The UpStream

PlayStation now allows username changes, alters username censorship

posted Saturday Apr 13, 2019 by Scott Ertz

PlayStation now allows username changes, alters username censorship

Since the beginning of the PlayStation Network, users have requested the ability to change their network names. For some, names were chosen in high school and, as an adult, they can be embarrassing. For others, it might relate back to a time they would prefer not to remember. No matter the reasoning, unless you were willing to lose all of our accomplishments, there was no way to move away from that name. All of that finally changed this week, when Sony introduced the ability to change your username!

Starting now, PSN members can change their PSN ID once for free, and for a small fee after the first. The incredibly long delay has been caused by a very amateur data design made in the early days of PSN, where the username was actually used as the key linking you to games and more. After years of reworking the way data has been stored, the feature is here, but it is not perfect. In fact, changing your name could potentially break games. Sony has a list of compatible games, but notes that there could still be problems with those games that haven't been detected during testing.

As with most username systems, including the PSN, there are rules to what is and is not appropriate. In the past, Sony used a heavy hand when enforcing those rules. When you created your account, if the username was determined to violate the community standards, Sony would close your account, no questions allowed to be asked. Fortunately, this policy has been amended, now that usernames can be adjusted. Rather than the account being closed, the username will be changed to TempXXXX, where the X will be replaced by a random number. This is similar in behavior to the random Xbox Live usernames, but with far less creativity. If your name gets changed due to rule violations, either during signup or ID change, you will be able to try again.

The benefits and deficits of Android updates being tied to Google Play

posted Saturday Apr 13, 2019 by Scott Ertz

The benefits and deficits of Android updates being tied to Google Play

According to a find by 9to5Google, Google might be in the process of changing the way that updates are delivered to Android users. As it works now, updates are pushed through a series of levels before they arrive on your handset. Google develops the changes and makes them available to the manufacturer of your handset. The manufacturer makes their changes and verifies that it does not break the device. The manufacturer either does or does not make the update available to your carrier, who does their own QA testing. Only then are updates made available to the owner of the device.

This incredibly long process is why it can take months from the time a big update is made available until it arrives on your device. Some devices never receive those updates, with manufacturers opting to ignore older handsets entirely. This is one of the problems that Google has tried to address with the Google One platform, which has no manufacturer or carrier overrides, providing a "pure Google experience," similar to what Apple provides with iOS and Microsoft provided with the now defunct Windows Phone and Windows Mobile.

As part of this unification, Google seems to be moving the update process from deep within the settings menu into the Google Play Store. Moving the update process will almost certainly make it a more direct process for users to get notified about, and manually search for, system updates. It might also begin to create some confusion for users, as the process is very different from any other major platform. The only system on the market today that groups app and system updates together is Linus, which has a statistically insignificant user base, making it a foreign concept.

In addition to the potential for confusion, there is the potential for legal issues. By moving the update process into Google Play, it might suggest that Android will now require Google Play and Play Services as part of the system. That will cause problems for manufacturers who have chosen to bypass Google Play and other Play Services in their devices in favor of their own stores, services, and more. If system updates are about to become dependant on Google Play, it will potentially end their platforms. At a time where Google's behaviors are being questioned on a daily basis for antitrust, this could cause them even more trouble, especially in the EU.

How is DirecTV Now Doing? According to a lawsuit, not great.

posted Saturday Apr 6, 2019 by Scott Ertz

How is DirecTV Now Doing? According to a lawsuit, not great.

For an investor to make educated decisions on whether or not to support a company, they need accurate information about that company. To that end, in the United States, companies are legally prohibited from misleading or lying to investors or potential investors. The past few months have seen representatives of companies making false statements and being punished for it. The most publicized incident has been Elon Musk's false tweets about taking Tesla private. His punishment was swift. This week, another big name is being accused of lying to investors: AT&T.

According to a class action lawsuit, AT&T has been lying to investors about the success, or lack thereof, of the DirecTV Now streaming service. Since its launch, the service's price has increased significantly both in promotional pricing ending and actual price increases. As those prices have increased, the subscriber count has decreased. The complaint alleges that the company hid that fact from investors, as well as other factors, both internal and external, which were affecting the success fo the brand.

In evidence is the registration statements made when AT&T closed its purchase of Time Warner. In those documents, AT&T claimed that the subscriber growth of DirecTV Now was more than sufficient to offset the losses that traditional DirecTV was seeing. As it turns out, DirecTV Now was already seeing subscribers jump ship, especially those who had signed on under promotional pricing that was ending.

In October 2018, AT&T finally revealed the bad news about the services, saying,

Traditional DirecTV satellite subscriber losses jumped over 25% from 286,000 to 359,000 quarterly. Meanwhile, DirecTV Now subscribers plummeted over 85% from 342,000 down to 49,000 quarterly. These dramatically diminished DirecTV Now subscriber gains were nowhere close to offsetting the dramatically increased traditional satellite subscriber losses. As a result, Defendant AT&T's 80,000 total video subscriber "Net Video Additions" had reversed into a 297,000 total subscriber "Net Loss."

After the revelation and the resultant media coverage, AT&T's stock price fell 12 percent. That loss to investors could have mitigated if AT&T had been upfront about the troubles with the service all along, rather than hiding them behind false claims.

Melvin Gross is the lead plaintiff and is currently seeking class action classification in the hopes of including all investors who were affected by the false information.

Is Google's brand image one of innovation or failed experiments?

posted Saturday Apr 6, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Is Google's brand image one of innovation or failed experiments?

We are just a few days into the second quarter of 2019, and so far the list of high profile Google products and services that have been killed off has reached epidemic levels. On January 11, Chromecast Audio was retired. On January 15, YouTube annotations were all deleted and will no longer show on videos. February 8 saw the abandonment of Louisville by the Google Fiber internet service. February 13 saw the removal of IoT from Android Things, which is what the platform was for. March 12 reportedly saw a staffing cut for Google's laptop and tablet division. March 13 saw the end of unpopular chat service Allo. March 14 saw the closure of the Spotlight Stories VR studio. March 30 saw the goo.gl URL shortener signup process close. March 31 saw the end of IFTTT support for Gmail. If that list wasn't enough for you, this week we had 2 more product closures.

April 2 saw the end of Google's Inbox email client, which Google claimed to be a new approach to how you send and receive emails. Either the claim was more than what Google was able to deliver, or users didn't like the new approach, because the service never managed to gain the steam that Google had hoped for. Luckily for Inbox users, Google has other email clients to choose from, including the default Android client and the official Gmail client.

April 2 also saw the end of Google+. There was no transition plan for this service. Instead, it represents Googe's complete abandonment of generalized social networking. Again. Google+ was flawed in concept from the beginning and suffered from the heavy hand of Google, who seemed mad that people didn't like it. In their anger, they tried to force users to adopt the platform, integrating YouTube, Picasa, and more into the platform. Inevitably those integrations were reversed, leaving rather large holes in the platform. Somehow, it took a security breach to finally close it down.

Google likely sees these closures as the cost of doing business. Sometimes you build a product and it doesn't work out. When it doesn't, there is no sense in continuing to spend money developing a product that people don't want. The problem is, with a company as large as Google, this many closures in a short span can cause irreparable damage. That is what is starting to happen to Google.

Participating in the Google ecosystem requires trust in that system. In the future, when Google launches a new product, potential product users will be faced with a new condition to consider: will Google get bored with this new investment and eventually abandon it? Is it worth investing your time into a new Google product with the lingering potential of an eventual shutdown?

The Google ecosystem is a very different experience from Apple, who infrequently shuts down a product or service, at least without a transition plan to something similar or better. Even in the face of complete consumer indifference Apple continues producing products. While it might be a little laughable that they are still headstrong into the HomePod a year into the product, the attitude creates confidence in the ecosystem. When people buy into an Apple product or service, there is little fear that the line will be abandoned.

Game Pass Ultimate service could be the best Xbox service yet

posted Saturday Apr 6, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Game Pass Ultimate service could be the best Xbox service yet

Microsoft is making a big play for the Xbox brand in 2019, on the console, Windows 10, and on mobile. We've seen the company constantly upgrade the capabilities of the Xbox Game Bar in Windows 10, with new features being added this week. They've expanded the reach of Xbox Live off of their platforms. We've even seen more details of the Project xCloud streaming service.

One of their biggest moves in recent years was Game Pass, the monthly subscription service that gives you access to over 100 games for your Xbox One. For $10 per month (and only $1 for your first month), you can install a rotating list of games, including the company's major titles like Sea of Thieves. It looks like some new features will be coming to the Game Pass brand in the near future if some credible rumors are to be believed.

First is Game Pass Ultimate, a rumored service that will combine the $10 per month Game Pass subscription with the $10 per month Xbox Live subscription for only $15 per month. That's a 25% discount for purchasing services that you might already be subscribed to. It's a great deal, and time saver, for those of us who scour Microsoft, Amazon, and more looking for a discount on Xbox Live every year when it's time to renew. Plus, you can get the annual price ($60 per year or $5 per month) without paying it all up front. It is also a perfect companion service for people considering purchasing the upcoming Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, which will have no optical drive.

If you're also a PC gamer, Microsoft might have some good news for you, as well. Game Pass looks like it will finally be coming to the PC in the near future. There are no details on what this might look like, but Microsoft has been in the process of expanding the unification of Xbox and Windows gaming, so it should be no surprise that the service would be heading to PC.

Apple makes HomePod cheaper, but it is still way too expensive

posted Saturday Apr 6, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Apple makes HomePod cheaper, but it is still way too expensive

Since Apple first announced the HomePod, the company's rt speaker, they have struggled to gain any traction. Even the most hardcore Apple fans have skipped this device entirely. Apple has decided that the reason customers have not purchased the HomePod is because of its price and, this week, have lowered the retail price from $450 to $300: a 15% discount.

Unfortunately for Apple, they have made a major miscalculation on the cause of consumers' disinterest in the HomePod. Apple has never had problems selling their devices when they are overpriced. In fact, overpriced hardware is kind of Apple's brand message. In reality, the reason why no one is purchasing the device is that it is massively underpowered, as far as features. You get the features that Apple has provided and that is about it. Sure, you can get the weather from Apple, or control HomeKit-enabled smartphone devices, but you don't get much more than that.

Siri has never been the most powerful digital assistant in the market, dating back to when Apple purchased the technology in 2010. While she may have been the best known, she had no developer support, meaning that only Apple could give her capabilities. When Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant were introduced, all were designed with extensibility at their core.

While Apple has added some developer support to Siri in the past decade, it is far from useful for developers to add real capabilities through distributable skills. Even Cortana, who is in the #3 position as far as digital assistants, has more capabilities when used away from the computer, and they are having trouble selling the Harmon Kardon Invoke for $50[url" class="UpStreamLink"> (though it is a great Bluetooth speaker). If Apple wants to gain any traction on the HomePod, they need to give developers proper access to be able to build standalone apps for Siri.

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