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Scott Ertz

Scott Ertz

Former Segment Host

Current Host

Current UpStream Contributor

Current Product Reviewer

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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

Miyamoto, Gun-Shy Over VR, Doesn't Understand the Hype

posted Sunday Jul 5, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Miyamoto, Gun-Shy Over VR, Doesn't Understand the Hype

Augmented and Virtual Reality technology is all the rage right now. Both technologies have a lot of potential in the gaming space, I cannot see VR having a lot of success outside of gaming; certainly not in the same way as AR. As Microsoft readies their HoloLens AR headset, Sony readies their Project Morpheus and Valve readies their SteamVR platform with partner HTC, the only major player not involved is Nintendo.

This could be because Nintendo, way ahead of the technology, released their own VR headset, the Virtual Boy, in 1995. The headset was really great at making people sick to their stomach, but not very good at anything else. This could definitely have poisoned Nintendo towards VR or AR technology. It could also be because Nintendo has twice consecutively launched consoles based on novel peripherals and not had huge sales successes. No matter the cause, Shigeru Miyamoto had some harsh words for the technology and its announcements.

I got the general impression that they were showcasing not only the products for this year but also many products for next year or the year after and, because of that, introductions for many of their software titles were done visually, not with playable demos. Also, many demonstrations for virtual-reality devices have been conducted at recent trade shows, and at this year's E3, I noticed a number of dream-like demonstrations for which the schedule and format for commercialization are unknown.

The current software for these virtual reality devices cannot be played simultaneously by a number of people. And since it is generally expected that the development for the applicable software for a high-performance device will take two to three years, there were a number of visual demonstrations for virtual reality devices.

Nintendo took a very difference approach to their E3 presentation from its competition - rather than showcases for stuff coming in 2017 or 2018, Nintendo had a lot of playable games that will be released in the near future. Whether Miyamoto understands VR and AR in today's world, Microsoft, Sony, Valve and Oculus believe they have the next exciting gaming technology on their hands and are putting a lot of their resources behind it. Let's see if Nintendo's cautious approach to the future or everyone else's approach will work better.

read more...

Microsoft Gives Insiders 4 Builds as July 29th Approaches

posted Sunday Jul 5, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Gives Insiders 4 Builds as July 29th Approaches

Microsoft's big day, July 29, is coming quickly. On that day, full-screen Windows 10 versions officially make it to the public. These versions are Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education. Essentially, if it will normally run on a screen larger than 7", it will be available on that date. As the day comes closer, it is expected that incremental builds of the base will become more stable.

Microsoft's Insider release rules are based on stability. Gabe Aul, the voice of the Insider Program, has said that builds are tested internally and if they are found to be stable, they are released to the Fast Ring users. This week he said,

We're focused at this point on bug fixing and final polish, so it's much easier for each build to get all the way through than earlier in the cycle when we're adding big new features. now we find ourselves in a great situation, with an abundance of build candidates.

With this abundance of builds, Fast Ring Insiders saw an overabundance of new builds released: 3 for PC and 1 for mobile. The mobile build had been available previously, but had an upgrade bug that meant anyone who wanted to try it was forced to clear their phone back to Windows Phone 8.1 and upgrade form there. The new release made it possible for anyone to get the build.

Where the excitement came in was the 3 PC builds. 10158 was released on Monday, June 29: one month before the official launch. It was based on bug fixes and final polish. We saw icon changes, tweaks to the Start menu and Microsoft Edge branding. Continuum saw updates, as well as Cortana and Photos. The biggest change, however, came in the list of known issues; there were none. In fact, rather than a long list of known issues, the release notes instead said,

We don't have any significant known issues for this build worth noting in the blog post, but we are servicing several issues so make sure you check Windows Update for those.

Before anyone had enough time to prove that statement true or false, Microsoft released Build 10159 only 24 hours later. It included the new Windows 10 hero image on a tweaked login screen, as well as including it on anyone's desktop that had not already set an image. That was really the major change to this new build, though it was a welcomed change.

On Thursday, just in time to experience for the weekend, Microsoft released Build 10162. This build was very focused on bug fixes and performance than any previous build. Aul said,

Build 10162 is another great one. In fact, our testing and internal telemetry metrics show it has better reliability, performance, battery life, and compatibility than any Windows 10 Insider Preview build so far.

The company also released installation ISOs for the build, which they only do when they are very confident in a build. They are also already considering rolling it out to Slow Ring users, another sign of confidence. All of this movement is a great sign for what is to come with the final build in just under a month.

read more...

Apple Fights Through Artist Pullout Over Free Period Policies

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Apple Fights Through Artist Pullout Over Free Period Policies

When Apple announced the rebranded Beats Music, now called Apple Music, a few weeks ago, they made a lot of waves announcing that the first 3 months would be free for all users. The problem for Apple was the waves were not all positive. In fact, very few of the talks surrounding the announcement was positive. Most tech sites and even Apple fans were pretty unimpressed with the rebranding, as well as the majority of the announcements that day.

Those who were least impressed, however, were musicians who were to have their music on the platform. As it turns out, Apple's genius idea for how to support a full quarter without revenue was to pass every penny on to the artists. That meant that for 3 whole months, artists were going to make absolutely no money from Apple. With Apple's plans to damage the plays from other services, this meant that artists were actually going to be hurt overall, rather than helped.

Taylor Swift, you remember her, wrote an open letter to Apple, complaining about the policy. Apple responded quickly by changing their policy and offering as much as 2 cents per listen. That is a lot of money, and certainly more than could have been decided upon in the short window between the letter and the decision. After Apple's reversal, Taylor Swift came out of her streaming isolation and announced that her most recent album would be available on Apple Music.

The natural line to be drawn here is that the initial policy was not true and that Swift's "open letter" was likely penned by Apple themselves, with Swift being paid to publish it. The result of the letter being published is that Swift looks tough on bullies, yet remains "America's sweetheart" and Apple looks like they are giving fans and artists what they want; everyone wins. Except, potentially consumers, who might be upset about what appears to be a paid publicity stunt to promote an exclusive streaming deal.

The Attorneys General of New York and Connecticut are crying fowl, launching an investigation into whether or not Apple is pressuring artists and music groups to sign exclusivity deals. In addition to the Swift announcement, which she ensures is not exclusive to Apple but is currently exclusive to Apple, other artists, including Pharrell, have announced Apple Music exclusivity deals. Unless Apple is offering A LOT of money, which could be possible, though not probable, or threatening the artists or music groups with overall delisting, exclusive deals like these don't make sense.

The best way for consumers to speak out against deals like these is to not support the platforms that are, ultimately, trying to hurt the streaming industry as a whole: consumers, artists, producers, etc. It will be interesting to see what the final finding from the states is, because another major suit against Apple on intimidation practices will likely not go well for them.

read more...

Google Adds, Removed Extension to Chromium Browser

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google Adds, Removed Extension to Chromium Browser

If you are not an open-sourcer, you are unlikely to know about Chromium. Chromium is Google's open-source basis for their Chrome browser. The parts of the browser that Google does not necessarily care about get included into the base, and that code is released to the world for whatever purposes. I'm not sure why anyone would want it, but there it is in case you do.

Recently, Google began post-loading an extension into the browser: its OK, Google voice prompt feature. This extension was not directly included into the open-source release, but the call to install it was. Therefore, this does not EXACTLY violate general open-source policy, but it certainly rubbed the open-source community the wrong way. Mostly for two reasons: the code for the extension is not open-source, and the extension was always listening to you waiting for "OK, Google" to be spoken.

Now, it is important to mention that this community is interesting. They believe that data should be open, but are afraid of their privacy. So, information that is collected about you online should be shared with everyone, but not about them, I suppose. Because of this, and the lack of code for the extension, the community panicked about what Google might be storing and how it might be used. This is a good fear, as Google has never proven itself to be particularly trustworthy or ethical about its intentions.

In this particular case, however, it is easy to see in the task manager that the feature is disabled and that the microphone is not engaged, nor is any data being transferred, but that was not enough to satisfy them. Google has since decided to stop including the feature as part of the standard install, hoping to pacify the loudest of the loud, and possibly to try and do a little damage control.

read more...

Apple Removes, Muddles Reasons for Removing Games Featuring Civil War Era Flag

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Apple Removes, Muddles Reasons for Removing Games Featuring Civil War Era Flag

This week has been a very weird one for flags. The strangest has certainly been the national outcry over the Battle Flag of the Army of Tennessee. This flag, easily identified by its rectangular design, red field and blue X with 13 stars, was used by one of the several state-sponsored armies during the American Civil War while in battle. For whatever reason, many have associated it with the Confederate States of America, which is an odd association.

Many retailers this week announced that they would no longer be selling products with the "Confederate Flag" on them, actually meaning the Battle Flag, as a reaction to a shooting in South Carolina. During this process, Apple decided to take it a step further and tried to alter history by pretending that the flag was never used. They did this by removing games from the App Store that are set within the Civil War era. These games, clearly, featured the Battle Flag, as it was actually used during said battles.

Apple claimed,

We have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines.

However, Civil War: 1863 featured the flag in 2 places: on the main screen to differentiate the two playing teams, and on the actual game board, again to differentiate the two teams. The use of this flag is accurate and in historical context for the era and for the game, and is clearly not being used in an inflammatory way. In fact, it is an incredibly sensitive and accurate portrayal of a Battle Flag: in battle.

Another affected game, Ultimate General: Gettysburg, posted a statement on the game's website, saying,

Spielberg's "Schindler's List" did not try to amend his movie to look more comfortable. The historical "Gettysburg" movie (1993) is still on iTunes. We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. True stories are more important to us than money.

Therefore we are not going to amend the game's content and Ultimate General: Gettysburg will no longer be available on AppStore. We really hope that Apple's decision will achieve the desired results.

We can't change history, but we can change the future.

That is truly a wonderful way to sum up the reality of what Apple is doing here. These games are not using the flag in "offensive or mean-spirited ways." Instead, Apple is trying to change the telling of history. What is interesting is that nearly identical games featuring the Nazi flag vs. the US flag have not been removed under the same policy.

read more...

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