The UpStream

Valve Continues to Clone Competing Products and Services

posted Sunday Aug 19, 2018 by Scott Ertz

Valve Continues to Clone Competing Products and Services

It was just a couple of weeks ago that Valve introduced their Discord clone into the Steam ecosystem. Discord shot back by introducing their own game store last week. This week, it would appear that Valve is not finished challenging their competitors with new services, either to directly compete or drive customers away from those companies.

Twitch and Mixer

When it comes to videogame streaming, there is no doubt that Amazon's Twitch service owns the market. Microsoft's Mixer is in the mix too, with YouTube and Facebook trying to capture some of the love, as well. This week, it was accidentally revealed that Valve might be interested in getting into the streaming space when they purchased a new domain and accidentally published Steam.TV to the world.

The service looked nearly identical to Twitch or Mixer, even using a purple accent color, mimicking Twitch's branding. While the site is no longer available to the public, while it was it featured a broadcast of The International 2018. There was the ability to log in with a Steam account and create group chats. What there was no was an ability to stream your own game feed. Valve released a statement saying,

We are working on updating Steam Broadcasting for the Main Event of The International, Dota 2's annual tournament. What people saw was a test feed that was inadvertently made public.

Obviously, this was not just a "test feed" but a nearly fully functional Twitch clone. When the service will be debuted fully is anyone's guess, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see it premiere tomorrow to coincide with the finals of The International 2018.

Windows

If there's one thing Valve dislikes more than competitors, it's Windows. There's no telling exactly what went wrong in CEO Gabe Newell's brain, but about the time that Windows 8 was released, Gabe started a campaign against gaming on Windows. Following the campaign, Valve announced SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system to power their new Steam Machines. The biggest failure of SteamOS? The lack of games available on Steam for Linux.

Continuing their campaign to get people to stop using Windows, it looks like Valve is working on bringing Windows games to Linux. Uncovered by a Reddit user, the company has code for a feature called Steam Play, which is a wrapper to bring more games to Linux without having to be ported or rewritten from scratch. A competing project, called WINE, describes the process on their websites,

Instead of simulating internal Windows logic like a virtual machine or emulator, Wine translates Windows API calls into POSIX calls on-the-fly, eliminating the performance and memory penalties of other methods.

That concept is okay when it comes to simple programs, but even more complicated software is questionable. Games, being some of the most complicated software available, is even less likely to work correctly. There are whole websites dedicated to curating games that work on WINE (hint, it's not a lot). The idea that Valve thinks they've got a plan to run more games through a similar system is ambitious at best, and insane at worst.

Valve seems to know this, as the SteamOS software shows hidden settings and warnings, including a warning that games "may not work as expected, and can cause issues with your games, including crashes and breaking save games." We don't know when, or if, this feature will release, either. Based on the fact that settings are beginning to appear within the OS, though, it might become available soon.

Apple Hacked by Teenage Fan, Claims Customer Accounts are Safe

posted Sunday Aug 19, 2018 by Scott Ertz

Apple Hacked by Teenage Fan, Claims Customer Accounts are Safe

A teen in Australia pleaded guilty this week in Children's Court to hacking into Apple's secure network several times across the past year and accessing various systems. Among his intrusions, he downloaded over 90GB of secure data and accessed customer account information. His lawyer told the court that his client, 16, had hacked into the network because he is a fan of the company and dreamed of working there.

After Apple noticed the hack, which apparently took nearly a year, they notified the FBI. After investigating the source and determining it to have come from Australia, the FBI contacted the Australian Federal Police. The police raided the boy's parents' home and took two Apple laptops, a phone, and an additional hard drive. The boy will return to court next month for sentencing.

Apple has confirmed the account, but claims,

We ... want to assure our customers that at no point during this incident was their personal data compromised.

This seems contradictory to the pleading, however, which states that customer information was accessed by the boy. Despite Apple's seemingly cheery and firm commitment to the security of customer information, it is still in any Apple user's best interest to change their login information, just in case Apple is covering up a larger data breach. This would not be Apple's first time ignoring a breach, so better safe than sorry.

As for the teen, a hack on the company, accessing customer data and bragging about the incident on WhatsApp is likely to keep him from any career at the company.

Spotify Gains a Big New Partner in Samsung

posted Saturday Aug 11, 2018 by Scott Ertz

Spotify Gains a Big New Partner in Samsung

Ever since entering the US market, Spotify has owned the music streaming business. Apple has made some inroads since purchasing and rebranding Beats Music, but they still trail in music selection and userbase. Spotify has gained a bigger foothold in the industry thanks to their newly announced partnership with Samsung. As part of the relationship, Samsung will tightly integrate Spotify service into their devices, including phones, televisions and new Galaxy Home.

This partnership means that Samsung fans in the ecosystem will be able to experience what other users currently have: music continuity. The continuity sounds like it will mimic what Microsoft ecosystem users have experienced since Microsoft terminated Groove Music. Playing music on Spotify in the car through your Samsung phone will allow you to transfer the music to your television when you enter the house and play through the Galaxy Home in the bedroom.

This ability has always been the promise of Spotify's service, and especially the play-to capability of the client. The capability gets even more interesting and powerful with more integrated devices. Pairing to a Bluetooth speaker works well but doesn't travel around the house easily. It requires disconnecting and reconnecting to various devices, depending on where you are. Having Spotify integrated into devices means that you don't have to do anything special to play from room to room.

Having smart capabilities behind Spotify makes the experience even better. When paired with an AI, like Cortana or Bixby, it gives an even more direct and frictionless music experience. Asking Bixby for music recommendations will now default to searching Spotify, which means that playing music through Spotify won't require any physical interaction with a Samsung phone or Galaxy Home speaker, with Samsung Smart TV integration coming in the near future.

Facebook Implements Stronger Verification for Large Page Managers

posted Saturday Aug 11, 2018 by Scott Ertz

Facebook Implements Stronger Verification for Large Page Managers

Facebook Page integrity leaves something to be desired. There's never any telling if a Page represents who they say they do, or if they are even related to the topic they claim. It's also possible for pages to merge, bringing an unsuspecting audience to a new type of content. In an effort to bring transparency to Pages, Facebook is implementing some new policies for Pages that have a large following. Facebook explained the decision in a post, saying,

Our goal is to prevent organizations and individuals from creating accounts that mislead people about who they are or what they're doing. These updates are part of our continued efforts to increase authenticity and transparency of Pages on our platform.

Managers of affected pages will be required to implement a two-factor authentication and verify their country of origin. After verification, managers will be able to post to their Pages once again.

Pages will also be adding new information, including showing what Pages have merged. This is especially important for Pages that claim to represent political opinions, as merging Pages can change the focus of the content displayed by a Page you are following. You will also have a list of Page managers and their primary, verified locations. Right now this information is voluntary, but it sounds like it will become mandatory, at least for larger Pages.

Most importantly, you can also get detailed information on ads being run by a Page. Ads have been a major target of query against the company, with Pages running politically-leaning ads from outside of the US. CEO Mark Zuckerberg was summoned to answer questions from Congress over the topic. Ad transparency has been something that all social networks have been working towards ever since, and this is a big step towards understanding what a Page is currently up to.

While the company did not define what constitutes a "large following," it is only a temporary restriction, as the wording makes it sound like these transparency features will be coming to all pages eventually. The company also plans to bring similar policies to Instagram in the coming weeks.

Discord Challenges Steam After Steam Challenged Discord

posted Saturday Aug 11, 2018 by Scott Ertz

Discord Challenges Steam After Steam Challenged Discord

Less than a month ago, Valve launched Steam Chat to all of its users. The feature is a near exact clone of Discord, the leading chat platform for gamers. The services had a small chance of success, being as it is built into the most popular gaming distribution client for PC games, but it had a big uphill battle against the existing platform. It is always difficult to challenge an established and beloved brand, especially in an industry that is overpopulated with brand loyalty.

Seemingly in response to Valve's attack on Discord, Discord has rolled out an almost direct attack on Valve. Rolling out in phases, the Discord Store Beta has begun selling indie videogames directly to gamers in the existing Discord client. The new tab features a curated list of games, intended to feel less like a megastore and more like a mom-and-pop shop. According to Discord,

We'll be launching a curated game store experience similar to one of those cozy neighborhood book shops with recommendations about the hottest and newest games from us to you.

We'll be showcasing a variety of titles that we think you'll like. As the store grows, we'll rely on our community and our team to make the store feel super personal and focused on games that we genuinely think you'll enjoy!

The idea of a super-focused store that highlights some favorite content will certainly set the Discord Store apart from its competitors. However, it won't generate the same kind of revenue that a larger store would generate. As such, it will require a high rate of buy-in from the community to be able to be successful. To make being in the Store and game launcher more appealing, Discord has created a universal launcher, which will scan your computer for all of your existing games and will be able to launch them, regardless of their platform.

Discord is in the same boat for buying games that Steam is in for game chatting: behind the 8-ball. Working in a niche, especially indie games, gives them a chance to compete against the established brands.

TCL Takes Advantage of Backlash Against Huge Phones with Palm Reboot

posted Saturday Aug 11, 2018 by Scott Ertz

TCL Takes Advantage of Backlash Against Huge Phones with Palm Reboot

Over the past few years, phones have definitely gotten larger. In fact, since the beginning of the consumer smartphone market, phone screen sizes have nearly doubled. The original iPhone had a 3.5-inch screen, while the original Android phone, the HTC Dream (known as the T-Mobile G1 in the US), had a 3.2-inch screen. Compare that to the iPhone X's 5.8-inch screen and Samsung Note 9, announced officially this week, with its 6.4-inch screen, and you can see a big change in the market.

Not everyone enjoys a phone with a large screen for a variety of reasons. Whether it be the way it feels in your hand, an inability to fit in into a pocket, or a variety of other reasons, there is a market need for high-profile phone with a smaller screen. Growing electronics brand TCL, who has become known for owning niche markets, is rumored to be interested in a small screen.

After Blackberry ended hardware developement, they licensed the brand to TCL to continue developing phones. Those phones, which focus on the otherwise ignored market of physical keyboards, have seen some pretty impressive success for a brand that had all but been written off completely.

TCL intends to do something similar with the small screen market, planning to re-launch the Palm brand, which they acquired after HP uncerimoniously killed it off in an idiotic and failed plan to become a software services company. Based on some leaked renders, the rumored phone, possibly to be branded the Palm Pepito, is designed in a similar style to the old Palm Pre line, minus the sliding keyboard - apparently that is reserved for Blackberry.

The screen is to be 3.3-inches, will ship with Android Oreo 8.1 and will feature 3GB of RAM And 32GB of internal storage. The device is expected to launch in partnership with Verizon Wireless in the US. That is not an unexpected partnership, as the Palm Pre Plus launched on Verizon before AT&T and T-Mobile jumped onboard with the Palm Pre 2 the following year. Verizon has previously said that they would launch a Palm-branded phone in 2018, so we can expect to see more about the Palm Pepito in the near future.

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