The UpStream

Meet Splice, a Source Controlled Music Creation Program

posted Sunday Oct 13, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Meet Splice, a Source Controlled Music Creation Program

Long-time readers and listeners of the show will know of my love for mainly two things: cool tech toys and music (and the Giants, but they shall not be discussed right now). That being said, obviously things like Spotify quickly grab my attention and interest. So when I discovered the music-tech startup Splice, the situation was no different.

Splice is interesting because they take on music in a different way. First, the company is all about making the music creation process easier. For those who are not tech-savvy and wish to collaborate with artists or producers around the world, the programs and systems in place or either too difficult for the novice to use, or they're way too outdated and cumbersome, like MegaUpload. Second, the company introduces the music-making process to the tech world, head-on. How? By including version control so that changes can be made on the fly without worrying about undoing the others' work, or waiting for them to send you back the revision. It's kind of like a hybrid between GitHub and Team Foundation Server in that regard.

Splice's Steve Martocci puts it like this in a blog post,

Splice streamlines the fragmented process of creating and sharing music, freeing musicians to spend their time and energy on the creative process. Splice simplifies music creation by bringing all of the steps into one, frictionless digital home. The Splice community provides artists with a new means to connect with fans and other artists to solicit feedback throughout every step of the creative process - from ideation to the finished product. Founded by entrepreneurs Steve Martocci and Matt Aimonetti, Splice is located in New York City, NY and Santa Monica, CA.

Splice, currently in a private beta, integrates nicely with the popular software Ableton Live versions 8 and 9. Saving projects is easy once you install Splice; the program creates a "Splice" folder, letting you save your projects in Ableton right to the cloud, kind of like SkyDrive. Others can then access and work on their own versions on their own time and Splice automatically keeps up with all the tracks, samples, edit, cuts and more. All the artist has to do is make music, which is exactly what they wanted to do in the first place.

So far the company has raised $2.75 million in private funding and this little startup really looks promising. I can assure you I will be the first to update everyone on how Splice pans out, and hopefully we'll see them add integration into things like Pro Tools and Audition once more funding is acquired. For now, I'm playing with Ableton and learning how to use a new sequencer, so I can play around with the nifty idea that is Splice.

T-Mobile Lets You Free Roam in 100 International Countries

posted Sunday Oct 13, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

T-Mobile Lets You Free Roam in 100 International Countries

T-Mobile has been a very interesting company to follow for the past couple of years. Through show-boating fake 4G networks, buying MetroPCS to have a real 4G network, shutting down call centers, almost being merged with AT&T and then being denied to merge with AT&T, the company has been a roller coaster of ups and downs. So this week would be no exception as T-Mobile makes another announcement to keep the ball rolling, this time on the international level.

Aside from its announcement of "nationwide 4G LTE," T-Mobile also announced that it will allow its customers to roam across the world and consume an unlimited amount of data at no extra charge. T-Mobile said that with this addition of over 100 countries being included in this global-wide coverage, it now has a larger "home" data coverage area than AT&T and Verizon combined.

John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile US, said,

The cost of staying connected across borders is completely crazy. Today's phones are designed to work around the world, but we're forced to pay insanely inflated international connectivity fees to actually use them. You can't leave the country without coming home to bill shock. So we're making the world your network - at no extra cost.

This addition of free roaming will be included in Simple Choice and New Classic plans starting on October 20th. Of course, there is a small catch. Customers using data abroad will be limited to speeds of 128Kbps or 2G speeds, but in most cases, that speed is good enough to download a few emails and browse the simpler pages on the Web. For those wishing to make calls while travelling the seven seas, T-Mobile will only charge customers 20 cents per minute on voice in these 100-plus "Simple Global" countries. The good news is that there is no charge to send text or picture messages to any mobile number while in the Simple Global countries.

For those wanting higher speeds, T-Mobile will be offering ala carte plans to accommodate. 100MB of faster speeds for one day will be $15, a seven day 200MB pass is $25 and a fourteen day 500MB pass runs $50. There is no word on how much faster the speeds will be on those passes.

While this news is great for T-Mobile customers, I'd be curious to know how many business and international travelers are actually using T-Mobile as their mobile provider. Regardless, this is probably able to be done thanks to T-Mobile's sudden influx of cash due to the failed AT&T merger, so they can probably spend more to make these offers and make the brand look more attractive to customers other than the pre-paid market.

ITC Ban on Older Samsung Models Goes Into Effect

posted Saturday Oct 12, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

ITC Ban on Older Samsung Models Goes Into Effect

The battle between Apple and Samsung rages on, and now it is affecting consumers. On top of having to already pay Apple $1 billion in damages, Samsung's trade order finally goes into affect this week.

Thanks to the International Trade Commission's decision, older model Samsung phones are no longer allowed to be sold here in the States. Samsung's last line of defense was going to be a veto by President Obama. However, politics aside, he did not veto the order like he did to protect Apple from a nearly identical situation just a few months ago.

All of this is on the heels of an ongoing patent fight between the two companies through the ITC. For this order, it all boils down to patent infringements on touchscreens and headphone jacks. It should be stressed again though that this ban only affect older models of Samsung phones because the company danced around the patents and slightly changed a few functions in the newer models. This will force the product ban to be held to only a couple of phones instead of the entire Samsung line of devices.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman said on the remodeled newer phones,

The order expressly states that these devices and any other Samsung electronic media devices incorporating the approved design-around technologies are not covered. Thus, I do not believe that concerns with regard to enforcement related to the scope of the order, in this case, provide a policy basis for disapproving.

The phones you won't be able to buy in the States anymore are the Transform SPH-M920 and the Continuum SCH-1400, which hold such a minimal footprint that they won't even affect the company the slightest. There are also other phones on the banned list, however with the ITC site being shut down, we currently cannot pull the rest of the models. It should be noted that the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Tab 7.0 had been considered to be banned as well, but the devices did not infringe on the patent regarding headphone jacks.

Sony's PS4 Production Causes Foxconn Plant to Treat Interns as Poorly as Employees

posted Saturday Oct 12, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony's PS4 Production Causes Foxconn Plant to Treat Interns as Poorly as Employees

Foxconn is back in the news for yet another unfortunate story. The Chinese production facility just wrapped up a labor investigation and it seems that "fair labor" is not in Foxconn's vocabulary. This time, it has to do with college interns. It is being reported that student interns have been voluntarily forced into working overtime to meet the increasing demands of the Sony PlayStation 4.

Several thousand students coming from China's Xi'an Institute of Technology have been working at the Foxconn facilities in exchange for six credit hours that are required for the students to graduate from the university's program. However, this was much less of a learning experience and more like true hard labor. The students were allegedly placed on assembly lines and other hand-heavy tasks which did not fall into anything related to what the students were studying. From what the reports say, these kids were also subjected to ten hour long days, as well as late-night shifts and 40-plus-hour work weeks.

Foxconn has responded to these claims, saying that,

...Immediate actions have been taken to bring that campus into full compliance with our code and policies. (The company is) reinforcing the policies of no overtime and no night shifts for student interns.

Foxconn also said that the students in the intern program could have "terminated their participation in the program at any time." However, the reports claim that the school was willing to hold any graduation ability or course credits of those who elected to end their participation early.

Of course, Sony is denying any wrongdoing as well, saying that Foxconn was completely compliant and that the company was "complying with all applicable laws, work ethics, labor conditions, and respect for human rights, environmental conservation, and health and safety."

It seems suspect that hundreds of college students in China would speak only about something that never really happened, especially if all of the stories match up with each other. If any of this comes out to be true, Foxconn will surely have another Fair Labor Association investigation, but hopefully this time they will follow through with looking into the actual issues instead of dancing along the red tape.

FBI Trolled Through Bitcoin Over Silk Road Seizure

posted Friday Oct 11, 2013 by Scott Ertz

FBI Trolled Through Bitcoin Over Silk Road Seizure

By now we probably all know about Silk Road, but for those who do not, let me give you a quick overview. The site, founded by Ross Ulbricht, was a notorious hotbed of illegal drug activity. Aided by Bitcoin, the semi-legitimate online currency of underground activities, Ulbricht was able to keep his sales and clientele anonymous, amassing over 600,000 Bitcoins, valued at over $80 million.

The FBI, after discovering the site and identifying its founder, arrested Ulbricht, shut down the site and seized 26,000 Bitcoins that were in the site's wallet. As it turns out, the coins taken did not belong to Ulbricht, but instead to customers of the site, some of whom were purchasing drugs, but others were purchasing legitimate products - all losing their theoretical money.

Those coins, as all Bitcoins, are stored in an online wallet. The wallet is, supposedly private, but the clever people who use this service tracked down the FBI's wallet and have been harassing them over the seizure. Some are trying to encourage the government to return the currency citing possible legitimate purposes, while others are using the opportunity to protest the government's anti-drug policy.

All of this is being done through microtransactions, but not the kind that EA is famous for. Instead, users are transferring very small amounts of coin, somewhere in the vicinity of 0.00000001 BTC, into the FBI's wallet. Now, why would someone do this if they disagree with the FBI's seizure? Because, during a transaction, you can post a public message regarding the transaction. In this case, the comments are pretty interesting.

Supporting legitimate online purchases,

Many items sold through Silk Road were perfectly legal.

There is no way to know whether these funds were to be used for illicit purchases. Users should be allowed to withdraw their funds. source

Supporting recreational drug use,

The only way to have a drug-free world is to have a people-free world. And even then, the animals will get stoned. source

Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. -Abraham Lincoln. source

The notes continue from there, but they all seem to fall into those same 2 categories; some clever, some insulting, none persuading. Responding childishly to a potentially legal seizure of funds from a known drug dealer, however, is probably not the best way to convince people that Bitcoins are a legitimate currency and should be treated as such. With supporters like these, who needs detractors, right?

[code] - A Videogame About Software

posted Friday Oct 11, 2013 by Scott Ertz

For years I have had a belief that there was a way to create a videogame that helps people learn the fundamentals of software design. At our sister software company, Sumo Software, we have discussed how this could work; we even have a game in the works to help introduce people to logic through puzzles. It is a start, but how do you integrate actual CODE into a videogame?

Apparently by just going right for it and designing your puzzles around understanding a block of code and interacting with its public properties and methods. That is exactly what Code is all about. Created by Trevor Rice, John Bair, and Daniel Romero-Quiroga for Richard their Experimental Game Design course at the University of Southern California, the game was submitted to IndieCade, and brought to my attention from there.

The game premise is simple: you control an @ symbol, in your case representing a memory leak, trying to escape from the evil garbage collector. You accomplish this by progressing from level to level by working through code puzzles, interacting with them as if you are outside code interacting with an object.

While the code looks a lot like a C-derivative language, it is actually specifically NOT a proper language, though very familiar to anyone with experience in anything from JavaScript to C#. Kermanizadeh told TechHive,

People who have actually played with Unity or C# go, 'Oh, is this C#? This seems like C#. The actual levels themselves were originally laid out just like the code for C# but we kind of made them a weird pseudo-code because there's a lot of information that confused players or didn't necessarily matter to the level itself.

Considering how many people have experience with a C language, especially JS or C3, it makes sense to model in that realm. The levels, however, are purposely not considered as code from the beginning, either. Bair, who is more of a designer than programmer, will come up with an idea,

What if here you have to tick something to a specific number and then that unlocks that door that then you can go through to beat the level?

That concept is then turned into pseudo code,

There's an integer variable that you can then adjust and then we have the Boolean that's private so the player can't change that. By changing the integer value it unlocks the Boolean which then takes you to the next level.

Now, if this all sounds like craziness to you, don't worry - the game walks you through the concept as you play. The hints are disguised as code comments and littered throughout the game. I have played the game demo, available at the link above, and playing it is definitely well worth the time, whether you know anything about programming or not.

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