Movies

Stan Lee's Stolen Blood Was Used To Sign Marvel Comic Books (tmz.com) 134

ISoldat53 writes: Someone stole a sample of Stan Lee's blood and stamped comic books with it to increase their value. TMZ reports: "We've learned several 'Black Panther' comic books are currently available at the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. store on the Las Vegas Strip. Each edition comes with a certificate of authentication that details the item as a 'Hand-Stamped Signature of STAN LEE using Stan Lee's Solvent DNA Ink.' Stan's friend and partner Keya Morgan discovered the 95-year-old's blood was allegedly stolen back in October after a former business associate presented Lee's nurse with fake docs that authorized that a sample be drawn. Our sources say the nurse pulled enough blood from Stan for him to feel lightheaded and dizzy. We're told the 'Black Panther' comic with Stan's Hancock in blue is selling for $250. The one in gold is twice that at $500. Stan's legal team is currently weighing its options to go after the former business associate who allegedly lifted Lee's blood." Evan Michailidis, a legal rep for the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. tells TMZ, "We're a retail store which purchased product from Hands of Respect LLC and DLK Brand Consulting LLC that appeared certified and obtained with authorization. The books were removed from our shelves immediately."
Movies

The 50th Anniversary of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" 206

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the original release of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," a seminal film in motion picture history and one that has awed millions over the years. Kubrick's title has often been credited with paving the way for science-fiction films that took a realistic approach to depicting the future. Even as "2001" has grown to become one of the most iconic movies of all time, the reception it received when it originally premiered wasn't good. An excerpt: The film's previews were an unmitigated disaster. Its story line encompassed an exceptional temporal sweep, starting with the initial contact between pre-human ape-men and an omnipotent alien civilization and then vaulting forward to later encounters between Homo sapiens and the elusive aliens, represented throughout by the film's iconic metallic-black monolith. Although featuring visual effects of unprecedented realism and power, Kubrick's panoramic journey into space and time made few concessions to viewer understanding. The film was essentially a nonverbal experience. Its first words came only a good half-hour in.

Audience walkouts numbered well over 200 at the New York premiere on April 3, 1968, and the next day's reviews were almost uniformly negative. Writing in the Village Voice, Andrew Sarris called the movie "a thoroughly uninteresting failure and the most damning demonstration yet of Stanley Kubrick's inability to tell a story coherently and with a consistent point of view." And yet that afternoon, a long line -- comprised predominantly of younger people -- extended down Broadway, awaiting the first matinee.
The Cannes Film Festival will celebrate the 50th anniversary of "2001: A Space Odyssey" with the world premiere of an unrestored 70mm print, introduced by Christopher Nolan. The event is set for May 12 as part of the Cannes Classics program. The screening will also be attended by members of Kubrick's family, including his daughter Katharina Kubrick and his longtime producing partner and brother-in-law Jan Harlan.

Further reading: Why 2001: A Space Odyssey's mystery endures, 50 years on (CNET); 50 years of 2001: A Space Odyssey -- how Kubrick's sci-fi 'changed the very form of cinema' (The Guardian); The story of a voice: HAL in '2001' wasn't always so eerily calm (The New York Times); and The most intriguing theories about "2001: A Space Odyssey" (io9); and Behind the scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the strangest blockbuster in Hollywood history (Vanity Fair).
Software

Valve Removes Steam Machines From Its Home Page (extremetech.com) 164

Steam Machines were supposed to take PC gaming mainstream by simplifying setup and moving the games in your living room, but they never took off. Today, ExtremeTech reports that Valve has removed Steam Machine listings from the Steam front page due to poor sales. From the report: You can still access what remains of the Steam Machine landing site via a direct link -- not that you'll see much when you get there. It lists only five devices, one of which is no longer available on the manufacturer's site. Several of the remaining systems are arguably not even Steam Machines as Valve envisioned -- they run Windows 10 instead of SteamOS. The final nail in the coffin for Steam Machines may have come from Valve itself. In late 2015, it released the Steam Link. It's a small box that you plug into a TV, allowing you to stream a game from your PC in real time. The original price was just $50, and Valve is basically giving them away right now. Valve is still developing SteamOS, but I don't expect that to go on much longer.
It's funny.  Laugh.

April Fool's Day Roundup 95

It might be a holiday for most of us today, but for tech companies, April Fool's is the day when they work overtime to send weird press releases. So far we have seen Google Maps help users find Waldo, and Google Australia rethink its brand name (to Googz). T-Mobile has revivedthe Sidekick as the world's first smart shoe phone. Google has also added a feature to its file manager app Files Go that detects bad jokes from your phone. Snapchat has finally found a way to make fun of Facebook. Languages learning app Duolingo has launched a range of craft beers. Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus has launched a cryptocurrency. Some more here. What's your favorite prank so far today?
Businesses

Amazon's Music Storage Service Will Remove MP3 Files on April 30 (theverge.com) 64

Amazon announced last year that it intends to shut down its dedicated cloud music locker. Now, the company has elaborated on its thinking. From a report: In an email to Amazon Music users, the company says uploaded songs will be removed from a user's library on April 30th, 2018. You can however keep any music in the cloud by proactively going to your Music Settings and clicking the "Keep my songs" button. Back in December, Amazon stopped letting users upload new tracks to Music Storage, which holds up to 250 songs for free. The company said at the time that by January 2019, users wouldn't be able to download or stream tracks they've uploaded to Music Storage, so it sounds like you'll still have many months between April and next January to get your music downloaded and onto a different storage platform or hard drive.
Software

VR Researchers Manipulate Human Visual System To Create An Infinite Corridor In a Fixed Space (roadtovr.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Road to VR: This video showcases a new redirected walking implementation project that creates an "unlimited" virtual corridor in a space just 5 x 7 meters in size. Redirected walking (RDW) is a technique which aims to maximize the physical space of a virtual reality play space by tricking your senses. Or, "strongly modifying spatial perception" so that your mind believes, for example, that you're body is traveling in a straight line where in reality, it's traversing a carefully calculated curved course to keep that play space small. At SIGGRAPH last week, a project developed in part by Unity Product Evangelist and Education Lead Yohei Yanase at the University of Tokyo was present, featuring a new "Visuo-Haptic" VR experience which claims to create the illusion via an infinite virtual corridor within an actual physical play space of just 5 x 7 meters in size.

"It works by strongly modifying spatial perception, all while avoiding the typical "reorientation" manipulation methods that most often cause VR motion sickness," states a press release, "And it's designed to let multiple people experience it simultaneously, without risk of bumping into each other. Modern techniques like this could represent the next phase in VR navigation, merging virtual with physical environments to extend the comfort of VR sessions and extensibility of virtual environments."

Music

Google Home Can Now Control Your Bluetooth Speakers (theverge.com) 33

Google Home speakers can now play music and other audio on the Bluetooth speakers you might have around the house. "We brought this feature to life after hearing how much you wanted to amp up the sound with your Google Home Mini," the company said in a blog announcement. "Now any of your Google Home devices can connect to other Bluetooth speakers so you can control your entertainment experience simply using the sound of your voice." The Verge reports: You can also add your existing Bluetooth speakers to Google Home groups for multi-room audio, which is where this might prove handy for Home Max users. You can pair a Bluetooth speaker with Google Home in the device settings section of the Home app. Just set it as your default speaker. Your Home device will still listen for your commands, but will route all audio through the connected Bluetooth speaker. This doesn't magically give those paired speakers Google Assistant's smarts, though. "You'll still need to talk to your Google Home device -- not the connected Bluetooth speakers -- for queries like asking questions, getting weather updates, and using smart home commands."
Graphics

Ask Slashdot: How Did Real-Time Ray Tracing Become Possible With Today's Technology? 145

dryriver writes: There are occasions where multiple big tech manufacturers all announce the exact same innovation at the same time -- e.g. 4K UHD TVs. Everybody in broadcasting and audiovisual content creation knew that 4K/8K UHD and high dynamic range (HDR) were coming years in advance, and that all the big TV and screen manufacturers were preparing 4K UHD HDR product lines because FHD was beginning to bore consumers. It came as no surprise when everybody had a 4K UHD product announcement and demo ready at the same time. Something very unusual happened this year at GDC 2018 however. Multiple graphics and GPU companies, like Microsoft, Nvidia, and AMD, as well as other game developers and game engine makers, all announced that real-time ray tracing is coming to their mass-market products, and by extension, to computer games, VR content and other realtime 3D applications.

Why is this odd? Because for many years any mention of 30+ FPS real-time ray tracing was thought to be utterly impossible with today's hardware technology. It was deemed far too computationally intensive for today's GPU technology and far too expensive for anything mass market. Gamers weren't screaming for the technology. Technologists didn't think it was doable at this point in time. Raster 3D graphics -- what we have in DirectX, OpenGL and game consoles today -- was very, very profitable and could easily have evolved further the way it has for another 7 to 8 years. And suddenly there it was: everybody announced at the same time that real-time ray tracing is not only technically possible, but also coming to your home gaming PC much sooner than anybody thought. Working tech demos were shown. What happened? How did real-time ray tracing, which only a few 3D graphics nerds and researchers in the field talked about until recently, suddenly become so technically possible, economically feasible, and so guaranteed-to-be-profitable that everybody announced this year that they are doing it?
Movies

Netflix Banned From Competing At Cannes Film Festival Due To Lack of Theatrical Releases (theverge.com) 120

Netflix has been banned from competing in the Cannes Film Festival, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. "Theirry Fremaux, the head of Cannes, told THR last week the ban is because Netflix refuses to release its films in theaters, choosing instead to debut them on its streaming service and, in some rare cases, do day-and-date releases so the film can be seen both online and off," reports The Verge. From the report: In the case of Bong Joon-ho's Okja and Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories -- films that were entered into last year's Cannes to widespread protest from French filmmakers -- Netflix was unable to secure last-minute permits for one-week theatrical releases due to French media regulations. "Last year, when we selected these two films, I thought I could convince Netflix to release them in cinemas. I was presumptuous, they refused," Fremaux told THR. "The Netflix people loved the red carpet and would like to be present with other films. But they understand that the intransigence of their own model is now the opposite of ours." Starting with this year's Cannes, which takes place in May, films screened in competition will need to have a French theatrical release. Netflix is still allowed to show films at Cannes, Fremaux added, but its films will not be eligible for the prestigious Palme d'Or.
Sci-Fi

Amazon Plans Blockbuster TV Series Based On Chinese Sci-Fi Trilogy 'The Three-Body Problem' (medium.com) 158

hackingbear writes from a report: Amazon is reportedly likely to earmark $1 billion for a television series (Warning: source paywalled, alternative source) based on the ultra-popular Chinese science fiction trilogy The Three Body Problem. The American video subscription service will likely acquire the rights to the Yugo-winning, extremely popular trilogy of novels written by Liu Cixin and produce three seasons of episodes. The rights to the trilogy are currently owned by Lin Qi, the chairman of Youzu Interactive, a Chinese developer and publisher that typically focuses on online and mobile games.
The Courts

Pirate Music Site's Owner Sentenced to Five Years in Prison (torrentfreak.com) 101

An anonymous reader shares an update on Artur Sargsyan, who owned the music-pirating site Sharebeast as well as Newjams and Albumjams. TorrentFreak reports: Thursday a U.S. District Judge sentenced the 30-year-old to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and more than $642,000 in restitution and forfeiture... The RIAA claimed that ShareBeast was the largest illegal file-sharing site operating in the United States... "Millions of users accessed songs from ShareBeast each month without one penny of compensation going to countless artists, songwriters, labels and others who created the music," RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman commented at the time...

If Sargsyan had responded to takedown notices more positively, it's possible that things may have progressed in a different direction. The RIAA sent the site more than 100 copyright-infringement emails over a three-year period but to no effect. This led the music industry group to get out its calculator and inform the Deparmtment of Justice that the total monetary loss to its member companies was "a conservative" $6.3 billion "gut-punch" to music creators who were paid nothing by the service... "His reproduction of copyrighted musical works were made available only to generate undeserved profits for himself," said U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak. "The incredible work done by our law enforcement partners and prosecutors in light of the complexity of Sargsyan's operation demonstrates that we will employ all of our resources to stop this kind of theft."

David J. LaValley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said "His sentence sends a message that no matter how complex the operation, the FBI, its federal partners and law enforcement partners around the globe will go to every length to protect the property of hard working artists and the companies that produce their art."

Today if you visit ShareBeast.com or AlbumJams.com, they display an "FBI anti-piracy warning" image notifying visitors the domain has been seized, adding "Willful copyright infringement is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders of up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution." The image is surrounded by a red border with the word "seized" written over and over again.
Music

Spotify Says 2 Million Users Hacked Apps To Suppress Ads On Its Free Service (engadget.com) 62

Earlier this month, Spotify revealed that it had begun cracking down on people using hacked versions of apps. These apps allowed users with free accounts to suppress advertising and take advantage of paid features. Now, Spotify has disclosed just how many people have been taking advantage of this hack: around 2 million users. Engadget reports: That's not an insignificant number, and it's understandable why Spotify is cracking down on them. As the company explains in an amended F1 filing with the SEC this week, these users forced the company to adjust its metrics and key performance indicators. The disclosure notes, "Unauthorized access to our Service may cause us to misstate key performance indicators, which once discovered, corrected, and disclosed, could undermine investor confidence in the integrity of our key performance indicators and could cause our stock price to drop significantly." As a result, Spotify has adjusted its monthly active users from 159 million at the end of 2017 to 157 million.
Sci-Fi

Ask Slashdot: Is Beaming Down In Star Trek a Death Sentence? 593

Artem Tashkinov writes: Some time ago, Ars Technica ran a monumental article on beaming of consciousness in Star Trek and its implications, and more importantly, whether it's plausible to achieve that without killing a person in the process.

It seems possible in the Star Trek universe. However, currently physicists find the idea absurd and unreal because there's no way you can transport matter and its quantum state without first destroying it and then recreating it perfectly, due to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. The biggest conundrum of all is the fact that pretty much everyone understands that consciousness is a physical state of the brain, which features continuity as its primary principle; yet it surely seems like copying the said state produces a new person altogether, which brings up the problem of consciousness becoming local to one's skull and inseparable from gray matter. This idea sounds a bit unscientific because it introduces the notion that there's something about our brain which cannot be described in terms of physics, almost like soul.

This also brings another very difficult question: how do we know if we are the same person when we wake up in the morning or after we were put under during general anesthesia? What are your thoughts on the topic?
Businesses

MoviePass' Low Subscription Price Just Got Lower (hollywoodreporter.com) 96

In a move to lure new subscribers, MoviePass has dropped the price of its monthly subscription service from about $10 per month to just under $7. From a report: The company said for $6.95 per month, new subscribers will get one movie ticket per day, a minor catch being that users must pay for a year up-front. There is also a one-time $6.55 processing fee. It's the umpteenth time that MoviePass has changed its price since launching six years ago at $40 per month (before raising it to $50), most significantly eight months ago when it was cut to just $9.95. The change had the desired effect, as subscribers swelled from 20,000 then to nearly 3 million today. Still, MoviePass is not without its critics, as some theater chains -- most notably AMC -- have criticized the service for allegedly cheapening the moviegoing experience. Also, industry executives worry that MoviePass cannot survive (it pays mostly full price for the movie tickets its subscribers use) and wonder if users that are left in the lurch when it folds will ever want to pay $9 (the average price in the U.S.) per ticket again.
Music

CDs, Vinyl Are Outselling Digital Downloads For the First Time Since 2011 (mercurynews.com) 136

Digital downloads had a short run as the top-selling format in the music industry. It took until 2011, a decade after the original iPod came out, for their sales surpass those of CDs and vinyl records, and they were overtaken by music streaming services just a few years later. Now, digital downloads are once again being outsold by CDs and vinyl, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. From a report: The RIAA released its 2017 year-end revenue report on Thursday, showing that revenue from digital downloads plummeted 25 percent to $1.3 billion over the previous year. Revenue from physical products, by contrast, fell just 4 percent to $1.5 billion. Overall, the music industry grew for a second year straight. And with $8.7 billion in total revenue, it's healthier than it has been since 2008, according to the report. Nearly all of the growth was the result of the continued surge in paid music subscription services like Spotify and Apple Music. Those services grew by more than 50 percent to $5.7 billion last year and accounted for nearly two-thirds of the industry's revenue. Physical media accounted for 17 percent, while digital downloads made up just 15 percent.

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