The UpStream

Microsoft Teams with Duke University to Slash Cloud Computing Bandwidth

posted Sunday May 31, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Teams with Duke University to Slash Cloud Computing Bandwidth

Microsoft, in its persistent effort to push the boundaries of cloud computing and gaming, have teamed up with a Duke University researcher to continue to do just that. The pair will be collaborating on reducing the bandwidth required to stream games from the cloud.

So far, Microsoft says it is able to cut the bandwidth needed by over 80 percent. The idea is that the workload can be split up between powerful servers and local CPUs, effectively cutting the overall load and making cloud gaming a more viable option.

The new method and toolset, named Kahawai, is already being used in test environments with much success. In fact, Doom 3 was loaded under this new way of computing and was consistently running at 60 frames per second.

In the end, this benefits those with slower connection, as it won't take a super high-end Internet speed to enjoy cloud gaming. It also helps those who are suffering from ISP bandwidth caps.

Duke computer scientist Landon Cox is excited about Kahawai's potential.

That's a huge win, especially if your cellphone plan has a data cap. You'll be able to play a lot longer. You essentially get the same gaming experience, but you save a lot of data.

He added that the technology can even be expanded beyond gaming.

Games are a natural place to start understanding how collaborative rendering can work, but any graphics-intensive application could potentially benefit from Kahawai, from 3-D medical imaging to computer-aided design software used by architects and engineers.

We have a demo video of the new technology after the break.

Charter to Purchase Time Warner Cable for $55 Billion

posted Sunday May 31, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Charter to Purchase Time Warner Cable for $55 Billion

As you may have heard, the Comcast-Time Warner merger was nixed by the government, with Comcast simply walking away from the deal without much damage. As the dust has begun to settle, it appears a new contender has entered the arena, on the heels of the company already acquiring Brighthouse Networks last month. Charter is now looking to acquire Time Warner Cable for $55 billion, and this deal is a bit different than the previous attempt by Comcast.

Charter will end up paying just over $195 per share, almost 15 percent higher than TWC's stock price as of close on May 22. In addition, Charter's recent pickup of Brighthouse Networks will be merged into the end product.

Back in January of 2014, Charter attempted a deal with TWC at $132 per share, which was rejected and called a "low-ball offer" by Time Warner. Comcast then tried to make a merger happen and when they failed, Charter came back in with a higher offer to seal it.

Unlike the Comcast-Time Warner merger, where there was practically no public benefit from having the big two join forces, a deal between Charter and Time Warner joins the distant number four ranked telecom with Time Warner, which stands in second place.

MoffettNathanson business analyst Craig Moffett said that TWC came out the victor in the end.

Time Warner Cable is the obvious winner here; their management team deserves kudos for having played their hand masterfully. That play-one-against-the-other tactic resulted in a huge premium.

By merging with Time Warner and Brighthouse, Charter now moves into big markets like New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. It will also bring the telecom trifecta up to 17 million basic cable customers. For reference, Comcast has 22 million of the same customer.

The deal will still have to go through the FCC's approval process, but Charter's CEO - much like Comcast's CEO - says he's sure it won't be a problem. If it doesn't pass or if one of the companies decide to back out, there is a breakup fee of $2 billion.

Mozilla's Firefox OS is Back with a New Strategy

posted Sunday May 31, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Mozilla's Firefox OS is Back with a New Strategy

Two years ago at Mobile World Congress, Mozilla announced its Firefox OS that would be available for smartphones. The problem was that nobody has really cared much about it and it really never took off. The devices were available on $25 phones, but that wasn't enough to make the platform a viable competitor. Now, Mozilla has rekindled the Firefox OS and will be re-entering the mobile world with a new plan.

Mozilla CEO Chris Beard said in an email that the company is working on introducing attractive features to smartphones instead of making affordable options. Beard also mentioned that Mozilla may allow Android apps to run on its devices.

We will build phones and connected devices that people want to buy because of the experience, not simply the price. We have not seen sufficient traction for a $25 phone, and we will not pursue all parts of the program.

Beard's 1,968 word email contains a lot about the vision of Firefox OS, but at the heart of it all is Mozilla's mission to offer something that's "so valuable that people are willing to give up access to the broader ecosystem." Dubbed the Ignite initiative, the new Firefox OS will be aimed at giving users a new way to work offline, a better method of updating software and bringing the platform to more than just smartphones. Beard even said he was going to have Firefox OS support flip phones.

The work is already underway, with the dev team launching Firefox OS 2.0 in the coming weeks. According to Beard's memo, v2.2 will be shipping on entry-level smartphones with partners Mozilla has already lined up.

Can Firefox OS really sustain in the ever-changing landscape of mobile devices? It is safe to assume that Linux users will adopt the OS early, but we'll have to see if that will trickle into the average consumer market.

HBO Now's Apple Exclusivity Ends, Coming to Android & Chromecast

posted Friday May 29, 2015 by Scott Ertz

HBO Now's Apple Exclusivity Ends, Coming to Android & Chromecast

Ever since HBO Now was officially announced, the fact that it was exclusive to Apple devices was a shock. Apple holds a minority percentage of almost every market they are involved in; Android phones and tablets outnumber iPhones and iPads, Macs are statistically insignificant in the computer world and the Apple TV is outsold by many other set-top boxes, like the Roku. Why, then, did HBO Now release exclusively for Apple devices?

It is likely that Apple paid for exclusivity, to make the announcement for the much anticipated service part of their event. That exclusivity seems to have come to an end, however, as Google announced at their annual Google I/O developer event that HBO Now is headed to Google platforms. Some Google platforms, that is - it will be available on Android and Cast, but will seemingly not be natively available on Chrome OS devices.

With the end of Apple exclusivity, and a move to Google platforms, means the beginning of actual availability for the service. Hopefully this is just the beginning, with Windows 10 and web coming soon behind. The issue at hand is that we still don't know when the Google platforms will actually get the service, just that it is coming soon. Soon could be next week, or it could be after Windows 10 ships - there is currently no way to know.

As someone who spends much of his time surrounded by as many as 15 Windows screens and only two Android and one iOS screen, I really hope that HBO Now will come to Windows 10 and Xbox One in the near future and, failing that, at least the web. That would certainly expand their reach for the service, as Xbox 360 and Xbox One have been within the top streaming devices for many other services. Maybe at the official Windows 10 launch, or even at E3, we will hear about HBO Now on more platforms.

FBI Forgets to Renew Major Domain, New Owner Runs Ads on Seized Sites

posted Friday May 29, 2015 by Scott Ertz

FBI Forgets to Renew Major Domain, New Owner Runs Ads on Seized Sites

In the original days of the Internet, domain registrations did not auto-renew. This meant that at the end of your year, you had to remember to renew it manually or face losing the domain to someone else. This was especially bad when you had a popular domain, as hijackers would just wait for you to make a mistake and swoop in and steal the domain away from you. I lost my personal domain name years ago to exactly this type of mistake.

Luckily, in modern times, this is no longer an issue. All domain registrars offer auto-renewals and, for that matter, turn the option on by default. Unless you actively disable the option, or cancel you credit card or close your bank account, your domains will continue to renew for as long as you let them. This is a good thing, as it prevents hijackers from taking ownership of your domain because of a simple mistake.

This week, however, the federal government proved that if something can be screwed up, they will be the ones to pull it off. The FBI managed to lose one of their primary domains because they simply forgot to renew it. The domain, CIRFU.net, if the domain that they redirect seized domains to prevent further access to the seized materials. This is done with websites dedicated to drugs, child porn, copyright violations and the like. The most famous of those seized domains in recent memory is megaupload.com, which provided access to all sorts of content.

After failing to renew their domain, a black-hat hacker purchased the domain through a GoDaddy auction and turned into a server hosting ads, scams, drugs and porn. This is not an unusual situation in this case, especially not with a domain that is so highly in demand. What is unusual, in this case, is that it affects every domain that the FBI has seized. All of them point to this single server, meaning that every seizer domain began hosting this content.

As of right now, CIRFU.net is returning a domain error and related domains are now returning a Bing search, meaning that the domains cannot be reached and the browser's natural search feature is kicking in instead. It will be interesting to see if the FBI seizes their own domain back, if they switch to another, or if they have another plan up their sleeves.

Konami Denies Collapse of Console Development

posted Friday May 29, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Konami Denies Collapse of Console Development

Over the past few months, Konami has found themselves in a PR nightmare fueled by a rash of unexplainable and seemingly insane decisions. First they removed Hideo Kojima's name form Metal Gear Solid V, much to the gaming world's disdain. This decision sparked rumors that Kojima might have been fired from, or resigned from, Konami's development group. This decision was quickly reversed, with Kojima's name returning to the game.

Next came the cancelation of one of the most anticipated games, Silent Hills, another Kojima title and the latest entry in the Silent Hill franchise. The game was to be a partnership between Kojima and Gullermo del Toro. The game also featured The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus as the main character, both in voice and appearance. This cancelation led to more rumors about Kojima's departure from the company, a rumor which Konami has not refuted.

In a letter to Ars Technica in an attempt to explain what has happened, Konami PR Director Jay Boor said,

Konami, as a company, underwent a major structural reorganization in March this year. The aim of this reform has been to guarantee that, in the quickly-changing digital entertainment industry where new game designs and platforms constantly alter the market environment, we can accurately observe new customer demands and market trends, and apply our long-established technology and knowhow quickly and effectively with a range of targeted responses.

While this explains what is happening to the structure of the company, it doesn't explain the future of the two franchises in question. Boor addressed this as well, saying,

We have nurtured them with care over many years since their inception, and will continue to produce products for both franchises, but we are not currently at a stage where we can announce the path these future titles will take.

Continuing, Boor included a full translation of the article that led many English publications to believe that Konami was abandoning console and arcade gaming in favor of a "mobile first" focus. The clarifying statement says,

Recently we often hear the term 'Mobile First,' and I want to specify that Konami's idea of Mobile First is not at all to focus purely on mobile games. Our aim is to continue to build up a comprehensive portfolio of console, arcade, and card game titles for each IP while also making the best possible use of the mobile devices that accompany our customers in their daily life, thus expanding the limits of entertainment and appealing to more and more customers.

The issue now becomes whether or not this is actually Konami's intentions. It could be that this is an attempt to fix a PR disaster that is damaging the perception of the people who will keep their doors open: gamers. If they lose the respect or trust of the gamers through odd or unexplainable decisions, there could be no recovering. Hopefully this is more than just a dodge - hopefully either this was all a big misunderstanding or Konami has learned from their mistakes and is righting the ship. It is likely that E3 this year will give us a better picture of the real future of the company.

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