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Movies

Can Streaming Companies Replace Hollywood Studios? (vanityfair.com) 79

"Movie-theater attendance is down to a 19-year low, with revenues hovering slightly above $10 billion," reports Vanity Fair, arguing that traditional studios should feel threatened by nimble streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon, which produced the film Manchester By The Sea -- nominated for six Oscars. An anonymous reader writes: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos attended the Oscars, prompting host Jimmy Kimmel to joke that if the film won, "you can expect your Oscar to arrive in 2 to 5 business days, possibly stolen by a GrubHub delivery man." But it's a symbol of an inevitable disruption in Hollywood. "Studios now account for less than 10% of their parent companies' profits," writes Vanity Fair, adding "By 2020, according to some forecasts, that share will fall to around 5%... Some 70% of box office comes from abroad, which means that studios must traffic in the sort of blow-'em-up action films and comic-book thrillers that translate easily enough to Mandarin. Or in reboots and sequels that rely on existing intellectual property." Former Paramount CEO Barry Diller famously said "I don't know why anyone would want a movie company today. They don't make movies; they make hats and whistles."

The article makes the case that Hollywood, "in its over-reliance on franchises, has ceded the vast majority of the more stimulating content to premium networks and over-the-top services such as HBO and Showtime, and, increasingly, digital-native platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. These companies also have access to analytics tools that Hollywood could never fathom, and an allergy to its inefficiency."

The article argues that with A.I., CGI, big data and innovation, "Silicon Valley has already won," and that "it's only a matter of time -- perhaps a couple of years -- before movies will be streamed on social-media sites."
Movies

Science Fiction Actor Bill Paxton Dies At Age 61 (ew.com) 88

Bill Paxton died Saturday at the age of 61 after complications from surgery. An anonymous reader remembers Paxton's work with some YouTube clips: Bill Paxton starred in a surprising number of cult science fiction favorites. After playing both the blue-haired punk rocker who confronts The Terminator and the mean older brother in John Hughes' nerd comedy Weird Science, Paxton was cast as private Hudson in Aliens, the soldier who at one point wails "Game over, man!" Sigourney Weaver called his performance "brilliant," while James Cameron said Paxton's character released some of the audience's tension. [For Hudson's climactic final showdown with the aliens] "Bill made up different dialogue on every take, and he was yelling it over a machine gun, so none of it actually recorded."

Paxton also appeared in Predator 2, Apollo 13, Twister, and James Cameron's Titanic. Most recently he provided the voice of the executive Kahn in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and had a recurring role as Hydra agent John Garrett in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Displays

Slashdot Asks: Are Curved TVs Worth It? (cnet.com) 174

New submitter cherishjoo shares a report written by David Katzmaier via CNET: When the first curved TVs appeared more than three years ago I asked whether they were a gimmick. As a TV reviewer I had to give the curve a fighting chance, however, so I took a curved Samsung home to live with my family for awhile, in addition to subjecting it to a full CNET review. In the end, I answered my own question with the headline "Great picture quality, but the curved screen is a flat-out gimmick." Since then most of the video geeks I know, including just about everybody I hear from on Twitter, Facebook and article comments, pooh-poohs curved TV screens as a useless distraction. A curved TV takes the traditional flat screen and bends it along a gentle arc. The edges end up a bit closer, ostensibly providing a slight wraparound effect. Curved TV makers, citing huge curved screens like IMAX, call their sets more "immersive" than their flat counterparts, but in my experience that claim doesn't hold water at in-home (as opposed to theatrical) screen sizes and viewing distances. The only real image-quality benefit I saw to the curve was a reduction in reflections in some cases. That benefit wasn't worth the slight geometric distortions introduced by the curve, not to mention its awkwardness when hung on the wall. That said, the curve doesn't ruin an otherwise good picture. In TVs, assuming similar prices, curved vs. flat boils down to a choice of aesthetics. As Katzmaier mentioned, curved TVs have been on the market for several years now, and while manufacturers continue to produce them, the verdict on whether or not the pros outweigh the cons is still murky. Here's our question for you: Are curved televisions worth the inflated price tag? If you are in the market for a new TV, does the fact that the display is curved entice you or steer you away?
Movies

Studios Push for $50 Early Home Movie Rentals (variety.com) 238

As many as five major Hollywood studios have been working with cinema owners to shrink the traditional release window and allow consumers to rent movies on-demand in as little as 17 days after they hit theaters, reports Variety. From the article: Warner Bros. and Universal have been the most aggressive in pursuing an arrangement that would see certain movies receive a premium video-on-demand release within weeks of their theatrical premieres, but now other studios are joining the discussions. Twentieth Century Fox has also begun to talk early releases with theater owners, while Sony is having its own separate talks with exhibitors and is trying to devise its own plan. Paramount, which previously did a pilot program with AMC and a few other exhibitors to release "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" and "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension" on digital platforms early, has continued to seek a similar strategy. Though different studios are exploring different scenarios, the plan that has gathered the most steam would involve offering up movies for $50 a rental some 17 days after their theatrical opening. Those rentals would be available for 48 hours. The latest round of discussions began roughly 18 months ago.
Graphics

Valve Releases SteamVR For Linux (gamingonlinux.com) 61

New submitter JustNiz quotes a report from GamingOnLinux: Valve has launched SteamVR for Linux officially in beta form and they are keen to stress that this is a development release. You will need to run the latest Steam Beta Client for it to work at all, so be sure to opt-in if you want to play around with it. VR on Linux will exclusively use Vulkan, so it's going to be a pretty good push for Vulkan if VR becomes more popular. Those who are interested can head over to GitHub for more information.
Piracy

Google Says Almost Every Recent 'Trusted' DMCA Notices Were Bogus (torrentfreak.com) 81

Reader AmiMoJo writes: In comments submitted to a U.S. Copyright Office consultation, Google has given the DMCA a vote of support, despite widespread abuse. Noting that the law allows for innovation and agreements with content creators, Google says that 99.95% of URLs it was asked to take down last month didn't even exist in its search indexes. "For example, in January 2017, the most prolific submitter submitted notices that Google honored for 16,457,433 URLs. But on further inspection, 16,450,129 (99.97%) of those URLs were not in our search index in the first place."
HP

HP Is Advertising Its Real, Modern Printers on This Fake, Awkward '80s Computer Show (adweek.com) 86

T.L. Stanley, writing for AdWeek: It's a fine line between effective '80s homage and clumsy retro spoof, with the latter usually involving a lot of overplayed visual gags like brick-sized cell phones and VHS tapes. Cue pointing and laughing. This new HP video, dubbed "Computer Show," hits the sweet spot perfectly with its recreation of a Reagan-era public access show about technology, but with a fish-out-of-water spin. The host is stuck in time -- stilted stage manner, goofy haircut and all -- but his guests are current-day tech pioneers. Awkward hilarity ensues. The short film, made by Giant Spoon and Sandwich Video for HP, sets up a print-off between HP's PageWide super-fast model and a dot matrix supplied by an employee of the neighborhood "Kwikopy."
The Almighty Buck

Valve's Gabe Newell Says Only 30 SteamVR Apps Have Made $250,000+ (roadtovr.com) 151

New submitter rentarno writes: According to Valve President, Gabe Newell, only 30 virtual-reality apps on Steam (of some 1,000) have made more than $250,000. But that isn't stopping the company from throwing the bulk of their weight behind virtual reality; Valve recently confirmed that it's working on 3 full VR games. Valve still believes in a huge future for VR, even while things are slow to start. It'll take work to find and make the content that's great for VR, Newell says. "We got Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress running in VR. It was kind of a novelty, purely a development milestone. There was absolutely nothing compelling about them. Nobody's going to buy a VR system so they can watch movies. You have to aspire and be optimistic that the unique characteristics of VR will cause you to discover a bunch of stuff that isn't possible on any of the existing platforms." How do you view the VR industry in early 2017? Do you think it shows promise or will eventually fail like 3D TV?
Piracy

Online Piracy Can Boost Comic Book Sales, Research Finds (torrentfreak.com) 36

A number of studies show that piracy helps movies, TV shows, and music albums find a much wider audience, which in turn, often times, help in boosting their revenue. But what about comic books? A new academic study shows that piracy can have a positive effect on comic book sales, too, albeit under certain conditions. From a report on TorrentFreak: Manga, in particular, has traditionally been very popular on file-sharing networks and sites. These are dozens of large sites dedicated to the comics, which are downloaded in their millions. According to the anti-piracy group CODA, which represents Japanese comic publishers, piracy losses overseas are estimated to be double the size of overseas legal revenue. With this in mind, Professor Tatsuo Tanaka of the Faculty of Economics at Keio University decided to look more closely at how piracy interacts with legal sales. In a natural experiment, he examined how the availability of pirated comic books affected revenue. Interestingly, the results show that decreased availability of pirated comics doesn't always help sales. In fact, for comics that no longer release new volumes, the effect is reversed. "Piracy decreases sales of ongoing comics, but it increases sales of completed comics," Professor Tanaka writes. "To put this another way, displacement effect is dominant for ongoing comics, and advertisement effect is dominant for completed comics," he adds.
Piracy

Google and Microsoft To Crackdown On Piracy Sites In Search Results (telegraph.co.uk) 103

Google and Microsoft pledged on Monday to crack down on sites hosting pirated content that show up on their search engines. In what is being called a first of its kind agreement, Google and Microsoft's Bing will demote U.K. search results of copyright infringing websites. From a report on The Telegraph: The search engine operators have signed up to a clampdown that will see the UK's copyright watchdog monitor the search results they provide for unlawful websites. The agreement follows years of campaigning by record labels and film studios, which have accused Google and Microsoft of turning a blind eye to piracy and dragging their feet over measures to protect copyright online. Under a new voluntary code, the tech giants have committed to demote websites that have repeatedly been served with copyright infringement notices, so that they do not appear on the first page for common searches.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Web Comic 'Pokey The Penguin' Celebrates Its 19th Anniversary (twitter.com) 67

It's one of the longest-running comics on the internet. (Slashdot is approaching its 20th anniversary, and in its first year ran two stories about Pokey.) Open source developer Steve Havelka of Portland, Oregon created the truly bizarre strip back in 1998 -- one legend says it was originally a parody of another comic drawn with Microsoft Paint -- and he's since sporadically cranked out 637 strips.

Since 2010 he's also been publishing the cartoons in printed books, and this year launched an equally surreal page on Patreon identifying himself as "Steve Havelka, THE AUTHORS of Pokey the Penguin," offering supporters a "mystery item in the mail". Pokey has lots of fans -- he earned a shout-out in the videogame Hitman: Blood Money -- and very-long-time Slashdot reader 198348726583297634 informs us that on this 19th anniversary Pokey "is celebrating on Twitter!" where he's apparently accosting other web cartoonists and touting a new birthday strip. (Not to be confused with that truly horrible Pokey-goes-to-a-party movie created in Adobe Flash.)

I'd like to hear from any Slashdot readers who remember Pokey the Penguin -- but I'm also curious to hear from Slashdot readers who have never read the strip. ComixTalk called it "one of those webcomics that really only exist because of the Internet -- it would be hard to see something like this in any other medium... there's just something about Pokey the Penguin that fits online."
Toys

German Government Tells Parents: Destroy This WiFi-Connected Doll (theverge.com) 142

It's illegal in Germany now to sell a talking doll named "My Friend Cayla," according to a story shared by Slashdot reader Bruce66423. And that's just the beginning. The Verge reports: A German government watchdog has ordered parents to "destroy" an internet-connected doll for fear it could be used as a surveillance device. According to a report from BBC News, the German Federal Network Agency said the doll (which contains a microphone and speaker) was equivalent to a "concealed transmitting device" and therefore prohibited under German telecom law... In December last year, privacy advocates said the toy recorded kids' conversations without proper consent, violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Cayla uses a microphone to listen to questions, sending this audio over Wi-Fi to a third-party company that converts it to text. This is then used to search the internet, allowing the doll to answer basic questions, like "What's a baby kangaroo called?" as well as play games. In addition to privacy concerns over data collection, security researchers found that Cayla can be easily hacked. The doll's insecure Bluetooth connection can be compromised, letting a third party record audio via the toy, or even speak to children using its voice.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has said toys like this "subject young children to ongoing surveillance...without any meaningful data protection standards." One researcher pointed out that the doll was accessible from up to 33 feet away -- even through walls -- using a bluetooth-enabled device.
Businesses

How Atari's Nolan Bushnell Pioneered the Tech Incubator In the 1980s (fastcompany.com) 25

harrymcc writes: After Nolan Bushnell founded Atari and Chuck E. Cheese in the 1970s, he had so many ideas for new tech products that he started a tech incubator called Catalyst to spin them off into startups. Catalyst's companies were involved in robotics, online shopping, navigation, electronic game distribution, and other areas that eventually became big businesses -- but they did it with 1980s technology. Over at Fast Company, Benj Edwards tells this remarkable, forgotten story. New submitter deej1097 provides an excerpt from Edwards' report: In the annals of Silicon Valley history, Nolan Bushnell's name conjures up both brilliant success and spectacular failure. His two landmark achievements were founding Atari in 1972 -- laying the groundwork for the entire video game industry -- and starting Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre in 1977. But there's another highlight of Bushnell's bio that has long gone undocumented: pioneer of the high-tech incubator.
Piracy

70 Percent of Young Swedish Men Are Video Pirates, Study Says (torrentfreak.com) 207

A new study from Sweden has found that just over half of all young people admit to obtaining movies and TV shows from the Internet without paying, a figure that rockets to 70 percent among young men, reports TorrentFreak, citing a study. From the report: According to figures just released by media industry consultants Mediavision, in January 2017 almost a quarter of all Swedes aged between 15 and 74 admitted either streaming or downloading movies from 'pirate' sites during the past month. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tendency to do so is greater among the young. More than half of 15 to 24-year-olds said they'd used a torrent or streaming site during December. When concentrating that down to only young men in the same age group, the figure leaps to 70 percent.
Censorship

CloudFlare Puts Pirate Sites on New IP Addresses, Avoids Cogent Blockade (torrentfreak.com) 88

Earlier this month, several users worldwide reported that they were unable to access pirate websites including the Pirate Bay. It was because the internet backbone network of Cogent Communications had blackholed the CloudFlare IP-address of pirate websites. Less than a week later, CloudFlare is fighting back. From a report on TorrentFreak: The Pirate Bay and dozens of other pirate sites that were blocked by Cogent's Internet backbone are now accessible again. CloudFlare appears to have moved the sites in question to a new pair of IP-addresses, effectively bypassing Cogent's blackhole. [...] As of yesterday, the sites in question have been assigned the IP-addresses 104.31.16.3 and 104.31.17.3, still grouped together. Most, if not all of the sites, are blocked by court order in the UK so this is presumably done to prevent ISP overblocking of 'regular' CloudFlare subscribers.

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