The UpStream

Court Rules Facebook Must Refund Purchases by Minors

posted Sunday Jul 31, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Court Rules Facebook Must Refund Purchases by Minors

The concept of Facebook Credits was doomed from the beginning. In 2011, the company forced developers to use their currency within Facebook-enabled games. Later that year, they saw potential in mobile payments. But, just a month later, the wheels started to come off of the bus. Zynga was pulling away from Facebook, and focusing their attention on mobile.

2012, however, ended the concept when a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the parents of children who had purchased the currency illegally. Facebook allows children as young as 13 to sign up for the service, and any user could purchase Credits with an attached credit card. As it turns out, Facebook never validated that the purchases being made were actually authorized.

So, what was happening was, kids were taking their parents credit cards, attaching them to Facebook and buying Credits, not quite understanding what they were doing. Some parents offered evidence showing thousands of dollars worth of charges that were unauthorized. The lead attorney, John R. Parker, said,

These kids don't really know what they are doing. They've got a credit card they put into their account and they don't realize that every time they click on some button in the game to get some extra magic coin, the company is charging the parent's account.

The suit sat in court for years, but it has finally come to completion, and Facebook has lost hard. In fact, the end result is, anyone who has lost money to Facebook thanks to a child using their credit card can now get all of that money back. Period. To reclaim lost money, simply head to Facebook Payments Support for all conditions and processes.

HPE Eying Final Shift: A Sale to a Private Equity Firm

posted Sunday Jul 31, 2016 by Scott Ertz

HPE Eying Final Shift: A Sale to a Private Equity Firm

The landscape of the computer industry has changed a lot over the decade or so. IBM, the company responsible for personal computers, no longer makes or sells them, selling that division to Lenovo. Compaq, the company that created the IBM-compatible marketplace, was absorbed into HP. Dell, once the leader in computer sales, dropped and went private. Sony got out of the business entirely, spinning Vaio off to its own company. Hewlett Packard, formerly the first name in consumer sales, is now 2 companies, and one of them is not doing well.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise, better known within the industry as HPE, has had nothing but trouble since the company split. A seemingly constant shift in strategy, focus and management has shown a panic within HPE's board of directors, and this week's revelation shows they fear there is no hope for success.

Reports coming from several sources within the company suggest that HPE is currently considering a Yahoo-style selloff. This could be individual business units, or potentially the business as a whole. Included in the consideration is Autonomy, the disaster purchase that was masterminded by ousted CEO Leo Apotheker. Falsified revenue and internal dealings eventually led, in part, to Apotheker's firing, and the beginning of HP's current issues. Other software-based companies that have been acquired recently are on the table, including Mercury Interactive and Vertica. Those units could fetch between $6 and $8 billion.

Other options include selling the entire company, warts and all, to a private equity firm collective, members including Apollo Global Management, Carlyle Group and KKR. This would allow the company to try its luck at a turnaround without the need to answer to public and myriad shareholders, instead only being responsible to the collective. This is the same move that Dell made 3 years ago, which has, as far as we can tell, been on track for success.

HPE is a different type of company, though. While Dell dabbles in the enterprise space, it also has a very public face. HPE, on the other hand, is ONLY the enterprise aspect of the former Hewlett Packard corporation. Will the same move work as well for the enterprise-only corporation, or will it ensure HPE's ultimate destruction? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Solar Energy is Hitting it Big on the Las Vegas Strip

posted Thursday Jul 21, 2016 by Michele Mendez

Las Vegas hosts millions of visitors each year for both leisure and business trips. Our team delights in the sights and sounds of the Las Vegas Strip on our annual tech pilgrimage to the Consumer Electronics Show, which is held at the various convention centers throughout the city. What's not to love about being immersed in the multitude of shows all around from lights on the strip and in the casinos to dancing fountains and star studded entertainment? Well, the cost, presumably... both monetary and environmental.

As everyone becomes increasingly energy conscience, the use of solar power is gaining momentum throughout the nation. More and more households, communities and businesses are taking advantage of tax incentives and lower prices and investing in solar energy. A popular place for large scale installations is the desert and Vegas itself is joining in on the trend. And what better place to go all in than the city whose grid is always at full capacity.

The Mandalay Bay Convention Center on the Las Vegas Strip now has the largest array of rooftop solar panels in the United States with 26,000 individual panels. Construction took two years to complete and the installation is capable of generating enough electricity to cover 25% of energy requirements of the convention center. And even more impressive is the fact that they will also be lowering their carbon dioxide output by over 8,000 metric tons in the immediate area. This is the equivalent of removing 1,700 vehicles from the road. Per a Mandalay Bay Convention Center announcement,

MGM Resorts International has a long history of integrating environmentally responsible practices throughout our operations to help preserve the planet's limited resources.

Not to be outdone, many other large casinos are now also investing in solar roof arrays of their own. This effort will not only help these locations keep their own energy costs down and result in a lower carbon footprint in the area, but will also attribute to Nevada's statewide goal of relying on renewable sources of energy for at least 25% of its electricity by 2025.

Microsoft is the Only Option for HD Netflix in the Browser

posted Saturday Jul 16, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft is the Only Option for HD Netflix in the Browser

Since the launch of Windows 10 Microsoft has had an uphill battle trying to distinguish Microsoft Edge from Internet Explorer. IE was "The Browser You Loved to Hate," an ad campaign that Microsoft ran before retiring the browser stated. It's true, the browser received a lot of hate with regular internet users, mostly because of previous versions that had not performed nearly as well as its competitors. With that, Microsoft switched entirely.

As part of their current push to get people to use Edge, Microsoft has published statistics about their browser. For example, the company had some harsh words for Chrome's battery performance while doing the same task: in this case, streaming video. In fact, in Microsoft's tests, and duplicated by other outlets, streaming video on Chrome killed a Surface Book battery 3 hours faster than Edge - a 70 percent increase for Edge.

This week, Microsoft made a claim that Microsoft Edge was the only modern browser to play Netflix at full 1080p quality. Microsoft claims that this happens for several reasons: hardware acceleration as well as access to PlayReady Content Protection and Protected Media Path, Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies that are part of Windows 10. Now, this is quite a boast from Microsoft, and seemed unlikely to be true, so we took to Netflix to run some tests. Our results are after the break.

Yahoo Approaching End of Auction Period

posted Saturday Jul 16, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Yahoo Approaching End of Auction Period

Since Yahoo's decision to sell the internet business, several attempts have been made to figure out exactly how to carry out the sale. The final decision was to hold a confidential auction, where bidders could determine the pieces they were interested in, and the price they were willing to pay. The auction has been held in several rounds, with bidders dropping out over time. The current round, which ends Monday July 18, is the final, and the board is expected to make a decision shortly after.

The bids are likely to range wildly because of the nature of the auction, but are expected to come in at as much as $6 billion. These bids can include the company's advertising, email, media and search businesses, as well as intellectual property and land holdings. What will not be included is the company's 15 percent stake in Chinese retailer Alibaba, nor their 35.5 percent stake in namesake Yahoo Japan.

The bidder list has shrunk to include Verizon, AT&T, Dan Gilbert, co-founder of Quicken Loans, who is being backed by Berkshire Hathaway, and a handful of private equity firms. While there have been identified issues along the way, none of them have been big enough to see the major bidders drop out. The biggest issue was the recent revelation that Yahoo and Mozilla have an agreement that could put any new owner on the hook for upwards of $1 billion if Mozilla determines that the new owner is damaging to their brand.

The question that remains for the big 3 bidders is, what are their intentions for the purchase? Verizon's seem clear: they would likely roll Yahoo and recent acquisition AOL into a single business unit to provide media and information services. AT&T's interest in Yahoo is likely to place it in competition with Verizon's AOL unit. Gilbert and Berkshire Hathaway, however, are unknown, but Warren Buffett only gets involved when he sees long-term value, so there must be a plan in there somewhere.

Once the sale is finalized, the remaining task for what's left of the corporation will be to figure out how to derive enough value from their offshore holdings, namely Alibaba and Yahoo Japan, to justify the existence of the company.

As Pokémon GO Popularity Increases, Companies Capitalize on Trend

posted Saturday Jul 16, 2016 by Scott Ertz

As Pokémon GO Popularity Increases, Companies Capitalize on Trend

When Pokémon GO released last week, it was clear that it was going to be big. Within a few days, the game had more active daily users than Twitter. With successes like that, it was inevitable that companies would figure out a way to take advantage of the popularity of the game. As the first full week of the game progressed, we saw lots of companies find unique ways to get involved.


Though Nintendo is the company behind the game, they certainly know how to use its successes to their advantage. First, they released to pre-order the Pokémon GO Plus, a connected device that allows you to know when a PokéStop, Gym or Pokémon are near, without the need to have your phone in your hand and burning battery. Within hours, the device's entire planned initial production had been pre-ordered, leaving the company with the need to end the pre-orders.

Following their initial success, the company also announced another piece of hardware: The NES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original NES console, complete with 30 NES games pre-installed. The console will release November 11 for $60.


In addition to killing battery, the game also eats up data, though not nearly as quickly. In response, T-Mobile has announced that they will be offering 1 year of free Pokémon GO data, as part of their T-Mobile Tuesdays promotion. Starting July 19 and running through August 9, if you launch the T-Mobile Tuesdays app on your phone, you can sign up for the free year of data. You can also get a $15 Lyft ride during the same period, seemingly to get you to and from a Gym without having to actually walk.


The world's defacto "where should I eat" platform has gotten in on the Pokémon hunting by adding "PokéStop Nearby" to its list of filterable attributes. Obviously this means that people will need to add whether or not there is a PokéStop nearby to a location, but as the desire to find these landmarks increases, people will be more than willing to contribute to the database. As someone who recently ate dinner at a place with a connected PokéStop with someone else who was playing, I can definitely see the allure of knowing before you decide.

Busch Gardens & SeaWorld

These parks have an unbelievable number of PokéStops and Gyms on their properties. Looking at a screenshot of the park maps, you can almost not see the ground in many areas of both parks. On Saturday, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, the parent company for both brands, ran a 4 hour promotion in which the company added lures to their PokéStops every 30 minutes as they expired. It caused the entire park to be overrun with Pokémon for the entirety of the event.

Do you know of other companies taking advantage of the popularity of the game? Tell us about them in the comments!

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