The UpStream

Sony Pictures Dealt Critical Hit in Massive Data Breach and Outage

posted Sunday Nov 30, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony Pictures Dealt Critical Hit in Massive Data Breach and Outage

Sony Pictures has yet again been targeted for a data breach. Amidst rumors of Sony Mobile's database being hacked, which turned out to be untrue, Sony Pictures has suffered its second data breach in under two years.

Employees of Sony Pictures logging onto their computers this week were welcomed with the image you see on the right. The Guardians of Peace, or GOP, is taking credit for the attack and has watermarked the image to prove it. Employees were unable to access information on their computers or their email, and after some time, the entire system shut down. For almost an entire day, Sony Pictures were unable to restore their servers and other devices to a working state and instead resorted to landline phones and fax machines.

The image on the computers said this,

Hacked By #GOP

Warning:

We've already warned you, and this is just a beginning.

We continue till our request be met.

We've obtained all your Internal data, Including your secrets and top secrets.

If you don't obey us, we'll release data shown below to the world.

Determine what will you do till November the 24th, 11:00 PM (GMT).

GOP made some demands per the image and displayed links to what data was stolen from Sony. Among that data included usernames and passwords, which appeared to have been stored in Excel files sorted by country. There is also "private key" files titled "Sony - Workday" and "ADP SSH Private Key" in GOP's list. The group also says it has several .zip files that it thinks Sony Pictures wouldn't like out in the wild, like internal financial reports, FTP passwords and Outlook .pst files.

Since then, Sony has done some interesting things. First, the initial response from the company was that it is "investigating an IT matter." Sony has gone on record to say it may take "weeks" until everything is fully restored. Sound familiar? Now, Sony Pictures is investigating whether or not North Korea is behind this attack. While this may sound crazy up front, Sony has caught a lot of flack from the country ahead of the release of The Interview, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as journalists who are hired by the CIA to kill Kim Jong-un.

Beyond that, several Sony Pictures titles have been leaked to the web this week, too. Four of them have not been released yet and one of them, Fury, is still shown in movie theaters. While the GOP has not taken credit for this, it does seem a bit coincidental and furthers the damage done to Sony as a whole. Can Sony Pictures rebound from this crucial blow?

Reed Hastings Speaks About Nielsen's Plans for Measuring Viewership

posted Sunday Nov 30, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Reed Hastings Speaks About Nielsen's Plans for Measuring Viewership

Earlier in the month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Nielsen had plans to start measuring streaming viewership. This was a big deal for the producers of content, which have had a lot of trouble knowing exactly how their content is doing on streaming services. This is especially problematic for the producers of programs like Orange Is the New Black, which is available exclusively through streaming. It could also be important for the streaming services themselves, as an independent count of streaming can help with negotiations.

The program will run in a similar manner to how standard Nielsen ratings work: specific people's viewing habits will be averaged to a national number. The content's audio will be parsed as it is played, similar to how Shazam and Cortana identify music, and the viewings will be logged. There is a problem with the program however, as Reed Hastings points out,

It's not very relevant. There's so much viewing that happens on a mobile phone or an iPad that (Nielsen won't) capture.

The inability to count mobile views is a big problem. For me, a lot of my viewing happens on a tablet or phone, and I know that I am not the exception. Losing independent rating of mobile content will make the numbers a little less than useful for Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. That is, unless Netflix can show a correlation between home and mobile numbers on their own servers, and convince content producers that the numbers are accurate.

This is a difficult task, as trusting a company's own numbers on a topic which is vital to the company's existence and can't be corroborated can be dubious. The desire to play with said numbers can be overwhelming, and companies in broadcasting, which streaming technically fits into, have been known to do just that. This is where Nielsen comes normally comes in with broadcast, cable and satellite, though all of those views are counted equally.

Hastings also had something to say about traditional television,

It's kind of like the horse, you know, the horse was good until we had the car. The age of broadcast TV will probably last until 2030.

While he was referring specifically to broadcast television, we have had conversations in the past about the end of the appointment television era as a whole, and we believe that this prognosis is fairly accurate. The biggest hurdle will be getting Nielsen to count all views, not just home.

Bing and Yahoo Implement Right to be Forgotten Support in EU

posted Saturday Nov 29, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Bing and Yahoo Implement Right to be Forgotten Support in EU

After Google's loss to the European Union earlier in the year, they were forced to implement an ability for EU citizens to have search results removed from the index. That system was released to the public in June and has seen an incredible number of requests. In fact, the request count has been high enough that the EU is now considering requiring that this index removal be expanded to the rest of the world.

This week, Google, as well as other search providers, were dealt a new blow, as the drafted search breakup resolution was passed through the European Parliament. While the resolution is far from binding or legal, it does indicate the direction of the EU. Clearly they are concerned about the influence search providers have on the general population.

In a likely related move, Microsoft and Yahoo have both implemented the same Right to be Forgotten index scrubbing that Google was forced to implement in June. Neither company has gone into detail about their plans, but both released statements about their intents.

Yahoo

We will carefully evaluate each request with the goal of balancing the individual's right to privacy with considerations of the public's right to information.

Microsoft

While we're still refining that process, our goal is to strike a satisfactory balance between individual privacy interests and the public's interest in free expression.

Microsoft has received 699 requests, and has rejected 79. 77 of those rejections were requests for Microsoft to remove content from a social network, which it clearly cannot do. Those individuals were directed to contact said network. Google and Yahoo has not been as open about their rejection numbers, or the reasons for said rejections.

Sony to Give Refunds Over PlayStation Vita False Advertising

posted Saturday Nov 29, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Sony to Give Refunds Over PlayStation Vita False Advertising

Do you remember when Sony announced the PS Vita? How about when they made a big deal about cross-platform playability of games? Have you enjoyed playing all of those games cross-platform on your PlayStation 3 and PS Vita? If you answered yes to all 3 of those questions, you are in a VERY small majority.

As it turned out, Sony made a big deal about the cross-platform playability of games without making it clear that very few games could be played that way. In fact, so few games had the capability that the Federal Trade Commission got involved in complaints of deceptive marketing. The FTC gave an example, saying,

For example, with respect to 'MLB 12: The Show,' consumers could only save the game to the PS Vita after finishing the entire nine-inning game on their PS3. In addition, Sony failed to inform consumers that to use this feature, purchasers had to buy two versions of the same game-one for their PS3 and one for the PS Vita.

Sony responded, saying,

Although we have a strong difference of opinion with the FTC as to the message that PS Vita purchasers took from that advertising, we decided to settle the FTCs inquiry in order to focus on the PlayStation 4s momentum into this holiday, where PlayStation Vita continues to play an important role.

The settlement mentioned involves money being returned to PS Vita owners. Anyone who purchased a Vita before June 1, 2012 is entitled to $25 cash or $50 in game credit. If our former co-host Jon Wurm had ever gotten his Vita, he would be a little happier right now. As it is, many Vita owners will finally get a bit of their $250 purchase price back.

Microsoft to Reveal Final Windows 10 Feature List and Consumer Preview in January

posted Saturday Nov 29, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft to Reveal Final Windows 10 Feature List and Consumer Preview in January

For various reasons, Microsoft has had trouble getting traction with its Windows 8 operating system. One of these reasons has been incorrect information about the options and capabilities of the OS perpetuated by people calling themselves tech press. As a result, Windows 8.1 came about, putting the features which were already available upfront.

This trick worked, which meant that they continued trying to listen to what people thought they were missing and either adding the features or making them more visible to the end user. At the same time, the company decided that it was high time for their two flagship operating systems, Windows and Windows Phone, to converge into a single platform. This means a single development and deployment path for developers and a more consistent user interface for users, assuming people keep the consistent interface.

Enter Windows 10, a strangely named skip in the naming convention (Windows 9 was skipped for programming purposes). The Technical Preview for Windows 10 has been out for a little while, and we have been running it in the office to test out its coming feature set. It is an interesting change in interaction that will probably make some desktop users happy, though personally I am close to reverting to Windows 8 style.

Technical Preview builds have been fairly steady, though Microsoft announced that the latest build would be the last of the year. As it turns out, it could be the last, period, as it appears that January will bring an event and Consumer Preview for the operating system. The event should reveal the final list of features for the market release of the operating system, and the Consumer Preview should show off all of the Technical Preview features, plus more.

We are hoping to see one particular feature: Continuum. This feature allows the operating system to adjust to the computer's current state. For example, let's consider the Surface Pro 3. Without the keyboard, the computer would be in tablet mode, which looks and feels a lot like Windows 8.1. When you add in the keyboard, it could adjust itself to function as if it was a laptop, though I'm not sure what variations might exist. On a docking station, it could go into desktop mode, allowing for smaller hit boxes and a Start menu.

Personally, I am looking forward to seeing a Consumer Preview packed with Continuum, as well as Cortana. The search button on the taskbar is nothing but a tease for those of us who know what promise it holds. I also hope that Hulu will play more than a video before crashing.

GameStop Says Free Games Devalue Growing Digital Marketplace

posted Sunday Nov 23, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

GameStop Says Free Games Devalue Growing Digital Marketplace

GameStop, the company notoriously known for selling used games at almost-new prices, isn't very happy that Sony and Microsoft have been giving away free games with their consoles and during other promotions. The disdain is so intense that a GameStop exec spoke on the matter during a shareholder conference call this past week.

GameStop President Tony Bartel said in the call that, "What we produce has value, and we should protect that value." The message is rooted in the notion that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are often bundled with free games, and in other promotions, games are given to customers for no charge. How does this impact GameStop? Well, Bartel mentioned that "over $100 million worth of games have been digitally delivered for free in hardware bundles" as the company's estimation on the free handouts. And while I understand his slight frustration at the big two, here's where things go a bit south. He went on to say that once Sony and Microsoft decide to stop giving out games for free that,

...the industry will need to work together to continue to price goods in a way that sustains profitability and encourages a great innovation that this category needs.

This is the part of the story where every gamer's jaw collectively drops to the floor. This is all coming from GameStop, the company that has been selling $60 games for $54.99 and charging another $10 for the code required to play online. GameStop, the company that has been taking that $54.99 and not giving a dime of it to developers of the games they sell, and continue to boast its success in used game sales. GameStop, the company that now offers a credit card to help customers afford those used game purchases. It's the same company that has moved customers' new game reservation money to a used game purchase, without asking the customer for permission, because it will "save the customer money." Oh, and it's also the company that is considering doing all of the above with used DLC. I'm confused, but I think all of that is the opposite of "working together," unless "working together" means all of the GameStop stores working together to push everyone else out of selling games.

Bartel closed the call by adding,

We want to help ensure that our industry does not make the same mistake as other entertainment categories by driving the perceived value of digital goods significantly below that of a physical game.

To paraphrase, GameStop is scared of the console gaming world moving to digital says. If anything, the past five years of digital sales for PC games have proven that AAA titles selling for less money than full-retail can only be a good thing. Digital platforms like Steam and Origin have shown that holding weekend-long and month-long sales where games are slashed up to 75% off only boost sales and awareness to games. The lack of push to digital and the constant need for production plants are the main reasons we're still seeing $60 games for consoles, even for the digital copy. And then you add in GameStop's never-ending efforts to cut out the developers in the "pay money to people who deserve it" process. We can probably even place some blame onto GameStop for the insane amount of microtransactions in AAA games.

The difference in what GameStop is doing versus what GameStop is mad about is the fact that game studios have actively made the decision to offer up a game for free or in a bundle. The studios speak with Microsoft and Sony to hammer out details for a promotion and how it'll all work out. It's not like the Xbox One Marketplace is marking Sunset Overdrive down to $50 and then not giving the team at Sunset Overdrive their portion of the money.

If we're going to play this game, we need to call it like it is. Sony and Microsoft are working on attracting new fans to its product by offering big-name games for free. Those two companies are the masters at sales and promotions and do a great job year in and year out at keeping the gaming industry moving forward. And, apparently, GameStop is the master at shifting the blame to everyone else when it can't cash in on a popular idea in a new market.

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