The UpStream

One Million BlackBerry Devices Sold to Buyer with No Name

posted Sunday Mar 17, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

One Million BlackBerry Devices Sold to Buyer with No Name

With BlackBerry's new focus on both OS 10 and the new Z and Q10 smartphones, a lot is riding on these next few months. For the company to gain back any sort of relevancy like what it had in its hey-day, BlackBerry needs to get this new device in as many hands as possible. This week, a buyer has stepped up to help them do just that.

BlackBerry released a press statement that points out one of its big partners have placed an order for one million BlackBerry 10 devices, and they also said shipments were needed immediately. For BlackBerry (formerly Research in Motion), this is their largest order in the history of the company.

In the very short statement, Rick Costanzo, EVP of Global Sales, said,

An order for one million devices is a tremendous vote of confidence in BlackBerry 10. Consumers are ready for a new user experience, and BlackBerry 10 delivers. With strong partner support, coupled with this truly re-invented new platform, we have a powerful recipe for success.

Now, the question remains of who exactly bought that many phones. A couple of guesses come to mind, specifically in the government and other agencies, as some have discovered switching to Apple wasn't the best decision some of those groups have made. That would also be one of the safer options. It means that group or agency has decided BlackBerry is the way to go, and those devices would be put right into the hands of those using them.

We can also guess that one of the major carriers, like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon have put in an order for that many, but more problems lie in that notion. First, Sprint isn't even on the initial carrier list on BlackBerry's site. So, putting them aside, another carrier might be willing to drop that much on a million devices. However, a carrier would still need to sell that many handsets to customers, which means if a carrier put in the order, they have extreme confidence in this brand new operating system and revival of BlackBerry.

Obviously, whichever is the case, it is amazing news for BlackBerry as a company, especially since the Z10 is not too far away from launching here in the States. Who do you think bought one million new BlackBerry 10 smartphones? Give us your best guesses in the comments below.

Former GameStop VP to Serve Four Years in Prison for Stealing $1.7 Million from Company

posted Saturday Mar 16, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Former GameStop VP to Serve Four Years in Prison for Stealing $1.7 Million from Company

GameStop does a lot of things with all of the profit it makes by stealing money from the actual developers of games. Sometimes it's used for entering new markets and sometimes it's used as incentive for up and coming developers. At any rate, the last thing the board of directors and shareholders want the money to go to is a sneaky Vice President's pockets.

Former GameStop VP of corporate communications, Frank Christopher Olivera, was charged and sentenced to over four years behind bars for taking over $1.7 million from the used game retailer. How? The Texan native formed a fake company, Cloud Communications LLC, that he used as a middle man to move funds to his account from GameStop's. Olivera even went as far as to come up with a phony employee who would assist in the transactions between the Cloud and GameStop.

The US Attorney's Office said in a statement,

Olivera defrauded Gamestop by submitting false and fraudulent invoices for vendor services from a fictitious company, 'Cloud Communications LLC,' which he owned and controlled... In addition to creating a fictitious company, Olivera also created a fictitious person, 'Jennifer Miller,' to serve as the point of contact at Cloud Communications. Upon receipt of payments from GameStop, Olivera would deposit the checks into a bank account held by Cloud Communications and then would transfer the fraudulently obtained funds into his personal bank account.

Obviously the FBI got wind of this, caught Olivera and arrested him. The ex-VP quickly pled guilty and now has to repay the $1.7 million, plus an additional $134,651 for court costs. Sources say he's returned "most" of the original stolen funds. I guess we'll have to find another way to cease GameStop's evil ways. Stealing the money probably wasn't a good idea to begin with. Perhaps we can start with not buying used games.

Cisco Beat VirnetX, Keeps More Than Quarter Billion Dollars

posted Saturday Mar 16, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Cisco Beat VirnetX, Keeps More Than Quarter Billion Dollars

It has only been a few months since Apple lost a patent suit to VirnetX, a publicly traded IP company. Apple's loss had to do with a very broad patent that the court decided covered FaceTime, Apple's Skype service. Apple's loss cost them $368 million. VirnetX was not so lucky this week, as they lost their case against Cisco, which would have earned them $258 million in damages.

After a hung jury and the judge encouraging continued deliberation, the jury decided against VirnetX and their equally broad Virtual Private Networking patent. Their stock price has fallen massively on the heels of the loss, dropping 40 percent, seemingly all at once. While patent trolling can be incredibly lucrative business, it requires confidence to continue suing and hoping for settlements.

Microsoft settled with VirnetX in 2010, becoming the company's first official licensee. Patent trolls always hope that a company will not fight and will, instead, settle and agree to royalty payments for the technology in question. While Intellectual Property is an important aspect of engineering, patent trolls like VirnetX rely on early, incredibly vague patents, usually involving Internet or communication patents, like the ones in question here and with Apple.

If the patent is vague enough, it can theoretically cover anything. For example, Yahoo's patent case against Facebook included a patent which read "Control for enabling a user to preview display of selected content based on another user's authorization level." It would certainly appear that Yahoo has a patent for the Web, based on that text.

The other side of vagueness is that it is easy for a patent to be dismissed. That is, likely, what will end up being the case for VirnetX in this case. Any licensing they have received may have to be returned, and no future licensing can take place if there is no valid patent. Obviously, having the patent invalidated would be a huge hit to the company, explaining the MASSIVE stock price drop.

With time, most of these vague patents will get closed up, but it certainly makes the current legal landscape a bit of a minefield.

Google Rated Most Vulnerable to Attack

posted Saturday Mar 16, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Google Rated Most Vulnerable to Attack

There has been a perception among computer users that Microsoft's software is insecure. Most of that has come from Apple, who has had a campaign against Microsoft and Windows in particular, claiming that MacOS is more secure. Obviously, the only reason that "Macs don't get viruses" was because no one owned a Mac and, therefore, writing malicious code for them would have been a waste.

Well, the world has changed a little in the last few years. It's not that people own Macs now, which they don't, but that Apple now writes software for Windows. Some other players have gained some power in the Windows world, including Google and Mozilla, both of which had almost zero market three years ago. As it turns out, Microsoft is possibly the least of the culprits as far as security is concerned.

In fact, the idea that Apple writes secure software turns out to be complete garbage: between last week's AppStore security vulnerability and this week's Secunia annual review, Apple might is one of the LEAST secure software developers. Let's get to the numbers: Google Chrome is the worst software package on Windows with a massive 291 vulnerabilities; Mozilla Firefox is second with 257; Apple iTunes is third with 243.

Of all of the numbers, available through the source link below, Microsoft's total count across all products is less than any of the top three, all considered to be the harbingers of security. Oops. In fact, Windows 7, with 50, and Internet Explorer with 41, doesn't even hit the triple digits, whereas iTunes is over a quarter thousand on its own, and it is not Apple's only software product on the list.

Hopefully this information will become public, possibly with my help here, and perception and reality at least get closer to in sync.

Maxis Confirms Offline Was an Option, Not Pursued for SimCity

posted Saturday Mar 16, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Maxis Confirms Offline Was an Option, Not Pursued for SimCity

Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of Maxis, has been talking a lot since the disaster that has been SimCity's launch; possibly too much. She has been very open about the failure that was the server preparation, claiming they simply did not have enough servers in place to be prepared for the initial roll-out. This week she is being candid about another topic near and dear to my heart: the decision to not offer offline play.

Maxis has been very clear about the reasons since they announced it a year ago: the entire world, single player or multi-player, would revolve around calculations performed by the server. One of the major changes to the new game is the free market concept implemented for resources. Clearly, when playing multi-player, you would need the ability to calculate global resource pricing and availability. However, in single player mode, there is no world, so no need for universal calculations, or so I have maintained since the beginning.

Well, Bradshaw confirmed my suspicions this week. In fact, her comments are in response to the fact that a few minor tweaks to the game from some crafty hacker/developers has fully enabled offline play for single player mode. Her comments, however, are not fully in alignment with the facts at hand. She said,

So, could we have built a subset offline mode? Yes. But we rejected that idea because it didn't fit with our vision. We did not focus on the "single city in isolation" that we have delivered in past SimCities. We recognize that there are fans - people who love the original SimCity - who want that. But we're also hearing from thousands of people who are playing across regions, trading, communicating and loving the Always-Connected functionality. The SimCity we delivered captures the magic of its heritage but catches up with ever-improving technology.

The problem with this statement is they DID build a single-city isolation mode, they just required it to be played with an Internet connection. That is, by definition, always-on DRM and not server-based rendering or calculations. Bradshaw has maintained, time and again, that to enable the ability for offline play would require "significant engineering." However, a single individual has enabled it for himself and claims the tweaks are "very minor and easy."

Any developer worth anything could have told you this a year ago, but it is nice to have my suspicions about DRM requirements confirmed so readily.

DMCA Safe For Another Day, Says Court

posted Saturday Mar 16, 2013 by Scott Ertz

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, enacted in 1998, helps protects a lot of online companies from legal suits for content not produced with their permission. For example, if you were to upload a protected video to YouTube, such as an episode of The Daily Show, Google is not liable for any loss claims from Viacom, assuming they comply with any takedown notices from Viacom on the affected content. Instead, the user who uploaded the content is liable, assuming the person can be identified, and Viacom is interested in pursuing.

Now, clearly, a lot of large content creators do not like this law. For example, Viacom has never been happy about Google's protection for YouTube under the law, filing more than a billion dollar suit and causing Google to implement content filtering to help prevent further legal action. Because of this, companies have tried to undermine the law through court cases, one of the most important being between UMG Recordings and Veoh, a video site, filed in 2007.

Over the past 6 years, the courts have been listening to and considering the arguments in the case. This past Thursday, a ruling was handed down by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and it was a massive victory for Veoh, with an almost entire dismissal of all of UMG's key arguments. UMG's argument was that, by having a music section on their site, they encouraged the illegal uploading of copyrighted music. The court disagreed, saying,

Merely hosting a category of copyrightable content, such as music videos, with the general knowledge that one's services could be used to share infringing material, is insufficient to meet the actual knowledge requirement under ยง512(c)(1)(A)(i).

This is not just a win for Veoh, but a win for the entire Internet. Let me explain. We are probably all familiar with SoundCloud, a service designed to allow artists to upload their own music to share to their fans. Of course, the ability to upload audio files opens up the ability to upload copyrighted music. If this ruling had gone the other way, SoundCloud's entire business model becomes illegal, despite the fact that the company is entirely legitimate and encourages their users to be legitimate as well. Sites like YouTube, Video and even Facebook and Twitter would also immediately become infringing because they give the ability to upload videos, which could allow for illegal uploads.

Clearly, the entire Internet as it stands today would be at risk. Social engagement is the lifeblood of the Web, and spells success or failure for new tech products. One of the biggest announcements of the week surrounded Google shutting down a social engagement product, and it could turn into a Netflix-level PR disaster. If that doesn't show the power of social engagement, I don't know what does. Social engagement is surrounded in a world of image, video and audio sharing, all at risk if this ruling had gone the other way.

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