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

DC cancels fully produced Batgirl film after negative test screenings

posted Sunday Aug 7, 2022 by Scott Ertz

DC cancels fully produced <cite>Batgirl</cite> film after negative test screenings

One of the film genres that have been nearly constantly successful over the past decade has been superhero films. Sure, some don't do well or are not well received, but for every Captain Marvel there are three Captain America movies, so it works out. The past few years have seen many films delayed in release, but MANY new titles have been announced to be released over the next few years. This week, however, it was announced that one superhero film would never see the light of day: Batgirl.

What happened?

Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent of DC Comics, announced that Batgirl has been officially canceled. This happens from time to time when production doesn't go to plan, or behind-the-scenes conflicts make creating the movie simply too difficult or impossible. This time, though, what happened is a little different. Batgirl isn't having production issues. In fact, it's been completed and is theoretically ready to release.

What happened is that the movie isn't very good. Test screenings seem to suggest that those who saw the movie were less than impressed, causing Warner Bros. Discovery to reconsider their entire plan to release the movie to the world. In fact, it's so bad that the company decided it wasn't even worth releasing on either of its streaming services, HBO Max or Discovery+.

A complicated environment

Another issue that led to the decision is deeper down and a little inside baseball. The newly merged company seems to be completely reconsidering its DC investments beyond just this single film. The Arrow-verse is dead, with The Flash TV show coming to an end following a shortened 9th season. The DC movie universe seems to be in trouble, with The Flash film star Ezra Miller continuing to spiral into legal trouble.

So, what's going on? It would appear that Discovery, now in charge of the merged brand, has decided to take the DC media investments in a new direction. There are problems with stars, there are problems with production, and there is a problem with actual storytelling. With all of that in the atmosphere, DC and Warner Bros. seem to be trying to decide what to do with the high-profile brand.

What could be coming

It is possible that the new owner is intending to follow Marvel's very early lead, bringing together a multi-faceted media experience across the company's brand offerings. This could mean that there are not two versions of The Flash (one on TV and one in theaters) at the same time, telling different stories with different actors. The end result could be TV series and film series that are interconnected, with characters showing up in a film and then followed by a series to explore their back story.

The company now has the power, focus, and distribution methods to accomplish this. HBO Max and Discovery+ will become a single, powerful network with content from all of the company's properties. The company also owns TV distribution and has agreements for extended distribution. Plus, Warner Bros. is a large movie studio - meaning they could potentially compete with Disney and Marvel with a continuous universe that keeps people consistently invested.


DuckDuckGo expands tracking script block to Microsoft properties

posted Sunday Aug 7, 2022 by Scott Ertz

DuckDuckGo expands tracking script block to Microsoft properties

The web is a dangerous place - whether it is hackers trying to take over your computer or Big Tech companies trying to track your every move, you've got to be cautious. There appear to be very few good actors on the internet today, but one of them is DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine that looks to make your online experience safer. The company announced this week that they would be extending their tracking script blocker to include those from certain Microsoft properties.

DuckDuckGo and privacy

DuckDuckGo is a company known for its privacy-focused business practices. The company's search engine, which is a private competitor to services like Google Search and Bing and direct competitor to Brave Search, does not track users. The company's browser, available for most platforms including desktop and mobile, allows users to browse the web in a more private and safe environment. The browser blocks the tracking code inserted by developers and tech platforms in order to learn more about the browsing habits of those users.

One set of trackers that have not been blocked, however, has come from Microsoft. The company has tracking software implemented by several of its brands, including Bing and Linkedin, but DuckDuckGo has left those in fact. This week, they announced that the previous policy was no more and those trackers were being added to the block list.

DuckDuckGo and Microsoft

So, why has DuckDuckGo left the Microsoft trackers in place for so long? Because of a licensing deal with Microsoft that gave them access to the Bing search results for private search. CEO Gabriel Weinberg explained saying,

We were limited in how we could apply our 3rd-Party Tracker Loading Protection on Microsoft tracking scripts due to a policy requirement related to our use of Bing as a source for our private search results. We're glad this is no longer the case. We have not had, and do not have, any similar limitation with any other company.

So, with the end of the private search partnership comes the end of Microsoft tracking technology in the browser. This has been seen as a big win for consumers, and brings the policy inline with other companies. The 3rd-Party Tracker Loading Protection system already blocks competitors, such as Google and Facebook, and will not include Microsoft.

But, DuckDuckGo isn't done with Microsoft entirely. The company still uses Microsoft advertising technology, but has a special agreement with the company. A blog post explains,

When you click on a Microsoft-provided ad that appears on DuckDuckGo, Microsoft Advertising does not associate your ad-click behavior with a user profile. It also does not store or share that information other than for accounting purposes.

It is important to note that some advertisers do use other Microsoft tech in order to know when an ad is clocked, but the browser still prevents that creation of a user profile based on these clicks. It is a solid middle ground between complete user privacy and being able to offer a free service to the internet. You can learn more about the protections that DuckDuckGo offers to users on its new tracking protection page.


GameStop facilitates sale of NFTs for games not owned by seller

posted Sunday Aug 7, 2022 by Scott Ertz

GameStop facilitates sale of NFTs for games not owned by seller

NFTs are a controversial topic any time they show up, but even more so in the gaming space. Usually, the controversy comes about because game developers are considering or announcing the inclusion of the technology into their games. However, this week, NFTs sparked problems within the gaming industry when GameStop's NFT marketplace facilitated the sale of stolen content in the form of NFTs.

GameStop NFTs

Like many NFT marketplaces before it, the GameStop NFT marketplace allows people to sell NFTs of their wares while taking a small percentage of the sale. In this case, GameStop pockets 2.25% of the total sale of the NFT. One of the things that makes GameStop's implementation unique is its focus on games, including fully playable HTML5 games right in your wallet or the marketplace.

Much of the content on the marketplace is legit, including the popular MetaBoy collection - some 10,000 animated GIFs. This collection accounted for around 25% of the total trading volume on the platform's first day. The trading volume was so low that 4 NFTs represented over half of all activity. But, while the trading volume was low, it didn't stop problems from occurring, including the sale of stolen goods.

The controversy

The controversy surrounding the GameStop NFT marketplace came about from a collection called NiFTy Arcade (archived link). The collection featured a series of fully playable games, something that GameStop was hoping to include on the site. The problem, however, is that the collection was not owned by the seller. The NFTs in question were minted against stolen goods.

This has been a recurring issue in the NFT space. HitPiece seemingly knowingly facilitated the sale of stolen musical and comedic recordings earlier this year. The platform came under fire by RIAA for the sales, shining a light on the issue. Now, we have games being stolen, minted as an NFT, and sold in a similar manner to the recordings on HitPiece.

Unlike HitPiece, GameStop has suspended the account for the seller of the NiFTy Arcade, but in the NFT world, that is too late. The winter ha already pocketed the currency from the sale, which is valued at tend of thousands of dollars. And while the NFTs are no longer listed on the marketplace, the existence of the NFTs at all means that they will be virtually impossible to remove.

The problem with NFTs

Fake NFTs can be a big business for the winter, and incredibly damaging for those form whom the content is stolen. The blockchain technology is distributed, meaning that once the data exists, it exists. It is nearly impossible, depending on the blockchain upon which it is built, to remove existing content from it. So, for the indie developers who were stolen from, the NFTs represent the end of their ability to monetize their own content.

This is an inherent issue with NFTs. There is no ownership verification in most cases, meaning that someone could download the CBS logo from the company's website, mint an NFT and sell it, claiming that the owner would then own the rights to the CBS logo. Except CBS is uninvolved and unaware of the issue. And, by the time everything is cleared up, the person who sold the NFT has the money and the person who bought it has absolutely nothing to show for it. This is the dark world of NFTs that proponents don't want to admit exists.


Amazon to purchase Roomba maker iRobot in deal worth $1.7 billion

posted Sunday Aug 7, 2022 by Scott Ertz

Amazon to purchase Roomba maker iRobot in deal worth $1.7 billion

One thing that appears to be inevitable in the modern technology world is large acquisitions. Whether it be Microsoft purchasing Activision or Google purchasing Raxium, we know that the big tech companies absolutely love to purchase other companies. This week, the newest addition to the list is iRobot, as Amazon has announced a deal to acquire the Roomba maker in a deal valued at $1.7 billion.

Who is iRobot?

iRobot has had a number of products over the years, but it is most famous for the Roomba. The company created the consumer robotic vacuum industry and has constantly evolved and improved it over the years. For example, when the Roomba first launched, it was mostly a blind robot bumping around in the dark. Today, however, the Roomba is capable of scanning its layout to learn and adapt to its surroundings.

In fact, the modern Roomba likely knows your home as well as you do. This is because it uses a combination of sensors, such as LiDAR, and artificial intelligence in order to create a detailed map of your home. This map identifies permanent items, such as walls and cabinets, and temporary items, such as tables and chairs. The map allows the Roomba to know what parts of the home have been cleaned and which have not, as well as to allow you to clean just a single room.

iRobot and Amazon

This detailed map of your home is where the news this week encounters consumer concerns. Many people are generally uncomfortable with the idea of iRobot having a detailed map of their homes. However, even more people are uncomfortable with the idea of Amazon owning iRobot, and therefore having data that describes the inside layout of your home.

Consumers and advocacy groups have long been concerned with Amazon's business practices in regard to consumer and merchant privacy. For one, the company has been accused of using user sales data and merchant inventory to build out its Amazon Basics and other in-house brands. With a history of questionable data behavior, giving the company access to the complete layout of your home could pose a potential privacy issue.

Expanding Amazon's Acquisitions

This is not the only recent acquisition for the company that has raised privacy concerns. Recently, Amazon also purchased One Medical, a primary medical care chain in the United States. This purchase, in conjunction with iRobot, could be seen as the company reaching out to expand its data collection mechanisms across various new methods, including health data and home data.

Because of this purchasing spree, combined with continued data privacy concerns, this newest announcement is likely to be scrutinized highly by regulators. The company is already under investigation over its data usage for in-house product lines, and the optics on how the company could potentially use the data collected from these new companies is going to raise more red flags. However, it is unlikely that the iRobot purchase will be stopped by regulators, although the One Medical acquisition might be stopped.


Stranger Things creators admit to "George Lucas-ing" content: fans react

posted Monday Aug 1, 2022 by Scott Ertz

<cite>Stranger Things</cite> creators admit to

The Duffer Brothers, creators of Stranger Things, recently made a comment about the show that didn't go over well with fans. They said that they had "George Lucas'd" content in the show, suggesting that they had made changes to previously published episodes to make changes, either to graphics or plot. However, after fans reacted poorly to the comment, the writers took to Twitter to clear things up. They stated that they had never changed anything and never would.

What is George Lucas-ing?

George Lucas-ing is a term used to describe when a creator or writer goes back and makes changes to their work, usually after it's already been published. This can be something as small as changing a word or phrase, or something as major as changing the ending of a story. It's named after George Lucas because he's well known for making changes to his Star Wars movies, even years after they were first released.

Lucas famously made changes to the original trilogy, starting in the Special Edition re-releases. The most obvious change was made to a scene in the original film, commonly referred to as Han shot first. The scene takes place in Mos Eisley and Han Solo shoots at Greedo. In the re-release, Lucas changed it to Greedo shooting first, changing it from an attack to self-defense. Fans believed that this was a defining character trait for Han which was stolen from them by the change.

What might the Duffer Brothers have changed?

There's no way to know for sure what the Duffer Brothers might have changed in Stranger Things, though they did reference missing Will's birthday as a possible target. Intrepid fans have already crossed that off the list, however, as the Season 4 episode remains intact.

However, fans are now on the lookout for any changes that might have been made. They're scouring through old episodes, looking for any differences between the original release and anything that's currently available. So far, nothing has been found but that doesn't mean there aren't any changes. It just means that we haven't found them yet.

The writers protect the audience

The Duffer Brothers' comment about George Lucas-ing the show was not well received by fans. However, the writing team quickly took to Twitter to clear things up. They stated that they had never changed anything and never would. This was likely in response to the negative reaction from fans, reassuring them that their favorite show hasn't been tampered with.

While it's not uncommon for creators to make changes to their work, it's usually not something that's done after the fact. It's more common for writers or directors to make changes before a work is released, either because they're unhappy with how it turned out or because they want to make a change based on feedback from beta readers or test audiences. However, Stranger Things has already been released, so any changes that have been made would have had to be done after the fact.

What do you think about George Lucas-ing?

Have you ever noticed any changes in a work after it's been released? Let us know in the comments! Stranger Things is available - unchanged - on Netflix.

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