The UpStream

Yahoo Takes Steps to Limit Mail Access for Ad Blockers

posted Sunday Nov 22, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Yahoo Takes Steps to Limit Mail Access for Ad Blockers

The battle in favor of The Free Web has been heating up in recent weeks, sparked by Apple's new allowance of ad-blockers into iOS's native browser. While proponents of the software claim it makes their browsing better, faster, stronger, opponents claim that it is theft from the sites and apps that rely on the income from advertising to fund their businesses.

One company that provides a lot of expensive services for free, with advertising support, is Yahoo. Finally taking a side in the debate, Yahoo began testing a concept of blocking users of ad-blockers from using their Mail client. Some people who were affected were upset, while others simply whitelisted Yahoo Mail and moved on with their day. The latter is, of course, what Yahoo is hoping will be the norm.

This isn't the first time someone has gone to the trouble to block ad-blockers from their platforms, and it will be far from the last. Why this is important right now, though, is because Yahoo is potentially the largest to take the stand. What they have done is also unique - they have prevented people from using not a transient application, like Yahoo News where someone could just switch to MSN News, but instead a sovereign app: one that people live within and would be difficult or impossible to switch away from.

The process of transferring from @yahoo.com to @outlook.com, for example, would not be a simple process. You have services that email you, people all over that have your address that you might not be able to get to update. No matter how hard you try, in switching email providers, you are guaranteed to lose people, and therefore content. This is likely why Yahoo's tests are running within Mail.

It is also unlikely that Yahoo will back down from this test, at least not in the long-term. The company runs their own ad network, which is directly affected by the growing number of blocking customers, and they run free services, which are ad supported, which will also be directly affected. This could be the beginning of a trend back in favor of The Free Web, instead of the recent fight against it.

PlayStation Time Travels with PS2 Emulator

posted Sunday Nov 22, 2015 by Scott Ertz

PlayStation Time Travels with PS2 Emulator

Vowing not to be outdone by Microsoft's backwards-compatibility for Xbox 360 games, Sony soft-launched its own backwards compatibility on the PlayStation 4 recently. Eurogamer discovered the feature when they received their review copy of a new Star Wars bundle, which included 3 PS2 games. When the games were launched, the PS2 logo appeared on the screen, just as if you had booted the console, except upscaled to 1080p.

The games, which were 3D titles, looked better than they ever had on their intended platform. That is because in-game rendering can be enhanced by using the newer processing technologies of the PS4. This is a big deal, because it does not require the developers to remaster the game, simply release it for the emulator on the console. What it does mean, though, is that 2D titles will not look better on the platform, and could potentially look worse, as the sprites were sized to fit on the disc and designed for a much smaller resolution.

An interesting addition to the games is trophies, a feature added to the PlayStation Network long after these games premiered. It is likely that the emulator, knowing about the individual games, is capable of polling the game save file to determine progress in the game, awarding trophies for reaching milestones. However they are doing it, the idea is a novel one, and one that is appreciated by gamers.

Since the creation of Xbox Live Achievements, the idea of public awards for performing certainly tasks or for accomplishing certain feats, has become not only the norm for gamers, but a draw into the games. Little is known about how Sony will implement this feature for the public. They could imitate either Microsoft or Nintendo, or find some alternative. Microsoft allows you to use your already owned titles, or purchase new, for emulation. Nintendo resells old titles on its emulation platform. Sony could go either way, or surprise all of us.

Hopefully they will go with Microsoft's approach, as I and many others have tons of PS2 games and would love to retire the older hardware without having to repurchase those games.

Sailfish Expertly Demonstrates the Problems with Operating Systems

posted Sunday Nov 22, 2015 by Scott Ertz

For many years there have been 3 players in the smartphone and tablet space: Android, iOS and Windows. But before this Big 3 there was another: BlackBerry, Palm and Windows. Technically none of those operating systems exist anymore, with BlackBerry producing Android phones now, Palm being used on televisions and Windows Phone completely reconsidering the way Windows works on a phone. But how did that happen?

Apple was either inspired by or frightened of a relatively unknown platform being developed by a company co-founded by a Danger co-founder, who was responsible for the Sidekick. The company wanted to change the way mobile phones worked, and boy did they. That company was called Android, Inc., and the platform they were developing would go on to force everyone in the industry to adapt or escape. It even inspired Apple into the mobile space, creating a race for dominance in this newly expanding market.

These companies have not lived in a vacuum, though. Nokia had Symbian, Palm launched webOS, BlackBerry launched their QNX-powered BlackBerry 10. Today, all of those platforms that were created as a response are gone, with BB10 being the last to go only recently. From their ashes rose a slue of operating systems that were inspired by, but not forced by, Android and iOS. Unfortunately, these companies have had issues gaining any marketshare, not because the platforms are inherently bad, but because consumers aren't compelled to jump onboard.

One of those platforms is Sailfish, produced by Jolla. In its time "on market," the platform has only been installed on a single device, which has never really sold. Because of this, the company has laid off most of their staff, essentially mothballing the product indefinitely. While this is not good for the company, it does highlight the ups and downs of secondary mobile platforms.

It is unlikely that, in the near term, a platform from outside of the Big 3 will catch on in the mainstream. Sailfish, Firefox OS, Tizen, etc., don't have the clout or marketing to be able to attract the things that are required to succeed. On the other hand, their ideas do help push the Big 3 into action. For example, if it hadn't been for the relatedly unknown Android, Microsoft might never have created the UI basics of the Zune and Zune HD, which ultimately lead to the Windows 10 platform which is predicted to be the largest installation-base of any Windows version in history.

Zynga Sees Consecutive Quarterly Success, Prepares for the Future

posted Sunday Nov 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Zynga Sees Consecutive Quarterly Success, Prepares for the Future

While all the talk is about Activision's purchase of King for almost $6 billion, there are some other movers and shakers in the mobile game space right now. Most notably is Zynga, who recently lost its top spot to King and has had its founder, Mark Pincus, return as CEO after a revival plan. In the past three quarters, Zynga has beaten its estimates each and every time, with two of them being under the guidance of Pincus.

Zynga is able to attest its recent success to still-popular titles like Words With Friends, while games like Wizard of Oz Slots and Empires & Allies are showing high-level growth. The news of another consecutive quarter's estimated being topped caused Zynga's stock to rise 4 percent, bringing it to $2.55 per share. This values Zynga at $2.3 billion, just 17 percent of its high-mark five years ago. The company is not without its troubles, though. Daily users are down 21 percent from last year, to just 19 million players.

Even with the roller coaster of a story, Pincus says that nothing will deter the future success of the company. In an interview, he gives credit to FarmVille 2 web for doing so well, and says that Zynga's Poker game will drive growth next year.

We've been seeing, for the last three quarters, a good strength in our live franchises, especially on FarmVille 2 web and Words with Friends mobile, as well as slots games on mobile like our new Wizard of Oz slots. We've seen a decent contribution from our new game Empires and Allies. But all three quarters, the live game team performance has exceeded our expectations. The level of advertiser demand and interest in our Words with Friends audience and other mobile audiences has continued to be a pleasant surprise for us.

When asked about the King acquisition, Pincus said that he believes companies need to acquire, but also need to aim to capture a large audience and hold them over time through a diverse selection of games. The CEO said that Zynga has been doing this all along, and will continue to do so.

We (Zynga) have been investing in those (areas) across social casino, across casual with Words with Friends, and best expressed in action strategy with the launch of Empires and Allies and the acquisition of NaturalMotion. When you look at the Activision-King deal, I think it makes a lot of sense for all those reasons. Bobby Kotick is adding key pieces of the puzzle. In one fell swoop he gets mobile, casual, Asia, and women players. He's positioning his company well.

With the success of Zynga riding high right now, it is reasonable for Pincus to rest his laurels on those accomplishments. However Zynga now lacks the blank check that King just picked up by moving over to Activision. The next year will certainly be an interesting one for both companies, and it will be intriguing to see who is at the top by the end of 2016. There's a battle that is about to go down, and when the dust settles, I believe only one company will truly stand above the rest. It seems to be a war between passion and money, and sometimes that can be a lop-sided fight.

FCC Dismisses Petition to Honor Do Not Track Requests

posted Sunday Nov 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

FCC Dismisses Petition to Honor Do Not Track Requests

With privacy being a hot button topic over the past few years, there has been a push for government agencies to step in and protect consumer data and consumers' wishes to remain anonymous on the Internet. The Federal Communications Commission literally did the opposite on Friday when the agency dismissed a petition that would have forced websites to adhere to a user's "Do Not Track" request when browsing sites like Google and Facebook.

Consumer advocate group Consumer Watchdog had previously filed a petition that would have the FCC big name sites to recognize and honor all Do Not Track requests coming from consumers across the US. Consumer Watchdog proposed a rule that would have also removed a website's ability to require users to consent to data tracking in order to use the site's features, read data on the site, and more.

Currently, some sites do in fact recognize Do Not Track requests that are placed from within a user's favorite web browser. If a site sees that the user has enabled that checkbox, it would opt said user out of third-party tracking and targeted ads, like from Google AdSense or Facebook Ads. Unfortunately many sites still do not comply with Do Not Track requests, and will now continue to dismiss those requests due to the FCC's dismissal of the proposal.

Consumer Watchdog writes that this type of protection and acknowledgement is needed in order for consumers to feel safer on the Internet.

Consumers' privacy concerns about the Internet extend far beyond the broadband providers who are impacted by Section 222. Many consumers are as concerned - or perhaps even more worried - about the online tracking and data collection practices of edge providers... edge providers collect the same sensitive personal information that broadband Internet access service providers collect, and that the Commission is committed to protecting. If the Commission does not act to regulate the collection of personal information by edge providers, the Commission will in effect be granting a regulatory advantage to the edge providers, implicating concerns of market distortions.

The FCC said that it dismissed the petition because it recently reclassified broadband as a common carrier service, and due to that reclassification, it will not regulate the Internet or its applications or content.

New Android Adware Almost Impossible to Uninstall, Auto-Roots Devices

posted Sunday Nov 8, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

New Android Adware Almost Impossible to Uninstall, Auto-Roots Devices

It's well known that the Android platform is loaded with malware. In fact, it is the most vulnerable and infection-ridden mobile operating system. It gets even worse than that, however. This week, researchers have identified a new adware that has hit the Android marketplace. This new bug makes it practically impossible to uninstall the app, and also masks itself as a popular app like Facebook or Twitter in order to gain access to as much data as possible.

Over 20,000 samples of the malicious apps were uncovered and the apps actually just take code from official apps and repackage them with a similar name, and are distributed through third-party app stores. The creators of the adware hope that users will be confused by the similar name. The psuedo-official apps are often times complete replicas of the original, and even function as such. But behind the scenes, the app is gaining root access to the mobile device, allowing more trojans to be installed and uploading all of the device's data to a server. All of this happens without the user's knowledge in less than a minute.

Mobile security company Lookout posted a blog entry about the newly discovered malware.

For individuals, getting infected with Shedun, Shuanet, and ShiftyBug might mean a trip to the store to buy a new phone. Because these pieces of adware root the device and install themselves as system applications, they become nearly impossible to remove, usually forcing victims to replace their device in order to regain normalcy.

Lookout adds that the app may only look like it's displaying an ad or two, but assured that it grabs administration rights to a device and then proceeds to avoid being extracted or uninstalled once it's in. Currently, the company says that the highest amount of detections are coming from the US, but they have also picked up traces of the infection in Germany, Iran, Russia, India, Jamaica, Sudan, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia. Currently these apps aren't on the Google Play store directly, but that isn't too far off the horizon, considering that Google Play breaches happen about a dozen times a year, with malicious apps flooding the market within seconds.

While it's not surprising to hear of more trash apps filling the Android world, it is worth revisiting the idea that one should always be cautious of what app they're downloading. Additionally, it is imperative to check the developer or publisher of the app, to ensure its authenticity.

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