The UpStream (Page 176)

Harmonix Defies Odds, Funds Amplitude Sequel

posted Saturday May 24, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Harmonix Defies Odds, Funds Amplitude Sequel

In 2003, Harmonix, the company that brought us Dance Central and Rock Band, launched a little-known music game called Amplitude. The game came out during the height of the rhythm movement. It was it truly unique game in an industry filled with Konami copycats like Guitar Hero. It had some success, but not enough to keep the franchise alive.

That changed recently when the company launched a Kickstarter to fund its first sequel. Early this week the campaign was $500,000 behind its needed goal with only days to go. In an unexpected turn of events, the campaign was fully funded just in the nick of time, surpassing its $775,000 goal by $75,000.

Now this doesn't suggest a return to a full, crowded rhythm gaming marketplace, but it does suggest a die-hard group of people who are still interested in playing rhythm games. With Activision's complete abandonment of the market this gave Harmonix the ability to jump in with this new sequel.

Personally, as a formerly overactive member of the Dance Dance Revolution community, as well as all things rhythm, I was excited to see Harmonix give this title another try. I spent hours playing the original, and had always hoped to see it come back around some day.

Were you a rhythm gamer? What was your favorite title? Let us know in the comments.

More Xbox One Updates Coming in June

posted Friday May 23, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

More Xbox One Updates Coming in June

Last week on our show, we talked about upcoming changes to the Xbox One and how Microsoft has completely lost the original vision and true innovation of the next-generation console. Despite all of that though, the Xbox team announced a couple more updates coming in June that will prove useful to those who already have or are considering picking up an Xbox One.

Major Nelson took to the Xbox Wire to let us know that coming in June, along with free games and other perks for Xbox One gamers, the addition of the long-awaited external storage support and being able to add a real name to your GamerTag so friends know who you are. Also added to the laundry list of June add-ons is new SmartGlass features, like OneGuide and Universal Remote Control, select an account for automatic sign-in, and for those in Canada and Europe, more TV, SmartGlass and voice commands and features.

The ability to have the Xbox One support external storage devices has been something gamers have been screaming for since the console was launched. Considering that the Xbox 360 has been able to do that for some time now, it's been frustrating for users. Luckily, Xbox One is coming into external storage support with a bang, with the ability to read up to two external drives at one. The only caveat is that is must be 256GB or larger, but with USB 3.0, you can copy and move games and apps to and from the drives as you wish. And, now that drives can be swapped and content can be moved, heading over to your friend's house with your games is even easier. All you have to do is sign in to Xbox Live if you downloaded the game digitally or put the disc in if you purchased the physical game and the console will be able to read the game install on the external drive without a hitch. Yes, this also includes any DLC you may have downloaded as well.

June will also finally give you a way to recognize friends who have changed GamerTags without telling you about it. It's even harder on the Xbox One where you can have 1,000 friends and a limitless number of followers. Gamers have the option of adding their real name to their Xbox Live profile, and they can also choose to show it to just friends, friends of friends, or nobody at all. Major Nelson also made sure to mention that your real name won't ever show up in-game and you can change the privacy settings at any time.

Lastly, SmartGlass gets looked after with a "ton of changes" to the SmartGlass app for Xbox One. All of your TV listings will be able to be displayed right on your smartphone, tablet or Windows 8 device. You will also be able to pick and choose your favorite channels and even your favorite apps, and with Xbox's Universal Remote Control, you can then change channels, choose shows or movies to record or play your recordings saved on your DVR. The SmartGlass app can now reorder your pins, too. Categorize and move your favorite pins to the order that makes sense for you and the changes will reflect on the Xbox One.

The SmartGlass app will give a nod to gamers on top of it being a media and entertainment delight. Check out your friends' activities, check out hero stats and achievements, and even watch broadcasts of your friends' games on select devices. All of the stuff you used to do on the console now becomes a seamless experience in your lap.

Are you excited about the improvements Xbox has announced over the past few weeks, even after it being a completely different vision than initially planned? Why or why not? We want to know in the comments section below.

Windows 8.1 with Bing Coming to OEMs

posted Friday May 23, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Windows 8.1 with Bing Coming to OEMs

Microsoft has been working hard to increase Windows 8's adoption rate. One of the issues they have faced from manufacturers is the pricing of the operating system versus the perceived lower cost for Android on low-end tablets. One of the rumored ideas to solve this perceived issue was a reduced cost or free version of windows designed for low-cost devices.

This rumor was validated at //build/ this year, when Microsoft announced an end to licensing fees for phones and smaller tablets. This week, Microsoft detailed the free edition of Windows 8.1 that will be available for these smaller tablets. Named Windows 8.1 with Bing, the new version of Windows is almost identical to it's full-priced edition, with only one small change: manufacturers cannot change the default search engine before shipping the device. A Microsoft representative said,

The Windows 8.1 with Bing referenced on the Windows Blog is the edition that is licensed in connection with the recently announced royalty-free option for small tablets. Microsoft will license this edition for other OEM form factors as well. OEMs will each determine which types of devices they want to bring to market with this edition of Windows.

Several manufacturers have been paid by Google to change the default behavior in Windows for years, but with this new Bing-powered version, that will no longer be an option. Microsoft is making it clear, however, that it is entirely up to the manufacturer whether they want to enter into this edition of Windows or continue on with the standard Windows on a device-by-device basis. This means we could see Dell release 2 versions of its Dell Venue Pro 8 - one with each version of Windows.

It will be interesting to see how many manufacturers pick up this new edition and if it can make a bigger dent in the Android tablet space.

Apple Lawsuit Filed Over Misdirected Text Messages

posted Sunday May 18, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Apple Lawsuit Filed Over Misdirected Text Messages

One of the many annoyances I encountered during my week with an iPhone was at the end of my experiment. When I was through with the phone and switched back to my Windows Phone, I noticed something odd: some of my text messages were delivered to the Windows Phone, while others were being delivered to the iPhone, which was now in Wi-Fi-only mode.

After a little investigation, I discovered that it was other iPhones that were delivering to the wrong device. I looked around a little bit and found that iMessage was on, which meant that communications with Apple devices didn't happen via SMS, but rather through Apple's servers. This was happening, despite the source of the initial message being SMS, meaning that it was not on an iMessage-enabled device.

Luckily for me, I still had the iPhone, and it was still powered on. Had I sold it, or destroyed it as I had wanted to, I am not certain I could disable the iMessage service. Unfortunately, not everyone has the scenario I did. Currently, the only two known solutions to the problem involve turning off iMessage before the switch (or after if you're lucky) or having each iPhone user with your contact information remove your phone number and re-add it, hopefully breaking the iMessage connection.

Unfortunately, both of the solutions are slightly theoretical, as some users have still seen their messages vanish into the Apple ether. Enter a new lawsuit filed against the company, alleging that Apple has known about this issue and done nothing to solve the issue. Having launched the service in 2011, with complaints starting shortly after, Apple has had more than enough time to fix the problem.

This has been a solved problem since before the introduction of iMessage, however. Windows Phone and webOS have had multiple messaging platforms integrated into their systems since at least 2009, meaning they had to have dealt with message source and destination. Considering Apple hired several developers from Palm after the HP buyout, it would seem they already have the expertise to fix it.

So, why hasn't the problem been fixed? Laziness on the part of Apple? A lack of respect for the people who have spent money on their products? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

ACLU to Sue Peoria, Illinois Over Twitter-based Home Raid

posted Sunday May 18, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Parody of public officials and celebrities is a long-held tradition in the United States, as well as all free societies throughout history. That parody is an important part of a country's speech and culture. In modern time, the most common way for a public figure to be parodied is through social media - especially Twitter where there is little barrier to entry.

Jon Daniel from Peoria, Illinois created one such Twitter account, in the name of Mayor Jim Ardis. The mayor, or someone in the mayor's office, was not happy with the account and decided to act, calling in the police to deal with the issue. The police, in turn, were issued a warrant, which resulted in the search of his home and seizure of his personal property. Among the seized items were computers, phones and tablets.

This act, which is obviously against the 1st and 4th Amendments, came under immediate scrutiny by many organizations. The important organization is the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. The ACLU has reached out to Mr. Daniel, and is representing him in a suit against the city. ACLU of Illinois Communications and Public Policy Director Ed Yohnka said,

The ACLU of Illinois now represents Mr. Daniel, the creator of the Twitter parody. Mr. Daniel, like other parodists, has a First Amendment right to post these tweets. He was engaging in a time-honored tradition of poking fun at public officials - even when the public official doesn't like it. Because Mr. Daniel's activities were protected, they should never have led to a warrant and search of his home. The police activity in this case was unnecessary and contrary to both the First and Fourth Amendment protections to which he was entitled.

In the coming weeks, the ACLU of Illinois anticipates bringing legal action in support of Mr. Daniel against those officials who are responsible for the violations of his rights. We hope this action will send a strong signal to all that wrongful use of the police power to suppress protected speech, even when it is critical or makes fun of public officials is an abuse of power and is not acceptable.

Normally, these types of cases do not go well for the defendants, and the ACLU's involvement will not help their case. This should be an interesting case, so we will keep you up-to-date on the proceedings.

Cellphone Kill-Switch Engaged by Senate of California

posted Saturday May 17, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Cellphone Kill-Switch Engaged by Senate of California

Back in February, Scott talked about the possible wireless kill switch that was heading to Congress. On our show we weighed out the pros and cons, with the conclusion being that it was probably just a way for the government to have more control in our lives. Either way, the state of California Senate has approved such a measure in a smartphone kill-switch bill.

The bill, SB962, would require that smartphones sold in the state would come installed with some kind of theft detection software. This would apply to any smartphones manufactured after July 1st, 2015 and would not apply to tablets or any other electronic devices.

Interestingly enough, this same bill was rejected on April 24th but is now approved. All that's left is for the California Assembly and California's Governor Jerry Brown to approve it. Both parties have previously said they'd OK the proposal. The bill cleared the Senate 26-8 and only needed 21 of the 40 members to vote "yes."

The decision to push forward with the bill comes after a reported rise in smartphone theft, especially in California. However as we've mentioned before, it will still be a difficult feat to recover GSM devices, even after a kill-switch would be installed, due to the inability to tie a device down to a SIM card.

As far as penalties and liabilities are concerned, that filled up most of the conversation on the senate floor during the voting process. It was concluded that retailers would be at fault for selling devices without the software installed and that the fine would range somewhere between $500 and $2,500. Senator Mark Wyland opposed this pointing of the finger, citing simple shipping errors as reason. "It's a big burden on a retailer of anything, that they have complete control over everything they sell," he said.

All of this really doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, but it does seem perfectly fitting for the state of California, considering the long list of unusual legislation in the state. What do you make of all of this? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.

*In accordance with California Proposition 65, this post may contain traces of lead, which is known to the state of California to cause birth defects or reproductive toxicity.

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