Flat Earther Plans New Rocket Launch, Predicts Super Bowl-Sized Ratings ( 219

Self-taught rocket scientist/daredevil "Mad" Mike Hughes will finally launch his homemade rocket in two weeks -- despite "anonymous online haters questioning his every move." An anonymous reader quotes PhillyVoice: He's found some private land in the "ghost town" of Amboy, California -- complete with a brand-spanking-new road that'll enable him to get his motor home and rocket gear to the site... "It'll be a vertical launch, me strapped into the rocket with 6,000 pounds of thrust, going up about three-eighths of a mile," he said, noting it's a prologue to a major launch this Fourth of July weekend. "It's the ultimate Wile E. Coyote move."

As with the scrubbed mission, this is in part an event which he hopes will get people to investigate the ideology which holds the earth is flat -- despite quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. He said it would've happened back in November if international publicity hadn't prompted government bureaucrats to "cover their asses" by pointing out that his launch site crept 150 feet into federal land. "I could've been arrested so at that point, I just went home and got back to work," he said... "But guess what? It's about to happen again... I should get more viewers than the Super Bowl," said Hughes, adding the launch will be aired on Noize TV [a video-on-demand service].

Noize TV has already posted video of a new interview with Hughes, touting his upcoming launch at 3 p.m. on Saturday, February 3, the day before the Super Bowl (which Hughes calls "nothing but bullshit.")

Hughes says he's also filing to run for Governor of California.

Is There a Warning in 'Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams'? ( 51

An anonymous reader quotes io9: That signature feeling feeling of queasy, slow-burning tumult comes through in Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, which originally aired in the UK last September, but is making its American premiere on Amazon Prime this Friday, January 12. The breadth of interpretations across the show's 10 episodes is the real draw for Electric Dreams. One episode will be set in something meant to recognizably stand in for the real world while others are trippy explorations into realities that could never exist. Unfortunately, Electric Dreams' episodes don't just vary in aesthetics; they vary wildly in quality, too...

When Electric Dreams fires on all cylinders, it energizes these short story adaptations by drilling down into the minutiae of how science fiction concepts would alter our everyday existences in real life. The series' common theme is how scientific and technological advancement shears the soul away from our bodies...Electric Dreams' most important task is to show both new viewers and conversant fans why Dick's oeuvre matters, which is hard in a world where we're eerily close to some of his fictional realities...

We're so busy trying to ground ourselves amid constant change that it can be hard to pull out and see society's sweeping shifts. In the '50s and beyond, Dick's science fiction writing mapped out the darker corners of where hi-speed techno-fetishes could take us. For all its unevenness, Electric Dreams adapts his work to show us where we are, relative to his prognostications. If you feel weirded out while watching, that just means the show is doing its job.


Is Finland's Universal Basic Income Trial Too Good To Be True? ( 534

It was one year ago that Finland began giving money to 2,000 unemployed people -- roughly $652 a month (€560 or £475). But have we learned anything about universal basic incomes? An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: Amid this unprecedented media attention, the experts who devised the scheme are concerned it is being misrepresented. "It's not really what people are portraying it as," said Markus Kanerva, an applied social and behavioural sciences specialist working in the prime minister's office in Helsinki. "A full-scale universal income trial would need to study different target groups, not just the unemployed. It would have to test different basic income levels, look at local factors. This is really about seeing how a basic unconditional income affects the employment of unemployed people."

While UBI tends often to be associated with progressive politics, Finland's trial was launched -- at a cost of around €20m (£17.7m or $24.3 million) -- by a centre-right, austerity-focused government interested primarily in spending less on social security and bringing down Finland's stubborn 8%-plus unemployment rate. It has a very clear purpose: to see whether an unconditional income might incentivise people to take up paid work. Authorities believe it will shed light on whether unemployed Finns, as experts believe, are put off taking up a job by the fear that a higher marginal tax rate may leave them worse off. Many are also deterred by having to reapply for benefits after every casual or short-term contract... According to Kanerva, the core data the government is seeking -- on whether, and how, the job take-up of the 2,000 unemployed people in the trial differs from a 175,000-strong control group -- will be "robust, and usable in future economic modelling" when it is published in 2019.

Although the experiment may be impacted by all the hype it's generating, according to the Guardian. "One participant who hoped to start his own business with the help of the unconditional monthly payment complained that, after speaking to 140 TV crews and reporters from as far afield as Japan and Korea, he has simply not been able to find the time."

Studios Sue Dragon Box in Latest Crackdown on Streaming Devices ( 54

An anonymous reader shares a report: Netflix and Amazon joined with the major studios on Wednesday in a lawsuit against Dragon Box, as the studios continue their crackdown on streaming devices. The suit accuses Dragon Box of facilitating piracy by making it easy for customers to access illegal streams of movies and TV shows. Some of the films available are still in theaters, including Disney's "Coco," the suit alleges. Dragon Box has advertised the product as a means to avoid paying for authorized subscription services, the complaint alleges, quoting marketing material that encourages users to "Get rid of your premium channels ... [and] Stop paying for Netflix and Hulu." The same studios filed a similar complaint in October against TickBox, another device that enables users to watch streaming content. Both TickBox and Dragon Box make use of Kodi add-ons, a third-party software application.

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Media Streaming Device? 206

The network card died on Thelasko's smart TV -- and rather than spend $65 on a new one, they're considering buying a nice, simple streaming box. I am running a Rygel server on my PC, but rarely use it... I primarily only watch Amazon Prime, Netflix, and YouTube for streaming, and am wondering what Slashdot users have found to be the best option. I'm considering Roku or Chromecast because they are well known and supported. However, I have heard a lot of news about Kodi devices being more hackable.
AppleTV? Amazon Fire TV? The Emtec GEM Box? Building your own from a Raspberry Pi? Leave your own thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

What's the best media streaming device?

Kansas 'Swat' Perpetrator Had Already Been To Prison For Fake Bomb Threats ( 315

More details are emerging about an online gamer whose fake call to Kansas police led to a fatal shooting:
  • "After phoning in a false bomb threat to a Glendale, California TV station in 2015, Tyler Barriss threatened to kill his grandmother if she reported him, according to local reports and court documents." -- The Wichita Eagle
  • "The Glendale Police Department confirmed to ABC News that Tyler Barriss made about 20 calls to universities and media outlets throughout the country around the time he was arrested for a bomb threat to Los Angeles ABC station KABC in 2015... He was sentenced to two years and eight months in jail, court records show." -- ABC News
  • "Within months of his release in August, he had already become the target of a Los Angeles Police Department investigation into similar hoax calls... LAPD detectives were planning to meet with federal prosecutors to discuss their investigation..." -- The Los Angeles Times
  • The Wichita Eagle reports that even after the police had fatally shot the person SWauTistic was pretending to be, he continued his phone call with the 911 operator for another 16 minutes -- on a call which lasted over half an hour.
  • Brian Krebs reports that police may have been aided in their investigation by another reformed SWAT perpetrator -- adding that SWauTistic privately claimed to have already called in fake emergencies at approximately 100 schools and 10 homes.

Just last month SWauTistic's Twitter account showed him bragging about a bomb threat which caused the evacuation of a Dallas convention center, according to the Daily Beast -- after which SWauTistic encouraged his Twitter followers to also follow him on a second account, "just in case twitter suspends me for being a god." Later the 25-year-old tweeted that "if you can't pull off a swat without getting busted you're not a leet hacking God its that simple."

Barriss remains in jail in Los Angeles with no bond, though within three weeks he's expected to be extradited to Kansas for his next trial.


Opinion: Chrome is Turning Into the New Internet Explorer 6 ( 294

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge: Chrome now has the type of dominance that Internet Explorer once did, and we're starting to see Google's own apps diverge from supporting web standards much in the same way Microsoft did a decade and a half ago. Whether you blame Google or the often slow moving World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the results have been particularly evident throughout 2017. Google has been at the center of a lot of "works best with Chrome" messages we're starting to see appear on the web. Google Meet, Allo, YouTube TV, Google Earth, and YouTube Studio Beta all block Windows 10's default browser, Microsoft Edge, from accessing them and they all point users to download Chrome instead. Some also block Firefox with messages to download Chrome. Hangouts, Inbox, and AdWords 3 were all in the same boat when they first debuted.

It's led to one developer at Microsoft to describe Google's behavior as a strategic pattern. "When the largest web company in the world blocks out competitors, it smells less like an accident and more like strategy," said a Microsoft developer in a now-deleted tweet. Google also controls the most popular site in the world, and it regularly uses it to push Chrome. If you visit in a non-Chrome browser you're prompted up to three times if you'd like to download Chrome. Google has also even extended that prompt to take over the entire page at times to really push Chrome in certain regions. Microsoft has been using similar tactics to convince Windows 10 users to stick with Edge. The troubling part for anyone who's invested in an open web is that Google is starting to ignore a principle it championed by making its own services Chrome-only -- even if it's only initially.


Amazon's YouTube Workaround on Fire TV Works Just Fine ( 64

Last month, a notification that YouTube would no longer be available through Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices starting Jan. 1 popped up, threatening to leave a huge hole in Amazon's streaming lineup. But just last week, Amazon added the ability to surf the web and get to YouTube via a browser. But does it work? GeekWire thinks so: The result is a simple path to YouTube, circumventing Google's move to pull it from Fire TV. Web browsing probably wasn't a direct response to Amazon's issues with Google, which owns YouTube, but it provides a convenient alternative to keep the service accessible for Fire TV users. The first step is downloading one or both of the web browsers. Opening Firefox leads to this home screen with easy access tiles to both Google and YouTube. On Silk, the home screen defaults to Bing search. But as I poked around, I noticed that YouTube for TV showed up in my bookmarks even though this was the first time I opened the browser. A YouTube interface optimized for TV, the same one you would see on other streaming devices, pops up on both browsers. To sign in, YouTube prompted me to activate YouTube for TV through a phone or computer. Once that process was complete, YouTube showed the same personalized recommendations as my phone and computer.

The World's First 88-inch 8K OLED Display ( 136

From a report: Come CES, LG will be letting attendees get up close with its new 88-inch 8K OLED display, which is both the largest and the highest-resolution OLED panel to date. But as far as specs go, that's all we have for now. Previously, the largest OLED screen size was 77 inches, and it "only" came in 4K. While this combination is currently offered to consumers by the likes of LG Electronics, Sony and Panasonic, they all source their large OLED panels from LG Display.

Kodi Media Player Arrives On the Xbox One ( 57

The Kodi media player is now available to download on your Xbox One, making it one of the best Xbox One exclusives of the year. The Verge reports: Kodi is a very capable player that's highly expandable thanks to third-party add-ons like live TV and DVR services -- something Microsoft isn't going to provide. But Kodi is perhaps best known as the go to app for piracy due to a wide variety of plugins that let you illegally stream television shows, professional sports, and films from the comfort of your living room. This has led to a cottage industry of so-called "Kodi boxes," often built around cheap HDMI dongles like Amazon's Fire TV sticks. While the XBMC Foundation has attempted to distance itself from the illegal third-party plugins, it's also benefited from the exposure. In a blog post, Kodi warns that the Xbox One download isn't finished and may contain missing features and bugs. Fun fact: Kodi began life fifteen years ago as the XBMP (Xbox Media Player). The only way to get the open-source player running on an original Xbox was to hack the console. XBMP eventually evolved into XBMC (Xbox Media Center), which then became Kodi.

That Game on Your Phone May Be Tracking What You're Watching on TV ( 98

Rick Zeman writes: The New York Times (may be paywalled) has an article describing how some apps track TV and movie viewing even when the loaded app isn't currently active. These seemingly innocuous games, geared towards both adults and children work by "using a smartphone's microphone. For instance, Alphonso's software can detail what people watch by identifying audio signals in TV ads and shows, sometimes even matching that information with the places people visit and the movies they see. The information can then be used to target ads more precisely...." While these apps, mostly available on Google play, with some available on the Apple Store, do offer an opt opt, it's not clear when consumers see "permission for microphone access for ads," it may not be clear to a user that, "Oh, this means it's going to be listening to what I do all the time to see if I'm watching 'Monday Night Football."'
One advertising executive summarizes thusly: "It's not what's legal. It is what's not creepy."

Open Source

Kodi 18 'Leia' 64-Bit For Windows Is Finally Ready To Replace the 32-bit Version ( 80

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Earlier this year, we shared with you that a pre-release version of Kodi 18 "Leia" 64-bit for Windows was available. There was a big catch, however -- it was not up to par with its 32-bit brother. And so, many people just stuck with the 32-bit version, because, well... why not? It is finally time to make the jump to the 64-bit variant, however, as according to the Kodi team, it is now identical to the 32-bit version from a feature perspective. "The 64-bit Kodi version for Windows is now feature complete and on the same level as 32-bit. From now on the 32-bit installer will include a warning to ask you to install the 64-bit instead. This upgrade from 32-bit to 64-bit version is seamless and you just need to install on top of the old version," says Kodi.

Russia Lost a $45 Million Satellite Because 'They Didn't Get the Coordinates Right' ( 101

Last month, Russia lost contact with a 6,062-pound, $45 million satellite. Turns out, that happened because the Meteor-M weather satellite was programmed with the wrong coordinates. Gizmodo reports: On Wednesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told the Rossiya 24 state TV channel that a human error was responsible for the screw-up, according to Reuters. While the Meteor-M launched last month from the Vostochny cosmodrome in the Far East, it was reportedly programmed with take-off coordinates for the Baikonur cosmodrome, which is located in southern Kazakhstan. "The rocket was really programmed as if it was taking off from Baikonur," Rogozin said. "They didn't get the coordinates right." And the rocket had some precious cargo on board: "18 smaller satellites belonging to scientific, research and commercial companies from Russia, Norway, Sweden, the U.S., Japan, Canada and Germany," Reuters reported.

Amazon's YouTube App on Fire TV Stops Working Ahead of Schedule ( 85

Amazon has already deactivated its YouTube app on Fire TV devices, four days before a planned blockade by Google. Instead of opening YouTube directly, the app now encourages users to install Silk or Firefox, and will open a link to the site once either browser is installed. From a report: Google has said it will cut off YouTube access on Fire TV starting January 1, citing Amazon's unwillingness to support Prime Video on Chromecast, or to sell Google hardware (including Chromecast) on its website. The companies say they're having productive discussions, and Amazon now has a product listing up for Chromecast, but the YouTube app's deactivation suggests an agreement isn't imminent.
Christmas Cheer

36,744 People Are Watching Overwatch's Jeff Kaplan Sit Motionless With A Yule Log ( 78

An anonymous reader quotes Kotaku: He's been this way for over an hour, and as word's gotten out the audience has swelled to over 30,000... The Twitch stream opened a couple hours ago on an empty chair. A few minutes later Kaplan walked in and sat down. He's been there ever since, sometimes crossing his legs, sometimes uncrossing them, and always looking, watching, waiting. And lest anyone think the stream is somehow a small segment of footage on loop, there have been a few weird moments sprinkled throughout, including one where Jeff gets booped by an off camera boom mic. In the other, less action filled parts, you can feel time passing as the rate of Jeff blinking changes. Three different blinking speeds, we'll call them long stare, short stare, and turbo eye lash flicking, have taken shape in the stream like the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future...

It's boring to the point of being impossible to look away. It's actually the opposite of what this time of year's supposed to be about. You should be having human interactions with other people. Catching up with family and friends. Not sitting with your phone or laptop transfixed by a motionless Jeff far he's just continued to sit and stare, perhaps pondering the future of the game or that email he forgot to respond to from a few days ago or maybe just the fact the how many Christmas Eves ago he never imagined where he'd be on December 24, 2017.


How Harvard Teaches CS Students How To Code ( 138

Harvard computer science professor David J. Malan "is pretty amazing!" says long-time education-watcher theodp. And he's sharing a link to the online version of Malan's famous CS50 class, "if you can't pony up the estimated $63,025-a-year sticker price to take 'the quintessential Harvard (and Yale!) course' on campus."

KQED's education site "MindShift" reports: Malan's class attracts students who have never taken computer science before, as well as kids who have been coding a long time. His goal with this diverse group of learners is to create a community that's equal and collaborative. One way he does this is by asking students to self-identify by comfort level. Those groups become different section levels, and they sometimes get different homework, but harder assignments are not worth more credit. Malan said recently that the "less comfortable" group has dominated his 700-person course. "At the end of the day all students are treated with the same expectations," said Malan, speaking at the Building Learning Communities conference in Boston.

Students are graded based on each individual's growth; Malan and his team of teaching assistants don't use absolute measures when assigning grades. Instead, they look at scope, how hard the student tried, correctness, how right the work was, style, how aesthetic the code is, and design, which is the most subjective. When it's time to assign grades, Malan and his teaching fellows have lots of in-depth conversations about how each student has improved relative to where he or she started...

The course includes a tool that rewrites error messages to make them easier to understand, plus a code-checking tool which they're planning to open source. There's also a cloud-based IDE which "allows students to access their code from multiple locations," though students can also submit their code through GitHub. (The original submission complains that Harvard's students are "coddled.") But Malan says the class works partly because there's an intentionally social aspect to it -- including numerous teaching assistants holding office hours in public spaces and "the human structure within the course." Guest lecturers have even included Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Ballmer.

But all these technical details don't really capture the wild flavor of the course and all of its multimedia bells and whistles. Malan's fast-paced lectures often close with relevant clips from movies -- for example, a lecture on cryptography which ended with video from a movie you'd see "if you turn on your TV on December 24th."

SpaceX Rocket Stuns Californians As It Carries 10 Satellites Into Space ( 105

A reused SpaceX rocket carried 10 satellites into orbit from California on Friday, leaving behind a trail of mystery and wonder as it soared into space. Elon Musk jokingly tweeted a video of the rocket with the caption, "Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea." The Guardian reports: The Falcon 9 booster lifted off from coastal Vandenberg air force base, carrying the latest batch of satellites for Iridium Communications. The launch in the setting sun created a shining, billowing streak that was widely seen throughout southern California and as far away as Phoenix, Arizona. Calls came in to TV stations as far afield as San Diego, more than 200 miles south of the launch site, as people puzzled about what caused the strange sight. Cars stopped on freeways in Los Angeles so drivers and passengers could take pictures and video. The Los Angeles fire department issued an advisory that the "mysterious light in the sky" was from the rocket launch. The same rocket carried Iridium satellites into orbit in June. That time, the first stage landed on a floating platform in the Pacific ocean. This time, the rocket was allowed to plunge into the sea. It was the 18th and final launch of 2017 for SpaceX, which has contracted to replace Iridium's system with 75 updated satellites. SpaceX has made four launches and expects to make several more to complete the job by mid-2018. The satellites also carry payloads for global aircraft tracking and a ship-tracking service. Did any Slashdotters manage to view the spectacle?

Firefox Is Now Available On Amazon's Fire TV, Bringing YouTube Access With It ( 49

Mozilla has announced that its Firefox web browser is now available on all Fire TV devices. While navigating web browsers on televisions isn't the most user-friendly experience, it could be the only way users can access YouTube. Earlier this month, Google pulled YouTube off the Fire TV and Echo Show since Amazon stopped selling several Google products. TechRadar reports: Though there's no explicit 'hey, this is a convenient workaround' section in Mozilla's announcement of the news, there is a section of the blog post which states that users can "go to YouTube and other sites directly from the Firefox for Fire TV home screen" and another which promises access to videos from "YouTube and other popular sites." While the companies are currently in talks to resolve their disagreements, Google's threat to pull YouTube access from the Fire TV line on January 1, 2018, is still hanging over Amazon. This threat is, however, now carries slightly less menace if Firefox browser access remains a workaround.

Amazon Files For 'AmazonTube' and 'OpenTube' Trademarks As Fight With YouTube Gets Pettier ( 81

"Amazon applied for an 'AmazonTube' trademark earlier this week, according to a filing found by TV Answer Man, as the company's public feud with Google over accessing YouTube content on Amazon's devices continues to escalate," reports The Verge. "While there's not a lot of information about what AmazonTube might be, based on the trademark application's description of 'providing non-downloadable pre-recorded audio, visual and audiovisual works via wireless networks on a variety of topics of general interest,' it sure sounds like a YouTube competitor." From the report: TechCrunch notes that Amazon has also applied for a trademark on "OpenTube," as well, which, if anything, is a more blatant name for what Google is looking to accomplish here. It's also not the first time that Amazon has been rumored to be working on its own, free video service -- earlier this year there were rumors that Amazon was planning a "freemium" version of Prime Video, although the company released a statement saying that it had no plans to do so.

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