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Verizon

Verizon Wireless Wades Right Back Into the Net Neutrality Debate With Fios Deal (theverge.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Verizon is taking a page out of AT&T's book by zero rating its Fios cable TV service for all Verizon Wireless customers. That means that if you purchase your mobile data plan from Verizon Wireless and your cable TV plan from Fios, you can now use the Fios Mobile app to stream live channels and on-demand shows and not have it count against your monthly data cap. (It should be noted that Verizon Wireless and Fios are separate subsidiaries, but both are owned by Verizon Communications.) This builds on Verizon's previous decision to zero rate its Go90 mobile app for customers of its own wireless service, which net neutrality advocates see as prioritizing its own products to the detriment of those from competitors and upstarts. One notable exception here is for customers with unlimited mobile data plans. Streaming Fios Mobile content will in fact count toward the unlimited plans' 22GB a month cap, after which Verizon will cap speeds. This caveat is not made clear in Verizon's marketing language, and instead is found only in the App Store release notes.
Graphics

NVIDIA Lifts Veil On GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Performance Reviews, Which Show Faster Speeds Than Titan X (hothardware.com) 51

MojoKid writes from a report via HotHardware: NVIDIA is officially launching its most powerful gaming graphics card today, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. It was announced last week at the Game Developers Conference and pre-orders began shortly thereafter. However, the cards will begin shipping today and NVIDIA has lifted the veil on performance reviews. Though its memory complement and a few blocks within the GPU are reduced versus NVIDIA's previous top-end card, the Titan X, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti makes up for its shortcomings with a combination of refinement and the brute force of higher memory clocks, based on new and improved Micron GDDR5X memory, faster core clocks and an improved cooler. For gamers, the good news is, the 1080 Ti retails for $699, versus $1200 for the Titan X, and it is in fact faster, for the most part. Throughout a battery of game tests and benchmarks, regardless of the resolution or settings used, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti performed on par with or slightly faster than the NVIDIA Titan X and roughly 30-35% better than the standard GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition. Versus AMD's current flagship GPU, the Radeon R9 Fury X, there is no competition; the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti was nearly 2x faster than the Fury X in some cases.
PlayStation (Games)

PlayStation 4.5 Update Brings HDD Support, PS4 Pro 'Boost Mode' (theinquirer.net) 40

Sony has officially pushed out the PlayStation 4.5 System Update, codenamed "Susuke," which brings a new Boost Mode for PS4 Pro owners and lets PS4 owners download and install games directly to USB 3.0 hard drives up to 8TB in size. The INQUIRER reports: PS4 Pro owners are also being treated to a new Boost Mode, will offer improved performance for PS4 games released before the Pro console. "This feature has been designed to provide better performance for select legacy titles that have not been patched to take advantage of the PS4 Pro's faster CPU and its faster and double-sized GPU," Sony said in a blog post. "This can provide a noticeable frame rate boost to some games with variable frame rates, and can provide frame rate stability for games that are programmed to run at 30 Hz or 60 Hz." The PS 4.5 update brings an improved 2D mode to owners of Sony's PlayStation VR headset, which the firm claims will improve the resolution of the system screen displayed on your TV is significantly better when you're out of VR mode. The resolution of Cinematic Mode on PlayStation VR is also getting a boost, with Sony noting "if your PS VR screen size is set to Small or Medium, the frame rate of content viewed in Cinematic Mode goes up from 90Hz to 120Hz with this update." Other new features include added support for voice chat when using Remote Play on Windows, Mac or an Xperia device, an 'Off Console' icon that tells gamers when a friend is logged in but away from their device and updates to the PS Messages and PS Communities apps on iOS and Android.
Television

Amazon Says It's Open To Pushing Content Through Cable Boxes (bloomberg.com) 21

Amazon, the e-commerce giant that's shaking up the entertainment industry, says it's open to pursuing deals to stream content through cable operators' set-top boxes, much like Netflix has done in the U.S. and Europe. From a report on Bloomberg: "Amazon is definitely open to those partnerships and to be fair, we haven't done as much there as Netflix have done," Alex Green, managing director of Amazon Video, said Thursday at the Cable Congress conference in Brussels. So far, Amazon has been more focused on growing its customers and building its own devices, he said. But "we do talk to all sorts of players in the cable industry." Amazon, which won its first Academy Awards last month for movies "Manchester by the Sea," and "The Salesman," is challenging pay-TV providers and video-game developers as the Seattle-based company expands beyond its online retail roots with growing media ambitions. The rise of internet-based subscription services from the likes of Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Alphabet's YouTube, have stoked analyst predictions that consumers will increasingly ditch cable and kill traditional TV.
Businesses

Despite Netflix and Amazon Prime, Most of the World Watches Pirated Content (techinasia.com) 244

An anonymous reader shares a TechInAsia report: More than half of the people surveyed across the world still watch pirated movies and TV shows, a new survey shows. The study, conducted by digital security firm Irdeto, asked more than 25,000 adults across 30 countries about video watching trends. Here's what it found: 52 percent of those surveyed said they watch pirated videos. 48 said they would stop, or watch less illegal content after they were told about the damaging effects of piracy on the media industry. While many recognize that producing or sharing pirated video is illegal (70 percent), far fewer people are aware that streaming or downloading is also against the law (59 percent).
Music

Music Charts No Longer Make Sense (qz.com) 167

American rapper Future's back to back new albums have created a stir among music enthusiasts and the studios alike. Billboard today refreshed its weekly US Top 200 chart, and the American rapper officially became the first artist to ever knock his own album out of the #1 spot with another one of his albums. Future released the self-titled FUTURE on Feb. 17. One week later, the artist then dropped a second album HNDRXX which is the new champion. What does it mean, though? Confusion, some say. From a report on Quartz: Up till December 2014, Billboard's Top 200 chart -- which pulls its numbers from data juggernaut Nielsen -- measured new music in the US only by album sales. As music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, came into the mainstream, Nielsen and Billboard revamped their system to be based off "units." How does is work? One "unit" is equivalent to either one album sale, 10 track sales, or 1,500 song streams. In other words, listeners on a streaming platform would need to stream a Future song 1,500 times for it to count the same way a single album purchase does. While that number may seem high, consider that it costs (more or less) $9.99 a month to stream tens of thousands of songs, as opposed to dropping $10-15 on a single album to own it, either physically or digitally. That means people who subscribe to online streaming services aren't taking out an additional cost to listen to every new Future song or album or the same ones over and over again -- it's essentially free. It becomes an odd, if necessary, way of calculating charts, because it means people who pay the most for an artist's music count for the least when sales are tallied.
Movies

For the First Time, More US Households Have Netflix Than a DVR (variety.com) 70

For the first time, U.S. households with the Netflix video-streaming service outnumber those that own a digital video recorder (DVR), a dramatic rise from just five years ago, according to new data. From a report: About 54% of U.S. adults said they have Netflix in their household -- while 53% have a DVR, according to Research Group's annual on-demand study. It's the first time that households with Netflix have surpassed the level of those with a DVR in the history of LRG's studies. In 2011, according to the research firm, 44% of TV households had a DVR and 28% had Netflix. Netflix has now eclipsed DVR usage despite the latter having a years-long head start. TiVo's first digital video recorder shipped in 1999, while Netflix debuted its video-streaming service in 2007 and started the shift away from its DVD-by-mail business. As of the end of 2016, Netflix had 49.4 million streaming subscribers in the U.S., up 10.5% year over year.
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Owners Complain About Dead Pixels, Nintendo Says They're 'Normal' (theguardian.com) 241

Nintendo says the dead or stuck pixels Switch owners are complaining about are "normal" and not defects. "New Switch players have taken to online discussion boards, including a 2,000-comment strong Reddit post, to complain of screen issues distracting play, unbecoming of a $300 handheld gaming machine," reports The Guardian. From the report: In a support document entitled "There are black or bright dots on the Nintendo Switch screen that do not go away, or there are dark or light patches on the screen," Nintendo said: "Small numbers of stuck or dead pixels are a characteristic of LCD screens. These are normal and should not be considered a defect." Customers wishing to swap their Switch consoles with defective screens will get no support from Nintendo. A similar issue happened with the Nintendo DS at launch in the U.S., but the Japanese gaming company eventually relented after complaints from buyers, begrudgingly offering replacements under warranty. Nintendo also warned users that using the Switch near an aquarium or within a meter of another wireless device, including laptops, wireless headsets, wireless printers, microwaves, cordless phones or even USB-3.0 compatible devices "such as hard drives, thumb drives, LAN adapters, etc," might cause the Joy-Con controllers to disconnect from the Switch.
Piracy

Streaming Pirate Content Isn't Illegal, UK Trading Standards Says (torrentfreak.com) 70

Every day millions of people use PCs, tablets, phones and Kodi-style devices to stream pirated content, but is it illegal? According to Trading Standards, local UK authorities tasked with investigating commercial organizations, if users only stream and don't download, they're likely exempt from copyright law. An anonymous reader shares a TorrentFreak report: "Accessing premium paid-for content without a subscription is considered by the industry as unlawful access, although streaming something online, rather than downloading a file, is likely to be exempt from copyright laws," the spokesperson added. This statement certainly carries some weight. Although in a different region of the UK, Trading Standards is the driving force behind the prosecution of Kodi box seller Brian Thompson who entered a not guilty plea in January. He'll face a trial in a couple of months but it now seems more clear than ever that his customers and millions like them around the country are not breaking the law, a position that's shared by the EU Commission.
Television

Streaming TV Sites Now Have More Subscribers Than Cable TV (axios.com) 47

Nielsen reported this week that millennials "spend about 27% less time watching traditional TV than viewers over the age of 35," possibly threatening the dominance of cable TV. An anonymous reader quotes Axios: Streaming service subscribers (free or paid) increased again (68% in 2016 vs. 63% in 2014) and have caught up with the percentage of paid TV service providers (67%) for the first time ever, according to the Consumer Technology Association's new study, The Changing Landscape for Video and Content. The rise of streaming services represents a shift in consumption habits towards cord-cutting, primarily amongst millennials.
Some other trends are impossible to ignore. 2016 also saw a saw dramatic drops in the use of physical disks -- from 41% in 2015 to just 28% -- as well as another big drop in the use of antennas, from 18% to just 10%.
Advertising

Curated Advertising Is Coming To Highway Billboards (technologyreview.com) 110

Curated advertising may be coming to a highway near you. "A startup called Synaps Labs has brought it to the physical world by combining high-speed cameras set up a distance ahead of the billboard (about 180 meters) to capture images of cars," reports MIT Technology Review. "Its machine-learning system can recognize in those images the make and model of the cars an advertiser wants to target. A bidding system then selects the appropriate advertising to put on the billboard as that car passes." From the report: There is a lot an advertiser can tell about you from the car you drive, says Synaps. Indeed, recent research from a group of university researchers and led by Stanford found that -- using machine vision and deep learning -- analyzing the make, model, and year of vehicles visible in Google Street View could accurately estimate income, race, and education level of a neighborhood's residents, and even whether a city is likely to vote Democrat or Republican. Synaps's business model is to sell its services to the owners of digital billboards. Digital billboard advertising rotates, and more targeted advertising can rotate more often, allowing operators to sell more ads. According to Synaps, a targeted ad shown 8,500 times in one month will reach the same number of targeted drivers (approximately 22,000) as a typical ad shown 55,000 times. In Russia, Synaps expects to be operating on 20 to 50 billboards this year. The company is also planning a test in the U.S. this summer, where there are roughly 7,000 digital billboards, a number growing at 15 percent a year, according to the company. (By contrast, there are 370,000 conventional billboards.) With a row of digital billboards along a road, they could roll the ads as the cars move along, making billboard advertising more like the storytelling style of television and the Internet, says Synaps's cofounder Alex Pustov.
Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review By Ars Technica (arstechnica.com) 59

Kyle Orland writes via Ars Technica: At this point, the Legend of Zelda series operates on a rhythm so predictable you can practically set your watch to it. In a Zelda game, after an extremely slow-paced tutorial, you progress from puzzle-filled dungeon to puzzle-filled dungeon, finding in each one a key item that -- coincidentally -- is crucial to beating the dungeon boss and to finding the next dungeon. Between dungeons, you face perfunctory battles with simple enemies on a vast overworld map dotted with small towns and occasional mini-games and side-quests. Most of these give you rewards that are already so plentiful as to be practically worthless (oh, goodie, more rupees to fill my already full wallet). By the time you reach Ganon, your circuitous trip from point A to point B has given you a set of required powers that help you take on the big bad boss threatening the kingdom. Individual Zelda games each make slight variations to this formula, but the basic rhythm is there every time. And then there's the new Breath of the Wild (BotW), a Zelda game that throws off this established rhythm so quickly, and with such force, that it practically feels like a whole new genre. In doing so, Breath of the Wild offers a compelling take on a stagnating series, bringing a sense of wonder and excitement back to Zelda that hasn't been felt this strongly since the original NES game. "Breath of the Wild is my new favorite 3D Zelda game and in contention for the top spot in the series overall," Orland writes in ending. "Don't miss it." You can read his full review here
The Internet

Netflix Uses AI in Its New Codec To Compress Video Scene By Scene (qz.com) 67

An anonymous reader shares a Quartz report: Annoying pauses in your streaming movies are going to become less common, thanks to a new trick Netflix is rolling out. It's using artificial intelligence techniques to analyze each shot in a video and compress it without affecting the image quality, thus reducing the amount of data it uses. The new encoding method is aimed at the growing contingent of viewers in emerging economies who watch video on phones and tablets. "We're allergic to rebuffering," said Todd Yellin, a vice president of innovation at Netflix. "No one wants to be interrupted in the middle of Bojack Horseman or Stranger Things." Yellin hopes the new system, called Dynamic Optimizer, will keep those Netflix binges free of interruption when it's introduced sometime in the next "couple of months." He was demonstrating the system's results at "Netflix House," a mansion in the hills overlooking Barcelona that the company has outfitted for the Mobile World Congress trade show. In one case, the image quality from a 555 kilobits per second (kbps) stream looked identical to one on a data link with half the bandwidth.
Android

Sorry, Apple, the Headphone Jack Isn't Going Anywhere (yahoo.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Rob Pegoraro via Yahoo Finance: Two things unite almost every phone on display here at Mobile World Congress 2017: Android and a headphone jack. Apple doesn't exhibit its wares at this trade show, so the domination of Google's operating system is predictable. But the headphone jack's persistence did not look so inevitable when Apple cut it from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus last September. Lenovo's Motorola subsidiary had already shipped a phone without a headphone hack, the Moto Z, and Apple's influence over the rest of the smartphone industry remains formidable -- indeed, within months, the Chinese firm LeEco had debuted a lineup of Android phones devoid of headphone jacks. As my colleague David Pogue predicted in a post approving Apple's move: "Other brands worldwide will be following suit." The hardware on display here at the world's largest mobile tech conference, though, suggests otherwise. Two days of walking around the show floor showed companies expressing a consistent unwillingness to abandon the humble headphone jack, even on models as thin as, or thinner than, the iPhone 7. The MWC floor revealed only one company willing to do away with the headphone jack: HTC. The Taiwan-based firm, which has struggled financially for years despite shipping such well-reviewed models as the HTC 10, used its exhibit to showcase the U Ultra and the U Play, which rely on their USB-C ports for audio output. Unlike, Apple, though, the company didn't make the move to save space, but rather to incorporate its "USonic" feature, which lets the phones' headphones calibrate themselves to your ears and provide noise cancellation.
Music

Spotify Is Testing a Lossless Subscription Tier For $15 to $20 Per Month (techcrunch.com) 77

Spotify is seemingly preparing to launch a lossless audio version of its streaming service. The offering, which is currently called Spotify Hi-Fi, will offer lossless CD-quality audio to users -- similar to what Tidal offers in its Hi-Fi service. From a report: For an extra $5 to $10, you could get all the features in Spotify Premium as well as lossless high fidelity streaming. There could also be a couple of new features. What is lossless quality anyway? Currently, if you go into Spotify's settings and choose the highest quality, Spotify serves you 320kbps audio files. It's very high quality, but it's not perfect -- in other words, it's a compromise. This way, files are still quite small and load quickly. Lossless files are perfect copies of the songs on an audio CD. They are then compressed, but without any quality loss.
Television

Americans Have Fewer TVs On Average Than They Did In 2009 (arstechnica.com) 164

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Americans went from having an average of 2.6 TVs per household in 2009 to having 2.3 TVs in 2015, according to survey data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). The data comes from the agency's Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), which has been conducted periodically since the 1970s to understand American energy use. The 2015 survey included 5,600 respondents who were contacted in person and then given an option to follow up by mail or online. A fine-detail report on the survey results is due to be released in April 2017. The latest data shows that in 2015, 2.6 percent of households had no TV at all, a jump from the previous four surveys in 2009, 2005, 2001, and 1997 in which a steady 1.2 to 1.3 percent of households didn't own a TV. The 2015 data also showed that the number of people with three TVs or more dropped in 2015. That year, 39 percent of households had more than three TVs, whereas 44 percent had more than three TVs in 2009. Interestingly, the number of households with one or two TVs increased in 2015 to 58 percent, from 54 percent in 2009.
Television

YouTube Unveils YouTube TV, Its Live TV Streaming Service (techcrunch.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: After a year of rumors, YouTube is finally drawing back the curtain on its latest play for entertainment industry domination -- a live TV service. Distinct from YouTube Red, the new service YouTube TV, which has been in the works for years at Google's internet video behemoth, has quietly been inking contracts with media companies to distribute their content on its TV service. The service is fairly low-cost, with a family of six accounts available for $35 per month, and no long-term contract required. Earlier reports from the Wall Street Journal set pricing for the service somewhere between $25 and $40 per month. However, it will only launch in markets where it can offer full, live local broadcast feeds. That's planned for the months ahead, but YouTube didn't offer an exact date. "We decided to create an offering that would give them all of these can't miss live moments," said YouTube exec Robert Kinsel of YouTube TV's offering. He explained that YouTube has partnered with all of the broadcast networks, in order to offer "comprehensive national coverage with ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox all included." In addition, the service is getting USA, FX, FreeForm, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, and Fox Business. ShowTime is available for an additional fee. Missing, however, is HBO. For sports fans, the service includes national coverage from ESPN, FoxSports, and NBC SportsNet. Also offered are regional sports networks from Fox and Comcast, SEC Network, Big Ten and ESPNU. Fox Soccer Plus is available as an add-on. In addition, YouTube TV includes YouTube Red's 28 original series. Some other features of the service include a DVR that will never run out of space and that's cable of simultaneous recordings, a visual TV guide, search feature, and voice support integration via Google Home.
Music

Radio Is the Worst Place To Listen To Music, Says Jay Z (qz.com) 203

An anonymous reader shares a Quartz report: In a candid interview between Frank Ocean and Jay Z that aired on Apple Music's Beats 1 radio station last week, the latter spent a good portion mourning the golden days of radio, where he got his own start in the 1990s as a hip-hop artist. Said Jay, about modern radio: "It's pretty much an advertisement model. You take these pop stations, they're reaching 18-34 young, white females. So they're playing music based on those tastes. And then they're taking those numbers and they're going to advertising agencies and people are paying numbers based on the audience that they have. So these places are not even based on music. Their playlist isn't based on music... A person like Bob Marley right now probably wouldn't play on a pop station. Which is crazy. It's not even about the DJ discovering what music is best. You know, music is music. The line's just been separated so much that we're lost at this point in time."
Youtube

One Billion Hours of YouTube Are Watched Every Day (thenextweb.com) 72

YouTube announced in a blog post that people around the world are now watching a billion hours of YouTube videos every single day. According to YouTube, "If you were to sit and watch a billion hours of YouTube, it would take you over 100,000 years." Mashable reports: The milestone "represents the enjoyment of the fantastically diverse videos that creative people make every single day," Cristos Goodrow, VP of engineering at YouTube, wrote in a blog post Monday. "Around the world, people are spending a billion hours every day rewarding their curiosity, discovering great music, keeping up with the news, connecting with their favorite personalities, or catching up with the latest trend." The 1 billion figure is a 10-fold increase since 2012, YouTube said. The statistic is one that underscores YouTube's efforts to dominate the digital space. On YouTube -- which operates under the motto "Broadcast Yourself" -- users upload 400 hours of video each minute, or 65 years of video a day.
AI

In Twenty, Fifty Years, 'We May Be Entertaining AI', Says Netflix CEO (barrons.com) 111

"If you are starting to look ahead what do you see?" a journalist asked Netflix CEO Reed Hastings at the Mobile World Congress. An anonymous reader shares a report: Hastings cited the work of Charlie Booker on "Black Mirror," saying "He tells many strange and wonderful stories on tech," and that "what's amazing about tech is, it's very hard to predict." "What we do is try to learn and adapt," said Hastings. "Rather than commit to one particular point of view, we will adapt to that." "If it's contact lenses with amazing capabilities, at some point, we will adapt to that." Hastings said the Internet's importance in one sense is that watching things on streaming is "so easy and convenient," with the result that "a show like The Crown, which would have been a niche before, is spreading around the world." "I just can't emphasize enough how much it's just beginning," he repeated. But, pressed stock, what about ten years out or twenty years out? Hastings said at that point there will be "some serious virtual reality" to contend with. And past twenty years? "Over twenty to fifty years, you get into some serious debate over humans," mused Hastings. "I don't know if you can really talk about entertaining at that point. I'm not sure if in twenty to fifty years we are going to be entertaining you, or entertaining AIs."

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