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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

AT&T and DirecTV Receive Approval to Complete Merger

posted Saturday Jul 25, 2015 by Scott Ertz

AT&T and DirecTV Receive Approval to Complete Merger

See ya, Comcast - there's a new paid television king in town and its name is AT&T. This week, AT&T and DirecTV's $48.5 billion merger was approved by the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice. This massive combination will result in the largest television service in the country, as well as an absolute powerhouse in content distribution in general.

As part of the purchase, AT&T will gain access to DirecTV's content contracts, most notably DirecTV's expensive exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket, the driving force behind the service's sales numbers. AT&T will also gain access to the company's satellite network and a major expansion of the AT&T television brand, which is currently only available in a few states. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said of the merger,

We're now a fundamentally different company with a diversified set of capabilities and businesses that set us apart from the competition.

This comes at a time when the wireless industry has become more interested in content, and content companies have become more interested in wireless. Verizon recently purchased AOL, giving them ownership of brands like Engadget and Huffington Post, while DISH Network has been in talks to purchase T-Mobile USA, which would result in the same concept.

As part of this deal's approval, AT&T agreed to Net Neutrality rules stricter than current regulations layout. As far as the FCC is concerned, this is a big win for their expanding power-grab, as AT&T has been one of the loudest opponents to even the existing regulations. This does not mean they won't continue to fight against the legality of the FCC issuing these regulations, or requiring this agreement for the merger, but for now it does give the FCC a little more ground to stand on.

In addition, AT&T agreed to expand its fiber service, something Verizon has ended not once but twice. The company had proposed the fiber agreement themselves, with the 12.5 million customer count being just slightly larger than their existing build-out plans currently called for. They will also work with low income families to provide more affordable services.

read more...

Google to Purge Some Google+ Pages Next Week

posted Saturday Jul 25, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google to Purge Some Google+ Pages Next Week

Next week will see the end of a lot of content on Google's mostly abandoned social network Google+. Since mostly only Google employees seem to use the site, Friday will see the last day for of Google+ Photos, being replaced by Google Photos, a disconnected service more similar to Picasa than Google+. This is good news for people who actually want to use Google to store photos without having to deal with all of the annoyances of Google+.

This isn't the only content that will evaporate within the week, however. Google announced to many regular content creators that they intend to remove a large collection of Google+ Local business pages. In a desperate attempt to make people care about Google+, the company began creating Google+ Local business pages for every company in their database. Most of these pages were never used, as most of the pages were never actually claimed by the business owners.

Dear photographers and agencies,

In the past few months, you may have seen some changes in the look of Google+ pages that have been associated with Google My Business (GMB) accounts. These changes, including how we treat business pages without owners, are part of Google's ongoing effort to simplify people's experience with our tools. We are constantly working to provide only valuable and rich content to our users.

On July 28th, Google will begin shutting down those GMB-associated Google+ pages that have not been associated with user accounts and are also not verified. You may find that some of your Business View tours also sit on such pages, but note that after their removal of unverified Google+ pages, the Business View tours will still remain available on Google Maps and Google Search.

What this means is that, if you are one of the few people who use Google+ to find local companies, the only ones you will discover are those who are active on the network. Instead, to discover local business, Google recommends its official local search capabilities, mostly Google Maps. This is the final step in Google's separation of Local and Google+, which has been in progress as long as Photos. It also likely signs the death certificate for the social network.

As of now, the only features that remain in Google+ are the feed, which would be useful if people posted things there, and the groups capability, which is better implemented through Google Groups than it ever was in Google+ anyway.

read more...

Unsurprisingly: Keyboard and Mouse Coming to Xbox One

posted Saturday Jul 25, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Unsurprisingly: Keyboard and Mouse Coming to Xbox One

As Microsoft's One Microsoft philosophy continues to show its face to the public, expected features continue to reveal themselves as well. This week, speaking on Twitter Xbox head Phil Spencer semi-announced that keyboard and mouse support are coming to the Xbox One soon. Now, if you think about it, this should be no surprise to anyone. The Xbox One will soon be running on Windows 10, which is introducing keyboard and mouse support to Windows Phones, so naturally a migration to the Xbox was the next step.

Now, what we do not know is how useful keyboard and mouse input will be. It could be as simple as replicating Kinect hand pointing with the mouse pointer, or it could migrate its way into gameplay capabilities. Once the console supports the input, it would likely be up to game developers to put the input device to use, though, meaning not every game would support the input initially (or ever, really). There might be a plan, however, to map one control system to the other, allowing either input scheme to work on any game, which would be pretty great.

The capability would definitely give the console an interesting migration path for games. Pushing Xbox games to the PC is a pretty natural migration, as a game could always require a paired Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller, or support third parties, like Logitech. Moving a PC title to the console, however, could be less natural. If the game is complex and requires more buttons than a controller supports, a keyboard and mouse would be the only option for a port.

In addition to gaming implications, this could bring some really interesting new options for apps to the console. Making the browser experience better is just the beginning. Apps like TeamViewer, which already support Windows and Windows Phone, could allow you to stream your PC to the Xbox, making the concept of a fully-functional living room PC experience far easier than what currently exists.

read more...

Uber: A Highly Funded Company With No Direction

posted Saturday Jul 25, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Uber: A Highly Funded Company With No Direction

Uber is an interesting company. They are, in theory, a taxi service that doesn't want to be considered a taxi service for a variety of reasons, including regulation and licensing. It has caused them no end of trouble, with cities and countries worldwide working to shut them down. In New York, until this week, the city had been building a case to ban the service from its streets. In France recently, Uber drivers had their cars damaged, totaled or even impounded as part of a systematic crackdown by the government and other taxi companies. In some countries, such as South Korea, the executives are considered criminals and have arrest warrants issued.

With all of this, you would expect the company would be focusing on its lobbying or legal efforts to try and get these governments to come around to their way of seeing the world. Unfortunately, this is not really the case. In fact, the company seems to be completely unaware of their legal issues around the world. Instead, it seems that every week we see another press release from the company or a new partner introducing a new service or feature coming.

This week might have been the weirdest yet. Chinese up-and-coming smartphone maker Xiaomi has partnered with Uber to deliver their Mi Note phone "within a few minutes" using the ridesharing drivers. The courier service will initially be available only in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, but it seems like this is a feature that would be coming worldwide, though not necessarily with Xiaomi. The feature seems fairly simple to use:

Ordering a Mi Note follows the exact same process as calling for an Uber - users simply open the Uber app, use the slider at the bottom of the screen to select 'Xiaomi.' Payment will be charged directly to the credit card tied to a rider's Uber account and a Mi Note will be delivered to the user within a few minutes.

While easy to use, it does seem like a feature that had to be developed specifically for this purpose. It is unlikely that the company would have spent the time and money to build a feature like this for just a single provider in 2 small countries, so expect to see courier services arrive in more places in the future. The move does, however, bring up questions about why the company is getting into this business with Xiaomi. Is the company unfocused or is it an attempt to find a similar yet unrelated business model?

If it is the latter, the company obviously did not research courier services worldwide any better than they research taxi services before launching. Courier services in many places are regulated similarly to taxi or limousine services, meaning they might have actually opened themselves up to more legal troubles rather than trying to find a less obtrusive business.

Personally, I believe this move to indicate a company with a lot of money and no business model. In 2010 we wrote about a similar problem at Twitter. While Twitter has resolved the problem somewhat, it still exists in the culture, with little chance of ever going away entirely. This is one of the problems when an industry sees an investment bubble like technology is seeing again right now.

While investors can argue there is no bubble all they want, it is clear that we're in the end-phases of too much money for too little value. Billion-dollar buyouts from companies like Facebook/Instagram show too much money in the industry, not success. In reality, no investor would have put money into Uber with all of the legal action, yet it seems that they get whatever money they ask for. With no plan for that money, however, you see floundering and business jumps that make no sense and ultimately damage the brand. Will this move close their doors? No. But it could indicate a problem with the culture inside the company.

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An Unexpected Success: FilmOn Wins Argument Aereo Could Not

posted Sunday Jul 19, 2015 by Scott Ertz

An Unexpected Success: FilmOn Wins Argument Aereo Could Not

If you have never heard of the company FilmOn, it's okay. Until the Supreme court put an end to rival Aereo, the company was certainly overshadowed. The service provides live Internet-based viewing of television stations of varying types, locations and qualities; some for free and some for a fee. If this story sounds familiar, you're correct: it is a very similar business model to what Aereo provided.

While Aereo may have set an unfortunate precedent in the highest court in the land, it does not seem to have affected anything. FilmOn was sued in a US District Court by the same group that sued Aereo: the big 4 broadcast networks. Their claims were very similar to the complains against Aereo, and entirely expected, claiming copyright infringement by the company. This comes from the fact that the networks own the distribution rights to the content and see no royalties from the company on distribution.

When Aereo lost their case, they asked for a different option: to be considered a cable company so they could license the content from the broadcasters for a fee. The 2nd Circuit Court that heard that argument denied the request, which ultimately closed the doors for Aereo for good. FilmOn, however, seems to have won the exact same argument in a different court. US District Judge George Wu has granted the company the right to negotiate as a cable company, and acknowledges that this decision is in violation of precedent.

As a way of appeasing the broadcasters, he also allowed them to immediately escalate the case to the 9th Circuit, which they are likely to follow through on. This decision, if allowed to stand, could potentially open the door for the Aereo brand to resurface, likely under the new owners: TiVo. It could also open up the doors for other competitors to enter this clearly lucrative market, which could help drive prices down. Of course, precedent has clearly not had an effect on the matter previously, so there is no telling where this could all go.

read more...

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