The UpStream

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of iOS 9

posted Saturday Sep 19, 2015 by Scott Ertz

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of iOS 9

This week, the newest update to Apple's mobile operating system was released to the public, bringing iOS 9 to existing devices (iPhone 4S and higher). The update, which Apple says is mostly centered around stability and bug fixes, does have a number of enhancements that make it a good install, but it has not been all roses for Apple and its users. Let's cover the different aspects so you can make an informed decision.

The Good

One of the main complaints we hear about iPhones, regardless of the generation, is the battery life. With the new battery management software built into iOS 9, Apple promises to add an additional hour of life to the same device versus iOS 8. This could be a big benefit for heavy users who have to carry additional batteries on a daily basis. Apple also claims that the crash rate is lower on the new platform versus older versions.

Because of the way Siri is implemented into iOS, adding new features requires profound work, and updates on the server as well as the client. This update brings new features to Siri, including new questions that can be asked and new capabilities. Apple has implemented one of Cortana's best features: location-based notifications. All of this and it takes up less space on your device than iOS 8. It seems like it could be a no-brainer to upgrade.

The Bad

While Apple claims lower app crashes, users seem to be reporting a different experience. Users are reporting on social media issues ranging from single apps not launching to all apps failing after the upgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 9. This is not a new occurrence, as aspects of an operating system are subject to change in updates, and apps taking advantage of those features can see app crashes.

Under normal circumstances, however, professional developers will have tested their apps on a new platform before it launches to the public. This is why Microsoft, Apple and Google release developer builds well ahead of their public launch. The fact that these issues still exist can indicate one of a few things: lazy developers, a slow app release process from Apple or new bugs added after the developer preview. Hopefully these issues will be resolved quickly, no matter whose fault they are.

The Ugly

The of the things Apple customers were most excited about were the security enhancements. One security patch in particular has been around for a while and was expected to be solved in iOS 9. The problem surrounds a feature of AirDrop which allows enterprise customers to remotely install applications onto iPhones and iPads in their control. As it turns out, the feature was poorly implemented, allowing anyone with access to a publisher certificate to easily push malware to phones.

In iOS 9, Apple didn't exactly fix the problem so much as patch around it. Now, instead of AirDrop running at the system level, it runs sandboxed. This prevents anything AirDrop-related from access system-related data. Now, these surprise apps cannot steal data on their own. However, if they mimic other apps, or you open them for other reasons, they will still have access to your contacts, locations, etc.

AT&T and Verizon Ordered to Improve Network Quality in California

posted Sunday Sep 13, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Fines have been coming down upon telecom companies over the past year. Most notably, T-Mobile got hit by the FTC a few months ago over 911 outages. Now, the California Public Utilities Commission has gone after both AT&T and Verizon, saying that the two companies have not has a consistent and quality service in the state. The CPUC is seeking damages unless the two cell phone providers fix their infrastructure.

The CPUC will now be conducting an investigation into AT&T and Verizon over the next six months to "report on progress towards completion" of significant network improvements. In the first three months of the case, the Commission will also have to present updates on whether or not AT&T and Verizon have paid for the study. The two companies are both going to be responsible for providing the necessary financial support to a third party contractor who is working for the CPUC.

This isn't the beginning of the saga, however. Since December of 2010, the CPUC has been investigating and researching the details of every outage AT&T and Verizon have had in the state. This came about after a winter storm that had caused a widespread outage that wasn't fixed for a substantial amount of time. This led to a filing of a suit in February of 2013 that said that both companies took way too long to fix problems when they happened, and that improvements must be made on response and deployment times during network outages.

The recent court decision about this case finally puts a timeline on AT&T and Verizon to actually begin work on their respective networks and fix the problems in the complaint. AT&T has responded by saying the Commission's metrics they use to measure response time and time-until-fix are "inherently flawed" and that the metrics should be eliminated. Verizon has gone on record to say that both networks are "healthy and reliable", citing a completely different set of metrics that prove this.

Either way, both companies' hands have been forced and hopefully the State of California will see a noticeable improvement to the quality of the network. That is, unless the improvements are known to the State of California to cause birth defects.

Epic Games Released Over $3 Million in Assets from Infinity Blade Franchise

posted Sunday Sep 13, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Do you like Epic Games? Do you like the Infinity Blade series? Do you like that Infinity Blade III is now free? Of course you do! And since you do, you will probably also love that over $3 million in art and sound design have now been released for free to the public for us to play around with!

Dubbed the Infinity Blade Collection, it is a compilation of assets from many of the franchise's games. More importantly, most of it is from Infinity Blade: Dungeons, which was a game that never saw the light of day and was cancelled in 2013. Luckily for die hard fans, we can now experience the game, or at least what the game would've looked and felt like.

Inside the collection is the following:

  • Infinity Blade: Grass Lands is the earthy citadel adorned with stone set pieces and beautiful props.
  • Infinity Blade: Ice Lands is the wintery fort set deep within a glacial enclave.
  • Infinity Blade: Fire Lands is the radiant castle interior laced with unforgiving paths, dramatic props and flowing lava.
  • Infinity Blade: Warriors includes loads of assets for crafting fierce heroes.
  • Infinity Blade: Adversaries has even more content for a making wide variety of rivals.
  • Infinity Blade: Effects gives you visual effects ranging from fire and smoke to lightning and magical reactions.
  • Infinity Blade: Sounds includes thousands of raw audio files and sound cues.
  • Infinity Blade: Weapons presents a vast array of melee weaponry, including never-before-seen swords and axes and also a few Infinity Blade fan favorites.
On top of all of that, there is also an added rubber chickens pack and the epic (no pun intended) Cardboard Hero armor set. All of this content will work within Unreal Engine 4, which was released for free to developers earlier this year. Epic Games you can "Use it (the content) in any Unreal Engine 4 project, no strings attached (it just needs to be in UE4, see info below). We succeed when you succeed." There is no word yet on if you can customize the assets or create your own based off of their content.

And while the content is free, there is an important note for developers of games using the Unreal Engine. Epic Games still expects those devs to kick over 5% of total gross revenue after the game amasses $3,000. That fee is per product, per quarter.

Amazon to Launch $50 6 Inch Tablet for the Holidays

posted Sunday Sep 13, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Amazon to Launch $50 6 Inch Tablet for the Holidays

When most people see $50 tablets, they usually assume it's a cheap, piece of junk Android that's probably infected with a ton of malware. But what if a big name company were to release a super affordable tablet? Enter Amazon. The company announced this week that it has plans to put out a Fire-branded tablet for this holiday season.

Coming in at just $50, Amazon hopes this 6-inch tablet will attract more people to its tablets. The higher-priced Fire HDX, among its other offerings, just haven't done well in the market. This holiday tablet won't have any of the bells and whistles of the typical ones on the market, but will be good for video streaming and shopping on Amazon. That'll pretty much be it. It has been confirmed that the tablet will only have a mono speaker instead of stereo, and it will also have a lower-resolution screen, less battery life, and it will be made of cheaper parts.

Reports have come in that the $50 tablet will be part of a new line that will include an 8-inch and 10-inch screen at affordable prices, too. While cheap tablets are popular among those who don't understand the technology and only want a throwaway device, will a similar device from Amazon affect the brand's reputation with quality? Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett adds insight in to what Amazon has to overcome.

Will people tolerate a potentially inferior experience just because a tablet is $50? Amazon has to be very careful about what they're giving up to get to that low price point.

With the recent failure of the Fire Phone, and a $600 price tag on the most expensive Fire tablet, is a $50 6-inch option from Amazon a smart move? There is no word yet on if the tablet would be ad-supported, but one could assume that it would be, similar to that of the $99 Fire tablet; the same tablet rings up at $114 without ads. Amazon currently holds less than 1 percent of the US tablet market, so there is a lot riding on this decision.

Verizon Launches New Streaming Service, Initially Exclusive to VZW Customers

posted Friday Sep 11, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Verizon Launches New Streaming Service, Initially Exclusive to VZW Customers

In January of 2014, Verizon purchased OnCue from Intel, the company's never-released media streaming service. In the wake of the failure of their partnership with Redbox for Instant Streaming, Verizon has decided to go solo.

Their new service, based on OnCue, is called Go90, and will take a different approach from Redbox. Rather than charging a monthly service fee, the service will go YouTube style - ad-supported. The service will be available to users on any carrier on smartphones and tablets, and will combine live programming, like football games, and short clips, in the vein of YouTube. They are using the term "social entertainment" indicating their hopes of spreading the service without much marketing.

The company has sent out invites to VZW customers it has identified to be part of its target demographic: millennials (30ish and younger). They are hoping that by targeting millennials and offering the service for free that they will be able to carve out a niche in the ever-growing "over the top" television market. With services like Netflix, Hulu and amazon currently ruling the roost, someone trying something different was inevitable. What wasn't expected was that the creativity would come from Verizon.

This is, however, coming from a company that is in the midst of a culture change. Changing their logo, purchasing AOL and doing away with wireless contracts seem to be just the beginning of a major change from one of the largest telecoms in the world. The biggest change comes in the form of this platform, though. There will be no Verizon branding in the applications, including on non-VZW devices. A year ago, no one would have expected Verizon to do anything cross-network, let alone do it without turning it into an advertisement.

Have you received an invite to try out the platform? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Google Planning to Bring Fiber Service to 3 More Cities

posted Friday Sep 11, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google Planning to Bring Fiber Service to 3 More Cities

When it comes to learning about your every activity, Google and their new parent company have lots of options. Between Search, what's left of Google+, Photos, Android, Chrome and Docs, plus the Nest product line, the company can easily learn a lot about your activities online and offline. The problem with all of this data collection is that it is indirect.

That is where Google Fiber comes in. Following your activities online are far easier when the company controls the entire pipe into your home. Hence Google Fiber's $70 1Gbit Internet plan. The price is not because Google loves you and your cable company doesn't; instead it is because the company loves your data. They can sell your Internet practices to advertisers and more than make up for the price difference between Fiber and FiOS.

This week, they announced plans to investigate moving in to 3 more cities: Irvine, Louisville and San Diego. According to the company,

We'll work with Irvine, Louisville and San Diego to conduct a detailed study of factors that affect construction, such as local topography, housing density, and the condition of existing infrastructure. Meanwhile, cities will complete a checklist of items-such as providing a map of utility lines-that will prepare them for a large-scale fiber build.

This will be an exciting development for those who do not mind the data retention policies of Google and have been asking for the company to bring their subsidized service to their areas.

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