The UpStream

EFF Encourages People to Allow Strangers on Their Internet

posted Saturday Jun 21, 2014 by Scott Ertz

EFF Encourages People to Allow Strangers on Their Internet

Over the past few months, there has been a conversation online about the value of open source software, especially security software. This, this course, was spawned by the disaster caused by OpenSSL and their two security issues over just a few weeks, followed by the troubles of an open source hard drive encryption program.

Companies and individuals have, understandably, become more weary of using open source products because of the ease of access to discover security vulnerabilities. Despite this trend, the Electronic Freedom Foundation has released an open source firmware for Internet routers that allows you to give complete strangers access to your Internet connection without asking permission.

Clearly, there are a number of security concerns with this concept, but let's talk about the goal of this move first. The idea is that, with an open Internet connection, people will be less likely to try and hack your router. On their website, OpenWireless, they said,

We are aiming to build technologies that would make it easy for Internet subscribers to portion off their wireless networks for guests and the public while maintaining security, protecting privacy, and preserving quality of access. And we are working to debunk myths (and confront truths) about open wireless while creating technologies and legal precedent to ensure it is safe, private, and legal to open your network.

With the ability to connect to just about any router wherever you are, your mobile data usage could shrink significantly. While AT&T and Verizon might not like to see data usage drop, your wallet almost certainly would.

Now, on the other hand, there is the security and legal issues to overcome. First, it is currently not legal in most places to connect to a private router without the owner's permission. That would definitely make opening up your router to the public a bit of a problem. Luckily for supporters, as the EFF says, they are working to legalize the practice.

Personal security is the chief concern with this technology, however. By giving access to your connection, you are exposing yourself to a number of legal and privacy issues. For example, someone on your connection, reporting as your IP address, could download a movie and get caught for it. Your IP address is tied to your personal identity, though, so as far as the law is concerned, the offense originated in your home, making you personally responsible.

More importantly, though, is the overall protection of your data. With an open source firmware, you are leaving your router more susceptible to attack from people who might want to steal data from you. What data might you have that someone could steal? You probably bank online, you have tax return information, possibly documents with personal identification - all stuff that could fetch a high price online from people who would steal your identity. Definitely not a great place to allow for easy access.

I totally understand the idea and the desire for open Internet access; the price of mobile data is insane on the top two carriers. However, creating it at the detriment of your privacy or security seems not to be a great idea.

Nintendo Loses Patent Case to Philips in UK

posted Saturday Jun 21, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Loses Patent Case to Philips in UK

Philips and Nintendo have had an interesting relationship for more than 2 decades. In the early 90s, Philips released a computer system that was mostly marketed as a videogame console. As part of a development agreement between the two companies, the CD-i featured 4 games which were based on Nintendo franchises: 1 Mario and 3 Zelda games. The device was a massive commercial failure.

Skip ahead to 2006 and Philips has completely gotten out of the industry and Nintendo has a unique new console which will go on to sell over 100 million units: the Wii. Its motion-based controller attracted the attention of all sorts of people, including Philips executives.

As it turns out, Philips has a trio of patents that cover the paired use of a camera and motion sensor in a single device. This pairing is exactly how the Wii's motion controllers work. The end of the controller is an infrared camera that tracks the position of two infrared lights in the sensor bar.

Philips filed a patent infringement suit against Nintendo in several markets, including the UK and the US. This week a verdict was handed down in the UK case, and Nintendo did not come out as the winner, at least in two of the three patents.

The damages will be decided next month, but it is possible that Nintendo will have to pay a licensing fee for each console sold. Most likely the damages will be limited to UK consoles, but could be global. That would certainly not make Nintendo's current financial situation any better. In the US case, which is still ongoing, Philips is looking to block sales entirely, so at least a licensing fee is a little better.

It is unlikely that Nintendo will be barred from selling its hardware in the US, but this is a nasty precedent that could influence the decision here. This is the world's worst time for Nintendo to have a situation like this, what with having trouble selling their new console and losing money for the first time ever in the past few quarters.

Will Nintendo be able to recover from this loss, or will this be the move required for them to sell out? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Amazon Bribes Developers with Coins

posted Saturday Jun 21, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Bribes Developers with Coins

One of the early issues with Android was its massive fragmentation. New versions of the operating system were coming out so frequently that every device seemed to have its own version. This caused a giant gap in the number and types of apps that each device could download. Fortunately for Google they have solved this problem.

Kind of. Now, instead of there being multiple versions of Android in the market, there are multiple operating systems based on Android in the market. While Android, Nokia X and Fire OS are all based on the same platform, the app catalogs are very different. Each publisher has to resubmit their app to each app store, each with their own unique requirements.

So, how does a company differentiate itself against the other Androids, especially to developers? The answer is usually cash. In a move similar to BlackBerry, Amazon is offering developers up to $5,000 per app to create their applications natively for Fire OS, but there's a few caveats.

First, the application must take advantage of the unique features of the Fire Phone. For example, instead of using swipe or a hamburger menu icon to create multiple displays, use Dynamic Perspective. Also, you must use the carousel widget to qualify.

Our second caveat is the fact that you will be paid in Amazon coins, not straight cash. The idea is that the developer will then gift those coins to their application's users. You could use the coins to create a marketing campaign or to reward loyal users of your program.

Getting applications on a new platform is difficult. Unfortunately, this scheme has not worked in the past for other companies. If it had, perhaps BlackBerry would not have lost its number 3 position in the market. With Amazon, however, results do not always align with reason. Only time will tell if Amazon can convince developers to take advantage of the unique aspects of their phone.

Are you considering purchasing a Fire Phone? If so, how important is the application catalog to your decision? Would a lack of custom-feature applications change your mind? Let us know in the comments.

LG webOS-Enbaled TVs Surpass One Million Units Sold

posted Sunday Jun 8, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

LG webOS-Enbaled TVs Surpass One Million Units Sold

We love the fact that LG picked up webOS for two reasons. First, it kept alive one of our most favorite operating systems ever. And second, it allowed us to continue supporting our webOS app (assuming it works on the TV)! So naturally you could understand our excitement when LG debuted a webOS TV at CES. Now, we share LG's excitement and success of their webOS line of TVs selling so well.

This week, LG announced that it has sold over 1 million webOS-enabled smart TVs since they first went on sale in March. LG says that by June of 2015, it estimates sales to hit 10 million units sold. If that's not success and the rescue of a platform that would've fizzled out, I don't know what is.

In-kyu Lee, SVP and head of the TV division at LG, said this about LG's success in TVs this year.

Reaching the one million mark in just three months is a significant achievement in the TV industry. Rather than continuing to add more and more functions into our smart TVs that few people will ever use, we've decided to focus on simplicity with our 2014 Smart+ TVs with webOS. Consumers seem to share our view that this is the right direction for the evolution of smart TVs going forward.

It probably helps that a group of die-hard webOS enthusiasts got on board with LG's adoption of the mobile operating system. Either way, it's good to see the OS come back with a force that is to be reckoned with. Now, seeing as though we don't own an LG TV with webOS, can anyone tell us how well our app works on the TV? Or, rather, if it works at all?

Music Director for Halo Files Suit Against Bungie for Unpaid Time Off and Benefits

posted Sunday Jun 8, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Music Director for <i>Halo</i> Files Suit Against Bungie for Unpaid Time Off and Benefits

With E3 just around the corner, it would be natural for people to focus on the event. However, with the International Consumer Electronics Show upstaging E3 only six months ago, and with a number of surprises being spoiled by leaked information, I felt it was only right to bring to light some other news that isn't convention-related. There seems to be a lawsuit brewing between a Halo music composer and Bungie.

Marty O'Donnell, renowned music compose for the popular videogame series Halo, has sued developer studio Bungie and also Bungie's CEO Harold Ryan. O'Donnell says that Bungie and Ryan did not pay him for paid time off, various expenses and benefits and unpaid vacation time.

O'Donnell was recently let go by Bungie in April but it was not said as to why he was terminated. Considering that the composer was with the company since May of 2000, there's probably substantial reasoning to his firing. In the lawsuit, it's said that Bungie did not give reason or explanation for the dismissal of O'Donnell and that Bungie violated company policy in regards to pay employees for any vacation time that went unused, any paid time off and other benefits. It also says that Ryan personally promised to pay for those items.

O'Donnell is also settling other issues with Bungie and its CEO through arbitration, but the reasons are not described in the lawsuit. He is currently seeking double the amount he is owed in the suit filed on May 1st. On May 27th, Bungie and Ryan responded to the suit, denying that the company owed O'Donnell any money.

Considering that Halo had made almost $3.5 billion, it can be safely said that O'Donnell's music had something to do with the overall success of the franchise. While we don't know much of the situation, do you think he is in the wrong? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and we'll fill you in on the result of the lawsuit.

Samsung, BLU, Prestigio, YEZZ and Others Announce Non-Android Phones

posted Saturday Jun 7, 2014 by Scott Ertz

It is no secret that Android has seen a lot of commercial success over the past few years. A big part of that success has come from the perceived low cost of manufacturing an Android-powered device. Unfortunately, Google's mistreatment of others' patents has made the per-device cost pretty steep. For some manufacturers, they could pay upwards of $15 per device to license patents that Google has violated.

This is one of the main reasons we have seen companies searching for an Android alternative. Combine that with the shifting sands that are Android's manufacturing rules and regulations, and you'll find an immediate need for manufacturing alternatives. This week we got to see how manufacturers, both big and small, are responding to the Android issue.

Samsung

First we have Samsung. Samsung, whose smartphone business has been built on the back of Android, has been unhappy with the platform for a while. They have been working in-house on their own operating system, Tizen, which has been released on several devices. None of these, however, has been a Samsung smartphone. All of that changed at Samsung's Tizen developer conference, where the company has announced their first Tizen-powered smartphone, the Samsung Z.

On the outside, the device is classic Samsung: big screen, great camera and their iconic physical home button, which they currently use on both Android and Windows Phone devices. In fact, a casual look at the handset would lead you to believe it is one of their flagship Galaxy handsets. You wouldn't be far off, with the device having many of the Galaxy S5 features: fingerprint sensor, heart rate monitor, 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash, etc.

The big difference here, of course, is the operating system. However, if you are a Samsung fan, you might not notice too many visual differences. That is because the TouchWiz interface that Samsung uses on their Android phones is designed by them, as is Tizen. With this, Samsung has made the transition from Android to Tizen fairly seamless for users.

Hit the break for a photo and some of the other manufacturers ditching Android.

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