The UpStream

Court Rules Search Engines Not Responsible for Unflattering Results

posted Saturday Mar 9, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Court Rules Search Engines Not Responsible for Unflattering Results

One of the fascinating things about people in the US is that, despite highly publicized precedent in court, people will still file the same suit and expect different results. I believe I heard that is the definition of insanity, but I'm no expert.

This week's example of insanity comes to us care of Wisconsin resident Beverly Stayart, CFO and Director of Business Development at Stayart Law Offices. You would think that someone working at a law office, especially one whose last name is in the office name, would be smarter than wasting resources, but here we go. Miss Stayart sued Google because of the search results that return when searching for her name, "Bev Stayart."

As it turns out, "Bev Stayart Levitra" is related to erectile dysfunction and, therefore, her name returns sex pills. She believes this sullies her "wholesome image," despite the fact that she is obviously not related to erectile dysfunction. The court ruled in Google's favor, just as they have in Yahoo's favor previously for the same case.

Previously, in an unrelated case, Google won a very similar battle with then Presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Santorum believed that the results for his last name returning a relatively unknown, yet legitimate British slang term with the same name, returned before his own results, were hurting his chances for the Republican nomination. The term had gained popularity in the US when openly gay sex advisor Dan Savage used SEO skills to promote the term when Santorum came out angrily against gay equality.

If a Presidential candidate was unable to win the case against Google, I'm not sure what an unknown lawyer in Wisconsin thought she brought to the table. For now, the Internet has won another battle against censorship, no matter how frivolous and insane it might be.

LTE Broadcast Might Reincarnate FloTV

posted Saturday Mar 9, 2013 by Scott Ertz

LTE Broadcast Might Reincarnate FloTV

It was not long ago that Qualcomm announced their FloTV service. Pretty cool idea: watch a collection of cable channels without the need for cable anywhere you are. After several years of development and software services, the original dedicated devices, of which I have two sitting on my desk right now, were a 3.5" touchscreen running on a custom wireless network with dedicated spectrum. The long-term goal was to expand into larger screens, such as in-vehicle dash, headrest and ceiling screens, to enhance the travel experience, especially with kids.

Unfortunately, a low adoption rate combined with pretty laggy service cut that dream short. Qualcomm shut the service down mere months after launching its special hardware and service combination to the public and sold its spectrum to AT&T. Well, that spectrum was integrated into AT&T's LTE network and may end up back in use for FloTV. As it turns out, LTE has a broadcast mode in the specification, where if multiple devices are connecting to the same content, they can burst that content over a single channel. This would certainly prevent the lag issue experienced before.

The partnerships the company formed, both through FloTV and, of course, their primary processor business, could bring the service back, possibly with or without dedicated hardware. The original service was available on AT&T and Verizon handsets and, with both running LTE today, it could return better than before, using the broadcast capabilities. It would allow the service to run faster with less bandwidth for either service. How could it get better?

If you had the ability to watch ESPN, CNN or another network on your phone anywhere, would you? Would it be worth a little extra on your bill? Sound off below.

SimCity Launch Disaster Ends in Free Games

posted Saturday Mar 9, 2013 by Scott Ertz

<i>SimCity</i> Launch Disaster Ends in Free Games

EA announced SimCity a year ago, and we have been excited about every peek since. We even got to participate in the beta, and it only revved us up for the official launch this week. Well, much like the launch of SimCity 4, which Maxis has apologized for several times during the development process of the new game, the launch went horribly.

The new version of the game has a new, highly intensive feature, where all cities are connected one another, allowing people to visit their friends' cities. While enhancing the overall experience of the game, it does mean that EA needed to be prepared for the highly anticipated launch with A LOT of servers to handle the launch week load. Unfortunately, no one told EA, who seemed to have an incredibly limited number of server clusters, which all failed immediately.

Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of Maxis, said,

So what went wrong? The short answer is: a lot more people logged on than we expected. More people played and played in ways we never saw in the beta. OK, we agree, that was dumb, but we are committed to fixing it. In the last 48 hours we increased server capacity by 120 percent. It's working - the number of people who have gotten in and built cities has improved dramatically. The number of disrupted experiences has dropped by roughly 80 percent.

This is not the first time EA has had a game use game servers - they are a publisher for PlayStation games, so they have setup game servers before. It is both surprising and disappointing that they failed this launch so badly. At least EA recognizes that they failed hard and have offered some sort of reconciliation: a free game from the EA catalog. This should help calm down those who were upset that EA's Origin service does not allow returns of digitally downloaded content.

So, did you get kicked off of a server like we have? Will a free EA title from the catalog make it better? Have you enjoyed the game when you have been able to connect? Let us know in the comments.

Apple Knowingly Left iOS Users' Data Insecure

posted Saturday Mar 9, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Apple Knowingly Left iOS Users' Data Insecure

This is not the first time Apple has knowingly left its users unprotected, but this is certainly the most ridiculous I have ever encountered. If you know anything about the Internet, you know about HTTPS. It is the color-changed address bar at the top of your browser when you sign-in to your bank account or email account. It is the technology that encrypts data between two computers, and it is used anywhere secure data, like credit cards, are involved.

Well, almost everywhere. Apple had, apparently, decided when developing the App Store that protecting your data wasn't all that important. Subsequently, they developed the entire App Store to run on standard, non-encrypted protocols. This, of course, leaves every transaction open to be discovered, especially if you are connected to an open or public WiFi network.

For example, say you are at a park and your phone automatically connects to a WiFi connection it discovers around you. That WiFi could be setup by a hacker hoping you will do something stupid like enter a password or transfer data that connects to your banking information. Then, someone tells you about a new app you have to have, so you go download it. What could go wrong, right? Well, you have just given your information to that hacker, allowing them to potentially connect to your Apple account OR transfer infected files to your phone. They could even prompt for a fake upgrade, passing bad data to your phone. Good call, Apple.

The problem was discovered by a Google employee, of all possibilities. Elie Bursztein, a researcher for Google, discovered the flaw in his spare time and informed Apple of the issue more than 6 months ago. Believe it or not, it took them until this week to fix it. For those interested in knowing the process for fixing it, it is as simple as enabling SSL on the server and enabling a redirect for non-SSL connections. If you are new at it, it might take an hour; if you are an expert it probably takes 5 minutes. It took Apple 8 months.

That is a disgrace no matter how you look at it. To me, it shows a complete lack of respect for the customers from Apple. Do you agree that this should have been a top priority at Apple or does it make sense that Apple took 8 months to solve the problem? Let us know in the comments below.

Apple Hands Out $100 Million to Customers Who Weren't Watching Their Kids

posted Sunday Mar 3, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Apple Hands Out $100 Million to Customers Who Weren't Watching Their Kids

If a crashing stock price wasn't enough, any potential future investors sure won't like this news. Another settled lawsuit adds to the ever-growing list of litigations against Apple. The shiny fruit trading company has settled on a lawsuit that alleged that the iPhone and iPad apps let kids make transactions on their parents' devices without the parents knowing about it or allowing it. The amount that was agreed upon? $100 million. Oh, and that's not in an important currency; it's $100 million in iTunes credits.

Five parents filed a lawsuit over two years ago that claimed Apple did not put enough security measures in place to prevent children from using the microtransaction features inside of videogames or other apps. This meant that children could buy whatever they wanted, sometimes costing parents thousands of dollars. Granted, perhaps parents should supervise their children more when letting them on their personal mobile devices, but what do I know? These adults (I will no longer call them parents) said that they were unaware of the children charging their accounts until the time of billing. The suit also cites some of the issue lies in games targeted to children as young as four years old, which also feature options to spend money without a password checkpoint.

The suit reads,

Apple failed to adequately disclose that third-party game apps, largely available for free and rated as containing content suitable for children, contained the ability to make in-app purchases.

In total, Apple has conceded to give $5 in iTunes credit to around 23 million customers who were affected by this. Apple will also be sending checks to those who were seeking $30 or more in restitution. As of March 2011, Apple, along with developers have added password verification to most apps which give you the option to buy something in-game.

Pandora Limits Amount of Free Listening Time on Mobile Devices

posted Sunday Mar 3, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Pandora Limits Amount of Free Listening Time on Mobile Devices

While Spotify might be making progressive moves towards bringing more music to mobile platforms, it seems Pandora is still stuck in some sort of crazy dimension, as we discussed on the show last week. The company announced in a blog post this week that increased royalty costs will force Pandora to limit the amount of time a free user can listen on their smartphones and tablets.

Founder Tim Westergreen said that a 40 hour limit will be placed onto free users' accounts beginning this week. Westergreen went on to say that considering an average user listens to around 20 hours a month on Pandora, this change will only affect four percent of its 65 million customers. However, one could safely assume that the 65 million users are not all active. Plus, when you consider that four percent of 65 million is 2.6 million people, that is quite a lot of people who will actually be affected by the change.

What specifically caused this limitation? Pandora explains.

Pandora's per-track royalty rates have increased more than 25% over the last 3 years, including 9% in 2013 alone and are scheduled to increase an additional 16% over the next two years. After a close look at our overall listening, a 40-hour-per-month mobile listening limit allows us to manage these escalating costs with minimal listener disruption.

And, if you go over that 40 hour limit, you can simply listen for free as much as you want on your desktop or laptop, or pay 99 cents for the rest of the month. Pandora also suggests that you simply subscribe to Pandora One for unlimited listening with no ads.

So there you have it. While Spotify is looking to cut royalty payouts to unheard of percentages, Pandora is sort of taking the easy way out by limiting the amount of time you can listen for free. While I get that a company needs to make money to stay in business, this move just keeps adding to the amount of things Pandora keeps doing to make you raise an eyebrow at the company as a whole.

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