The UpStream (Page 15)

DC Comics announces service shift while showing off new projects

posted Sunday Aug 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

DC Comics announces service shift while showing off new projects

DC Comics might be in a difficult position, with a large portion of its staff being laid off, but that hasn't stopped the company from making waves at its DC FanDome virtual event. From changes to the business to first looks at new films and games, DC seems to still be excited about its own future.

First, the company has announced that DC Universe, the company's self-branded streaming service, would be making way for the larger HBO Max streaming service, also owned by parent company WarnerMedia. All of the DC Universe exclusive content, as well as the rest of the DC content, will move over to HBO Max, though DC Universe will not be going away. Despite that change, DC still has a lot of content in the works. While some projects will be coming to HBO Max going forward, others are coming to theaters (assuming they ever reopen properly) and gaming consoles.

Suicide Squad

This franchise has a number of new products in the works. First is the next Suicide Squad film, helmed by James Gunn. During FanDome, James Gunn announced the lineup of characters, including Idris Elba as Bloodsport, Nathan Fillion as TDK, and John Cena as Peacemaker. A full character reveal reel was released, showing the entire character cast. Gunn has said that "It's going to be different from any superhero movie ever made" and, based on the behind the scenes video, it looks like it will be a good combination between the grit of the original film and the comedy of Guardians of the Galaxy.

In addition to the film, DC showed off a trailer for the new Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League! videogame. The game, which is from developer Rocksteady, will allow you to hunt for the characters you usually play as in a DC game - Batman, Superman, and the like.

Justice League

While the Suicide Squad game might have you hunting the Justice League members, HBO Max will be showing you anew side of the team. While the Justice League film came out in 2017, there has been a lot of interest in seeing the original film, directed by Zack Snyder before he left and handed the project over to Joss Whedon. HBO Max announced that it would release the Snyder Cut, and we've gotten our first look at what to expect, and it looks great.

Batman

The next film in the Batman franchise will show us a new Bruce Wayne in Robert Pattinson. There has been some concern over what his performance might look like. But, to be fair, there was concern over how Ben Afflec would perform in the role several years ago, and he turned out to be a great choice for the casting. Now, thanks to DC FanDome, we have our first look at the new version of the character. As Bruce Wayne, he looks a little too much like emo Peter Parker from Spider-Man 3, but as Batman, he seems a good fit. The car, however, looks sad.

Batman's allies also get some screen time, but on the small screen. Gotham Knights is a new co-op game in which Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, and Red Hood have to work together to fight the Court of Owls and others, after Batman's apparent death. This game gives us another chance to play in a known environemnt while playing as characters that we do not normally get to play as.

Wonder Woman

The only character with an upcoming film that we've seen before is Wonder Woman. We've seen trailers for the next installment, Wonder Woman 1984, but DC wanted to make sure she got attention at FanDome as well. Because of that, we got a new trailer for the film, and it looks like it will return the character to the epicness of her first film, and not the relative blandness of her appearance in Justice League (though that could change with the Snyder Cut). The movie is currently scheduled for October 2, 2020, but that is likely to change again thanks to COVID-19.

Internet Explorer is finally seeing the sunset after 25 years

posted Sunday Aug 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Internet Explorer is finally seeing the sunset after 25 years

In August 1995, Microsoft entered the web browser space with Internet Explorer. At the time, it was based on the same browser technology everyone was using - Spyglass. After the browser took off, the company put more resources than 6 team members behind it and made it an integral part of the Windows operating system. While that move brought on the famous antitrust investigations across the globe, it also led to Internet Explorer owning the web for years.

When Google introduced Chrome, that began to change - Microsoft began to lose market share and the joke of Internet Explorer only being used to install Chrome became the norm. With Windows 10, Microsoft took a new direction with its browser development, mostly retiring Explorer and moving to Edge. Since then, Edge has changed its own direction, abandoning the Edge rendering system and taking on the Chromium renderer.

Now, all of Microsoft's browser ambitions are finding a single path going forward. Internet Explorer 11, which was released in 2013 and was the last major version, is coming to an end for Microsoft's own products. They will stop officially supporting the operating system in Teams November 30, 2020, and the rest of the Microsoft 365 suite will lose support on August 17, 2021. Microsoft said,

Customers will have a degraded experience or will be unable to connect to Microsoft 365 apps and services on IE 11. For degraded experiences, new Microsoft 365 features will not be available or certain features may cease to work when accessing the app or service via IE 11.

While web product support is ending for Internet Explorer, the browser is not going away. It continues to exist to ensure older corporate web projects can continue to operate for companies that rely on them. However, while product support is ending within Internet Explorer, Edge Legacy, which is the pre-Chromium version, will see the end of all support on March 9, 2021. This is in line with the announcement that modern Edge, the Chromium version, will be automatically installed as part of Windows Update, and will be a permanent replacement for Legacy Edge.

Another Epic week for Apple's App Store monopoly in court and beyond

posted Sunday Aug 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Another Epic week for Apple's App Store monopoly in court and beyond

Since Epic filed suit against Apple last week over the removal of Fortnite from the App Store, the battle has heated up for beyond what we expected in a single week. As it turns out, Epic's CEO, Tim Sweeney, tried to discuss the company's goals with Apple ahead of the move. He sent an email to Apple CEO Tim Cook, in an attempt to explain why opening the platform would be good for everyone. In his email he said,

Please confirm within two weeks if Apple agrees in principle to allow Epic to provide a competing app store and competing payment processing, in which case we will meet with your team to work out the details including Epic's firm commitment to utilize any such features diligently to protect device security, customer privacy, and a high-quality user experience. If we do not receive your confirmation, we will understand that Apple is not willing to make the changes necessary to allow us to provide Android customers with the option of choosing their app store and payment processing system.

When Apple did not respond to the requests, he sent another email, this time laying out his plans for the future of Epic and Apple's relationship. In it, he said,

Today, Epic is launching Epic direct payments in Fortnite on iOS, offering customers the choice of paying in-app through Epic direct payments or through Apple payments, and passing on the savings of Epic direct payments to customers in the form of lower prices.

So, Apple had a heads up about the fact that Epic was about to break protocol, which is likely why the game was so quickly removed from the App Store. But, Apple has taken the challenge further than just removing Fortnite from the store. They have threatened to remove Epic's developer license, which threatens more than just Epic. If the company cannot build and deploy for Apple devices, an entire ecosystem of games for iOS and macOS will lose access to the Unreal Engine, one of the most popular game engines in the world. This would mean that a wide variety of games would have to be abandoned or rewritten before users could ever get another update.

This move, however, plays directly into Epic's narrative about Tim Cook's Apple - it's all about money regardless of the user experience, something that Steve Jobs would be pissed about. Tim Cook has continued to defend the company's position, going so far as to say that Epic's move was tantamount to shoplifting.

Epic has been building a coalition, though. This group of supporters come in a wide variety, including news publishers like The New York Times and The Washington Post to developers like Microsoft. Microsoft even filed an official letter of support to the court. The company already took a stand against Apple a few weeks ago, so it is no surprise that it would join forces with a partner to show support. They said,

Denying Epic access to Apple's SDK and other development tools will prevent Epic from supporting Unreal Engine on iOS and macOS and will place Unreal Engine and those game creators that have built, are building, and may build games on it at a substantial disadvantage.

And, just like you would expect from Epic, they have continued to taunt Apple publicly. First, they released an asset pack featuring the logo at the top of this article, which is intended for people to be able to print their own shirts and hats. It is a llama, something associated with Fortnite in a color pallette similar to the old Apple logo with "Free Fortnite." written a font similar to Apple's old slogan. That asset pack also comes along with a tournament, the #FreeFortnite Cup, which is awarding Android phones as a prize.

There are a lot of ways this could go, but however it ends up, it's going to be a lot of fun to watch.

Android 11 adding new lockdown on 3rd party camera capabilities

posted Sunday Aug 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Android 11 adding new lockdown on 3rd party camera capabilities

One of the big reasons why Android has seen huge market success over the past decade has been its open nature. Being based on Linux and offering an open-source version of the operating system was only the beginning. The company has allowed third-party app stores, such as the Galaxy Store and Amazon AppStore. Other companies have even gone so far as to built alternate versions of the OS itself, most notably the Fire OS from Amazon. However, over the years, the company has pulled back some of the openness of the platform. Android 11 will close up another open aspect of the OS.

Unlike iOS, Android allows users to set applications as default. While iOS 14 is introducing this as a new feature later this year for some settings, Android has always been accepting of it. One of the most popular apps to override is the camera app. You can set nearly any camera as your default. That means when you double-tap the power button, your camera of choice opens. It also means that when an app asks to take a picture, the same app will be opened. It's that latter situation that is, unfortunately, coming to an end.

In Android 11, when an app asks to take a picture, only the built-in camera will be allowed to open to take a photo. There is a way around it, but it requires each app developer to do the heavy lifting, identifying each acceptable camera app in its manifest. Of course, this means that only cameras known to the app developer will be allowed, continuing to narrow the scope of third-party cameras.

Google claims that there is a good reason for this lockdown. The explanation is that they are attempting to ensure that EXIF data, particularly location data, based on the permissions declared in the requesting app's manifest. Essentially, they want to ensure that, if the app doesn't declare access to location data, they cannot strip it out of a photo taken and returned from a third-party camera app. The reaction has already been mixed, with developers of these camera apps feeling like Google is trying to push them out of the store. The concerns could be warranted, as Google could easily strip the location data from the EXIF metadata when returning the photo to an app without location permissions through the Android camera API.

Netflix and Hulu sued for using the internet without permission

posted Saturday Aug 15, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Netflix and Hulu sued for using the internet without permission

Some of the regional laws governing media transmission are bizarre and made even more so in the ever-changing landscape of modern media. As appointment television slowly fades into a second-tier position and internet content takes over, cities with some of these strange laws are looking to implement those laws against the internet. And that is exactly what is happening in a town in Texas.

The town of New Boston, Texas has filed a class-action suit against Netflix and Hulu for violating one of these television transmission rules. The rule takes offense to the fundamental way that the internet works.

When a Netflix subscriber wants to view Netflix programming, the subscriber's Internet service provider will connect the subscriber to the closest Netflix Open Connect server offering the fastest speeds and best video quality. According to Netflix, that means that most of its subscribers receive Netflix's video programming from servers either inside of, or directly connected to, the subscriber's Internet service provider's network within their local region.

As video service providers, Defendants were required to file an application with the Public Utility Commission of Texas for a state-issued certificate of franchise authority prior to providing video service. Defendants failed to apply for and obtain a SICFA, and are, therefore, providing video service throughout Texas without authorization, and in contravention of the Texas Utility Code.

This could be an interesting case for a variety of reasons. Disney and Comcast, which own Hulu, both hold a SICFA license for the state of Texas, which seems to negate the basic premise of the lawsuit, at least as far as Hulu is concerned. In addition, Disney+ and Peacock, also owned by Disney and Comcast, respectively, are not named as defendants in the lawsuit, despite functioning the same way.

The other interesting aspect is that Texas is essentially attempting to bring an individual service which operates online under the umbrella of a regional utility. They are hoping to regulate Netflix in the same category as Charter and Comcast's cable operations, rather than the same category as Facebook and Twitter.

In the end, it seems unlikely that Netflix and Hulu will be classified by any court as a utility, as they own and operate none of the lines required for the transmission of their video content. This is yet another instance of a city not understanding the changing world of media content.

Mozilla announces layoffs and restructuring amid revenue drop

posted Saturday Aug 15, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Mozilla announces layoffs and restructuring amid revenue drop

In decades past, the browser wars were a major part of the technology world. Everyone and their mother was making a web browser, and everyone wanted to be in charge. What a lot of the developers learned was that offering a software product that was a lot of work to make for free was not a great way to generate revenue. Today, the browser wars are mostly settled, with Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla being the last major players. While Google and Microsoft use the revenue from other divisions to keep their browsers aloft, Mozilla has little else going on. This week, that business model bit them and their employees.

Mozilla Corporation, the for-profit division of the Mozilla Foundation, which makes Firefox, announced that it will be laying off 250 employees. This represents a quarter of the global workforce of the company. The employees being let go are said to be receiving a severance package that equates to full pay through the end of the year.

The layoffs come as revenue has begun to slip for the company. The majority of Mozilla's revenue comes from contracts with search engines to integrate into the browser in different regions. Some of those contracts are expiring before the end of 2020, which could explain why the move is happening now, in preparation. The browser's shrinking market share is also leading to lower revenue against the performance bonuses.

This is the second round of layoffs in 2020. The first, which only represented 70 employees in January, gave some additional insight into what is happening within the company. Mozilla has been working on other products in an attempt to generate more regular revenue, such as the VPN service subscription. Unfortunately, the company underestimated the amount of time it would take to develop, test, and deploy these new products.

Because of the increased development costs and declining revenue, layoffs were inevitable. But a restructure was also inevitable. The company has said that it will halt development in its Developer Tools, internal tools, and more, in order to put focus back on developing new products and Firefox, which has suffered in recent months.

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