The UpStream (Page 116)

Prenda Law Lawyer Forced to Sell Condo, Liquidate Assets

posted Sunday Dec 6, 2015 by Scott Ertz

The Prenda Law saga has been absolutely fascinating to follow. The company was accused of planting content on The Pirate Bay in order to entrap users. Comcast confirmed that Prenda was responsible, linking the posts and TPB account (Sharkmp4) to IP addresses registered to Prenda's own John Steele.

As the case advanced, judges had tough questions for the team. The team was either unable to, or unwilling to, answer these questions, which essentially killed the case. Sanctions were imposed, and the case was finalized with the company not only not winning their lawsuits, but instead being forced to pay a tremendous amount of money.

So, let's play "Where are they now?" with the Prenda guys. Well, Paul Hansmeier, one of the named partners in the company, is being ordered by a US Bankruptcy Court to sell his condo as well as other assets in order to pay his personal $2.5 million in debts. Judge Kathleen Sanberg said,

Here, the debtor has a pattern and practice of dishonesty with the courts.

This case was designed for one purpose only, to thwart the collection efforts of debtors. It was not because the debtor now wants to pay creditors in full.

The moral of the story here, folks, is that lying to the court will always end badly. Lying to the court when you are destined to lose will end with you selling your home and everything of value in your life.

Firefox Removes Controversial Ads from Browser

posted Sunday Dec 6, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Firefox Removes Controversial Ads from Browser

2014 was an interesting year for Mozilla. Their newly promoted CEO was found to have donated money in support of Proposition 8 in California, the measure that banned same sex marriage in the state, which was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court. This led to a revolt within the company.

Along with this bright idea, the foundation also decided to try out a weird new feature: extra advertising. In a day when ad blockers are becoming more normal, for better or worse, implemented advertising directly into the browser was a bit of a surprise. The decision caused a lot of backlash from users who were not happy to be forced into ads on their start screen.

Being a free software product, though, everyone should know that Mozilla has to make money somehow to continue producing Firefox. That revenue will not be coming from launcher ads, though. The foundation officially announced that the program will be terminated and replaced with a content discovery platform on the new tab screen. This is more in-line with what the other browsers do, especially Microsoft's Edge.

The blog post announcing the change of policy does not say that Mozilla is out of the advertising business all together. In fact, the author Darren Herman said,

Advertising in Firefox could be a great business, but it isn't the right business for us at this time because we want to focus on core experiences for our users. We want to reimagine content experiences and content discovery in our products. We will do this work as a fully integrated part of the Firefox team.

This means that Firefox hasn't made this decision because of user feedback, but instead because they are focusing their efforts elsewhere. They are likely to revisit the idea of advertising in the future, but not until they restructure their priorities. This announcement will, for now, make users happy, but don't let your enthusiasm cloud your judgement: it's not forever.

Double Fine Productions Crowdfunding Psychonauts 2

posted Sunday Dec 6, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Double Fine Productions Crowdfunding Psychonauts 2

In 2005, a game was published that did not receive the respect that it deserved. The game was called Psychonauts, and it followed Raz, a boy with psychic abilities that defies the norm and runs away FROM the circus to go to a summer camp. At the camp, he expands his psychic capabilities by entering people's minds and helping them face their fears. The game was a sleeper hit, becoming popular long after its initial release.

In 2011, Double Fine acquired the rights to the game, modernizing the title and releasing it for newer platforms. However, ever since the acquisition, there have been rumors about Double Fine producing a sequel to the game. In 2012, Minecraft creator got involved with the concept, offering to fund the project himself. Unfortunately, that did not work out and Notch backed out of the project, leaving Double Fine without the funding to produce the game.

At The Game Awards 2015, Double Fine, which is well-known for crowdfunding games, announced that they wanted to pursue the game with the public's support. As opposed to their past interactions with crowdfunding, this time they have taken to Fig, a platform specifically designed for videogame crowdfunding. In addition to crowdfunding, qualified investors can also get involved, which sets the platform apart from Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

The company is offering a lot of rewards on pledges from $10 to $10,000. For $10 you get an official thank you, and for $10,000 you get a trip with the team to Whispering Rock along with a ton of related materials, including the games, soundtracks, videos, figurines and more. The company is looking for $3.3 million to fund the game, and are approaching $2 million in pledges as of writing.

Toshiba Begins Shedding Business Units

posted Sunday Dec 6, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Toshiba Begins Shedding Business Units

The last few years have been rough for several long-established electronics companies. Sony has proven time and again that persevering in the new marketplace can be difficult. They spun off their computer division to a standalone company, Vaio. They have also spun off their semiconductor business into wholly-owned subsidiary Sony Semiconductor.

Another company that has had trouble finding its feet in recent years is Toshiba. While some of their business units are highly profitable, it turns out that several of their units, including a lot of overlap with Sony, are not. As a result, Toshiba is making similar moves to Sony, only a year or so behind.

To begin the recovery process, Toshiba has sold its semiconductor business to the newfound Sony Semiconductor. Announced back in October, the acquisition was completed this week for $154 million, and includes all assets of the division. Toshiba said,

(We will) transfer semiconductor fabrication facilities, equipment and related assets of Toshiba's 300mm wafer production line, mainly located at its Oita Operations facility, to Sony Semiconductor as part of the deal.

Following the sale of its semiconductor business, Toshiba is reported to also be in talks to spin-off its computer division. If the rumors are true, then Toshiba's computer division would join the Vaio computer company, making it a larger company with extra assets. It could make it capable of competing with the larger, more successful companies, like HP, Lenovo and Samsung.

Adding to the rumor, Fujitsu is also rumored to be joining the Vaio consortium, marking another computer company throwing in the towel. More importantly, it shows extra support for the company who will be trying to slay Goliath.

Amazon Trying to Build Standout Video Service

posted Sunday Nov 29, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Trying to Build Standout Video Service

In the world of video streaming services, there are a lot of players. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, plus network-specific platforms are all available for separate monthly fees. Each of these platforms has tried hard to differentiate themselves from the pack. Hulu offers broadcast television mere hours after their initial airing from networks like ABC, Fox and NBC. That makes for an easy differentiator.

All 3 platforms have also been producing original content, like Hulu's The Awesomes, Netflix's Marvel's Jessica Jones or Amazon's Alpha House. This content can help one gain an edge over the others for some customers, but many of us use several services, sometimes on the same day. Especially, some of us are looking for content not provided through one of the Big 3 streaming services, such as HBO or Showtime.

Hulu had the bright idea to include Showtime content into their own platform, allowing you to pay a single monthly fee and getting both services. In fact, if you subscribe through Hulu, you save money versus subscribing directly to Showtime. As it turns out, this business model might just be the most brilliant of all, especially if you ask Amazon.

Bloomberg reports that Amazon is working on bringing together several platforms and making them all available through Amazon Instant Video. This additional content would include major movie and television producers and could become public within only a few weeks. This would turn Amazon from the smaller catalog into a virtual, online cable company, allowing you to access content from external producers.

It is possible that the end result would be something more akin to Hulu than Netflix, or it could be a major step up in the streaming industry. Would a service like what is rumored convince you to switch from Netflix? Let us know in the comments.

Two Major Online Retailers Fail on Black Friday

posted Sunday Nov 29, 2015 by Scott Ertz

In the United States, Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving, is the largest retail day of the year. Following a slump in sales, retailers run major promotions in an attempt to get people to shop at their stores, with the goal of bringing their ledgers into the black, or profitability. A lot of problems occur on this day, with brick-and-mortar stores creating such demand that Wal-Marts are known for people getting trampled.

One of the things that these stores do is work to make the shopping process as easy and safe as possible. In the past few years, their websites have become a huge part of that process. By shopping online, people can avoid the crowds and dangers of being in the physical stores. Is it any wonder people flock to these sites in the early mornings of Black Friday?

Unfortunately, not all retailers are tech-savvy, and do not have enough infrastructural support for their websites, causing them to go offline mid-sale. Last year, Best Buy suffered an outage of their website, causing a drop in sales. This year, 2 separate retailers saw failures of their sites during peak sales times. One was Neiman Marcus, a company not known for their technical prowess, especially following their 2014 data breach.

On the other hand, we saw the failure of, a company that exclusively sells electronics, mostly to tech-savvy customers. The company was active on Twitter keeping people up-to-date on the recovery process. It took a few hours to recover, but by early evening the site was back up and running.

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