Music

Spotify Continues To Grow Faster Than Apple Music Thanks To Free Tier (macrumors.com) 24

Joe Rossignol reports via Mac Rumors: Spotify today announced it now has over 140 million subscribers worldwide, including users that only listen to the free ad-supported tier. Spotify last said it had over 100 million subscribers in June 2016, so it has gained around 40 million listeners in one year to remain the world's largest streaming music service. Spotify didn't update its number of paying subscribers, which stood at over 50 million worldwide as of March 2017. By comparison, Apple at its Worldwide Developers Conference last week announced that Apple Music now has 27 million paying subscribers, just weeks before the streaming music service turns two years old. Apple Music doesn't have a free tier, and Apple doesn't regularly disclose how many users are using the free trial.
Software

GTA V Flooded With Negative Reviews On Steam After OpenIV Modding Tool Shuts Down (kotaku.com) 127

OpenIV, a popular modding tool used by tons of GTA V fans, is shutting down. After nearly 10 years of operation, the creators claim they have received a cease and desist from Take-Two Interactive -- the publisher of Grand Theft Auto. The news has shocked the PC Grand Theft Auto community, who use OpenIV to add thousands of mods into GTA V. Many upset modders have retaliated by flooding GTA V with negative reviews on Steam. Kotaku reports: According to a post on the official OpenIV website, the alleged cease and desist came on June 5th 2017. The supposed problem, OpenIV's creators say, is that the program allows "third parties to defeat security features of its software and modify that software in violation Take-Two's rights." After discussing their options, the team behind the tool says they decided it was not worth their time to fight back. "Yes, we can go to court and yet again prove that modding is fair use and our actions are legal," creator GooD-NTS wrote. "Yes, we could. But we decided not to. Going to court will take at least few months of our time and huge amount of efforts, and, at best, we'll get absolutely nothing. Spending time just to restore status quo is really unproductive, and all the money in the world can't compensate the loss of time. So, we decided to agree with their claims and we're stopping distribution of OpenIV."
EU

Pirate Bay Is Infringing Copyright, European Court of Justice Rules (theguardian.com) 108

The European court of justice (ECJ) has ruled that BitTorrent site The Pirate Bay is directly infringing copyright, in a move that could lead to ISPs and governments blocking access to other torrent sites across Europe. From a report: The ruling comes after a seven-year legal battle, which has seen the site, founded in Sweden in 2003, blocked and seized, its offices raided, and its three founders fined and jailed. At the heart of the case is the Pirate Bay's argument that, unlike the previous generation piracy sites like Napster, it doesn't host infringing files, nor link to them. Instead, it hosts "trackers," files which tell users of individual BitTorrent apps which other BitTorrent users to link to in order to download large files -- in the Pirate Bay's case, usually, but not exclusively, copyrighted material.
Cellphones

We Could Have Had Cellphones Four Decades Earlier (reason.com) 263

_Sharp'r_ writes: Professor Thomas Hazlett of Clemson University analyzed the history of wireless spectrum and concluded the technology was known and available for cellphones in the 40s, but there was no spectrum available. Based on assumptions cellphones would always be luxury goods without mass appeal, significant spectrum for divisible cellular networks wasn't legally usable until the early 80s. Instead, the unused spectrum was reserved for the future expansion of broadcast TV to channels 70-83. Here's an excerpt from the report: "When AT&T wanted to start developing cellular in 1947, the FCC rejected the idea, believing that spectrum could be best used by other services that were not 'in the nature of convenience or luxury.' This view -- that this would be a niche service for a tiny user base -- persisted well into the 1980s. 'Land mobile,' the generic category that covered cellular, was far down on the FCC's list of priorities. In 1949, it was assigned just 4.7 percent of the spectrum in the relevant range. Broadcast TV was allotted 59.2 percent, and government uses got one-quarter."
Television

Netflix Has More American Subscribers Than Cable TV (engadget.com) 74

According to Leichtman Research estimates from the first quarter of 2017, there are more Netflix subscribers in the U.S. (50.85 million) than there are customers for major cable TV networks (48.61 million). While it doesn't mean Netflix is bigger than TV because it doesn't account for the 33.19 million satellite viewers, it represents a huge milestone for a streaming service that had half as many users just 5 years ago. Engadget reports: The shift in power comes in part through Netflix's ever-greater reliance on originals. There's enough high-quality material that it can compete with more established networks. However, it's also getting a boost from the decline of conventional TV. Those traditional sources lost 760,000 subscribers in the first quarter of the year versus 120,000 a year earlier. Leichtman believes a combination of cord cutters and reduced marketing toward cost-conscious viewers is to blame. Cable giants might not be in dire straits, but they're clearly focusing on their most lucrative customers as others jump ship for the internet.
Japan

Konami Reportedly Blacklisting Ex-Employees Across Japanese Video Game Industry (arstechnica.com) 120

The Nikkei Asian Review newspaper is reporting that the Japanese entertainment company Konami is blacklisting former employees in the Japanese video game industry. "The company is particularly targeting those who work for Kojima Productions, which was founded in 2016 by Hideo Kojima, who used to be a top designer at Konami," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Furthermore, according to the article, Konami is pressuring other companies not to hire its former employees. As the Nikkei Asian Review wrote: "One ex-Kon described his surprise at learning that Konami had instructed an employee at a television company not to deal with its former employees. In another case, a former Konami executive was forced to close his business due to pressure from the gaming giant. Ex-Kons are not allowed to put their Konami experience on their public resumes. 'If you leave the company, you cannot rely on Konami's name to land a job,' explained a former employee. If an ex-Kon is interviewed by the media, the company will send that person a letter through a legal representative, in some cases indicating that Konami is willing to take them to court."
It's funny.  Laugh.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's Ex-CEO, Says She's Looking 'Forward To Using Gmail Again' 187

Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who resigned on Tuesday after running the company for about five years, appeared at a conference in London today. At the conference, Mayer said one of the things she was looking forward to in her post-Yahoo life was using Gmail again. "I am always faster when using a tool I designed myself," she added.
United States

Sharp To Americans: You Don't Want to Buy a Sharp-Brand TV (wsj.com) 115

Sharp has sued China's Hisense Electric, which licensed the Sharp brand for televisions sold in the U.S., accusing Hisense of putting the Sharp name on poor-quality TVs and deceptively advertising them (alternative source). From a report: The court action is the latest effort by Osaka-based Sharp to retrieve the right to use its own name when selling TVs in one of the world's largest markets. Sharp is trying to recover its position as a global maker of consumer electronics. Hisense rejected the allegations and said it was selling high-quality televisions under the Sharp name. The dispute illustrates the risks when the owner of a well-known brand name gives up control over products sold under that name.
AI

Microsoft's AI Is the First to Reach a Perfect Ms. Pac-Man Score (theverge.com) 59

Maluuba, a deep-learning team acquired by Microsoft in January, has created an AI system that has achieved the perfect score for Ms. Pac-Man. According to The Verge, the AI system "learned how to reach the game's maximum point value of 999,900 on Atari 2600, using a unique combination of reinforcement learning with a divide-and-conquer method." From the report: Though AI has conquered a wealth of retro games, Ms. Pac-Man has remained elusive for years, due to the game's intentional lack of predictability. Turns out it's a toughie for humans as well. Many have tried to reach Ms. Pac-Man's top score, only coming as close as 266,330 on the Atari 2600 version. The game's elusive 999,900 number though, has so far only been achieved by mortals via cheats. Maluuba was able to use AI to beat the game by tasking out responsibilities, breaking it up into bite-sized jobs assigned to over 150 agents. The team then taught the AI using what they call Hybrid Reward Architecture -- a combination of reinforcement learning with a divide-and-conquer method. Individual agents were assigned piecemeal tasks -- like finding a specific pellet -- which worked in tandem with other agents to achieve greater goals. Maluuba then designated a top agent (Microsoft likens this to a senior manager at a company) that took suggestions from all the agents in order to inform decisions on where to move Ms. Pac-Man. The best results came when individual agents "acted very egotistically" and the top agent focused on what was best for the overall team, taking into account not only how many agents wanted to go in a particular direction, but the importance of that direction.
Toys

How Lego Clicked: The Super Brand That Reinvented Itself (theguardian.com) 191

managerialslime shared an article about how Lego executed "the greatest turnaround in corporate history." The Guardian reports: By 2003 Lego was in big trouble. Sales were down 30% year-on-year and it was $800m in debt. An internal report revealed it hadn't added anything of value to its portfolio for a decade... In 2015, the still privately owned, family controlled Lego Group overtook Ferrari to become the world's most powerful brand. It announced profits of £660m, making it the number one toy company in Europe and Asia, and number three in North America, where sales topped $1bn for the first time. From 2008 to 2010 its profits quadrupled, outstripping Apple's. Indeed, it has been called the Apple of toys: a profit-generating, design-driven miracle built around premium, intuitive, covetable hardware that fans can't get enough of. Last year Lego sold 75bn bricks. Lego people -- "Minifigures" -- the 4cm-tall yellow characters with dotty eyes, permanent grins, hooks for hands and pegs for legs -- outnumber humans. The British Toy Retailers Association voted Lego the toy of the century.
It's a good read. The article describes how CEO Vig Knudstorp curtailed the company's over-expansion -- at one point, Lego had "built its own video games company from scratch, the largest installation of Silicon Graphics supercomputers in northern Europe, despite having no experience in the field." And he also encouraged the company to interact with its fans on the internet -- for example, the crowdsourcing of Ninjago content -- while the company enjoyed new popularity with Mindstorms kits for building programmable Lego robots.
Television

That Time Adam West, TV's 'Batman', Also Advocated For Videogames (twitter.com) 38

Adam West, star of the 1960s TV series Batman, has died at age 88. An anonymous reader shares a memory of that time the 53-year-old actor wrote an op-ed for a 1982 issue of Videogame and Computer Gaming Illustrated. "I've been playing with computers longer than most," West wrote on page 6. [PDF] "I had onboard computers in Robinson Crusoe on Mars, having learned in an episode of TV's The Outer Limits that you can't survive on the Red Planet without them. Then, of course, I was up to my cowl in computers as television's Batman... In 1966, when the series began its three season run, all of that was science fiction. Computers were playthings of the researchers at MIT... Today, a lot of the apparatus we had in Batman -- dressed, of course, in less imposing names -- is fact. And we're lucky this is so."

West called videogames "an ideal means to broaden the imaginations of young people," saying the medium "can expand our awareness of the world as it is, was, or might be. The medium is still in its infancy, but read this again in a few years and see if this prediction hasn't come true: as videogaming grows, we will grow."

My favorite story is how West was cast as Batman after the show's producer spotted his performance as super-spy Agent Q in a commercial for Nestle Quik. And CNN also remembers that "later in life, West made appearances on the animated series 'Family Guy' as Mayor Adam West, the oddball leader of Quahog, Rhode Island."
Television

Younger Millennials Don't Know What Networks Are Responsible For TV Shows, Unless It's Netflix (thenextweb.com) 185

According to a new report from consulting firm Anatomy Media, millennials aren't able to identify the networks responsible for some of the most popular television shows, unless they're created by Netflix. The report indicates that most viewers age 18-26 can't match television shows from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, or Disney to to their respective networks. The Next Web reports: This means Jessica Jones is more likely to resonate with millennials as Netflix original programming than Empire does as a Fox network show. 65-percent of the respondents were able to identify a Netflix show correctly, compared to only 31-percent able to do so for other networks' programming. It was even worse for Amazon -- only 20-percent of the young adults could match its shows correctly. The most coveted demographic in television marketing cares twice as much about Netflix as any other provider -- and nobody cares about Amazon's original programming. A different survey conducted by Fluent Insights asked 3,100 millennials about their television viewing habits: half said they watched television exclusively on mobile or desktop platforms.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Tim Cook Takes Swipe at Windows During MIT Commencement (cnet.com) 91

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the commencement address at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Friday, and he couldn't help taking a swipe at a rival. In a section of his speech describing his search for answers and tough decisions in college and beyond, he admitted turning to a Microsoft computer. "I went to grad school at Duke, looking for the answer," Cook said. "I tried meditation. I sought guidance and religion. I read great philosophers and authors. In a moment of youthful indiscretion, I might even have experimented with a Windows PC. And obviously that didn't work." The line got a hearty laugh from the crowd.
Entertainment

For the First Time, a Video Game Trailer Is Eligible To Be Nominated For an Academy Award (eurogamer.net) 71

For the first time in 90-year Oscar history, a video game is eligible for an Academy Award, specifically the recently-released game Everything. From a report: The 11-minute trailer for philosophical pontificating simulator Everything is eligible for an Academy Award -- a first for a video game promotion, boasted game developer David OReilly. The marketing material in question is included under the Academy's category "[best] animated short film," which it became eligible for after winning the Jury Prize for animation at the VIS Vienna Shorts film festival. Everything's lengthy trailer focuses on the correlation between the universe's smallest, biggest, and most remote entities, all while being narrated by the late British philosopher Alan Watts.

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