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Scott Ertz Paramount+ is available for merger again, with MAX possibly interested
(2024-07-07)
Once again, the fate of Paramount is up in the air. The company has struggled in recent years to catch on to modern television trends, perfect its streaming offerings, and produce and maintain programming. Either the company is stretching itself too thin, or they are in over their heads. As such, the company has looked at various options, including selling the company. Now, reports suggest that the goal is not so much to sell the entire company, but to find a company to merge their streaming operations with.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The modern struggles of Paramount[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
As the television industry has changed from appointment television on standard cable and broadcast channels to an on-demand streaming model, Paramount and its related brands have really struggled. Broadcast and cable viewership has declined, as it has across the industry. But, the company's streaming efforts have also struggled to find their location in the crowded market.

As a result, the company has been investigating ways to right the ship. The original approach was to sell the entire company as a whole. This would include brands like CBS, BET, and Comedy Central. Initially, conversations between Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) looked positive. WBD, the newly merged combination of WarnerMedia and Discovery, was interested in expanding its size and offerings once again, making itself and its MAX streaming service more attractive.

However, earlier this year, those discussions ended, leaving Paramount's fate in question. The possibility of these companies returning to the table for discussions in the future was high, as was the possibility of another buyer stepping up to the plate. While there have been rumors of other buyers having interest, including former executives, nothing has materialized.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Moving to a streaming merger[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
The new approach appears, according to insiders speaking to CNBC, to be an attempt to merge the Paramount+ streaming service with another service or finding a technology partner to improve the service.

The idea of a technology partner could make sense. The company has a strong history in content creation, but technology has never been a big focus. As such, allowing a technology company to help them beef up the parts of the business they have struggled with. But, with the condition of the service, it might be more difficult to find a partner who is interested in getting involved.

On the other hand, a streaming merger looks like a likely move. There are two obvious possibilities: Peacock and MAX. Peacock, owned by Comcast, has struggled less with its technology and more with its content catalog. Adding the Paramount+ content catalog could enhance its offerings and make it a more attractive service. Add to that the two brands have worked together a lot over the years on projects like Frasier, and the pairing could work.

However, the most likely possibility is MAX. The two companies have already had discussions over a full company merger, so the possibility of joining forces to enhance their streaming options is a big possibility. According to the report, the two companies have already entered discussions, so the possibilities are high that a combined catalog is in the future.
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Scott Ertz Largest data dump of passwords ever hit the internet on July 4th
(2024-07-07)
In a staggering revelation, researchers at Cybernews have uncovered what they're calling the largest password compilation ever. The file, titled rockyou2024.txt and released on the Fourth of July, emerged on a popular hacking forum, posted by a user known as ObamaCare. Within this file lies a mind-boggling 9,948,575,739 unique plaintext passwords. This means that there is no encryption and anyone can read the database directly. This collection is the largest database of passwords ever released, making this an unprecedented attack on public safety and security.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">What is RockYou2024?[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
The RockYou2024 file is a mix of old and new data breaches, spanning over two decades. While it's not necessarily a recent breach, its sheer size substantially heightens the risk of credential-stuffing attacks. Credential stuffing occurs when hackers use passwords obtained from one breach to infiltrate unrelated services. For instance, a password from an old AT&T breach might be tested against your bank account.

The base of the leak is actually RockYou2021, which was the same leak from several years ago. The database at the time contained around 8.4 billion passwords, also in clear text. So, this includes only an additional 1.6 billion new passwords. It also includes data from other password leaks over the past 3 years. So, very little of what we see is actually new, but it does provide a lot of data in one place. However, some of the data did come from an in-house hacking process using the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 graphics card.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">What does this data provide?[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
While technically a database of passwords might appear close to useless, there is actually a lot of value to the collection. This database can be used as the basis for a password-stuffing attack. This style of hacking uses a collection of known passwords as the core of an attack to access an account.

Since usernames are so often email addresses, and email addresses are usually public, the only side of the hack that is needed is the password. When you combine the known email address with the collection of passwords, you have an easier time finding a matching combination.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">What should you do next?[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
Before you panic, check and see if your password has been compromised. The same security group that discovered the leak offers a Password Leak Checker. You can enter your password and it will check if it exists in any of the known data leak collections. If you discover that your password has been released in one of the many data leaks tracked by CyberNews, you should change it immediately. If you do not find it, for the time being, you are safe. However, you should still be using secure password strategies.

Some security experts recommend that you should avoid reusing passwords between services. However, others suggest a hierarchy of passwords - one for unimportant services, one for mid-tier services, and one for ultra-secure passwords. In addition, for any service that offers multi-factor authentication, you should be using it. Ideally, you should use a physical MFA device like a Yubikey. If you can't use that, you should use a code generator like Microsoft Authenticator or Google Authenticator.
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Scott Ertz Wii U has ended its support life, with Nintendo no longer repairing
(2024-07-07)
The Wii U was certainly Nintendo's most controversial console in history. It divided people from the moment it was announced at E3 2011. Would the screen make the gaming experience better, or would it simply be a distraction? In the end, the console nearly sank the company, with record losses hitting their bottom line before recovering with the Switch. Now, the company has finally put the console out to pasture, as official repairs have ended at Nintendo.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The Legacy of the Wii U[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
In 2012, Nintendo unveiled the Wii U, a console that aimed to bridge the gap between casual and core gamers. It was the company's first foray into HD graphics, promising a unique gaming experience. But how did this ambitious system fare, and what is its legacy?

The Wii U's journey began in 2008 when Nintendo recognized its limitations with the original Wii. The perception that it catered solely to casual players prompted a rethink. The Wii U emerged as a response - a console that would appeal to both casual and dedicated gamers. Its standout feature was the Wii U GamePad, an embedded touchscreen controller that allowed innovative gameplay possibilities.

Upon release, the Wii U faced mixed reviews. While some praised its creativity and potential, others found it confusing. Among our staff at the time, the reception was certainly mixed. While some were excited about the video of the remote screen, hoping that there would be the possibility of one for each player, others including myself saw the reality of the price meaning that there could only possibly be a single screen creating an inconsistent gaming experience.

The GamePad's dual-screen setup intrigued developers, but third-party support remained limited. Sales struggled, reaching 13.56 million units worldwide by 2019. Consumer interest was clearly not with the new console, as the other consoles of the generation thrived and the Wii U did not. Yet, gems like "Mario Kart 8" showcased the system's strengths.

In 2017, Nintendo shifted focus to the Nintendo Switch, leaving the Wii U behind. Many of its exclusives found new life on the Switch. Despite its challenges, the Wii U remains a unique chapter in gaming history-a console that dared to innovate, even if its legacy is bittersweet.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The future is dim[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
As with all hardware, eventually official support ends. This week, the end of support for the Wii U is complete, as hardware repairs are no longer offered by Nintendo proper. This follows the company shuttering the Shop for the console in late 2023. Now, if you have a console, you'll need to keep it in good working order or it cannot officially be repaired.

Fortunately, there are other ways to get hardware repaired, though unofficially. Local repair shops can often times repair older consoles, either through aftermarket parts or salvaged parts from irreparable consoles. So, there is a future for this much maligned, though still loved legacy Nintendo console.

Were you a Wii U lover or hater? Let us know about your experiences in the comments.
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Scott Ertz Amazon to brick all Astro robots, pivoting to a consumer focus
(2024-07-07)
Amazon is known for some bonkers product ideas. One of the more inexplicable products was the Astro robot - a product announced in 2021 that had a huge $2350 price tag and seemingly absolutely no point, or at the best case, no focus. Now, Amazon has informed internal staff that those who made the very large purchase will be left with a bricked robot in just a few months.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">What was the Amazon Astro?[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
Amazon Astro, developed by Amazon.com, Inc., was a home robot that combined security, remote care, and virtual assistance features. Unlike traditional static security cameras, Astro autonomously navigated through your living space, acting as a vigilant sentry while you're away. Users could remotely direct it to specific rooms or areas for targeted monitoring.

Beyond security, Astro could have provided peace of mind by allowing users to check in on elderly relatives or family members. Its intelligent capabilities made it a theoretically helpful companion for ensuring safety and well-being. Astro was also integrated with Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant. It followed users from room to room, providing information, reminders, and assistance wherever they went within their homes. Whether you need to know the weather, set a timer, or ask a general question, Astro could have been there to assist.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The problems with Astro[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
The biggest issue with Astro was Amazon's complete lack of focus on the product. Was it a security camera? Kind of. Was it a home health companion? Kind of. Was it a personal assistant? Kind of. But, it didn't appear to try and do any of them well. Instead, it did all of them about as well as any universal product ever does anything.

Another issue that affected the Astro's longevity and support has been a constantly changing set of hardware priorities at Amazon. In August 2022, the company announced the purchase of iRobot, the maker of the Roomba home cleaning robot. After the purchase was completed in November 2022, the company laid off its robotics division, the people who had planned and designed the Astro.

Nearly a year later, legendary product manager Panos Panay left Microsoft for Amazon overseeing all products and services. This was a similar job position he had at Microsoft for years, except Amazon is better known for wild and crazy product experiments, giving him more leeway to explore hardware and services.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">The end of Astro[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
With Astro's makers and designers gone and Panos Panay taking over the division, the future of the devices was immediately in peril. One indication that Amazon was not highly focused on bringing Astro to the full marketplace was that the product up to and including today never left its invite-only initial release phase.

As initially revealed by GeekWire, the company has let staffers know that they had discontinued work on the product and that the devices in the wild would stop functioning on September 25, 2024.

Interestingly, the product listing is still available, though the price has been discounted from its initial $2350 to $1599. The company is offering a full refund, plus a $300 credit to help replace Astro in the scenarios in which it was being used. There is no indicationthat Amazon wants the device back. In fact, they have recommended that customers recycle the robot. Almost certainly, someone will figure out a way to repurpose these expensive and odd device and give it a new life.
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Scott Ertz How to get more from the time you spend online
(2024-05-24)
How much time do you spend online each day? For many of us, a lot of our time is spent using the internet, whether it's during work time or our downtime. In fact, research shows that internet users spend a massive six hours and 35 minutes of their time each day online. That's certainly a significant amount of time.

The amount of time that people should spend online and using screens each day is a subject of much debate. But there's no doubt that it would be pretty hard to avoid using the internet completely. Now that we all have so much information, entertainment, and possibilities available at our fingertips, it's no surprise that people want to dive in and experience it.

There's no question that most of us spend a lot of time on our devices each day. You may feel that this, in itself, isn't an issue. But you may be getting a little bored of simply scrolling through your newsfeed aimlessly while the minutes and hours tick by. It's so easy to fall into a habit of mindlessly scrolling through our phones. But when we do this, it can leave us feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled. If you've noticed that you feel disengaged and completely unaware of the passing hours when scrolling through your phone, you might find it helpful to try something different. Rather than scrolling through your phone out of habit, why not turn this passive pastime into something more fulfilling?

The internet is packed with fascinating information and engaging content. So, there's no reason why using the web needs to be an uninspiring habit. Keep reading to discover how to get more from the time you spend online. Are you ready to leave behind mindless scrolling and maximize your time spent online? If so, here are some top tips to inspire you:

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Engage With Others[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
If you spend lots of time scrolling through your social media feed, it's helpful to think about why you do this. For some people, constantly looking through social media can be a way to ease loneliness and feel some kind of connection to other people. If this sounds like you, you may find that a lot of your scrolling simply makes you feel worse. It can cause you to compare their seemingly perfect lives with yours. But don't forget, what you get to see is probably only the edited highlights of their lives. Instead, you may find that you get more of what you're looking for from your time spent online when you engage with others in a different way.

Thinking about which subjects you are interested in and feel passionately about is a great start. You may then want to join online forums and fan pages to chat with other people who share your same interests. This can help you to feel like you are part of a community and enable you to have meaningful conversations about your interests.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Chill Out While Keeping Your Brain Active[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
Many people go online as a way to relax. At the end of a stressful day, it can feel great to have a reason to simply sit down with your phone in hand and forget about the day. But there are plenty of other ways to chill out after a hard day. If you like the idea of keeping your brain engaged and active while your body relaxes, playing online games is a great way to do this.

Choosing to play online games that are fun, but also require you to think are a great place to start. Online crossword games are the perfect example of this. You will be able to engage your brain and keep your mind active while enjoying the fun challenge of completing the crossword. Although you'll still be relaxing, you will be able to forget about the day and focus your mind on something more positive, instead. Playing these types of online games is a great way to keep your brain busy and give it a workout. This could even help you to protect your brain health and is a handy tool in the battle against conditions such as dementia. So, there are plenty of good reasons to choose to play online games over mindless scrolling.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Overhaul Your Finances[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
If your aim is to make the hours you spend online as productive as possible, you may want to focus on your finances. While dealing with money matters isn't as exciting as playing online games, it can be a worthwhile area to focus on.

Spending some time combing through your finances while you're online can really help you take charge of your financial life. While it's vital to be careful when entering your personal details online, there are ways to save yourself money and overhaul your financial situation.

Managing your money online can take many different forms. You could begin by using comparison sites to see if it is possible to lower your bills. This is something that could help you to make big savings on your utility bills, car insurance, and home insurance. Even spending just one evening looking at ways to save on these essential bills can help you make some significant savings. You can follow this example for pretty much every aspect of your financial life, from your phone contract to your internet service provider.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Learn Something New[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
The internet may be populated with a lot of not so useful information, but there's plenty of valuable stuff on there too, just waiting to be discovered. You won't have to try too hard to find tutorials and online courses covering pretty much everything. From learning how to speak another language to developing the skills needed to entirely make over your home, useful information is right there at your fingertips.

Using your spare time to learn something new is always a good idea. It's a really valuable way to learn new skills that you can put to use in daily life. You can even develop skills that can be used to help you to save money. For example, learning how to complete tasks around the home yourself, such as decorating and carpentry tasks, can help you to save large amounts of money, as you won't need to hire professionals to complete these tasks.

Following tutorials to complete practical tasks isn't the only way to make the most of your time spent online. There's also plenty of opportunity to learn a new physical activity. Yoga, Pilates, indoor walking exercises, and tai chi are just some of the physical activities that you can learn online from the comfort of your own home. So, you can focus on your physical and mental wellbeing without even leaving the house.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Get Creative[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
You don't need to have a natural artistic flair to get a new creative hobby. You only need to search online, and you'll find thousands of step-by-step tutorials and videos to instruct you on how to get started with any creative hobby you can think of. Whether you've always wanted to try macrame, watercolor painting, or needlepoint, you will find all the information you need just a click away.

One of the best things about learning a creative skill online is you can work on it at your own pace. You can simply dip in and out of the content as and when you have time, so there's no pressure to hurry to develop your new skill in a set time. Instead, you can take your time and enjoy it.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Boost Your Qualifications[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
Are you keen to advance your prospects and take the next step on the career ladder? It's easy to feel like you're stuck in a job and feel unsure about how you're going to break free and progress your career to the next level.

No one wants to feel trapped in their job. Unfortunately, it can happen pretty easily when you've been in the same role for a while. However, making a conscious effort to find a way out of this situation is something that you can do while you're spending time online. There are lots of opportunities to give your qualifications a boost online. You could choose to take an online course to gain the knowledge and skills you need to go for that big promotion.

If you're keen to make a major change in your life, you could decide to take an online course and retrain in a completely different career.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Final Thoughts[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
There's a common misconception that time spent online is often time that's wasted. However, that doesn't need to be the case. Spending hours mindlessly scrolling and comparing your life to other people's is rarely a positive way to use your spare time. But, as we've shown above, there are tons of ways to get more from the time you spend online.

Whether you choose to overhaul your finances, learn a new skill, or keep your brain active by playing online games, there are plenty of constructive ways to spend your time on the internet.
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