The UpStream

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.

Online stores are actively dealing with COVID-19 panic exploitation

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Online stores are actively dealing with COVID-19 panic exploitation

As the panic over COVID-19, commonly being referred to as the coronavirus, people have been looking for ways to exploit that fear and panic. Fortunately, online platforms of all stripes are actively dealing with the problem. Whether it is online stores, app stores, or even social networks, companies are working to prevent you from getting harmed.

Amazon and eBay

Two of the big online user-driven stores, Amazon and eBay, have put rules into place to prevent coronavirus exploitation. Almost as soon as the panic began, Amazon started closing accounts for sellers with false cures on their platform. Following the cures, the company then began terminating accounts for price gouging. eBay has followed suit, going so far as to completely ban the sale of hand sanitizer and face masks from the site entirely.

Amazon has decided to step up their actions, planning to prosecute the sellers who were actively engaged in price gouging on their platform. The company is already working directly with various state attorneys general to deal with the worst offenders first.

Apple

As one would expect, the company's App Store has seen an influx in COVID-19 related apps. The most common type has been trackers, produced and published by various individuals and organizations. These trackers have provided various levels of correct and incorrect information. Because of this, Apple has decided to remove all COVID-tracing apps that do not come from official sources. The intent is to prevent misinformation or politically-motived propaganda.

Facebook

While the company doesn't directly sell anything themselves, they do provide a lot of advertising for those who do. An update to the company's advertising policies has temporarily banned the advertising of medical masks. This move is intended to prevent advertisers from adding to the fear-induced purchasing of face masks (which has little to no effect in preventing the spread). It also prevents these companies from directing Facebook users to sites with inflated prices.

FIFA pro gamer is "done" after odd rule called into tournament play

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2020 by Scott Ertz

FIFA pro gamer is

eSports is growing quickly in popularity, sometimes faster than the industry seems to be able to keep up. The industry has special circumstances that set it apart from more traditional sports. The primary issue is that eSports often requires access to external resources, such as matchmaking servers. Because of this, companies have to put rules into place to deal with the possibility of server failures to prevent gamers from using "connectivity issues" as an excuse to delay gameplay. Unfortunately, those rules can be bizarre and can anger professionals.

One of those pros who is upset because of an odd rule is Shaun "Brandsha56" Galea. During a FIFA 2020 qualification competition, he and his competitor were unable to find one another through EA's matchmaking server. The rules state that, if the competitors are unable to connect and begin a match within a 20-minute window, both players will receive a loss for the match. There is a way to avoid the loss, for one player, and that is where the problem comes in. According to Brandsha56,

I cannot believe it !! @EASPORTSFIFA @EAFIFADirect We literally had to play a rock paper scissors becauce we couldn't find each other to invite in an EA LICENSED QUALIFIER . WTF !!... I am done

So, as it turns out, the process for avoiding a loss is to play Roshambo, also known as rock paper scissors. This would be the equivalent of two NFL teams in a playoff game having to decide the game through a coin toss because the broadcaster can't get one of their cameras to turn on. Leaving something that could directly affect someone's income up to chance because of an issue caused by something outside of their control is nothing short of frustrating.

Whether or not Brandsha56 truly intends to give up on the game is still to be seen, but the anger in the moment of being eliminated from a gaming tournament because of a problem with EA is completely warranted.

Philips to end support for original Hue Bridge in April 2020

posted Sunday Mar 8, 2020 by Scott Ertz

Philips to end support for original Hue Bridge in April 2020

Connected and smart home technology is one of the fastest-growing markets in consumer electronics. From connected LED bulbs and locks to thermostats and smoke detectors, the home is getting smarter. One of the biggest issues that smarthome owners face is the compatibility, or more often, the lack thereof, between products. But, if you stay within an ecosystem, there is another problem that pops up: quickly changing technology.

This week, Philips brought that problem back to the forefront with the announcement that the first generation Philips Hue Bridge is about to lose support. That means that many of the features that people purchased the product for are about to go away. In the case of the Philips Hue Bridge, the loss comes because of the disconnection from the Philips Hue cloud services. According to the company,

After April 2020 no software updates will be made available for the Hue Bridge v1 and compatibility with our online services will be terminated at that time. The Hue Bridge v1 can still be controlled locally via the dedicated Philips Hue Bridge v1 app.

Those cloud services are what make things like remote access possible. Without the Bridge working fully, owners will no longer have access to their home devices when out of range of the Bridge itself. Thanks to the fact that the original Philips Hue mobile app is still in the store, at least owners will have the ability to control their devices from inside their home. This is an important distinction because the original Philips Hue devices communicated with Zigbee, meaning that you can't connect directly with your phone.

This isn't the first time that relying on cloud services for a smarthome product has ended in disappointment. Last year, Johnson Controls discontinued a large collection of features for their GLAS smart thermostat. The removed Cortana from the device, which took with her the ability to use voice commands directly on the device. It also ended with the integrations with Google Home and Alexa not working well anymore.

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