Youtube

YouTube Red is Having an Identity Crisis (digiday.com) 41

During an onstage conversation at Recode's Code Media this week, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki called YouTube Red a music streaming service -- first time any executive from the company has referred to YouTube Red as foremost a music service. From a report: This differs from comments that other YouTube executives have made in the past, including YouTube's head of global content Susanne Daniels, who last year described YouTube Red as a premium subscription streaming service that offers Hollywood-quality shows and movies.

Launched in October 2015, YouTube Red has always been positioned by YouTube as three services in one: It offers ad-free access to all of YouTube; it's a music streaming service that also gives access to Google Play Music; and it's consistently releasing original movies and TV shows, starring Hollywood talent and homegrown stars that users already subscribe to. Two years later, this has created somewhat of an identity crisis for the streaming service. As Wojcicki said in her interview, she sees YouTube Red as a music service. And she does not expect to spend billions of dollars on content to effectively compete with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others.

Sci-Fi

Would You Fear Alien Life or Welcome It? (cnet.com) 213

If you've ever watched a science fiction movie about aliens, you'll know that humans tend to freak out and destroy everything when faced with incontrovertible proof of the existence of alien life. But a new analysis from Arizona State University psychology professor Michael Varnum and his colleagues suggests that humans might actually remain pretty calm and collected when that big news breaks. CNET reports: Varnum makes this conclusion based on an analysis of newspaper articles covering past potential discoveries of extraterrestrial life. Specifically, he and his colleagues looked at articles about the weird dimming of so-called "Tabby's Star," Earth-like planets around the star Trappist-1, and the potential discovery of Martian microbe fossils from 1996. They found language in the stories demonstrated much more positive emotion than fear or other negative emotions. In a second study, the team also surveyed over 500 people, asking them to guess how they and humanity would react to an announcement that alien microbial life had been discovered. In the case of both their own reaction and everyone else's, the participants hypothesized responses that were more positive than negative. The research was published last month in Frontiers in Psychology.
Piracy

Tickbox Must Remove Pirate Streaming Add-ons From Sold Devices (torrentfreak.com) 70

TickBox TV, the company behind a Kodi-powered streaming device, must release a new software updater that will remove copyright-infringing addons from previously shipped devices. A California federal court issued an updated injunction in the lawsuit that was filed by several major Hollywood studios, Amazon, and Netflix, which will stay in place while both parties fight out their legal battle. TorrentFreak reports: Last year, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company Tickbox TV, which sells Kodi-powered set-top boxes that stream a variety of popular media. ACE sees these devices as nothing more than pirate tools so the coalition asked the court for an injunction to prevent Tickbox from facilitating copyright infringement, demanding that it removes all pirate add-ons from previously sold devices. Last month, a California federal court issued an initial injunction, ordering Tickbox to keep pirate addons out of its box and halt all piracy-inducing advertisements going forward. In addition, the court directed both parties to come up with a proper solution for devices that were already sold.

The new injunction prevents Tickbox from linking to any "build," "theme," "app," or "addon" that can be indirectly used to transmit copyright-infringing material. Web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox are specifically excluded. In addition, Tickbox must also release a new software updater that will remove any infringing software from previously sold devices. All tiles that link to copyright-infringing software from the box's home screen also have to be stripped. Going forward, only tiles to the Google Play Store or to Kodi within the Google Play Store are allowed. In addition, the agreement also allows ACE to report newly discovered infringing apps or addons to Tickbox, which the company will then have to remove within 24-hours, weekends excluded.

Youtube

YouTube TV Is Adding More Channels, But It's Also Getting More Expensive (theverge.com) 79

YouTube's internet TV streaming service is expanding its programming with the addition of several Turner networks including TBS, TNT, CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, truTV, and Turner Classic Movies. YouTube TV is also bringing NBA TV and MLB Network to the base lineup. NBA All Access and MLB.TV will be offered as optional paid add-ons "in the coming months." The downside? The price of the service is going up. The Verge reports: Starting March 13th, YouTube TV's monthly subscription cost will rise from $35 to $40. All customers who join the service prior to the 13th will be able to keep the lower $35 monthly rate going forward. And if you've been waiting for YouTube to add Viacom channels, that still hasn't happened yet. Hopefully these jumps in subscription cost won't happen very often. Otherwise these internet TV businesses might suddenly start feeling more like cable (and not in a good way). The Verge also mentions that YouTube TV is adding a bunch of new markets including: Lexington, Dayton, Honolulu, El Paso, Burlington, Plattsburgh, Richmond, Petersburg, Mobile, Syracuse, Champaign, Springfield, Columbia, Charleston, Harlingen, Wichita, Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton.
Businesses

Valve Bans Developer After Employees Leave Fake User Reviews (arstechnica.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Insel Games, a Maltese developer of online multiplayer titles, has been banned from Steam and had all its titles removed from Valve's storefront after evidence surfaced that it was encouraging employees to manipulate user review scores on the service. Yesterday, redditor nuttinbutruth posted a purported leaked email from Insel Games' CEO encouraging employees to buy reimbursed copies of the game in order to leave a Steam review. "Of course I cannot force you to write a review (let alone tell you what to write) -- but I should not have to," the email reads. "Neglecting the importance of reviews will ultimately cost jobs. If [Wild Busters] fails, Insel fails... and then we will all have no jobs next year."

In a message later in the day, Valve said it had investigated the claims in the Reddit post and "identified unacceptable behavior involving multiple Steam accounts controlled by the publisher of this game. The publisher appears to have used multiple Steam accounts to post positive reviews for their own games. This is a clear violation of our review policy and something we take very seriously." While Valve has ended its business relationship with Insel Games, users who previously purchased the company's games on Steam will still be able to use them.

Music

Reddit Audiophiles Test HomePod, Say It Sounds Better Than $1,000 Speaker (arstechnica.com) 327

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple released its much-hyped HomePod speaker to the masses last week, and the general consensus among early reviews is that it sounds superb for a relatively small device. But most of those reviews seem to have avoided making precise measurements of the HomePod's audio output, instead relying on personal experience to give generalized impressions. That's not a total disaster: a general rule for speaker testing is that while it's good to stamp out any outside factor that may cause a skewed result, making definitive, "objective" claims is difficult. But having some proper measurements is important. Reddit user WinterCharm, whose real name is Fouzan Alam, has made just that in a truly massive review for the site's "r/audiophile" sub. And if his results are to be believed, those early reviews may be underselling the HomePod's sonic abilities. After a series of tests with a calibrated microphone in an untreated room, Alam found the HomePod to sound better than the KEF X300A, a generally well-regarded bookshelf speaker that retails for $999. What's more, Alam's measurements found the HomePod to provide a "near-perfectly flat frequency response," meaning it stays accurate to a given track without pushing the treble, mids, or bass to an unnatural degree. He concludes that the digital signal processing tech the HomePod uses to "self-calibrate" its sound to its surroundings allows it to impress at all volumes and in tricky environments. "The HomePod is 100% an audiophile grade speaker," he writes.
It's funny.  Laugh.

There Are Ajit Pai 'Verizon Puppet' Jokes That the FCC Doesn't Want You To Read (arstechnica.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission is refusing to release the draft versions of jokes told by Chairman Ajit Pai at a recent dinner, claiming that releasing the drafts would "impede the candid exchange of ideas" within the commission. In December, Pai gave a speech at the annual FCC Chairman's Dinner and played a video that attempts to lampoon critics who accuse Pai of doing the bidding of Verizon, his former employer. The video was shown less than a week before the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality rules, a favorable move for the broadband industry requested by Verizon and other ISPs. The satirical skit shows Pai planning his future ascension to the FCC chairmanship with Verizon executive Kathleen Grillo in 2003, the last year Pai worked as a Verizon lawyer. The video shows Pai and the Verizon executive plotting to install a "Verizon puppet" as FCC chair. In response, Gizmodo filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request for "any communications records from within the chairman's office referencing the event or the Verizon executive," the news site wrote yesterday. "Nearly a dozen pages worth of emails were located, including draft versions of the video's script and various edits," Gizmodo wrote. "The agency is refusing to release them, however; it is 'reasonably foreseeable,' it said, that doing so would injure the 'quality of agency decisions.'" The FCC searched for the records in response to Gizmodo's request and "returned no communications whatsoever with Kathy Grillo," the article said.
Software

German Authorities Are Considering a Ban On Loot Boxes (heise.de) 106

Slashdot reader Qbertino writes: Heise reports that German authorities are examining loot boxes in video games and considering banning them in the country. Loot boxes might actually even violate laws against calls-to-purchase aimed directly towards minors that are already in effect. German authorities are also checking that. Loot boxes are randomized in-game item purchases that many people consider a form of gambling. The decision to take action against loot boxes in Germany is expected in March. Germany's Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body has since clarified that Germany authorities are not considering a general ban on loot boxes, but are actually examining regulations of online advertising and purchasing as a whole.

"A closer look at the discussion is taking place, ie., if there are any specific risks and where to locate them legally. As part of that analysis the KJM (governmental institution responsible for youth protection regarding to online content/services) is taking a closer look at permitted and prohibited advertising in shop offerings. However these rules apply to online purchases in general, thus also to loot boxes," the rep said. "In the German debate this term [loot box] refers to a broad variety of different in-game or even just game-related purchase systems with more or less randomized items. Hence one cannot say that 'loot boxes' violate German laws, as each integration has to be evaluated as separate case."
Nintendo

Hackers Manage To Run Linux On a Nintendo Switch (techcrunch.com) 119

Romain Dillet reports via TechCrunch: Hacker group fail0verflow shared a photo of a Nintendo Switch running Debian, a distribution of Linux. The group claims that Nintendo can't fix the vulnerability with future firmware patches. According to fail0verflow, there's a flaw in the boot ROM in Nvidia's Tegra X1 system-on-a-chip. When your console starts, it reads and executes a piece of code stored in a read-only memory (hence the name ROM). This code contains instructions about the booting process. It means that the boot ROM is stored on the chip when Nvidia manufactures it and it can't be altered in any way after that. Even if Nintendo issues a software update, this software update won't affect the boot ROM. And as the console loads the boot ROM immediately after pressing the power button, there's no way to bypass it. The only way to fix it would be to manufacture new Nvidia Tegra X1 chips. So it's possible that Nintendo asks Nvidia to fix the issue so that new consoles don't have this vulnerability.
Android

Rejoice: Samsung's Next Flagship Smartphone Looks To Keep the Headphone Jack Alive (theverge.com) 193

Notorious smartphone leaker Evan Blass has leaked a couple press images of the Galaxy S9, giving us the first indication that it will still have a headphone jack. "The full information spill today is actually focused on a new Samsung DeX Pad, which appears to be an evolution of last year's DeX dock for the Galaxy S8," reports The Verge. From the report: Samsung, LG, and a couple of other companies like OnePlus have remained resolute in their inclusion of a headphone jack, but that was far from a certainty for the next Galaxy S iteration. This is a phone that will compete against the iPhone X, Huawei Mate 10 Pro, and more niche rivals like Google's Pixel 2: all of them surviving sans a headphone jack. So Samsung could have dumped the analog audio output, but it seems to have opted against it, and that's worthy of commendation. USB-C earphones are all still either bad or expensive -- or both -- and phones that retain compatibility with 3.5mm connectors remain profoundly useful to consumers that aren't yet convinced by Bluetooth.
Businesses

Mayfair Games Shuts Down After 36 Years of Board Games (polygon.com) 58

damnbunni writes: Longtime board game publisher Mayfair Games (English-language publisher for Settlers of Catan, Agricola, and many more) has shut down after 36 years. All of their games have been sold to Asmodee, who also owns Fantasy Flight Games, Z-Man Games, Rebel, Edge Entertainment, and a host of other board game companies they've picked up over the years. "As of today, the management team at Mayfair Games, Inc. announces we will wind down game publishing," the company said in a statement. "After 36 years, this was not an easy decision or one we took lightly, but it was necessary. Once we had come to this conclusion, we knew we had to find a good home for our games which is when we reached out to Asmodee."
Youtube

YouTube Will Remove Ads, Downgrade Discoverability of Channels Posting Offensive Videos (techcrunch.com) 314

Earlier today, YouTube barred Logan Paul from serving ads on his video channel in response to a "recent pattern of behavior" from him. Now, YouTube has announced a more formal and wider set of sanctions it's prepared to level on any creator that starts to post videos that are harmful to viewers, others in the YouTube community, or advertisers. TechCrunch reports: "We may remove a channel's eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next," Ariel Bardin, Vice President of Product Management at YouTube, writes in a blog post.

The full list of steps, as outlined by YouTube:
1. Premium Monetization Programs, Promotion and Content Development Partnerships. We may remove a channel from Google Preferred and also suspend, cancel or remove a creator's YouTube Original.
2. Monetization and Creator Support Privileges. We may suspend a channel's ability to serve ads, ability to earn revenue and potentially remove a channel from the YouTube Partner Program, including creator support and access to our YouTube Spaces.
3. Video Recommendations. We may remove a channel's eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next.

The changes are significant not just because they could really hit creators where it hurts, but because they also point to a real shift for the platform. YouTube has long been known as a home for edgy videos filled with pranks and potentially offensive content, made in the name of comedy or freedom of expression. Now, the site is turning over a new leaf, using a large team of human curators and AI to track the content of what's being posted, and these videos have a much bigger chance of falling afoul of YouTube's rules and getting dinged.

Sci-Fi

Firefly Canon To Expand With Series of Original Books (ew.com) 106

More Firefly stories are on the way. Entertainment Weekly: EW can exclusively report that Titan Books and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products have teamed up to publish an original range of new fiction tying in to Joss Whedon's beloved but short-lived TV series Firefly. The books will be official titles within the Firefly canon, with Whedon serving as consulting editor. The first book is due in the fall. Starring Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, and Alan Tudyk, the western-tinged space opera ran from 2002 to 2003 on Fox. Exploring weighty moral and ethical questions, Firefly centered on a collection of characters living on the fringes of society, joined together in the pioneer culture of their star system in the wake of a civil war. It lasted just 14 episodes, but in the decade and a half since it went off the air has amassed a significant cult following.
Piracy

Man Handed Conditional Prison Sentence for Spreading Information About Popcorn Time Service (torrentfreak.com) 120

A man from Denmark has been handed a six-month conditional prison sentence for spreading information about Popcorn Time, an authorized on-demand movies and TV shows streaming service, news outlet TorrentFreak reports. From the report: In what is being described as a first for Europe, the man was convicted after telling people how to download, install and use the movie streaming service. He was also ordered to forfeit $83,300 in ad revenue and complete 120 hours community service.
Media

Viacom To Launch Its Own Streaming Service this Year (techcrunch.com) 64

Viacom said today it's planning to launch its own ad-supported streaming service by September 2018, the end of its fiscal year. The service will include "tens of thousands of hours of content" from across Viacom's library. From a report: Viacom had hinted about its plans in streaming before, but it shared a few more details on the call about what the service will include. The company, which owns cable TV channels like MTV and Comedy Central, already licenses some of its content to other streaming services like Sling TV and DirecTV Now, as well as newcomer Philo. "It's going to be rolled out in the U.S., in terms of the amount of content that it's going to have, it's going to have tens of thousands of hours of content that cut across the library we have on a global basis," the company said.
AI

AIs Have Replaced Aliens As Our Greatest World Destroying Fear (qz.com) 227

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Quartz: As we've turned our gaze away from the stars and toward our screens, our anxiety about humanity's ultimate fate has shifted along with it. No longer are we afraid of aliens taking our freedom: It's the technology we're building on our own turf we should be worried about. The advent of artificial intelligence is increasingly bringing about the kinds of disturbing scenarios the old alien blockbusters warned us about. In 2016, Microsoft's first attempt at a functioning AI bot, Tay, became a Hitler-loving mess an hour after it launched. Tesla CEO Elon Musk urged the United Nations to ban the use of AI in weapons before it becomes "the third revolution in warfare." And in China, AI surveillance cameras are being rolled out by the government to track 1.3 billion people at a level Big Brother could only dream of. As AI's presence in film and TV has evolved, space creatures blowing us up now seems almost quaint compared to the frightening uncertainties of an computer-centric world. Will Smith went from saving Earth from alien destruction to saving it from robot servants run amok. More recently, Ex Machina, Chappie, and Transcendence have all explored the complexities that arise when the lines between human and robot blur.

However, sentient machines aren't a new anxiety. It arguably all started with Ridley Scott's 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner. It's a stunning depiction of a sprawling, smog-choked future, filled with bounty hunters muttering "enhance" at grainy pictures on computer screens. ("Alexa, enlarge image.") The neo-noir epic popularized the concept of intelligent machines being virtually indistinguishable from humans and asked the audience where our humanity ends and theirs begin. Even alien sci-fi now acknowledges that we've got worse things to worry about than extra-terrestrials: ourselves.

Television

Samsung and Roku Smart TVs Vulnerable To Hacking, Consumer Reports Finds (consumerreports.org) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Consumer Reports: Consumer Reports has found that millions of smart TVs can be controlled by hackers exploiting easy-to-find security flaws. The problems affect Samsung televisions, along with models made by TCL and other brands that use the Roku TV smart-TV platform, as well as streaming devices such as the Roku Ultra. We found that a relatively unsophisticated hacker could change channels, play offensive content, or crank up the volume, which might be deeply unsettling to someone who didn't understand what was happening. This could be done over the web, from thousands of miles away. (These vulnerabilities would not allow a hacker to spy on the user or steal information.) The findings were part of a broad privacy and security evaluation, led by Consumer Reports, of smart TVs from top brands that also included LG, Sony, and Vizio. The testing also found that all these TVs raised privacy concerns by collecting very detailed information on their users. Consumers can limit the data collection. But they have to give up a lot of the TVs' functionality -- and know the right buttons to click and settings to look for.
Music

Apple Homepod Review: Locked In (theverge.com) 73

On Tuesday, the review embargo lifted for full reviews of Apple's new HomePod smart speaker. The Verge's Niley Patel shared his thoughts on Apple's new HomePod in video and written form. Patel found that while it offers best-in-class sound for the price, Siri is frustratingly limited and the voice controls only work with Apple Music. Furthermore, Siri can't tell different voices apart, therefore raising some privacy concerns as anyone can come up to the speaker and ask Siri to send and read text messages and other private information aloud. Here's an excerpt from the report: The HomePod, whether Apple likes it or not, is the company's answer to the wildly popular Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers. Apple is very insistent that the $349 HomePod has been in development for the past six years and that it's entirely focused on sound quality, but it's entering a market where Amazon is advertising Alexa as a lovable and well-known character during the Super Bowl instead of promoting its actual features. Our shared expectations about smart speakers are beginning to settle in, and outside of engineering labs and controlled listening tests, the HomePod has to measure up. And while it's true that the HomePod sounds incredible -- it sounds far better than any other speaker in its price range -- it also demands that you live entirely inside Apple's ecosystem in a way that even Apple's other products do not. The question is: is beautiful sound quality worth locking yourself even more tightly into a walled garden? As for technical specifications, the HomePod comes in at 6.8 inches high, 5.6 inches wide, and weights 5.5 pounds. It features a high-excursion woofer with custom amplifier, array of seven horn-loaded tweeters, each with its own custom amplifier, six-microphone array, internal low-frequency calibration microphone for automatic bass correction, direct and ambient audio beamforming, and transparent studio-level dynamic processing.
Businesses

Apple Music Was Always Going To Win (gizmodo.com) 161

Apple Music is about to overtake Spotify as the most popular streaming music service in the United States, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend. Gizmodo: [...] Here's where the inevitability comes into play. Because all Apple devices come preloaded with Apple Music, countless consumers start using Apple Music without knowing any better. It's effectively become the streaming music analogue of Microsoft pushing people to surf the web with Internet Explorer. The big difference is that people eventually have to pay for Apple Music, which is the same price as Spotify. As many suspected when it launched three years ago, Apple Music was bound to succeed simply because Apple is big enough and rich enough to will it so. Think about it this way: Spotify gained traction quickly after its 2011 launch, largely because music enthusiasts had seen its streaming model succeed globally and wanted to try this neat new thing. After all, there wasn't anything quite like it at the time, and Americans love to feel innovative.

But eventually, Spotify would cease to feel special and new. As the years passed, practically every major tech company launched its own music streaming service. And then, in 2015, Apple unveiled Apple Music in 2015 -- which was really just a rebranded version of Beats Music. Because Apple could preload the service on iPhones, Watches, and Macs, the company could effectively tap into a new revenue stream without actually inventing anything.

The Media

Hulu, NBC Experience Glitches During Super Bowl Telecast (theverge.com) 98

Variety reports: NBC's coverage of Super Bowl LII briefly went dark for nearly 30 seconds on Sunday night. NBC released a brief statement attributing the outage to an equipment failure... "We had a brief equipment failure that we quickly resolved," the statement read. "No game action or commercial time were missed." The outage happened during a commercial pause in the action between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.
And anonymous reader shared another story from The Verge: Hulu's live TV subscription service cut off the end of tonight's Super Bowl in some markets during the climactic final moments of the Eagles/Patriots game. Tom Brady was making a last-ditch push down the field in hopes of tying the 41-33 contest when Hulu customers lost all video and audio from NBC and U.S. Bank Stadium. Not everyone experienced the abrupt cutoff, which occurred at approximately 10:00PM ET. But those who did received an error screen before the game's conclusion. Error messages ranged from "no content available" to one that said the game couldn't be shown due to rights restrictions. Complaints immediately surged on Twitter and Reddit... In a tweet, the company said there had been "a technical issue" and said users could restart their Hulu app to restore the game feed.

Slashdot Top Deals