Log in CES 2015 Coverage

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

Aereo is Officially Gone, as Are Its Assets

posted Saturday Feb 28, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Aereo is Officially Gone, as Are Its Assets

The story of Aereo may not be long, but it is awfully sad. After losing their Supreme Court case and inevitably closing their offices, the company tried, unsuccessfully, to change directions. With the company out of business, it was just a matter of time before the assets of the defunct company would be sold off.

The expectations for the sale, which concluded this week, were for between $4 million and $31 million. Not an unreasonable set of numbers for a company with servers, antenna farms, television tuners, streaming systems and their patents. Unfortunately, those expectations were not to be, as the entire company's asset portfolio sold for only $2 million - half of the lowest number expected.

Aereo's lawyer William Baldiga said that the company was "very disappointed" with the results. It was definitely an unimpressive showing, with only 10 bidders participating in the bankruptcy auction. TiVo, the new owner of said assets, certainly made off like bandits, having the ability to do as they wish with those patents. The proceeds will be used to pay off some of Aereo's creditors, who, I would imagine, were also hoping for more than the $2 million Aereo received.

read more...

Google Bans and Unbans Adult Content on Blogger

posted Saturday Feb 28, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google Bans and Unbans Adult Content on Blogger

This has been an interesting week for the Internet. The FCC has deemed itself the hall monitor of the Internet which is likely to end up with broadcast-style, or English-style content filtering in the United States. Before the FCC can forever change the Internet for us, though, Google and Reddit announced content filtering themselves. While Reddit announced that they would no longer allow any adult content without permission from those involved, Google took a different approach.

Google's announced that their Blogger brand, which is known for containing a lot of adult content, would no longer allow most of that content. Included in the ban was almost all photos and videos, leaving behind only erotic fan fiction and the occasional Penthouse-style story - usually overly exaggerated. They did leave a single exception, saying,

We'll still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts.

As one might expect, there has been a lot of backlash. Most of the content producers and users of Blogger are there for one thing: nudity. With all of the public comments, and the obvious fear of a massive user exodus, Google has backed down on their decision. The company said,

This week, we announced a change to Blogger's porn policy stating that blogs that distributed sexually explicit images or graphic nudity would be made private.

We've received lots of feedback about making a policy change that impacts longstanding blogs, and about the negative impact this could have on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities.

It is unusual for Google to back down on an unpopular policy change - if they were this easy to change directions, then YouTube would never have implemented Google+ for its commenting system. Perhaps this is a new day for Google, if not the Internet as a whole.

read more...

Microsoft and Lionhead Make New Fable Free to Play on Xbox One and PC

posted Saturday Feb 28, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft and Lionhead Make New <i>Fable</i> Free to Play on Xbox One and PC

The term "free to play" has some pretty negative connotations. Casual and mobile games have certainly made the concept painful and expensive. Often, "free to play" games require large sums of money to actually play them, despite their name. That is why the decision to make new Fable free to play on Xbox One and PC initially sounds devastating to fans of the series. They have promised 3 tenants for the game.

The good news is, this is not the same kind of free to play. In fact, you will have free access to the entire game, not just small sections of the game, with paid locks on others. This is their first promise to players. Users will be able to earn silver in the game, giving the ability to purchase goods inside of the game. There will, of course, be paid items in the game, but nothing of consequence. These paid items will include things like cosmetic items, etc.

In addition to an open game, the company promises that the game will also be fair. This means that anything that is required to continue playing the game will be available in-game. This means that no portion of the game will require a purchase to advance, distancing itself from the normal "free to play" fare.

Finally, the company promises to be generous in the game. Mostly, the goal here is to make a game and a scenario that encourages a happy player community. The success of a game like this revolves entirely around the happiness of its players. Unfortunately, that is not always a goal of the development team for a game; if it was, gaming would be a significantly more entertaining place.

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GameStop Moving in to RadioShack Locations

posted Saturday Feb 28, 2015 by Scott Ertz

GameStop Moving in to RadioShack Locations

By now, everyone knows that RadioShack filed bankruptcy a few weeks ago. As part of the bankruptcy, the company is closing bunch of stores and selling others to Sprint. Some of the stores that are being abandoned will transition to new owners, including GameStop.

One of GameStop's lesser-known brands, Spring Mobile, will be moving in to 163 of RadioShack's dark stores. Those stores do not sell videogames, as you might expect, but instead are AT&T authorized dealers. This 1,500 employee brand will be expanding from around 300 stores to more than 450 with this single transaction, making it a huge expansion for the company.

What is interesting about this transition is in business concept. These stores, which are currently under RadioShack's control, have for the past 10 years sold AT&T phones (and Cingular before them), along with Sprint and Verizon or T-Mobile (depending on the year). Under those circumstances, RadioShack was unable to maintain the cost of the stores, even with additional revenue options available.

This means that GameStop is hoping that, while limiting the product line available in the stores, they will be able to sell more of that product category than their previous tenants. The concept of limiting scope can be successful for retail, as other revenue options may actually be driving profits down. Over the past few years, however, RadioShack's revenue and profits came more and more from wireless sales. Here in the end, some stores reported 40% of their revenue from wireless, meaning that this isn't that big of a change in business model.

Will GameStop be able to make a successful move into stores that couldn't succeed on increasingly wireless sales with only wireless sales? What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.

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NBC Joins the Live Stream Broadcast Crew

posted Sunday Feb 22, 2015 by Scott Ertz

NBC Joins the Live Stream Broadcast Crew

The last few months have seen an interesting growth in broadcast companies streaming their live content to customers. ABC offers a service which, as long as you have a cable subscription, allows you to watch their network live on your mobile device. CBS offers a similar service, except you aren't required to have cable, but you are required to pay $6 per month for the ability, cable or not. Even the Best of CES was Sling, a service which gives you an Internet-based cable subscription, complete with networks like Cartoon Network, Disney and even ESPN.

This week, NBC has joined the ranks of CBS and ABC in offering their own mobile streaming service of live content. Like ABC, you will be required to prove your cable subscription, but the service will be provided for free, unlike the CBS service. Unfortunately, not everyone will qualify, however. NBC has to own your local affiliate - it can't be a privately held network. Your cable provider also has to be a participating provider, meaning if you have a smaller cable company, you might still not get access, even if NBC owns your local market.

Luckily, the wholly owned requirement could be fixed in time, as NBC plans to work out agreements with locally owned affiliates. That is good news for me, because our local affiliate, WFLA, is owned by Media General Communications Holdings, meaning the service will not immediately be available in the Tampa Bay area. After that, the network will need to work out a deal with our cable provider, whose agreements with NBC will likely not cover this feature.

For those of you who match all of the requirements, the service is available on the web, and through updates to NBC's Android and iOS apps, which were published this week. You will also still get the ability to stream past episodes of current and older shows, including some early NBC shows like The Incredible Hulk and Knight Rider. Hopefully this feature will also come to Windows Phone, which currently offers CNBC, Syfy, USA and Bravo streaming, but not NBC proper.

With all of these live streaming services coming directly from the networks, it really begins to become clear why they fought Aereo so hard. It is significantly more difficult to promote your own service when someone else is doing it better for the same price. If you do not match all of the requirements for any of these services, just remember that there are options that duplicate the service, similar to setting up your own private Aereo.

read more...

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