The UpStream

Windows Hello Gets Wearable Support Through New API

posted Sunday Jun 5, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Windows Hello Gets Wearable Support Through New API

One of the most interesting and innovative aspects of Windows 10 is Windows Hello. This is the altered login system that can use a variety of different unique identifiers to unlock your computer without you having to type your password. Currently, the most common authentication methods are facial recognition and the old standby, fingerprint reader.

Microsoft has made available a new library for developers which gives IoT devices the ability to be used as an authentication method as well. Dubbed the Windows Hello Companion Device Framework, it gives devices full system authentication capabilities, meaning you can unlock your PC, make Windows Store purchases, login to a website on Edge and more, all by wearing your existing device.

Shown at Computex using a Microsoft Band 2, Microsoft says that it would be easy for a developer to include this technology on any Android Wear device, a Pebble, etc. The device can use almost any connection method to pair, including direct connection via cable, Bluetooth, NFC - basically any technology the device itself supports.

The ability to remove passwords and PINs from the equation is an important one, as it also removes the majority of human fallibility from the world of security. No longer will people write down their passwords near their computers or in their laptop bags, choose easy passwords or PINS to secure their computers. Instead, all you need to do is be near your machine - easier and safer for everyone.

It is expected that this feature will make its first public appearance in the upcoming Anniversary Update, along with a host of other new features.

Amazon Readies Its Next Round of Pilots

posted Friday May 27, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Readies Its Next Round of Pilots

The video streaming market is fierce. What started with Netflix providing other people's content has become a whole new industry. The Big 3 continue to try to separate themselves from the pack, and a great way to do that is to produce original content.

While Netflix and Hulu tend to subscribe to a more traditional media approach, Amazon has looked to its customer base for feedback about future projects. Over the past few years Amazon has produced a number of pilots and asked its customers to vote on which ones to produce.

This method has produced a number of top quality, award winning shows. This week Amazon announced that its next collection of pilots will be available on June 17. While, like in the past, there are a number of children's shows, there are also 2 hour long adult programs.

The adult shows are both an hour long and feature showrunners with Academy Award nomination, as well as first rate acting talent, including Kelsey Grammar. How many of the shows get picked up for full seasons is entirely up to you. Make sure to watch them and give your feedback if you have Amazon Prime.

Network Level Ad Blocking to Begin Next Month in the UK

posted Friday May 27, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Network Level Ad Blocking to Begin Next Month in the UK

One topic we've talked about a lot has been in online advertising. Advertising is one of the keys to the free web. Without online advertising, companies like ours can't make money and provide content to you without charging you. Therein lies the main problem with ad blockers.

Until recently, blocking ads on your mobile device was uncommon. Lately, however, it has become a norm. Many mobile browsers allow ad blocking, including Apple's own Safari. Fortunately for content providers and carriers, it is still an opt-in feature.

That could begin to change next month as UK wireless carrier Three will begin testing network level mobile ad blocking. The initial roll out will allow 500,000 current customers to opt-in to the test. This will prevent the devices from accessing the advertising content at all.

The company claims that the move is all about data costs. They believe that the consumer should not be responsible for paying for the bandwidth to transfer the ads. The problem with that theory is that the consumer isn't the only one paying for bandwidth. Anytime an advertisement is accessed, the provider is paying for bandwidth as well. The consumer is also aware that they are visiting a free website that is advertisement supported.

The problem here does not lie with either the consumer or the advertiser; the problem lies with the carrier. If Three truly believes that the consumer should not be paying for bandwidth on certain content the consumer is asking for, then they should stop charging for bandwidth. By making sweeping accusations and a move like this, Three's customers will see a decrease in their data usage, but mostly from sites that are going to block the carrier.

If a site is providing content free of charge, they have to find a way to monetize that content. If a carrier is going to strip a content provider of its ability to pay to produce that content, then the consumers of that content will eventually be penalized.

The trend toward blocking mobile advertising is going to change the Internet, but not for the better.

ELEAGUE Officially Launches on TBS

posted Friday May 27, 2016 by Scott Ertz

ELEAGUE Officially Launches on TBS

In the United States, it's been a long time coming. Videogames are a big deal here, but somehow professional gaming has never taken hold on television. Sure, sites like Twitch have given a rise in popularity but never in the mainstream.

This week TBS premiered ELEAGUE, both online and on television. Tuesday through Thursday we saw content online with the programming jumping to TBS Primetime on Friday. This isn't the first time we've seen a television network attempt to broadcast professional gaming, but previous attempts never quite felt serious. TBS however has definitely taken a different approach.

By pumping up the audience online during the week and then shifting to cable, they encouraged more people to view it. They brought in the best teams from around the world. They brought in announcers who knew what they were doing. They built sets and studios that are appropriate for the content. They even conduct floor interviews.

With all of that said, how did it go? In their first week they saw 92,000 concurrent viewers on Twitch during the week, and over 509,000 viewers on TBS Friday night. For a basic cable show at 10 PM on Friday night, a half a million viewers is great. For professional gaming on television that number is unbelievable.

They didn't just dominate in viewers either. They received over 700 million Twitter impressions during the week, with 360 million of those impressions being Friday night. Those social media numbers alone are worth being proud of.

The problem, of course, is that this was a look in audience. People wanted to see what ELEAGUE was going to be all about. Would the broadcast be good? Would it be worth watching long term? First week numbers are never a good indication of what's to come. However this is definitely specialized content. I can't imagine people stumbled across it on accident and stayed for an extended period. The people watching wanted to be there. The important question for TBS is will they be there again next week?

Apple Loses Patent Case, Might Lose iMessage and FaceTime, At Least Temporarily

posted Friday May 27, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Apple Loses Patent Case, Might Lose iMessage and FaceTime, At Least Temporarily

In 2012, Apple was sued by a patent holder, VirnetX, for violating their patents with FaceTime and iMessage. In particular, VirnetX owns 4 patents that describe a particular process for secure, highly available communications, which they claim several of Apple's products use without permission. Apple first lost this suit in 2012, then vowing to fight the ruling, which would cost them $368 million. After redesigning the software and another court loss, the result is $626 million in penalty.

To add insult to injury, VirnetX is asking for additional relief in the form of an additional $190 million, and a permanent injunction blocking Apple from providing these features until such a time that the two companies can reach a licensing agreement on the patents. Assumable, the redesign of the software did not get it far enough away from the patents to protect Apple from additional penalties or suit.

Apple is asking, in exchange, for a new trial, claiming among other things that the lawyers for VirnetX misrepresented the evidence, and even the false information did not support the infringement claim. They claim that the company is going for a broad injunction in hopes of finagling a larger licensing fee; essentially extortion.

The judge has not yet ruled on the additional requests, but said he would "get orders out as quickly as possible."

Kanye West Reverses on Album, Makes It Available Everywhere

posted Sunday Apr 3, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Kanye West Reverses on Album, Makes It Available Everywhere

Six weeks ago, the increasingly confused Kayne West released a new album, The Life of Pablo. The release came with a strange caveat, though: it would be available exclusively to Tidal, the beleaguered streaming service owned by fellow rapper Jay-Z. There would be no purchasing anywhere, or streaming anywhere else - only on the one service. West was adamant about this decision, tweeting,

My album will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale... You can only get it on Tidal.

This decision, while appearing to be supportive of a new version of the music industry, was actually a sign of confusion. More and more people are moving to streaming, but very few are moving to Tidal, and some people do still prefer to purchase an album to own. The movie industry knows this and continues to support DVD/Blu-Ray. The scenario this created for Kanye was no one switched to Tidal to listen to his music, and a digital version of the album became almost immediately available on torrent sites worldwide.

Kanye's initial reaction was as rational as his decision to go Tidal-exclusive: he threatened to sue The Pirate Bay, an organization with no entities in any country where Kanye could file said suit. Assumedly after a lawyer explained this very large roadblock to this plans, he abandoned them.

Apparently time does makes fools of us all, as this week all of that became nonsense. As of right now, the album which will always be a Tidal exclusive, is available on Groove, iTunes, Spotify and more. The availability is not just streaming, either, as it is available for purchase from the Windows Store. If you are a fan of Kanye, go enjoy his latest album on your favorite platform. If you're not, just wait a little while for his next confusing tweet.

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