Music

The Failed Experiment of the Digital Album Booklet (theoutline.com) 82

An anonymous reader writes: Before the ubiquity of MP3s and streaming platforms, one of the many small joys of buying a new album on CD was slipping the booklet out of the jewel case and reading the liner notes, credits, and lyrics while the music played for the first time. These days, the biographical information, album production notes, promotional photos, and printed lyrics that fans once relied on physical literature for have found homes in other areas online. Artist websites, social media accounts, and sites like Genius and WhoSampled offer a patchwork of album information, like credits and clues to what happened behind the scenes. But those details rarely exist in one place, and production and songwriting credits seem less and less important. Meanwhile, the form that was intended to replace the traditional booklet, the digital booklet, remains a rarity when it comes to new releases. The idea of digital album booklets may appeal to only the nerdiest of music fans, for whom having everything in one place is a ritualistic way to listen to music and for whom album credits are crucial. But in an age where branding is often as important as skill, the lack of digital booklets feels like a wasted opportunity for artists wanting to communicate directly to fans without a social network as a middleman.
Businesses

Google Releases Study Defending YouTube's Value To Music Biz; Trade Bodies Hit Back (billboard.com) 80

The ongoing tussle between YouTube and the music industry took a new turn this week when Google assured everyone that its video platform doesn't have any negative impact on the other streaming music services -- despite all the free music it offers. From a report: A Google-commissioned report into how YouTube impacts on the wider music economy has -- somewhat unsurprisingly -- found that the hugely popular, yet much-maligned platform significantly drives sales and stops users from visiting pirate music services. According to a European study carried out by RBB Economics, if music content was removed from YouTube around 85 percent of the time that users spend on the platform would switch to lower value channels, such as TV, radio or internet radio. RBB claimed there would also be a significant increase in time spent listening to pirated content (up 29 percent), while only 15 percent of heavy users, defined as someone who watches more than 20 hours of music videos per month, would switch to higher value offerings like subscription streaming services. In the U.K., that number increases to 19 percent; in France it's 12 percent. [...] In response, music trade bodies poured scorn on the paper's findings. "Google's latest publicity push once again seeks to distract from the fact that YouTube, essentially the world's largest on-demand music service, is failing to license music on a fair basis and compensate artists and producers properly by claiming it is not liable for the music it is making available," reads a statement from IFPI. "Services like YouTube, that are not licensing music on fair terms, hinder the development of a sustainably healthy digital music market," claimed the international trade body, repeating its regular call for tighter regulation around safe harbour licensing.
AI

Star Trek Bridge Crew Gets IBM Watson-Powered Voice Commands (theverge.com) 61

PolygamousRanchKid writes: Star Trek Bridge Crew -- the VR game that puts you in the slip-on space shoes of a Starfleet officer -- already emphasizes vocal communication when you're playing with real humans, but it will soon allow you to use your voice to issue orders to computer-controlled characters, too. The feature has been made possible using IBM's VR Speech Sandbox. The software combines IBM Watson's Speech to Text and Conversation services with the company's Unity SDK, using the natural language processing capabilities of IBM's Watson software to parse your barked commands, and allow AI-controlled characters to act on them. Players will be able to launch photon torpedoes, jump to warp speed, or lock S-foils in attack formation (maybe not that last one) by requesting that your crew members push the relevant blinking buttons on their own command consoles. The feature will go live in beta form this summer, soon after the game's release on May 30th, and will allow players to complete missions across VR platforms and with a mixture of human and AI teammates.

Slashdot reader PolygamousRanchKid adds: "Let's just skip all that stuff, and cut right to the part where Kirk gets the girl... How well it actually works in practice, we'll see this summer, aboard our own starships. "Scotty, beam up the IBM stock price!" -- Posterior Admiral Ginni Rometty

Piracy

Spotify Used 'Pirate' MP3 Files In Its Early Days: Report (torrentfreak.com) 44

According to Rasmus Fleischer, one of the early The Pirate Bay figures, Spotify used unlicensed music in its early days. From a report: "Spotify's beta version was originally a pirate service. It was distributing MP3 files that the employees happened to have on their hard drives," he reveals. Rumors that early versions of Spotify used 'pirate' MP3s have been floating around the Internet for years. People who had access to the service in the beginning later reported downloading tracks that contained 'Scene' labeling, tags, and formats, which are the tell-tale signs that content hadn't been obtained officially. Solid proof has been more difficult to come by but Fleischer says he knows for certain that Spotify was using music obtained not only from pirate sites, but the most famous pirate site of all.
Input Devices

Facebook Closes Its Oculus VR Studio (bbc.com) 72

puddingebola writes: Facebook has closed Oculus VR Studio. The studio was a maker of original VR films, but now will only assist other studios. This makes it official, as the studio had been shuttered since the departure of Palmer Luckey.
In a blog post the company emphasized that "We're still absolutely committed to growing the VR film and creative content ecosystem."
Music

Fedora Will Get Full Mp3 Support, As IIS Fraunhofer Terminates Mp3 Licensing Program (fedoramagazine.org) 133

An anonymous reader quotes Fedora Magazine: Both MP3 encoding and decoding will soon be officially supported in Fedora. Last November the patents covering MP3 decoding expired and Fedora Workstation enabled MP3 decoding via the mpg123 library and GStreamer... The MP3 codec and Open Source have had a troubled relationship over the past decade, especially within the United States. Historically, due to licensing issues Fedora has been unable to include MP3 decoding or encoding within the base distribution... A couple of weeks ago IIS Fraunhofer and Technicolor terminated their licensing program and just a few days ago Red Hat Legal provided the permission to ship MP3 encoding in Fedora.
Books

Today is 'Free Comic Book Day' (npr.org) 31

An anonymous reader writes: "Walk into a comic shop this Saturday, May 6, and you'll get some free comic books," reports NPR. "You can find your closest shop by typing your ZIP code into the Comics Shop Locator on the Free Comic Book Day page... While you're there, buy something... The comics shops still have to pay for the 'free' FCBD books they stock, and they're counting on the increased foot traffic to lift sales."

There's many familiar characters among the 50 free titles this year, according to Gizmodo. Marvel's free comics are a Guardians of the Galaxy tie-in by Brian Michael Bendis and a Secret Empire prequel, "which has seen Steve Rogers transform from a patriotic superhero to the fascist leader of an invasive Hydra force that has taken over the U.S." Meanwhile, D.C. Comics will re-release "the excellent second issue of the current Wonder Woman Rebirth series," and there's also comics based on Rick & Morty, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Iphone

The Apple Watch Outsold Every Other Wearable Last Quarter (engadget.com) 109

According to Strategy Analytics, Apple has shipped 3.5 million wearables in the first quarter of 2017, which is 59 percent higher than the 2.2 million devices it did in the same period last year. Engadget reports: Cupertino captured 16 percent of the global marketshare and stole the wearables crown from Fitbit, which had a much less stellar quarter. Fitbit only shipped 2.9 million devices in Q1, 36 percent less than the 4.5 million units it moved in the first quarter of 2016. Even Xiaomi sold more devices, putting the beleaguered wearables-maker in third place. Those results are consistent with Apple's latest earnings report. The company said its Watch and TV sales jumped up 31 percent year-over-year, and head honcho Tim Cook said Watch sales have nearly doubled since last year. Neil Mawston, Strategy Analytics executive director, said Apple's Watch Series 2 has been selling well "due to enhanced styling, intensive marketing and a good retail presence." Were you one of the 3.5 million customers who purchased an Apple Watch in the first quarter of 2017? If so, how do you like Apple's approach to wearables?
Software

The World Video Game Hall of Fame 2017 Inductees (polygon.com) 73

Dave Knott writes: The 2017 World Video Game Hall of Fame inductees have been announced. The Hall Of Fame "recognizes individual electronic games of all types -- arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile -- that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general." The 2017 inductees are: Donkey Kong, Halo: Combat Evolved, Pokemon Red and Green, and Street Fighter II. These four titles join the inaugural 2015 class, which included Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, Doom and World of Warcraft, and the 2016 class which included Grand Theft Auto 3, The Legend of Zelda, The Oregon Trail, The Sims, Sonic the Hedgehog and Space Invaders.
Sci-Fi

Dormant Diseases Frozen In the Ice Are Waking Up (bbc.co.uk) 173

boley1 writes: Like a plot from a Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) movie, evil is waking up as permafrost melts due to weather or natural, man-made, local, and/or global climate change. (Take your pick of any or all -- doesn't matter -- the plot and result is roughly the same.) According the the BBC, a 12-year-old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalized after being infected by a disease (anthrax) that lay buried in the ice for 75 years. "The theory is that, over 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died and its frozen carcass became trapped under a layer of frozen soil, known as permafrost," reports BBC. "There it stayed until a heatwave in the summer of 2016, when the permafrost thawed." In this case, bringing back the disease was accidental, but the story goes on to give examples of scientists (no indication of whether they are mad or not) purposefully seeing what ancient bacteria and virus they can resurrect from the ice. How many more diseases are lurking in the ice? Will The Andromeda Strain be released by meddling scientists or global warming?
Television

Cord-Cutting Spikes Fivefold In Cable TV's Worst Quarter Ever (fastcompany.com) 156

schwit1 quotes a report from Fast Company: Cable's day of reckoning has come. With all the major cable and satellite companies having reported their quarterly numbers, analyst firm MoffettNathanson put together a new cord-cutting report, and things are bad. Pay-TV providers lost an estimated 762,000 pay-TV subscribers over the first three months of this year -- five times more than they lost during the same period last year. To make matters worse, Q1 has historically been a strong season for pay TV.
Entertainment

How Not to Make a Movie About Tech (theringer.com) 58

'The Circle' (a techno-thriller movie starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson) is a dated, far-fetched parable about an imaginary villain -- and far less scary than its television counterpart, says Alyssa Bereznak, a staff writer at The Ringer. An anonymous reader shares the article, removing the excerpts that could spoil the plot: Hollywood is keen on illustrating the awesome power of modern-day tech companies and the elite class of entrepreneurs who run them. But lately the most effective way to do that is not to focus on what's possible, but to illustrate the real-life personalities that control the near future of tech. Stylistically, a show like HBO's Silicon Valley couldn't be further from a production like The Circle, and yet it succeeds in threading together a host of issues in tech culture, including major corporations' monopoly-like power to squash competitors, manipulate the unwitting tech press, and bypass the interests of their employees and users for the sake of better stock prices. Now at the beginning of its fourth season, the show is lauded for its highly researched, accurate depictions of the Bay Area's power players -- so much so that it has spurred at least one Business Insider post dedicated to identifying each character's real-life inspiration. (The show has even featured a handful of cameos from the industry's power brokers, including Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel and Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt.) Even if it does take place in a comedy created by the man who gave us Beavis and Butt-Head, the show's researched interpretation of real life is a much more compelling way to display the tech world's flaws, rather than simply relying on imagined scaremongering.
Television

Hulu Launches Its Live TV Streaming Service (fortune.com) 53

Hulu has officially unveiled its $40-a-month live-television streaming service to help it better compete against larger rivals like Netflix. Fortune reports: On Wednesday morning, Hulu announced the launch of the public beta version of Hulu with Live TV, which starts at $39.99 and allows users to stream live and on-demand programming from more than 50 TV channels running the gamut of live news, entertainment, and sports. The cost of the new service also includes access to Hulu's existing $7.99 premium streaming subscription and access to the company's library of archived content, which includes more than 3,500 film and TV titles. Subscribers to the new live service also get 50 hours of storage for recording programming, the ability to create up to six separate Hulu viewer profiles, and two simultaneous streams per account. The launch comes days after Hulu announced that it secured the final major piece in its live-television puzzle in the form of an agreement with Comcast's NBCUniversal to add several NBC- and Telemundo-owned channels to the Live TV lineup. That deal gave Hulu access to all four major broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. The new live service also includes popular cable networks such as CNN, ESPN, FX, Fox News, TBS, TNT, and the Disney Channel. The only premium cable network currently available on the new live service is Showtime, which costs an additional $8.99 per month. Cable networks such as HBO, AMC Networks, Viacom's Comedy Central and MTV are among those not currently included in Hulu's new service, though the company said on Wednesday that additional premium network add-ons will be available soon.
Businesses

Studios, Writers Guild Avert Strike With Last-Minute Deal (hollywoodreporter.com) 75

Jonathan Handel, writing for The Hollywood Reporter: Talks between the Writers Guild of America and AMPTP studio alliance went down to the wire Monday night but ultimately resulted in a three-year deal, averting a threatened walkout that could have cost jobs and homes, hit the California economy with a $200 million blow per week, accelerated cord-cutting and driven audiences off linear channels and onto digital platforms. David Young, executive director of WGA West, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that a deal had been reached. Leaving the closed door meetings, Patric Verrone, who was WGA president last time the guild went on strike in 2007-2008, told THR it was a good deal for the writers. Michael Winship, president of Writers Guild East, echoed Verrone's comments and added that the union effectively mobilized the membership with the authorization.
Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Sets Record As Fastest-Selling Game In the Franchise (polygon.com) 49

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the fastest-selling Mario Kart title ever, selling nearly half a million copies stateside when it went on sale last Friday. Polygon reports: Nintendo announced that the game beat out Mario Kart Wii as the series' fastest seller, with a little more than 459,000 copies sold in the U.S. on launch day alone. (The Switch has moved 2.7 million units worldwide since launch, for context.) Mario Kart Wii, which went on to be the best-selling entry of the Mario Kart series -- and second-biggest Mario game ever -- moved just under 434,000 copies at launch in 2008. Nearly half of those with a Switch already have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, two months after the console's launch. That's a remarkable attach rate, even considering The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Switch has sold more copies than consoles shipped.
Piracy

Hacker Leaks 'Orange Is the New Black' Episodes After Failing To Extort Netflix (bleepingcomputer.com) 144

An anonymous reader writes: "A hacker (or hacker group) known as The Dark Overlord (TDO) has leaked the first ten episodes of season 5 of the "Orange Is The New Black" show after two failed blackmail attempts, against Larson Studios and Netflix," reports BleepingComputer. The hacker said he stole hundreds of gigabytes of audio files from Larson Studios last December. "TDO claims the studio initially agreed to pay a ransom of 50 Bitcoin ($67,000) by January 31, and the two parties even signed a contract, albeit TDO signed it using the name 'Adolf Hitler.'" This might have been the reason why the company thought this was a joke and didn't pay the ransom as initially agreed.

At this point, the hacker turned from the studio to Netflix, but the company didn't want to pay either. As a warning, the hacker leaked the first episode of season 5, but half a day later, he leaked 9 more. "According to Netflix's website, season 5 is supposed to have 13 episodes and is scheduled for release in June, this year." The hacker also claims he's in possession of shows and movies from other movie studios and television channels, such as FOX, IFC, NAT GEO, and ABC. Some of the titles include "Celebrity Apprentice," "NCIS Los Angeles," "New Girl," and "XXX The return of Xander Cage".

Businesses

BitTorrent is Shutting Down Its Live TV Streaming Service (variety.com) 18

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety: San Francisco-based BitTorrent Inc. is set to shut down its P2P-powered live TV streaming service BitTorrent Live in the coming weeks, Variety has learned. Most of the 10-person team behind the live streaming service is expected to leave the company by the end of this week. The closure of Live comes after BitTorrent unsuccessfully tried to raise money to spin out the service into a separate company. It's also just the latest twist in a long corporate drama. Last year, two outside investors took control of BitTorrent, spent millions of dollars on an expensive expansion into the media space and promptly got themselves fired. BitTorrent has since rehired its former COO Rogelio Choy as its new CEO, and is now looking to focus on its core products. As part of that realignment, the company was looking to turn Live into a separate, venture-funded entity, but raising money for it proved challenging.
Businesses

What Happens To Summer TV Binges If Hollywood Writers Strike (bloomberg.com) 205

An anonymous reader shares a report: There also should be plenty of new video fare if Hollywood's writers and studios can't agree on a new contract by Monday. The beautiful thing about a contract is everyone knows when it ends. In this case, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents some 350 production companies, and the Writers Guild of America, which comprises 12,000 professionals in two chapters, have had three years to prepare for a standoff. In these situations, show makers typically rush to complete a pile of scripts before the deadline. Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist at the University of California at Los Angeles, calls this stockpiling "the inventory effect." This is precisely what happened the last time writers walked off the job, from November 2007 to February 2008. If the writers do, in fact, go through with the strike they approved on Monday, jokes and soaps will be the first things to take a hit. Late-night talk shows and soap operas are to entertainment writers what delis are to hungry New Yorkers -- a daily frenzy of high-volume production. If the sandwich makers don't show up, everybody gets hungry quickly.
Businesses

Apple Wants To Turn Its Music App Into a One-Stop Shop For Pop Culture (bloomberg.com) 54

Jimmy Iovine, one of the heads of Apple Music, has long expressed desires to make Apple Music "an entire pop cultural experience." The company, he has previously said, will do so partly by including original video content into its music app. Now, in an interview with Bloomberg, he added that the company plans to include original shows and videos with high-profile partners such as director J.J. Abrams and rapper R. Kelly. Iovine adds, from the interview: A music service needs to be more than a bunch of songs and a few playlists. I'm trying to help Apple Music be an overall movement in popular culture, everything from unsigned bands to video. We have a lot of plans. We have the freedom, because it's Apple, to make one show, three shows, see what works, see what doesn't work until it feels good. The article also sheds light on Iovine's personality: Iovine fidgets when he talks. As his mind wanders, he takes his jacket off, then puts it back on. He frequently clutches his legs, contorting himself into a ball. He's a font of ideas with industry contacts to help execute every one of them. He turned to Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani for help picking the model for Beats headphones. Some ideas get Iovine into trouble. He's taken meetings with artists and made arrangements to release music without telling anyone in advance, frustrating colleagues. He's persuaded artists to release music exclusively with Apple, frustrating record labels.
Medicine

Will the High-Tech Cities of the Future Be Utterly Lonely? (theweek.com) 108

adeelarshad82 writes from a report via The Week: The prospect of cities becoming sentient is "fast becoming the new reality," according to one paper. Take Tel Aviv for example, where everyone over the age of 13 can receive personalized data, such as traffic information, and can access free municipal Wi-Fi in 80 public zones. But in a future where robots sound and objects look increasingly sentient, we might be less inclined to seek out behaviors to abate our loneliness. Indeed, one recent study titled "Products as pals" finds that exposure to or interaction with anthropomorphic products -- which have characteristics of being alive -- partially satisfy our social needs, which means the human-like robots of tomorrow could kill our dwindling urge to be around other humans.

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