control.read more...
posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz
This week has been a very weird one for flags. The strangest has certainly been the national outcry over the Battle Flag of the Army of Tennessee. This flag, easily identified by its rectangular design, red field and blue X with 13 stars, was used by one of the several state-sponsored armies during the American Civil War while in battle. For whatever reason, many have associated it with the Confederate States of America, which is an odd association.
Many retailers this week announced that they would no longer be selling products with the "Confederate Flag" on them, actually meaning the Battle Flag, as a reaction to a shooting in South Carolina. During this process, Apple decided to take it a step further and tried to alter history by pretending that the flag was never used. They did this by removing games from the App Store that are set within the Civil War era. These games, clearly, featured the Battle Flag, as it was actually used during said battles.
We have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines.
However, Civil War: 1863 featured the flag in 2 places: on the main screen to differentiate the two playing teams, and on the actual game board, again to differentiate the two teams. The use of this flag is accurate and in historical context for the era and for the game, and is clearly not being used in an inflammatory way. In fact, it is an incredibly sensitive and accurate portrayal of a Battle Flag: in battle.
Another affected game, Ultimate General: Gettysburg, posted a statement on the game's website, saying,
Spielberg's "Schindler's List" did not try to amend his movie to look more comfortable. The historical "Gettysburg" movie (1993) is still on iTunes. We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. True stories are more important to us than money.
Therefore we are not going to amend the game's content and Ultimate General: Gettysburg will no longer be available on AppStore. We really hope that Apple's decision will achieve the desired results.
We can't change history, but we can change the future.
That is truly a wonderful way to sum up the reality of what Apple is doing here. These games are not using the flag in "offensive or mean-spirited ways." Instead, Apple is trying to change the telling of history. What is interesting is that nearly identical games featuring the Nazi flag vs. the US flag have not been removed under the same policy.read more...
posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz
At CES this year, Intel showed off smaller Windows PCs. Following the NUC, they also unveiled the Compute Stick, a device that has prompted a new category of computing technology. Similar to devices like the Chromecast from Google, the big separator is that these devices run Windows, meaning you can use them for real work in a very small package.
After Intel's $150 Compute Stick came Lenovo's $130 ideacentre Stick 300 and BeeLink's $300 Pocket P2. While the BeeLink device has since dropped to $130, it is still above that $100 price point. That is where ARCHOS' new PC Stick comes in, priced at just $99. All of the new devices, including the newest from ARCHOS, have the same specs: quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735F processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage and a microSD slot.
In addition to the price, ARCHOS differentiated itself from the pack by offering its computer in Windows blue instead of the generic black that everyone else is sticking with. While the company did not announce a release date, they did say that the device would ship with Windows 10, as opposed to Windows 8.1, meaning that customers will not be required to upgrade the device shortly after purchasing it, making it a far better experience.
As Windows 10 get closer to market, which is currently just a month away, it is likely we will see more companies find interest in announcing products in this category. Currently we have not heard from companies like Acer, Dell, Microsoft themselves or HP, though they are a little busy splitting the company. Hopefully, as some of the other companies get into the fray, we will begin to see a split in hardware specs giving more choice depending on needs.read more...
posted Sunday Jun 14, 2015 by Scott Ertz
Dick Costolo has been the CEO for the last 5 years, making his the longest-term CEO in the company's history. That fact is a strange one in a town that reveres company founders, often times to a fault. Twitter's founders have had varying degrees of involvement in the company since its early days, leaving the daily activities to Costolo instead. He has had his ups and downs, but recently his new programs have begun to see some early returns.
Despite these new successes, Twitter has announced that Costolo will step down as CEO on July 1, 2015. This comes on the heels of a nearly complete management shake-up last year, where the board replaced almost the entire management team, still leaving Costolo at the top of the company. The constant pressure from Wall Street following the company's 2013 IPO may just have proven too much for him. Confiding in a close group in January, it seems that he was looking for a way out.
Allowing him a quick out, the board has reached out to Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of the company, and a former CEO, to lead the charge while the board searches for Costolo's true successor. Dorsey has his work cut out for him, needing to figure out the company's plan to retain users, attract new ones and position its product for a purpose. He also needs to figure out a way to make using the majority of the features possible. For example, have you ever tried to follow a conversation? It's just short of impossible. While dealing with all of that, he also needs to assess and adjust Costolo's policies to deal with the problem of user abuse that has become off-putting for many.
Meanwhile, the board will search for a permanent replacement for Costolo. This is important because Dorsey cannot continue to run the company long. In addition to his new duties at Twitter, he is also founder and CEO of Square, one of the country's largest payment systems. He will not be leaving his duties at Square, he is merely adding these new responsibilities at Twitter. Hopefully Twitter will solve the problem quickly.
The other possibility, rather than replacing the CEO, is selling the company. There has been talk in the industry that Google and Twitter have been in talks, with expectations that the talks surround an acquisition. The collapse of Google+, both in the public eye and inside the company, could be an indication that Google is giving up the ghost and replacing it with Twitter could help them learn as much as possible about people to better target their ads. The recent reintegration of Twitter into search results, side-by-side with Google+, adds more fuel to that fire.
Whether Twitter decides to go the acquisition route, or searches for the perfect person to lead the team, it needs to happen quickly, because there are plenty of other products for following the world in real time, many are far better.read more...
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