The UpStream (Page 131)

AT&T-DirecTV $48.5B Merger Should Clear Approval Process This Week

posted Sunday Jul 5, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

AT&T-DirecTV $48.5B Merger Should Clear Approval Process This Week

While T-Mobile might still be trying to merge with Dish Network, an approval for AT&T and DirecTV to join forces might come through as early as next week. The rapid progress behind the $48.5 billion merger will result in an OK from the FCC as by Friday according to sources inside the negotiation room.

If it seemed like this came out of nowhere to you, don't worry, because it sort of did. While the world was talking about T-Mobile-Dish and Charter-Time Warner in 2015, last May AT&T and DirecTV landed the deal and have been quietly hammering out the details. So far, nobody has really batted an eye to the deal like they did with both the T-Mobile-AT&T and the Comcast-Time Warner attempts. The Department of Justice has already cleared the deal, so now it just rests on the Federal Communications Commission to finalize everything.

The merger has been slowly moving through the FCC approval process, with the Commission collecting the necessary documents along the way. The FCC has also delayed their "timer" on the merger while awaiting to receive contracts and other information. AT&T went ahead and filed an extension with the SEC to push the break-up trigger back from two months ago to August, which still gives the companies a month to nail down an approval.

The DoJ's approval process took almost no time at all, with the Department closing the investigation without any stipulation or complaint. Aside from the FCC's go-ahead, both AT&T and DirecTV still require the DoJ's antitrust committee to analyze the deal and OK it as well. This should come during the same time of the FCC approval, so long as everything passes over there.

What does this mean for consumers? Right now, a whole lot of nothing. That is, until all the transitional logistics take place over the next year or so. From there, it could mean that a lot of different things, but AT&T has a roadmap in place for its ideas. In a statement, AT&T said that, "AT&T will use the merger synergies to expand its plans to build and enhance high-speed broadband service to 15 million customer locations, mostly in rural areas where AT&T does not provide high-speed broadband service today."

Details Emerge About Minecraft: Story Mode at Minecon 2015

posted Sunday Jul 5, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Details Emerge About Minecraft: Story Mode at Minecon 2015

Microsoft's acquisition of Mojang and Minecraft for $2.5 billion finally made sense to me this week at Minecon. At the game's convention in London, details were finally announced about how Microsoft will completely change the way you look at Minecraft with Minecraft: Story Mode, expected to be released later this year. Using the power of Microsoft, the Mojang team rang up Telltale Games to produce this new title.

Until this weekend, there was no other information other than a new storyline surrounding the popular block building game. Telltale Games told us that there will be one new story, launched in five episodes. You will play the protagonist Jesse - who is not the beloved Steve - in an effort to save the world. No word on if Herobrine makes an appearance.

Players will control protagonist Jesse throughout the season, as portrayed by actor Patton Oswalt. Jesse and his group of friends revere the legendary Order of the Stone; four adventurers who slayed an Ender Dragon. The Order are the very best at what they do: Warrior, Redstone Engineer, Griefer, and Architect. While at EnderCon, Jesse and his friends discover that something is wrong... something dreadful. Terror is unleashed, and they must set out on a journey to find The Order of the Stone if they are to save their world from oblivion.

So having Patton Oswalt lead this new game with his incredible voice acting is pretty great. However there's definite bonus points that need to be awarded as well, and it's to Billy West for also taking on a role in the game. I can't see a way that this combination won't be a totally good thing.

As far as the game itself, Telltale says it is working closely with Mojang to make sure this Minecraft experience is as good as it can be. The game can be played many different ways, as the scenarios are completely choice-based. This means you can change the story based on the decisions you make as you play. Sometimes, those decisions may not have the best results.

Telltale said that each episode of the game will take around two hours to complete, and that a Season Pass of sorts will be available for purchase that should save you money over buying each of the five individually. The game will be launched on the 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC, Mac, compatible iOS devices, Android and the Amazon Fire TV.

Microsoft Gives Insiders 4 Builds as July 29th Approaches

posted Sunday Jul 5, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Gives Insiders 4 Builds as July 29th Approaches

Microsoft's big day, July 29, is coming quickly. On that day, full-screen Windows 10 versions officially make it to the public. These versions are Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education. Essentially, if it will normally run on a screen larger than 7", it will be available on that date. As the day comes closer, it is expected that incremental builds of the base will become more stable.

Microsoft's Insider release rules are based on stability. Gabe Aul, the voice of the Insider Program, has said that builds are tested internally and if they are found to be stable, they are released to the Fast Ring users. This week he said,

We're focused at this point on bug fixing and final polish, so it's much easier for each build to get all the way through than earlier in the cycle when we're adding big new features. now we find ourselves in a great situation, with an abundance of build candidates.

With this abundance of builds, Fast Ring Insiders saw an overabundance of new builds released: 3 for PC and 1 for mobile. The mobile build had been available previously, but had an upgrade bug that meant anyone who wanted to try it was forced to clear their phone back to Windows Phone 8.1 and upgrade form there. The new release made it possible for anyone to get the build.

Where the excitement came in was the 3 PC builds. 10158 was released on Monday, June 29: one month before the official launch. It was based on bug fixes and final polish. We saw icon changes, tweaks to the Start menu and Microsoft Edge branding. Continuum saw updates, as well as Cortana and Photos. The biggest change, however, came in the list of known issues; there were none. In fact, rather than a long list of known issues, the release notes instead said,

We don't have any significant known issues for this build worth noting in the blog post, but we are servicing several issues so make sure you check Windows Update for those.

Before anyone had enough time to prove that statement true or false, Microsoft released Build 10159 only 24 hours later. It included the new Windows 10 hero image on a tweaked login screen, as well as including it on anyone's desktop that had not already set an image. That was really the major change to this new build, though it was a welcomed change.

On Thursday, just in time to experience for the weekend, Microsoft released Build 10162. This build was very focused on bug fixes and performance than any previous build. Aul said,

Build 10162 is another great one. In fact, our testing and internal telemetry metrics show it has better reliability, performance, battery life, and compatibility than any Windows 10 Insider Preview build so far.

The company also released installation ISOs for the build, which they only do when they are very confident in a build. They are also already considering rolling it out to Slow Ring users, another sign of confidence. All of this movement is a great sign for what is to come with the final build in just under a month.

GameStop Launches Old School Game Retail Site

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

GameStop Launches Old School Game Retail Site

GameStop is taking it back to the old school with a new online website dedicated to the games and consoles of yesteryear. Titled Retro Classics, the online shop features the expected array of popular 90s and early 2000s consoles, along with your favorite games that take you on a trip of pure nostalgia.

Already up and running, Retro Classics shows off the NES, Sega Genesis, SNES, N64, PlayStation and even the Dreamcast box. Pricing seems to be matching eBay's prices, with the highly sought after DuckTales fetching around $20. GameStop said these prices will change as often as needed to properly meet demand.

A good example of that is the price of Mario Party which has already risen $5 to $40 for the cartridge on the N64. Nintendo's console that needed three hands to use its controller has been re-popularized in the past two years, with old school and new gamers alike both wanting to play the array of hit Mario titles.

An interesting point is not all games come with an original box and/or receipt. In true GameStop fashion, you may end up just getting a disc with a hand-drawn box art along with it. For the hard-to-find Power Stone 2, that may affect its going rate of $70 by about twenty bucks in some cases. The good news is that I can still pick up a second Duck Hunt gun for $13.

Dallas Cowboys Use Virtual Reality to Train Quarterbacks

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Dallas Cowboys Use Virtual Reality to Train Quarterbacks

It's pretty cool when the sports world and the tech world combine. Usually it means we see great strides in progression for sports and see new ways to integrate tech into that. The Dallas Cowboys, along with their monstrous new stadium, has now brought virtual reality to the gridiron with a new VR training regimen.

Quarterback Tony Romo and his offensive line have already started using virtual reality to better review their play on the field. Behind the QB who throws more interceptions than touchdowns is a 360-degree camera mounted onto a drone that records the action around it. The team can then put on VR headsets and see the plays they just ran in a first-person view.

The coaches will also gain benefit from this new gear. Coaches can actually use headsets to watch the plays as the linebackers and safeties on the field - the defensive players - so that they can properly adjust their schemes and see the plays develop like never before. They'll be able to identify gaps, flaws and open players on the field that could be otherwise overlooked.

A video about the new technology is after the break. Will all of this tech lift the curse on the Cowboys over the last 20 years? Probably not. Is it cool? Definitely yes. Tony Romo may throw less interceptions but it certainly won't change how distracted he gets by pretty girls in the stands.

SoundCloud Squares Off Against Sony and Universal in Infringement Dispute

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

SoundCloud Squares Off Against Sony and Universal in Infringement Dispute

SoundCloud has proven useful for a lot of unknown artists to get their music out there and seen by the world. It's also been a place for podcast storage and a venue for commercial artists to release music that may or may not appear on their albums. SoundCloud is so popular that even music labels are putting music on the site, accompanied with ads, of course. The success has been so high for SoundCloud that the company has been exploring offering a paid service on the site to compete with Spotify, Apple Music and the like. Cue the expected infringement lawsuit, this time from Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.

SoundCloud has been busy working on deals with different companies and record labels, including UMG and Sony. Things looked to be going well until SoundCloud said that it would be leaving the free, ad-supported service up and running, and just offer a premium service on top of that. This was back in October and that's when Universal pulled out of negotiations entirely. In March, Sony then pulled a good portion of its music from the site. Now, the two labels have banded together to serve SoundCloud with a "massive copyright infringement" lawsuit.

An executive who wished to remain anonymous said that the labels don't like SoundCloud's "attitude" during negotiations, which led to the brash decisions. The labels believe no service should be free and that SoundCloud should have moved to a strictly premium platform. For SoundCloud, that would've been sure to kill a lot of the site's momentum, considering that there are 175 million active users per month, with over 10 million accounts uploading content to the site.

A leak at the beginning of this month showed some internal documents about SoundCloud's business models moving forward, with users being able to opt for limited service that would include no ads and additional features for a small monthly fee, or paying a bit more for SoundCloud's full catalog. The documentation also showed that there was no intention in departing from an ad-supported free tier.

We'll have to see if SoundCloud will choose to settle with UMG and Sony, or if they will fight this thing in court. It seems that the lawsuit could be construed as a little unfounded, as it appears to have come to fruition because of a disagreement in business models. Either way, I wouldn't expect SoundCloud to move away from offering a free service, since that is what made the site.

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