EA and BioWare announced today that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be getting a free-to-play option later this year. Players using the F2P option will be able to reach the level cap and play through the full class stories, but their access will be limited for other parts of the game; they will only be able to play a certain number of Warzones (their PvP battlegrounds), Flashpoints (their instanced dungeons), and space missions each week. Access to travel functionality and the game's auction house will be limited as well. F2P players won't be able to participate in Operations, the end-game raids. Subscribers will retain access to all of these features. There will also be cosmetic items sold through the 'Cartel Market' using a virtual currency.
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First time accepted submitter Goat_Cheese_Pizza writes "Word on the Intertubes (I picked the Washington Post) is Joss Whedon's musical masterpiece, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, will air on CW's primetime lineup on October 9th. I've always wanted to watch Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog with commercials! Thanks, CW!"
eldavojohn writes "Unless his Facebook account has been hacked, Peter Jackson has announced a third movie for The Hobbit series: 'So, without further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of The Hobbit films, I'd like to announce that two films will become three.' Other sites are confirming this while Variety notes that filming has been wrapped on the first two so doing a third film will require a restart to all of that effort including re-negotiations with rights holders and acting schedules. **potential spoiler alert** From Peter Jackson's announcement: 'We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance.' How much of Middle Earth would you like to see on film?"
jfruh writes "One of the arguments against the now-dormant SOPA legislation was that, in addition to eroding Internet freedom, it would also be ineffective in stopping music piracy. Well, according to a leaked report, the RIAA agrees with the latter argument. The proposed laws would 'not likely to have been an effective tool for music,' according to the report. Another interesting revelation is that, despite the buzz and outrage over P2P sharing, most digital music piracy takes place via sneakernet, with music moving among young people on hard drives and ripped CDs."
whoever57 writes "A study of music from the '50 to the present using the Million Song Dataset has concluded that modern music has less variation than older music and songs today are, on average, 9dB louder than 50 years ago. Almost all music uses just 10 chords, but the way these are used together has changed, leading to fewer types of transitions being used. Variation in timbre has also reduced over the past decades."
An anonymous reader tips this news from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year the sentences against the Pirate Bay defendants were made final. Aside from prison sentences, they will have to pay damages to the entertainment industries, including €550,000 to several major music labels. The court awarded the damages to compensate artists and rightsholders for their losses. However, it now turns out that artists won’t see a penny of the money, as the labels have allocated it to IFPI to fund new anti-piracy campaigns. ...While it may come as no surprise that the music industry has a hard time getting money from The Pirate Bay defendants, what comes next may raise a few eyebrows. 'There is an agreement that any recovered funds will be paid to IFPI Sweden and IFPI London for use in future anti-piracy activities,' IFPI writes. In other words, the money that the Court awarded to compensate artists and rightsholders for their losses is not going to the artists at all."
jfruh writes "More and more people are joining the ranks of 'cord-cutters' — those who cancel their cable TV subscriptions and get their televisied entertainment either for free over the airwaves or over the Internet. But, assuming you're going to do things legally, is this really a cheaper option? It depends on what you watch. Brian Proffitt contemplated this move, and he walks you through the calculations he made to figure out the prices of cutting the cord. He weighed the costs of various a la carte and all-you-can-eat Internet streaming services, and took into account the fact that Internet service on its own is often pricier than it would be if bundled with cable TV."
SicariusMan writes "Looks like warnings and other precautions were not enough to save Buckyballs Magnets. According to this report, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is concerned about the increase in children swallowing the rare earth magnets, and has issued its first stop-sale order in 11 years. Amazon and others have already agreed to stop selling the toys. 'Although the commission issued a safety alert in November, it has received more than a dozen reports since then of children ingesting the magnets, with many requiring surgery, it said. More than 2 million Buckyballs and at least 200,000 Buckycubes, a similar cube-shaped magnet, have been sold in the United States.'"
hypnosec writes "IFPI has inadvertently made available its own confidential internal report, penned by none other than IFPI's chief anti-piracy officer, which details its strategy against online piracy for major recording labels across the globe. The document, 30-pages long, talks about file sharing sites, torrents, cyberlockers, phishing attacks, expectations from Internet service providers, mp3 sites and a lot more. The document is a global view representation of IFPI's 'problems,' 'current and future threats,' and the industry's responses to them." A few tactics: shutting down music services, requiring file lockers filter uploads or be shut down (interesting, since the DMCA's one good provision is the safe harbor, and proactive filtering could mean losing that protection), lobbying for DNS blocking legislation, pressuring ISPs into extra-legally enforcing their will, disrupting payment processing for pirate sites through blacklists, and providing "training built around 'real world' experiences and challenges rather than focusing on theory" on copyright law to judges and legal bodies.
nmpost writes with one interpretation of Netflix's Q2 results (PDF). From the article: "The beginning of the end may be at hand for Netflix. On Tuesday, the movie rental company posted its second quarter results, and they were not promising. While the company returned to profitability following a first quarter loss, Netflix had a 91% drop in net income. The company's troubles began when it attempted to split its DVD-by-mail and streaming services, effectively doubling the price it was charging customers. External forces are now beginning to weigh on the company, and its doom appears to be within sight. The biggest challenges facing Netflix over the coming months are going to be competition and licensing fees. Three huge companies are competing against Netflix in the streaming arena, which has already surpassed its DVD-by-mail business. Amazon, Apple, and Google all offer streaming content as well. As movie and television studios began to demand higher licensing fees, Netflix will not be able to pay, while these tech giants will. Netflix will eventually be priced out of the market." Engadget, on the other hand, shines some positive light on the report: "The results are in from its Q2 2012 earnings report, and it's claiming 27.56 million streaming subscribers worldwide, up from 26 million last quarter. In the US alone that includes 23.94 million customers, after it reported 23.4 million in Q1, while DVD customers dropped by 850k to 9.24 million." So it appears that Netflix is either gaining new streaming customers, or converting those expensive DVD customers into more lucrative streaming-only customers.
theodp writes "No, Steve Ballmer doesn't swap spit with contestants in a hot tub. Nor does he present a rose to each contestant he wishes to keep at the end of each episode. But the contestants in Microsoft's Be the Next Microsoft Employee web series, which is being billed as Top Chef for Geeks, do live together in a luxury waterfront home as they compete for the chance to interview for a job with the software giant. So, what's next from Microsoft? The Real Housewives of Medina?"
New submitter Faizdog writes "The Atlantic has a very interesting article on what's next for superhero movies after The Dark Knight Rises leaves theaters. DC in particular doesn't seem to have a good pipeline of readily available heroes to create movies around. The article discusses the challenges surrounding the upcoming Man of Steel movie, as well as how the circumstances around the successful Spiderman reboot may not necessarily translate to a Batman reboot. The author also mentions the necessity and viability of the comic book print medium continuing on in light of the film successes, especially in terms of revenue (the Avengers movie alone made more profit for Marvel than all comic book sales for the last two years). The article concludes with an interesting suggestion that television may be the ideal medium for comic book adaptations, as it may permit a richer and more complex story telling experience than a two-hour movie."
An anonymous reader writes "F-Secure antivirus company of Finland has reported receiving e-mails from an Iranian nuclear scientist, who says Persian uranium-235 isotope refining efforts have just been hit with yet another cyber strike. (Stuxnet, Duqu and Flamer-Skywiper being the previous iterations of the same Operation Project Olympic attack plan.) Last month, President Obama's staff has admitted to the New York Times that there is a joint Israel-U.S. cybermilitary operation was behind the mishaps Iranians have recently been suffering with their UF6 gas refining centrifuge systems in the Natanz and Fordo plants. This time, the unverified e-mail claims, a new Metasploit-based malware owns Iranian VPNs, causes fault in the nuclear plants' Siemens-based industrial control systems, and randomly starts to play AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck' aloud via the infected computers' speakers."
leob writes "As promised at the end of the 20th IOCCC earlier this year, the 21st International Obfuscated C Code Contest will accept entries from 2012-Aug-15 03:14:15 UTC to 2012-Sep-14 09:26:53 UTC. The earliest announcement about the next contest was on Twitter on July 13, giving the interested parties more than 2 months to polish their entries."
Jerry Rivers writes "The CRTC, Canada's communications regulator, has approved changes to the way cable companies bundle programming to allow the purchase of selected channels while dropping others they do not want. However, the customers won't necessarily be paying any less. 'The flipside is that the fewer channels that are subscribed to, the more expensive each will become, people familiar with the matter said, asking for anonymity because details of the decision are confidential. The decision is a small step toward an "à la carte" model long talked about by regulators — and longed for by consumers — but resisted by TV channel owners and distributors for fear of undermining the economics of cable television, which have come to rely on subscriber fees from those channels.'"