The UpStream (Page 196)

DISH Network Stops Blockbuster Rentals

posted Sunday Nov 10, 2013 by Scott Ertz

DISH Network Stops Blockbuster Rentals

This one was inevitable. Ever since purchasing Blockbuster Video, we knew DISH Network would treat it like HP treated Palm.This week it was announced that the remaining 300 stores would go the way of the previous 500 stores, closing this weekend.

Yesterday, Saturday Nov 9, was the final day to rent a DVD from a corporate-owned Blockbuster retail store. The remaining locations closed last night and will reopen shortly to begin the liquidation process. At that point, based upon what we have seen of liquidations of the past, you will be able to purchase anything from movies and games to store fixtures and signage.

If you were hoping to continue renting movies through Blockbuster's DVD By Mail Service, you will need to prepare to sign-up for Netflix, because DISH will also be shutting down that service in mid-December.

So, why would DISH Network have purchased Blockbuster, just to shut it down? Was it just a terrible decision, like HP buying Palm? Well, there are still some brands left in the Blockbuster family that DISH feels could be profitable.

DISH will retain licensing rights to the Blockbuster brand, and key assets, including the company's significant video library. DISH will focus on delivering the Blockbuster @Home service to DISH customers, and on its transactional streaming service for the general market, Blockbuster On Demand.

The Blockbuster @Home service offers over 15 movie channels including STARZ® Cinema, EPIX®, Sony Movie Channel, and Hallmark Movie Channel, plus over 20,000 movies and TV shows streamed to TVs, computers or iPads®. The service includes access to the Blockbuster @Home 'app' currently available to the millions of TVs served by DISH's Hopper® Whole-Home HD DVR set-top box.

Available to anyone, Blockbuster On Demand is a transactional streaming video service offering thousands of movies viewable on connected devices including PCs, tablets, smartphones, Slingbox, Roku and select Samsung TVs and Blu-ray players. Consumers can learn more at

So, it seems a lot like Netflix trying to spin off DVDs, hoping that streaming would be enough to keep them going. As it turned out, people revolted and Netflix reversed directions. The difference here is that Blockbuster has not been able to gain any traction on their DVD rental service, being taken down by RedBox and Netflix. Perhaps not having the overhead of retail stores and the DVD rental service will increase profits for the brand.

Apple's Releases Transparency Report, Faces Government Limitation

posted Sunday Nov 10, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Apple's Releases Transparency Report, Faces Government Limitation

Another week, another transparency report. These are fun for me to read about and report because it really puts things into perspective on what companies are forced to do and what companies try to do to protect our information. With Microsoft and Yahoo among a bunch of companies reporting, it's only fitting Apple has stepped up and delivery its report this week.

For Apple's report spanning January 1st to June 30th, the company reported data requests for both account information and device information. Apple also mentions that it "has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us."

So here's the numbers. Obviously the US ranks at the top of the list, with Germany in second and interestingly enough Singapore in third for device information requests; Australia and the UK round of the to five. For the US, 3,542 requests were made for 8,605 devices and Apple provided data to 88 percent of those requests. While the number of devices seems high, Apple includes stolen shipments into this list, so that may skew some of the results.

The number of affected accounts and devices is often larger than the number of requests because law enforcement may seek information related to multiple accounts or devices. For example, some device requests related to the theft of a shipment may involve hundreds of serial numbers. In cases where no data was disclosed, Apple may have objected to a government request for legal reasons or searched our records and discovered that we have no relevant information. This category includes multiple scenarios in which no

data was disclosed.

For account information requests, the US topples over all of the other countries' requests combined, coming in at 1000-2000 requests for 2000-3000 accounts. Apparently the government won't allow Apple to disclose the real numbers, with Apple saying that,

The U.S. government has given us permission to

share only a limited amount of information about these orders, with the requirement that we combine national security orders with account-based law enforcement requests and report only a consolidated range in increments of 1000.

Again, these requests include robberies, thefts and other crimes, so the numbers may be a bit stretched. However, the fact that the US accounts for more requests than all other countries put together is quite staggering. And, since the government has restricted true disclosure on the accounts, we don't know exactly how many accounts were disclosed against how many Apple objected. Either way, the numbers are a lot lower than some from Yahoo or Microsoft, by the tens of thousands, which is very interesting considering how powerful the company's perception is.

Ubuntu's Owner is Critical of Site Critical of Ubuntu

posted Sunday Nov 10, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Ubuntu's Owner is Critical of Site Critical of Ubuntu

The Linux community has been very critical of many of the new features of Windows 8.1, including the new Search Everywhere. The feature allows you to search both the local computer, for files and programs, and the Internet. Unfortunately, this feature already exists in Ubuntu, which makes it difficult to complain about.

That hasn't prevented Micah Lee from the Electronic Frontier Foundation from setting up the website Fix Ubuntu, in which he gives instruction on how to turn off this feature within Ubuntu. According to the site,

If you're an Ubuntu user and you're using the default settings, each time you start typing in Dash (to open an application or search for a file on your computer), your search terms get sent to a variety of third parties, some of which advertise to you.

This has not sat well with Canonical, the maker of Ubuntu. They recently sent him a cease and desist letter, asking him to remove the Ubuntu logo from his website and the name from his domain. In the email, they included a screenshot of Lee's website using the logo in its header. Lee has said that, despite his legal right to continue using the logo and name, he has removed the logo and added this disclaimer:

Disclaimer: In case you are either 1) a complete idiot; or 2) a lawyer; or 3) both, please be aware that this site is not affiliated with or approved by Canonical Limited. This site criticizes Canonical for certain privacy-invading features of Ubuntu and teaches users how to fix them. So, obviously, the site is not approved by Canonical. And our use of the trademarked term Ubuntu is plainly descriptive-it helps the public find this site and understand its message.

The EFF has responded to Canonical on behalf of Lee,

While we appreciate the polite tone of your letter, we must inform you that your request is not supported by trademark law and interferes with protected speech," the letter says. "The website criticizes Canonical Limited for certain features of Ubuntu that Mr. Lee believes undermine user privacy and teaches users how to fix these problems. It is well-settled that the First Amendment fully protects the use of trademarked terms and logos in non-commercial websites that criticize and comment upon corporations and products. Mr. Lee's site is a clear example of such protected speech. Neither Mr. Lee, nor any other member of the public, must seek your permission before engaging in such constitutionally protected expression.

This is all a very interesting stance to take by a company that makes a product within a community that is, by its own admission, hypercritical. For Canonical to go after a website that is critical of its product, or more importantly its policies seems counter-productive.

In-flight Experiences Improving Only Days After FAA Eases Restrictions

posted Sunday Nov 10, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

In-flight Experiences Improving Only Days After FAA Eases Restrictions

We've been covering the FAA's committee to ease restrictions on electronic usage during flights and the group made a decision last week. JetBlue and Delta, upon hearing the announcement, immediately said that each company would be willing to implement the changes as fast as possible, with a rep from JetBlue saying it could've been done "yesterday." Well, I have some good news for those of you wanting to keep reading your e-book or listen to music to calm your nerves during take off and landing.

Upon flying into Newark Airport this weekend on Delta Airlines for CES Unveiled New York, I was able to successfully use my phone's media player from "gate to gate" as Delta has been putting it on both of my flights so far. Just like the FAA's statement, there are still some rules. First, any device with cell service must be placed into Airplane Mode. Next, larger devices like laptops and DVD players (do people still carry those around?) must be stowed during take-off and landing, just like old times. However, I was also able to watch TV shows I've loaded onto my tablet without problem during the entire duration of the flight, so tablets, even 10-inch ones, seem to be fine. It was nice to see, just days after an announcement like this, companies jumping on board to allow passengers to take advantage of a federal change right away.

This also ties into in-flight WiFi services, which haven't been so great on many flights across the country. Or, more commonly, the service simply isn't available. Because of the restrictions being lightened on portable electronic usage, I'd expect to see airlines start to adopt WiFi on more flights. IHS data indicates that wireless connectivity should be available on over 4,000 aircraft globally by the end of this year, which accounts for just over 20 percent of the entire fleet. Comparatively, WiFi has only been available in 12 percent of planes in 2011 and 15 percent in 2012. By 2022, IHS predicts that half of all planes in the world will have this feature onboard, allowing business to be conducted during long or short flights, and even letting parents calm their kids down with a favorite TV show or movie.

Analysts have said that this low number of adoption isn't surprising, as many customers don't even use the WiFi on a plane. That reason is probably two-fold however, and my team here at PLuGHiTz Live can definitely speak as to why. First, the WiFi isn't very good and you can't do much on it. Recent tests on our previous CES flight saw a laptop net .4 Mb/sec download speed and .1 Mb/sec upload. Can't get much browsing done on a device when it can't even load the front page of Yahoo or Bing. Secondly, much like the rent, the price of WiFi is just too high for what it deliver. Combined with the low speed, the sometimes $10 or even $20 service, for maybe an hour of access, simply isn't worth it. Customers aren't willing to pay a premium for poor connection speeds and quality, especially when there isn't much recourse after purchase if the connection doesn't even worked, which has happened to us in the past.

In the end, all of that probably ties into the slow rate of penetration to start. But as we progress into the new realm of less restrictions while in-flight, it seems that trips across the country might be more bearable if we can get some work or browsing done while we're waiting to get back on the ground.

Sony's Turnaround Not as Bright as Thought

posted Saturday Nov 2, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Sony's Turnaround Not as Bright as Thought

While Kaz Hirai might be certain of his revival plan, the numbers are not looking to be in his favor. After a rebound last quarter, Sony is back in its comfort zone, having lost nearly $200 million this quarter.

Sony has attributed much of this loss to the abysmal failure that was White House Down. Compare this quarter with its equivalent from last year, which included The Amazing Spider-Man and you can understand, and should expect, a poor quarter this year. One exceptional performance followed by one exceptionally dismal performance can be the difference between a stock rise or fall.

Clearly, this quarter's results will re-open discussions within the corporation about the possibility of spinning off the media division. Recently, Sony publicly stated that they had no interest in the proposal, yet still blamed the division for the poor quarter.

Shortly before rejecting the proposal, Hirai said that he believed the consumer electronics division was the biggest problem, not the media division. It is an interesting thing to say in public before blaming the media division for a bad quarter and knowing the PlayStation division has been a financial black hole for them.

So, will Sony be able to pull off their turnaround plan, or are they so disconnected from the reality of the situation that they will chase profits in divisions that don't matter? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Rockstar Consortium Uses Patents for Lawsuits

posted Saturday Nov 2, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Rockstar Consortium Uses Patents for Lawsuits

In 2011, a group of companies came together to purchase the patent portfolio of the failed Nortel. The group, called Rockstar Consortium, was formed by some major players, including Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Sony. Despite being asked, Google declined the offer, instead deciding to bid solo, losing to Rockstar.

It was only a matter of time before those patents were used to generate revenue for the group, and that time is now. The first target is Google, who would have obviously been better served to not turn down the offer to join the group. The seven patents in question, "Associative Search Engine," describe the process of associating advertising with search terms for a search engine. For those keeping track, that is Google's entire business model.

The fact that Google was obviously aware of the patents, seeing as they were bidding on them, will not work in Google's favor. In the complaint, the company said,

Despite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe the patents-in-suit.

Google isn't the only one in the cross-hairs. Samsung and HTC are also under suit from Rockstar for a collection of seven different patents that describe an operating system designed "to support Gallery, Email, Maps and Browser functionality." While this system described covers all modern mobile operating systems, most of the designers of said systems are owners in the patent, making it a non-issue. In addition to the seven, Samsung is also being sued for an eighth, entitled "Internet Protocol Filter." This covers Samsung's Hotspot feature, which is also present on most modern devices.

While many of these patents will probably not stand up to the law, it is about to be an interesting case against Google. While the other companies being sued can claim ignorance of the patents and possibly even have them canceled, Google knew about and understood the value of said patents, evidenced by their bids. Their battle against Rockstar will be more involved, and could even result in massive royalty payments to continue their only real business model.

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