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 rhythm game community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bay 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 helping with ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors, currently housed at AMRoC Fab Lab.

Recent UpStream Articles

Free local news coming to Amazon Fire TV in 158 more US cities

posted Sunday Oct 24, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Free local news coming to Amazon Fire TV in 158 more US cities

Since the trend of "cord-cutting" took off, one of the biggest issues for people has been getting local programming. This might include news, sports, and more. But, being able to get any sort of local content while relying on streaming services can be extremely difficult. Local broadcast channels tend to only be available through cable streaming, and that's the opposite of the point. But, Amazon has taken on the challenge, and announced that it is expanding that offering to more US cities.

Amazon News

Amazon launched its local news service in 2020. The initial launch of the local news portal, which was clearly a test of the service, was available in 12 US cities, but the company seems dedicated to the service. Earlier in the year, the portal was expanded to cover another 76 cities, bringing the total count to 88. Now, Amazon is adding another 158 cities, bringing the total to 259 US cities.

All of these cities can be accessed through the dedicated Amazon News app. The service is entirely free and does not require a subscription. The only requirement is the Amazon News app, which comes pre-installed on Fire TV devices, including televisions and Fire Sticks. All of the local content is available under the "Local News" tab within the app. The app should be able to detect your location and automatically show your local news. From there, you can add the local news stations from the market that you want in your portal.

Every metropolitan market that is covered will have different offerings available. For example, in Scottsbluff, NE, you are able to watch NBC Nebraska, the local NBC affiliate. However, in the Tampa Bay area, your only choice is Very Tampa Bay by WMOR, a network that mostly shows syndicated reruns and local news provided by another of the local stations. Most cities only offer a single station, and if you're lucky, there might be two. Hopefully, Amazon will not just focus on expanding cities, but will also add additional stations going forward. However, it is a smart move to expand the overall reach first, and then come back and use that coverage to encourage other networks to join the platform.

Previous Attempts

While there have been services in the past that have offered local programming, none have been able to succeed for various legal reasons. Aereo, which offered local broadcast television over the internet, was sued by the networks and suffered a Supreme Court loss, followed by a complete shut down. The company attempted to avoid copyright law by assigning a unique tuner and antenna to each user, which they believed would appease the networks. It did not.

Following in Aereo's failed footsteps, Locast ran a similar scheme. They were also sued by the networks, and the organization shut down its service, though it claimed it would be back. So far, they have not returned and there is no sign of a future plan of action. Locast attempted to get around the copyright issues differently from Aereo - they were a non-profit and did not charge for their service. This argument also didn't pan out.

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Google is out as Brave browser's default search engine provider

posted Sunday Oct 24, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Google is out as Brave browser's default search engine provider

For years, the topic of online privacy had seemed to be a thing of the past. People had accepted that we had no more privacy, and we were willing to give it up in order to use free services. However, over the last couple of years, it has come back to the foreground. People are interested in their privacy again, and willing to sacrifice those services that they had once considered important in order to protect it. One of the more active ways to accomplish this is a VPN service, but a common passive approach is a privacy-focused browser, like Brave.

Unfortunately, a major part of the internet experience today is focused on search. But, Google - the biggest search engine - is one of the biggest culprits in privacy issues. The data Google collects about individuals is sold time and again, making YOU the most profitable product that Google has. It's the basis for their entire advertising ecosystem. They have put on a good face about moving towards a more privacy-focused future, but no one is buying it.

That lack of trust in the future of Google's tracking system is why Brave is ditching Google as its default search engine. In its place will be the company's own Brave Search service. For other countries that have not had Google as the default, such as DuckDuckGo in Germany, the change will also be made in the near future. This will create a unified browser experience across all countries.

Brendan Eich, CEO and co-founder of Brave, said in the announcement,

Brave Search has grown significantly since its release last June, with nearly 80 million queries per month. Our users are pleased with the comprehensive privacy solution that Brave Search provides against Big Tech by being integrated into our browser. As we know from experience in many browsers, the default setting is crucial for adoption, and Brave Search has reached the quality and critical mass needed to become our default search option, and to offer our users a seamless privacy-by-default online experience.

This change is available going forward, starting with Brave Desktop version 1.31, Brave Android version 1.31, and Brave iOS version 1.32 - all of which are available in the wild now. If you are interested in keeping the search engine as it is, that is still an option within the app.

The company has also launched a new Web Discovery Project (WDP), a tool to allow users to improve Brave Search while still maintaining their anonymity. The system is strictly opt-in, and is designed specifically to protect each user's privacy. The contributed data cannot be linked to individuals or devices, and therefore cannot be connected to create a user profile.

This comes at a time when Big Tech is a bad word for people on all sides of the political spectrum because of their constant reach into our lives and the power they have to alter the conversation around any important topic. Brave has been popular within a subset of users, and the search tool can serve as a natural next step in search technology.

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Google Stadia begins white labeling its failed gaming ambitions

posted Sunday Oct 24, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Google Stadia begins white labeling its failed gaming ambitions

For years, Google's gaming ambitions were a poorly kept secret Unfortunately, no one knew exactly what the company was planning to do - until it launched Google Stadia the official name of Project Stream. The issue that Google suffered from was a complete lack of consumer interest. The lack of interest led to the company shutting down its first-party studio, but that was just the beginning. Luckily for the company, others are more interested in Stadia's technology than consumers were in its product offering.

This week, after two years of relative nothing of interest coming from the Stadia brand, the results of the brand's focus shift is coming to reality. Shortly after shuttering the studio, the company announced via blog post that it intended to license its technology to others.

In 2021, we're expanding our efforts to help game developers and publishers take advantage of our platform technology and deliver games directly to their players.

Now, we're seeing Stadia being used under a white label offering through AT&T. If you are a customer, you might have seen advertising from AT&T offering exclusive access to Batman: Arkham Knight for wireless customers. The offer comes as the first known partnership between Stadia and another company to offer game streaming services without the Stadia branding.

The big question here is why? Clearly, the connection between the brands is strong: AT&T owns WarnerMedia, which owns DC Comics, which owns the Batman franchise. Clearly, AT&T is using its ownership chain to promote its other brands, especially with new games coming soon to the franchise. But, the wireless carrier tie-in is a strange one for a number of reasons.

The strangest connection here is that the game cannot be played on a mobile device - you have to play on a desktop. So, the mobile connection is odd at the very least. It would seem that a connection with AT&T's consumer internet division would make more sense, since that's where you'd be playing. Or even a connection with the HBO or HBO Max brands, which owns the franchise, would be a natural connection. But, here we are - a wireless carrier offering free access to a videogame which you cannot play on the company's devices.

Perhaps this is simply an experiment within the AT&T family of companies - an attempt to promote one brand, which has a ton of new and exciting projects in the pipeline, to its other customers. Vertical integration at its best, with no expectation for payment - simply a perk from one brand to another. On the other hand, it could also be a perk, similar to T-Mobile Tuesdays.

Whatever AT&T's purposes for licensing Google Stadia's technology, it shows that there is an interest in the market for white labeling the technology. If brands can more easily release their games, though streaming, directly to their customers without having to build up an infrastructure, it could mean a whole new way to play games. But, time will tell if this new venture goes well, or goes the way of OnLive.

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GM begins resolving chip issues, Raspberry Pi begins experiencing them

posted Sunday Oct 24, 2021 by Scott Ertz

The last year or so has seen a series of major issues in the supply chain. Some have been caused by an irrational increase in demand, such as the hurricane prep-style shortage of toilet paper last year. Some have come from issues at California ports, locking ships offshore waiting to deliver products. But, the most noticeable challenge has come from chip production issues resulting in shortages. This week, two companies seem to be having competing experiences with these chip shortages: General Motors and Raspberry Pi.

General Motors

A few weeks ago, GM announced that it was taking a hiatus from producing vehicles because it was not able to source the chips that it needs to finish the process. Unlike Ford, which had continued producing trucks and stashing them in parking lots, GM took time off during September to try and get caught up.

This strategy seems to have worked in the company's favor, as a new report claims that the company has managed to work through more than half of the backlog that had been built up. While some of the catch-ups can be attributed to the pause in new production while still receiving outstanding orders of chips, some of it is also likely because chip shipments have increased to the company.

Steve Carlisle, GM North America Chief Executive, has said that the goal of the company is to try and get through all outstanding shipments of the 21 model year trucks before the end of 2021. While trucks have been the hardest hit in this shortage, Steve Carlisle also notes that another 22 models will not be caught up before the end of the year, but hopes to clear that backlog shortly into 2022.

Raspberry Pi

One of the tenants that Raspberry Pi has tried to live by since its public introduction has been maintaining the price of its computers. Every new model has managed to come with new features while staying the same price. This has consistently meant that, over time, the computers have actually gotten less expensive to purchase, relatively. Unfortunately, the company has finally gotten hit by the same chip shortages that have affected everyone from GM to Xbox.

While GM was able to shut down production for a little while, Raspberry Pi doesn't exactly have the same opportunity, as companies have built their products and prototyping upon Raspberry Pi. Because of this, the company has announced that there will be a temporary price increase, starting now.

The Raspberry Pi with 2GB of RAM is temporarily moving to $45 from the regular $35 price point. The increase is, of course, because of shortages and price increases caused by those shortages. Resulting from this price increase is a reinstatement of a former model: a Raspberry Pi 4 with 1GB of RAM. That older model will come in to take the $35 price point, meaning that those dependent on the platform and price point will not be left out in the cold.

The company expects the issue to last through most of 2022, at which time the original prices should be returned.

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DC shows off a ton of new projects at virtual DC Fandome 2021

posted Monday Oct 18, 2021 by Scott Ertz

DC shows off a ton of new projects at virtual DC Fandome 2021

DC Fandome 2021 happened over the weekend, and during this virtual event, they showed off a lot of new information. Included in this new info are trailers for projects, including movies, television, and videogames. Let's take a look at some of the new trailers that made it to the internet this past weekend.

Movies

Some of DC's largest projects are headed to the big screen, assuming things don't head south again. Among these projects are The Batman, the newest entry in the franchise, and Shazam! Fury of the Gods.

The Batman

Here we get to welcome the newest actor to wear the cowl, Robert Pattinson. When the Twilight star was announced as the next Batman, there was concern that he might shimmer or something. But, the trailer shows that the casting might not be entirely out of left field. In fact, Pattinson seems to have abandoned his sparkly origins and embraced the Caped Crusader. In addition to the new Batman, Andy Serkis, the most important actor of the past 30 years, takes on the role of Alfred.

This version of Batman will be a little different from past implementations. According to Pattinson in introducing the trailer,

{He} doesn't have as much control over his personality. The delineation between when he's Batman and when he's Bruce is not so clear as other iterations... I kind of really like this idea it's a little bit out of control. He hasn't completely defined what Batman is, but he gets lost in it. Whenever he's putting it on every night, he's not sleeping, and he's becoming this quite sort of odd creature.

The Batman is currently scheduled for theatrical release March 4, 2022.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shazam! was a surprise hit in 2019. The character has had issues on the large and small screens in the past, but Zachary Levi made the character come to life in this first film. Here, we get a look at the next installment of the franchise. In the trailer, Zachary Levi takes on Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu, a dangerous duo. Helen Mirren, one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood, is playing Hespera and Lucy Liu, a talented comedic and action actress, is playing Kalypso.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods is currently scheduled for theatrical release June 2, 2023.

Black Adam

Zachary Levi is not the only film coming based around Shazam. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will also appear in Black Adam as the title character, described as a "ruthless, unstoppable" villain. The teaser trailer shows us our first look at the former wrestler in costume, as well as concept art and production photos and video. There's also interviews with the cast discussing the project.

Black Adam is currently scheduled for theatrical release July 29, 2022.

The Flash

One of the problems with DC's approach to live-action media has been the two unrelated universes. TV and movies both exist, but their stars and stories are not connected, unlike how Marvel has worked with the MCU across mediums. The project that will highlight this the most is The Flash, which will focus on Justice League's Ezra Miller as Barry Allen, rather than the CW's Grant Gustin as Barry Allen. However, the film will also 2 former Batmans (or Batmen?): Ben Affleck, who just released the cowl, and Michael Keaton, whose Batmobile can be seen covered in the trailer.

The existence of multiple versions of Batman suggests that perhaps we'll be dealing with the multiverse immediately, rather than several seasons into the TV series. The first look trailer does not give a lot of information about the story.

The Flash is currently scheduled for theatrical release November 4, 2022.

Television

There are a couple of new TV projects coming to the parent company's networks. One in particular stands out in the crowd.

Peacemaker

Peacemaker, starring John Cena, is a spinoff from the popular Suicide Squad films. Following the most recent film, and Cena's standout performance, the series was greenlit for HBO Max. It is written and directed by James Gunn, meaning that it will retain the tone and pacing of the most recent film, as well as the production quality we have come to expect from Gunn's work. He described the project saying,

He's not an evil person, he's just a bad guy. He seems sort of irredeemable in the film. But I think that there's more to him. We didn't get a chance to know him [in The Suicide Squad" class="UpStreamLink"> in the way we get to know some of the other characters. And so that's what the whole show is about

Peacemaker is currently scheduled for HBO Max release January 13, 2022.

Videogames

Interactive projects have always been a big part of the DC ecosystem, and that has not changed this year. Two major games left a mark coming out of DC Fandome 2021.

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League

If you can't get enough of the Suicide Squad, then you'll be happy to see a quick peek at Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. The game exists within the realm of the James Gunn film and looks just as bonkers as the film.

The games comes from the same studio as the successful series of Arkham videogames and looks to be a natural evolution of the series. Rather than focusing on Batman and his collection of first-tier villains, this game will focus on the second-tier villains. The Squad in the game will be Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and King Shark, who are tasked with eliminating members of the Justice League.

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is currently scheduled for release on PC, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 sometime in 2022.

Gotham Knights

While not our first look at Gotham Knights, it is certainly the most polished. We get a look at the Court of Owls and the storyline that will surround them in the game. We also see how the Bat Family (Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl and Red Hood) will deal with this collection of criminals following the supposed death of Bruce Wayne and Batman.

The gameplay will be highly story-driven, but will also play like Batman Arkham Knight, in that it will be an open world action title. Clearly, the big difference will be the playable focus, switching from Batman to the rest of the Bat Family.

Gotham Knights is currently scheduled for release on PC, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 sometime in 2022.

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