The UpStream

With Instagram, disappearing messages are the new hot feature

posted Saturday Mar 21, 2020 by Scott Ertz

With Instagram, disappearing messages are the new hot feature

Facebook has been in the middle of reimagining the way that messaging works across and between the company's platforms. In addition to introducing encrypted messaging across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, the company has been looking to introduce other features to the company's offerings. One of those new features, which is available in other messaging platforms, might be disappearing messages for Instagram.

Reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong discovered in the code for Instagram's Android app revealing an in-progress feature denoted by the "speak no evil" emoji. This feature, according to Wong, features disappearing messages, similar to Snapchat. In the case of Instagram's feature, this "dark mode" messaging will clear the messages when the chat is closed. The company's communications office responded to the tweet, ci=onfirming the feature,

We're always exploring new features to improve your messaging experience. This feature is still in early development and not testing externally just yet!

While we know that the feature is currently in development, it doesn't mean that it will ever see the light of day. Facebook and its subsidiaries build features that are scrapped all the time, and this might be one of those features. This does seem like something that will be implemented eventually, however. We also don't know what "disappearing" actually means - is it just in the client, or does Instagram purge the messages from its servers as well?

This is not Facebook's first foray into the disappearing messaging game. In 2014, Facebook tried to purchase Snapchat for $3 billion (three times the price for Instagram). When the offer was rejected, Facebook built its own version of the platform called Slingshot. If you don't remember Slingshot, that's okay - the platform never gained any traction and was shut down the next year. Facebook has successfully stolen other Snapchat features over the years, however, like Stories.

Disappearing messages are becoming a more popular feature across messaging platforms right now. Twitter has been experimenting with the concept as well, though in a more Twitter style. The experimental feature lets posts, photos, and videos disappear after 24 hours, similar to the Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram Stores concept.

Fire TV might be having trouble with adoption because of Google

posted Friday Mar 13, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Fire TV might be having trouble with adoption because of Google

When it comes to streaming sticks and set-top boxes, it is a close battle between Google and Amazon. Chromecast and Fire TV devices share a large majority of the device market. However, when it comes to televisions themselves, the Fire TV market is incredibly small. It's certainly not because Amazon is uninterested in the market, as they do produce a TV operating system. It's also definitely not because customers don't want Fire TV built into their televisions, or they wouldn't continue buying over the top devices.

So, why is Fire TV almost entirely missing from the smart TV market? According to industry insiders, the problem lies with Google. Because Fire TV is a branch of Android, it causes problems with Google's licensing contracts. For a manufacturer to be able to include the Google Play services into their devices, they cannot manufacture a product featuring a branched version of Android.

As it turns out, this is not platform-specific. In fact, companies that manufacture Android smartphones cannot use the prime version of Android or the Google Play services, including the app store, if they also manufacture a Fire TV television. So, companies like Samsung, LG, and TCL, all of whom produce Android phones, cannot use Amazon's smart TV platform.

Google has used this tactic as a means to strongarm its hardware partners into not making competing platforms, specifically for smartphones. However, when it comes to Android TV, it has not produced the same result. Samsung has its own platform, LG uses webOS, and TCL uses the Roku TV platform. The restriction has not led to a large number of Android TVs, only a large number of non-Amazon televisions.

Google has been under a lot of fire for its policies that are intended to extend its market lead by exploiting that lead. There is little doubt that this potentially anti-competitive behavior will also come under scrutiny thanks to the revelation of the industry's best-known secret.

ISPs and wireless carriers remove limits to support remote workers

posted Friday Mar 13, 2020 by Scott Ertz

ISPs and wireless carriers remove limits to support remote workers

As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues its global spread, normal activities are being canceled. Of those activities, work and school are having the single largest impact on people's daily lives. Whether you are working from home or experiencing online education, your internet connection is going to be an important part of your day. Thankfully, as many private companies have done, internet service providers and wireless carriers are making adjustments to their policies to make life easier for their customers.

Over the past few years, we have seen home and business internet service providers have implemented data caps on their services. Many of these providers, including AT&T and Comcast, have temporarily removed these restrictions for their customers. This will allow people who normally do not work from home, and those who are going to be taking classes online, to have a better and more consistent experience. It will also mean that there will be no additional charges for overages.

There are also some additional changes available for some people across the country. For Comcast subscribers who are on the Essentials plan, their speeds will be increased from 15/2Mbps to 25/3Mbps. This change should also make life a little easier. For people in a Spectrum market who are not currently Spectrum subscribers and have a school-aged child who is moving to online education, there is an option to get free service for the next 2 months.

As for wireless carriers, they are also removing data caps from their cellular plans. Some are waiving overage fees, while others are simply removing the caps altogether. Either way, the end result is the same. In addition, Sprint and T-Mobile will be providing 20GB of hotspot data to anyone who is a hotspot subscriber.

On top of all of these changes, many services, including home internet, wireless, and power, are removing late fees for payment and skipping terminations. Some services even have programs to provide free service for those whose lives are being significantly disrupted, such as losing a job, or an industry in significant decline (live event production, for example). Check with your local utilities and services to see exactly what they are offering.

Pokemon GO implements changes to make playing at home possible

posted Friday Mar 13, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Pokemon GO implements changes to make playing at home possible

As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues its global spread, the general wisdom is for limited public gatherings. This has come as a particular challenge for games like Pokemon GO, which are based around the idea of physical interaction. As more people are sequestering themselves at home rather than going out, Niantic has taken steps to temporarily alter the game in order for those who are staying inside to continue to play.

To address the collecting aspect of the game, the company has changed the spawn style. Normally, Pokemon spawn in small numbers and within specific environments. With the most recent update, that changes slightly. They are increasing the spawn rate, as well as increasing the habitats, so you should see a lot more Pokemon spawn in your area.

To enhance this experience, they have also made some changes to incense. First, they have decreased the cost of a 30 pack of incense to only a single coin. Whether you are a normal incense user or not, this is a deal that every player should jump on. The length of incense is also increased from 30 minutes to 60. Both of these changes, combined with the increased habitats, should mean that collecting without moving should be easier than normal.

For those who are willing to venture out, PokeStops have also been given the upgrade treatment. All PokeStops will drop gifts more frequently, making your spins potentially more valuable. However, not all outside events are being encouraged. Niantic has announced that the Abra Community Day has been postponed, though a new date has not been announced.

There is no word on how long these game adjustments will last. This makes sense, as there is no telling how long the recommendation to stay out of public events will last. It is likely that the alterations will last for as long as the event restrictions stay in place.

Bill Gates leaves Microsoft board to focus on the Gates Foundation

posted Friday Mar 13, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Bill Gates leaves Microsoft board to focus on the Gates Foundation

In an announcement on Friday, Microsoft revealed one of the biggest changes in the history of the company. Bill Gates, the co-founder of the company, is leaving the board of directors. His place on the board, which he held for exactly 44 years to the day, was his last remaining official position with the company, after having stepped down as CEO in 2000, and chairman of the board in 2014.

This is a monumental day for the company, as it represents the first time that none of the early team members are actively involved. Paul Allen, the other co-founder, who died in 2018, had left the board of directors in 2000.

While he won't be involved in the company on an active basis, He will remain as a Technology Advisor to current CEO Satya Nadella and other executives for the foreseeable future. Nadella said in the statement,

It's been a tremendous honor and privilege to have worked with and learned from Bill over the years. Bill founded our company with a belief in the democratizing force of software and a passion to solve society's most pressing challenges. And Microsoft and the world are better for it. The board has benefited from Bill's leadership and vision.

And Microsoft will continue to benefit from Bill's ongoing technical passion and advice to drive our products and services forward. I am grateful for Bill's friendship and look forward to continuing to work alongside him to realize our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

The transition is in order to help further the mission of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the organization that he created with his wife to work on global issues. Currently, the company is focused on finding ways to help with the treatment and effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus. They have also put resources behind initiatives like malaria prevention, clean water initiatives, and more.

Hulu + Live TV not accessible on T-Mobile's 5G home internet service

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Hulu + Live TV not accessible on T-Mobile's 5G home internet service

In many markets, there is only a single internet service provider and, even if you have a choice, it's traditionally only a pair. Even then, many people lose options based on where they live. If you're in an apartment or a condo, it's not unusual for the complex to have an exclusivity deal with one service provider. It's also the case with malls, shopping centers, and business parks. One of the big promises of 5G technology has been its speed. A big benefit of the speed is the ability to break up the local monopolies that are the internet service providers.

However, with all new technologies can come hiccups. The first big deployment of 5G as a home internet service is from T-Mobile in a test market of about 50,000 homes. Unfortunately, the service does not support some of the most important internet technologies. In particular, the T-Mobile Home service does not support Hulu + Live TV. This appears to be because of a limitation with Hulu's service. Hulu detects the T-Mobile Home service as a cellular hotspot and disables access to live TV.

This will not be the only time that this problem will be encountered. A variety of services have limitations against hotspots because of licensing deals, overhead, etc. As more home-based 5G services roll out across the country, more customers are going to encounter services that detect the internet service as exactly what it is. And it will be a challenge for the internet service providers to solve, as adding something into the protocol to report as a stationary connection could easily be exploited. Then, with some simple alterations, an Android device could easily be set to report as stationary, as well.

Of course, the reality of a proper 5G-based home internet service is still a way off for most people. The implementation of 5G is slow going, and the number of devices available is still small, and even lower when it comes to home hardware. However, this will be an issue that the internet providers and services will need to solve sooner rather than later.

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