The UpStream

Your favorite Disney characters can teach you to code for free

posted Sunday Apr 26, 2020 by Daniele Mendez

Your favorite Disney characters can teach you to code for free

Disney Codeillusion is a learning package, which we met at CES 2020, that focuses their attention on teaching students of all ages how to code using HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Processing alongside your beloved Disney characters right there with you. Disney Codeillusion makes a note of recent school closures as well as the importance of motivating students to continue to learn and will be offering free online lessons to students, teachers, and schools for 14 days. This opportunity is a way to learn a new skill or sharpen existing skills with programming practice in a fun and exciting way with help from characters in your favorite Disney Movies.

Check out the press release after the break.

As AT&T's media brands struggle, former media boss takes over as CEO

posted Saturday Apr 25, 2020 by Scott Ertz

As AT&T's media brands struggle, former media boss takes over as CEO

AT&T hosted its quarterly earnings call, during which the company announced the company's premium television subscriber numbers, which include AT&T TV, DirectTV, and U-verse. The brand suffered a net subscriber loss of 897,000, leaving the service with 18.6 million subscribers. This drop represents nearly 5 percent of the total subscribers leaving in only 90 days. As an explanation for the significant turnover, the company said,

897,000 loss due to competition and customers rolling off promotional discounts as well as lower gross adds from the continued focus on adding higher-value customers

AT&T has long been in the media game, but it was never a large player with AT&T U-verse. It wasn't until the purchase of DirecTV that the telecom company's media plans truly began. Unfortunately, the move was not a fruitful one, as indicated in the statistic above. This is not the first quarter in which the distribution business saw a loss. In fact, for the last several quarters, it has been consistent losses, amounting to 3.43 million in 2019. They've gone so far as to consider selling the brand.

Another part of the AT&T media expansion has been the division headed by WarnerMedia. The company joined the AT&T juggernaut after a long process, bringing with it some major media clout. However, the services under WarnerMedia have had some issues, as well. HBO's streaming services have not performed to the company's hopes. However, the company's announced new service, HBO Max, is the next best hope, which will finally launch on May 27.

The service will contain the majority, if not the entirety, of the WarnerMedia catalog. It also is to include original content for the service. The media plans are such a big part of AT&T's future that John Stankey, the current CEO of WarnerMedia, has been named as the next CEO of AT&T.

Facebook Messenger adds Rooms feature to free you from Zoom security

posted Saturday Apr 25, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Facebook Messenger adds Rooms feature to free you from Zoom security

One of the biggest things to come out of this quarantine has been the need to communicate. While there are already a lot of useful communication platforms, it seems that people always want to be the ones using the new thing. That new thing, in this case, happens to be Zoom. Unfortunately for users, Zoom has had a history of security issues which has sent people looking for alternatives.

Other big tech companies have worked hard to answer the call. Skype has changed the way you initiate calls and added customizable backgrounds. Microsoft Teams, Skype's big brother aimed at business users, now has a family version as part of Microsoft 365. But Facebook has made the biggest change to its platform, introducing Facebook Messenger Rooms. This feature will be a replication of Zoom's most loved feature - the camera grid.

Messenger Rooms is available now and is usable with or without a Messenger account. Like Zoom, a Messenger Room is created by a user and a pink, public or private, can be sent to others to join. Those with the link can join the Room, which includes video, audio, and chat. At the initial launch, the number of participants might be limited while they work out the technical details. The plan is to allow for up to 50 participants for an unlimited amount of time at no cost. This is a big difference from Zoom, which limits the length of free calls to 45 minutes.

Of course, Facebook is not without its own issues. Over the past few years, Facebook has come under fire for privacy issues, data breaches, and more. Just this week, a federal judge approved the company's agreement to pay a $5 billion fine over the Cambridge Analytica issues. The company has promised to not listen to conversations or watching the video through the service. The company does collect information about users, though. Whether using a Messenger account or not, the app collects usage data, which they say is intended to help them make the service better.

So, users will now have to make a decision on whether to use a product from a company that has demonstrated a lack of user security or a company that has demonstrated a lack of user privacy. Not the ideal scenario for users.

Nintendo suffers data breach, exposing up to 160k accounts to issues

posted Saturday Apr 25, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo suffers data breach, exposing up to 160k accounts to issues

This week, Nintendo users started complaining on social media about unauthorized logins to their accounts. There was mounting evidence that a lot of Nintendo accounts were being accessed around the world. After a short silence, Nintendo confirmed (Japanese) that their system had been accessed and as many as 160,000 Nintendo Network ID accounts had been accessed. The company announced that emails, nicknames, date of birth, and region data had been accessed, but that no credit card information had been accessed.

Data breaches are an everyday part of life. We seem to hear about a new data breach every day. However, the one thing that tends to bind them all together is something to be gained from it. Sometimes it is data, sometimes it is money. In the case of Nintendo's breach, it was about buying things from the Nintendo eShop. While many users complained about logins, some users had evidence that these logins were making purchases through these logins. As it turns out, the benefit for the hackers came in the form of gift cards. Once an account was breached, the hackers would purchase Fortnite in-game currency cards and other digital goods.

Nintendo has currently disabled the ability to login using a Nintendo Network ID and has initiated a password reset process on ever affected account. They have also reached out to all affected users via email and have recommended turning on two-factor authentication for their accounts. The company said,

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused and concern to our customers and related parties. In the future, we will make further efforts to strengthen security and ensure safety so that similar events do not occur.

Whether you are affected or not, this is a good step to take to protect your account. In fact, for platforms that offer this feature, it is usually a good idea to use it because it can help mitigate these account hijackings. It's not 100% foolproof, but it's a good additional step of protection.

Contact tracing becomes exposure notification as privacy issues grow

posted Saturday Apr 25, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Contact tracing becomes exposure notification as privacy issues grow

As the fear over the Coronavirus threat grows and the need for the world to begin spinning again, in one fashion or another, becomes more important, solutions are being developed around the world. One of the most publicized tools being developed has been the Apple and Google partnership for contact tracing.

The concept is that phones would talk to one another and, if one phone knew that its owner had been infected, it would report that to the phone that came in contact with it. From there, the idea of tracing contact would spider out with each subsequent contact. The reason for the process is to stem the spread. The virus shows no signs of symptoms for around 48 hours and many people never show signs, but you are still highly contagious.

While the concept has real-world value, it also has been met with concern, mostly around privacy. Apple and Google do not have a great track record of protecting user privacy. Combining that with medical information, even second-hand, and data sharing has raised the attention of privacy organizations. As a result, the two companies have made changes to the way the system works even before it releases.

To get started, the contact data will now be encrypted. Why this wasn't part of the original design is a mystery, and lends credence to the concerns raised. To address concerns raised by Avram and me on last week's show, the API being made available for this project will report Bluetooth signal strength. This allows the app developers to make an educated decision about whether the contact is valid. Bluetooth is strong enough to go from house to house, apartment to apartment, or office to office. Reporting the signal strength will allow for decisions about the actual distance. The keys will also reset every 15 minutes, which addresses my concerns over being able to create a false Bluetooth beacon to incorrectly spread data.

In addition to the changes to the API structure, the system is getting a new name. Since "contact tracing" has been met with such strong negative emotions, the pair have rebranded the process to "exposure notification." This new name does more accurately describe the goal as opposed to the process, an issue that Silicon Valley has long struggled with.

The API is scheduled to become public next month, but it will still require an opt-in process to make it work.

Bad Robot to bring three original series to HBO Max streaming service

posted Saturday Apr 18, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Bad Robot to bring three original series to HBO Max streaming service

Last September, WarnerMedia inked a deal with JJ Abrams and his production company Bad Robot to produce a wide variety of content, including TV, movies, and videogames through 2024. The full details of the deal were not revealed, but the beginning of the company's plans have been revealed this week, with three original programs being announced. The shows will be produced by Bad Robot, with Abrams acting as Executive Producer. The three new shows will all be distributed by Warner Bros. International Television Distribution and released under the HBO Max streaming service, which recently announced a partnership with Charter. The three announced shows are DC Justice League Dark, Overlook, and Duster.

The new entry in the DC comics family will be focused on the more mystical side of the Justice League stories. This will include a number of occult-based characters like John Constantine and Zatanna. Beyond this, very little official information is known about the series, as WarnerMedia has been very controlling of the details.

The next series, Overlook, is based on Stephen King's work The Shining. This series will not be Abrams' first foray into the world of Stephen King, as Bad Robot was previously involved in the successful Castle Rock series on Hulu. King's work is a perfect pairing for Abrams' as the projects that made him a household name, like Lost and Cloverfield were in a similar genre.

The final series, Duster, will be a collaboration between Bad Robot and WarnerMedia itself and is setting the 1970s American Southwest. Unlike the other two, this one appears to be an original story and not based on an existing popular franchise.

The HBO Max service is expected to release next month, but these new shows are just entering their early production phase. There is no announced release dates for the shows, but expect them to be published on a staggered schedule.

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