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Star Wars Prequels

Disney Is Pulling Star Wars and Marvel Films From Netflix (arstechnica.com) 195

Disney CEO Bob Iger announced on Thursday that his company will pull the full catalog of films from the Star Wars franchise and Marvel universe from Netflix after 2019. Last month, Disney announced it would be pulling a number of Disney titles from the Netflix catalog, but left the door open to keeping the Star Wars franchise and Marvel films. That door has since been slammed shut, "choosing instead to use movies like Iron Man, Captain America, and the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode IX as a draw to a new Disney-owned streaming service," reports Ars Technica. From the report: It's not clear exactly which films are affected by Iger's announcement. A Netflix spokesperson told The Verge last month that "we continue to do business with the Walt Disney Company on many fronts, including our ongoing deal with Marvel TV." That refers to a collaboration between Disney and Netflix to produce several live-action television series based on lesser-known Marvel characters Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. Some of those series are still being actively developed. It's a high-risk gamble for Disney. It makes sense for Disney to bring its best-known franchises back under its own roof to give the Disney streaming service the best possible chance of success. But Disney is leaving a lot of money on the table by not doing a deal with Netflix or one of its competitors. It could be an expensive mistake if the Disney streaming service doesn't get traction.
Television

TV Turns 90 (axios.com) 117

An anonymous reader shares a report: A live webcast today will celebrate the transmission of the first electronic TV signal on Sept. 7, 1927, and the man behind it, Philo T. Farnsworth, per AP: The webcast is set for 6 p.m. ET from the original location of Farnsworth's San Francisco lab. It'll be repeated at 9 p.m. and midnight. Veteran producer Phil Savenick created the site to detail the medium's history and the contributions of Farnsworth and other TV pioneers.
Music

Happy Music Boosts Brain's Creativity, Study Says (newscientist.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: Need inspiration? Happy background music can help get the creative juices flowing. Simone Ritter, at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and Sam Ferguson, at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, have been studying the effect of silence and different types of music on how we think. They put 155 volunteers into five groups. Four of these were each given a type of music to listen to while undergoing a series of tests, while the fifth group did the tests in silence. The tests were designed to gage two types of thinking: divergent thinking, which describes the process of generating new ideas, and convergent thinking, which is how we find the best solutions for a problem. Ritter and Ferguson found that people were more creative when listening to music they thought was positive, coming up with more unique ideas than the people who worked in silence. However, happy music -- in this instance, Antonio Vivaldi's Spring -- only boosted divergent thinking. No type of music helped convergent thinking, suggesting that it's better to solve problems in silence. The study was published in the journal PLoS One.
Communications

Like Netflix? T-Mobile Is Giving it Away For Free (cnet.com) 105

Roger Cheng, writing for CNET: T-Mobile and Netflix are new BFFs. The primary beneficiaries of this new friendship will be subscribers to T-Mobile's "One" unlimited data plans, many of whom will get access to Netflix for free, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said on an "Un-carrier Next" webcast video on Wednesday. But the freebie only works if you have at least two T-Mobile One unlimited data plans (single line customers are out of luck). The free Netflix access arrives on Sept. 12. The alliance is just the latest proof that the worlds of video and mobile are colliding. AT&T is in the process of buying Time Warner -- home of "Game of Thrones" and Batman -- so it can own more of the content you watch, and has bundled HBO for free to some of its higher end wireless customers. Verizon has invested in creating short-form video geared towards younger audiences and a mobile video service called Go90.The offer is for the T-Mobile ONE plan with 2+ lines. You can compare T-Mobile plans here.
Television

Binge Watching TV Makes It Less Enjoyable, Study Says (vice.com) 139

According to new research by Jared Hovarth and his colleagues at the University of Melbourne, binging appears to diminish the quality of the television show for the viewer. From a report: This conclusion is based on a self-reported study incorporating 51 graduate and undergraduate students at the university, who were split into groups of 17 to watch a television show at different frequencies. One group watched the one-hour show on a weekly basis, another watched it on a daily basis, and another group consumed the first season of the show in one sitting, amounting to about 6 straight hours of TV. Each group was watching the highly acclaimed first season of the BBC Cold War-era drama The Game. The season consisted of six episodes, and none of the participants had previously seen the show. After finishing the season, all respondents filled out a questionnaire to gauge how well they understood the show. 24 hours later, they returned to the lab to take a retention quiz to see how well they could remember details from the show. As the researchers found, the mode of viewing had a significant effect on the study participants' ability to remember the show. For instance, binge-watchers had the strongest memory performance the day after watching the show, but this retention also had the sharpest decline over 140 days. Weekly viewers on the other hand, showed the weakest memory performance 24 hours after finishing the show, but also demonstrated the least amount of memory dilution over time.
Piracy

Amid Crackdown On Torrent Websites, Some Users Move To Google Drive To Distribute Movies and Shows (ndtv.com) 84

An anonymous reader shares a report: As crackdown on torrent sites continues around the world, people who are pirating TV shows and movies are having to get a little more creative. Cloud storage services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Kim Dotcom's Mega are some of the popular ones that are being used to distribute copyrighted content, according to DMCA takedown requests reviewed by Gadgets 360. Google Drive seems most popular among such users, with nearly five thousand DMCA takedown requests filed by Hollywood studios and other copyright holders just last month. Each DMCA requests had listed a few hundred Google Drive links that the content owners wanted pulled. What's interesting though is that while at times pirates upload full movies to Google Drive or other cloud services, in other cases, these Google Drive links are empty and just have a YouTube video embedded.
Google

Google Conducted Hollywood 'Interventions' To Change Look of Computer Scientists (usatoday.com) 644

theodp writes: Most TV computer scientists are still white men," USA Today reports. "Google wants to change that. Google is calling on Hollywood to give equal screen time to women and minorities after a new study the internet giant funded found that most computer scientists on television shows and in the movies are played by white men. The problem with the hackneyed stereotype of the socially inept, hoodie-clad white male coder? It does not inspire underrepresented groups to pursue careers in computer science, says Daraiha Greene, Google CS in Media program manager, multicultural strategy." According to a Google-funded study conducted by Prof. Stacy L. Smith and the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Google's Computer Science in Media team conducted "CS interventions" with "like-minded people" to create "Google influenced storytelling." The executive summary for a USC study entitled Cracking the Code: The Prevalence and Nature of Computer Science Depictions in Media notes that "Google influenced" TV programs include HBO's Silicon Valley and AMC's Halt and Catch Fire. The USC researchers also note that "non-tech focused programs may offer prime opportunities to showcase CS in unique and counter-stereotypical ways. As the Google Team moves forward in its work with series such as Empire, Girl Meets World, Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street, or The Amazing Adventures of Gumball, it appears the Team is seizing these opportunities to integrate CS into storytelling without a primary tech focus." The study adds, "In the case of certain series, we provided on-going advisement. The Fosters, Miles from Tomorrowland, Halt and Catch Fire, Ready, Jet, Go, The Powerpuff Girls and Odd Squad are examples of this. In addition to our continuing interactions, we engaged in extensive PR and marketing support including social media outreach, events and press."

Google's TV interventions have even spilled over into public education -- one of Google-sponsored Code.org's signature Hour of Code tutorials last December was Gumball's Coding Adventure, inspired by the Google-advised Cartoon Network series, The Amazing Adventures of Gumball. "We need more students around the world pursuing an education in CS, particularly girls and minorities, who have historically been underrepresented in the field," explains a Google CS First presentation for educators on the search giant's Hour of Code partnership with Cartoon Network. "Based on our research, one of the reasons girls and underrepresented minorities are not pursuing computer science is because of the negative perception of computer scientists and the relevance of the field beyond coding." According to a 2015 USC report, President Obama was kept abreast of efforts to challenge media's stereotypical portrayals of women; White House Visitor Records show that USC's Smith, the Google-funded study's lead author, and Google CS Education in Media Program Manager Julie Ann Crommett (now at Disney) were among those present when the White House Council on Women and Girls met earlier that year with representatives of the nation's leading toy makers, media giants, retailers, educators, scientists, the U.S. Dept. of Education, and philanthropists.

Books

Terry Pratchett's Hard Drive Destroyed By Steamroller (nytimes.com) 161

WheezyJoe writes: In accordance with his wishes, a hard drive formerly belonging to author Terry Pratchett has been crushed by steamroller. According to friend and fellow author Neil Gaiman, Pratchett (who died at 66 in 2015) wanted "whatever he was working on at the time of his death to be taken out along with his computers, to be put in the middle of a road and for a steamroller to steamroll over them all."

According to the article, on August 25, two years after the author's passing, Mr. Pratchett's estate manager and close friend, Rob Wilkins, posted a picture of a hard drive and a steamroller on an official Twitter account they shared. The pictures posted suggest the steamroller was one powered by actual steam.

Minutes later they tweeted a photo of the crushed hard drive -- which will soon be displayed at the Salisbury Museum in England as part of their new exhibit on the life and work of Terry Pratchett.
Displays

Sharp Announces 8K Consumer TVs Now That We All Have 4K (theverge.com) 285

Thuy Ong reports via The Verge: Now that you've upgraded to a shiny new 4K TV, Sharp has revealed its latest screen to stoke your fear of missing out: a 70-inch Aquos 8K TV. That 8K (7,680 x 4,320) resolution is 16 times that of your old Full HD (1920 x 1080) TV. Sharp calls it "ultimate reality, with ultra-fine details even the naked eye cannot capture," which doesn't seem like a very good selling point. Keep in mind that having a screen with more pixels doesn't buy you much after a certain point, because those pixels are invisible from a distance -- while an 8K panel would be beneficial as a monitor, where you're sitting close, it won't buy you much when leaning back on the couch watching TV. HDR, however, is something else entirely, and fortunately, Sharp's new 8K set is compatible with Dolby Vision HDR and BDA-HDR (for Blu-ray players). The lack of available 8K HDR content is also a problem. But there is some content floating around. The TV will be rolling out to China and Japan later this year, and then Taiwan in February 2018. Sharp is repurposing its 70-inch 8K TV as an 8K monitor (model LV-70X500E) for Europe, which will be on sale in March. There is no news about a U.S. release.
Businesses

Apple Acknowledges Siri Leadership Has Officially Moved From Eddy Cue To Craig Federighi (macrumors.com) 52

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple has updated its executive leadership page to acknowledge that software engineering chief Craig Federighi now officially oversees development of Siri. The responsibility previously belonged to Apple's services chief Eddy Cue. "Craig Federighi is Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, reporting to CEO Tim Cook. Craig oversees the development of iOS, macOS, and Siri. His teams are responsible for delivering the software at the heart of Apple's innovative products, including the user interface, applications and frameworks," Apple says. Apple's leadership page is only now reflecting Federighi's role as head of Siri, but the transition has been apparent for several months, based on recent interviews and stage appearances at Apple's keynotes.
Network

Comcast Sues Vermont To Avoid Building 550 Miles of New Cable Lines (arstechnica.com) 201

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast has sued the state of Vermont to try to avoid a requirement to build 550 miles of new cable lines. Comcast's lawsuit against the Vermont Public Utility Commission (VPUC) was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Vermont and challenges several provisions in the cable company's new 11-year permit to offer services in the state. One of the conditions in the permit says that "Comcast shall construct no less than 550 miles of line extensions into un-cabled areas during the [11-year] term." Comcast would rather not do that. The company's court complaint says that Vermont is exceeding its authority under the federal Cable Act while also violating state law and Comcast's constitutional rights: "The VPUC claimed that it could impose the blanket 550-mile line extension mandate on Comcast because it is the 'largest' cable operator in Vermont and can afford it. These discriminatory conditions contravene federal and state law, amount to undue speaker-based burdens on Comcast's protected speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution... and deprive Comcast and its subscribers of the benefits of Vermont law enjoyed by other cable operators and their subscribers without a just and rational basis, in violation of the Common Benefits Clause of the Vermont Constitution."
Businesses

Hollywood is Suffering Its Worst-attended Summer Movie Season in 25 years (latimes.com) 501

The number of movie tickets sold in the U.S. this summer (425 million) is likely to be the lowest level since 1992, the L.A. Times reports. "Theaters, studios hit by summer box-office blues." The reason: Too many bad movies, including sequels, reboots and aging franchises that no one wanted to see. Some point to rising ticket prices, which hit a record high in the second quarter. From the report: Then there are long-term challenges, including competition from streaming services such as Netflix and the influence of the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes. How about all of the above? What is clear: This summer was marred with multiple high-profile films that flopped stateside, including "The Mummy," "Baywatch," "The Dark Tower" and "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword." Sequels in the "Alien," "Transformers" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchises also disappointed. The business is also reckoning with broader, longer-term threats that have kept Americans from flocking to theaters the way they used to. People now have more entertainment options than ever, and cinemas have struggled to keep up, despite efforts to adapt with improved technology and services, industry analysts say. The problem is exacerbated by an unforgiving social media environment in which bad movies are immediately punished by online word of mouth.
Music

Traditional Radio Faces a Grim Future, New Study Says (variety.com) 240

In a 30-page report, Larry Miller, the head of New York University's Steinhart Music Business Program, argues that traditional radio has failed to engage with Generation Z -- people born after 1995 -- and that its influence and relevance will continue to be subsumed by digital services unless it upgrades. Key points made in the study include: Generation Z, which is projected to account for 40% of all consumers in the U.S. by 2020, shows little interest in traditional media, including radio, having grown up in an on-demand digital environment. AM/FM radio is in the midst of a massive drop-off as a music-discovery tool by younger generations, with self-reported listening to AM/FM radio among teens aged 13 and up declining by almost 50 percentage points between 2005 and 2016. Music discovery as a whole is moving away from AM/FM radio and toward YouTube, Spotify and Pandora, especially among younger listeners, with 19% of a 2017 study of surveyed listeners citing it as a source for keeping up-to-date with music -- down from 28% the previous year. Among 12-24 year olds who find music discovery important, AM/FM radio (50%) becomes even less influential, trailing YouTube (80%), Spotify (59%), and Pandora (53%). By 2020, 75% of new cars are expected to be "connected" to digital services, breaking radio's monopoly on the car dashboard and relegating AM/FM to just one of a series of audio options behind the wheel. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the typical car in the U.S. was 11.6 years old in 2016, which explains why radio has not yet faced its disruption event. However, drivers are buying new cars at a faster rate than ever, and new vehicles come with more installed options for digital music services.
Sci-Fi

Official Blade Runner 2036 Short Film Bridges the Gap Between the Sequel and the Original (nerdist.com) 47

Between the events of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049, much has happened in the dystopian, neo-Los Angeles future, including the era of replicant prohibition. To help bridge the first Blade Runner, which was released in 1982, with Blade Runner 2049, director Luke Scott has created a short film (YouTube) that examines Niander Wallace's role in the decision to overturn the prohibition ruling. From an article, shared by several readers: As explained by Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve in the introduction for this video, he invited a few filmmakers to create three shorts that set the stage for his film. Blade Runner 2036: Nexus Dawn was directed by Luke Scott, and it reveals that Replicant technology was outlawed in the intervening years. That can't be considered too much of a surprise, considering the Replicants of 2019 were able to elude conventional detection. The short officially introduces Jared Leto's Niander Wallace, as he makes a personal request to repeal the anti-Replicant laws. In reality, Wallace had no intention of abiding by those rules, and he's already created at least one new Replicant whom he describes as an "angel." Intriguingly, Wallace argues that the new Replicants are necessary for humanity's survival in the off-world colonies, and he promises that his Replicants will never rebel and will only obey. But we've heard that promise before! And it never ends well.
Movies

Apple Pushes Studios to Offer 4K Content for Upcoming Apple TV at Lower Prices, Report Says (bit.ly) 76

Apple appears to have ambitious plans to attract people's interest in its streaming device Apple TV, according to a new report. An anonymous reader shares a report: The company, which is widely expected to refresh the Apple TV next month to bring support for videos in 4K, is in talks with Hollywood studios to bring Ultra HD content at lower prices, WSJ reported on Tuesday. Apple is widely expected to unveil new iPhone models - including one called the iPhone 8 - next month. The publication reports that the iPhone-maker is pushing Hollywood studios to agree to sell Ultra HD editions of movies at $19.99, the usual price the company charges for full-HD of new movies. But Hollywood studios, which have seen a significant portion of their business go to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, are pushing for higher prices. Hollywood studios, according to the report, are asking Apple to increase the asking price from proposed $19.99 per movie by $5 to $10.
AI

Popular YouTube Artist Uses AI To Record New Album (theverge.com) 99

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Verge of a popular YouTube artist who is using artificial intelligence to produce a LP: If you heard Taryn Southern's new single "Break Free" on the radio, you'd probably just keep driving or grocery shopping, or doing whatever you do in places that still have radios playing. The song is a big, moody ballad -- the kind that might play during the climax of a Steven Spielberg movie. "Break Free" wasn't composed by a John Williams copycat, but by artificial intelligence. The song is not a fluke or a novelty for Southern either; she's using artificial intelligence platforms to create an entire album, called I AM AI. It's the first LP to be entirely composed and produced with AI. Southern used an open source AI platform called Amper Music to create the stems of "Break Free." For each track, she plugs in genre, the instruments she wants to use, and beats per minute. In return, Amper churns out disjointed verses that can be rearranged into a song, and layered beneath Southern's vocals. Southern told The Verge she's toying with four other AI music platforms, but she's not sure which of those will make the final album cut.
Television

Mayweather-McGregor Streaming Glitches Prompt Lawsuit Against Showtime (hollywoodreporter.com) 118

Customers who paid $99.99 to watch the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight are suing Showtime due to the quality of their stream and buffering issues. From a report via Hollywood Reporter: Portland, Ore., boxing fan Zack Bartel paid to stream the fight in high-definition through the Showtime app but says all he saw was "grainy video, error screens, buffer events, and stalls." Bartel is suing Showtime for unlawful trade practices and unjust enrichment, alleging the network rushed its pay-per-view streaming service to the market without securing the bandwidth necessary to support the scores of cable-cutting fans. The complaint, which is largely composed of screenshots and tweets, is seeking for each member of the class actual damages or $200 in statutory damages, whichever is greater. The proposed class includes Oregon consumers who viewed Showtime's app advertisement on iTunes and paid $99.99 to stream the fight, but were unable to view the fight live on the app "in HD at 1080p resolution and at 60 frames per second, and who experienced ongoing grainy video, error screens, buffer events, and stalls instead." Showtime senior vp sports communications director, Chris DeBlasio, says: "We have received a very limited number of complaints and will issue a full refund for any customer who purchased the event directly from Showtime and were unable to receive the telecast." DeBlasio recommends users contact their cable or satellite provider if they experienced any issues.
Social Networks

The Mayweather-McGregor Fight Shows It's Impossible to Stop Social Media Streaming of Big Events (vice.com) 88

An anonymous reader shares a report: Nearly 3 million viewers are estimated to have watched the fight this weekend via online streams, according to Irdeto, a digital security firm. Though many of these were slick, traditional streaming websites, there was also a new surge in social streams. Between Periscope, Instagram live, Facebook live, YouTube, Twitch, and smaller platforms like Kodi, Irdeto identified 239 streams of the fight over the weekend. And with the option to have private, share-with-just-your-friends streams (like private Facebook Live feeds), it's likely there are many more streams of the fight that were running than Irdeto wasn't able to track. Social media livestreaming has exploded in recent years, creating a whole new avenue for illegal sharing. In 2015, when Mayweather squared off against Manny Pacquiao in another much-anticipated fight, Periscope was only two months' old. Facebook and Instagram's live feed functions were still a year away. Now, they're as ubiquitous as the platforms that host them. Plus, with every smartphone now equipped with a high definition camera, most homes connected to high-speed internet, and the ease of streamable services on already-familiar social media sites, it's no wonder there was such a torrent of pirated feeds.
Television

Columnist Mocks The Case Against Cord-Cutting As 'Too Many Choices' (techhive.com) 314

An anonymous reader quote TechHive: The cord-cutting naysayers are trotting out a new argument in favor of cable, and it's even more absurd than the old ones: Having too many high-quality, standalone streaming services, they say, is actually bad for consumers, who are apparently helpless at using technology or making sound purchase decisions... The New York Post's Johnny Oleksinski concluded that all those sneering hipsters who've had the nerve to ditch cable are about to get their comeuppance -- in the form of additional services to choose from... By now, anyone who's actually cut the cable cord should be screaming out in unison: No one's making you subscribe to all these services! You can pick the ones you care about most, rotate between services, or occupy your screen time with a growing number of other digital distractions...

I will concede that if you want to use multiple streaming services, trying to sift through them all can be confusing. But even this concern is blown entirely out of proportion by naysaying pundits, who seem to ignore solutions that already exist. Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV all offer universal search across services like Netflix and Hulu, while features like Roku Feed and the Apple TV TV app demonstrate how system-wide browsing is getting easier. Besides, using a handful of apps to get what you want isn't that burdensome -- especially for the growing audience of people who've been raised on smartphones... consumers are smarter than they're getting credit for. That's why cable subscriptions continue to plunge, even as these bogus stories keep popping up like clockwork.

Businesses

Another Crowdfunded Startup Takes Customers' Money, Then Shuts Downs (mercurynews.com) 166

An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup: A Bay Area startup that promised to give music lovers state-of-the-art wireless earphones is instead closing its doors, becoming the latest in a string of crowd-funded companies to take customers' money and shut down without shipping a product. San Francisco-based Kanoa ran out of capital and shut down this week, leaving in the lurch scores of customers who paid $150 or more to pre-order high-tech earphones they never received. The company emailed customers on Wednesday to break the bad news, directing them to a letter posted on the Kanoa website...

Kanoa is just the latest local crowdfunded company to disappoint customers. Last summer San Francisco-based startup Skully imploded, to the dismay of 3,000 customers who paid $1,500 each for high-tech motorcycle helmets they never received. In February, Lily Robotics, another San Francisco-based startup, filed for bankruptcy. Unlike Skully and Kanoa, Lily promised to reimburse the more than 60,000 customers who paid for but never received its camera drones.

In a letter online the company claimed they are "in negotiations" with potential investors, "and also large tech companies on an acquisition" -- but unless and until funding materializes, "we do not have enough capital to stay operational..."

"We know you are disappointed, and can only ask that you understand that we genuinely tried."
The Media

Streaming Glitches Delay Massively Hyped Mayweather-McGregor Boxing Match (cnet.com) 186

"After initial indications the main event would commence at 11:15 p.m ET, it didn't get started until nearly one hour later," reports Variety. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Saturday's much hyped fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and UFC champion Conor McGregor drew fans from all walks of life, even those who'd never typically watch a standard boxing match. But when some of those fans settled in to watch the spectacle, beverage and snacks in hand, they found themselves in a world of hurt. Watching the fight wasn't cheap (nearly $100 on pay-per-view), so naturally, those who had technical issues as fight time neared -- on whatever platform -- were fighting mad. At 6:28 p.m. PT, as the undercard matches preceding the event aired, the UFC admitted on Twitter it was having technical issues with its Fight Pass streaming service due to the overwhelming interest in the bout.
ESPN confirms that the much-hyped event was "delayed due to pay-per-view outages."
Sci-Fi

Science Fiction Author Brian Aldiss Dies Aged 92 (theguardian.com) 19

Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed writes: Acclaimed Science Fiction author Brian Aldiss, first published in the 1950s, has died at the age of 92. Aldiss wrote such science fiction classics as Non-Stop, Hothouse and Greybeard, as well as the Helliconia trilogy, winning the Hugo and Nebula prizes for science fiction and fantasy, an honorary doctorate from the University of Reading, the title of grand master from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and an OBE for services to literature. Tributes from contemporaries and younger authors have been plentiful.
In 1969 Aldiss published the short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" (1969), which after decades of work became the basis for the Stanley Kubrick-developed Steven Spielberg movie A.I. in 2001.
Games

Ex-Valve Writer Reveals What Might Have Been Half-Life 2: Episode 3's Story (eurogamer.net) 46

New submitter stikves shares a report from Eurogamer: Ex-Valve writer Marc Laidlaw, who worked on Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and its episodic expansions, has published a summary of the series' next chapter on his blog. Titled, "Epistle 3," it details Gordon Freeman's next adventure. Except, likely for copyright issues, the whole story has been genderswapped. So Laidlaw's tale speaks of Gertrude Fremont, Alex instead of Alyx, Elly instead of Eli, and so on. Naturally, Laidlaw's blog is currently down due to traffic, although you can read a backup of the page on Archive.org, or on Pastebin, where the names have been corrected.
Star Wars Prequels

Selling Alterable Versions of Star Wars Is Still Infringement, Says Court (arstechnica.com) 180

A federal court ruled that video-on-demand streaming service, VidAngel, which enables the filtering of objectionable content to make it family friendly, is breaking U.S. copyright law. Ars Technica reports: VidAngel buys movie discs and decrypts and rips them. It then streams versions that allow customers to filter out nudity, profanity, and violence. In doing so, it breached the performance rights of Disney, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Brothers, the court ruled. VidAngel purchased a disc for every stream it sold, some 2,500 titles in all. "Star Wars is still Star Wars, even without Princess Leia's bikini scene," the opinion said. Just because objectionable content is removed, that doesn't necessarily transform the content enough to allow this type of behavior under a fair use analysis, the court wrote Thursday. VidAngel also unsuccessfully argued that it was protected under the Family Movie Act (FMA) of 2005. That legislation allows the cracking of encryption to remove objectionable content so long as no fixed copy of the altered version is created. The court didn't agree, however, because VidAngel didn't have the permission in the first place to stream the content.
Quake

Ask Slashdot: What Modern PC Games Would You Recommend For An Old School Gamer? 313

wjcofkc writes: The last time I was a serious gamer, I was playing Quake and Quake World. That type of first person shooter, with the qualities it offered in terms of physics, level layout, and community, produced for me some very fun times. I have long since fallen away from gaming entirely, but frequently look back to that era with great fondness. My question to the community is, are there any current games that recapture the spirit of the original Quake? Note: This is strictly for PC gaming as I do not own a console.
Television

Ask Slashdot: Best Non-Smart TV Sets? (slashdot.org) 320

williamyf writes: I have always been of the idea that my TV shall be non-smart, leaving the smarts to connected equipment (in my case my Synology NAS running Plex and a combination of Chromecasts and laptops do the trick). I think that most of my Slashdot brethren are of a similar persuasion. But, over the years finding decent non-smart TVs is becoming harder and harder, unless your are prepared to pay much higher prices for industrial/signage equipment, or are prepared to deal with slightly inferior specs and quality, or get an old (possibly second hand) set, or are prepared to do long, hard internet searches for that needle in the haystack (all slashdot readers can google, but here at least we can hear firsthand experiences from technically-minded people, and not fake-ish reviews).

In view of the recent story about Samsung TVs being bricked by a firmware update, I ask the Slashdot crowd to amass our collective knowledge and see: What TV makers make decent non-smart TV sets? Which are these sets?

Requirements: non-smart, no apps on the TV, no app on the smartphone, no nothing -- the dumber the better. OTA tuner optional. 1080p50/60 or higher (1333x768 was barely adequate in 2008, but KRAP in 2017). 16:9 or 21:9. From 35 inches (for the master bedroom) to 70 inches (for the middle class living room in an apartment complex). Real remote (not app in a phone) with at least volume up/down, input change and sleep function, plus all needed to configure the set. Lots of HDMI 2.0 (or higher) ports. A decent assortment of legacy ports (including component, composite, S-Video). HDR capable. Good build quality. Good price (Ideally slightly lower than similar smart TVs, since we are forgoing the hardware needed for the smart part, as well as the ongoing support cost for firmware updates). Good image quality. Decent warranties. Reputable manufacturers. Reputable sellers.

Television

Apple Is Planning a 4K Upgrade For Its TV Box (bloomberg.com) 63

Apple is planning to unveil an upgraded Apple TV set-top box that can stream 4K video and highlight live television content such as news and sports. Bloomberg reports: The updated box, to be revealed alongside new iPhone and Apple Watch models at an event in September, will run a faster processor capable of streaming the higher-resolution 4K content, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren't yet public. The 4K designation is a quality standard that showcases content at twice the resolution of 1080P high-definition video, meaning the clarity is often better for the viewer. Apple is also testing an updated version of its TV app, which first launched in 2016, that can aggregate programming from apps that already offer live streaming. Apple is seeking to revive its video ambitions with the new product. In order to view 4K video, users will need to attach the updated Apple TV to a screen capable of showing the higher-resolution footage. In order to play 4K and HDR content, Apple will need deals with content makers that can provide video in those formats. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant has begun discussions with movie studios about supplying 4K versions of movies via iTunes, according to people familiar with the talks. The company has also discussed its 4K video ambitions with content companies that already have apps on Apple TV, another person said. Popular video apps on the Apple TV that support 4K on other platforms include Vevo and Netflix.
Television

Samsung TV Owners Furious After Software Update Leaves Sets Unusable (theguardian.com) 346

Thousands of owners of high-end Samsung TVs have complained after a software update left their recently acquired $1,800 sets with blank, unusable screens. From a report: The Guardian has been contacted by a number of owners complaining that the TVs they bought -- in some cases just two weeks ago -- have been rendered useless by an upgrade sent out by Samsung a week ago. Others have been posting furious messages on the company's community boards complaining that their new TVs are no longer working. The company has told customers it is working to fix the problem but so far, seven days on, nothing has been forthcoming. The problem appears to affect the latest models as owners of older Samsung TVs are not reporting the issue. The report doesn't identify the models that have been affected. But we scanned the forums and found that at least UE49MU7070, UE49MU7070TXXU, and MU6409 models are affected.
United States

Roku Is the Top Streaming Device In the US and Still Growing, Report Finds (techcrunch.com) 96

Roku is the top streaming media player device in the U.S., and its growth is only increasing. According to the latest industry report from market intelligence firm Parks Associates, 37 percent of streaming devices in U.S. households are Roku devices, as of the first quarter of this year. That's up from 30 percent in the same quarter last year, the report notes. TechCrunch reports: The growth is coming at the expense of Roku's top competitors, like Apple and Google, with only Amazon's Fire TV able to increase its install base during the same timeframe. Fire TV devices are in 24 percent of U.S. households, as of Q1 2017, up from 16 percent last year. That climb allowed Amazon to snag the second position from Google's Chromecast, which has an 18 percent share. Lagging behind, Apple TV's market share fell to 15 percent -- a drop that Parks Associates Senior Analyst Glenn Hower attributes to Apple TV's price point. Roku last fall overhauled its line of streaming players with the intention of plugging every hole in the market. That strategy is seemingly paying off. There's now a Roku device to meet any consumer's needs -- whether that's an entry-level, portable and affordable "stick," to rival the Fire TV Stick or the Chromecast dongle, or a high-end player with 4K and HDR support, lots of ports, voice search remote, and other premium bells and whistles.
Sony

Sony Blocks Yet Another Game From Cross-Console Play With Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 151

"Back in June, Sony told Eurogamer that the company did not have 'a profound philosophical stance' against letting PS4 users play games with those on other platforms," reports Ars Technica. "That said, the company's continued refusal to allow for cross-console play between PS4 and Xbox One players has become an absolute and unmistakable trend in recent months." The latest game to be denied by Sony for cross-console play is Ark: Survival Evolved, which comes out of a two-year early access period next week on Windows, Mac, PS4, and Xbox One. From the report: In a Twitter response posted over the weekend, Ark lead designer and programmer Jeremy Stieglitz said that cross-platform play between PS4 and Xbox One is "working internally, but currently Sony won't allow it." This isn't a huge surprise, considering that the developers of Rocket League, Minecraft, and Gwent have made similar statements in recent months. Since Microsoft very publicly opened Xbox Live to easy cross-platform play back in March, Sony has said that it's "happy to have a conversation" about the issue, but it has failed to follow through by allowing any linkage between the two competing consoles (cross-platform play between the PS4 and PC has been available in certain games since the PS4's launch, though).

The question continues to be why, exactly, Sony seems so reluctant to allow any games to work between its own PlayStation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live. Speaking with Eurogamer in June, Sony's Jim Ryan suggested that, in the case of Minecraft, Sony was wary to expose that game's young players to "external influences we have no ability to manage or look after." Ryan also told Eurogamer that cross-platform decisions were "a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders." That suggests there may be some financial issues between the parties involved that are preventing cross-console play from moving forward. Perhaps Sony wants someone else to pay for the work required to get its network talking to Microsoft's? The bottom line, though, might be that Sony just doesn't want to partially give away its sizable advantage in console sales by letting Microsoft hook into that vast network of players.

XBox (Games)

Microsoft Outlines the Upgrade Procedures For Xbox One X (arstechnica.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The easiest way to get all your games to the new system, as outlined by Microsoft Vice President Mike Ybarra, will be to just put them on an external USB hard drive and then plug that drive into the new console. "All your games are ready to play" immediately after this external hard drive move, he said, and user-specific settings can also be copied via external hard drive in the same way. If you don't have an external drive handy, "we're going to let you copy games and apps off your home network instead of having to manually move them or redownload them off the Internet," Ybarra said. It's unclear right now if Microsoft will mirror the PS4 Pro and allow this kind of system-to-system transfer using an Ethernet cable plugged directly into both consoles. For those who want to see as many pixels as possible as quickly as possible when they get their Xbox One X, Ybarra says you'll be able to download 4K updates for supported games before the Xbox One X is even available, then use those updates immediately after the system transfer. Microsoft also released a list of 118 current and upcoming games that will be optimized for the Xbox One X via updates, a big increase from the few dozens announced back at E3.
The Internet

Cord-Cutting Still Doesn't Beat the Cable Bundle (wired.com) 421

I'd like to cut the cord, writes Brian Barrett for Wired, then, the very instant I allow myself to picture what life looks like after that figurative snip, my reverie comes crashing down. From an article: Cutting the cord is absolutely right for some people. Lots of people, maybe. But it's not that cheap, and it's not that easy, and there's not much hope of improvement on either front any time soon. Not to turn this into a math experiment, but let's consider cost. Assuming you're looking for a cord replacement, not abandoning live television altogether, you're going to need a service that bundles together a handful of channels and blips them to your house over the internet. The cheapest way you can accomplish this is to pay Sling TV $20 per month, for which you get 29 channels. That sounds not so bad, and certainly less than your cable bill. But! Sling Orange limits you to a single stream. If you're in a household with others, you'll probably want Sling Blue, which offers multiple streams and 43 channels for $25 per month. But! Sling Orange and Sling Blue have different channel lineups (ESPN is on Orange, not Blue, while Orange lacks FX, Bravo and any locals). For full coverage, you can subscribe to both for $40. But! Have kids? You'll want the Kids Extra package for another $5 per month. Love ESPNU? Grab that $5 per month sports package. HBO? $15 per month, please. Presto, you're up to $65 per month. But! Don't forget the extra $5 for a cloud-based DVR. Plus the high-speed internet service that you need to keep your stream from buffering, which, by the way, it'll do anyway. That's not to pick on Sling TV, specifically. But paying $70 to quit cable feels like smoking a pack of Parliaments to quit Marlboro Lights. You run into similar situations across the board, whether it's a higher base rate, or a limited premium selection, or the absence of local programming altogether. It turns out, oddly enough, that things cost money, whether you access those things through traditional cable packages or through a modem provided to you by a traditional cable operator.
Space

How the Voyager Golden Record Was Made (newyorker.com) 122

Fascinating article on The New Yorker about how the Voyager Golden Record was made: The Voyagers' scientific mission will end when their plutonium-238 thermoelectric power generators fail, around the year 2030. After that, the two craft will drift endlessly among the stars of our galaxy -- unless someone or something encounters them someday. With this prospect in mind, each was fitted with a copy of what has come to be called the Golden Record. Etched in copper, plated with gold, and sealed in aluminum cases, the records are expected to remain intelligible for more than a billion years, making them the longest-lasting objects ever crafted by human hands. We don't know enough about extraterrestrial life, if it even exists, to state with any confidence whether the records will ever be found. They were a gift, proffered without hope of return. I became friends with Carl Sagan, the astronomer who oversaw the creation of the Golden Record, in 1972. He'd sometimes stop by my place in New York, a high-ceilinged West Side apartment perched up amid Norway maples like a tree house, and we'd listen to records. Lots of great music was being released in those days, and there was something fascinating about LP technology itself. A diamond danced along the undulations of a groove, vibrating an attached crystal, which generated a flow of electricity that was amplified and sent to the speakers. At no point in this process was it possible to say with assurance just how much information the record contained or how accurately a given stereo had translated it. The open-endedness of the medium seemed akin to the process of scientific exploration: there was always more to learn.
Businesses

The Windows App Store is Full of Pirate Streaming Apps (torrentfreak.com) 98

Ernesto Van der Sar, reporting for TorrentFreak: When we were browsing through the "top free" apps in the Windows Store, our attention was drawn to several applications that promoted "free movies" including various Hollywood blockbusters such as "Wonder Woman," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," and "The Mummy." Initially, we assumed that a pirate app may have slipped past Microsoft's screening process. However, the 'problem' doesn't appear to be isolated. There are dozens of similar apps in the official store that promise potential users free movies, most with rave reviews. Most of the applications work on multiple platforms including PC, mobile, and the Xbox. They are pretty easy to use and rely on the familiar grid-based streaming interface most sites and services use. Pick a movie or TV-show, click the play button, and off you go. The sheer number of piracy apps in the Windows Store, using names such as "Free Movies HD," "Free Movies Online 2020," and "FreeFlix HQ," came as a surprise to us. In particular, because the developers make no attempt to hide their activities, quite the opposite.
Television

Plex Responds, Will Allow Users To Opt Out Of Data Collection (www.plex.tv) 91

stikves writes: This weekend Plex had announced they were implementing a new privacy policy, including removing the ability for opting out of data collection and sharing. Fortunately the backlash here, on their forums, Reddit, and other placed allowed them to offer a more sensible state, including bringing back opt-out, and anonymity of some of the data.
Plex CEO Keith Valory wrote Saturday that some information must be transferred just to provide the service -- for example, servers still check for updates, they have to determine whether a user has a premium Plex Pass, and "we have to provide accurate reporting to licensors for things like trailers and extras, photo tagging, lyrics, licensed codecs and so on... [W]e came to the conclusion that providing an 'opt out' in the set-up gives a false sense of privacy and feels disingenuous on our part. That is, even if you opted out, there is still a bunch of data we are collecting that we tried to call out as exceptions." But to address concerns about data collection, Plex will make new changes to their privacy policy: [I]n addition to providing the ability to opt out of crash reporting and marketing communications, we will provide you the ability to opt out of playback statistics for personal content on your Plex Media Server, like duration, bit rate, and resolution in a new privacy setting... we are going to "generalize" playback stats in order to make it impossible to create any sort of "fingerprint" that would allow anyone to identify a file in a library... Finally, in the new privacy tab in the server settings we will provide a full list of all product events data that we collect... Our intention here is to provide full transparency. Users will have one place where they can see what data is being collected and where they can opt out of playback data that they are not comfortable with."
And he emphasized that "we will never sell or share data related to YOUR content libraries."
Classic Games (Games)

'Wing Commander' Music Composer Runs Kickstarter Campaign (kickstarter.com) 39

DMJC writes: George Oldziey, the music composer from Wing Commander 3 and 4, is running a Kickstarter campaign to re-orchestrate the music from the venerable series. The Kickstarter is in its final week and has approximately $2000 left to go before it reaches it's goal.
Oldziey shares some history on his web site: In 2014 I launched a Kickstarter campaign to document the music I created for the Wing Commander games in the way I had originally imagined it: for full orchestra and chorus. 588 generous supporters helped me reach my goal! In late 2014 I traveled to Bratislava, Slovakia, where the 95-piece Slovak National Symphony Orchestra and the 40-voice Lucina Chorus recorded this music under my supervision.
But last November -- and again in June -- Oldziey unsuccessfully tried raising funds on Kickstarter to record more of his Wing Commander music with a full orchestra. So this month's campaign sets a more modest goal of raising $15,000 "as a foundation and springboard from which to build with a more open ended crowdfunding campaign." It'll fund the creation of digital MIDI tracks for the new orchestral music plus a recording of the "jazzy bar music" from Wing Commander 3 (which will both be released as digital downloads and on CD). "Future campaign(s) will tackle the goal of getting a live orchestra to record everything..." Oldziey writes, adding this campaign "builds an exciting foundation to build on -- with some cool music to enjoy in the mean time!"

Two people have already pledged $600 to claim one of five high-end premiums in which George composes one minute of unique music just for them, and two more pledged $300 to attend the "jazzy bar music" recording session in Austin, Texas.
Music

Jonathan Coulton's New Dystopian Album Becomes a Graphic Novel (jonathancoulton.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes NPR's report on one of Slashdot's long-time favorite musicians: In April, musician Jonathan Coulton released Solid State, a sci-fi concept album that represented a significant departure -- both from Coulton's wry, bright, tuneful back catalog and from any conventional understanding of what a sci-fi concept album sounds like... On first listen, with its shout-outs to futurist Ray Kurzweil, comment-section trolls, thinkpiece-gluts, and hack memes, Solid State seems a caustic critique of the internet -- which would be, as Coulton notes, "a little-off brand for me." Spend a bit more time with it, however, and its muted, melancholy songs reveal their true target: the toxic culture of glibness and hot takes that's leaching from the internet into every aspect of our lives.

The album features multiple perspectives and timelines, but its soundscape is allusive and impressionistic, resisting strict narrative. For that, Coulton turned to writer Matt Fraction and artist Albert Monteys, who with Coulton's input have taken some of the album's words, images and thematic preoccupations and crafted a graphic novel set largely in a future that will seem familiar to any reader of science fiction: a corporate-owned dystopia where humans have become dutiful, unthinking, unfeeling worker bees attending to menial tasks amid a culture engineered to keep them unthinking and unfeeling...These three creators believe that the roots of this dystopic future are all around us, but we're collectively choosing to ignore them in precisely the same way we blithely click past online Terms and Conditions agreements without bothering to read them.

The official music video for one of the songs takes the form of a text adventure.
Music

What Happened To Winamp? (arstechnica.com) 332

Winamp was released more than 20 years ago, and last week marked the 15th anniversary of the release of Winamp3. An anonymous Slashdot reader tries to explain what finally happened to Winamp: AOL planned to discontinue Winamp in November of 2013, but instead sold it to the Belgian online radio service Radionomy. The last update on Winamp's Twitter account was September of 2015, though it announced that they were looking for a new senior C++ developer. Then in December of 2015 Vivendi Group became that company's majority shareholder, stirring hopes that the company might one day launch a revamped version of the classic mp3 player from 1997.

So did they? Radionomy's Winamp page is still showing download links -- though they now lead instead to a forum post which says "code licensed to the previous owner" is being removed or replaced. But that post has been updated five times -- as recently as last October -- with "info about the next Winamp release," each linking to a thread on Winamp's forums which offer tantalizing glimpses into a still-ongoing development process. And last October a Winamp dev posted on Twitter that "a Winamp 5.8 public beta release could be imminent," while the web page at Winamp.com still says "There's more coming soon," with a background image of a llama.

"There's no reason that Winamp couldn't be in the position that iTunes is in today if not for a few layers of mismanagement by AOL that started immediately upon acquisition," their first general manager told Ars Technica in 2012. (Winamp's developers had been earning $100,000 a month just from $10 shareware checks before AOL acquired the company in 1999 for $100 million.) In May TechRadar wrote that Winamp "is still a great media player...but it now relies on third-party extensions to add features found as standard in more modern players."

I still remember all the visualizations and custom skins -- but does this bring back any memories for anyone else? Leave your thoughts in the comments. And what mp3-playing software are you using today?
Television

Should Plex Stop Allowing Users To Opt Out of Data Collection? (www.plex.tv) 158

UPDATE: Plex has now made more changes to their privacy policy to address concerns about data collection, including "the ability to opt out of playback statistics for personal content on your Plex Media Server" and a promise "to 'generalize' playback stats in order to make it impossible to create any sort of 'fingerprint' that would allow anyone to identify a file in a library."

Here's what the original kerfuffle was about. Slashdot reader bigdogpete wrote: Many users of Plex got an email that said they were changing their privacy policy which goes into effect on 20 September 2017. While most of the things are pretty standard, users found it odd that they were now not going to allow users to opt-out of data collection. Here is the part from their website explaining the upcoming changes.

"In order to understand the usage across the Plex ecosystem and how we need to improve, Plex will continue to collect usage statistics, such as device type, duration, bit rate, media format, resolution, and media type (music, photos, videos, etc.). We will no longer allow the option to opt out of this statistics collection, but we do not sell or share your personally identifiable statistics. Again, we will not collect any information that identifies libraries, files, file names, and/or the specific content stored on your privately hosted Plex Media Servers. The only exception to this is when, and only to the extent, you use Plex with third-party services such as Sonos, Alexa, webhooks, and Last.fm."

What do you all think?

Music

How Hackers Can Use Pop Songs To 'Watch' You (fastcompany.com) 33

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fast Company: Forget your classic listening device: Researchers at the University of Washington have demonstrated that phones, smart TVs, Amazon Echo-like assistants, and other devices equipped with speakers and microphones could be used by hackers as clandestine sonar "bugs" capable of tracking your location in a room. Their system, called CovertBand, emits high-pitched sonar signals hidden within popular songs -- their examples include songs by Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake -- then records them with the machine's microphone to detect people's activities. Jumping, walking, and "supine pelvic tilts" all produce distinguishable patterns, they say in a paper. (Of course, someone who hacked the microphone on a smart TV or computer could likely listen to its users, as well.)
Google

YouTube Music Head Says Company Pays Higher Royalties Than Spotify in US (engadget.com) 14

An anonymous reader shares a report: Making a living from streaming royalties is tough for music artists, and YouTube has had one of the worst reputations in the music industry for a while. Even Lyor Cohen, the current head of YouTube Music, knows that many are skeptical about the service's ability to pay out a legitimate rate. Cohen wrote a blog post this week to explain why he thinks that YouTube deserves another chance, and that his company is the highest paying music streaming service out there. The former road manager for Run DMC has been at YouTube for eight months now. He believes that YouTube music got to the subscription party late, which allowed companies like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music to take an early lead. He also says that ads in music videos aren't the "death of the music industry," but rather a second supplement to bring in the money. Cohen claims that YouTube's ads brought in more than a billion dollars in the past 12 months. That should help soothe the music industry itself, but what about artists? Cohen rebuts the common belief that YouTube pays less than Spotify or Pandora, saying that his service pays more than $3 per thousand streams in the US, "more than other ad supported services."
Businesses

Hollywood, Apple Said To Mull Rental Plan, Defying Theaters (bloomberg.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: Movie studios are considering whether to ignore the objections of cinema chains and forge ahead with a plan to offer digital rentals of films mere weeks after they appear in theaters, according to people familiar with the matter. Some of the biggest proponents, including Warner Bros and Universal Pictures, are pressing on in talks with Apple and Comcast on ways to push ahead with the project even without theater chains, the people said. After months of negotiations, the two sides have been unable to arrive at a mutually beneficial way to create a $30 to $50 premium movie-download product. The leading Hollywood studios, except for Walt Disney, are eager to introduce a new product to make up for declining sales of DVDs and other home entertainment in the age of Netflix. They have discussed sharing a split of the revenue from premium video on demand, or PVOD, with the cinema chains if they give their blessing to the concept. But the exhibitors have sought a long-term commitment of as much as 10 years for that revenue split, which the studios have rejected, the people said. Deals with potential distributors such as Apple and Comcast could be reached as soon as early next year to sell digital downloads of major films as soon as two weeks after they debut in theaters, the people said.
Media

Video Is Coming To Reddit (variety.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report from Variety: Videos are coming to Reddit, thanks to a new feature that allows users to upload video clips directly to the service. Reddit rolled out the new video feature Tuesday after testing it with around 200 communities over the past couple of weeks. Reddit users are now able to upload videos of up to 15 minutes in length, with file sizes being limited to 1 gigabyte. Users will be able to upload videos via Reddit's website and its mobile apps for iOS and Android, with the latter offering basic trimming functionality as well. And, in keeping with the spirit of the site, Reddit is also offering a conversion tool to turn videos into animated Gifs. Videos are being displayed persistently, or pinned, meaning that users can scroll through the comments while the video keeps playing in the corner of their screen. And community moderators can opt not to allow videos in their Subreddits at all, with Le arguing that some discussion-heavy Subreddits may decide that the format just doesn't work for them.
Television

Netflix Plans To Spend $7 Billion On Content In 2018 (streamingobserver.com) 97

According to the Streaming Observer, Netflix plans to increase its budget by $1 billion dollars over the next year and spend over $7 billion on content in 2018. Previously, the company paid $6 billion in 2017 and $5 billion in 2016. From the report: While the internet freaks out about Disney ending its streaming agreement with Netflix, the company continues to forge ahead signing high-profile talent and throwing an enormous budget at its original programming. Just days after the Disney turmoil, Netflix's visionary Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos stated that the streaming leader plans to increase its budget by $1 billion dollars over the next year. As of now, Netflix currently has $15.7 billion in outstanding obligations in deals for new series and films over the next few years. With such an astronomically-large budget, media analysts are already beginning to wonder if Netflix is "rescuing" or "ruining" Hollywood by creating such a singular creator-producer-distributor model. Sarandos counters those claims, however, stating that Netflix is merely on the forefront of what's already a growing trend throughout the media industries: "I would say that the relationship between studios and networks has always been that of a frenemy. Everyone is doing some version of it already. They just have to make a decision for their companies, their brands and their shareholders on how to best optimize the content. We started making original content five years ago, betting this would happen."
Movies

Why Does Hollywood Remain Out of Step With the Body-Positive Movement? (nytimes.com) 688

According to a report from The New York Times, Hollywood continues to praise plus-sized actresses in knockout roles and then reduce them to bit parts about physical weight. Slashdot reader cdreimer shares an excerpt from the report: The first thing Danielle Macdonald did at the Cannes Film Festival in May was break into a cold sweat: The airline had lost her luggage. She was already nervous enough. Ms. Macdonald, 26, had been plucked from obscurity to play the lead role in "Patti Cake$," a drama about a rapper that was about to face the Cannes critics. Now she had to find something glamorous to wear -- pronto -- to the premiere. "As a bigger girl," Ms. Macdonald told me recently, "where was I meant to find something that would fit?" Her story then veered in an unexpected direction -- revealing her approach to Hollywood, which expects its lead actresses to be scarily skinny. "I gave myself a pep talk," she said. "This situation is what it is. Find a way to work around it." The red carpet crisis was resolved (another "Patti Cake$" star, Cathy Moriarty, lent her a black dress), but if the experiences of countless actresses before Ms. Macdonald are any indication, it will not be as easy to overcome the career obstacles that await her post-"Patti Cake$."

For women -- less so for men -- weight is perhaps the most stubborn of the entertainment industry's many biases. Have an average-sized body? Call us when you've starved yourself. In particular, Ms. Macdonald must avoid a cycle that plays out over and over in moviedom, one that some film agents coarsely call the fat flavor of the moment. A plus-size actress, almost always an unknown, lands the central role in a film and delivers a knockout performance. She is held up by producers and the entertainment news media as refreshing, long overdue evidence that Hollywood's insistence on microscopic waistlines is ending. And then she is slowly but surely pushed into bit parts, many of which are defined by weight.

Piracy

Roku Gets Tough On Pirate Channels, Warns Users (torrentfreak.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year Roku was harshly confronted with this new piracy crackdown when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. While this legal battle isn't over yet, it was clear to Roku that misuse of its platform wasn't without consequences. While Roku never permitted any infringing content, it appears that the company has recently made some adjustments to better deal with the problem, or at least clarify its stance. Pirate content generally doesn't show up in the official Roku Channel Store but is directly loaded onto the device through third-party "private" channels. A few weeks ago, Roku renamed these "private" channels to "non-certified" channels, while making it very clear that copyright infringement is not allowed. A "WARNING!" message that pops up during the installation of these third-party channels stresses that Roku has no control over the content. In addition, the company notes that these channels may be removed if it links to copyright infringing content.

"By continuing, you acknowledge you are accessing a non-certified channel that may include content that is offensive or inappropriate for some audiences," Roku's warning reads. "Moreover, if Roku determines that this channel violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku's terms and conditions, then ROKU MAY REMOVE THIS CHANNEL WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE."

Television

YouTube Has An Illegal TV Streaming Problem (mashable.com) 119

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: Most people turn to Netflix to binge watch full seasons of a single TV show, but there could be a much cheaper way: YouTube. You might be surprised to learn that you can watch full episodes of popular TV shows on YouTube for free, thanks to a large number of rogue accounts that are hosting illegal live streams of shows. Perhaps the most shocking thing about these free (and very illegal) TV live streams might even make their way into your suggested video queue, if you watch enough "random shit" and Bobby Hill quote compilations on the site, as Mashable business editor Jason Abbruzzese recently experienced. He first noticed the surprisingly high number of illegal TV streaming accounts on his YouTube homepage, which has tailored recommended videos based on his viewing habits. Personalized recommendations aren't exactly new -- but the number of illegal live streams broadcasting copyrighted material on a loop was a shocker. When we looked deeper into the livestreams, the number we found was mindblowing. Many of these accounts appear to exist solely to give watchers an endless loop of their favorite shows and only have a few other posts related to the live streamed content. "YouTube respects the rights of copyright holders and we've invested heavily in copyright and content management tools to give rights holders control of their content on YouTube," a YouTube spokesperson told Mashable in an email. "When copyright holders work with us to provide reference files for their content, we ensure all live broadcasts are scanned for third party content, and we either pause or terminate streams when we find matches to third party content."
Businesses

Apple Is Bringing a Billion Dollar Checkbook To Hollywood and Wants To Buy 10 TV Shows (recode.net) 79

Apple is officially open for business in Hollywood. From a report: The company is telling content makers it wants to spend $1 billion on its own stuff over the next year. That's music to studios' ears, and a tune they have been expecting for some time -- especially after Apple hired two top Sony TV executives in June. We still don't know what Apple wants to do with that content: The Wall Street Journal says Apple wants to make up to 10 "Game of Thrones" -- or "House of Cards"-scale shows, but that's not enough to launch a full-scale subscription service.
Businesses

Netflix Co-Founder's Crazy Plan: Pay $10 a Month, Go to the Movies All You Want (bloomberg.com) 274

Mitch Lowe, a founder of Netflix, has a crazy idea. Through his new startup MoviePass, he wants to subsidize our film habit, letting us go to the theater once a day for about the price of a single ticket. From a report: Lowe, an early Netflix executive who now runs a startup called MoviePass, plans to drop the price of the company's movie ticket subscriptions on Tuesday to $9.95. The fee will let customers get in to one showing every day at any theater in the U.S. that accepts debit cards. MoviePass will pay theaters the full price of each ticket used by subscribers, excluding 3D or Imax screens. MoviePass could lose a lot of money subsidizing people's movie habits. So the company also raised cash on Tuesday by selling a majority stake to Helios and Matheson Analytics, a small, publicly traded data firm in New York. [...] Theater operators should certainly welcome any effort to increase sales. The top four cinema operators, led by AMC Entertainment, lost $1.3 billion in market value early this month after a disappointing summer.
Displays

Samsung Pushes Its 4K/HDR TV Service in Europe (4k.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes 4K.com: Samsung Electronics has announced that its premium Smart TV content service, TV Plus, is now available for users of Samsung Smart TVs in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom... Owners of eligible Samsung Smart TVs with 4K / HDR capabilities in the above-mentioned European countries now have direct access to premium 4K UHD HDR content offered by Samsung, in partnership with Rakuten TV, and can find their favorite shows using the TV Plus straightforward interface... The expansion comes at what could be considered a strategically well timed moment in the European market, given that 4K TV sales in the huge continental market are steadily growing year by year and are expected to rise to over 17 million 4K TV units shipped by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, TV Plus content has become a success in Southeast Asia since its launch, where 70% of Smart TV users in Korea are watching TV PLUS channels, and 41% of Smart TV users in Vietnam are using TV PLUS.

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