The UpStream

Facebook Just Cannot Win with Oculus Purchase, Lawsuit

posted Sunday Jan 29, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Facebook Just Cannot Win with Oculus Purchase, Lawsuit

Since Facebook's $2 billion purchase of Oculus in 2014, the move has been questioned. What was Facebook's interest in getting into the VR market? Did they do their due diligence in researching the company? Would they be able to make anything out of Oculus or would they blunder the company's hype and lead?

The last question has been answered by Microsoft, HTC, Samsung, Sony and others, who have come into the space and successfully beaten the excitement out of Oculus, with the HTC Vive being the generally agreed upon leader. The due diligence question seems to have been answered, as well, with the lawsuit between Oculus and ZeniMax making its way to a jury, and a lot of information making its way to the world.

ZeniMax built VR technology, Rage VR, which never quite took off. While Oculus was getting off the ground, and before the purchase by Facebook, Oculus engineers engaged John Carmack, the founder of id Software, creators of Doom, and involved with the Rage VR test bed and the Doom BFG Edition demo for the platform. The problem is that the information Carmack shared was covered by NDA and could not be shared with Oculus engineers without compensation. This is ZeniMax's version of the story.

Oculus tells a different version, however. In fact, they claim that co-founder Palmer Luckey was responsible for the technology powering Rift. ZeniMax insists, however, that Luckey is a "hobbyist" and could not have been responsible for the complex work taking place within the engineering division. Oculus says that the technology that was used that is similar to Rage was publicly available, to which the question of why only Oculus had is was raised.

The jury is in deliberations, likely to last into the next week. ZeniMax is asking for $2 billion in damages and another $2 billion in compensation for the information. This could be a big problem for Facebook and investors, as well as anyone who is invested in the Oculus ecosystem, which could suddenly have a very large bill to pay.

Bootleg Blackphones Banned to Protect Consumers from Danger

posted Sunday Jan 29, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Bootleg Blackphones Banned to Protect Consumers from Danger

Any time security is involved, there are certain sacrifices that must be made. For example, to prevent people from stealing your money at the ATM, you have both an identification card and a PIN that must be presented. It's not a massive inconvenience, but it does add a little annoyance to the process. The same can be said for mobile devices - if you want a truly secure phone, like a Blackphone, you are going to have to pay for it.

Some people, however, thought they would shortcut the process and, instead of buying the devices directly from Silent Circle or one of their partners, bought them on eBay. Now, if you know anything about eBay, you know that electronics that sell for far below the retail price are either used, stolen or fake - usually the latter. Obviously you do not want to purchase a fake phone that is designed for security, because you can ensure that the myriad of illicit apps and exploits will be present on that device.

Unfortunately for these buyers, that is exactly what is at stake, as the devices being sold on eBay are absolutely fraudulent. To protect consumers who have been duped by a combination of their own poor thinking and semi-crafty criminals, Silent Circle has released an update to their Silent OS, version 3.0.8, which essentially disables the device and presents a message to device owners informing them of the scam in which they've gotten involved.

While some people would be pleased to find out that the company that is being falsely represented is looking out for the safety and security of people who don't even own one of their devices, some people have gotten upset with the move. Whether they like it or not, these people own fake devices which are a danger to both the consumer and the brand, and are officially bricked.

My recommendation for future purchases of security products is to avoid the potential of being scammed and buy the product from a legit source.

Following Live Theater is a Live Movie Streamed to Theater

posted Sunday Dec 18, 2016 by Scott Ertz

The usage of live video has grown rapidly in the past 2 years. Between specialty services like Livestream and Twitch, and general services like Periscope and Facebook Live, consumers have encouraged the growth of the medium. The addition of professionally produced content, like NBC's Hairspray Live and FOX's Grease: Live on television have brought attention from producers and Rifftrax Live has brought the idea of live content to movie theaters.

It would appear that what is either the next logical step, or possibly the bazar conclusion to the process, is Woody Harrelson producing what he is calling a live movie production. The movie, titled Lost in London, is a telling of Harrelson's personal experiences being arrested in London in 2002. The movie will be live streamed to 550 movie theaters nationwide on January 19, 2017.

It will, obviously star Woody Harrelson, but will also include big name participants like Owen Wilson and Willie Nelson. But, how does this production separate itself from an NBC live musical? Apparently it will be the overall scale of the production. Unlike Hairspray Live, which took place entirely on Universal's Hollywood backlot, Lost in London will be shot in 14 locations across London with a continuous shot.

The real question that must be asked here is why is this happening? The idea of bringing live theater to your living room makes sense; it allows people outside of New York and other big cities to experience live theater. What does a live movie streamed to movie theaters bring to the world? Other than the danger of something going wrong, or schadenfreude, it seems like there is no benefit.

Is this idea one that seems destined to create a new genre, or a one-off vanity project? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Facebook Wants to Thwart 'Fake News' With New 'Head of News'

posted Sunday Dec 18, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Facebook Wants to Thwart 'Fake News' With New 'Head of News'

After the election, a surprisingly high number of people blamed Trump's win on social media and what is currently being called "fake news" shared, particularly, on Facebook. The complaining has been enough that Facebook has been forced to respond to the issue, continuously reminding people that they neither create nor promote this content, and it is, instead, brought to them care of their friends.

After weeks of pleading from users, Facebook has been bullied into responding in a different way, implementing a fact-checking system for content shared on their network. The system will work similar to its other reporting platforms, like fake profiles or offensive ads. You will mark a post as inaccurate, and it will be flagged to Facebook. From there, it will be run through a 3rd party fact checking system and, if the link is found to be inaccurate, it will be marked as such on Facebook. This initiative will be head up by a new hire, whose job title will be Head of News.

The issue here is, who believes that it should be Facebook's responsibility to determine the validity content written by a non-Facebook controlled website and shared by a non-Facebook employee on their network? The idea of inaccurate content is not a new concept. For decades, while checking out at the grocery store, you can read about Elvis's secret performances from beyond the grave, or proof that *insert celebrity name here* is actually an alien, yet no one has ever blamed Kroger's for the belief in bigfoot.

In fact, people used a skill that the internet seems to have diminished called critical thinking to determine that these types of stories were obviously nonsense. For example, using critical thinking, anyone would know that Hillary Clinton was not holding children as sex slaves inside of a pizza parlor, or that the Pope had endorsed Trump. These are the kinds of stories that a generation ago would have been easily identifiable.

Rather than trying to force Facebook to police the content created by people outside of their network, people should actually be concerned about the educational system that has produced people who are unable to discern between obvious nonsense and potential reality.

Super Mario Run is Full of Love and Hate

posted Sunday Dec 18, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Super Mario Run is Full of Love and Hate

After showing off Super Mario Run at Apple's iPhone event, the anticipation for the release of the game has been high. Being another Nintendo-related, though the first Nintendo owned and operated, mobile game brought about the obvious comparisons to Pokémon GO, the game thought to be the clear winner for most popular mobile game of 2016. With the game finally on the market, let's start with the games' comparisons.

Pokémon GO, in its first day in the store, was downloaded about 1 million times. This is a great achievement for any mobile app, let alone mobile game. Super Mario Run, on the other hand, received as many as 10 million downloads on day 1. While this looks like a huge success for Mario, you must consider the phased roll-out that Pokémon GO used, rather than the 150 markets that Super Mario Run launched in all at once.

The real test is in average gameplay session length. While Super Mario Run averaged about 15 minutes per user per session on its first day, Pokémon GO averaged 22 minutes per user per session. That is a 50% decrease from one game to another. Part of that has to do with the lack of incentive to keep Mario running, and part of it has to do with an overall lack of content included in the game.

While the game has been downloaded a lot, there are also a lot of reviews, and they are not great. In fact over half of the almost 50,000 reviews in the App Store are 1-star reviews. If you read through the lowest ratings, you will find that many players were surprised and disappointed by the fact that so little of the game is available for free.

But there are, of course, varying schools of thought on that complaint. Many people have commented that, rather than occasionally paying $5 for just in-game items, like 100 Poke Balls, Mario makes it $10 to play the entire game. While some of us prefer this method of payment, it has seemed to cause a lot of ratings issues for the game.

Are you a fan of a pay once type game, or would you rather pay more over a period of time? Let us know in the comments.

In Defiance of California Law, Uber Tests Self-Driving Cars

posted Sunday Dec 18, 2016 by Scott Ertz

In Defiance of California Law, Uber Tests Self-Driving Cars

The idea of self-driving cars is still a fairly new one, and governments all over are scrambling to both understand and regulate their existence. California, one of the earliest states to accept them as an inevitability, is one of the states having the hardest time creating their regulations and apply them evenly and fairly. For example, are driver-supported vehicles, like Tesla, the same as vehicles that have no human onboard, and if not, should they be treated differently?

In California, a fully-autonomous vehicle, like the ones being tested by companies like Google and Audi, require a special license to be operated on public roads. Vehicles like Tesla, which require a human to sit in the driver's seat while the vehicle operates itself, do not require any special license. That is, in theory, at least.

Uber began testing autonomous vehicles in California similar to those developed by Tesla. While Uber believes that their new vehicles belong in the same category as Tesla, the state of California disagrees. In fact, the state's DMV is demanding that Uber acquire a license to operate these vehicles on public roads. Uber believes that, if Tesla owners do not require a special license, Uber should not, either.

There are a couple of important pieces of information to consider here. First, Uber feels that they are better than others in their market. They don't want to be considered, and especially regulated like, a taxi service. They spend a lot of time and money fighting the possibility in cities, states and countries around the world. Often, especially in cities that have a thriving taxi economy, they fail despite spending the money.

This fight against the world is all because they consider themselves to be different from a taxi service, and instead a "ride sharing" service, which they are not. If they were, the driver and passenger would be splitting the cost of gas instead of one paying a 3rd party a pre-determined amount to be taken where they are going.

Second, Tesla drivers are private citizens, driving themselves and accepting the risk of the ride in a special vehicle for themselves and not others. In the case of Uber, the people getting into the vehicles are paying customers of a taxi/limousine service who, if accepting the risk of a ride in a unique vehicle, are doing so from a professional driver, whom they assume to be treated as such.

According to a letter sent to Uber on Friday, the state will be seeking "injunctive and other appropriate relief" with the intention of stopping the unlicensed program. Considering the state has 20 other companies that have already received the licensing, it seems like any legal relief will be easily granted. The letter was signed by the Supervising Deputy Attorney Generals Miguel A. Neri and Fiel D. Tigno, which lends the full weight of the state behind the effort. For Uber, continuing to fight this order will, inevitably cost far more than licensing the vehicles in the first place.

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