The UpStream (Page 20)

Epic Games Store could be coming to mobile to fight walled gardens

posted Sunday Jun 7, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Epic Games Store could be coming to mobile to fight walled gardens

It is no secret that Epic Games has a dislike for the status quo. The company recently changed the licensing for Unreal Engine to make it free until a game has made a million dollars. They also recently launched a low-cost publishing service, bucking the industry norm. Even the Epic Games Store has taken an altered approach to the concept, taking a far smaller percentage. However, their biggest fight has been against the walled gardens of the mobile operating systems.

When Fortnite launched on mobile, it skipped the Google Play Store. Part of the reasoning was because of Google's high commission on sales. To avoid those fees on in-app purchases, which are the lifeblood of a free-to-play game, they required gamers to sideload the app. This created a major security risk but also showed Google that they were serious about fighting the powers. The company eventually relented, making the app available in the store, but the attitude towards the store has not changed.

The next phase of the fight could be bringing the Epic Games Store to mobile platforms. There are other distribution platforms available in the store now, for both Android and iOS. One major example is Microsoft's App Center, which allows developers to distribute test versions of their software to devices without needing to go through the closed platform store. It is possible that Epic is planning to follow this same technological process to allow game developers to get their apps to gamers without the need for the store and without the need for Apple and Google's 30 percent commissions.

It would be interesting to see if Apple or Google would allow such a product in the store. There is a big difference between distributing test versions of an app intended for store distribution to a limited number of testers and bypassing the stores entirely for mass distribution.

Some users defend Zoom's decision not to encrypt all meetings

posted Sunday Jun 7, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Some users defend Zoom's decision not to encrypt all meetings

When it comes to privacy and security, Zoome has not been a success story. A year ago, an issue in the software allowed anyone to turn on a Mac's webcam without the owner's permission or knowledge and uninstalling Zoom didn't remove the exploit. This year, we have seen Zoom bombing become the norm, with people joining meetings that they are not invited to. To combat its image, the company has announced that it intends to encrypt meetings from end-to-end, but that new feature comes with a caveat: not everyone gets it.

Unfortunately, only paid Zoom users will be able to use encrypted meetings. However, many of the people who use the software and are at risk are the ones using it for free. The internet has generally not been kind to the company in response to the announcement. The general consensus is that the reasoning behind the decision is to encourage users to pay for the software. It's a fairly common sales plan to make features that are in high demand paid. However, it is not common to hide security behind a paywall.

While most have been unhappy with Zoom's decision, a small group has defended the company's decision. That is because of the bizarre justification that the company'gave for the decision. Rather than saying that it is a sales move, which of course it is, they cloaked it in child protection. By leaving these conversations unencrypted, they will be able to work with law enforcement in instances where child exploitation content is involved.

The biggest issue with this theory is that the only publicly documented cases where Zoom meetings have involved any child exploitation content have been meetings where people have Zoom bombed. That would mean that the lack of encryption would be there to turn over information about the end result of the company's own security flaws. Either way, it's not a good look to have known security flaws in your product and only offer a partial patch to some people.

Netflix begins canceling dormant accounts, 12 months or more

posted Saturday May 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Netflix begins canceling dormant accounts, 12 months or more

A lot of industries have embraced the idea of recurring revenue rather than traditional sales. Even companies like Microsoft, which has been known for software sales, has moved to a more lease-based model. But, this model also makes customers uneasy because of the likelihood of forgetting about your subscription. We've all done it - signed up for a service and entirely forgotten that we have it. But, at least we know we will continue paying for it forever.

That may not be the case anymore if that subscription is for Netflix. Starting soon, the company will begin automatically disabling inactive accounts. If you have not interacted with your Netflix subscription for at least 12 months, the company will terminate the account, as well as the billing. Fortunately, there are a couple of backups in case you want to keep your account but just forgot about it.

First, the company will send you a warning email before the purge. If you interact with your account and tell them to retain it, they will. At that point, you're back to business as usual. If you let it expire and decide later that you want to pick back up where you left off, you can always reactivate and your previous account activity is retained.

This move is a huge departure from the normal operating procedures for subscription services. Most of these companies are happy to take your money and provide nothing in return. However, Netflix seems more interested in the providing value portion of the relationship than they are on the taking your money part. It's not a terribly surprising move from the company, as they tend to focus on the wants and needs of their viewers, whether it be in planning out original content or apparently working to save you money. Hopefully this will inspire other subscription services to follow suit.

Facebook is looking to challenge Amazon with Facebook Shops feature

posted Saturday May 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Facebook is looking to challenge Amazon with Facebook Shops feature

While Google managed to constantly attract the eye of governments across the globe, the company that seems determined to build a single portal for all internet activities is Facebook. The platform, which started as a way for college students to get to know their classmates, has grown to offer a large variety of services. Whether you are looking to find a date (Facebook Dating) or a used videogame (Facebook Marketplace), you can likely accomplish it on the platform. But, if you are a small business trying to sell products, it's not that easy on Facebook.

That changes now, however, as Facebook has introduced Facebook Shops. This new feature is intended to allow businesses to open digital stores on the platform. Businesses, especially small businesses, will be able to list products through their stores, either directly or indirectly. The system is designed to integrate with popular online shopping systems.

This concept is similar to that of the Facebook Instant Articles feature for publishers. As a publisher, you create your content on your own website. A more direct and unified version of the post is made available through Facebook, making it easier and faster for users to access while maintaining the publisher's branding. Shops will allow something similar, allowing online stores to import their products into the platform, allowing users to remain on Facebook while still shopping for the store's products.

The feature will not be exclusive to the Facebook platform, either. It will be introduced as Instagram Shops in the near future. While the feature may be the same, the target demographic is obviously different. Instagram's users tend to skew younger, and the feature there could be used as more of a competitor to Etsy than to Amazon.

Shops will only be available to valid corporations with a TIN and a business bank account. This will help mitigate to a small degree the dangers of online stores, especially those who act as drop shippers for questionable products. With a registered corporation and a business bank account, there is more of a chance of tracking down the representatives if something goes wrong.

Fortnite is evolving from casual game to digital community center

posted Saturday May 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Fortnite is evolving from casual game to digital community center

When Fortnite first hit the scene, it was widely viewed as a casual game for kids. Over time, the popularity of the title has grown immensely, to the point where it is a household name. The average age of the players has increased as adults latch onto the game in every growing number. With the current global state of staying at home and desperately looking for something to do, the game has grown again in popularity.

But, a game can't stay stagnant for too long when the eyes of the world are on it. As such, Epic Games has looked for ways to incorporate other aspects of life into Fortnite. The newest example of this is by incorporating the trailer for the upcoming film Tenet into the relatively new Party Royale mode, which is less about fighting and more about just having fun. So, while hanging out, you can watch the trailer for a film planned for theatrical release on July 17. Of course, the plans could be thwarted, but for now, the film is still planning to release in theaters.

If Party Royale mode sounds familiar, it might because you remember the massive failure that was PlayStation Home. This feature of the PS3 allowed you to develop your own property, but it was also about the overall community. There were town halls, gathering spots, and more. In the game, you could even watch movies with friends. However, where Sony failed, Epic Games hopes to succeed, thanks in part to the partnerships it is building.

The Tenet project is far from the first time that Epic Games has used the game for non-game content. In the past, they have used this same in-game mechanic to bring Star Wars content into the lobby, though that was a full film preview as opposed to a general trailer. However, the company has been working hard to make the game more than just that. During the global lockdown, Epic has begun to use the game, especially through the environment of Party Royale, as more of a community center than just a game.

The company has set up virtual concert stages and held actual concerts on these stages. They have featured names like Steve Aoki, deadmau5, and Travis Scott, showing just how much attention the game has attracted. It also shows how much confidence Epic Games has in the community features of Party Royale.

Your lock screen is protected by the Constitution, says court

posted Saturday May 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Since the rise in popularity of biometric security features on mobile devices, whether fingerprint or facial recognition, the legal ramifications have been front and center. While forcing someone to reveal a password or PIN was legally identified as revealing personal and proprietary information, what about looking at a camera? That is not an extraordinary action, similar to walking a line during a traffic stop. Luckily, last year, that issue was laid to rest, with a court decision saying that it required a warrant.

However, there is still some information that can be retrieved without unlocking a device. That information is contained on the lock screen and notification tray. It requires nothing more than the push of a button by anyone nearby to reveal text messages, emails, missed calls or voicemails, and more. The legality of law enforcement being able to retrieve this information without a warrant has been a grey area, but that seems to have come to an end - somewhat.

According to a legal ruling this week, the simple act of turning on the screen of a mobile device is classified as a search and, as such, requires a search warrant. The ruling comes through a District Court in Seattle, who was petitioned to suppress mobile phone data obtained via the lock screen of the device without a search warrant. The judge, John C. Coughenour, ruled that the data was obtained illegally, with the search violating the petitioner's 4th Amendment rights.

This ruling is important, especially for the district over which the court presides. Because of the level of the court, it is far from a standing precedent, but can be used in other courts as past evidence of support. It does not mean that any court, either at the same level or above, is required to follow this ruling. It is the beginning of a very positive legal movement of protection against overreaching law enforcement at a time when the government is trying to expand the capabilities of law enforcement.

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