The UpStream

Nintendo's Pokémon GO Released, Stealing Time Worldwide

posted Saturday Jul 9, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo's <i>Pokémon GO</i> Released, Stealing Time Worldwide

The most anticipated mobile game of the year, and possibly in the industry's history, was released this week: Pokémon GO. The title is an augmented reality game, combining mythical creatures and artificial locations with the real world. While walking around in reality, you can encounter Pokémon, allowing you to try and catch them with your phone. This is done with an AR screen, which puts the creature directly into your real environment.

To capture a Pokémon, you must have certain supplies. For example, Pokéballs, incense, berries, etc. One of the best ways to get these types of supplies is to visit a PokéStop. These are found on your AR map and marked with a blue diamond. When you get within range of a PokéStop, spinning the ring will produce items. Tapping on them will add them to your inventory.

Just like in other games in the franchise, once you have the Pokémon in your possession, you have to train them. That can be done at gyms, which can also be found in the real world. Battle within a gym controlled by your team to increase your Pokémon's power. Use your powered-up Pokémon to claim another team's gym for your team.

The real interesting thing here, though, is how popular the game has been in just its first few days. While scrolling through Facebook, it is hard for anyone to get too far without seeing something about the game, whether it being a player talking about their most impressive catch, memes about inappropriate places people have found and caught Pokémon or complaints about the servers.

The last is because the game has been far more popular than Nintendo, or developer Niantic, thought it would be. So many people are playing at once, and all the time, that the servers have had fairly constant issues. As I write this, the servers are down, in fact. Players have experienced server crashes just as catching rare Pokémon, or even simply walking around. The issues are so bad that memes about the server issues have also become incredibly commonplace. Fortunately, the issues are getting better every day, and will hopefully level out soon so that players who are excited about the game can actually enjoy it.

10 Million Android Devices Infected With HummingBad

posted Saturday Jul 9, 2016 by Scott Ertz

10 Million Android Devices Infected With HummingBad

One of the words that is becoming most synonymous with Android is malware. It seems every few months we hear about another major piece of malware that is rooting Android devices by the millions and serving up disaster. In November we were informed about 3 new ones that were present in at least 20,000 Android apps in Play Store.

This week, security firm Check Point brings attention to HummingBad, the newest entry in the list of crap available in Google Play apps. This software, like most, attempts to root infected devices, but for a surprisingly low-level threat: advertising. In this particular case, the intent is to trick people with infected devices into clicking on ads, generating as close to legitimate revenue for the creators as possible. It does occasionally try and download other infected aps in the background, but even that is far from the worst it could be doing, being as it is still simply intended to generate advertising revenue.

Here's the important thing to remember, though: it would not be difficult for the creators of HummingBad to change its intentions. Since it has root access, it could easily track your typing, grabbing your username and password for things like banking apps, or even popular games. It can track your data access, grabbing information about you that you don't necessarily want the world to know. It could even grab all of your contacts and contact them in your name, or upload them to a server to sell to spammers.

The thing that is most interesting about HummingBad, however, is not its incredible potential for disaster, but instead its organizational structure. Most of the time, malware groups hide from the public because what they are doing is questionable at best, and illegal at worst. In this case, the group behind HummingBad is Chinese ad server YingMob. That means that a legitimate advertising company could potentially be partnering with legitimate mobile developers to spread malware to Android devices in the name of additional advertising revenue.

This is certainly an interesting twist on the theme, and one that is encouraging for a lack of future potential. It is currently in YingMob's best interest to not become fully active, and instead continue to focus on bolstering its advertising interaction. They could turn on the full power, however, and cause a lot of trouble. Currently there is no published way to detect or remove HummingBad, which leaves avoiding it as your best option. As always, the best way to avoid malware on Android is to be very careful what apps you download. If the publisher isn't a known entity, research it before you download. If the names don't match, don't download. In other words, be vigilant.

Facebook to Reduce the Amount of News in Your News Feed

posted Sunday Jul 3, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Facebook to Reduce the Amount of News in Your News Feed

Over the past few years, Facebook has courted publishers to their platform with tools to make publishing news, reviews and opinions easy. For many publications, Facebook is the first or second most popular source of traffic on news stories, with people liking, commenting and sharing on the network. The newsfeed takes all of that into account for what to show on your News Feed, meaning that your friends topics are more likely to show in your feed.

All of that is about to change, though, with Facebook announcing a new algorithm that places content from friends and family above that of brands and publishers. This is not the first time they have made a change in this direction, but it is the first time they have advertised it as such. Because of that, it is definitely a concern to both publishers and readers that they might see less of the news and articles they like.

Facebook will remind you that the important, trending topics are available in the Trending section of the site, though we have recently learned that Facebook curates that content, promoting news stories that they want you to see and culling topics they do not. That means that the Trending section represents the interests of Facebook, not necessarily your own. For example, you will not likely see a story promoted by Facebook that paints a conservative politician in a positive light.

The actual implementation of the algorithm is yet to be realized. It could have a large impact, or you might not notice at all. If you do see a change in behavior, there is good news for those who want to continue to see all of the stories from a particular publisher or brand. The New York Times has the steps to guarantee you see future stories from us or other brands.

In the meantime, the best way to ensure you and your friends continue to see content from your favorite publishers is to interact with their posts: like, comment and share.

Apple in Talks to Purchase Another Failed Streaming System, Tidal [Report]

posted Sunday Jul 3, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Apple in Talks to Purchase Another Failed Streaming System, Tidal [Report]

In 2014, Apple made a seemingly surprising purchase in Beats. The headphone brand was in slight competition with Apple's own headphones and the music service was a market disaster. In the 2 years since the purchase, Apple has mostly rebranded Beats Music to Apple Music and the headphone purchase will help them make the terrible transition from a regular headphone jack to their proprietary connection. It would seem that the company has what it needs to revitalize their music business.

With that said, it is once again a bit surprising to hear that Apple is in talks with another failed streaming service, Tidal, to join the Apple Music corral. It's clear why Tidal would be interested in this acquisition: they cannot seem to attract any customers to the service, despite having a number of exclusive tracks, albums and artists. But why would Apple be interested in purchasing a competitor to the failed service they already turned around?

For that answer, we examine Tidal's market value: exclusives. With a number of artists getting fed up with the way they were being treated by Spotify and Apple and signing exclusive deals with Tidal, purchasing Tidal would give Apple exclusive contracts with those artists instead. In the short-term, this would be good for Apple Music, as it would reintroduce a number of lost artists. In the long-term, however, Apple would need to make changes to retain them after their contracts are over.

If these artists left Apple because of mistreatment, you can imagine their reaction to having their contracts sold back to Apple. If nothing changed within the company itself, it would be likely those artists would jump ship once again, as soon as they were able. So, if Apple thinks this is going to be an easy, number-boosting move, they are sorely mistaken. They are going to have to work hard to maintain the artist-friendly focus that Tidal was known for within the industry.

Can they maintain those artists? Will they make the purchase? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Dell to Abandon Android, Focus on Windows Tablets

posted Sunday Jul 3, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Dell to Abandon Android, Focus on Windows Tablets

One of the truths about technology is that it eventually becomes a commodity. Centuries ago, bronze and steel were technologies, which were commoditized. In more recent times, cars were once considered technology, though today have also been commoditized. When that happens, manufacturers involved in those commodities must find ways to differentiate themselves in the market or get out.

A great example in the automotive industry is BMW. In the 70s, the company decided to stop marketing their cars themselves, but instead marketed the experience of driving the vehicle. Their slogan "The Ultimate Driving Machine" has absolutely nothing to back it up, but it emphasizes the emotional aspect of owning and driving a BMW. The marketing has been successful, seeing consistent sales increases.

Electronics are currently going through a similar transition, with many electronic categories becoming commoditized, but none more so than Android tablets. Everyone has seen the cheap, garbage Android tablets in drug stores and even convenience stores. Black Friday makes it even worse, with brands you've never heard of offering tablets for prices that don't seem possible. With so many companies competing on price, how can a manufacturer set itself apart from the pack?

Dell believes that they cannot and have decided to exit the market entirely. Effective immediately, the Android tablet division of Dell is closed, with current models discontinued, no future models coming and no future support for existing models. This means that if you have a Venue Android tablet now, you will never see an official update to Android Nougat, the next major release. A spokesperson said,

The slate tablet market is oversaturated and is experiencing declining demand from consumers, so we've decided to discontinue the Android-based Venue tablet line.

Rather than competing in the over-crowded, consumer-focused Android market, Dell has decided to focus on their own bread and butter: enterprise customers. In that space, the demand for Windows devices has always reigned supreme, so Dell will continue to produce tablets featuring Windows 10. This product category has a lot more room for growth and diversity, with specs being a top seller, as opposed to pricing.

Microsoft Studios to End Support for Xbox Fitness

posted Wednesday Jun 29, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Studios to End Support for Xbox Fitness

Since the beginning of the Xbox One, one of the best non-interface uses for the Kinect was Xbox Fitness. This app allowed you to exercise with the help of virtual trainers and coaches, using the Kinect sensor to ensure you were doing things correctly. Xbox Live Gold members got a whole collection of programs for free, with others available to purchase.

Microsoft Studios, the team behind the game, announced this week that Xbox Fitness would be coming to a gradual end. Effective immediately, no new content can be purchased. Existing content will continue to work, including the Xbox Live Gold benefits. On December 15, 2016, those Gold benefits will also come to and end. On July 1, 2017, Xbox Fitness will stop functioning all together.

The move seems very abrupt and harsh. It would seem that, if you purchased content within the app, such as the P90X workouts, that you should still be able to use that content after the "sunset period" has elapsed. If Microsoft is working so hard to bring Xbox 360 content to the newer console, why is it that content that was designed directly for the Xbox One is being dumped in such a way?

Personally, I am disheartened by this move. I have been using Xbox Fitness myself since the day my Xbox One arrived. In fact, it was a big part of the reason why I got the Xbox One when I did. Hopefully Microsoft will figure out a way to make the content, both the free and paid programs, available as a standalone platform, allowing those who have used, loved and paid money into the platform, to continue using the product, knowing that there will be no future development.

This concept falls inline with other closures in the gaming world, such as EA closing Playfish, the social-focused studio. With it went a number of pay-to-win type games, which some people had spent a lot of real-world money to advance their characters, cities, etc. Is this going to be the new trend in gaming - when the studio is done, so is our financial investment?

Have you lost money to a game or platform that has closed out from under you, including Xbox Fitness? Let us know in the comments.

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