peetm writes: I have an above averagely bright nephew, aged 10, who's into maths and whose birthday is coming up soon. I'd like to get him a suitable present – most likely one that's mathematically centred. At Christmas we sat together while I helped him build a few very simple Python programs that 'animated' some simple but interesting maths, e.g., we built a factorial function, investigated the Collatz conjecture (3n + 1 problem) and talked about, but didn't implement Eratosthenes' Sieve – one step too far for him at the moment perhaps. I've looked about for books that might blend computing + maths, but haven't really found anything appropriate for a 10-year-old. I should be indebted to anyone who might suggest either a suitable maths book, or one that brings in some facet of computing. Or, if not a book, then some other present that might pique his interest.
An anonymous reader writes: After first announcing the introduction of a video streaming service in May last year, Spotify is finally launching the feature this week. The Swedish company has taken its time tinkering with the new product and beta testing it on groups for months, readying it for its widespread rollout. Not all of the video content will be music-related – keeping the product's potential wide open to different verticals. Spotify has already confirmed partnerships with the BBC, Vice Media, Maker Studios, ESPN, and Comedy Central, among other popular brands. Initially, the video service will only be available in the mobile version of the Spotify app for consumers in the U.S., the UK, Germany and Sweden. It will roll out on Android first, before arriving on iOS a week later. It is also expected to be an ad-free feature at launch, but it is doubtful that it will remain like this for long.
An anonymous reader writes: One of the easiest complaints to lob at a modern film is that the special effects look bad. It's been over two decades since Jurassic Park; the novelty is finally wearing off. The New Yorker puts it this way: "It's as if directors—especially the reboot generation—have finally become self-conscious about CGI; 2015 was the year they got embarrassed by the digital miracles of the movies." Both the new Star Wars film and Mad Max: Fury Road were lauded for their use of "practical effects" — not abandoning CGI entirely, but using it to embellish scenes, rather than creating them from whole cloth. "Movies are a faddish, self-quoting business. At one time, the stark lighting effects of the German Expressionists were the visual rage. Later, it was the helicopter shot or the zoom. Any new tool, once used promiscuously, becomes a cliché. As time goes by, a director rediscovers the tool, and what was once cliché becomes an homage to a distant and more cultured time. This is what has happened to the last, pre-digital wave of effects. They are now happily vintage." It also counts as marketing, when you consider that audiences are turned off by too much CGI: "Touting your movie's wood, concrete, and steel is an implicit promise of restraint. I didn't go totally wild, the filmmaker is telling the audience, not like Peter Jackson did in the Hobbit trilogy."
The Next Web features a quick look at an eyebrow-raisingly fast Rubik's Cube-solving robot, created by developers Jay Flatland and Paul Rose. How fast? The robot can solve a scrambled cube in one second (as long as you're willing to round down consistent solutions in "less than 1.2 seconds") which makes for some fun repeat views on YouTube. One speed-shaving element of the design: Rather than grip the cube with a robot hand, Flatland and Rose essentially made the cube an integral part of the system, by drilling holes in the cube's center faces, and attaching stepper motors directly. (Also at Motherboard).
walterbyrd writes: The DOJ as well as Ohio, Illinois, California, and North Carolina say that Dish disregarded federal laws on call etiquette. US lawyers are asking for $900 million in civil penalties, and the four states are asking for $23.5 billion in fines, according to the Denver Post. 'Laws against phoning people on do-not-call lists and using recorded messages allow penalties of up to $16,000 per violation,' the Post added.
MojoKid writes: The original Intel Compute Stick wasn't without issues. Last year's model featured dated 802.11n wireless connectivity and had only a single USB port, which meant using a hub and/or dongles, should you want to connect multiple peripherals to the device or boost its wireless capabilities. The new updated Intel Compute Stick, however, features Intel's newer Cherry Trail Atom platform, with 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi, and USB 3.0. There's still just 2GB of RAM in the device, along with 32GB of storage, but Windows 10 Home also now comes pre-installed. The result is a fully functional PC that won't burn up any benchmarks but offers utility for mainstream computing tasks and is even capable of streaming up to 4K video content. The little device can essentially turn any HDMI-equipped display into a basic PC.
coondoggie writes: You may not associate the Central Intelligence Agency with historical UFO investigations, but the agency did have a big role in such investigations many years ago. This week the agency posted an article called 'How to investigate a flying saucer." The release is part of a series of old documents dredged up as a nod to the return of The X-Files to TV this weekend.
An anonymous reader writes: Australian unblocking service uFlix recently announced that Netflix has begun implementing its plans to block users who take advantage of web proxies and VPNs to get around location restrictions on content. Shortly afterward, the service rolled out a fix to restore service, despite Netflix's efforts. The article makes the case that Netflix is probably just fine with this: "Netflix, ultimately, is caught between a rock and a hard place. The company has gone on record many times criticizing the way content licensing deals are negotiated globally. Of course, Netflix would love to be able offer a consistent library of content around the world. But it also has to stay on-side with those who hold the rights to the content, otherwise they may threaten to pull shows and movies altogether. The result is that Netflix is going through the motions of blocking VPNs, even though it understand perfectly well that these measures are doomed to fail."
New submitter AnneMackay451 writes with news that the Nielsen media audience measuring company will now include social media buzz into its ratings. From the article: "Nielsen wants to know what TV shows are getting the biggest buzz on Facebook. The measurement firm is expanding its Twitter TV Ratings to include data from Facebook and, eventually, Instagram. The new reports are being rebranded as Nielsen's Social Content Ratings. The new ratings will measure online buzz about TV programs and streaming originals when they launch later this year. Social conversations will be measured both during a show's airtime and 24-hours-a-day."
Mr.Intel writes with bad news for those of you champing at the bit to see the next Star Wars movie. Engadget reports: "You'll have to wait a bit longer to see what the heck is up with Luke Skywalker. Disney announced this afternoon that it's delaying Star Wars: Episode VIII from May 26, 2017 by seven months to December 15, 2017. Disney didn't give any reason for the delay, but sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that it'll allow the studio to give the film a Christmas release treatment, which worked pretty well for The Force Awakens. Additionally, it'll give director/writer Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) more time to work on the film. THR's Borys Kit notes that may include rewrites to focus more on the new class of Star Wars characters."
An anonymous reader writes: Viewership numbers are vital within the TV industry. For years, the networks have relied upon ratings to make money — higher numbers mean higher ad revenue. The most important part of the ratings system is that individual networks can't just claim whatever viewership they want; third-party companies like Nielsen control the stats. But Netflix doesn't operate by the same rulebook, and this is frustrating the networks. Execs from Netflix and various networks have started arguing about it, both at an industry event this weekend, and in media interviews. NBC had hired a firm to estimate Netflix's viewership numbers, because Netflix won't release them. Netflix says the estimate is laughably wrong, but has also suggested shows fare better on their platform than on cable or broadcast television. If true, it gives them leverage to recruit more and better talent to produce such shows. But it's impossible to refute without numbers, and the networks are increasingly annoyed they can't do that. NBC thinks the media tends to give Netflix a pass on these statements. FX chief John Landgraf said, "[Netflix's Ted Sarandos] shouldn't say something is successful in quantitative terms unless you're willing to provide data and a methodology behind those statements. You can't have it both ways."
An anonymous reader writes: Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpsons" and "Futurama," is reportedly in talks with Netflix about creating a new animated series. According to Variety, details about the new show are still being kept secret, but it would involve a contract for two seasons of 10 episodes apiece. This would be Groening's first major new project since Futurama premiered in 1999.
v3rgEz writes: In 1981, Walt Disney World was getting ready to unveil a new gem in its crown of amusement parks, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT. Revolving around a massive sphere called "Spaceship Earth" and a lagoon that initially called for cultural installations from nine countries, EPCOT was intended to be the ultimate harmonious international village, a shining example of global unity. Naturally the FBI had a problem with it. FOIA'd documents recently released to MuckRock show that as early as December 1979, almost three full years before the October 1, 1982 opening of EPCOT, the bureau was concerned with possible Soviet involvement in the endeavor. And even after Soviet involvement was ruled out, the FBI began to worry about Chinese influences.
An anonymous reader writes: If Netflix's promise to invigilate users' IP addresses and block VPNs is more than a placatory sop to the lawyers, and if the studios would rather return to fighting piracy by lobbying governments to play whack-a-mole with torrent sites, the streaming company's long-term efforts to abolish or reduce regional licensing blockades could falter this year. This article examines the possible hard choices Netflix must make in appeasing major studios without destroying the user-base that got their attention in the first place. I wonder how long VPN vendors will keep bragging that their services provide worldwide streaming availability, and whether some of them will actually do a decent job of it.
TigerPlish writes to note Variety's report on the death of actor Alan Rickman, who died after a short bout with cancer, and was surrounded by friends and family when he went. Rickman may be most familiar to you as Hans Gruber in Die Hard (especially in his final scene), or as Harry Potter's Snape, but his film career was long, crossing genre lines and extending into five decades.