The UpStream (Page 22)

SteamVR for macOS is coming to the end of its very short life

posted Saturday May 2, 2020 by Scott Ertz

SteamVR for macOS is coming to the end of its very short life

This past year has seen a lot of changes to the landscape of the virtual reality market. We saw the end and then open sourcing of Google Daydream. This was followed closely by Gear VR closing shop. This week, another big hit is coming to the landscape, with SteamVR support likely coming to an end for Apple computers. This would include older and current OSX and macOS implementations.

In this age of staying home, virtual reality should be seeing its renaissance. VR offers a way to escape reality and explore an alternate experience without leaving our homes. This would seem the ideal time for people to be experimenting with the technology, and yet, a whole platform is being abandoned instead. This move is not a surprise, as macOS has never been a popular platform for gaming. While it has always struggled to attract game development, the company hurt the momentum even further when they eliminated 32-bit applications, including games, in macOS Catalina.

But, the end of SteamVR for macOS does not signal anything other than Valve's recognition that its efforts to maintain virtual reality on Apple computers is not equaled by the results. The development of anything of value for macOS is a larger undertaking than developing for Windows or Linux. As such, the number of resources required are often higher than these other platforms. However, as Apple has never been a destination for gaming, the higher cost for fewer gamers is not a good investment.

Valve has no intention of moving away from either the Windows or Linux versions of SteamVR, which is good news for gamers since statistically, that's where they are. Eliminating support for macOS will give the company more resources to keep those projects going and, more importantly, keep them fresh. No timeline has been given on the official end of support, but expect it to be a slow retirement.

Clearview AI wants to add facial identification to contact tracing

posted Saturday May 2, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Clearview AI wants to add facial identification to contact tracing

Since the concept of contact tracing was first announced, it has faced privacy and accuracy concerns. While Apple and Google addressed concerns, other firms who have been tapped for additional technologies are still under fire. One of the most recent to draw attention is a company that is used to the negative spotlight - Clearview AI. Many people around the world have been worried about the privacy and accuracy of the technology. These are definitely two topics that should stay as far apart as possible.

However, despite the obviousness of the fallout here, Clearview has been in talks to use its facial recognition technology in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. A lot of people see this as a ploy by the company to get involved in government processes so that they can work their magic in selling their law enforcement products. One of the loudest oppositions to Clearview being involved in this fight is Sen. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, who sent a letter to the company asking for information on their discussions and plans. In fact, he demands that the company turn over the names of any agencies they are in discussions with, and any contract terms they are working on or have signed.

The rationale behind this demand is the fear of Clearview's technology. For starters, the accuracy of the technology has been questionable at best, and basing a medically-focused program around dubious tracing could be harmful to people. Using their facial identification in large crowds to determine who has been in contact could inaccurately mark people as sick and spread false panic.

More importantly, however, is the increase in public privacy violations. Clearview stores all images it is sent for analysis indefinitely, meaning that any image captured and processed by this system would be stored forever and used to expand its facial identification system. By installing cameras attached to the system in high trafficked areas, Clearview would have a better idea of who it has NOT identified. This will certainly be contested by more than just a single Senator. Expect privacy and consumer advocacy groups to be right behind.

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.

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