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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 development manager here at PLuGHiTz Corporation. He is the project lead for PLuGHiTz Gaming (DDRLover and CounterQuest) as well as PLuGHiTz Live!. Scott is most known for his time in the DDR World, both as a player and then for hosting and presenting tournaments in the Tampa, Florida area. Currently, his energies have been in the development of a few new sites for PLuGHiTz Corporation, as well as redeveloping some of our current sites.

Recent UpStream Articles

Disney Interactive Finally Turns an Annual Profit Again

posted Sunday Nov 9, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Disney Interactive Finally Turns an Annual Profit Again

In 2009, Disney merged the operations of their Internet and gaming divisions into a single subsidiary: Disney Interactive. Since then, they have never turned an individual annual profit for Disney. In 2009 they reported a loss of $295 million, but lessened the losses to only #81 million last fiscal year. Their futures changed this week when Disney posted their annual report, showing that not only was Disney Interactive profitable, they made $116 million in annual operating profit, which is a nice change of pace for the brand.

Most of this profit is attributed to the incredible success of Disney Infinity, with its gameplay and unique integration of a wide variety of interactive figures. Integrating characters from an array of Disney brands, including the uber popular Pixar and Marvel worlds.

President James Pitaro said of the success,

We are very pleased with the results of the first installment of (Disney Infinity) and we feel good about the launch of the second installment thus far. But we will have a better sense of overall performance as we enter the holiday season.

In addition to Disney Infinity, Disney Interactive saw growth come from mobile games. Their Star Wars free-to-play games, such as Assault Team, which were abandoned a few months ago, played a role. The real success in mobile came from expanding on the Frozen brand with Frozen Free Fall.

It hasn't been all rainbows and lollipops for Disney Interactive this year, however. Part of the operating profit came from March's layoff of 700 employees, which represented about a quarter of their workforce. Pitaro said at that time, "These are large-scale changes as we focus not just on getting to profitability but sustained profitability and scalability." It would appear that it helped.

read more...

Taylor Swift Exits Streaming Services with Casual Insult

posted Sunday Nov 9, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Taylor Swift Exits Streaming Services with Casual Insult

I personally do not know much about Taylor Swift. In fact, the only two things I know about her is that her eyes appear to have been stolen from another person's face and that she is apparently terrible at relationships and enjoys telling the world about her disasters. Her relationship woes seem to extend to reality, as this week she limited the reach of her music heavily, pulling all wholly owned tracks from streaming services, including Spotify and Xbox Music (pictured here).

Upon exiting, she said,

All I can say is that music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I'm not willing to contribute my life's work to an experiment that I don't feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don't agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.

It is definitely an interesting world view that paying for music perpetuates "the perception that music has no value and should be free." Personally, the reason I use services like Xbox Music personally is because I specifically DO NOT believe music has no value; if I did, I would use a free service to steal the music.

The decision to pull music from paid streaming services has confused and disappointed both consumers and services alike. A quick search of Twitter hashtag #justsayyes shows just how disappointed customers are with the decision. Spotify, one of the affected services, went so far as to create a playlist to encourage her back, with song titles reading: "Hey Taylor We Wanted To Play Your Amazing Love Songs And They're Not Here Right Now," which is a clever use of their own playlist capabilities.

The most interesting thing to come from this is the responses from artists, who generally agree that the move was a mistake, which is a sentiment I agree with. It is possible that after initial sales of her new album slow she might change her stance, but Swift does not seem to be the type to learn from past mistakes.

read more...

The Darknet Lit Up by Law Enforcement; 410 Sites Raided, 17 Arrested

posted Saturday Nov 8, 2014 by Scott Ertz

The Darknet Lit Up by Law Enforcement; 410 Sites Raided, 17 Arrested

Tor is a name that is not known to the majority of the world: it is a segment of the Internet that is entirely encrypted and communication is anonymized. There are many legitimate usages for Tor, as it is an extension of the onion routing project, which is a US Naval system. The system was developed so that government communications could be protected from snooping by enemy states.

What the Navy never expected, however, was how Tor would evolve, and who would ultimately be interested in being encrypted and anonymous: criminals. Inside the semi-hidden world of Tor is the darknet, a collection of sites that openly and notoriously offer illegal products and services, from weapons to drugs and prostitutes. All of this is made easy by the anonymous nature of Tor and the pairing of the anonymous digital currency Bitcoin, making it seemingly impossible to trace these transactions to their source.

Or so users of the system believed. A year ago, a darknet marketplace, Silk Road was seized, "cash" was collected and arrests were made. It was always believed that a slipup made the raid possible, but this week may have changed some minds. A multi-nation coordinated attack through Tor ended up with 410 sites being raided and 17 arrests being made. Among the participating nations was the US and 16 European countries.

On Thursday, US officials claimed the first success in the raid: Silk Road 2.0. US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement,

As illegal activity online becomes more prevalent, criminals can no longer expect that they can hide in the shadows of the dark web. We shut down the original Silk Road website and now we have shut down its replacement, as well as multiple other dark market sites allegedly offering all manner of illicit goods and services, from firearms to computer hacking.

They are hoping that this public, coordinated raid will discourage at least some from using Tor and the darknet to trade in illegal materials. While it will certainly not stop the activity, perhaps it will prevent casual users from trying to purchase credit card data or false identity papers.

read more...

Apple and Microsoft Take Different Tactics with Fitbit

posted Saturday Nov 8, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Apple and Microsoft Take Different Tactics with Fitbit

There are two big device-independent health platforms vying for attention from manufacturers: Apple's HealthKit and Microsoft Health. While both platforms offer a similar service in theory, both companies have taken very different approaches to, well, everything.

For example, HealthKit is an iOS platform, intended to tie together devices paired with your iPhone and iPad. Microsoft Health, on the other hand, is a platform independent system, based instead in Azure, intended to analyze data from any health device attached to anything that manufacturer wants to support. It also has apps on the 3 major platforms for users to be able to interact with their data.

While their overall approaches to the platform are very different, the place where Apple and Microsoft differ the greatest is, as always, their interaction with the outside world. Apple is known for being very heavy handed in their dealings with other companies, using mob-style threats and intimidation to force others to do what they want. When Bose made their sponsorship deal with the NFL, preventing players from wearing non-Bose headphones in public, Apple removed Bose products from their stores. Apple is also being blamed for the bankruptcy of a former partner because of a "bait and switch" contract.

This same strategy is being used to right now to try and get Fitbit, one of the biggest names in fitness hardware, to use its HealthKit platform. Fitbit has been pretty clear about its current intentions: they have none for HealthKit. As one would expect, Apple's response to this news was swift and sever: Fitbit products have been removed from Apple's store, all because they are not currently planning on implementing Apple's platform.

On the other hand, Microsoft is taking a very different approach to working with Fitbit. The company is also not publicly working on implementing Microsoft Health support (they have not spoken out negatively, however), and Microsoft's new Band health watch device is a bit of a Fitbit competitor. Despite all of this, Microsoft is giving a free Fitbit device with sales of Microsoft Lumia 830 phones on AT&T.

These are two very different approaches: Apple is trying to decrease Fitbit's sales in hopes of forcing them to implement Apple HealthKit, while Microsoft is trying to increase Fitbit's sales in hopes of encouraging them to implement Microsoft Health support through good will. Will either, neither or both of these tactics work? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

read more...

Starz Might Launch Stand-Alone Streaming Service

posted Saturday Nov 1, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Starz Might Launch Stand-Alone Streaming Service

The transition from cable to Internet for television is strong and quick. On the heals of HBO and CBS, premium channel Starz is pondering offering a cable-free streaming option. Starz CEO Chris Albrecht said on an earnings call,

While you will hear more from us on this over time, I can tell you now that we have the content right (and) the technology platform and infrastructure in place to ensure that the Starz businesses are positioned to capitalize on these new opportunities, both here in the U.S. and abroad.

One of the major hurdles for these companies in creating standalone streaming services is having the rights to offer their content to non-cable subscribers. For example, NBC does not own the streaming rights to Saturday Night Live, and they lost the show to Yahoo!. In Albrecht's comments he mentions that they have the rights to pull this off.

He also says that they have the ability to release this, with content, outside of the US. That will make international viewers happy, as securing these rights is usually difficult for multiple countries. Either Starz has been preparing for this in their contracts for years, or they have really focused down recently and renegotiated their licensing deals over the past few months to allow this to happen. Either way, this is even more reason for Hungarians to be excited about their win.

So, with all of the standalone streaming services launching there are two important questions to ask: is there enough content available for you to dump your cable subscription and which services will you be using to supplement that content? Let us know in the comments.

read more...

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