Scott Ertz - Staff

Scott Ertz

Scott Ertz

Former Segment Host

Current Host

Current UpStream Contributor

Current Product Reviewer

Current Episode Author

Email Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Google last.fm YouTube

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

Ad-supported, lower cost streaming is the newest industry trend

posted Saturday Jun 5, 2021 by Scott Ertz

In the early days of video streaming services, ad-supported content was everywhere. Hulu offered an entirely free tier that had a smaller catalog and ads, plus a paid tier that offered all of the content with ads. But, the success of Netflix's entirely ad-free offering pushed new services to focus on that model. But, in recent months, we've seen more services give it a shot, with Paramount+ and HBO Max adding a focus on this business model this week.

Paramount+

The former CBS All-Access (which was a terrible name), has offered a lower cost plan since its rebrand. But, the plan was still a bit too expensive for the cost-conscious customer who would be looking at the ad-supported offering. To offset this issue, the company has announced that it will be removing one of the service's unique features in order to reduce the price.

Unlike most of the other streaming services, Paramount+ offers live TV as part of your subscription. That is a nice addition, but it comes at a cost. So, the company will be removing live CBS content from the ad-supported tier, which will not be known as Paramount+ Essential, and will reduce the price to $4.99 per month. This $1 price drop will go into effect on June 7, 2021, and will not affect current subscribers unless you choose to make the change.

HBO Max

Since HBO Max became the flagship streaming service for WarnerMedia, the company has struggled to get its subscriber base to grow. They have made new releases available, had specials like the Friends reunion, and more. But, they still had to contend with the price problem - $14.99 was not palatable to some people.

Now, HBO Max is finally launching a less expensive subscription option, and it includes ads. Similar to Paramount+ and Peacock, subscribers who chose the ad-supported option will save $5 per month. That is a significant price reduction and could finally attract users who had been skipping the service in the past.

read more...

DoJ to classify ransomware investigation at same level as terrorism

posted Saturday Jun 5, 2021 by Scott Ertz

DoJ to classify ransomware investigation at same level as terrorism

Nearly everyone in the United States, especially those of us in the Southeast, were inundated with news about the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack a few weeks ago. A stupid security mistake, combined with seemingly no backup procedures, brought the pipeline that delivers gasoline to much of the Gulf Coast to a complete halt for almost a week. The infrastructure issues that it created caught the attention of the Department of Justice (DoJ), leading to an increased focus on investigating these attacks.

These days, digital infrastructure is as important, if not more important, than physical infrastructure. This is because our digital world controls the physical in every realm from gasoline to traffic lights. A cyber attack, as was evidenced during the Colonial issue, can be damaging, if not destructive, to far more people than an attack on a locale. That is the reason why the DoJ is going to treat ransomware attack investigations at a similar level to terrorist threats.

In the Colonial Pipeline case, a compromised password was all that was needed to access the critical infrastructure system and bring gasoline delivery to a standstill for tens of millions of Americans. It led to a familiar sight of panic and hoarding, though this time with gasoline instead of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. While there was no real threat this time, a different attack could wreak havoc on a large scale.

The biggest problem with ransomware attacks is that the easiest way to get past the problem is to pay the ransom. Of course, this means that the victim has emboldened the attackers and given them more resources with which to carry out future attacks. So, to protect yourself in the short run, you make it likely that someone else will be a victim later. This is the threat that the DoJ is attempting to prevent by investigating these attacks with haste and strength in order to try to prevent new attacks in the future.

read more...

Nintendo wins $2.1 million against ROM site they shut down in 2020

posted Saturday Jun 5, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo wins $2.1 million against ROM site they shut down in 2020

For years, if you wanted to acquire a Nintendo game illegitimately, there was one place to go: RomUniverse. The site was clearly a target for Nintendo, who had issued a number of DMCA Takedown Notices against the site, but it was an unstoppable network. In 2019, the company filed suit against the site and its owner, Matthew Storman. This week, a judgment was finally issued, and it is a big one.

A judge awarded Nintendo a judgment for $1.715 million, which represents $35k per game. In addition, another $400k was levied for use of Nintendo's box art. This is a far cry from the over $11 million the company was looking for, but still a large judgment in their favor. Nintendo is aware that they will receive no actual money from this case, as Storman is unemployed and living on food stamps, but they hope that the case will serve as a warning for others who might attempt to take the place of RomUniverse.

So, what happened?

Storman undermined his case at every turn. And, to add insult to injury, he tried to defend himself against a major corporation. He started off on the wrong side of the argument when he claimed he could not turn over data about download numbers because it was no longer available following the site's shutdown. Nintendo believed that he purposely destroyed the data, setting himself up for additional trouble.

He attempted two primary defenses, the first of which was trying to hide behind the "safe harbor" clause of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This protects a site from litigation based on content uploaded by its users, so long as they respond to DMCA requests within a timely manner.

Unfortunately, during a deposition, Storman admitted to uploading some of the content himself as the owner of the platform. In fact, it is likely that a lot of the content was uploaded by staff. That means that the site is not entirely user-generated, and therefore does not qualify for protection under safe harbor.

His second argument, based on his admission in the first, is that he qualifies under the "first sale doctrine." But the argument was a massive stretch, because the site was not selling his personal property. Instead, it was selling access to copies of his or others' property, rather than the original.

read more...

Dell hit with class-action suit over Alienware Area-51m upgradability

posted Saturday Jun 5, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Dell hit with class-action suit over Alienware Area-51m upgradability

At CES 2019, Dell brand Alienware announced the Area-51M R1 gaming notebooks. While there is nothing unusual about Alienware announcing a gaming laptop, this lineup was special. The company promised the ability to upgrade various aspects of the computer, but Robert Felter believes that Dell misrepresented the upgrade path for these computers. As such, he filed a lawsuit against the company, looking for class-action status, alleging fraud and false advertising claims.

The company's promised big system upgradability, including the processor and video card. It is famously difficult and often impossible to upgrade the video card in a laptop, so this was a major selling point. But the promise was not nearly as exciting as Dell would have had you think. The laptops launched with Intel 9th Generation processors, and the 10th Generation launched with a new chipset, leaving the 51M R1 with no upgrade path. Also, despite Dell's proprietary Dell Graphics Form Factor (DGFF), the company created no upgrade path to the RTX 20-series Super cards that replaced the previous generation.

Dell has maintained that the part manufacturers' upgrade paths are outside of its control, meaning that they had no way of stopping Intel and Nvidia from changing the underlying technology to prevent them from offering their customers the ability to upgrade to the new generation. They also state that the details of the upgrade were advertised as within-generation, and never showed future generation capabilities.

However, Robert Felter disagrees. His attorney, David W. Kani, told our friends at Tom's Hardware,

Dell's advertisement to the public didn't place any restrictions on the upgradeability of the laptop. They also never disclosed that those with the highest spec CPU and/or GPU that their device would not be upgradeable.

The suit also specifies that Dell has insider knowledge about Intel and Nvidia's technology landmarks and whether or not hardware will be compatible. As such, the company knowingly advertised the upgradability of its laptops while knowing that they would not be compatible with the next generation of hardware from both partners.

Currently the suit is seeking class-action status, hoping to include customers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. He is represented by Brian Mahany, who argued the largest single defendant case in US history and class action lawyers Steve Hochfelsen and David Kani.

read more...

Amazon purchases MGM for over $8 billion, boosting Prime library

posted Saturday May 29, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Amazon purchases MGM for over $8 billion, boosting Prime library

Over the past few years, we have seen companies branch outside of their core competencies. It seems like everyone in the tech industry, whether it be retail sales or telecommunications, wants to be in the content game. AT&T purchased Time Warner, forming WarnerMedia. Verizon purchased AOL, as well as Yahoo. Now, Amazon has agreed to purchase MGM for $8.45 billion.

Where AT&T and Verizon have struggled, Amazon will likely succeed. Verizon purchased a pair of content producers, but their content was not popular or terribly valuable. In addition, Verizon did not have an infrastructure in place to take advantage of the new content they were purchasing. Amazon, on the other hand, has a strong infrastructure in place for video content. Prime Video and IMDb TV, there is plenty of opportunity for Amazon to take advantage of its new acquisition to improve its own offerings.

Purchasing big studios has become a popular way to improve a streaming catalog. Disney made a similar move with Twentieth Century Fox, bringing everything from The Simpsons to Home Alone into the fold. While Amazon did pick up full access to franchises like James Bond, there are some big gaps.

Similar to Disney's issues with the rights to Spiderman, MGM doesn't own the rights to its whole library, either. For example, The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind are currently not under the management of MGM, but WarnerMedia. In fact, thanks to a strange sale orchestrated by Ted Turner in the 1986, WarnerMedia controls all of MGM's assets (around 2,000 titles) from before the sale. Interestingly, Turner did not retain control of the United Artists catalog, which MGM purchased in 1981.

While older content may not be part of the deal, Amazon is getting a ton of new content under its umbrella. Once streaming contracts expire, Amazon is likely to make all of the MGM content exclusive to Amazon platforms. It also gives Amazon a strong position in the theater business.

Another potential big change that this purchase will make is in the industry as a whole. With one of the streaming giants owning one of the generational movie giants, it's going to put a lot of pressure on the industry to recognize streaming platforms as legitimate. Currently, movies have to spend a certain amount of time in a certain number of theaters before they can be considered for awards. With MGM being part of Amazon, it will be significantly harder for the industry to pretend that streaming platforms are less than theaters. Combined with the reliance on streaming platforms over the past year, that requirement is going to be challenged and potentially overturned.

read more...
We're live now - Join us!
PLuGHiTZ Keyz

Email

Password

Forgot password? Recover here.
Not a member? Register now.
Blog Meets Brand Stats