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 DDR community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bar 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 judging engineering notebooks at competitions. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors.

Recent UpStream Articles

Spotify putting more weight behind podcasts with movie new deal

posted Sunday Sep 27, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Spotify putting more weight behind podcasts with movie new deal

There's no denying that in the past few years, podcasts have grown in popularity. When we got started, there was a small number of shows and a small audience for them. But, today, everyone knows the word and the number of shows has grown to an unbelievable point. The lockdown has had an interesting effect on the market, with some listenership down and some significantly up.

This rapid growth over the past few years has led to a lot of new investments from some of the largest tech and media companies. Google leaned hard into podcasts with Google Podcasts. That move took podcasting from a minimal aspect of Google Play Music to its own focused product. Apple did the same thing, creating Apple Podcasts. Spotify and Amazon have both introduced podcasting into their platforms, as well. But, Spotify has put the most emphasis on it in their business.

Not only has Spotify added podcasts to their catalog, but they have also gotten involved in the creation process by purchasing Anchor, a second-tier hosting and production company. They have also put a lot of money into exclusive podcasts (which technically aren'y podcasts, but we don't exactly have a term for this, so we'll ignore it). These shows include The Joe Rogan Experience, one of the most popular podcasts on the internet.

Now, the company has dedicated even more resources into the space with a deal to produce video projects. According to a report from Deadline, they have entered into an agreement with Chernin Entertainment to turn Spotify projects into movies and TV shows. Two shows, Blackout and The Clearing, have already been agreed upon, with one starring Rami Malek from Mr. Robot.

Audio dramas are a small portion of the number of podcasts but have taken a larger portion of the listenership. The change may have something to do with the lockdown and the lack of new episodes of scripted dramas on television and movies. We'll see how this move works out over time.

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Google to limit Chrome extensions further, removing paid option

posted Sunday Sep 27, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Google to limit Chrome extensions further, removing paid option

Apple revitalized the idea of app stores with the release of the iPhone, but Google revitalized the almost dead idea of browser extensions with Chrome. The company made the ability to add custom capabilities to the browser the next frontier in web technologies. Developers released features, both public and private, expanding upon the abilities of the browser. The most common extensions have been ad blockers, but the range is huge. You can get Amazon price comparisons, spelling corrections, and even content automation.

In the recent past, Google has been locking down the capabilities of Chrome. First, we saw the loss of Chrome Apps, an extreme version of extensions, which allowed for full applications built into the browser. A lot of this original move likely had to do with moving that development out of the browser directly and into the Chrome OS platform instead. Then, the focus of Chrome OS moved to Android apps, and the concept of Chrome Apps had little remaining value.

Then came an increase in "security" in the store, with Google harasssing developers over the permissions that their extensions need. For the most part, this is a positive move, but in some circumstances, it is simply a hassle. The next move was the loss of the process of private listings. Originally, a private Chrome extension could be uploaded without issue. Today, even these apps require approval from Google, making the process a pain when it should not be. When paired with the lockdown on permissions, this could be nearly impossible to maintain a private listing.

Now, Google is eliminating the in-store payment system. This has nothing to do with the concerns over in-app purchases we've seen through Apple and Android, but simply because of a lack of interest from Google. Without the payment system, there can no longer be paid apps in the store. Instead, developers will have to offer the extensions for free and lock features behind their own, internal paywall. There are existing products that do this, like Grammarly, but it could pose a problem for smaller developers.

In general, most extensions are offered for free, but this is definitely going to be a change in process for those who use paid features.

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Bethesda now an Xbox Game Studio after $7.5 billion ZeniMax purchase

posted Sunday Sep 27, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Bethesda now an Xbox Game Studio after $7.5 billion ZeniMax purchase

One of the largest and best-known game studios, Bethesda, just became a part of the Xbox Game Studios after the purchase of parent company ZeniMax Media by Microsoft for $7.5 billion. This purchase brings some heavy hitter AAA franchises under the Microsoft umbrella, including Fallout, Elder Scrolls, DOOM, Quake, and Wolfenstein.

All of these titles are currently cross-platform, but now officially owned by one of the platforms. The purchase has clearly brought up the question about the future of game access on PlayStation and Switch now that they are owned by Microsoft, but it is important to note that Microsoft also owns Mojang, the developer of Minecraft and, under Microsoft's ownership, the cross-platform capabilities have expanded, not shrunken. With the current Microsoft philosophy of being wherever customers are, it is likely that we will see this same behavior continue, with some benefits on Microsoft platforms. Phil Spencer has confirmed that the company is open to this continuity, with decisions being made on an individual game basis.

This means that some future games might be Xbox and PC exclusives, while others might have a timed-release on Xbox first, with PlayStation and Switch coming later. One thing is for sure, though - as Microsoft studios, games will be considered first-party titles. That means that Xbox Game Pass will be a big part of these games' existence. Bethesda has confirmed that future titles will be available on Xbox Game Pass on launch day, just like other Microsoft titles. This will be a huge benefit for subscribers, and a selling point for the company.

The first title to join the catalog following the acquisition will be Doom Eternal, coming on October 1, 2020. Subscribers will gain access to this already popular game, and its follow-up Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods - Part One comes to Xbox a few weeks later. And this is just the beginning. Bethesda has confirmed that all of their games will be appearing on the service in the near future.

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Xbox pre-order process was also a mess, but there could be justice

posted Sunday Sep 27, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Xbox pre-order process was also a mess, but there could be justice

This week, pre-orders for the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S opened up, and things did not go well for the company. Similarly to the PlayStation 5 pre-orders, websites crashed as people tried to get their pre-orders in. A lot of traffic online, like with the PS5, came from a pre-order bot designed originally to snipe sneakers. This bot is the backbone of a subscription service that allows people, for a monthly fee, to snag pre-orders without being bound by unit count restrictions and other rules.

One of the differences here, as opposed to the PS5, is that many of the people who attempted to pre-order had access to the models they wanted. Not everyone got their units, but it seemed as if there wasn't a large, forced limitation on the less expensive Xbox Series S, as we saw with the PlayStation 5 All Digital.

However, as we predicted when the names were announced, confusion was absolutely involved in the pre-order process. The Xbox One X versus Xbox Series X and the Xbox One S versus the Xbox Series S pose a lot of confusion for people less involved in the gaming world. As proof of the confusion, Amazon sales reports show that sales of the Xbox One X and Xbox One S shot up significantly during the pre-order process. In fact, at one point, sales increased by almost 750%. The most likely situation is that people were accidentally ordering the wrong product, but most gamers would look closely at the price to ensure they were pre-ordering the right product.

Another possibility, and one that we all hope is the reality, is that the pre-order bot actually got confused, and subscribers to the service are about to get shipped the current generation of Xbox hardware. While it would certainly be a disappointment for those trying to steal pre-orders, it would be true justice for these people to have older consoles show up on their doorsteps this week instead of pre-orders show up when the new consoles launch into the wild.

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Amazon has a bonkers lineup of new Alexa and Ring devices coming

posted Sunday Sep 27, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Amazon has a bonkers lineup of new Alexa and Ring devices coming

It's that time of year where tech companies are making their announcements for the next generation of their products - just in time for holiday shopping. While these announcements may look different this year from past events thanks to the lockdown, most of the products are what we expect - incremental updates to existing prodicts. Amazon decided to take a different approach from the likes of Apple and announced some legitimately new prodicts, or big new features to existing lines.

Sure, the Echo speakers are generally unchanged, save for the design. Instead of a Pringles can, they now look like a ball. But, that's mostly just aesthetics. Sure, Alexa is getting upgrades, but that's not a device feature, that is a network-level feature. The Eero line also got a modest upgrade, with a pair of new mesh routers sporting Wi-Fi 6. This is a welcome upgrade, but fairly pedestrian, as most other brands have already released Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers.

The real shock for Amazon comes in a pair of devices: the upgraded Echo Show 10 and the Ring Always Home Cam. The new Echo Show 10 adds an interesting feature - the ability for the camera to follow you. But, if you have seen an Echo Show, you know the camera is built in to the frame of the screen. So, to accomplish this new feature, the entire screen follows you. It's an interesting concept, but a problem for anyone who is worried about privacy, because it means the camera is always looking for people, can identify them, and then follow them around a room.

While that's odd, the Ring Always Home Cam is even odder, and stranger. It is a camera drone that sits in a mouht in your home and can fly around and follow intruders. No part of Amazon, a company that has had privacy violation issues in the past, having moving access to view inside of your home makes this an uncomplicated issue. While Amazon assures people that the flying spy camera makes enough noise that no one would be surprised by it, it's less about Amazon and more about hacking that has me worried. If someone can gain remote access to the devices, like they did with the Ring cameras a while back, hackers might be able to scout the inside of your home using your own spy drone. They could even land it in a different location and keep an eye of your activities. Not a great possible outcome for a product that is really just a novelty looking for attention.

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