Scott Ertz - Staff

Scott Ertz

Scott Ertz

Former Segment Host

Current Host

Current UpStream Contributor

Current Product Reviewer

Current Episode Author

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Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLuGHiTz Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the DDR community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bar Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and judging engineering notebooks at competitions. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors.

Recent UpStream Articles

Quibi signs distribution deal with T-Mobile, limiting their reach

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Quibi signs distribution deal with T-Mobile, limiting their reach

As more video streaming services enter the market, each one is looking for a way to differentiate themselves. Disney+ is focusing on the big Disney franchises. Apple TV+ is focusing on high profile original content with a large production budget. Quibi, short for "quick bites," has decided to focus on short-form episodic content. It's a strong pitch in a market filled with traditional length content on all of the services.

The next step for the new services is to determine how to expand their initial reach. Disney has been running a promo with Hulu, combining the services into one subscription. Apple announced that TV+ would be made available for free to new iPhone owners. Quibi, on the other hand, has made a strange move in significantly limiting their initial reach.

This week, the company headed by former HP CEO Meg Whitman, announced a partnership with T-Mobile, making them the exclusive wireless partner for the service at its April 2020 launch. This move means that the #3 carrier will be the only way to subscribe to the service. T-Mobile might see a small bump in business because of it, but nothing that's going to be earth-shattering. Quibi, on the other hand, stands to lose a lot. T-Mobile's current subscriber base represents less than 18% of US wireless subscribers. Sure, that's going to so up significantly if the Sprint merger completes, but it will still be the #3 carrier, even with Sprint.

The company may have a plan on how to make this work, but it seems like a strange and short-sighted move. It also seems like a strong way to damage your brand image. For example, say you subscribe to the service on your Xbox One. But, you know that you're paying the same amount as another subscriber who also gets the ability to use the service on their phone, but you can't because you're a Verizon customer. Other services have suffered from these exclusivity deals in the past, and Quibi might suffer a similar fate. However, we will have to wait until April to find out.

read more...

Tech industry could be in for an awakening if new bill passes

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Tech industry could be in for an awakening if new bill passes

Over the past few years, we have seen a rise in inappropriate data usage. Some of it has come from the data collectors themselves, such as Twitter's recent revelation that they had used security recovery email addresses and phone numbers for targeted advertising. Others have come from third parties, such as Cambridge Analytica and Hyp3r. No matter the source, the inappropriate or unintended use of personal data is on the rise and is causing the world to have less trust in tech companies.

The European Union tried to address the issue, but they did it in a controversial and unproductive way with GDPR. In the United States, legislators have been mulling about how to address the data usage issues differently. Senator Ron Wyden has proposed the comically named "Mind Your Own Business Act," which is intended to punish companies who engage in inappropriate data usage. In a statement, Wyden said,

Mark Zuckerberg won't take Americans' privacy seriously unless he feels personal consequences. A slap on the wrist from the FTC won't do the job, so under my bill he'd face jail time for lying to the government. I spent the past year listening to experts and strengthening the protections in my bill. It is based on three basic ideas: Consumers must be able to control their own private information, companies must provide vastly more transparency about how they use and share our data, and corporate executives need to be held personally responsible when they lie about protecting our personal information.

This bill, as Wyden stated, takes the responsibility off of the FTC and places it in the hands of the courts. That means that breaking the law could result in jail time for the executives involved in data usage decisions. That would be a massive change in policy and could actually affect the behavior of the tech companies and their executives. If Zuckerberg faced jail time for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the system may have never made that data available to the company in the first place.

The bill is a far way from being law. Plus, by the time it could become law, it will be changed significantly from what it is today. Do you think this could make a difference in the tech industry?

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Blizzard is quickly throwing away all of their consumer confidence

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Blizzard is quickly throwing away all of their consumer confidence

In the past few weeks, Blizzard has made some decisions that have caused not just consumer, but international backlash. It started a few weeks ago when a professional Hearthstone player, Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung, made a pro-Hong Kong protest comment after a competition. The company stripped him of his tournament win and banned him from professional play for a year. Consumers responded swiftly, with people across the globe canceling their Blizzard game subscriptions. As a result, Blizzard seemed to disable the ability to cancel a subscription, claiming technical difficulties. After backlash, the company reinstated his win, as well as reducing his ban to six months instead of twelve.

Blizzard hoped that this would be the end of the controversy, but it seems to be just the beginning. This week, Blizzard decided to cancel a big event at Nintendo World in New York City, which was to be part of their much-anticipated release of Overwatch for the Switch. While Blizzard had not given a public statement about why the event had been canceled, many believed it was in response to a request from the Chinese government. There was an almost guaranteed chance that there would be protesters at the event, and their message would have been broadcast internationally with the Blizzard and Overwatch logos behind them. China has been flexing its muscles lately in regards to the Hong Kong protests, threatening to end business relationships with companies that even indirectly present an image of supporting the protests. Many companies have kowtowed to these requests for fear of losing access to the lucrative market.

Consumers are not the only ones concerned about Blizzard's relationship with China. A group of US Congresspeople who share almost no political positions, came together this week to express their concerns. A letter was sent by Republicans Marco Rubio and Mike Gallagher, Democrats Ron Wyden, Tom Malinowski, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to the company. They cite consumer response, employee response, and concerns over the reasoning behind these moves.

Blizzard and other companies have been put into a sticky situation when it comes to Hong Kong. The Chinese market can be a big one for these companies, but only if they play the government's games. Hong Kong has been China's first real flex outside of internet censorship. In addition to Blizzard, Apple was seemingly forced to remove an app from their store that allowed protesters to communicate. Apple also received harsh criticism and government questioning.

This could be the event that finally re-ignites the rift between the West and the Communists of China.

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Is phone-based VR finally dead? Google and Samsung think so.

posted Saturday Oct 19, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Is phone-based VR finally dead? Google and Samsung think so.

At the resurgence of virtual reality in this decade, many companies saw using your phone and its screen as the basis for VR systems as the best solution. Samsung and Oculus built the Gear VR platform. Google created the Cardboard and then the Daydream platforms. A variety of other companies, including Monster, got into the game. All of these used your phone as the center of the VR experience, rather than creating dedicated VR hardware.

The problem with this approach is that consumers seemed unwilling to care. Outside of educational venues or corporate demos, I never saw a Google Daydream in the wild. Samsung was so desperate to make the platform work, they gave Gear VR headsets away with a Galaxy S8 purchase, and owners didn't request their free hardware. In response, Samsung didn't even make the 10 series, the Galaxy S10 and the Note 10, compatible with their Gear VR headsets.

Following suit, Google announced this week that the Google Daydream View hardware had taken the eternal nap. The dumb headset, as it were, was launched in 2016 and featured VR lenses and nothing more. Visually, it was probably the best recognized of the headset hardware, as it featured the strange grey fabric on the outside. However, being recognizable does not make you successful.

With this move, the era of dumb headsets and phone-based VR is all but dead. Sure, the existing hardware is still out there, both from Samsung and Google, but with no new hardware development, there is little chance that developers will put any effort into supporting these systems. So, during any software overhaul, you can expect Daydream and Gear VR support to be dropped. Hulu, as part of their UI overhaul last month, already dropped support for Daydream, beating Google to the punch.

So, with that, the failed experiment has completed. If you want to use VR going forward, you will need to use dedicated VR hardware. Fortunately, we have standalone platforms like Oculus Go, which will allow you to use VR without a computer, just like Daydream and Gear VR did.

read more...

In response to new law, Google will limit news results in France

posted Friday Sep 27, 2019 by Scott Ertz

In response to new law, Google will limit news results in France

Google can be a difficult company to predict. This is because, while the company ardently sticky to its values, those values can be near impossible to nail down at any given moment. In 2010, Googled ended operations in China over mandated search result censorship, taking moral exception to the requirement to censor human rights topics. Last year, however, they began work on a censored search product specifically for China. They have since canceled the project, but only because of employee and public backlash.

One area on which they have never wavered, however, is being charged for content. The process has been affectionately known as the Google Tax, where Google is specifically targeted with legislation that harms its business model. The European Union has been the biggest offender of the Google Tax with various laws passed targeting the company. Google's response to these laws has varied, but it has often been understandably harsh.

The most famous instance of Google's retaliation is in regards to Spain and Google News. The country passed a law requiring news aggregators to pay the data sources for the data they collect. In response, Google shut down Google News in Spain. This week, the situation has raised itself once again, but the response seems to be a little bit different.

France has passed a law similar to that of Spain, but Google has not yet shut down its service. Instead, the company has found a way to both punish France and refuse to pay for the data. They have announced that they will only show headlines of articles on France unless the publisher has specifically given Google permission to show a summary. This will be a change in policy from how it works today in France and other countries, where they show the article summary by default.

read more...
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