The UpStream

Google Ordered to Turn Over Warrantless Data Requests

posted Saturday Jun 1, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Google Ordered to Turn Over Warrantless Data Requests

In the time after the Sept. 11 attacks, a hasty bill was passed, known as the USA Patriot Act, which opened all kinds of capabilities for the government to spy on its citizens without having to worry about that pesky Constitution. One of the easy ways of collecting information about people is with national security letters. These letters come from the FBI, asking for certain information with a few caveats: they require no judicial review and the recipients are not allowed to talk about the request.

Google has received 19 of these letters and refused to respond positively to any of the requests. In fact, Google filed suit against the federal government, claiming that the requests are unnecessary and unconstitutional. Last week U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston ordered Google to comply unless it can prove that the letters were sent without proper process. Google can still appeal the ruling, but has had no comment on the matter.

Illston currently believes that 2 of the letters could have been processed incorrectly, but currently believes that the other 17 are proper. Unfortunately the ruling and suit did not indicate what kinds of information the government was seeking, but with services like Google Search and Gmail being a big part of many people's lives, there is a lot of information about a lot of people that could be at jeopardy here.

This ruling comes as a bit of a surprise based on a previous ruling from Illston in March. In a case between the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the FBI, Illston ruled that the demand that recipients cannot speak of the request was unconstitutional, violating free speech rights. Kurt Opsah, counsel for the EFF, said of the ruling,

We are disappointed that the same judge who declared these letters unconstitutional is now requiring compliance with them.

This trend of the government asking for information without judicial involvement is a frightening one, but it is nice to see someone fighting against it, even if it is surprisingly from Google.

Amazon Chooses 5 of 14 Shows to Produce

posted Saturday Jun 1, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Chooses 5 of 14 Shows to Produce

Six weeks ago, Amazon decided to compete with Netflix and Hulu by entering into the custom content business. Amazon decided to do it a little differently, though, allowing you to choose which shows it produced. Well, the votes are in, and the decision has been made: five shows will be produced.

The original lineup contained 6 comedies and 8 kids' shows; the final decision kept 2 of those comedies and 3 of the kids' shows. Alpha House, a political comedy about 4 Republican senators living together in a house, plus Betas, a series about the ridiculous environment that is the Silicon Valley start-up environment beat out series like Onion News Network, a parody of Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom for HBO from The Onion.

The children's shows that made the cut were Annebots, a live-action series about a kid scientist and her robot, Creative Galaxy, an animated series about an alien artist and Tumbleaf, a 3D animated series about an adventurous fox. Obviously these series beat out 5 others, rounding out Amazon's new lineup.

I am personally excited about the 2 comedies that made the cut, though I am a little disappointed about Onion News Network getting cut, as it was my personal favorite in the original collection. Did your favorites make the cut or were they lost to the Internet? Let us know in the comments.

Yahoo Might Make Another Attempt at Buying Hulu

posted Sunday May 26, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Yahoo Might Make Another Attempt at Buying Hulu

Between the Flickr and Tumblr announcements, Yahoo was able to find a way to stay in the news during Microsoft's Xbox week. Now, Yahoo is being mentioned along with some big media names, outside of bringing SNL to their platform.

In a move that is reminiscent of 2010, Yahoo has been said to be "seriously interested" in Hulu and has put in another bid. This happened before, except Yahoo backed out after Hulu backed out because of Disney not agreeing with some of the processes. In this rendition of their dance together, this now puts Yahoo in the running along with DirecTV and Chernin Group who are all considering buying Hulu at this point.

AllThingsD is reporting that Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer met with Hulu to continue their talks from several years ago. Yahoo and Hulu have both declined to comment on the matter but this latest push to buy up the Internet might actually work in Yahoo's favor.

Apple Bans ComiXology Content for Guidelines Violations

posted Sunday May 26, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Apple Bans ComiXology Content for Guidelines Violations

ComiXology, the digital location for comic books, ended up getting a disappointing message from Apple this week. 56 new release titles were being banned from the iOS version of app for content violations. While this is not the first time ComiXology has received a takedown notice from Apple, some of the reasoning this time around was surprising.

Some comics were banned for sexual content, which is expected from Apple, a company who once censored the dictionary for sexual content. What was surprising, however, was the request to remove content that featured Satan and homosexuality. Yes, that's right; Apple, the hipster brand, seems to have banned comic books that contain gay characters because they are gay characters.

The most interesting thing about all of this is that several of the removed titles are available in Apple's own iBookstore. This leaves us to question whether or not Apple gave a list of titles or merely said something like "You have titles that don't meet these guidelines: sex, gay, Satan," leaving ComiXology to interpret. This wouldn't be the first time this has happened, as last month they removed a title they thought Apple had a problem with.

What this all means is that Apple's content guidelines are still a moving target, which is impossible to hit as a content provider. People ask us all the time why PLuGHiTz live content is not immediately available through an app on iOS. We have a Palm/HP app in the marketplace now and a Windows Phone/Windows 8 app in the works, but we do not directly provide content to iOS. The answer to that question is this article right here. If we cannot control our own content, we will not provide it to your platform.

If you would like to see the titles that were removed, check them out here.

Samsung Might Abandon Its Own Processor for Intel

posted Sunday May 26, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Samsung Might Abandon Its Own Processor for Intel

Samsung has long manufactured mobile processors - many of their phones and tablets have run on Samsung procs, as well as Apple's products. All of that might change, however, as Galaxy Tab 3 devices have been discovered sporting the newest Intel Atom processor, Clover Trail. While Intel developed the chip with Windows 8 devices in mind, the Galaxy Tab line runs Android, meaning the processor is cross-platform safe.

The new Atoms are known to be very power efficient, making them ideal for mobile devices of any type. It would make sense for Samsung to stop trying to focus on something that isn't in their core competency and allow someone else maintain that focus, like Intel.

So, where is the information coming from? Two benchmarking sites recently ran benchmarks against a device dubbed the GT-P5200 running a Clover Train processor and Android 4.2.2. The Galaxy Tab 2 was dubbed the GT-P5100, so it is a logical conclusion that this is the next device in the line. Intel might not be the exclusive processor manufacturer, however, as a Tab 3 running Samsung's Exynos 5 dual-core processor has been spotted in the past.

These conflicting reports could indicate that Samsung might have an ARM and Intel version of the tablet, or it could indicate that Samsung has prototypes of both processors at the heart of the tablet, and only one will make it to market. It seems like running dueling processors down the production line wouldn't be an easy process, so my guess is only one will make it out, and I suspect it will be Intel.

If Intel does win this bid, it will help to turn around spirits at the company, who is currently undergoing a reorganization under a new CEO. That can always be disheartening, never knowing what parts of the company's culture might be damaged in the end. This win would stop a lot of bad feelings and reinvigorate the company, who has been losing out to ARM processors at an alarming rate.

Would you prefer to see an ARM or an Intel processor in the Galaxy Tab 3? Let us know in the comments section.

The Xbox Reveal Showed Off More Than One Reason to Buy the Next Console

posted Wednesday May 22, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

The Xbox Reveal Showed Off More Than One Reason to Buy the Next Console

The Xbox Reveal was upon us today and the live event showed us what Microsoft has in store for the next generation of the Xbox. Don Mattrick opened up the show to introduce us to the incredible stage and started off by going over the highlights of Xbox's life. All of it, he said, leading up to this point, which was a turning point for Microsoft.

To continue to lead, we must provide compelling answers to new questions.

Games, TV, Internet, hardware and software services that put you in the center.

And with that, he introduced the Xbox One. Putting aside the fact that both the terms "One" and "X" exist in at least another 12 tech devices that I can think of off-hand, the Xbox One, albeit a bit big, has an aesthetically pleasing look and feel to it, with a brand new Kinect and gaming controller to compliment it. So, what is the Xbox One? Well, Mattrick said the new-generation console was "Simple. Instant. Complete." No longer does one even have to switch inputs on your television to go from playing a game to watching a movie. Xbox One lets you control that, and a bunch more, all with your voice. Taking the enhancements of the console even further, Xbox One will also start to recognize your tendencies and what you like, serving it all up for you on the very personalized new home screen, which of course, looks very similar to your current dashboard and Windows Phone 8 devices. Microsoft even went on to slightly touch upon their definition of "always-on," in that the Xbox One is powered by the cloud, so you never have to worry about waiting to download an update when you want to play a game. It's very similar to the PS3's update system, except the Xbox will do it whenever you're not on, rather than at a set time each night.

A nice little touch is the fact that the Xbox's always-on approach gives you variable power states, which can be controlled all from your voice, by asking the Xbox One to turn on or off. I also really liked the "Trending" tab, which let you see what's popular amongst your friends, as well as what's happening around the games you play. We were able to see a little bit of a demo with the One's new media-switching as well, which worked seamlessly, quick and efficiently. The voice commands and gestures didn't feel forced, and you could easily move from music, to movies, back to your game and then even into Internet Explorer without missing a beat. Even better, all of it picks up where you left off.

How does that all happen? Well, the Xbox One, as we've expected for a while, is running off the Windows 8 kernel, which means it comes complete with some very nifty and ever-needed commands for the Xbox, like Snap. Just by saying "Xbox, Snap (Program Name)," you will "pin" whatever program you want to the side, allowing you to multitask on Skype, fantasy sports and more. We got to see group video calls while watching ESPN, and even got to check out our fantasy team, league standing and highlights, all while watching the live game. This is all done under the Xbox One Guide, with a Smart AI and speech recognition system, with improvements that will rival the recent enhancements found in the Google speech software. And speaking of media, I should mention that the NFL will now be available on the Xbox One, as part of a huge partnership that will see Microsoft products on NFL sidelines throughout the league.

Then, we got into the specs a little bit. Rivaling the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One is complete with an 8-core processor (rumored to be AMD), 8GB of DDR3 RAM, USB 3.0, Wi-Fi Direct, a Blu-ray player and HDMI in and out, for set-top box pass-through. The Xbox One's x64 architecture also allows for three operating systems: Xbox One, Windows 8 and the middle tier, which allows you to switch easily between the two interfaces. Sound like Windows 8 and desktop mode, anyone?

For the Kinect, they've done a complete overhaul on the cool little gadget to allow it to make use of the new processing power of the Xbox One. From Microsoft,

It's more precise. More responsive. More intuitive. Its unparalleled voice, vision, and motion technology lets you reach into games and entertainment like never before. Automatically sign in when you enter the room. Accelerate through a game with subtle gestures. Or navigate through your favorite TV shows with the sound of your voice. It's an entirely new Kinect for a new generation of entertainment.

The three technologies, Real Vision, Real Motion and Real Voice, all play a factor to give the Kinect a 1080p camera, with more depth range and more sensors. There is also more joint detection, heat detection and even the ability to recognize when you squeeze your hands together or not.

The new controller also got an excellent upgrade, or 40, rather. WiFi direct and impulse triggers are only two of the great additions, among the redesigned look and feel of the handheld, which kind of resembles the MadCatz extreme gamer controllers that we've seen in recent years, complete with highly-textured thumbsticks. If you've bought one of the recent controllers from Microsoft, especially the ones with the transitional D-pad, you'd have noticed the sub-par thumbsticks, that just feel loose and poorly made. So, this is a huge improvement.

Lastly, SmartGlass is no longer an afterthought and is the third piece of the Xbox One interaction trifecta. With 10 million downloads already under the SmartGlass belt, the software is now designed to integrate natively with the Xbox One. The SmartGlass app also works hand-in-hand with the Snap features mentioned earlier, allowing you to navigate with your touch screen, and pinch and tap to surf the Web on your TV through the console.

Rounding out the full-on turbo-charged enhancements that Microsoft has made was the information about their server upgrades, built-in DVR console and an API and standards guideline for multiplayer matchmaking. We were told that when Xbox started, there were 500 servers, and today we're at 15,000. For Xbox One, there will be a staggering 300,000 servers to power the fleet of consoles. Talk about raw processing power. The built-in DVR console will allow you to record and publish your most dominating in-game moments, making your friends jealous. It will also come complete with an amazing search feature, to find the exact clip you want, and you can even search via a well thought-out stats system. For the matchmaking API, it would appear Microsoft was tired of the disaster that is Call of Duty, and has now given developers a system that will streamline multiplayer and make each game more similar and easier to navigate.

While we were given a full 60 minutes of ground-breaking announcements and features, many users felt the presentation lacked games, which I would agree. However, this event, unlike the PS4 event, was definitely geared towards the casual consumer, and of course retailers and investors, who will have more speaking power in terms of dollars and sales, as opposed to the hardcore gamer. Obviously, we'll see a more game-centric approach to a presentation at E3, so the bashing of the presentation we saw this week is a little unwarranted. Even with the great event, there are still a lot of questions left unanswered.

What we don't know, officially at least, is the actual release date, price and if there will be more than one SKU for the console. In the post-panel discussions and interviews, we learned that the Xbox One will unsurprisingly not have backwards compatibility, which includes the Xbox Live Arcade titles. There has been a lot of speculation, and no exactly confirmed word from Microsoft, on what level of Internet-connection will be needed to play. Adam Sessler reported that "some modes" won't work without a connection, but Id imagine that the console will require some sort of periodic handshake with the servers, considering the level of cloud support that is being used for this generation of Xbox. Finally, there has been no statement from Microsoft on the state of used games, other than that Microsoft is "designing Xbox One to enable customers to trade in and resell games," and they will "have more details to share later." My speculation would be that Microsoft will not stray too far from the PlayStation 4 boat, in order to stay competitive, and that unless we see Sony and Microsoft both form a pact to eliminate GameStop, there will be an ability to play used games on the Xbox One. In regards to this "fee" rumor that has been floating around since both the "it'll be named 720" and "you can't ever use it offline" rumors were both debunked, Microsoft has left it to the statement above, however, again, I'd imagine it will be one in the same for both of the big two.

At any rate, excitement, speculation and anxiety all now run rampant for the next three weeks until we see more about the Xbox One at E3. I, for one, would like one of these consoles in my hands as soon as robotically possible, and have no qualms about any of the issues that most of the faux journalists and online gamers are griping about. We'll surely be discussing the Xbox Reveal on our show on Sunday, so be sure to check it out!

We're live now - Join us!



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