The UpStream

$16 Million Raised to Curve Videogame Communication

posted Sunday Jul 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

$16 Million Raised to Curve Videogame Communication

In-game communication is not a new concept. PC gamers have been using services like Ventrilo for years. Xbox and PlayStation both have game communication built into their platforms. However, while communication on the consoles has continued to improve the PC has not kept up.

A company called Curse is intent on changing that. Their recently open beta of Curse Voice works a little differently than most PC game communication software. Rather than having to share your platform id or username with another member, the service will automatically determine that friends are in the same game with you and offer communication automatically. This makes in-match communication significantly easier in quick-hit, random assignment games.

Because it is such a big shift in the norm, over a million users signed up within the first week. If they can keep up that pace, the company believes that they will have over 10 million by year's end. That is a lot of active users on a brand new platform, especially in a market in which gamers have expected to see little to no changes.

Obviously this caught the attention of many. Among those taking notice were new investors. Curse's latest round of funding brought in $16 million, including money for existing investors, one new investor and a capital loan. This new cash will help the company build, enhance and officially launch the platform.

It's always good to see new blood enter an industry, especially when that market has been so long stagnant. Hopefully Curse Voice will be able to be successful on its own and inspire the rest of the industry to catch up.

Have you checked out the Curse Voice public beta? Let us know your impressions on how it works in the comments.

China Claims that iPhone is a Threat to National Security

posted Sunday Jul 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

China Claims that iPhone is a Threat to National Security

Every country has a different way of focusing its economy. Some, like the United States, focus on knowledge work. Others, like China, focus on manufacturing. No matter your focus, though, one good rule of thumb is to not insult the companies that make your economy possible.

The Chinese government has taken a different view on this concept. This week of the Chinese state media accused the iPhone of being a national security threat. Referencing the iPhone's common places feature, they stated that anyone with access to the phone's data could easily determine the habits of a Chinese citizen.

For those who may not be aware of the feature, which is also available as part of Windows Phone Cortana, it follows your activities and logs the places you visit often. This allows Siri or Cortana to navigate easily to your favorite spots. From anywhere you can say "Take me to work" and be taken to your common spot.

Clearly, this data in the wrong hands could be dangerous. With the NSA's many data requests from Apple, it's not unreasonable for the Chinese government to be fearful. However, publicly speaking out against a company that spends a tremendous amount of money in your country manufacturing their product may not be the best way to solve the perceived problem.

Also, suggesting that that company has a backdoor for the NSA into their products may not be a great PR move either. Apple fired back against this allegation saying that they have never created a backdoor for any agency. They even went so far as to say they've never directly worked with the NSA, but had only replied to requests.

The chances that Apple and Foxconn will move their manufacturing out of China is low. However, a public statement like this certainly will make the companies consider their options. Apple has recently started to move some manufacturing back to the United States after all.

Jury Finds Apple Not Guilty in Patent Troll Case Against Emblaze

posted Sunday Jul 13, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Jury Finds Apple Not Guilty in Patent Troll Case Against Emblaze

Back in 2010, Emblaze, an Israeli company, sued Apple for patent infringement on several popular iPhone applications, including the Major League Baseball app. A jury ruled this week after a two-week trial that Apple did not actually infringe upon those patents and will not have to pay the $511 million that Emblaze demanded.

The patent in question is US Patent Number 6,389,473 B1, called "Network Media Streaming" and Emblaze claimed that it was being infringed in Apple's use of HTTP Live Streaming (HLS). Basically, any time that a customer would've watched live content on an iPhone and iPad since 2009, Emblaze said Apple was in violation.

Emblaze claimed the above-mentioned MLB app and also apps from ABC News, PGA, NFL and ESPN were infringing on the patent. The Apple Keynotes and iTunes festival were also accused but the jury said that none of these actually infringed on the patent. In the end, Emblaze wanted $511 million in damages from 2009 up until June of 2013 but all of that was dismissed by the court. It should be noted that Emblaze tried to sue Microsoft in 2012 for infringing on the same patent.

How did all of this come about? Well, according to Apple, Emblaze actually developed several audio products that they intended to license and sell to wireless companies. However each and every product was pretty much a total failure and Apple's lawyers said that Emblaze was "trying to make up for that lack of success in the courtroom." And, citing the Microsoft lawsuit, the attorney team also said Emblaze is merely a "company that just sues companies." This, according to Gary Shapiro and many others, is the classic "patent troll" case. And, to put things into perspective, Emblaze was demanding over $500 million when its annual revenue for 2013 was only $1.9 million. If that isn't just a courtroom company, I don't know what is.

It only took the jury a little more than a day to reach a unanimous verdict. With this victory, Apple is currently 2-0 in patent troll cases this year, and has a third suit coming up in a few months.

Aereo Changes Focus, Tries to Become a Cable Operator

posted Sunday Jul 13, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Aereo Changes Focus, Tries to Become a Cable Operator

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court essentially killed Aereo, at least in its current business state. CEO Chet Kanojia said that the company was going to find a way to continue to operate and it appears Aereo has found that way. Now, Aereo is going to try to become a cable operator.

It started with a letter sent to US District Judge Alison Nathan on Wednesday, which explained Aereo's new path and focus.

Under the Second Circuit's precedents, Aereo was a provider of technology and equipment with respect to the near-live transmissions at issue in the preliminary injunction appeal. After the Supreme Court's decision, Aereo is a cable system with respect to those transmissions. If Aereo is a 'cable system' as that term is defined in the Copyright Act, it is eligible for a statutory license, and its transmissions may not be enjoined (preliminarily or otherwise).

So, Aereo now looks to become a cable company and is going to try and pay the necessary fees and licenses to do so. The entire letter basically outlined that new plan and that it would operate in "accordance with the terms of the Supreme Court's decision," which makes all of this very interesting. Obviously the broadcasters have already spoken up and said that this is only happening because of the ruling. CBS wrote on Wednesday that, upon hearing the news about Aereo's major business model shift, the Aereo case that's made its way back to a Manhattan federal court should be dismissed.

Aereo's refusal to clearly specify whether, when and in what fashion it intends to continue operating. Aereo never before pled (much less litigated) Section 111 as an affirmative defense. Whatever Aereo may say about its rationale for raising it now, it is astonishing for Aereo to contend the Supreme Court's decision automatically transformed Aereo into a 'cable system' under Section 111 given its prior statements to this Court and the Supreme Court.

Many analysts predicted this case was far from over, and they were completely right. Several people, including myself, predicted that Aereo would try and claim a different stance and go the cable operator route, and it appears all of that has come to fruition. Now, whether or not that actually happens is a whole other thing to deal with. Naturally, we'll have the updates as they occur but for now, you can read the joint letter that was filed to the courts in the source link below.

Oculus Announced Dev Conference and Acquisition of RakNet

posted Sunday Jul 13, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Oculus Announced Dev Conference and Acquisition of RakNet

Oculus, following a $2 billion acquisition by Facebook, made a handful of announcements this week about the progression of the company. The company proudly said it has acquired a game-network company and will also be launching a developer conference in September.

On September 19th and 20th, Oculus will be hosting Oculus Connect at the Loew's Hotel in Hollywood, California. The developer conference will be geared towards devs in the VR, gaming, entertainment and cinematic spaces. Oculus said the conference will also feature sessions for people that surround the development community. Not much else was disclosed about the event but that information will be coming in the next couple of weeks. The event will include keynotes from Brendan Iribe, Palmer Luckey, John Carmack and Michael Abrash.

Oculus also announced that it has acquired RakNet, which some may recognize as being the platform Oculus has been using for some time now. RakNet is a middleware tech company which essentially provides Internet support and transport for video games. From the statement,

For those unfamiliar with RakNet, it is a comprehensive C++ game networking engine designed for ease of use and performance. The tech is tuned for cross-platform, high-performance applications that operate across a wide variety of network types. Key features include object replication, remote procedure calls, patching, secure connections, voice chat, and real-time SQL logging. The technology has been licensed by thousands of indie developers, as well as companies like Unity, Havok, Mojang, Maxis and Sony Online Entertainment.

As you can see, some pretty big names use the technology already. In the past, games that made under $100,000 gross revenue were able to access the C++ libraries for free, but after the acquisition, Oculus has decided to open-source the entire project. The feeling of a service for UDP and TCP being open-source is a scary one, but perhaps some really cool tools can be built for the Oculus and VR platforms moving forward.

Last but not least, in case you missed it, the Oculus Rift won Best Hardware at E3 2014 for the second year in a row. Obviously the company was excited about that as well. But are you excited about any of the other two announcements? Will you be going to Oculus Connect? Let us know in the comments.

Feds Prosecute Man Who Allegedly Tried to Scam Facebook CEO for Billions

posted Sunday Jul 6, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Feds Prosecute Man Who Allegedly Tried to Scam Facebook CEO for Billions

Since 2010, Mark Zuckerberg has been fighting allegations that he owes half of Facebook's worth to a guy named Paul Ceglia. Ceglia claims that the contract he presented police officers and judges is in fact real. The man is being prosecuted by New York federal attorneys on allegations that the contract is forged. And in November, Ceglia will be defending himself as the case will be making its way to trial.

A federal judge actually called the contract a "fabrication" and this ruling has been the firepower needed for the prosecution to go after this alleged scammer. Ceglia has countered saying that Zuckerberg has actually framed and hacked him, and that the contract is indeed the real deal.

The prosecution had this to say in a court filing this week.

The Government believes that Ceglia's theory, as he has argued in the Civil Case-with no basis for this argument-is that Zuckerberg somehow 'hacked' in to Ceglia's computer to plant a copy of what the Government alleges is the legitimate contract. At best, Ceglia will only be able to present this baseless argument through cross examination of Zuckerberg.

Here's where Ceglia takes it a step further. He is insisting that the courts force Zuckerberg to surrender all phones, hard drives, email accounts and computers that were used back in 2003 and 2004, as he says they will have the evidence needed to prove that he's not crazy. Prosecuters disagree and say that hsi is a "fishing expedition" and have requested the courts to reject the notion.

The contract in question, Ceglia says, was created in 2003 when young Harvard Zuckerberg went to work for Ceglia's online company StreetFax. He claims that the two drew up a Work for Hire agreement but a forensics report states that while examiners found a Work for Hire contract on Ceglia's computer, there is no mention of Facebook in it at all. The feds say that Ceglia simply removed the first page of a 2003 contract and made a new one with mentions of Facebook in it. There's spacing and margin errors, and other anomalies that would suggest that it wasn't created at the same time. What's more is that the first page also mentions StreetFax LLC, but Ceglia has said that the company wasn't incorporated until four months after the second page of the contract was allegedly signed by Zuckerberg.

All of this is definitely crazy and we'll have to follow what happens to this guy. If he does happen to win, which is probably a long shot, he would be exonerated of all charges and could go after the Facebook CEO for half of the $170 billion market cap that is the social network giant.

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