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

The Halo TV show is still coming, apparently - now through Paramount+

posted Sunday Nov 21, 2021 by Scott Ertz

The <cite>Halo</cite> TV show is still coming, apparently - now through Paramount+

Over the past decade, the focus of the Xbox brand has shifted several times. Under Steve Balmer's time as CEO, Xbox was intended to be the center of your entertainment life. As part of that endeavor, they created Xbox Entertainment Studios and began to create custom content for the platform. The project that was the highest-profile was a series based on the company's Halo franchise, but it has been fraught with issues. Despite 7 years of development Hell, Microsoft showed off a teaser for the project, now destined for a new home on Paramount+.

The History

Microsoft announced a media-focused brand within the Xbox ecosystem called Xbox Entertainment Studios. Over the coming months, a small slate of projects was announced, including a documentary about Atari. But the most important was Halo.

Unfortunately, as time went on, the plans went askew. The brand had staffed up, but was ultimately disbanded. But the Halo series was not dead - they wanted to shop it around and find a new home for it. They have announced new destinations over the years, but here we are, still devoid of the long-awaited series.

Coming to Paramount+

As part of the Xbox 20th Anniversary, Microsoft and Paramount+ showed off a VERY small teaser trailer. In reality, it can best be described as a clip, with Cortana welcoming Master Chief and nothing else. That point is where the clip cuts out - the end.

We do have some information about the project, though. Pablo Schreiber of Orange Is the New Black fame will helm the series as Master Chief, Natascha McElhone from Californication will support as Dr. Catherine Halsey, and most importantly, Jen Taylor will return as Cortana. Jen voices Cortana in the games, Windows Phone, Windows 10, and the Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker.

The series is slated to release on Paramount+ in 2022. That is all we know - it could be January, or it could be December. And, since there has been nearly a decade of delay so far, it could always get pushed back once again.

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Brave enhances it privacy browser with built-in secure crypto wallet

posted Sunday Nov 21, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Brave enhances it privacy browser with built-in secure crypto wallet

It has been an interesting week for privacy products expanding their focus. DuckDuckGo announced App Tracking Protection for Android, bringing an Apple feature to Android. But DuckDuckGo isn't the only player in the space. Brave recently switched Google out for their own search product in their browser, and this week they are enhancing the browser again - with crypto.

The Brave Browser is focused on privacy and security. The company believes that it can bring that privacy and security focus to a new area of the internet: cryptocurrency. Brave Browser is introducing a cryptocurrency wallet into its core product offering. Brave Wallet, unlike other similar offerings, is not an external product added by extension - this is built directly into the browser.

While crypto wallets are a dive a dozen these days, and more accessible than ever, they have also seemingly become less secure. In addition to the tools that professional and dedicated investors, traders, and miners use, such as cold storage and encrypted hardware wallets, now were have a slew of consumer offerings as well. You can download a mobile app that works as a wallet or browser extension that does the same. But these can be less secure than what professionals use, making it easy for malicious attacks and thefts. This is where Brave believes it can improve the experience.

Because the Brave Wallet is built into the desktop browser, it prevents third parties from snooping on the data. It also limits the number of system resources needed to make it function, as it doesn't require open APIs and external processing to run.

The Brave Wallet works similarly to, and in conjunction with, other traditional crypto wallets. You get access to your wallet address, can switch between digital assets, and have easy access to send and receive funds. In addition, this wallet supports multi-chain and NFT assets, as well as direct importing of assets from other private (offline) wallets. The interface for the system also allows you to explore markets and see the current and past values of different assets.

To get started, you can open the settings for the browser and click on the Wallet tab (or go to brave://wallet/crypto/). Upon first entering, you'll enter a password to secure your wallet. Then you'll get a 12-word recovery phrase, which is traditional in crypto wallets. Save this phrase somewhere because you'll lose access to your wallet without it. To make sure you have, you'll be required to enter it again. After that you're in.

As of right now, the interface is sparse. The graphs are very basic and show just the required information. There does not appear to be any comparison charting between assets, etc. But, for an early launch product, it is solid - especially when you take into consideration that the company is working to provide a more secure system for the casual investor.

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Rockstar Games admits mistake, apologizes for GTA remaster problems

posted Sunday Nov 21, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Rockstar Games admits mistake, apologizes for <cite>GTA</cite> remaster problems

This month, Rockstar Games released the much-anticipated Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition. While gamers were excited about this release, they were treated to a series of massive problems. The company very quickly pulled the PC release from its online store but gave strange reasoning for the decision. Anyone who had purchased it, and likely anyone who watched someone play it on Twitch, YouTube, or Facebook, knew exactly what the real reasoning was. This week, the company officially addressed the issue, changing its story from last week.

The Timeline

October 11, 2021

At the beginning of October, Rockstar removed the original games from the Grand Theft Auto 3 from all digital distribution platforms, including its own store. This move was because, in just a few weeks, the new Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition was going to come to market, and they didn't want people to purchase the old versions when a remastered collection was just around the corner.

November 11, 2021

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition is released for all platforms. As you might expect, gamers around the world downloaded and loaded the game on their computers and consoles. Nearly immediately following, as with all major game releases, streamers brought the games to Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook.

Everyone from gamers to viewers noticed something just wasn't right with the PC version, with cars driving in walls, unavoidable closeups of faces, and more. The most noticeable issue, however, is the weird stretchy people throughout the game. Arms, legs, necks, faces, and bodies all look like they are made of silly putty. Gamers immediately began asking the company for refunds because the game was somehow WORSE than the originals.

Later in the day, Rockstar's PC game store went offline. Some gamers believed it was because the servers crashed over the popularity of the games. Most had guessed that it went down on purpose in response to the issues. Rockstar didn't release any statement on what was going on.

November 12, 2021

29 hours after the store went down, Rockstar addressed the issue as it came back online. The company tweeted,

The Rockstar Games Launcher is now online, but GTA: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition is unavailable to play or purchase as we remove files unintentionally included in these versions. We're sorry for the disruption and hope to have correct ones up soon.

Some gamers theorized that the company had accidentally released audio files containing music that had not been relicensed. Others guessed that there was uncompiled code included in the release, exposing internal processes. Most who had seen anything from the game, however, knew why it was down.

November 19, 2021

A full week after the PC version of the games were removed from the store, Rockstar finally addressed the reality of the issue. Of course, the problem was not accidental files, but a chaotic release. The company released a statement saying,

Firstly, we want to sincerely apologize to everyone who has encountered issues playing these games.

The Grand Theft Auto series - and the games that make up this iconic trilogy - are as special to us as we know they are to fans around the world. The updated versions of these classic games did not launch in a state that meets our own standards of quality, or the standards our fans have come to expect.

We have ongoing plans to address the technical issues and to improve each game going forward. With each planned update, the games will reach the level of quality that they deserve to be.

They promised updates to fix the issues, which have already begun to roll out. They also promised to return the original games to the PC store, making them available for free to gamers who purchased the new versions. It seems like they had hoped a fix would be quick, allowing them to pretend it was a bad bundle that caused them to pull the games. But, in reality, the fix looks like it will take some serious time and will release in drips, so access to the classics is a good middle ground option.

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App Tracking Transparency like feature on Android from DuckDuckGo

posted Saturday Nov 20, 2021 by Scott Ertz

App Tracking Transparency like feature on Android from DuckDuckGo

Several months ago, Apple introduced a new feature to iOS - App Tracking Transparency. This feature allows users the opportunity to tell apps that track user data on their phones to bug off. It limits the amount of data available to those apps from things that happen off of the platform. Android, while being the more customizable platform, is missing this feature - until now. DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused browser and search engine, is taking the lead to introduce the feature themselves.

What is App Tracking Transparency?

The feature was a controversial one when Apple introduced it for iOS 15. Apple pitched the feature as a way to protect the privacy of iPhone and iPad users by offering data sandboxing. The feature works similarly to how camera, microphone, and photo privacy works. When external data is attempted to be accessed, iOS will ask you if you want to allow the app access to that data. If you ask the app not to track you, then Apple will prevent access to that data on your device.

The data in question is app usage from other apps, browser history, and more. This can be done through previously public platform data as well as third-party trackers built into the apps themselves. Platforms use this data in order to customize ads for you. This is the reason why Facebook fought the feature, both in public and in private. They ran a whole campaign against the feature on their own platform, trying to raise fears in business owners that everything was going to collapse because of App Tracking Transparency. In the end, the feature didn't create an apocalypse, and instead, revenue grew.

What is DuckDuckGo doing?

The reality is users have the ability to decide who does and does not have access to their private data. That personal choice is what the future of tech should look like, and some companies, like DuckDuckGo, are leaning into it. DuckDuckGo has always been a privacy-focused organization. Their browser and search engine are specifically designed to provide additional privacy to their users. Now they are bringing a new feature, App Tracking Protection for Android, to the mobile platform.

The new feature, announced this week and launched into beta, is intended to mimic the feature from Apple. DuckDuckGo describes the problem they are attempting to fix saying,

Across all your apps, your personal data is being sent to dozens of third-party companies, thousands of times per week. This data enables tracking networks like Facebook and Google to create even more detailed digital profiles on you. With those profiles, tracking networks can manipulate what you see online, target you with ads based on your behavior, and even sell your data to other companies like data brokers, advertisers, and governments.

The company has built a database of third-party tracking systems and compares traffic leaving your device against that database. If it detects an attempt to send tracking data to companies like Google and Facebook, it will block the data from leaving your device. Within the system you can then see every request that blocked and what app it was sent from.

Technologically, the feature was implemented in a clever way. It registers itself as a virtual private network (VPN) on your device, allowing all traffic to get pushed through the system. With that, the system is able to monitor all outgoing traffic in order to filter what is leaving the device. This is done entirely locally, so your history is never transmitted to external servers - maintaining both speed and privacy.

The feature is built into the DuckDuckGo Android app, so you don't need anything additional. If you want to join the beta waitlist, you can go to your app settings and select App Tracking Protection in the Privacy section.

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Disney shows off new movies and shows on Disney Plus Day 2021

posted Sunday Nov 14, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Disney shows off new movies and shows on Disney Plus Day 2021

A few weeks ago, DC showed off new content across all media types. Not to be outdone, this week, Disney countered by showing off a bunch of new content coming specifically to its Disney+ streaming service. This content included shows and movies from Marvel, Star Wars, and Disney itself, and there is something for nearly everyone.

Marvel

Of all of Disney's properties, Marvel has received the most consistent reviews from critics and fans alike (minus one notable recent exception). Because of that, Disney has put a lot of eggs in the Marvel basket, hoping to milk that cash cow as hard and for as long as they possibly can. There has been a fear that there might be some chaffing starting, especially with the less than stellar reception of Marvel's Eternals, but Disney is still all-in on Marvel content, representing the largest portion of the Disney Plus Day announcements.

Agatha: House of Harkness

Kathryn Hahn's character Agatha Harkness was the breakout success of WandaVision. Agatha is a witch from the Salem witch trials, turned teacher of Wanda Maximoff. Now, she will get her own series coming to the streaming service. The series is still early, and no release date has been made available, but we can expect that Disney and Marvel will put a lot of energy behind this project, as the character was an absolute fan favorite.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

If there is one thing that can make a franchise look its absolute best, it's a holiday special. If you need a good example of a franchise hitting its stride, check out the Star Wars Holiday Special. Obviously, that's sarcasm, as the Star Wars Holiday Special was so bad that George Lucas has dedicated much of his life to destroying all evidence that it ever happened.

Following in that grand tradition of ruining a beloved franchise, Disney will give the same treatment to the Guardians of the Galaxy. It will be written and directed by James Gunn, who has helmed the franchise on the big screen, but that doesn't promise success, either. Hopefully, this project will not damage the overall sentiment of the franchise when it releases in December 2022.

X-Men '97

This project was a pleasant surprise. It is nearly a direct continuation of the popular 90s X-Men cartoon. The concept is to tell new stories set in the classic cartoon's timeline. What we don't know is if this will be a re-telling of older episodes, like a reanimation of old episodes, or if this will be a true continuation, picking up where the series left off.

We are hoping for a continuation of the older series, with new stories created in that space. This could give the series the ability to introduce characters that are new since the end of the series, as well as to show the progression of some of the existing characters. Being able to see those characters in altered scenarios, and possibly even in more modernized costumes, would be exciting.

Spider-Man: Freshman Year

This is also a surprising addition to the line-up. The Spider-Man franchise is famously out of Disney's control and in Sony's hands. This is a leftover from there early days, before Marvel began producing its own movies. The future of the character within the MCU has been in question, as the agreement between the companies is theoretically coming to an end after the upcoming third film.

With all of that said, the addition of an animated series, separate and distinct from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and set in the MCU is a shock. This particular series will follow Peter Parker in the years before he became Spider-Man, covering the territory that was skipped during the most recent reboot of the franchise. It also plays into the nostalgia, in that it will be animated in early comic book style.

More interestingly, this indicates that a more permanent relationship between Sony and Disney has been reached. Disney has been interested in purchasing the rights back, or purchasing Sony's production company entirely if need be. However,there has been no interest from Sony. However, it looks like some solid agreement is in place.

Baymax

The lovable, inflatable robot from the massively underrated 2014 film Big Hero 6 is back in his own series, premiering in 2022. The character, and the fil, is based on the Marvel character of the same name. If any Marvel character deserves his own series, it is Baymax.

Additional Projects

A ton of additional projects were shown off. We know that Hawkeye comes out this month, but we also know that Echo will get a spin-off from that series. We got a look at Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk. Nick Fury will return in the upcoming series Secret Invasion, and Groot will return in the animated series I Am Groot.

Star Wars

Another popular franchise that Disney purchased years back is Star Wars. While the success of this franchise under Disney has not been quite as great as Marvel, it still produces products that a large number of people want. To that end, Disney showed off new content in the Star Wars universe.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ewan McGregor, who played the role in the controversial prequals, returns to the role in this streaming series. This story will take place directly in the center between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, in the age where the Jedi Order is all but gone. The series will premiere in 2022.

Willow

This series will see Warwick Davis return as the titular character, joined by a large supporting cast. While not being a direct Star Wars title, it is widely understood that the original film took place on a planet set within the Star Wars universe called Andowyne. This was an April Fool's joke in 2006, but has all but been canonized as fact.

Disney Properties

Disney did not just focus on their acquired properties. They also showed off a lot of new projects coming from in-house franchises. Some will be popular, some will be good, and some come from a trend that most people are already sick of.

Pinocchio

Apparently, Disney has not gotten the hint that their live-action adaptations are mostly unwanted. But, despite this, we will be "treated" to a live-action adaptation of Pinocchio in the Fall of 2022. The company is doing what it usually does, packing the cast with big names, like Tom Hanks, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Keegan-Michael Key. The success of this project is questionable, based on past experiences.

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers

Another semi-live-action adaptation comes in the form of the hybrid live and animated film Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers. The film is based on the late 80s animated series, and the early 90s animated films of the same name. It will star John Mulaney as Chip and Andy Samberg as Dale, and premieres in 2022.

Additional Projects

The hit film Enchanted is getting a sequel in Disenchanted, coming in the Fall of 2022. Hocus Pocus 2, a sequel to the popular movies from 1993, will hit theaters in Fall 2022. Another entry in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, an animated series of the same name, is coming to Disney+ to compliment the films on Hulu.

Summary

This is just some of the MANY projects the company showed off. Pixar, 20th Century, National Geographic, and Star all had announcements as well.

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