The UpStream

Microsoft commits itself to PC gaming with Steam and Game Pass

posted Saturday Jun 1, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft commits itself to PC gaming with Steam and Game Pass

It's no secret that Microsoft's relationship with PC gaming has been questionable over the years. More than once, the company has brought about a way for gamers to interact with their games and one another, only to see the closure of the platform. The Games for Windows Live platform was closed in 2013, to be replaced by Xbox for Windows, which Phil Spencer promised would not go the same way.

So far, the company has managed to live up to that promise. In fact, over the years, the Xbox platform for PC has expanded, bringing with it new features baked right into Windows. The Xbox Game Bar has Mixer streaming, sound controls, PC performance, and even social features available at your fingertips. After months of rumors, Microsoft has announced officially that they will be bringing another big Xbox feature to Windows: Game Pass. This service allows you to access tons of games for a single monthly price. It has been limited to the Xbox One, but will soon be coming to the PC. We know very little about the service as of now but will learn more details at the company's E3 2019 presentation on June 9th.

Xbox is not the only way that Microsoft is showing its commitment to PC gamers. Following in the company's current cross-platform push, Microsoft has also announced that all future Xbox titles released on PC will also be available for purchase through Steam. They have also been adding back catalog titles to the platform, with the number growing throughout the week. While this might not seem like a big deal, it means that gamers can purchase their favorite Xbox Game Studios games from their platform of choice, instead of being locked into the Microsoft ecosystem. So, if Microsoft changes their direction for their PC ambitions again in the future, gamers will still have a way forward.

New York school district is embracing facial recognition technology

posted Saturday Jun 1, 2019 by Scott Ertz

New York school district is embracing facial recognition technology

Over the past few months, the public sentiment about facial recognition has shifted from neutral to against. This has been even more prominent in the public sector, as the public and employees alike have asked companies like Amazon to discontinue sales of their technology to the government. Despite these trends against trust in the government using facial recognition technology, Lockport City School District in New York has begun implementing facial recognition in their schools.

The plan is to use the recognition tech to identify issues before they arise, such as child predators and potential attacks. The district is the first in the country to implement the tech in schools and recognizes that, despite the possible benefits, there are some drawbacks, as well. Superintendent Michelle Bradley, said,

I would say for the Lockport City School District, while it's controversial, it's not prohibited and the most important thing is we believe we've established boundaries in the use of this. We have a policy that intends to protect privacy. We have identified a small group of individuals who will be placed in a database.

She is taking her guidance not from public opinion or potential social or legal obstacles, but instead from the fact that it is not expressly prohibited anywhere. Of course, despite not being prohibited, the technology allows for a lot of problems. The largest, of course, is the security of the database itself. For the technology to work effectively, it would require a whitelist of people who are permitted. That means a database of faces of children in the school district. A database like that, especially attached to controversial technology, is like a welcome mat for hackers and hacktivists.

There is also the issue that facial recognition technology is far from infallible. Apple and Samsung technology have been tricked by photos. In response to this criticism, the district's director of technology, Robert LiPuma, said,

We did have one incident where the board member came in and was identified on the first camera as the teacher and then it made a mistake, but it was an odd angle picture. But the second camera picked her up as who she actually was. It was actually a good test for me.

So, a single test was conducted, and it was tricked by a twin. Not a great start to the usefulness of this particular system. In addition to the privacy issues and technological hurdles, there will be legal issues to contend with. The New York Civil Liberties Union has already responded to the move, with education counsel Stefanie Coyle saying,

Facial recognition technology does little to protect students and poses serious risks for both privacy and civil rights. It is a shame that Lockport school administrators have decided to deploy this technology regardless of these concerns, making their students, parents and faculty into guinea pigs to test the use of this software in school contexts. We continue to believe that this type of invasive and inaccurate technology does not belong in schools.

Following MoviePass, Sinemia has ended their United States operations

posted Saturday Apr 27, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Following MoviePass, Sinemia has ended their United States operations

It has only been 7 months since Sinemia brought its MoviePass competitor from Europe to the United States. The company first launched its unlimited movie subscription service in 2014 but decided to try its hand in the US market following the constant MoviePass disaster. While MoviePass was unable to be financially stable at $10 per month, Sinemia believed that $30 per month would be the big difference for them.

Unfortunately for Sinemia, they seem to have underestimated the market's desire to see movies with a deal and fell victim to the same problem that took out MoviePass. Effective immediately, the company has shut down its US operations entirely. According to a note from the company on their website,

We are all witnessing that the future of moviegoing is evolving through movie ticket subscriptions. However, we didn't see a path to sustainability as an independent movie ticket subscription service in the face of competition from movie theaters as they build their own subscriptions. Thanks to the cost advantage and cross-sell opportunities, movie theaters will be prominent in the movie ticket subscription economy.

For many of us, the expectation for success is in the same hands that Sinemia sees: the theater groups themselves. Both MoviePass and Sinemia were forced to purchase tickets from the theaters for full or near retail price, meaning that it didn't take long for the subscription price to no longer cover the cost of tickets. For MoviePass, in most markets, the first ticket sold was a loser for them. For Sinemia, with its higher price, it took until the third ticket for most markets.

For the theater groups, however, the costs are obviously very different. They wouldn't be paying retail price, but the wholesale price, for the tickets. If someone can make the business model work, it's going to be them.

2 to become 1 with upcoming changes to Amazon Prime shipping

posted Saturday Apr 27, 2019 by Scott Ertz

2 to become 1 with upcoming changes to Amazon Prime shipping

We all know the standard features of Amazon Prime: free 2-day shipping on most of your orders. We've opened the *DRM Not Included section of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology with that line every week for over a year. But, all of that is about to change, thanks to a new policy from Amazon. The company has announced its intentions to turn 2-day shipping into 1-day shipping for most orders.

On an earnings conference call, finance chief Brian Olsavsky said that the company is working hard and spending millions of dollars to update its infrastructure to support this change in policy. In fact, this quarter alone, the company has spent around $800 million in preparation to roll-out 1-day shipping for Prime members. If you're a Prime subscriber, you may have already noticed some of the changes. Previously, there had been a $35 minimum on orders being shipped same day, but that requirement has already been dropped. They have also expanded the number of SKUs available on the site that are eligible for same day shipping.

This is going to be a big and exciting change for users of the site. However, not everyone is as excited about the change. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which has been against any moves made by Amazon to improve their customer experience, said that it is worried about the working experience for warehouse workers. The claim is that at 2-day, the pace is already too fast for more of the workers, and increasing the delivery turnaround would put more stress on them.

Of course, changing how fast the packages are delivered will change what day the orders are processed, but will not likely change the pace at which they are processed. Plus, and additional processing will almost certainly be handled by the increasing number of robots that inhabit Amazon warehouses. That change will also not make the union happy, but there isn't a lot that can be done about it.

There is no specific timeline for rollout, but it looks as if it will be done in phases, starting now.

Despite trends, report suggests PC gamers will move to console

posted Saturday Apr 27, 2019 by Scott Ertz

If you know anything about PC gamers, you know that they look down on console gamers. They claim that console gaming can never stand up to the capabilities of PC gaming. PCs have the ability to upgrade hardware, creating capabilities that a console simply cannot replicate with its standardized hardware. But, a new study suggests that the superiority complex will come to an end in the fairly near future.

According to the report, by the year 2022, it is estimated that as many as 20 million PC gamers will make the switch to consoles. This theory is being led by the fact that PC hardware is simply not changing as fast as it once did. System processors have not really gotten faster, with most of the focus going into power efficiency and heat conservation. In addition, the cost of video cards has increased over the last few years, in part because of the trend of cryptocurrency mining.

The next generation of consoles is likely to have hardware that rivals many gaming PCs on the market. Microsoft and Sony have both been working on their next hardware releases, with information to be released in the next few months. While this hardware will not likely be upgradable in the way a PC is, it will likely be powerful enough to stand up to the changes that are coming to the gaming industry.

The biggest change is in the way games are being delivered. With Microsoft and Google working to deliver modern games instantly through streaming, the requirements on the system hardware will be less important than the requirements on the network connection. It will allow more powerful, more graphically intense games to be played on the same hardware we use today.

In reality, the idea of PC gamers moving exclusively to consoles and smart TVs seems like a jump that could only be made by someone outside of the industry looking inside. A change in technology is more likely to change the amount of PC that gamers need, rather than the type of system that is used.

Samsung's Fold troubles seem to be a repeat of past mistakes

posted Saturday Apr 27, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Samsung's Fold troubles seem to be a repeat of past mistakes

Unless you've been hiding from the internet, you've likely heard that the Samsung Galaxy Fold has had a rough go of it leading up to its public release. It all started when Samsung sent review units to a handful of publications. Many of these reviewers discovered very quickly one vital flaw: the glass breaks within a few days. In some cases, it was a crack across the seam, while others lost most or all of the LCD panel in the process. Following the problems, Samsung recalled all of the review units, leaving zero units in the wild.

Or so they thought. Through "a trusted partner," teardown website iFixIt received a unit and worked their usual magic. As part of their review, they discovered what was likely happening to these review units. An apparent shipping screen protector turns out to vital to the structural integrity of the phone. It is also surprisingly easy for something to fall behind the screen, making a full-screen crack unavoidable. When Samsung discovered the teardown, they asked that iFixIt remove their piece, and the website complied.

With that, the best bit of information about the Galaxy Fold has disappeared. This is important because the Galaxy Fold is not going anywhere. While the launch is delayed, it is not delayed enough to build a whole new collection of devices or to do any major fix to the existing design. This is a $2000 phone which has proven itself to be nothing more than a public prototype without the label.

The other problem is that this is not Samsung's first disastrous device launch. The world all remembers the exploding Note7 devices. Samsung never got their hands around the message, and it nearly destroyed their reputation. Almost exactly a year ago, we had a discussion about Samsung's focus on deadlines over quality, and here we are once again. At least this time they're trying to control the message, but with such a heavy hand, it might backfire on them.

We're live now - Join us!
PLuGHiTZ Keyz

Email

Password

Forgot password? Recover here.
Not a member? Register now.
Blog Meets Brand Stats