The UpStream (Page 2)

Nintendo Switch (OLED Model) is not the Pro you're looking for

posted Sunday Jul 11, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Switch (OLED Model) is not the Pro you're looking for

Nintendo has been working on some new Switch hardware for a while, and we finally have a look at one of the devices: The Nintendo Switch (OLED Model). This new SKU is very similar to the existing model while adding some much-appreciated enhancements. Both the handheld itself and the dock have seen changes, and our own Allante is excited to get his hands on one.

The Good

First and foremost is the new, bigger screen. The Switch Lite has a 5.5-inch LCD screen, the original model has a 6.2-inch LCD screen, and the new model sports a 7-inch OLED screen. Obviously, the slightly larger screen is always going to be a welcomed change, and the OLED upgrade is going to be a massive enhancement. The new screen size does not affect the body size, simply taking reducing the edges and taking up more of the body itself.

The kickstand has also seen a pretty significant upgrade. While the existing Switch model has a kickstand, it is small and functionally has two modes: closed and opened. The new kickstand, however, is taller and has a different hinge. It reminded our team immediately of the modern Surface hinge, in that you can successfully set it at any angle and know that it will stay. It also looks to allow you to angle the screen more severely than the current model.

The base storage has also been increased. While the original model came with 32GB of internal memory, the OLED model comes with 64GB. The company also claims that the battery life is unchanged, despite the larger, better screen.

In addition, the dock has been improved. Most notably, the new dock features a built-in Ethernet connection. For anyone who has tried to use the add-on for the existing Switch dock, you'll know that it is inconsistent. Because this will be a big benefit for gamers, Nintendo quickly confirmed that the new dock will be available on its own and is compatible with the first generation Switch as well.

The Bad

The OLED model is nice, but it is NOT the Switch Pro that everyone was hoping for. In fact, other than the screen and storage, this is still a Switch. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is not the highly anticipated upgrade tat gamers were really hoping to hear about. The processor and RAM are the same, so overall performance should end up being the same as the original.

The Conclusion

If you do not have a Switch already, the new OLED model should be a serious consideration. The price difference is fairly marginal (still coming in under the other consoles) while adding a lot of new and appreciated features. However, if you have a Switch already, there is likely not enough of a change to drive an upgrade unless you just fall in love with the new screen.

FBI sold a honeypot Android phone to criminals, now on open market

posted Saturday Jul 10, 2021 by Scott Ertz

FBI sold a honeypot Android phone to criminals, now on open market

Last month, the FBI confirmed that, with the Australian Federal Police, they designed and sold a honeypot smartphone under the Anom brand. The devices were designed to appear super secure while actually providing a direct channel for law enforcement to watch all communications. Very little was revealed about the program, the devices, or the platform, but a few of the devices seem to have found their way onto the open market, with users being confused about what they have in their hands.

Fortunately, the tech world recognized what was happening immediately. Based on a forum post, we have learned that the Anom phones are an altered version of a Google Pixel 4a, while the accompanying ArcaneOS is simply a skinned Android 10.

There were a lot of obvious signs that something was up with this device. The first is one of the most important things to know about an Android device. Upon powering up the phone, the Secure Boot feature failed because the phone had been flashed. Because of this, it delayed the boot, showed an error message and a yellow exclamation point. This should absolutely have been a clue to criminals that this was a trick. But, more importantly, all users should know that if this shows up on your own phone and you have not flashed a custom ROM, something is very wrong so DO NOT USE IT.

The next big sign is hidden behind a trick "security" feature. When you do get ArcaneOS booted, you have to enter a PIN. One PIN brings you to a fake home screen with common apps, none of which work. These include things like Tinder and Facebook. If you enter a different PIN, it takes you to the real home screen, which has three apps: calculator, settings, and clock. The settings app is the stock Android settings app with a few options missing. These would be the ones that would make it easy to identify all of the apps, like the ones being used to steal data.

Behind the calculator app is supposed to be a highly encrypted, secure chat. However, all communications are actually sent and received through FBI servers, making it easy for agents to watch and track all chats. Other apps have done something similar, hiding certain photos and such behind a fake innocuous app. But this is the first time we know of the government doing it. And, I suspect, this will not be the last tie we see ArcaneOS and Anom phones in the wild, as there were around 12,000 sold.

Windows 11 is official, bringing big changes to the interface

posted Saturday Jun 26, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Windows 11 is official, bringing big changes to the interface

When Windows 10 was announced, one of the biggest changes was to the distribution model. Rather than being a multi-year development cycle with major updates bringing a new version number and a new charge, Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows. All updates would come under that moniker and would not cost - instead, these updates would be bi-annual and be distributed through Windows Update. This week, some of that has been walked back, but not the important part - Windows 11 will be a free update for Windows 10 owners.

What's New

There are a ton of new features coming to Windows 11. I fact, there's enough of a change that they felt the need to change the version number. Of the major changes, the UI is the biggest and most obvious update. Everything from the icon for the Start button through the Start menu itself, and even the corners of the windows have been updated. Live Tiles are gone (unfortunately), as is the ability to adjust the size of the menu (for now). Fortunately, you can move the Start to the left side of the screen (where it belongs).

Another big addition is Widgets. Unlike desktop widgets of the past, these new widgets run within a panel that can be triggered by a new button on the taskbar or by swiping in from the left side of a touchscreen. These widgets are the expansion of the current feature of News and Weather on the Windows 10 taskbar. The benefit of the new system is that you can choose what information will be available.

Another big aspect of Windows 11 is the updated Microsoft Store. Android apps are coming to the platform and will be distributed through an expanded partnership with Amazon, bringing the Amazon App Store inside of the Microsoft Store. Because it's Amazon, Google Play Services will not be supported, but that is the case for all of the Amazon apps. Microsoft hopes that this will be the first of many partnerships to bring additional content to the Store.

What's Gone

First and foremost, Cortana has been demoted once again. She does not have a place on the taskbar (thought Widgets do), and she is not part of the Search experience. If you want to use her, you'll need to launch the standalone app, which may or may not come pre-installed.

Another previously core Windows component to be absent is Internet Explorer. We knew that the browser would be retired, and now we're seeing what that looks like. Microsoft has put all of its effort into the modern Edge browser, so it is definitely time to see the end of one of the earliest browsers.

Tablet Mode is also at the end of its life, but that is because the operating system now responds directly to touch versus keyboard and mouse. Rather than distinct differences, Microsoft is simply enhancing the touch experience in the current state. Icons on the taskbar will gain extra padding, hit boxes will get bigger, and overall the interface will be touch-friendly. But, it will still look and function like Windows 11 always does.

Who Will Get It

As always, there are specific upgrade requirements. Minimum processor, RAM, and storage are all pretty standard. However, the requirement that is going to be a problem for some is the requirement for Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0. Intel 8000+ and AMD Ryzen 2000+ processors support this technology, but nothing before them.

This requirement means that many of Microsoft's own computers will be left in the dust with no ability to upgrade. For desktops, this can be addressed with a small add-on card, but for laptops and tablets, you will be completely out of luck without this chip. Microsoft says that it is requiring the TPM 2.0 in order to prevent more hacking attempts going forward.

Spielberg, after talking trash about Netflix, signs content deal

posted Saturday Jun 26, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Spielberg, after talking trash about Netflix, signs content deal

There is no doubt that consumers love Netflix. However, inside the industry, the feelings about the streaming giant have not been quite so positive. In fact, many efforts have been made to try and degrade the image of Netflix, particularly within the academy. One of the loudest voices in that charge has been Steven Spielberg. However, sometimes favors change, and now Spielberg is working with Netflix for original content.

Steven Spielberg has long argued that content from Netflix does not qualify as movies. In particular, he fought for rule changes within the Academy when the company's Roma was set to absolutely sweep the Oscars in 2019. The argument was that films that premiere on Netflix should not be classified as full films, but instead as made for TV movies. This would preclude them from consideration for the most important awards, such as Best Picture. The end result was for streaming films to spend a certain amount of time in a certain amount of theaters for consideration.

Now, despite this long animosity, Netflix and Amblin, Spielberg's production company, have announced a partnership to produce original content for Netflix. Under this deal, Amblin will produce "multiple new feature films per year." Spielberg said of the agreement,

At Amblin, storytelling will forever be at the center of everything we do, and from the minute Ted and I started discussing a partnership, it was abundantly clear that we had an amazing opportunity to tell new stories together and reach audiences in new ways. This new avenue for our films, alongside the stories we continue to tell with our longtime family at Universal and our other partners, will be incredibly fulfilling for me personally since we get to embark on it together with Ted, and I can't wait to get started with him, Scott, and the entire Netflix team.

There is no talk of what types of content will be produced under this new agreement, but Amblin is known for a wide range of film genres. From famous sci-fi films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to historical films like Schindler's List, this could be a big bonus for Netflix subscribers.

House seriously considering bill to break up Big Tech companies

posted Saturday Jun 26, 2021 by Scott Ertz

House seriously considering bill to break up Big Tech companies

The one topic that everyone seems to be able to agree on is the dangers presented by big tech. While everyone sees different potential hazards, the existence of hazards is seemingly universal. As such, it is a focus of the current Congress and the House Judiciary Committee. This week, the Committee approved a new bill that would likely break up the big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google.

The bill is in direct response to lawsuits that have been filed against companies, such as Google. These suits have been around Google's tendency to promote its own products in services like search, even when another search result is a better match. This new legislation would prevent big tech companies from promoting their own products within their own ecosystems. For example, Google would not be able to hype up YouTube video results over Vimeo in search. Facebook would not be able to degrade posts that feature YouTube videos versus posts with native videos.

Conflict of Interest

In the legislation, a company is in violation if it "offers a product or service that the covered platform requires a business user to purchase or utilize as a condition for access to the covered platform, or as a condition for preferred status or placement of a business user's product or services on the covered platform."

The designation is a little vague, but could potentially cover a large surface area. The Federal Trade Commission would be responsible for determining when a platform falls under coverage, and whether or not a company has violated the rules. So, Google offering its own products within its own marketplace, such as Google Play, could potentially infringe the conflict of interest clause. Or, it could be a violation to pre-load their branded apps on Android devices.

Companies found to be in violation would have 2 years from the initial claim by the FTC to resolve the infringement, whether by selling off the division, spinning off the division, or shutting it down entirely. If they do not respond within the appropriate amount of time, they could be fined up to 15% of their annual revenue (not profit). If that isn't persuasive, I don't know what is.

Who is considered "Big Tech"

There are some competing definitions, and there are questions about whether or not Microsoft falls under those definitions. Many of the definitions require US-based monthly active users of at least 50 million and at least 100,000 US-based businesses using the platform, and market capitalization of at least $600 million. This could include services like Azure and Microsoft 365, and certainly covers Microsoft's now $2 trillion market cap.

Some lawmakers questions whether or not other definitions would exclude Microsoft and whether the legislation had been designed specifically to exclude the company, whose former CEO Bill Gates is friendly with lawmakers.

What comes next

While this has passed the House Judiciary Committee, a full vote on the House and Senate floors will be required before anything is official. Before that happens, amendments will be proposed and discussed, and several versions of the bill will be voted on. If the House and the Senate can agree on language, it will head to the President for a signature, and then the process of implementation begins.

New Microsoft Store policy sees it as a mall instead of a retailer

posted Saturday Jun 26, 2021 by Scott Ertz

New Microsoft Store policy sees it as a mall instead of a retailer

When Microsoft launched Windows 8, the Windows Store was a big part of the changes to the operating system. The Store was an integrated place for people to safely acquire software for their computers, similar to the App Store, Google Play, and others that came before it. But Microsoft struggled, on and off, to get enough apps in the store to make a big play. But, the Microsoft Store (which is the renamed Windows Store) has a new plan - become the secure mall of apps instead of a single store.

With Windows 11, Microsoft announced a shift plans for app distribution. While the majority of the focus was on the fact that Android apps will run natively on the platform, the really interesting aspect was that the Amazon App Store would power app discovery and distribution from within the Microsoft Store. This means that Microsoft will rely on Amazon to ensure that apps are safe, but will allow those apps to run directly on Windows 11.

Obviously, this is a big change in concept and opens up a lot of questions about how Microsoft might treat the store going forward. Speaking to The Verge, Panos Panay said that they want other distribution systems to set up shop in their new digital shopping mall. In particular, he mentioned Steam - the top game store on PCs. By bringing Steam into the fold, the Microsoft Store would become the go-to place for software on Windows.

Combining this strategy of multiple stores in one with the new policy of allowing developers to use any payment system they want and not having a fee for external systems, Microsoft is positioning itself similarly to how Google TV or Apple TV is positioned for media - one place to search for content, whether applications, games, movies, TV shows, and more. It has worked for media, and it could just as easily work for software.

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