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."
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.

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