The UpStream (Page 109)

BlackBerry to Enter IoT Fray in 2016

posted Sunday Dec 20, 2015 by Scott Ertz

BlackBerry to Enter IoT Fray in 2016

It should be no surprise that BlackBerry is in trouble. The company has had longstanding financial trouble, starting when the smartphone industry changed out from under them. They were incapable of adapting to the changes in the market, as consumers began purchasing smartphones faster than enterprise customers, who wanted different hardware and features than BlackBerry were offering.

In the past 8 years they have tried a lot to recover, including their failed PlayBook tablet, their BlackBerry 10 operating system and a slue of new hardware. All of this has been powered by their QNX operating system platform, a company they purchased in 2010. While the platform has not been successful in either location, it has had a lot of success in vehicle entertainment systems, which was its original intent.

BlackBerry, as part of their recovery plans, will try to bring QNX to the Internet of Things. It would appear that the plan is to try to get ahead of a tech trend, instead of waiting for it to prove itself out before jumping in. They will have some swift competition, however, from the likes of Microsoft and Google, both of whom have large, trained development communities who will not need much, if any, additional training to be able to develop software, both internal and external, for IoT devices.

Not everyone makes their choices based on technology, though; it is possible that companies might pick a platform because of the name associated. Unfortunately for BlackBerry, they will also likely go to Microsoft or Google, since BlackBerry's name lost its value long ago. If they are going to be successful in this realm, they are going to have to show off A LOT of hardware partners at CES this year, with just as many reasons to choose them vs others.

Australian Police Raid Home and Office of Man Suspected to be Bitcoin Creator

posted Monday Dec 14, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Australian Police Raid Home and Office of Man Suspected to be Bitcoin Creator

A little over a year ago, the Bitcoin saga heated up when hackers threatened to reveal all information on who the founder of Bitcoin was. Even Newsweek jumped into the fray to try and pick up the scoop. In the end, nobody had the right amount of information and the man or woman behind Bitcoin is still anonymous. That was until this week, when the Australian police raided a home and office believed to be the man behind the crypto-currency.

Wired magazine reports that a dozen Australian federal agents busted down the door of a home that belongs to one Craig Steven Wright. Wired says that this is most likely the true man behind the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudoname that has been floating around online. Agents had a locksmith open the door Wednesday night in North Sydney. When a Reuters reporter got wind of the raid, they arrived onsite and asked an officer what was happening. The officer responded by saying the police were "clearing the house" and nothing more.

A second reporter made their way to an office in a Sydney suburb that is registered under Wright's name. Upon arrival, the reporter was blocked by Australian police, and one officer said that, "There's an operation going on at the moment, I can't answer any questions." The reporter said there were other officers talking with employees inside the building.

The raids came on the heels of two articles by both Wired and Gizmodo that revealed Wright as the man behind the coin. For record, Wright is the CEO of a company called DeMorgan Ltd, which is self-described as an entity that's centered around alternative forms of payments and currency. The Australian Federal Police have denied the relation between the articles and the raids, saying that, "presence at Mr. Wright's property is not associated with the media reporting overnight about bitcoins." The agency has not commented further on the matter, citing legal confidentiality.

Microsoft Accidentally Leaks Xbox Live Security Certificate, Quickly Fixes Issue

posted Monday Dec 14, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Accidentally Leaks Xbox Live Security Certificate, Quickly Fixes Issue

With every major company, there is always a change for a security exploit or data breach to creep up. How the company reacts to it usually defines its culture and character. This week, Microsoft accidentally leaked some sensitive data that could expose Xbox users to identify theft issues.

In an advisory posted this week as part of the usual security updates, Microsoft said that private keys and security certificates to Xbox Live were "inadvertently disclosed." The company did not specify how it happened, however the good news is that Microsoft swiftly took care of the problem.

The team has since revoked the trusted certificate, rendering it useless to any would-be attacker. If this hadn't occurred, any person with malicious intent could have set up a website to act like, thus intercepting a secure connection to the real site. From there, unaware users could have given the fake website username and password information, which runs the risk of being opened up to identify theft. Microsoft says that it is not aware of any issues or attacks surrounding the leaked data, and as mentioned, moved quickly to solve the problem.

This matter proves not only as a reminder to users to be careful with what websites they visit and programs they download, but also reminds users to place their trust in companies that take data security seriously. In the past, other tech giants have not reacted as rapidly, while others chose to simply ignore the issue like it never happened. While some may pick and poke at Microsoft, the security team at the Redmond-based software company issues a dozen or so updates per week in order to protect its millions of users from new flaws as soon as they sprout up. That is a culture that cares for its users and is a character that can be respected.

US Department of Transporation Issues Smart City Challenge to Improve Nation's Infrastructure

posted Sunday Dec 13, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

In what feels like something out of the blue and completely unlike the organization, the United States Department of Transportation has issued a challenge to cities across the country with the goal of redefining the nation's transportation system. The DOT has partnered with Vulcan Inc in order to launch the Smart City Challenge.

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced this week that the DOT wants cities from all ends of the US to come up with a plan that uses data, technology and creativity, and then implement those things into a newly-envisioned transit ecosystem. The winning city will be given $40 million from the Department of Transportation itself, which will allow the city to take their ideas from paper to real life. Vulcan Inc also announced that it will throw in another $10 million to the victor.

Back in February, the US DOT submitted a Beyond Traffic report that showed how inferior our current transportation system is, especially in mid-sized cities. In the report, the Department said that it sees an old infrastructure that is not smart nor efficient, and new regions in the country are not equipped to handle an increasing population. The DOT's move to partner with a private company is one that the two teammates hope will demonstrate a push for new ideas and calculated risk-taking. The agency sees the competition as not only awarding one city $40 million, but will also give other cities the ability to learn from each other to improve their own networks.

In the announcement, Foxx said,

This is an opportunity for the winning city to define what it means to be a 'Smart City' when it comes to transportation. We encourage cities to develop their own unique vision, partnerships and blueprints to demonstrate to the world what a fully integrated, forward-looking transportation network looks like. America can remain the global leader in maintaining the safest, most efficient system in the world: I am looking for Mayors who share that belief to join us in pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

The Smart City Challenge is already underway, and cities can submit their visions until February 4th, 2016. The DOT will then pick five finalists in March, with those cities competing for the $40 million, which will be awarded to the winner in June. The Smart City Challenge winner will then showcase its ideas to the nation.

In order to qualify for the Challenge, interested cities must meet certain criteria.

  • Mid-sized city with a population between approximately 200,000 and 850,000 people within city limits as of the 2010 Census
  • A population density typical of a mid-sized city using 2010 Census data
  • Represents a significant portion (more than 15%) of the overall population of its urban area using 2010 Census data
  • An established public transportation system
  • An environment that is conducive to demonstrating proposed strategies
  • Leadership and capacity to carry out the demonstration throughout the period of performance
The Department of Transportation will be streaming a Smart City Forum on December 15th, which will outline the Challenge in greater detail, along with requirements, the selection process and answer any questions cities may have.

Disney's Fan-Hammer Activated on Star Wars Fan

posted Sunday Dec 13, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Disney's Fan-Hammer Activated on Star Wars Fan

Disney's Fan-Hammer is well documented. They have gone after fan art of all types over the years with strong legal actions. The most surprising of these was their takedown notice against a Florida preschool that had painted a mural with Disney characters in their school. Disney made them remove it, which they did with the help of Universal artists who replaced it at no cost.

This week's story of Disney legal action falls into a similar level of insanity. Justin Kozisek, a member of podcast Star Wars Action News, posted a photo he took of a product he purchased on Facebook. He was excited, because the product was an action figure of Rey from the next Star Wars film, one he had never seen before, either in person or in photo. Shortly after posting the photo, it was shared wide and far, as fans of the podcast were just as excited about his Wal-Mart find.

Nearly as quickly as the photo went viral it also caught the attention of Disney/Lucasfilm's legal team. They immediately issued a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) notice to Facebook, demanding the photo be removed for violating copyright, since the product was neither public nor even announced. Show runner Marjorie Carvalho responded to Disney explaining exactly what had happened, and her efforts were rewarded with an email from Facebook stating, "The Walt Disney Company has retracted their intellectual property report." Carvalho told Ars Technica,

All we did was write a letter, and a few hours later, it was retracted. It pays to take the high road and get your facts in order, rather than overreacting. I feel good about it, and it's nice that they're recognizing they made a mistake.

Unfortunately, she spoke too soon. Within 10 minutes of the phone interview concluding, the entire post was removed, not just the photo. Disney had issued an identical DMCA notice, this time asking that the post be removed. It is possible that Disney's intentions were to remove the entire post, but couldn't because the infringing image had already been removed from it, hence revoking their initial request only to up the ante. In addition to the takedown, Facebook punished Kozisek personally, blocking him from any posts on the social network for 3 days.

The problem for Disney is that the image is now everywhere, including several eBay listings for "pre-order" products, as well as copies that have continued to spread over social networks, either out of excitement or protest against the takedown notice. It would seem that Kozisek has a good position for fair use, considering it is a personal photo of a legally purchased product that he now owns. He didn't sign an NDA before purchasing the figure from Wal-Mart, nor did he promise not to photograph it. He simply paid retail price and walked out of the store.

Has Disney and/or Lucasfilm overstepped their legal authority here? What is your take on the way they handled things? Let us know in the comments.

Microsoft Starts Putting Out OneDrive-Related Fires

posted Sunday Dec 13, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Starts Putting Out OneDrive-Related Fires

While one might see Microsoft over the past few years as a company who has made some unpopular decisions, I prefer to see them as the company in the tech world that is best at listening to its customers. When they announced the always-on requirement of the Xbox One to allow for the power of always-on worlds, Sony convinced gamers that this was a scary scenario despite the fact that reports suggest the PS4 was intended to have the same feature. When the feedback came to Microsoft, they listened to what their customers were saying and removed the feature before launch.

Personally, I think it is great to see a company as large as Microsoft so interested in what their customers think. Responding to the Xbox situation or implementing the Insider program for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Office and even Solitaire all show a company completely dedicated to producing products that people are interested in using.

Last month, Microsoft made another unpopular announcement: the removal of several OneDrive capabilities, effective soon. Even diehard Microsoft fans were shocked and disappointed in the decision to remove the unlimited storage option, as well as the storage bonuses that many regular users had accumulated for being dedicated customers. Once again, Microsoft heard their customers and will be making changes to their plans before they are implemented.

In this case, OneDrive users who have accumulated bonuses on their accounts for things like auto-syncing their photos can keep those bonuses as well as their 15GB basic storage, but only if you act now. To keep your storage bonuses, you will need to go here and claim your bonuses for Microsoft to allow you to keep them. I would, of course prefer that all customers automatically retain these capabilities, but something is better than nothing. Implementing it this way will allow them to still revoke those bonuses for customers who do not use their accounts regularly, while still making regular users happier.

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