The UpStream (Page 172)

Xbox One Drops Kinect and Price, Changes to Xbox Live Gold for All Owners

posted Saturday May 17, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Xbox One Drops Kinect and Price, Changes to Xbox Live Gold for All Owners

Since June, the console war battle has gone on and when the PS4 and Xbox One both launched this past holiday season, we knew we'd be in for additions, changes and key decisions that would spell out success or defeat for Sony and Microsoft for the coming years. As far as changes are concerned, the Xbox One is a completely different device than it was initially set out to be, with Microsoft backing down from a lot of innovative features that would have set the gaming system apart from anything else. Starting June 9th, Microsoft announced it will be removing the requirement to purchase a Kinect with the Xbox One, and the console will now be $100 cheaper. On the plus side, we're going to see some changes concerning Xbox Live Gold as well.

A totally different "next-gen" console

As we could have predicted with the path of changes we've seen, in the summer we'll now see the Xbox One sold without Kinect for $399, putting it right at the same price as the PlayStation 4. Glazing over the fact that this now takes the Xbox One away from even remotely resembling the vision at inception, Microsoft said in the announcement that you can still do all the great gaming and entertainment features you'd expect with the Xbox One. This, of course, no longer includes voice and gesture commands, search and interactivity. And you won't be able to tell the One to "Snap" your game with your Skype app while playing the game with both of your hands.

This change won't affect current Kinect users on the Xbox One, as the framework is staying the same, but it certainly affects some Kinect game developers. If a large number of people purchase the console without the motion and voice accessory, I could see the publishers shifting away from focusing resources on Kinect titles and interactivity. Many also think that the Kinect wasn't as widely accepted as Microsoft had hoped, which may be true, considering that Titanfall does not include any Kinectable actions at all within the game's context.

More free games and free video-streaming

So while dreams of new and exciting things with the Kinect are placed into the same pile of ashes as discless gaming and constant-connected environments, at least we still have Microsoft's cloud servers and Azure technology, which currently are in use for over 75 percent of Xbox One's games. Speaking of games, we weren't sure if Xbox 360's very popular free Games with Gold program would carry over to the Xbox One and now we're being told that it will. Starting in June, Games with Gold will arrive on the next-gen console starting with Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Halo: Spartan Assault. June will also see the 360 getting an upgrade with three games being offered each month instead of two. On the list are Dark Souls, Charlie Murder and a bonus game of Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. Oh, and for those wondering, you'll still only need one Xbox Live Gold subscription to take advantage of five free games each month. If that's not winning I don't know what is.

There's even more positives coming to Gold members with an Xbox One, and that's in the form of discounts. Those not currently in possession of Forza 5 or Ryse, among others, will see a 50-75 percent discount on those titles beginning in June. Microsoft will also be introducing a VIP room on the One that will feature free games, exclusive deals and other perks and bonuses.

And we can't forget about the fact that the Xbox One and the 360 are both still committed to being the center of entertainment in the home, not just gaming. This was further proven this week when, in the same announcement, Microsoft said that many popular entertainment options will no longer require Xbox Live Gold. Services like Machinima, Twitch, Upload, Netflix, HBO Go, NFL, MLB.TV and NHL Game Center will be offered up to Silver members as well. This was a big gripe with a lot of 360 owners, as some wanted to use the inexpensive $200 arcade version merely as a streaming device, and had to fork up another $60 a year on top of the premium subscription services they wanted to use and were already paying for. This should really attract more customers to the Xbox platform as a whole, as 360s are getting cheaper by the day and can now be used for entertainment without requiring Gold.

So, what do you think about all of these changes? All of the Gold perks and free entertainment options are really a plus but I'm extremely bummed about the lost vision of the Xbox One. Are you? Let us know in the comments section below.

Microsoft to Bring Halo Series to Showtime Before Xbox [Rumor]

posted Sunday May 4, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft to Bring Halo Series to Showtime Before Xbox [Rumor]

I think everyone knows that Halo is Microsoft's big franchise, dating back to the original Xbox console. Because of that, we have seen Master Chief and crew appear on everything Microsoft related, from games on the consoles, to the Windows Store and Windows Phone titles. This is why it is a bit of a surprise to find out that the Halo series we saw at E3 might not be a Microsoft exclusive.

By this I mean that the new series, being produced by Steven Spielberg, might premiere on Showtime before on the Xbox Video platform itself. Now, this could all just be speculation, which seems likely as the entire reason they are producing original content is to prove that the traditional appointment television model is coming to an end. By premiering on appointment television they would simply be proving the model - the opposite of their goal.

On the other hand, with original series like Game of Thrones on HBO having such financial success, it could make some sense to run on Showtime, just maybe not as a premiere. If they were to premiere on both Xbox Video and Showtime together, those of us without subscription television channels could still enjoy the new show without the annoyance of having to wait, while people without an Xbox One could also enjoy the show, creating a better revenue model for Microsoft and the production team.

If they were to have a major win with a partnership here, it could definitely open the doors to rumored projects for Gears of War, Fable and Forza, which could all get their own programming treatments. This is in addition to the in-progress documentary series being produced for Xbox Video, with the first being about Atari, ironically. All of these projects succeeding would definitely push Microsoft's vision of upending appointment television for good.

Security Alert - OAuth and OpenID Vulnerable

posted Sunday May 4, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Security Alert - OAuth and OpenID Vulnerable

Right on the heels of the disaster that was Heartbleed comes another pair of security issues. This time, rather than coming from OpenSSL, our security issue comes to us care of OpenID and OAuth, another pair of open technologies used by a lot of websites.

OpenID is an authentication system which allows you to login to a large number of websites with a single set of credentials. OAuth allows you to authorize an application or website to use your information from another system, such as Facebook or Twitter.

The new issue, dubbed Covert Redirect, was discovered by Wang Jing, a doctoral student at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The idea behind the exploit is that, when you click a link that asks for your information from Facebook, the exploiter can gain access to said information as well, without your knowledge or permission. This is because there is no registration for acceptable redirects on success.

So, how can this be fixed? Facebook told Jing that it is a huge problem and that it won't be fixed anytime soon. Jing says,

The patch of this vulnerability is easier said than done. If all the third-party applications strictly adhere to using a whitelist. Then there would be no room for attacks. However, in the real world, a large number of third-party applications do not do this due to various reasons. This makes the systems based on OAuth 2.0 or OpenID highly vulnerable.

These paired vulnerability instances are going to start a conversation that I feel should have started years ago: is having the source code for software available to the public an inherent security issue? The open source community has always maintained that it is not an issue, but anyone who has ever run a WordPress website would disagree with that notion. WordPress is possibly the biggest, most popular open source software in the world, and it is constantly under attack from bot comments who exploit vulnerabilities in the software through code research.

Whether you believe in the value of open source as a concept or not, you can't deny that the easy access to vulnerabilities is a good thing. Take, for example, the recent discovery of an exploit in Internet Explorer, which has been there for many years, but not discovered until recently. There has never been an exploit in WordPress that has existed that long without attack, because it is so easy to find said issues.

Do you have an opinion on either these security issues or the concept of open source security in general? We'd love to hear from you - feel free to comment below.

Destiny Will Require Some Single-Player Before Multi-Player

posted Sunday May 4, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Destiny Will Require Some Single-Player Before Multi-Player

We've really been looking forward to Bungie's first post-Halo title, Destiny. We've seen it in action at the PlayStation 4 launch and E3 2013 presentations, which only heightened our excitement. As the months have gone by, we have gotten more information, a little at a time, but this week we got an interesting new tidbit.

As we have known, Destiny is a game about leveling. One part FPS, one part RPG and all Bungie, everything in the game is upgradable. Because of this upgrade path, one major variance from the traditional Bungie game is that you cannot jump right from power-on into multi-player. Unlike a Halo game, you will need to play through some of the single-player campaign to be able to unlike competitive multiplayer, or PvP.

This is a different approach to the issue of players skipping single player entirely. Titanfall decided to take the route of least resistance - cutting the single player out of the game entirely and only creating a multiplayer experience. Bungie, on the other hand, is going to force at least a little single player.

Tyson Green from Bungie said of the requirement,

We found early on that people here in the studio, when they jumped on the game - these were people who were already really familiar with the game mechanics - they would roll a new character, play through the first mission then go right into PvP, and they would just get really beaten up by the other players because they didn't have a super ability yet and they'd only got an auto rifle from the first mission.

And they said, 'this is really awful, this is a terrible experience!' And we said, 'you're right, we have to make sure that doesn't really happen.'

So when your first character unlocks PvP, you're a little bit further into the game. You've probably done one or two of the campaign missions, probably unlocked a special weapon and your super ability. And then once that's happened we unlock it for all the characters on your account. Once you know how the game works, if you want to take a Hunter into PvP at level three, yeah, we're okay with that. You know what the game is at that point, so that's your decision to make.

Luckily, the requirement will only be "a couple of hours, tops." It will also only require you to complete once per account, no matter how many characters you have in the game.

So, has this turned you off to the idea of Destiny, or are you still excited to see what Bungie has to deliver? Let us know in the comments.

FDA Drafts Laser Pointer Restrictions

posted Sunday May 4, 2014 by Scott Ertz

FDA Drafts Laser Pointer Restrictions

Here's a weird one for you folks. The Food & Drug Administration has published a new draft guidance on acceptable consumer laser products. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Why does the FDA care at all about lasers?" While this is a good question, I do not have a good answer. There are a lot of agencies who might be interested in regulating lasers. Let's look at the reasons and what agency might have an interest there.

The most likely reason for this document is the increasing threat of laser strikes on aircraft. While a $5 laser from the drug store probably isn't going to cause a lot of harm, a $600 4-watt laser has a lot of potential. Currently there is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of someone involved in a laser strike. Obviously, the desire to protect aircraft, both big and small, is a high priority. This would, of course, fall under the jurisdiction of the FAA, which has regulations against shining a laser at a plane, and the FBI, who is tasked with finding and prosecuting those who disobey. No FDA to be found here.

Another fear would be the types of lasers to be found at laser light shows. Often these come from previous medical equipment and, therefore, have the capability to cut through some pretty substantial materials. One of those materials is you. Now, the use of these lasers is currently regulated, and not just anyone can own one. If someone were to get ahold of one, however, their actions would be considered an attack with a deadly weapon, meaning that the regulation and laws regarding this usage would come from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, not the FDA.

So, why would the FDA weigh in now? I'm still not sure, other than to try and plant their flag at a time when government agencies are overstepping their bounds on a regular basis. For example, remember when the FCC declared war on the Internet and Congress fought back? The Supreme Court ruled that they were out of line, but it might have prompted this kind of power-grab mentality.

Patrick Murphy, the editor of told Ars Technica,

In my personal opinion, FDA is wrong. First, pointers do not fit the existing FDA regulations which clearly define SLA lasers. Second, if you look at any lasers used for surveying, leveling, or alignment, they do not look like or operate like handheld laser pointers...

I'm not saying that (high-powered lasers) shouldn't be banned. I'm saying that (the FDA doesn't) have the authority under current law. You need to go through Congress to get the authority.

The FCC has learned that lesson the hard way, and the FDA might be the next government agency to take a trip to the Supreme Court.

Netflix to Increase Streaming Prices for New Customers Now, Existing Later

posted Sunday Apr 27, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Netflix to Increase Streaming Prices for New Customers Now, Existing Later

It's numbers time for Netflix and this quarter saw a steady increase in the number of subscribers, bring its total to nearly 50 million worldwide. Earnings are also up, from $962 million to $1.06 billion, but overall profit was fairly flat, mobbing from $48 million to $53 million. This shouldn't be a surprise, however: more subscribers means more royalties for content, both existing and original.

Because of this, Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, said that new customers can expect to see a $1-2 raise in the monthly subscription price. Ireland has already seen this price increase, starting in January, and Netflix says they saw very "limited impact," meaning very few customers left. This has left them with a positive feeling about the possibility of raising prices, something that has not officially happened for streaming-only customers since the plan's creation in 2011.

Now, that is 4 years of added content, original programming and increased speed and video quality, all without the price changing. We all knew that was not going to be able to last forever. Hastings said,

If we want to continue to expand, to do more great original content... we have to eventually increase prices a little bit.

These price changes will be different from the last time, however, with Netflix learning their lesson from the Qwikster debacle. As it turned out, splitting its DVD business away from the streaming service, with a new name and price to match, drove a lot of customers away. Now, with physical media rentals nearly irrelevant, a small price increase doesn't seem to scare them, or the market.

In fact, Netflix stock rose over 6% after the announcement. Apparently being able to pay for things is big for investors. It is important to note here, while the price increase will not affect current customers immediately, they will receive the price increase after "a generous time period," whose length is still unknown.

We're live now - Join us!



Forgot password? Recover here.
Not a member? Register now.
Blog Meets Brand Stats