The UpStream

Sony to Cut $250 Million from Media Budget

posted Saturday Nov 23, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony to Cut $250 Million from Media Budget

Kaz Hirai has been at the head of the Sony ship for quite some time now, and has led the charge of turning around the company. His idea of a revival plan coupled with several purchases that were key to Sony's future success made everything appear like Hirai would be able to right the ship. However, after numbers were still in the red and Sony's board rejected the proposal to spin off its media division, Sony has taken to drastic measures to save the company. The solution? Slashing the budget for the media division.

While the consumer electronics side of Sony has leveled off over the past year, movies like Smurfs 2 has seen Sony's media division plummet, and the numbers show in the box office. The board of directors must be confused as they have first decided to maintain the branch within Sony yet are now rumored to be cutting the budget by over $250 million after outspoken and prolific investors have made their concerns known. So the fix is that we'll see Sony take a "significant shift" from making terrible movies and will start putting more eggs into the television business.

Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal has said that "we are reducing the number of films we make." For consumers, that means a reduction of five movies released each year, down to 18 total that we'll see in theaters beginning in 2015. We'll also see the company reduce its summer blockbusters, if they can be called that, from nine to four, beginning next summer.

So what all is included in a $250 million budget cut? According to Sony Entertainment Chief Executive Michael Lynton it's "overhead and procurement" items being slashed from the expenditures.

We are in discussions with experts to help identify more efficient ways to do business in the future.

However, according to other sources close to the matter, it could be that Sony will be auctioning off some of its properties on the movie-side of things, specifically, Marvel brands. It's definitely beneficial to both Sony and Disney if Sony wants lots of money for things like Spider-Man, and Disney has the blank check ready to make all of it happen. And, if that rumor comes to fruition, we'd finally get the Civil War that we all know and need in our lives.

In hindsight, it seems that selling off the media division to Daniel Loeb's Third Point Hedge Fund, the leading shareholder of Sony, would've been the best option. Second best option would be to make better movies, because when films featuring Channing Tatum don't sell well, it's apparent that there's some serious problems in other places. So what'll happen in real life? We're not really sure but I'm sure we'll have an answer on an impromptu conference call that's supposed to take place next week. We'll be here to report any news coming our way.

Sony PlayStation 4 Problems Could Be Due to Sabotage by Foxconn Student Interns

posted Thursday Nov 21, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Sony PlayStation 4 Problems Could Be Due to Sabotage by Foxconn Student Interns

All of Sony's problems with the PlayStation 4 that I reported on last week might stem from one place: Foxconn. It would appear that the Chinese university students who were interning at the production facility and being subjected to extremely rough working conditions have fired back at the company. It's being rumored that these kids were responsible for hardware sabotage at Foxconn, including the PS4s and other high-end tech products.

A forum thread showed up with a person saying he was one of the students. The post has since been deleted but read,

Since Foxconn are not treating us well, we will not treat PS4 console well. The ps4 console we assemble can be turned on at best.

Judging from the problems we are seeing so far, that appears to be par for the course for some of the PS4s in the wild. 4Chan users have obviously been discussing these failures in the hardware since even before launch of the console, and have been heavily discussing the alleged sabotage as well.

A chinese guy posted on here like 2 weeks ago in really fractured english or translation, I can't remember and even had an image. He mentioned "PheonixStation 4" and that they have put a trace amount of lead in a good majority of the thermal paste used in the PS4 batches. He said this will mean heat won't dissapate quick enough for standby mode when the fans are programmed to a low RPM, and this will degrade the life of the CPU/GPU dramatically and also raise temps during operating by a few degrees more than normal.

Of course, you have to take everything on 4Chan with a grain of salt, however, someone later in the thread followed up by verifying the contents of the images posted.

...indeed there was a diagram with a clear mention of lead + thermal grease, which is obviously a bad (expletive) thing. Ideally, a genius thing, as the problem won't arise in QA shotgun tests of consoles as they're built, as the individual systems would need to be tested for more than an hour to really notice a difference in temps.

And, if you wanted proof in the pudding, a review by YouTuber Rick the Electronic Guy showed that the thermal paste was in pretty bad shape.

All right guys, to be frank, I was very disappointed with the thermal paste. The thermal paste was already a little hard and that's not good. That just means we're going to have problems right off the bat. So I'm actually very happy that I took mine apart...I knew Sony was going to go cheap on the thermal paste it was already hard on the inside, now there (sic) already having gpu issues on day one.

Other sources have also reported that students have sabotaged iPads, Macbooks and other Apple products as well, but those threads have since been deleted. All of this does seem to coincide with the many issues the PS4 is having already, and, the user has since updated the situation with a second thread on the matter that hasn't been deleted. You can check that out in the source link below. What do you think of all this? Can this be the thing that changes the economic future for China, now that so many problems with Foxconn have come down to true sabotage in American-purchased products? Sound off in the comments section below.

Canonical Responds to Ubuntu Trademark Issue

posted Sunday Nov 17, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Canonical Responds to Ubuntu Trademark Issue

Last week, an interesting thing happened in the Linux community. Canonical, the owners of Ubuntu and one of the leaders of the open data movement, threatened a critical website over trademark issues. Something they either didn't expect or didn't research was that the website, Fix Ubuntu, is owned an operated by Micah Lee from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

While the EFF has taken some cases that have been questionable, their involvement in this case has been a positive. They contacted Canonical and we have received an interesting response from Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical.

In a blog post on his website, Shuttleworth said,

Last week, someone at Canonical made a mistake in sending the wrong response to a trademark issue out of the range of responses we usually take. That has been addressed, and steps are being taken to reduce the likelihood of a future repeat...

We do have to "enforce" those trademarks, or we lose them. That means:

  • we have an email address,, where people can request permission to use the name and logo
  • we actively monitor, mostly using standard services, use of the name and logo
  • we aim to ensure that every use of the name and logo is supported by a "license" or grant of permission

The only problem here is that, of course, you don't HAVE to enforce all issues. For example, a website being critical of a corporation falls under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, and through fair use has the ability to use said corporation's name and logo. This issue has been tried and settled in court many times, leaving Canonical with no real recourse.

The excuse given by Shuttleworth was that of a company whose Twitter was mixed up for a personal one. He said in the same blog post,

In order to make the amount of correspondence manageable, we have a range of standard templates for correspondence. They range from the "we see you, what you are doing is fine, here is a license to use the name and logo which you need to have, no need for further correspondence," through "please make sure you state you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of the company or the product," to the "please do not use the logo without permission, which we are not granting unless you actually certify those machines," and "please do not use Ubuntu in that domain to pretend you are part of the project when you are not."

Last week, the less-than-a-month-at-Canonical new guy sent out the toughest template letter to the folks behind a "sucks" site. Now, that was not a decision based on policy or guidance; as I said, Canonical's trademark policy is unusually generous relative to corporate norms in explicitly allowing for this sort of usage. It was a mistake, and there is no question that the various people in the line of responsibility know and agree that it was a mistake. It was no different, however, than a bug in a line of code, which I think most developers would agree happens to the best of us. It just happened to be, in that analogy, a zero-day remote root bug.

So, the new guy did it, not we're mad that someone is criticizing our business model. It will be interesting to see what the EFF has to say about Shuttleworth's response.

Department of Defense Bails on Cloud Project

posted Sunday Nov 17, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Department of Defense Bails on Cloud Project

There has been an interesting trend lately within the enterprise to have concern over cloud solutions. It can certainly be understood, as we see services such as Adobe, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Blizzard all having data breeches recently. Of course, there is also the infamous PlayStation issue.

That fear has seemingly spread to the government, as the Department of Defense has recently canceled their request for proposal on a $450 million cloud contract. The contract, had it gone through, would have given 10 cloud companies contracts to provide database, storage, virtual server and Web hosting services. As it turns out, the DoD and the military aren't exactly interested in cloud services.

In general, the government has been minimizing the number of websites it maintains. Part of the move is probably in reaction to the disaster that has been The other issue at hand is, of course, security-related. In the wake of the Snowden leaks, the government has been trying to reduce the number of contractors with access to data.

The adjusted request, detailed in a notice on the Federal Business Opportunities website, suggests that the proposal may be canceled entirely, or severely limited on the number of contracts it will be looking for.

Simpsons to Become Available on a Cable Network

posted Sunday Nov 17, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Simpsons to Become Available on a Cable Network

It is unusual for a new cable network to land a major syndication deal, especially for a show that technically cannot be syndicated to cable. It is also unusual for a new cable network to make history with the biggest off-network deal in history. Both of those things came together as a brand new network has landed an exclusive cable broadcast and Video-On-Demand and streaming deal for The Simpsons.

The deal, valued between $750 million and $1 billion, will bring the longest running comedy program in television history to the newest addition to the Fox family, FXX. Starting in August 2014, FXX will begin airing episodes from the beginning, in order. That order will be usurped when Season 26 begins to air on Fox in September.

While exact details are not known, it is estimated that FXX will be paying $1.25 million per week to run The Simpsons on television as well as through streaming services. This deal grants full access to the entirety of the series, including new episodes immediately. Normally, deals like this have a 5+ week rolling delay, such as Family Guy and American Dad on Adult Swim. This deal will include all episodes at all times. The first streaming service that FXX will make the show available through will be FXNOW, the upcoming service from FX Networks.

This is a win for everyone involved. Obviously, 21st Century Fox, producers of the show, have the ability to profit off of the licensing fees, with an added bonus of gaining a larger audience for the show. FXX, on the other hand, has the ability to get a huge audience for the new network, using a well known, well loved television program, whose audience ranges from teenagers to their parents.

Dozens of PlayStation 4 Issues Plague Financially Successful Launch (Editorial)

posted Sunday Nov 17, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Dozens of PlayStation 4 Issues Plague Financially Successful Launch (Editorial)

It's time to talk about something nobody else is talking about: The PlayStation 4 launch. Wait, what I mean to say is that we're going to be talking about some of the major problems that have already plagued the console's launch successes, despite the units being in hands of consumers for less than a week. From the time we witnessed the announcement of the $400 price point at E3, we predicted that Sony was going to have to cut corners in order to not only stay competitive against Microsoft, but to not lose a tremendous amount of money on the console, like they did with the PS3. However, I wouldn't have imagined that the PS4, while feeling sturdy in the hands at 6.1 pounds, would fall apart like a cheaply made plastic box. I should point out though, that the lack of any disclosed improvement to the PlayStation Network servers does seem to correlate with the online and connectivity problems that the PS4 is already facing.

The hardware itself seems to be causing problems right from the start. Even before units were released to the public, there were reports of PS4s freezing, crashing and overheating. Some consoles are also pulsing with a blue light on the indicator, which has been documented in many places. Now, after official launch, many customers are still reporting that their devices are exceeding temperatures than the whole new iPad processor.

More hardware problems also come from the actual ports used on the console. In some consoles, a piece of metal in the HDMI port that is normally level with the bottom of the port actually points upward instead, causing the HDMI cable to not sit right in the slot. As a result, the system won't send a proper signal through the cable and no picture shows up on your TV or monitor. For some reason, several websites make this out to be a problem that can be overlooked, saying that the fix is "simple and easy." For me, this is not the case, seeing that something as important as the HDMI port - the only video output on the console - should be tested and working on any unit that leaves the manufacturing plant. This is especially pertinent to the review units that go out to press, which I've personally been in front of three different PS4s that have all had this problem. We do have some good news, too. If you contact Sony and make them aware of the problem, the company will offer to swap the unit out for you, but I haven't heard any official stances on the issue other than that Sony is "closely monitoring for additional reports, but (we) think these are isolated incidents and are on track for a great launch."

And, the problems don't stop there. Electronic Arts had to issue an official statement on Sony's 1.5 firmware update, pretty much saying that any EA game that crashed, froze or didn't work on the PS4 was Sony's fault. It read,

Sony has released a firmware update for the PlayStation 4 that is required for many features on the console. However, this update also results in stability issues while playing games on the system. This affects all games on the PS4, including EA titles, causing crashing/freezing and non-responsive connections between the player's console and their TV Screen.

Since then, EA has retracted its statement, with the website now saying that the message was posted in error. But for a company as large as EA to post something like that, it speaks volumes for some of the complications that have come out of this next-gen launch.

Then there's the online connectivity issues. At the strike of midnight, more than 100,000 people flocked to their favorite electronic stores, picked up their PS4 and headed home, only to find they could not connect to the PlayStation Network. Sony's response was that,

PSN seeing very high volume, some gamers may experience difficulty connecting, thanks for your patience. If you're getting a network error on the PS4, please sit tight. As you can imagine, we're seeing heavy traffic tonight.

To me it sounded like, "Can't connect? Just wait more." Obviously it had to do with the day-one update to firmware 1.5, which unlocked a lot of features of the PS4 that were unavailable prior to the update. To circumvent the issues, users could have downloaded the update to the USB device before launch night, however it's apparent not many people chose to do this. To add to the online problems, hundreds of posts on the PS4 support forums have indicated users experiencing error codes when logging in to the PlayStation Network, so many that Sony had to issue a statement on two error codes in particular.

Sadly, this is all just the tip of the iceberg, but before you say it, I know that all mass-produced pieces of hardware will have a defect. In fact, I know that the Xbox 360 had problems, the PS3 had problems and the Xbox One will probably have problems, too. This is more of an awareness thing, and an attempt to bring back unbiased takes on products when they hit the market. At no point should a problem be overlooked because it's stemming from a particular device from a particular brand. And at no point should we as consumers accept anything less than what was promised from the companies we hand our money to. Just to point out, there's still no fix for the blue pulsing light of death, either, and that's probably due to not enough people standing up and demanding a fix.

So even though I'm an avid Xbox fan, I'll stand up for you. Sony, time to address the problems and not avoid them like the SimCity or Diablo III launches. Fix your hardware that's $100 cheaper than your competitor; it's too soon to offer up a 2.0 version of the PS4.

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