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

Business website: How to up your game

posted Tuesday Nov 14, 2023 by Scott Ertz

The way your business website works will determine how a customer interacts with your business; whether they make a purchase or decide to leave. It's where a customer decides whether they want what you've got or would prefer to move on. As the face of your business, your website has to say it all and say it well.

Business websites need to be attractive, engaging, full of useful information, and user-friendly. Perhaps your website has been letting you down lately or maybe it's time for a revamp. Take a look at how to make sure your website is in tip-top shape.

White Space

White space is important when it comes to website design. It allows you to form a structure in your content that makes your website easy to navigate. When a customer visits a certain page on your website, what they're looking for should be clear and visible.

However, some website owners opt for the minimalistic look which creates a lot of white space. Although it may look clean, too much white space can come across as boring and fail to engage your visitors long enough to entice them to stay and look around.

Don't Start from Scratch

Many business owners choose a brand-new domain for their websites. Of course, there's nothing wrong with building something from scratch but it will take time to build up a loyal following. There is a way around this that allows you the best of both worlds.

Use a site like Domain Hunter Gatherer to search for old domains that are relevant to your industry. You may be lucky enough to find a domain that already has followers from your target market. This way, your website will be visited by people who could be interested in your products before you've even advertised.

Page Speed

How quickly your website pages load is of vital importance. Most people are strapped for time these days and they want to get things done quickly. The average internet user won't wait more than thirty seconds for a page to load before thinking about moving on.

If you visit your website and the pages are slow to load, it's time to do something about it. You don't want this simple to fix issue to hold you back from gaining new customers. You can analyze your website's speed with Google's PageSpeed Insights.


Using hyperlinks is a great way to help your visitors navigate your website. It can take them to another page with information they're looking for in the click of a button. This saves your visitors from needing to search your website high and low for what they're looking for.

You can use hyperlinks in any of your website content and it's especially useful if you have a website blog. If someone ends up on your blog to read your content, it can gently guide them towards your products and services.

Call To Action

It's surprising how many business websites are missing a call to action. A call to action encourages visitors to take the next step. Whether it's contacting the business for more information or putting a product in the basket.

The call to action should be visible throughout the whole website and easy to access. Consider creating a button that stands out from the rest of the content and is big enough to see straight away.

Bullet points

The content on your website should be easy to digest. Small bite size chunks of information are enough for a visitor to quickly take in and understand. If you want to make your content easy for your audience, bullet points are ideal.

It's a great way to keep your information short and to the point for any type of reader. For instance, when talking about new business ideas, keep each idea to a bullet point of its own.


Visuals are a must for any website but when you want to sell goods to new and existing customers, visuals are more important than ever. We live in a visual world where people would rather watch a video tutorial than read a manual. When it comes to marketing your products, your website should include video material.

It can help to get advice from digital marketing experts when loading videos onto your website. If not done properly, video content can make your website run slower.


Your brand should be apparent on your website. Everything from color, tones, and voice should be consistent throughout each page. Your brand is what represents your business on everything, from your website to packaging, and social media.

When customers visit your site, there should be familiarity about it. Your customers should immediately recognize that what is being sold is trustworthy and the company is reliable.


If you want to expand your reach, it's essential that your website is mobile-friendly. So many shoppers are now using their mobile devices on the way to work, during their lunch breaks, and even at home. If your website isn't accessible to mobile users, you'll be missing out on a huge slice of the pie.

Users should be able to browse your website effectively using any device of their choosing. Your website should also still be visible and accessible when a user changes the orientation on a device.

No Broken Links

Have you ever landed on a page you've been searching for only to be greeted by an error message? It's frustrating and time-wasting, and you can be sure visitors won't be browsing through the rest of your website when it happens. You should check your website for broken links regularly.

You can do this by using a broken link checker online and correcting the links appropriately. Checking links at regular intervals will ensure that your customers aren't receiving error messages when they want to buy your products.


Keeping your website updated is one of the best ways to ensure you have a constant flow of online sales. If you've enjoyed this article, take a look at the rest.


The SAG-AFTRA strike is over, restarting film and TV productions

posted Sunday Nov 12, 2023 by Scott Ertz

After months of shutdown, Hollywood is about to get back to work. Following the settlement of the Writers' Strike several weeks ago, the SAG-AFTRA strike has also been resolved. This means that productions that have been halted by both Hollywood strikes are able to resume filming this week.

What is SAG-AFTRA?

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is an American labor union that was formed from the 2012 merger of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). It represents approximately 160,000 media professionals worldwide. SAG-AFTRA is a member of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States. It is also a member of the International Federation of Actors (FIA).

SAG-AFTRA's membership is diverse, consisting of actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, disc jockeys, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists, and other media professionals. Membership in SAG-AFTRA is often seen as a rite of passage for new performers and media professionals and is usually obtained after being hired for their first job in a studio that has a collective bargaining agreement with the union.

What was the SAG-AFTRA Strike about?

The 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike was a significant event in the history of American media. From July 14, 2023, to November 9, 2023, the American actors' union SAG-AFTRA was on strike over a labor dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). This strike, which lasted for 118 days, was the longest in SAG-AFTRA's history. The strike resulted in the loss of 45,000 jobs and an estimated $6.5 billion loss to the economy of Southern California.

The strike was led by changes in the industry caused by streaming and its effect on residuals, as well as other new technologies like AI and digital recreation. In particular, interest in using AI to replicate an actor, using existing scans and motion capture, was at issue. Using this technology, an actor could essentially put themselves out of work by working on a project that uses motion capture, which is nearly every movie in modern Hollywood.

The Strike's resolution

On November 8, 2023, a tentative deal was reached, and the strike officially ended at 12:01 a.m. on November 9. The new contract included the first-ever protections for actors against artificial intelligence and a historic pay increase. The deal also included a "streaming participation bonus," as well as increases in pension and health contributions.

The full details of the agreement have not been released, likely as a protective measure. As the agreement is technically still preliminary, they want to give themselves enough time to go through the full agreement before releasing the details to the public. This will involve a group of members reviewing the documents and putting the agreement up for a vote of the membership of the union. Assuming that everything is in place and as expected, work should not stop again any time soon.


Omegle is gone after years of inappropriate usage and lawsuits

posted Sunday Nov 12, 2023 by Scott Ertz

This week, the controversial online chat service Omegle was shut down. The service has long been a location for inappropriate behavior, including exposing kids to adult content and grooming kids. The site's owners claim that the service is just not feasible, but the real reason may be an agreement as part of a lawsuit settlement.

What was Omegle?

Omegle was a free, web-based online chat service that allowed users to socialize with others without the need to register. The service randomly paired users in one-on-one chat sessions where they could chat anonymously using the names "You" and "Stranger". It operated from 2009 to 20231. Users could choose to add their interests, and Omegle would try to pair a user with someone who had similar interests.

The site was created by then 18-year-old Leif K-Brooks of Vermont and was launched in March 2009. Less than a month after launch, Omegle garnered around 150,000 page views per day. In March 2010, the site introduced a video telephony feature. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, the site increased in popularity, particularly with teenagers.

A variety of people would use Omegle to spread the word about their art or performance. Musicians would use it to serenade strangers. Magicians would show off their magic skills. Even artists used the platform, with one famous artist sketching the people he encountered and showing them live in the chat. One special effects artist would create elaborate pranks involving ghosts and other jump scares.

Omegle's controversies

However, Omegle was subject to a variety of controversies, generally surrounding illegal content, discrimination, pornography, and use of the site by minors. Prior to early 2013, the site did not censor contributions through a profanity filter, and users had reported encountering nudity or sexual content on camera. After the filter went into place, however, things never really improved.

Because of the anonymous nature of the platform, people felt empowered to do terrible things. Nudity was an ever-present part of the platform. Whether you wanted to encounter it or not, you would eventually. The site's growing popularity with kids meant that kids were also being exposed to this content. In addition, this type of content was not always limited to adults. Kids also found that the anonymity gave them power to explore their growing urges.

The shutdown of Omegle

The involvement of kids, either on the viewing or showing end of the spectrum, meant that Omegle was legally on the hook for facilitating either the delinquency of a minor or distribution child exploitation material. A lawsuit in 2021 accused the company of pairing an 11-year-old with a sexual predator. Part of the settlement in the case involved the permanent shutdown of the service, as pointed out by journalist Jason Koebler.

On November 8, 2023, K-Brooks posted an announcement describing the challenges of running the site, and the ultimate decision to shut down the website. He stated,

There can be no honest accounting of Omegle without acknowledging that some people misused it, including to commit unspeakably heinous crimes. The battle for Omegle has been lost, but the war against the Internet rages on. Virtually every online communication service has been subject to the same kinds of attack as Omegle; and while some of them are much larger companies with much greater resources, they all have their breaking point somewhere.

The problem, of course, is that services like Twitter and Facebook have been used for the spreading of illegal content, the services have had a mechanism for shutting it down. With the combination of the anonymous aspect of the service with its live video chat, finding and stopping this type of thing becomes nearly impossible. The concept, like Snapchat, from the beginning was inevitably going to lead to this use. However, unlike Snapchat, the company never was able to stop the misuse and promote the proper use.


Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 maps getting pulled over massive bugs

posted Saturday Nov 11, 2023 by Scott Ertz

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 just launched this week and Activision is already under fire for the game's performance. In particular, the company has had to pull several of the multiplayer maps because the functionality makes them completely useless.

The never-evolving game

For years, Activision has taken a lot of fire over the way they handle the Call of Duty franchise. In essence, it is looked upon in the same way as EA and Madden. The game engine is already created, the assets are already created, and each year a nearly identical game comes out and people are forced to purchase it because the previous game will end its public and private support.

However, because of this known mouse trap, the company will often let things slip. For example, in the 2022 release of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, helicopters could leave the map, you couldn't always play in a party, and for some, the game was unable to load at all. With time, the glitches were fixed, but it is simply a sign of the times in the franchise's development.

This year's launch day issues

For Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, there are several modes. The primary two are the Campaign and Multiplayer. Some people flock to the campaign at launch and come back for the multiplayer, while others skip the campaign entirely and are only interested in the online experience. This year, it didn't matter which you chose, you encountered issues.

If you tried to play the campaign, especially during the Early Access period, you were pretty well out of luck. Some players were unable to access the mode at all, while others noted that their progress in the game was lost if they left and came back. Infinity Ward, the studio responsible for this year's edition of the franchise, quickly reported that the issue was known and they were working on it. Activision then stated that there were issues affecting all supported Call of Duty titles and that players would not lose progress once fixed.

Upon release of the full title, however, things got weirder. Some of the maps had such issues that the company has had to pull them from play. Take, for example, Quarry. This map, when played in the Hardpoint game mode, would continuously spawn players at the same point in the map. This means that players from the other team can sit there and wait for the spawn, kill you instantly, and wait for it to happen again. It's a bit like a digital version of the movie Groundhog's Day, and you're Bill Murray with no ability to affect your outcome. Activision has pulled the map from the game, as well as Rundown and Scrapyard for the same issue.

The biggest problem with a bug like this comes from the fact that nothing has really changed about the game. MW2 and MW3 are running on the same engine, and Quarry was in the previous game. Plus, the company has play testers who play the game over and over, looking for these types of issues. How can a new bug pop up in a game which has mostly gone unchanged and has been tested before launch? There is no way to tell for sure, but it would appear that running a money printing machine can make some people (and companies) complacent in their position.


Amazon Fire OS looks to be replaced by Linux flavor over Android

posted Saturday Nov 11, 2023 by Scott Ertz

Since Amazon first launched its line of Fire hardware, they have used an altered version of Android, based on the Android Open Source Project, as their Fire OS. This decision allowed the company to get to market quickly and power a wide variety of devices. It also allowed for a robust ecosystem of apps, though not distributed through Google Play. Now, the company wants to move away from Android and into its own home-grown platform, which is codenamed Vega.

What is Fire OS?

Fire OS is a mobile operating system based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). It is developed by Amazon for their devices. Fire OS includes proprietary software, a customized user interface primarily centered on content consumption and heavy ties to content available from Amazon's storefronts and services.

Amazon began referring to the Android derivative as Fire OS with its third iteration of Fire tablets. Unlike previous Fire models, whose operating system was described as "based on" Android, Fire OS 3.0 was described as "compatible with" Android. Fire OS was first released in November 2011 with Amazon's first Kindle Fire tablet and was based on Android's Gingerbread 2.3.3 OS.

Today, Fire OS is used across the company's media consumption devices. This includes Fire tablets, Fire Sticks, and some Fire TVs.

A change in platforms

A series of data leaks have suggested that Amazon is working on changing up its platform basics. In fact, it looks as if the company has been working on the replacement for Android for years. Corporate job listings, forum posts, as well a few public comments on LinkedIn have led reporter Janko Roettgers at Lowpass to conclude that the project has been in progress since at least 2019.

The scattered information, when combined together, suggests that the core development of the operating system has already been completed and SDK and developer projects are what is left before pulling the trigger. The application infrastructure will be done, not through Android programming, but instead through the JavaScript application framework React Native. Interestingly, this would make the new Fire OS less like the previous Fire OS and more like the long-defunct webOS (at least for phones).

The problems with transition

Another similarity between a JavaScript-based Fire OS switch and Palm's switch to webOS is application carryover. Right now, Fire OS has a lot of developers that have gotten behind the platform and built software for it. That includes the big-name media companies, but also app developers for the tablets. However, since a new version of Fire OS would not be Android-based, the likelihood of developing backwards compatibility is slim.

So, that leaves the company with an application hole. Previous apps would no longer be compatible, and new apps would need to be developed. But, not all of the companies will be interested in completely rebuilding their apps for yet another platform and using another framework. Palm encountered this issue with webOS when developers that had apps for PalmOS for years never migrated their apps to webOS. The application gap is part of why Palm failed with their transition. The application gap is also why Windows Phone failed in the market.


Can Amazon overcome the application gap and make a straight Linus-based Fire OS replacement work? It's possible. What will be lost, for sure, is applications that are no longer maintained. But, it will be an uphill battle and will likely cost a lot of money and resources to get developers back onboard. And with the hardware and services division already hemorrhaging cash, it's possible this plan gets thrown in the trash.

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