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Google Adds, Removed Extension to Chromium Browser

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google Adds, Removed Extension to Chromium Browser

If you are not an open-sourcer, you are unlikely to know about Chromium. Chromium is Google's open-source basis for their Chrome browser. The parts of the browser that Google does not necessarily care about get included into the base, and that code is released to the world for whatever purposes. I'm not sure why anyone would want it, but there it is in case you do.

Recently, Google began post-loading an extension into the browser: its OK, Google voice prompt feature. This extension was not directly included into the open-source release, but the call to install it was. Therefore, this does not EXACTLY violate general open-source policy, but it certainly rubbed the open-source community the wrong way. Mostly for two reasons: the code for the extension is not open-source, and the extension was always listening to you waiting for "OK, Google" to be spoken.

Now, it is important to mention that this community is interesting. They believe that data should be open, but are afraid of their privacy. So, information that is collected about you online should be shared with everyone, but not about them, I suppose. Because of this, and the lack of code for the extension, the community panicked about what Google might be storing and how it might be used. This is a good fear, as Google has never proven itself to be particularly trustworthy or ethical about its intentions.

In this particular case, however, it is easy to see in the task manager that the feature is disabled and that the microphone is not engaged, nor is any data being transferred, but that was not enough to satisfy them. Google has since decided to stop including the feature as part of the standard install, hoping to pacify the loudest of the loud, and possibly to try and do a little damage control.

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Apple Removes, Muddles Reasons for Removing Games Featuring Civil War Era Flag

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Apple Removes, Muddles Reasons for Removing Games Featuring Civil War Era Flag

This week has been a very weird one for flags. The strangest has certainly been the national outcry over the Battle Flag of the Army of Tennessee. This flag, easily identified by its rectangular design, red field and blue X with 13 stars, was used by one of the several state-sponsored armies during the American Civil War while in battle. For whatever reason, many have associated it with the Confederate States of America, which is an odd association.

Many retailers this week announced that they would no longer be selling products with the "Confederate Flag" on them, actually meaning the Battle Flag, as a reaction to a shooting in South Carolina. During this process, Apple decided to take it a step further and tried to alter history by pretending that the flag was never used. They did this by removing games from the App Store that are set within the Civil War era. These games, clearly, featured the Battle Flag, as it was actually used during said battles.

Apple claimed,

We have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines.

However, Civil War: 1863 featured the flag in 2 places: on the main screen to differentiate the two playing teams, and on the actual game board, again to differentiate the two teams. The use of this flag is accurate and in historical context for the era and for the game, and is clearly not being used in an inflammatory way. In fact, it is an incredibly sensitive and accurate portrayal of a Battle Flag: in battle.

Another affected game, Ultimate General: Gettysburg, posted a statement on the game's website, saying,

Spielberg's "Schindler's List" did not try to amend his movie to look more comfortable. The historical "Gettysburg" movie (1993) is still on iTunes. We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. True stories are more important to us than money.

Therefore we are not going to amend the game's content and Ultimate General: Gettysburg will no longer be available on AppStore. We really hope that Apple's decision will achieve the desired results.

We can't change history, but we can change the future.

That is truly a wonderful way to sum up the reality of what Apple is doing here. These games are not using the flag in "offensive or mean-spirited ways." Instead, Apple is trying to change the telling of history. What is interesting is that nearly identical games featuring the Nazi flag vs. the US flag have not been removed under the same policy.

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ARCHOS Enters PC Stick Market with Budget Windows 10 Computer

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

ARCHOS Enters PC Stick Market with Budget Windows 10 Computer

At CES this year, Intel showed off smaller Windows PCs. Following the NUC, they also unveiled the Compute Stick, a device that has prompted a new category of computing technology. Similar to devices like the Chromecast from Google, the big separator is that these devices run Windows, meaning you can use them for real work in a very small package.

After Intel's $150 Compute Stick came Lenovo's $130 ideacentre Stick 300 and BeeLink's $300 Pocket P2. While the BeeLink device has since dropped to $130, it is still above that $100 price point. That is where ARCHOS' new PC Stick comes in, priced at just $99. All of the new devices, including the newest from ARCHOS, have the same specs: quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735F processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage and a microSD slot.

In addition to the price, ARCHOS differentiated itself from the pack by offering its computer in Windows blue instead of the generic black that everyone else is sticking with. While the company did not announce a release date, they did say that the device would ship with Windows 10, as opposed to Windows 8.1, meaning that customers will not be required to upgrade the device shortly after purchasing it, making it a far better experience.

As Windows 10 get closer to market, which is currently just a month away, it is likely we will see more companies find interest in announcing products in this category. Currently we have not heard from companies like Acer, Dell, Microsoft themselves or HP, though they are a little busy splitting the company. Hopefully, as some of the other companies get into the fray, we will begin to see a split in hardware specs giving more choice depending on needs.

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YouTube One Ups Twitch with New Gaming App

posted Sunday Jun 14, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

YouTube One Ups Twitch with New Gaming App

The battle for game-streaming supremacy has raged on for a while now, with armies increasing for all parties. After Amazon acquired Twitch for almost $1 billion, it was made known that YouTube tried to pick up the company but Twitch wouldn't go for it. Not long after, YouTube threw money at creators for exclusive rights and deals in the gaming space, and we knew then that it wouldn't be the end of the saga just yet. Now, Google has fired a warning shot from its bow with news of a new gaming app on the horizon.

YouTube Gaming will be centered around both a website and app featuring game videos and live streams. YouTube will have specific pages for almost 25,000 different games, along with pages for each partner and network.

With Twitch taking the lead in the gaming space for the time being, and MLG.tv, Hitbox and Vimeo making huge impacts as well, this is YouTube's full-push to prove its top spot as a video-streaming platform. YouTube already has some of the top celebrities in the gaming world, but giving those content creators a permanent and tailored home might be the thing that keeps them from leaving. You know, aside from the boatloads of cash they've been offered.

As of right now, a lot of this is just speculation, with the YouTube Gaming landing page simply saying that we'll see it launch sometime in 2015. However the implications behind the landing page are strong. YouTube has launched several different avenues for growth and is hoping one, or more, of them take off in a viral way. The prideful Twitch devs will have to find a way to respond, and it will probably have to start with a revamp of their curation, interface and features. Twitch is good at video quality and consistency but it has to compete with the deep pockets of Google's video baby, and that's a hard thing to do even if you do have Amazon backing you.

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MLB Launches New Streaming Abilities with Old Business Model

posted Sunday Jun 14, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

MLB Launches New Streaming Abilities with Old Business Model

Major League Baseball is breaking the mold for sports leagues in many ways. They were the first to launch their streaming service on all major devices, they were the first to offer a full MLB package at an affordable rate and now they are the first to offer their 24/7 sports news channel, via MLB.tv. There is one caveat though, and it's that you must be a cable or satellite subscriber in order to view it.

Via the At Bat app, customers can subscribe to MLB.tv and watch almost every nightly baseball game, with some blackout restrictions here and there. Along with the dozens of games per night, the MLB is now offering its MLB Network channel inside the same At Bat app. While that seems like the league is taking a huge leap into the 21st century, even with it being the only sports league in America to offer up its news network, the requirement for an active cable subscription really puts a damper on cord cutters seeking out this option.

For sports fans, one of the few reasons they still have a cable subscription is for sports. You just can't get most of the live sports and sports news on streaming services. Sling TV might have a handful of channels, but there's virtually no actual games on the network. Each league might offer up the live games, but none of them showcase their respective 24/7 news channels except for the MLB. This puts sports fans wanting to cut the cord in a weird position, and it looks like there won't be a solution for this predicament any time soon.

While the MLB is entitled to do what they wish with their content, it feels like this wasn't very well thought-out. The fans who want MLB Network most likely already have it with their cable package if they're truly a fan of baseball. Those who simply pay for MLB.tv aren't paying for cable because it's a standalone package. If HBO Now was able to negotiate deals to provide a standalone service, it would only be appropriate for the MLB to follow suit, especially when they are touting this as such a monumental launch.

The good news is that companies like HBO and the MLB are pushing forward and perhaps we'll see a small change to the deal in the near future. Fans have already taken to the Internet and have even called into Major League Baseball's headquarters asking for the MLB Network to be available without a subscription to a pay TV service. It's likely that the MLB will make it happen sooner rather than later.

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Costolo Out, Dorsey In as Twitter CEO

posted Sunday Jun 14, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Costolo Out, Dorsey In as Twitter CEO

Dick Costolo has been the CEO for the last 5 years, making his the longest-term CEO in the company's history. That fact is a strange one in a town that reveres company founders, often times to a fault. Twitter's founders have had varying degrees of involvement in the company since its early days, leaving the daily activities to Costolo instead. He has had his ups and downs, but recently his new programs have begun to see some early returns.

Despite these new successes, Twitter has announced that Costolo will step down as CEO on July 1, 2015. This comes on the heels of a nearly complete management shake-up last year, where the board replaced almost the entire management team, still leaving Costolo at the top of the company. The constant pressure from Wall Street following the company's 2013 IPO may just have proven too much for him. Confiding in a close group in January, it seems that he was looking for a way out.

Allowing him a quick out, the board has reached out to Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of the company, and a former CEO, to lead the charge while the board searches for Costolo's true successor. Dorsey has his work cut out for him, needing to figure out the company's plan to retain users, attract new ones and position its product for a purpose. He also needs to figure out a way to make using the majority of the features possible. For example, have you ever tried to follow a conversation? It's just short of impossible. While dealing with all of that, he also needs to assess and adjust Costolo's policies to deal with the problem of user abuse that has become off-putting for many.

Meanwhile, the board will search for a permanent replacement for Costolo. This is important because Dorsey cannot continue to run the company long. In addition to his new duties at Twitter, he is also founder and CEO of Square, one of the country's largest payment systems. He will not be leaving his duties at Square, he is merely adding these new responsibilities at Twitter. Hopefully Twitter will solve the problem quickly.

The other possibility, rather than replacing the CEO, is selling the company. There has been talk in the industry that Google and Twitter have been in talks, with expectations that the talks surround an acquisition. The collapse of Google+, both in the public eye and inside the company, could be an indication that Google is giving up the ghost and replacing it with Twitter could help them learn as much as possible about people to better target their ads. The recent reintegration of Twitter into search results, side-by-side with Google+, adds more fuel to that fire.

Whether Twitter decides to go the acquisition route, or searches for the perfect person to lead the team, it needs to happen quickly, because there are plenty of other products for following the world in real time, many are far better.

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