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

Ticketmaster cancels public Taylor Swift ticket sales after collapse

posted Sunday Nov 20, 2022 by Scott Ertz

Ticketmaster cancels public Taylor Swift ticket sales after collapse

Ticketmaster has had numerous issues over the years. Normally, the issues come about from system availability during high-profile ticket sales. However, none of them have brought the company to the point where they cancel all public sales of tickets for a particular event. This week, that changed when the company canceled the sales of all public tickets for the Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour. This move angered consumers and the government alike.

The ticketing issue

Whether you like Taylor Swift or not, you know that there are millions who do enjoy her and her music. As such, when Taylor Swift announced that a new tour was beginning, people were excited to get their hands on tickets. Add to that the fact that this is her first tour in 5 years, and demand is going to be even greater. Plus, of course, the increasing issue with automated purchasing systems from resellers, and anyone could have guessed that the Ticketmaster systems were going to be busy.

The problem is that Ticketmaster seems to have missed this memo. In a world of cloud services, Ticketmaster likely just needed to add additional resources behind their service and they could have handled any number of requests. The reality, however, is that the Ticketmaster systems were immediately overwhelmed and shut down as soon as pre-sale tickets were made available. Some people lost out on tickets they were in the process of purchasing. Others were charged for tickets they never received. In at least one case, a dozen or so transactions were processed for ticket orders that were never completed.

As a result of the overwhelming demand and the completely collapse of the system, Ticketmaster announced that they were canceling their planned public sales of the tickets effective immediately. Obviously, customers were stunned and upset - a promise had been made and the company was unable to make good on that promise. But, customers had no choice but to be upset.

The company has claimed that they were not the problem, but instead caused by bots. In addition to the bots, people just like Taylor Swift too much. But, the good news is that, in addition to them believing it to not be their fault, they set a new sales record. Hooray?

Ticketmaster's market position

Under normal circumstances, customers would go to another retailer to purchase their product. When a drop of new consoles is made available, people flock to various retailers to get them. However, in the case of concert tickets, customers generally only have one choice: Ticketmaster. Due to venue contracts, exclusivities, and other complicated factors, Ticketmaster controls nearly every aspect of the ticketing industry.

After the company's merger with Live Nation in 2021, the company managed to gain nearly complete control over the industry. That position has caused no end of troubles, from constantly increasing ticket prices to mandatory processing fees. Customers hate Ticketmaster, but there is no way to avoid the company if you want to see a concert, sporting event, or even smaller events at certain venues.

Investigations begin

As a result of the ticketing system collapsing, customers being left without tickets, and customer complaints about charges, investigations have been opened by the US Department of Justice, and Attorneys General for the states of North Carolina and Tennessee. The investigations are into whether or not the Live Nation and Ticketmaster organization constitutes a monopoly because of its size and market position. The claim is that only a company with monopolistic powers could completely cancel public sales for an entire concert tour.

This is just the first stage of what could possibly happen for the company, but an antitrust investigation could potentially lead to a lawsuit and, eventually, a breakup.

read more...

FCC implements new labeling rules for internet - what to expect

posted Sunday Nov 20, 2022 by Scott Ertz

FCC implements new labeling rules for internet - what to expect

There are a lot of issues when trying to compare products, no matter which product category it is. Different companies will use differing terms for the same feature. Some industries enforce a unified naming convention to solve this problem. Other times, the government feels the need to step in to unify an industry. This week, the FCC announced a new marketing convention for internet service providers (ISPs) to make it easier for customers to cross-compare services.

The problem with ISPs

ISPs have been trying to get customers to switch to their services for years. But, ISPs are not something that most consumers understand, and generally fear the difficulty of making the switch. What is involved with swapping from Spectrum to Frontier? Techies know that it's a fairly easy switch, but it's not that clear to regular consumers.

More importantly, it's difficult for consumers to look at two services and understand what the difference is between them. What am I getting for my $50 per month from Wow versus what I'm getting for my $50 per month from Verizon? Wow uses one set of terms, while Verizon uses another. So, the problem then becomes one of deciphering the marketing terms and creating a unified comparison.

There's so much to consider and compare - speed, data caps, fees, and of course price. Creating a comparison chart is easy if you know how to dive into the numbers and technical details, but that's not always possible.

The FCC solution

To solve this problem, the FCC has stepped in and created a unified marketing matrix that all ISPs will be required to implement. The concept is based on another successful government labeling matrix: the nutrition labels from the FDA. Every food product sold in the US, even those produced internationally, is required to include this matrix that shows things like fat, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, and more. It even includes a required list of all of the ingredients.

The FCC's solution comes in the form of a new labeling scheme called the "Broadband Facts." These labels will be applied to ISPs and Wi-Fi providers across the country. The labels cover several different aspects of internet service, including: price, service speed, bandwidth usage, additional fees (e.g. modem rental), package features and restrictions, minimum contract period, privacy policy, and more. In fact, Broadband Facts look just like Nutrition Facts, just to make it more familiar.

Like the nutrition labels, the Broadband Facts labels will allow consumers to get a quick and easy look at exactly what is being offered by the company. Thr standardization is, therefore, intended to make it easier to understand the differences between services and to immediately and obviously disclose what are currently hidden fees. Unified disclosure will make it easier for customers across the country.

Next Steps

ISPs will be required to implement this new labeling system across all of their marketing. In fact, they will need to include it within a small distance from any marketing, seemingly suggesting that we will begin to see these labels appear in print and television ads. The labels will also be required to be archived and made available to the Commissions upon request. Likely this is in the event of a lawsuit against the company, the FCC will be able to collect the information on demand for the instance in which an agreement was made.

From a records keeping perspective, this is going to cause a lot of trouble for the companies, with agreements changing all the time and needing to hold the labels in perpetuity. However, it is a huge move in favor of consumers.

read more...

Blizzard and NetEase are over - what this means for gaming in China

posted Sunday Nov 20, 2022 by Scott Ertz

Blizzard and NetEase are over - what this means for gaming in China

The gaming industry in China is strange but potentially lucrative. However, over the past few years, the Chinese government has put into place rules that have made it difficult to release games from outside of the country, as well as to keep a game profitable. Now, Blizzard's relationship with NetEase, their in-country publishing partner, has come to an end, taking with it Blizzard games in China.

Who is NetEase?

NetEase Inc. is a Chinese Internet technology company established in 1996. NetEase games are published by Blizzard Entertainment and marketed by their subsidiary, NetEase Online Games. The company also operates a web portal for games, web hosting, online game services, and cloud computing services, as well as an online retail division called NetEase Cloud Platform. NetEase has been the top company in China since 2006 by market capitalization.

Blizzard has used NetEase to alter and publish their games in China, as content restrictions are incredibly strict. This YouTube video illustrates the differences between Blizzard games in China versus the rest of the world. For example, blood, gore, and even skulls are not allowed in the country. As such, NetEase knows the detailed ins and out of the country's content rules and alters the games for publishing through their platform in the country. This relationship has been good for both companies, making the publishing process easier for Blizzard, and giving international distribution to NetEase's games.

Blizzard and NetEase's divorce

The contract between NetEase and Blizzard, however, has come to an end and it will not be renewed. This means that Blizzard games will soon be leaving the country of China, as there will be no partner to alter and distribute the games. It does not appear that the end of the relationship is a positive one, with both companies stating that they were unable to come to a mutually acceptable agreement. William Ding, CEO of NetEase, said of the negotiations,

We have put in a great deal of effort and tried with our utmost sincerity to negotiate with Activision Blizzard so that we could continue our collaboration and serve the many dedicated players in China. However, there were material differences on key terms and we could not reach an agreement. We hold high regard in our product and operational standards and abide by our commitments to Chinese players.

We are honored to have had the privilege of serving our gamers over the past 14 years and have shared many precious moments with them during that time. We will continue our promise to serve our players well until the last minute. We will make sure our players' data and assets are well protected in all of our games

So what does this mean for gaming in China? The short answer is a lot. While Blizzard may have already changed their marketing efforts to focus on the West, China was a large supporter of Blizzard titles. The initial situation will be a near complete withdrawal from China in the beginning of 2023, with titles like World of Warcraft, StarCraft 2, and Diablo 3 leaving the country on January 23, 2023. The only title that won't be pulled on that date is Diablo Immortal, a new game released in 2022, which is covered under a separate agreement.

It is possible that Blizzard will look into new relationships with other Chinese distributors, to fill the gap in their business. It is also possible that the Microsoft acquisition might be one of the stumbling blocks in the NetEase relationship. Microsoft might have the resources to help alter and distribute titles for China, if the merger goes through.

As far as what this means for the overall gaming industry in China, it will be a hit to overall distribution. However, it will not change anything as far as how China handles gaming in general. The Chinese government will not see this as a problem that deserves reconsidering their rules. Instead, they will likely see it as a win as Western titles will be removed from the country.

read more...

RTX 4090 power cables are melting - what went wrong and what to do

posted Sunday Nov 20, 2022 by Scott Ertz

RTX 4090 power cables are melting - what went wrong and what to do

The next generation of GeForce RTX video cards is here, but unfortunately for users, the RTX 4090 is experiencing a serious issue: the power cables are melting. A lot of early speculation was made about the cause of the problem, but a reason appears to have been identified. And, as we have come to expect with any modern hardware issue, a class action lawsuit has been filed against the company.

The cause of the problem

With the new generation of GeForce RTX cards also came a new power connector. This new 12VHPWR connector combines the capabilities of the previous 6-pin and 8-pin connectors into a single, powerful setup. It also eliminates the common issue of confusing the board power and video card power connectors, something that we see often in custom builds.

Unfortunately for users, the plug appears to have been causing problems. In particular, the connector itself has been melting in RTX 4090 graphics cards. Obviously, with new hardware and a massive defect, rumors began circulating quickly about a possible cause. According to early reports, it was believed that the RTX 4090 power cables were melting at the ends due to a defect in the hardware that specifically targets them. This theoretical hardware defect was believed to be causing an electrical short.

However, according to both a report from Gamers Nexus and a direct response from Nvidia themselves, it appears that the actual cause is the plug not being correctly inserted into the card correctly. This misconnected port then creates the heating issue that is melting the plugs.

The solution

According to the report, the solution is to pay attention to your plug and port as you are preparing your build. First and foremost, ensure that there is no physical damage to the port or plug. Many of the incidents appear to have had physical damage ahead of building the PC. For others, the issue has been created by debris within the connection, caused by the manufacture of the card or the plug. Another potential source of debris could be from inserting and removing the cable, shaving off bits of plastic inside of the port.

So, if you have a GeForce RTX 4090, keep a close eye on the hardware as you are building your PC. Ensure there is no debris. If you plug the power in and remove it, blow out both sides to ensure and new debris has been removed. Then, most importantly, make sure that the plug is seated in the port firmly without and jiggle. If there is, don't power on the computer. Instead, look for damage and replace the broken piece.

Lawsuits in progress

There is a lawsuit in progress at the moment for the RTX 4090 due to the melting power cables. The class action lawsuit alleges that the company was negligent because they did not test their product before it went into production, which led to these problems. According to the complaint,

{Nvidia} marketed and sold the RTX 4090 with a defective and dangerous power cable plug and socket, which has rendered consumers' cards inoperable and poses a serious electrical and fire hazard for each and every purchaser.

read more...

Netflix wants to add live sports events to its subscription offerings

posted Sunday Nov 13, 2022 by Scott Ertz

Netflix wants to add live sports events to its subscription offerings

Netflix may have started out as a service to send DVDs to subscribers in the mail, but streaming those movies and TV shows is what really put the company on the map. Today, they are a household name, providing licensed content and even original series, such as the new Blockbuster series about its former rival. But, as subscriber growth wanes and competition increases, the company is always looking for ways to cut costs and increase subscription numbers. The newest idea is to wade into the murky waters of live-streamed sporting events.

Netflix and Live Sports

The company doesn't really have any current relationship with the sports industry at all. Sure, there are some documentaries about athletes, but those tend to be about athletes who killed someone, were killed by someone, or did something else dangerous or bizarre. Little to no content on the service is based around sports in any way.

Similarly, the company has no real experience in live events. In fact, the culture of the company's subscriber base has generally been an expectation that all episodes of a season are made available at once, so even the mode traditional weekly releases that services like Disney and Hulu seem to get away with, Netflix can not. Weekly, topical programs have even been trouble for the platform.

Where do they start?

With all of this said, how might Netflix get into making live sporting events available to its subscriber base? It appears that the company hopes to start out with tennis. In fact, they have put in bids to carry events already, such as the ATP tennis tour in Europe. They also considered bids for the Women's Tennis Association broadcasts for the UK, but ultimately didn't make the move. If tennis doesn't work out for them, they have also considered making bids for cycling events.

This is a far less dangerous way to enter the industry than some of its competitors. Comcast jumped right in with full live streaming of nearly all Olympic events via NBC and Peacock. CBS went big with the Super Bowl on CBS All Access (now Paramount+). Amazon took on Thursday Night Football, marking one of the biggest streamed events to not go offline.

Compared to those streams, tennis and cycling seems tame. However, this is new territory for Netflix, where it wasn't completely new for the others. Peacock streams live content all day every day, as does CBS and Paramount+. Amazon has offered live events in the past, though nothing quite to the scale of Thursday Night Football. Netflix would be getting into a new business model, so starting out small might make the most sense.

Why add sports?

Simply put, everyone else has it. Amazon, Disney+, Hulu, Peacock, Paramount+ - all of them offer some sort of sports package, either directly or indirectly. Netflix now stands nearly alone in not offering sports content at all. By adding live sports, the company is clearly hoping to help stem the tide on their subscriber loss without having to ramp up into new big productions.

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