Movies

It's Illegal to Pirate Films in Iran, Unless You're the Government (vice.com) 35

An anonymous reader shares a report: While legal "pirating" exists in Iran, six administrators of the Iranian pirate movie site TinyMoviez have been arrested by Iranian authorities. This was a website the Iranian national broadcaster had used to download and nationally air movies in the past. The exact date of the arrests are unknown, but Tehran's Prosecutor General announced the arrests on September 26, 2017. The website is still online, but users haven't been able to download content from it since September 19, 2017. Now TinyMoviez administrators are finding themselves on the wrong side of Iran's odd and often pirating friendly copyright laws. Iran's copyright law is a quagmire when it comes to understanding what rights exists for creators of an original piece of work, and what rights exist for those wanting to re-distribute original works, such as movies. Meanwhile, Article 8 gives the government broad powers to reproduce work that is not its own. This means that the government is exempt from Article 23, which criminalizes the theft of another's work.
Sci-Fi

Why Is 'Blade Runner' the Title of 'Blade Runner'? (vulture.com) 220

Why is Blade Runner called Blade Runner? Though the viewer is told in the opening text of Ridley Scott's 1982 original that "special Blade Runner units" hunt renegade replicants -- and though the term "Blade Runner" is applied to Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard a few times in the film -- we're never given an explanation of where the proper noun comes from. The novel upon which Blade Runner was based, Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, offers no clues either.
Television

Hulu Lowers Prices After Netflix Raises Theirs (variety.com) 108

Coincidentally, as Netflix raised their prices last week, Hulu decided to lower theirs. The streaming service is now offering a plan, which includes commercials, for $5.99 per month for the first year -- a short-term promotion aimed at luring new subs with the kickoff of the fall television and Hulu's expanded TV library lineup. Variety reports: Hulu's special offer for the limited-commercials plan is available through Jan. 9, 2018, only to new or returning Hulu subs. After one year, the regular $7.99 monthly price will kick in. Hulu offers a commercial-free option for $12 per month, and a live TV service (which includes access to original series like Emmy-winning "The Handmaid's Tale" and on-demand titles) for $40 monthly. A Hulu rep said the company's new promo is intended to draft off the fall 2017 TV season. As it looks for another original series on the order of "Handmaid's Tale" -- so far its only breakout hit -- Hulu has inked deals to bring thousands of current and older TV shows to the platform to armor-up in its battle with rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Sci-Fi

'Blade Runner 2049' Isn't the Movie Denis Villeneuve Wanted to Make (vice.com) 263

Readers share a Motherboard article: There are seemingly two inescapable realities for big-budget filmmakers in 2017: you have to use existing intellectual property and you must provide spectacle that can lure massive domestic and foreign audiences to the the theater. It seemed that Denis Villeneuve chose wisely when he selected the IP that he would ride into the mainstream. [...] There is much to admire, but as a whole, Blade Runner 2049 works best as a case for why filmmakers like Villeneuve should be given big budgets to try out new concepts rather than retread what's come before them. Just like Arrival was at its best when we saw the elegance of how the space ship and the aliens within it actually functioned, this version of Blade Runner shines when we get to watch how Villeneuve's dystopia operates. Moments of technical brilliance small and large are at the soul of this film. Whether you're watching the creation of robot memories, the execution of an air strike from an effortless, detached distance, or even something as simple as a stroll through a hall of records, the mechanics of this world are jaw-dropping. Ryan Gosling (K) wisely opts for a muted, brooding performance, allowing the world to steal the show while still illustrating the burden of living in it. Even with all of this technical brilliance on display (the costumes, sound, and special effects are brilliant), the baggage of the original film's mythology weighs down Blade Runner 2049. The most burdensome baggage for Villeneuve to carry, sadly, is the Blade Runner story itself.
Television

Latest TVs Are Ready for Their Close-Ups (wsj.com) 219

An anonymous share a WSJ article: The latest televisions have more pixels than ever. But can your eyes detect the difference? The answer is yes -- if you sit close enough. Old TVs had 349,920 pixels. High-definition flat screens bumped up the total to 2 million. Ultrahigh-definition sets inflated it to 8 million. And manufacturers are now experimenting with 8K TVs that have an astounding 33 million pixels. More pixels render hair, fur and skin with greater detail, but the benefit depends on viewing the screen from an ideal distance so the sharpness of the images is clear, but the tiny points of illumination aren't individually distinguishable. According to standards set by the International Telecommunication Union, that ideal distance is 3 times the height of an HDTV screen, 1.5 times the height of a UHDTV screen and .75 times the height of an 8K screen (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; here's a PDF copy of the newspaper). Given those measurements, viewers should sit 6 feet away from a 50-inch HDTV with a 24.5-inch tall screen. But they should sit just 3 feet from a UHDTV of the same size, closer than most Americans prefer.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Parody 'Subgenius' Religion Wants to Crowdfund An Alien-Contacting Beacon (gofundme.com) 78

In 1979 the followers of J. R. "Bob" Dobbs founded a satirical religion called the Church of the Subgenius. (Slackware Linux reportedly drew its name from the "pursuit of Slack", a comfort-seeking tenet of the 38-year-old parody religion.) Combining UFOs and conspiracy theories with some social critiques (and a few H.P. Lovecraft characters), the strange group is now re-emerging online with an official Facebook page -- and a slick new video channel.

In "Adventures in the Forbidden Sciences," former church CEO K'taden Legume announces that in January of 2016, "the Subgenius Foundation received an overdue bill for a storage locker in the Pacific Northwest registered under the name J. R. Dobbs. Behind the steel door was a freight elevator leading deep underground to what was long considered to be a myth: The church's long-abandoned forbidden science laboratories. Hidden in a forgotten cavern, packed floor-to-ceiling with thousands of crates dating back to the mid-19th century." Eighteen months of experimentation lead to clues about a flying saucer arriving on "the Black Day" -- and one last chance at eternal salvation and everlasting Slack: the construction of an alien-contacting beacon. Legume calls it "our best last hope for getting off of this planet. We have the tech. We have the moxie to do this, but to finish the beacon -- we need your help."

"The Beacon will be constructed by a team of 'Forbidden Scientists' led by former church CEO Dr. K'taden Legume," writes new Slashdot reader Ktaden Legume, touting a new $25,000 campaign to crowdfund the beacon's construction.

So far it's raised $294.
Google

Bluetooth Won't Replace the Headphone Jack -- Walled Gardens Will (theverge.com) 380

Last year, when it was rumoured that the then upcoming iPhone models -- 7 and 7 Plus -- won't have the 3.5mm audio jack, The Verge's Nilay Patel wrote that if Apple does do it, it would be a user-hostile and stupid move. When those iPhone models were official announced, they indeed didn't have the audio jack. Earlier this week, Android-maker Google announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones that also don't feature the decades-old audio jack either, a move that would likely push rest of the smartphone makers to adopt a similar change. The rationale behind killing the traditional headphones jack, both Apple and Google say, is to move to an improved technology: Bluetooth. But there is another motive at play here, it appears. Patel, writes for The Verge: As the headphone jack disappears, the obvious replacement isn't another wire with a proprietary connector like Apple's Lightning or the many incompatible and strange flavors of USB-C audio. It's Bluetooth. And Bluetooth continues to suck, for a variety of reasons. Newer phones like the iPhone 8, Galaxy S8, and the Pixel 2 have Bluetooth 5, which promises to be better, but 1. There are literally no Bluetooth 5 headphones out yet, and 2. we have definitely heard that promise before. So we'll see. To improve Bluetooth, platform vendors like Apple and Google are riffing on top of it, and that means they're building custom solutions. And building custom solutions means they're taking the opportunity to prioritize their own products, because that is a fair and rational thing for platform vendors to do. Unfortunately, what is fair and rational for platform vendors isn't always great for markets, competition, or consumers. And at the end of this road, we will have taken a simple, universal thing that enabled a vibrant market with tons of options for every consumer, and turned it into yet another limited market defined by ecosystem lock-in. The playbook is simple: last year, Apple dropped the headphone jack and replaced it with its W1 system, which is basically a custom controller chip and software management layer for Bluetooth. The exemplary set of W1 headphones is, of course, AirPods, but Apple also owns Beats, and there are a few sets of W1 Beats headphones available as well. You can still use regular Bluetooth headphones with an iPhone, and you can use AirPods as regular Bluetooth headphones, but the combination iPhone / W1 experience is obviously superior to anything else on the market. [...] Google's version of this is the Pixel Buds, a set of over-ear neckbuds that serve as basic Bluetooth headphones but gain additional capabilities when used with certain phones. Seamless fast pairing? You need Android N or higher, which most Android phones don't have.
Movies

Nearly 4 Million People In US Still Subscribe To Netflix DVDs By Mail (recode.net) 186

The biggest Netflix-related news today is that the company is raising its streaming videos prices, from $9.99 a month to $10.99. But there is another interesting nugget of information to consider: Netflix still has 3.7 million DVD subscribers in the U.S. who get their discs delivered through the mail for the same $7.99 a month it had previously cost. Recode reports: That's down 17 percent from a year ago, and is much smaller than Netflix's nearly 52 million domestic streaming subscribers, but it's still sizable. Netflix first separated out its DVD and streaming subscription services in July 2011, charging $7.99 each ($15.98 for both). Streaming was originally an added bonus for DVD subscribers at no extra cost. Are you one of the 3.7 million Netflix users who still get DVDs sent in the mail? If so, what's keeping you from embracing the digital age and streaming movies via the internet?
Businesses

Netflix is Raising Its Prices, Again (mashable.com) 277

Jason Abbruzzese, writing for Mashable: Get ready to pay just a bit more for your Netflix subscription. The streaming video service will be raising prices on its middle and top tier plans in the U.S. starting in November. Subscribers who currently pay for the standard $9.99 service will be charged $10.99. The price of the premium tier will rise from $11.99 to $13.99. Good news for people on the basic $7.99 plan -- that price is staying put, for now. The U.S.-only price hikes will begin to go into effect in November, varying depending on individuals' billing cycles. Starting on Oct. 19, subscribers will be notified and given at least 30 days notice about the increase.
Google

Google Pixel Buds Are Wireless Earbuds That Translate Conversations In Real Time (arstechnica.com) 162

At its hardware event today, Google debuted new wireless earbuds, dubbed "Pixel Buds." These are Google's first wireless earbuds that give users access to Google Translate so they can have conversations with people who speak a different language. Ars Technica reports: Unlike Apple's AirPods, the Pixel Buds have a wire connecting the two earpieces. However, that wire doesn't connect to a smartphone or other device. Pixel Buds will pair via Bluetooth to the new Pixel smartphones -- and presumably any other devices that accept Bluetooth wireless earbuds. All of the Pixel Buds' controls are built in to the right earpiece, which is a common hardware solution on wireless earbuds. You can access Google Assistant by tapping or pressing on the right earbud, and the Assistant will be able to read notifications and messages to you through the Buds.

But the most intriguing feature of the Pixel Buds is the integrated Google Translate feature. Demoed on stage at Google's event today, this feature lets two Pixel Bud wearers chat in their native languages by translating conversations in real time. In the demo, a native English speaker and a native Swedish speaker had a conversation with each other, both using their native languages. Google Translate translated the languages for each user. There was barely any lag time in between the speaker saying a phrase and the Buds' hearing those words and translating them into the appropriate language. The Pixel Buds will use Google Translate to comprehend conversations in 40 different languages.
Some other features include a 5-hour battery life, and a charging case that can hold up to 24 hours of battery life. They're available for preorder today for $159.
Google

Google Debuts Its $400 Google Home Max Speaker To Rival Apple's HomePod (techcrunch.com) 60

In addition to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, Google debuted a $400 speaker, called Home Max, that looks to compete directly with Apple's recently announced HomePod. The Home Max is a larger Google Home that features stereo speakers and more premium looks and materials. It's expected to go on sale in December in the U.S. TechCrunch reports: It can tune its audio to its own space, analyzing the sound coming from the speaker using its built in microphones to determine the best equalizer settings. This is called Smart Sound, and it evolves over time and based on where you move the speaker, using built-in machine learning. It has Cast functionality, as well as input via stereo 3.5 mm jack. Home Max can output sound that's up to 20 times more powerful than the standard version of Home, Google says, and it has two 4.5 inch woofers on board with two 0.7 inch custom-built tuners. It can sit in either vertical or horizontal orientation, and it comes in both 'chalk' and 'charcoal.' Of course, this bigger speaker also includes a noise isolating array that makes it work even in open rooms with background noise, and it's Assistant-enabled, so you can use it to control your music playback via voice, or manage your smart home devices, set yourself reminders, alarms, and timers and much more. Google also launched a budget-friendly Google Home Mini that features the Google Assistant but in a smaller form factor. 9to5Google reports: Google touts the Home Mini as having a powerful speaker with "crisp" 360 degree sound. The Mini can also be connected to any Chromecast wireless speaker, but there is no 3.5mm jack like Amazon's Echo Dot. In the center, there are four white lights that note when the Home Mini is listening or responding. Besides saying the "Ok, Google" hotword, users can tap on the Home Mini to issue a command. Google also retained the Home's original button for disabling the microphone with a toggle next to the charging port. The Google Home Mini will be go on sale later this month for $49, with pre-orders starting today.
Sci-Fi

According To Star Trek: Discovery, Starfleet Still Runs Microsoft Windows (theverge.com) 237

AmiMoJo shares a report from The Verge: The third episode of Star Trek: Discovery aired this week, and at one point in the episode, Sonequa Martin-Green's Michael Burnham is tasked with reconciling two suites of code. In the show, Burnham claims the code is confusing because it deals with quantum astrophysics, biochemistry, and gene expression. And while the episode later reveals that it's related to the USS Discovery's experimental new mycelial network transportation system, Twitter user Rob Graham noted the code itself is a little more pedestrian in nature. More specifically, it seems to be decompiled code for the infamous Stuxnet virus, developed by the United States to attack Iranian computers running Windows.
Advertising

T-Mobile Won't Stop Claiming Its Network Is Faster Than Verizon's (theverge.com) 106

T-Mobile says it will continue to claim it has the country's fastest LTE network even after the National Advertising Division, a telecom industry watchdog group, "recommended" that it stop doing so in print, TV, and web advertisements. In a statement given to Ars Technica, "NAD previously recognized third-party crowdsourced data as a way to look at network performance, so we looked at the latest results, and verified what we already knew. T-Mobile is still the fastest LTE network and we'll continue to let consumers know that." The Verge reports: The dispute arose earlier this year as part of a T-Mobile ad campaign that insinuated that Verizon's network was older and slower, and that its service did not feature unlimited plans. Verizon then filed a complaint with the NAD, which is a self-regulatory body of the telecom industry designed to settle disputes, avoid litigation, and protect against unwanted government regulation. Verizon said at the time that because T-Mobile was relying on crowdsourced data from third-party speed test providers Ookla and OpenSignal, the data was skewed in favor of T-Mobile. The data was pulled from a one-month period after Verizon first reintroduced its unlimited plans. Verizon's logic wasn't super bulletproof: the company claimed that because it had never before offered unlimited plans, T-Mobile customers -- who were familiar with the concept of throttling after a certain data threshold -- were more likely to be sampled in the crowdsourced data set provided to the NAD. Still, T-Mobile discontinued the disputed commercial, and the NAD felt the need to offer guidelines last week, advising the company not to claim its network was faster or newer. In addition, the NAD also told T-Mobile to modify its claim that it covered 99.7 percent of Verizon customers to make clear that the coverage is by population and not geographic area.
Microsoft

Microsoft Shutters Groove Music, Will Move Users To Spotify (techcrunch.com) 51

Microsoft announced today that it will soon shutter both its Groove Music Pass streaming service and the ability to purchase songs and albums in the Windows Store. The biggest surprise isn't that the service never took off, it's that Microsoft has partnered with Spotify to move all its Groove Music Pass customers over to Spotify. TechCrunch reports: Starting December 31, the Groove Music app will lose its features for streaming, purchasing and downloading music. Microsoft promises that moving to Spotify will be pretty seamless and that virtually all the songs and playlists that Groove users created over the years will transfer to the new service. Windows Insiders will be able to test this out with the next update, which is scheduled to roll out next week. Users will have until at least January 31, 2018 to make the move, though. For the most part, Spotify offers a superset of Groove's music catalog, so except for a few edge cases, there's no reason to believe that moving to Spotify would be a great loss for Groove Music Pass customers. And because Spotify is available on Windows Phone, too, even the few users still left on Microsoft's failed mobile platform won't miss out. As for Groove Music itself, Microsoft says the actual app won't go away anytime soon. It'll still be available for playing back and managing music that's stored locally.
Mozilla

Donate Your Noise To Xiph/Mozilla's Deep-Learning Noise Suppression Project (xiph.org) 119

Mozilla-backed researchers are working on a real-time noise suppression algorithm using a neural network -- and they want your noise! Long-time Slashdot reader jmv writes: The Mozilla Research RRNoise project combines classic signal processing with deep learning, but it's small and fast. No expensive GPUs required -- it runs easily on a Raspberry Pi. The result is easier to tune and sounds better than traditional noise suppression systems (been there!). And you can help!
From the site: Click on this link to let us record one minute of noise from where you are... We're interested in noise from any environment where you might communicate using voice. That can be your office, your car, on the street, or anywhere you might use your phone or computer.
They claim it already sounds better than traditional noise suppression systems, and even though the code isn't optmized yet, "it already runs about 60x faster than real-time on an x86 CPU."
DRM

Hollywood's International War on Kodi Plugins And Video-Streaming Boxes (eff.org) 57

An anonymous reader quotes the EFF: In the past few years, the sale of pre-configured Kodi boxes, and the availability of a range of plugins providing access to streaming media, has seen the software's popularity balloon -- and made it the latest target of Hollywood's copyright enforcement juggernaut. We've seen this in the appearance of streaming media boxes as an enforcement priority in the U.S. Trade Representative's Special 301 Report, in proposals for new legislation targeting the sale of "illicit" media boxes, and in lawsuits that have been brought on both sides of the Atlantic to address the "problem" that media boxes running Kodi, like any Web browser, can be used to access media streams that were not authorized by the copyright holder...

The difficulty facing the titans of TV is that since neither those who sell Kodi boxes, nor those who write or host add-ons for the software, are engaging in any unauthorized copying by doing so, cases targeting these parties have to rely on other legal theories. So far several legal theories have been used; one in Europe against sellers of Kodi boxes, one in Canada against the owner of the popular Kodi add-on repository TVAddons, and two in the United States against TVAddons and a plugin developer... These lawsuits by big TV incumbents seem to have a few goals: to expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement yet again, to force major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on the few bad actors in that ecosystem.

The EFF details the specific lawsuits in each region, and concludes that their courts "should reject these expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits."
Power

Solar Powered Smartwatch Successfully Crowdfunded on Kickstarter (theverge.com) 69

An anonymous reader quotes the Verge: Battery life on smartwatches is, in a word, bad. And while most of today's watches can more or less make it through a day without dying, they're still a far cry from the months or even years that traditional watches can run for. What if you never had to charge your smartwatch? That's the promise of Lunar, a new Kickstarter project that claims to be the world's first solar-powered smartwatch... The company says that the watch can charge off both indoor and outdoor light, and can run off as little as one hour of exposure a day. (The company also includes a traditional inductive charger as a backup.)

As for the watch itself, it's a pretty standard hybrid smartwatch, solar power aside. It'll be able to do basic activity and sleep tracking, offer some limited notification support through a colored LED, and automatically set time zones through a connected smartphone app. Also, given the need for low power consumption for the solar charging to feasibly work, there's no screen on the Lunar. Instead, there's just a ring of LED lights located where hour markers would be.

The campaign reached its funding goal wIthin two days of launching -- and one week later had double that amount, raising a total of $101,987 from 564 backers.

It's not clear if Slashdot readers love or hate smartwatches. Does it make a difference if the watch is solar powered?
Television

Comcast's New 'Xfinity Instant TV' Streaming Service Charges $18 For What Antennas Offer For Free (exstreamist.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Exstreamist: Comcast announced this week that they plan on rolling out their streaming service, "Xfinity Instant TV" as an option for broadband-only customers. At our very first glance, it seemed like a pretty good deal, a live-streaming service for $18 a month, not bad right? But once we actually looked into the offering, we noticed something funny. Almost the entirety of what they're planning on charging $18 a month for could be viewed free with an antenna. According to the Wall Street Journal, the antenna as an option is apparently a long lost TV option for many consumers. Variety is reporting, "Xfinity Instant TV" intro packages, the ones that are $18, will only include a handful of broadcast channels, and a few "freebies" like the Home Shopping Network, and CSPAN So we're not exactly talking about getting access to ESPN, CNN, FX, or other more desirable channels for cord cutters, those will cost you at least $45 more a month, so basically the cost of your current cable television package. The report notes that the service is only available to Comcast internet subscribers and does include access to on-demand services.
Piracy

Star Trek: Discovery Nearly Cracks Pirate Bay's Top 10 In Less Than 24 Hours (ew.com) 390

Yesterday was the season premiere of the first new Star Trek TV series in 12 years. While the first episode aired on the CBS broadcast network Sunday night, the second episode -- and all the rest to come -- was made available exclusively on the CBS All Access streaming service for $6 a month. Naturally, this upset Trekkies and led many of them to find alternative methods to watch the show. EW reports that Star Trek: Discovery "is on the verge of cracking Pirate Bay's Top 10 most illegally downloaded shows in less than 24 hours." From the report: The Discovery pilot is currently at No. 11 on the list (apparently at No. 15 just a few hours ago), the pilot is up there with the likes of HBO's Game of Thrones, Adult Swim's Rick and Morty and, for some reason, TNT's The Last Ship. The show's second episode is at No. 17, which is a tad surprising as that was the one that wasn't free. Ever since the distribution plan was first announced fans have resisted with some vehemence the idea of paying for "yet another streaming service just to watch a single show" (there's more than one show on All Access, CBS is quick to point out, and then a debate over the relative merits of NCIS and MacGyver repeats ensues).
Movies

Amazon Slashes Prices on 4K Content in Response To Apple TV 4K's Launch (theverge.com) 25

An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the many announcements at Apple's keynote a couple weeks ago was that 4K movies would be added to iTunes at the same price as HD content. Previously purchased HD movies would also be upgraded to 4K for free, though for streaming only. In response, Amazon Video has drastically slashed the prices of its own 4K content to match iTunes. As Pocket Lint notes, Amazon Video's 4K selection is not only limited in comparison to Apple's, but was incredibly expensive with purchases running over $30. (This price was comparable to services like Vudu and Google, but Apple's worked out deals to offer 4K HDR movies at $19.99.) Over the weekend, it appears prices for 4K titles on Amazon Video are now starting at around $5, with newer releases in the range of $7 to $19.
Sci-Fi

'Star Trek: Discovery' Premieres Tonight (ew.com) 456

An anonymous reader quotes EW.com: Tonight CBS will premiere the first new Star Trek TV series in 12 years at 8:30 p.m. on the company's regular broadcast network. Immediately afterward, the second episode of Star Trek: Discovery will stream exclusively on CBS All Access -- the company's $6 per month streaming service... CBS saw an opportunity to leverage the built-in popularity of Star Trek to help fuel its fledgling All Access streaming service. The service currently has about 1 million subscribers and the company's goal is to grow it to 4 million by 2020...

But once fans watch Discovery, they'll notice the show's production values aren't like a typical broadcast show, but more reminiscent of a premium cable or streaming show. CBS was able to justify spending a bit more money on Discovery since it's going onto the paid tier. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.

The Los Angeles Times reports each episode costs $8 million -- though Netflix is paying $6 million for each episode's international broadcast rights. The show's main title sequence has been released, and the Verge reports that the show is set before the original 1966 series (but after Star Trek: Enterprise) along with some other possible spoilers.

Space.com asked one of the show's actors who his favorite Star Trek captain was. "I mean, Kirk," answered James Frain, who plays the Vulcan Sarek in Discovery. "That's like, 'Who's your favorite James Bond?', and if you don't say 'Sean Connery,' really? Come on."
Star Wars Prequels

Saudi Arabian Textbook Shows Yoda Joining The UN (bbc.com) 87

Long-time Slashdot reader Mikkeles quotes the BBC: Saudi Arabia's education minister has apologised for the production of a school textbook in which the Star Wars character Yoda is seen superimposed on a photograph of the late King Faisal... The image, which shows the diminutive Jedi Master sitting beside King Faisal as he signs the UN Charter in 1945, was created by the Saudi artist Shaweesh. He told the BBC it was not yet clear how it had ended up in the textbook... The 2013 artwork, entitled United Nations (Yoda), is part of a series in which symbols of American pop culture -- ranging from Captain America to Darth Vader -- are superimposed onto archive photos of historical events... Shaweesh said he included Yoda because, like King Faisal, he was "wise, strong and calm".
"Someone should have checked the image before printing," he added.
Television

NVIDIA Drops the Basic Shield TV's Price To $180 (engadget.com) 66

An anonymous reader shares a report: NVIDIA's Shield TV promised to be an Android set-top box for gamers, and in that sense, it delivered. The company first released it in 2015, but its updated version cut down on price by bundling the $50 remote in to make the base-tier $200 version more cost-efficient. Now they're dropping that price down to $180, which is an even better deal. NVIDIA is keeping the $200 tier by bundling in its normally $60 controller alongside the included remote.
Youtube

More Are Paying To Stream Music, But YouTube Still Holds the Value Gap (theregister.co.uk) 43

An anonymous reader shares a report: With Google's user-generated content loophole firmly in lawmaker's sights, global music trade body IFPI has published new research looking at demand for music streaming. The research confirms YouTube's pre-eminence as the world's de facto jukebox. 46 percent of on-demand music streaming is from Google's video website. 75 percent of internet users use video streaming to hear music. The paid-for picture is bullish: 50 percent of internet users have paid for licensed music in the last six months, in one form or another, of which 53 per are 13- to 15-year-olds. Audio streaming is split between 39 percent who stream for free and 29 percent who pay. [...] So what's the problem? European policy makers have become convinced by the "value gap" argument: compensation doesn't reflect usage. Google finds itself with a unique advantage here, thanks to YouTube's "user-generated content" exception, as we explained last year.
Privacy

Popular Steam Extension 'Inventory Helper' Spies On Users, Says Report (windowsreport.com) 66

SmartAboutThings shares a report from Windows Report: If you installed the "Steam Inventory Helper" on your computer, you may want to uninstall it as soon as possible. Recent reports suggest that this extension used to buy and sell digital goods on Steam is spying on its users. Redditor Wartab made a thorough analysis of the tool and reached the following conclusions: The spyware code tracks your every move starting from the moment you visit a website until you leave. It also tracks where you are coming from on the site; Steam Inventory Helper tracks your clicks, including when you are moving your mouse and when you are having focus in an input; When you click a link, it sends the link URL to a background script; Fortunately, the code does not monitor what you type. Apparently, the purpose of this spyware is to collect data about gamers for promotional purposes.
Entertainment

Sonos To Launch a Wireless Speaker That Would Support Multiple Voice Assistants (yahoo.com) 33

Sonos, a mid- to high-end speaker manufacturer, released an updated privacy policy for its speakers that almost certainly confirms that the company will release a speaker with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant built into the device in the near term. From a report: Though many devices that integrate with Alexa have been announced and are starting to come to market, this is one of the higher-profile examples and could be instructive for smart-speaker designers. The company first announced its intention to add voice-assistant integration to its speakers over a year ago, but didn't give any specific time frame for that step. And an FCC filing from the company that surfaced a few weeks ago showed that it is looking into systems that would support multiple voice assistants, so a user could potentially have the option to choose between Amazon's Alexa or Google's Assistant, depending on what other devices they own and what platform they prefer.
Education

2017 'Ig Nobel' Prizes Recognize Funny Research On Cats, Crocodiles, and Cheese (improbable.com) 20

An anonymous reader writes: "The 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony" happened Thursday at Harvard's Sanders theatre, recognizing real (but unusual) research papers from all over the world "that make people laugh, then think." This year's prize in the physics category went to Marc-Antoine Fardin, who used fluid dynamics to probe the question "Can a cat be both a solid and a liquid?"

Six prize-winning Swiss researchers also demonstrated that regular playing of a didgeridoo is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring, while two Australians tested how contact with a live crocodile affects a person's willingness to gamble. And five French researchers won the medicine prize for their use of advanced brain-scanning technology to investigate "the neural basis of disugst for cheese."

You can watch the ceremony online -- and Reuters got an interesting quote from the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, who founded the awards ceremony 27 years ago. "We hope that this will get people back into the habits they probably had when they were kids of paying attention to odd things and holding out for a moment and deciding whether they are good or bad only after they have a chance to think."
Television

There Will Be 22 Million Cord Cutters By 2018, Says Report (dslreports.com) 113

A new report by eMarketer predicts that 22.2 million U.S. adults will have cut the cord on cable, satellite or telco TV service by the end of 2017, which is up 33% over 2016. It also notes that ad investment will expand just 0.5% to $71.65 billion this year, down from the $72.72 billion predicted in the company's original first quarter forecast for 2017. From a report via DSLReports: This year, there will be 22.2 million cord-cutters ages 18 and older, a figure up 33.2% over 2016. That's notably higher than the 15.4 million eMarketer previously estimated. The total number of U.S. adult cord-nevers (users that have never signed up for a traditional cable TV connection) will grow 5.8% this year to 34.4 million. Note that eMarketer's numbers don't include streaming options from the likes of Dish (Sling TV) or AT&T (DirecTV Now), though so far gains in subscribers for these services haven't offset the decline in traditional cable TV subscribers anyway.
Chrome

Google Chrome Will No Longer Autoplay Content With Sound In January 2018 (venturebeat.com) 81

Starting next year, Google Chrome will only autoplay a given piece of content when the media won't play sound or the user has indicated an interest in the media. The company was experimenting with such an option last month, but now it looks to be part of the browser's roadmap. VentureBeat reports: Chrome 63 will add a new user option to completely disable audio for individual sites. This site-muting option will persist between browsing sessions, allowing users to customize when and where audio will play. Chrome 64 will take the controls to the next level. By this version, Google's browser will allow autoplay to occur only when users want media to play. Here is Google's timeline for making autoplaying sound more consistent with user expectations in Chrome: September 2017: Site muting available in Chrome 63 Beta, begin collecting Media Engagement Index (MEI) data in Chrome 62 Canary and Dev; October 2017: Site muting available in Chrome 63 Stable, autoplay policies available in Chrome 63 Canary and Dev; December 2017: Autoplay policies available in Chrome 64 Beta; January 2018: Autoplay policies available in 64 Stable.
Youtube

PewDiePie Is Inexcusable But DMCA Takedowns Are Not the Way To Fight Him (vice.com) 506

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is the most popular YouTuber in the world. He's gotten himself into another controversy, this time for shouting the n-word while livestreaming a video game. The 27-year-old Swede has repeatedly been criticized for hate speech, and just last month said he would no longer make Nazi jokes after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent. But while playing PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on Sunday, Kjellberg, who has over 57 million subscribers on YouTube, called another player the n-word before erupting into laughter. "What a fucking n****r," he said. "Jeez, oh my god. What the fuck? Sorry, but what the fuck? What a fucking asshole. I don't mean that in a bad way." Kjellberg did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and has yet to publicly acknowledge the incident.

In response to Kjellberg's use of a racial slur, a number of video game players and developers have condemned the creator. Sean Vanaman, the co-founder of video game company Campo Santo, decided to use copyright law to push back against Kjellberg. On Twitter, he said he was filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request against the famous YouTuber regarding a video in which Kjellberg plays Campo Santo's game Firewatch. There are compelling reasons to [remove hate speech from major internet platforms] by any means necessary, but DMCA overreach is among the least compelling options, considering that it unilaterally puts power into the hands of what are essentially uninvolved parties and allows for little arbitration or defense on the part of those who have their content removed.

AI

South Park's Season Premier Sets Off Everyone's Amazon Echo (maxim.com) 291

SonicSpike writes: It's hard to believe that Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn't know exactly what they were doing with Wednesday night's season premiere of South Park. This episode marked the beginning of the show's 21st season and as usual, South Park took on current issues like tiki torch-wielding white supremacists and... home digital assistants. The latter meant lots of gags in which Cartman and other characters addressed Amazon Echo's Alexa and Google Home as well. And that ended up being a problem for viewers who own those devices. (Editor's note: example 1, 2) South Park writers absolutely knew their lines would do this and probably had a hilarious time coming up with funny commands for the home assistants.
Music

Apple's 'Shoddy' Beats Headphones Get Slammed In Lawsuit (theregister.co.uk) 190

A lawsuit (PDF) filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, recounts the frustrations of five plaintiffs who found that Apple's Powerbeats 2 and Powerbeats 3 headphones did not perform as advertised. They are also claiming the company is refusing to honor warranty commitments to repair or replace the failed units. The Register reports: The complaint seeks $5,000,000 in damages and class action certification, in order to represent thousands of similarly afflicted Beats customers who are alleged to exist. "In widespread advertising and marketing campaigns, Apple touts that its costly Powerbeats (which retail for $199.95) are 'BUILT TO ENDURE' and are the 'BEST HEADPHONES FOR WORKING OUT,'" the complaint says. "But these costly headphones are neither 'built to endure' nor 'sweat & water resistant,' and certainly do not have a battery that lasts for six or twelve hours. Instead, these shoddy headphones contain a design defect that causes the battery life to diminish and eventually stop retaining a charge."

The complaint attributes the shoddiness of Apple's Powerbeats headphones to cheap components. Citing an estimate in a recent Motley Fool article, the complaint contends that Apple's Beats Solo headphones cost $16.89 to make and retail for $199.95: a markup of more than 1,000 per cent. That figure actually comes from a Medium post by Avery Louie, from hardware prototyping biz Bolt.

Movies

Disney Is Lone Holdout From Apple's Plan to Sell 4K Movies for $20 (wsj.com) 148

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple has signed new deals to sell movies in ultra high-definition with every major Hollywood studio except the one with which it has long been closest: Walt Disney. At an event Tuesday where he announced the new Apple TV 4K, the tech giant's head of software and services, Eddy Cue, said the device will offer Hollywood movies in the high-resolution format, called either 4K or UHD, for ultra-high definition. Logos for most major studios briefly flashed on a screen behind Mr. Cue, including Time Warner's Warner Bros and Comcast's Universal Pictures. Mr. Cue said those studios' movies will be available in UHD at the same price as high-definition movies. Participating studios have agreed to a maximum price of $19.99 for 4K movies, currently the highest price for HD movies, according to a person with knowledge of the deal making. Apple had pushed studios not to raise film prices above that threshold. The one absence from Apple's list of big studios selling movies in UHD is Disney. It wasn't immediately clear why the company behind Star Wars and Marvel couldn't reach an arrangement with Apple. It currently sells its films in 4K on other digital stores, such as Wal-Mart Stores' Vudu, for $24.99.
Star Wars Prequels

J.J. Abrams To Direct Star Wars: Episode IX; Premiere Date Pushed To December 2019 (theverge.com) 221

A week after Jurassic World's Colin Trevorrow was ousted from the Star Wars: Episode IX director's chair, a familiar face has stepped in to replace him: J.J. Abrams, the man responsible for successfully rebooting the new trilogy in 2015 with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. From a report: Disney just pushed back the release of Star Wars: Episode IX from May 2019 to December 2019, Deadline reports. The news comes after an announcement today that J.J. Abrams is taking over from Colin Trevorrow as director of the movie. Episode IX, originally slated to premiere on May 24th, 2019, was supposed to be a return to May release dates for the Star Wars franchise. Back in 2015, The Force Awakens was also originally supposed to be released in the summer, but was moved to a December release after Abrams took over screenwriting duties with Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) and needed more time.
Movies

Rotten Tomatoes Scores Don't Correlate To Box Office Success or Woes, Research Shows (polygon.com) 106

Depending on who you ask, Rotten Tomatoes is the reason some movies don't perform at the box office. From a report: Countless movie executives, including producers, have told Deadline and the New York Times that the number atop a movie's page on Rotten Tomatoes signifying whether the majority of critics enjoyed or disliked a movie rules the box office. Director Brett Ratner was quoted as saying "I think it's the destruction of our business" while others have called for its demise. According to research conducted by Yves Bergquist, director of the Data & Analytics Project at USC's Entertainment Technology Center, that's not correct. Bergquist collected data from 150 movies this year that made more than $1 million at the box office. Using those Box Office Mojo numbers and comparing them to the critic and audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, Bergquist then "looked at [the] correlation between scores and financial performance" to determine if there was a linear line that could be drawn between low scores and bad box office performance. Or, more simply, did a lower "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes equate to box office woes? The short answer is no, it didn't. Bergquist's findings confirmed that of the 150 movies surveyed, there was only a 12 percent correlation between a movie receiving a bad score and not performing well at the box office. Summer films saw even less of a correlation, with seven percent of lower-scored movies not performing at the box office.
Education

The Washington Post Pans Apple-Sponsored School Reform TV Special (washingtonpost.com) 162

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: On Friday night, the Big Four Networks simultaneously aired EIF Presents: XQ Super School Live [YouTube], a commercial-free, one-hour TV special that championed Laurene Powell Jobs' mission to rethink the American high school. The closing credits listed Jobs as an Executive Producer, and noted that the chock-full-of-celebrities special was sponsored in part by her Emerson Collective and Apple.

"Surely Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hanks, Mahershala Ali, Justin Timberlake, Cate Blanchett and a bevy of other celebrities have nothing but laudable intentions by appearing on Friday night's live televised high school reform spectacular on four -- count them, four -- major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox)," writes the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss. "But when an hour of prime time on four networks is purchased, it's fair to ask whether that is a public service or propaganda."

The Post points out gently that "not everyone believes" in the need to "transform" high schools, while theodp notes "viewers were pitched XQ Super School Board Program kits, which XQ's website explains are designed to prepare individuals for a school board candidacy."

If this seems suspiciously political -- or at least a way to ensure schools are friendly to Laurene Powell Jobs' specific proposals -- the nonprofit's web site adds reassuringly that "XQ won't be endorsing or supporting particular candidates; we'll be supporting all candidates who stand with us in a shared commitment to rethink high school, so all young people can be educated as they deserve."
Music

Can Blockchain Save The Music Industry? (wired.com) 129

An anonymous reader quotes Wired: Last fall, a group of music industry heavyweights gathered in New York City to do something they'd mostly failed to do up to that point: work together. Representatives from major labels like Universal, Sony, and Warner sat next to technologists from companies like Spotify, YouTube, and Ideo and discussed the collective issues threatening their industry... The participants of that confab would later form a group called the Open Music Initiative... "Pretty early on it was obvious that there's an information gap in the industry," says Erik Beijnoff, a product developer at Spotify and a member of the OMI.

That "information gap" refers to the data around who helped create a song. Publishers might keep track of who wrote the underlying composition of a song, or the session drummer on a recording, but that information doesn't always show up in a digital file's metadata. This disconnect between the person who composed a song, the person who recorded it, and the subsequent plays, has led to problems like writers and artists not getting paid for their work, and publishers suing streaming companies as they struggle to identify who is owed royalties. "It's a simple question of attribution," says Berklee College of Music's vice president of innovation and strategy, Panos A. Panay. "And payments follow attribution."

Over the last year, members of the OMI -- almost 200 organizations in total -- have worked to develop just that. As a first step, they've created an API that companies can voluntarily build into their systems to help identify key data points like the names of musicians and composers, plus how many times and where tracks are played. This information is then stored on a decentralized database using blockchain technology -- which means no one owns the information, but everyone can access it.

Books

SciFi Author (and Byte Columnist) Jerry Pournelle Has Died (jerrypournelle.com) 221

Long-time Slashdot reader BinBoy writes: Science fiction author and Byte magazine columnist Jerry Pournelle has died according to a statement by his son Alex posted to Jerry's web site. A well-wishing page has been set up for visitor's to post their thoughts and memories of Mr. Pournelle.
Pournelle's literary career included the 1985 science fiction novel Footfall with Larry Niven, which became a #1 New York Times best-seller -- one of several successful collaborations between the two authors. In a Slashdot interview in 2003, Larry Niven credited Jerry for the prominent role of religion in their 1974 book The Mote in God's Eye.

Wikipedia also remembers how Byte magazine announced Pournelle's legendary debut as a columnist in their June 1980 issue.
"The other day we were sitting around the BYTE offices listening to software and hardware explosions going off around us in the microcomputer world. We wondered, "Who could cover some of the latest developments for us in a funny, frank (and sometimes irascible) style?" The phone rang. It was Jerry Pournelle with an idea for a funny, frank (and sometimes irascible) series of articles to be presented in BYTE on a semi-regular (i.e.: every 2 to 3 months) basis, which would cover the wild microcomputer goings-on at the Pournelle House ("Chaos Manor") in Southern California. We said yes."
Slashdot reader tengu1sd fondly remembers Pournelle as "frequently loud, but well reasoned." He also shares a link to a new appreciation posted on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America site. And Slashdot reader Nova Express also remembers Pournelle's Chaos Manor website "later became one of the first blogs on the Internet."
Iphone

Hobbyist Gives iPhone 7 the Headphone Jack We've Always Wanted (engadget.com) 194

intellitech shares a report from Engadget: For those of you who miss the iPhone headphone jack, you're definitely not alone. But Strange Parts creator Scotty Allen missed it so much that he decided to add one to his iPhone 7. He just posted a video of the project's entire saga, with all of its many ups and downs, and in the end he holds what he set out to create -- a current generation iPhone with a fully functional headphone jack. It turns out, real courage is adding the headphone jack back to the iPhone. The project took around 17 weeks to complete and throughout it Allen spent thousands of dollars on parts including multiple iPhones and screens and handfuls of lightning to headphone adaptors. Along the way, Allen bought a printer, a nice microscope and fancy tweezers. He had to design his own circuit boards, have a company manufacture multiple iterations of flexible circuit boards and at one point early on had to consult with a chip dealer that a friend hooked him up with.

The final product works by using a lightning to headphone adaptor that's incorporated into the internal structure of the phone. However, because the headphone jack is powered via the phone's lightning jack with a circuit board switching between the two depending on whether headphones or a charger are plugged into the phone, you can't actually listen to music and charge the phone at the same time.

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."

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