The UpStream

Sony is shaking up the DUALSHOCK controller design once again

posted Saturday Dec 28, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Sony is shaking up the DUALSHOCK controller design once again

Over the past 4 generations of PlayStation, Sony has not made a tremendous number of changes to the design of the controller. In fact, there is a popular meme that plays on this common knowledge, though the meme is really about Nintendo, the inverse of Sony. However, a new filing from the company might indicate what is potentially the largest usability upgrade to the controller design ever. While the front panel on the DUALSHOCK 4 controllers might be a big visual change, they turned out to be less of an everyday feature.

This filing, which comes to us care of the World Intellectual Property Organization, shows a controller with two new buttons across the back. For PlayStation fans, the design will look familiar, in the form of the DUALSHOCK 4 Back Button Attachment. This accessory adds two buttons to the back of the current controller, but any time you have an accessory, you have limited support. If a developer cannot guarantee a piece of hardware, they tend to ignore it.

This filing is, in no way, suggests that this design is the official design for the DUALSHOCK 5 controller. However, the idea that Sony might be bringing additional buttons to the next generation controller is exciting. However, the really exciting aspect is the use of these buttons. Rather than being a new set of semi-supported controls, like the touch sensors on the current controls, these new buttons are designed to be customizable. That means that you could set them to be the X and O buttons, allowing for an easier and more natural jump and melee access.

Over the next 6 months, between this publishing and E3 2020, the company will likely nail down the final design of the controller. So, for today, take this design filing with a grain of salt, as everything is subject to change.

Messaging is changing, encryption is more important than ever

posted Saturday Dec 28, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Messaging is changing, encryption is more important than ever

This week saw a couple of revelations about the state of messaging services. An announcement from Facebook reversed a previous policy, with the company now requiring that new users have a Facebook account to use the service's Messenger app. Previously, new users could get access to the Messenger service without the need to create a Facebook profile. For many, a Facebook profile comes along with significant privacy concerns, and the ability to use the Messenger service without a full profile was appealing. However, as the company begins to integrate the various messaging platforms, they seem to be looking for tighter control. This will not affect current users who signed up using a phone number, however.

But Messenger is far from the only player in town creating controversy. And, in reality, it's pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of problems online. A newer app, named ToTok, has made the rounds this week after it was revealed to be a government spy app for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The name should sound familiar it is similar to the Chinese social video app TikTok, which has also been tied to government surveillance and censorship activities.

ToTok gained popularity because, unlike services like Messenger and WhatsApp, ToTok was available in countries that are likely to censor internet traffic, such as the UAE itself. The platform makes claims about a high level of security but does not mention any level of encryption. That's likely because data transferred through the service is sent through a data-mining firm that then hands the valuable data to DarkMatter, a government hacking firm located in Abi Dhabi. DarkMatter is already under US federal investigation by the FBI for spy-related activity. In addition to messages, user location data and contact lists are also tracked through DarkMatter, under the guise of providing customized recommendations.

All of these incidents bring to light the importance of end-to-end encryption, a feature that the US government is vehemently opposed to, going so far as to look for international support. The argument against the government's insistence is that, without the end-to-end encryption that the government wants to avoid, the US government could have the same power to spy on its citizens that it is complaining about other countries doing.

Binge watching could lead Hulu viewers to an ad-free experience

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Binge watching could lead Hulu viewers to an ad-free experience

The concept of binge-watching shows has become so common that the streaming networks, like Netflix and Hulu, have changed the way that shows are made and released to lean into the concept. A season of an original show on Netflix tends to have 8-10 episodes and are released at once, with the high profile shows releasing during a time when the next few days will be the most convenient to binge.

Hulu is taking the concept a step farther, giving their binge-watching customers on the base plan a nice new feature. The base plan for Hulu includes ads, the quantity of which has increased fairly dramatically in the past few years, starting with one or two per break, and currently running almost as many as network television. But, if you are binging a show, Hulu will start eliminating ads almost entirely.

The company has defined "binge" as watching at least three episodes in a single session. So, once you have met that qualification, future episodes will be "ad-free." Ish. On broadcast television, when a program is "ad-free" there is always a bumper before the show that says something to the effect of "This episode is presented without ads thanks to *company name*." This will also be the case for Hulu's approach, with a couple of big brands already on-board with the move, including Georgia-Pacific, Kellogg's, and Maker's Mark.

As more streaming services enter the market, consumers are starting to have to decide which they want to subscribe to. The binge feature sets Hulu apart from its ad-supported counterparts. This move comes at a time when the industry is urging Netflix to offer a lower cost plan similar in structure to Hulu's, including running ads. If Netflix were to be considering an ad-supported lower cost plan, Hulu mixing up the formula could put Netflix on their back foot, having to reconsider a service they don't want to offer.

Domain name sale price leads to burglary and 14 years in prison

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Domain name sale price leads to burglary and 14 years in prison

The internet can be a dangerous place with hacking, identity theft, malware, and more. However, in the vast array of dangers, owning a domain name is probably at the very bottom of the list. Or, that was the case until this week, when a domain listed for sale ended in a 14-year prison sentence. In 2017, an Iowa man, Rossi Lorathio Adams II, wanted to purchase a domain name that was for sale (doitforstate.com). This is a pretty common case, especially when the domain name is in high demand or involves a coveted keyword. The price was set at $20k, a high price (but far less than Pepsi paid for theirs).

The price was too much for Adams to bear. Rather than paying the price, a plot was hatched to steal the domain name from the owner at gunpoint. The failed buyer and his cousin, Sherman Hopkins Jr., drove to the domain owner's house and the cousin entered the house with a gun and a demand note with instructions on how to transfer the domain to the failed buyer's GoDaddy account. Nothing went as planned, with both the cousin and the owner getting shot. In the end, Hopkins took a plea deal including a 20-year prison sentence. This week, Adams was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison.

The list of problems with this plot is so long that it's painful. Even if it had worked and Hopkins and Adams had gotten away from the house with the domain transfer initiated, a call to GoDaddy would have been able to cancel the transfer. The transfer would have created a paper trail that tied Adams to the crime, making the case possibly even easier. Plus, an armed robbery for $20k is ridiculous. That would have barely been worth the risk 100 years ago, let alone today.

Microsoft reveals details about next Xbox console: Xbox Series X

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft reveals details about next Xbox console: Xbox Series X

Since the initial official reveal, small details about Microsoft's Project Scarlett have been the extent the information. That is until this week, where the company finally revealed information, including the name of the new console.

First, let's deal with the name: Xbox Series X. Despite major changes at Microsoft under CEO Satya Nadella, the legacy of chaotic naming schemes seems unaffected. If you ignore the inconsistency of Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X, the real problem with this new name is the inevitable confusion between Xbox One X and Xbox Series X. This will be a challenge for both consumers and retailers Holiday 2020.

The next big reveal is the shape of the console. Traditionally, console manufacturers have limited their hardware designs to the general size and shape of stereo receivers of the 1960s. This has allowed them to join the standard stack of components that were part of an entertainment center. With the popularity of soundbars, the limited nature of cable boxes, and the growing popularity of streaming sticks, this need is far less important than in the past. Microsoft has latched onto this design change, making the Xbox Series X more of a tower than a flat box. Based on calculations made from the scale of the controller, it is estimated that the console is about the same height as the Xbox One X is wide (11.5 inches), but the width and depth are both around 4.25 inches. Essentially, cut the Xbox One X in half and stack them on top of one another and you have the new design. This will definitely be unique.

When it comes to new consoles, power is really the key. Microsoft has put significant power into the new console. The GPU is double the power of the Xbox One X, and significantly more powerful than the original Xbox One. This is accomplished with a custom AMD CPU and GPU, which is in line with the new Surface products, as well, plus 12 GB of RAM.

Between now and Holiday 2020 release, we will likely see more detailed information (such as official sizing), but this is a good start. What do you think of the new console? Let us know in the comments.

RCS Chat has finally arrived to bring advanced messaging to Android

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2019 by Scott Ertz

RCS Chat has finally arrived to bring advanced messaging to Android

It has been a long time coming, but support for the Rich Communications Service Universal Profile protocol, better known as RCS Chat, has finally arrived in the US. Chat is a more open version of Apple's iMessage, which brings a number of the features that we've come to expect from modern messaging systems that SMS and MMS have not been able to support. The most obvious features will involve status indication of a conversation: typing indicators and delivery/read receipts. It's an interesting paradox when you consider that the smartphone revolution made these features ubiquitous, the most ubiquitous messaging system has been without this feature.

In addition to status indications, RCS Chat will also bring the ability to attach data other than photos and videos. Some of the types of data that could be most useful to transfer will be truly mobile-first types, such as mobile boarding passes. Also, the ability to include programmable features, you could go so far as to select your seat on a flight through your messaging app. Possibly most importantly, Chat messages can and will be sent over data (including Wi-Fi), rather than traditional SMS and MMS.

The important thing to remember here is that Chat is hardware and platform agnostic, meaning that, while Google is the first company to support it completely, it could eventually come to the iPhone as well. While dreaming is nice, let's stay focused on reality and what is needed to make your Android phone compatible with RCS right now. First, you're going to need a toolkit called Carrier Services. This toolkit has no UI and no settings, but it brings the capabilities to your device. Next, you need to install Messages, the newest version of the Android texting app. With these two pieces in place, you are ready to try out the advanced messaging features.

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