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Media

West Point Researchers Demonstrate Passive Netflix Traffic Analysis Attack (threatpost.com) 64

hypercard writes: Researchers from West Point recently presented research on a real-time passive analysis of Netflix traffic. The paper, entitled "Identifying HTTPS-Protected Netflix Videos in Real-Time" is based on research conducted by Andrew Reed, Michael Kranch and Benjamin Klimkowski. The team's technique demonstrates frighteningly accurate results based solely on information captured from TCP/IP headers. Even with the recent upgrade to HTTPS, their technique was effective at identifying the correct video with greater than 99.99 percent accuracy against their database of over 42,000 videos. "When tested against 200 random 20-minute video streams, our system identified 99.5 percent of the videos with the majority of the identifications occurring less than two and a half minutes into the video stream," the paper reads. However, there are important points to note. First, the attack described only applies to streams still using Silverlight. Additionally, an attacker would likely need significant resources and access to intercept, fingerprint and process the traffic in real time. Netflix has reacted positively to the team's research and acknowledged the issue as a known drawback to processing video streams with HTTPS.
Advertising

Broadcasters Put New Ad-Skipping Restrictions On YouTube TV (dslreports.com) 227

YouTube launched its new "YouTube TV" service last week for select markets. One of the biggest features for the service is its DVR functionality, which would in theory allow users to record shows and fast forward through all the commercials. Unfortunately, that is not the case, notes the Wall Street Journal. Karl Bode writes via DSLReports: If a show is available on-demand, viewers won't be able to skip ads, even if they recorded the episode on DVR. Google has confirmed with the Journal that the restriction is courtesy of the licensing agreements the broadcast industry forced Google to adhere to in order to offer the service. As a result, if YouTube TV has the on-demand version of a specific program you may be interested in, then the service won't let viewers watch a recorded version that allows for ad-skipping. Instead, viewers are forced to watch the on-demand episode and all of the ads, even if consumers thought they saved the show on their DVR for ad-skippable viewing.
Canada

Canada Hid the Konami Code In Its Commemorative $10 Bill Launch (engadget.com) 78

The Bank of Canada has hid a "Konami Code" Easter egg on its website celebrating their new $10 bank note. The Konami Code is a cheat code that appears in many Konami video games, allowing players to press a sequence of buttons on their game controller to enable the cheat. "The Bank of Canada's web team thought the Konami code [Easter egg] was a fun way to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation," Bank of Canada spokeswoman Josianne Menard told CTV news. Engadget reports: On top of being laden with anti-counterfeiting tech that makes it extremely difficult to copy (holograms, raised ink, color-changing images and polymer materials), the new ten is a who's who and what's what of Canadian history. It features Canada's founding Prime Minister John A. MacDonald, Agnes Macphail, first woman parliamentarian, and Indigenous peoples pioneer James Gladstone, known in his Blackfoot language as Akay-na-muka. It also shows Canada's prairies, the coastal mountains of British Columbia, the Canadian Shield, Atlantic coast, northern lights, Metis Assomption Sash, maple leaf and much more (no poutine, though). All of that is squeezed on the 152.4 x 69.85 mm note -- that's exactly 6 x 2.75 inches, because Canada uses the metric system but probably still buys its printing presses from the U.S. The Konami code is in keeping with Canada's tradition of doing cute, pop-culture things with its history.
DRM

The Kodi Development Team Wants To Be Legitimate and Bring DRM To the Platform. (torrentfreak.com) 156

New submitter pecosdave writes: The XBMC/ Kodi development team has taken a lot of heat over the years, mostly due to third-party developers introducing piracy plugins to the platform. In many cases, cheap Android computers are often sold with these plugins pre-installed with the Kodi or XBMC name attached to them -- something that caused Amazon to ban sales of such devices. The Kodi team is not happy about this, and has taken the fight to the sellers. The Kodi team is now trying to work with rights holders to introduce DRM and legitimate plugins to the platform. Is this the first step towards creating a true one-stop do it yourself Linux entertainment system?
Music

As Streaming Booms, Songs Are Getting Faster and Shorter (japantoday.com) 173

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new study finds that pop songs are getting faster as listeners' attention spans diminish. Instrumental openings to songs have shrunk dramatically over the past three decades and, to a lesser extent, the average tempo of hit singles has been speeding up, the research found. Hubert Leveille Gauvin, a doctoral student in music theory at the Ohio State University, analyzed the year-end top 10 on the US Billboard chart between 1986 and 2015. In 1986, it took roughly 23 seconds before the voice began on the average hit song. In 2015, vocals came in after about five seconds, a drop of 78%, he found. In a study published in Musicae Scientiae, the Journal of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, Leveille Gauvin linked the trend to the rapid rise of Spotify and other streaming sites that give listeners instant access to millions of songs. "It makes sense that if the environment is so competitive, artists would want to try to grab your attention as quickly as possible," he told AFP.
Businesses

TV's Golden Age Is Anything But, Say Writers Preparing To Strike (bloomberg.com) 200

The world's largest media companies returned to the negotiating table Monday with Hollywood screenwriters, seeking to avert a strike that could cost the entertainment industry billions of dollars and take popular TV shows off the air indefinitely. From a report on Bloomberg: Hollywood is bracing for the worst-case scenario after the Writers Guild of America warned advertisers and investors of the financial fallout and said members will most likely walk out May 2 if the new round of talks fail. Major TV programmers, such as NBC and CBS' flagship network, are scanning their slates of upcoming shows to determine which ones can air without guild writers. Negotiators on both sides are counting on cooler heads to prevail as they seek to avoid a repeat of the 100-day work stoppage in 2007-08 that cost the entertainment industry more than $2 billion, according to Milken Institute estimates. Yet the entertainment business, specifically TV, has undergone myriad changes that are creating new sticking points since the last strike almost a decade ago, and the writers say they haven't benefited.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Minecraft Set To Launch Its Own Currency (bloomberg.com) 67

Minecraft's popularity shows no signs of slowing down. Microsoft, which acquired the game's maker, Mojang, in 2014, has recently launched the game in China and continues to market it well in the U.S. The next big step for the game is the introduction of a new marketplace and brand new currency -- within the game itself. What this does is it "[opens] up the opportunity for businesses to sell their original content and creations to tens of millions of the game's players for the first time," writes Nate Lanxon via Bloomberg. From the report: Set to go live in the spring, nine businesses will be selling feature packs within Minecraft -- such as new storylines, in-game activities or landscapes to explore -- with prices ranging between about $1 and $10 per creation. Other companies can apply to be allowed into the marketplace over subsequent months. Users wishing to purchase content will need to buy a form of new currency -- Minecraft Coins. A store within the game does already exist but is limited to only items created by the Minecraft development team. The change to allow third-party developers to sell their wares within the same ecosystem opens up an entirely new business model for independent creatives.
Businesses

China's LeEco Calls Off Its $2 Billion Purchase of TV Maker Vizio (axios.com) 25

Last year, China's conglomerate LeEco announced it would be acquiring TV maker Vizio for a sum of $2 billion. The move would have given LeEco, which is increasingly expanding its business beyond Chinese market, an instant foothold in the United States. But today, both companies announced they are cancelling the plan due to "regulatory headwinds." In a statement, the companies said: We continue to believe that there is great synergy between the two companies, and are pleased to announce that LeEco and Vizio have reached an agreement that is a win for both companies ... LeEco and Vizio will continue to explore opportunities to incorporate the Le app and content within the Vizio connected CE platform, and engage in a collaborative partnership to leverage LeEco's ecosystem user interface platform, along with the brand's exclusive content and distribution channels, to bring Vizio products to the China market. The announcement comes amid troubled times for both the companies. On one hand, LeEco is struggling financially. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that the company had delayed payroll for its US employees. Vizio was thrown under the bus in February after FTC fined the company $2.2 million to settle a case involving the TVs' data collection techniques.
Education

Over 90% of College Students Today Regularly Use Netflix, But Only 34% Are Actually Paying For Their Own Account (streamingobserver.com) 55

According to a new survey from LendEDU, more than 90% of today's college students have access to a Netflix account they regularly use, while only 8% who responded to the survey said they don't have a Netflix account. What some may find even more surprising is that of the 90% of students who have access to Netflix, only 34% of them are actually paying for their own Netflix account. Streaming Observer News reports: That actually goes right in line with numbers from Piper Jaffray that showed almost 40% of teens watch Netflix every single day. Their closest competitors, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, each came in at just 3% each for daily use. Of course, that doesn't mean they're all paying for Netflix. 54% of respondents to LendEDU's survey said they use a family member's or friend's account, and 5% more said they used a boyfriend/girlfriend or ex's account. While only 34% of college students are actually paying for their own Netflix account, that's apparently not too big of a concern for Netflix, who has taken a relatively lax attitude towards password sharing in recent years.
Games

Two Studies Suggesting a Link Between Violent Video Games, Real-Life Behavior Have Been Retracted (qz.com) 174

Keith Collins reports via Quartz: In the first three months of 2017, academic journals retracted two papers that suggested a link between violent video games and real-life behavior. The first, entitled "Boom, Headshot!" was published in the Journal of Communication Research in 2012 and, after years of controversy, retracted last January. That study looked at the "effect of video game play and controller type on firing aim and accuracy," and found that playing first-person shooter games can train a player to become a better marksman in real life. Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University, found some inconsistencies in the data published in the study. In January 2015, he and a colleague alerted Ohio State University, where the authors of the paper conducted the research. The lead author of the study, psychology professor Brad Bushman, emailed an official at OSU a month later, suggesting the allegations were part of a smear campaign against him and his co-author, according to Retraction Watch. Last January, the Journal of Communication Research retracted the paper. Bushman had agreed to the retraction, and began an attempt to re-do the original study with a larger sample size. A paper published in Gifted Child Quarterly in 2016, authored by Bushman and three others, caught the attention of Joseph Hilgard, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. The paper had studied the "effects of violent media on verbal task performance in gifted and general cohort children," and found that when children watched a violent cartoon for 12 minutes, their verbal skills dropped substantially for a temporary period. What surprised Hilgard most, according to an interview with Retraction Watch, was the sheer size of the effect. Hilgard said that OSU, Bushman, and others he spoke with about the study were helpful and forthcoming, but could not provide information on the study's data collection process. The author who collected the data, it turned out, lived in Turkey and fell out of contact following the recent coup attempt. Last week, Gifted Child Quarterly retracted the paper.
Television

YouTube Launches 'YouTube TV' In Select Markets (phonedog.com) 62

In late February, YouTube unveiled its live TV service called YouTube TV, which offers live TV streaming over the internet for $35 per month with no long-term contract required. The company has officially launched the service today in five select markets: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, and Philadelphia. YouTube says that more markets are coming soon, however, details on when/where are scarce. PhoneDog reports: A membership to YouTube TV costs $35 per month and includes live streaming of channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, and others. Subscribers also get an unlimited cloud DVR for recording shows that'll last up to nine months, and six accounts that each get their own recommendations and cloud DVRs. YouTube is offering a free one-month trial of YouTube TV so that everyone can give it a try. After your first paid month, YouTube will give you a Google Chromecast to thank you for sticking with the service. Source: YouTube Official Blog
Music

Spotify Premium Users Will Get Some Albums Two Weeks Before Free Users (theverge.com) 46

Spotify has signed a long-term licensing agreement with Universal Music Group, allowing new albums from Universal artists to be restricted to its premium service for up to two weeks. The Verge reports: In a statement, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek admitted that Spotify understands that its policy of releasing albums across its entire service couldn't last forever. "We know that not every album by every artist should be released the same way, and we've worked hard with UMG to develop a new, flexible release policy," Ek stated. "Starting today, Universal artists can choose to release new albums on premium only for two weeks, offering subscribers an earlier chance to explore the complete creative work, while the singles are available across Spotify for all our listeners to enjoy." The agreement with UMG should allow for deals with Spotify's other two major label partners, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Group, to be completed in short order -- deals that likely will match the parameters set in the Spotify-UMG deal -- paving the way for Spotify's initial public offering.
Movies

A Case For Why Movie-Theater Experience Is Still Worth the Effort (theverge.com) 370

It's all but confirmed that major Hollywood studios are chalking out plans to make movies available in the home mere weeks after their theatrical debuts. Some director and producers, including Christopher Nolan of Inception, The Dark Knight, The Prestige and Interstellar fame are seemingly opposed to the idea, urging people to watch movies at the theaters for "best experience." The Verge has an article today in which it lists 10 reasons it thinks people should not stop going to the cinema halls. From the article, condensed for space:
1. The big screen. There's something to be said about watching visual storytelling on a three-story screen, particularly when the film really takes advantage of the format.
2. People everywhere. A group of people laughing together simultaneously triggers a feeling that you should laugh, too; during a suspenseful moment, you can feel dozens of strangers suck in their breath together.
3. Focus. Even people who try their hardest to give a movie their undivided attention on a living-room screen have fallen victim to temptations like "Well, I'm just sitting here, I might as well pay the electric bill."
4. Relentlessness. Part of the advantage of that kind of focus is that movies that are tense, scary, or deeply emotional can cast much more of a spell over you when you don't have the option to pause or turn away from the worst, then rewind later to catch it safely out of context.
5. A massive speaker system.
6. Previews.
7. Disruption. A problem with watching movies at home is that it makes the film-watching experience blur into the same experience as surfing cable channels, running a Netflix comedy show in the background while you do dishes, or half-assedly watching an Adventure Time marathon while stoned.
8. Alone time. Going to the movies with friends or your significant other can be a cherished pastime, especially when you're surrounded by an excited audience.
9. 32 ounces of cola in the dark.
10. Bragging rights.

Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Consoles Are Reportedly Warping When Docked (independent.co.uk) 110

When the Nintendo Switch was launched in early March, some users complained about dead or stuck pixels, which Nintendo later dismissed as being "normal." We're now approaching the one-month mark and some users are reporting that the console can warp when it's been docked for an extended period of gaming. The Independent reports: [Reddit] User _NSR has posted a picture of a bent Switch online, alongside a message reading, "The Nintendo Switch is starting to warp while only being in dock mode." _NSR expanded on the issue in further comments, explaining, "It does get very hot, considering how small the system is and it is outputting Breath of the Wild for long periods of time on a big screen, it may be too much for it to handle. I'm wondering if it being docked is the problem though, most of my time has been on the dock, and it has to work harder to output to a larger screen. Luckily it hasn't affected the way that it plays, the lack of disc drive is definitely a good thing here." Fellow Reddit users have offered multiple possible explanations for the warp, with battery issues and thermal expansion being suggested. Another Switch user, Magnaha23, backed up _NSR's claim, commenting, "I actually checked my Switch after seeing this. It's starting to do the exact same thing just not as bad as yours yet. I called Nintendo and got a repair set up in like 10 minutes. "I got a prepaid label for overnight shipping. Once they get it it takes a few days to process and repair. If they can repair the unit, which if the whole thing is warped they probably can't, they will send back. Otherwise, they will transfer my data over to a new unit and send that back. They said 6-8 business days once they get my Switch. We shall see..." Other people on the thread, however, say they haven't noticed any warping despite using it for lengthy gaming sessions while docked.
Movies

Netflix Now Lets You Download Videos Onto Your PC (pcworld.com) 60

Netflix now offers offline streaming via its Windows 10 PC application, meaning you'll have even more options wherever you're stuck without Internet access. From a report: Netflix added the offline viewing options as part of the most recent update to the Netflix app on Windows 10. Because the Windows Store doesn't show you what version of the Netflix app you're using, just make sure you check for updates using the large blue button in the upper-right corner of the Windows Store app to receive the latest version. You won't need the Creators Update to take advantage of the new feature, either. When you open the app, Netflix will show you a large splash screen that advertises the new "download and go" capability. Unfortunately, if you click the Find me something to download button, the Netflix app doesn't currently display a list of downloadable titles; you'll have to hunt them down yourself. Netflix introduced the same capability on iOS and Android late last year. It's a bold move by Netflix to bring this feature to desktop. There is always the risk of someone finding out a way to break the DRM and easily distribute the files.

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