The Internet

Cord-Cutting Still Doesn't Beat the Cable Bundle (wired.com) 411

I'd like to cut the cord, writes Brian Barrett for Wired, then, the very instant I allow myself to picture what life looks like after that figurative snip, my reverie comes crashing down. From an article: Cutting the cord is absolutely right for some people. Lots of people, maybe. But it's not that cheap, and it's not that easy, and there's not much hope of improvement on either front any time soon. Not to turn this into a math experiment, but let's consider cost. Assuming you're looking for a cord replacement, not abandoning live television altogether, you're going to need a service that bundles together a handful of channels and blips them to your house over the internet. The cheapest way you can accomplish this is to pay Sling TV $20 per month, for which you get 29 channels. That sounds not so bad, and certainly less than your cable bill. But! Sling Orange limits you to a single stream. If you're in a household with others, you'll probably want Sling Blue, which offers multiple streams and 43 channels for $25 per month. But! Sling Orange and Sling Blue have different channel lineups (ESPN is on Orange, not Blue, while Orange lacks FX, Bravo and any locals). For full coverage, you can subscribe to both for $40. But! Have kids? You'll want the Kids Extra package for another $5 per month. Love ESPNU? Grab that $5 per month sports package. HBO? $15 per month, please. Presto, you're up to $65 per month. But! Don't forget the extra $5 for a cloud-based DVR. Plus the high-speed internet service that you need to keep your stream from buffering, which, by the way, it'll do anyway. That's not to pick on Sling TV, specifically. But paying $70 to quit cable feels like smoking a pack of Parliaments to quit Marlboro Lights. You run into similar situations across the board, whether it's a higher base rate, or a limited premium selection, or the absence of local programming altogether. It turns out, oddly enough, that things cost money, whether you access those things through traditional cable packages or through a modem provided to you by a traditional cable operator.
Businesses

The Windows App Store is Full of Pirate Streaming Apps (torrentfreak.com) 96

Ernesto Van der Sar, reporting for TorrentFreak: When we were browsing through the "top free" apps in the Windows Store, our attention was drawn to several applications that promoted "free movies" including various Hollywood blockbusters such as "Wonder Woman," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," and "The Mummy." Initially, we assumed that a pirate app may have slipped past Microsoft's screening process. However, the 'problem' doesn't appear to be isolated. There are dozens of similar apps in the official store that promise potential users free movies, most with rave reviews. Most of the applications work on multiple platforms including PC, mobile, and the Xbox. They are pretty easy to use and rely on the familiar grid-based streaming interface most sites and services use. Pick a movie or TV-show, click the play button, and off you go. The sheer number of piracy apps in the Windows Store, using names such as "Free Movies HD," "Free Movies Online 2020," and "FreeFlix HQ," came as a surprise to us. In particular, because the developers make no attempt to hide their activities, quite the opposite.
Television

Plex Responds, Will Allow Users To Opt Out Of Data Collection (www.plex.tv) 89

stikves writes: This weekend Plex had announced they were implementing a new privacy policy, including removing the ability for opting out of data collection and sharing. Fortunately the backlash here, on their forums, Reddit, and other placed allowed them to offer a more sensible state, including bringing back opt-out, and anonymity of some of the data.
Plex CEO Keith Valory wrote Saturday that some information must be transferred just to provide the service -- for example, servers still check for updates, they have to determine whether a user has a premium Plex Pass, and "we have to provide accurate reporting to licensors for things like trailers and extras, photo tagging, lyrics, licensed codecs and so on... [W]e came to the conclusion that providing an 'opt out' in the set-up gives a false sense of privacy and feels disingenuous on our part. That is, even if you opted out, there is still a bunch of data we are collecting that we tried to call out as exceptions." But to address concerns about data collection, Plex will make new changes to their privacy policy: [I]n addition to providing the ability to opt out of crash reporting and marketing communications, we will provide you the ability to opt out of playback statistics for personal content on your Plex Media Server, like duration, bit rate, and resolution in a new privacy setting... we are going to "generalize" playback stats in order to make it impossible to create any sort of "fingerprint" that would allow anyone to identify a file in a library... Finally, in the new privacy tab in the server settings we will provide a full list of all product events data that we collect... Our intention here is to provide full transparency. Users will have one place where they can see what data is being collected and where they can opt out of playback data that they are not comfortable with."
And he emphasized that "we will never sell or share data related to YOUR content libraries."
Television

Should Plex Stop Allowing Users To Opt Out of Data Collection? (www.plex.tv) 157

UPDATE: Plex has now made more changes to their privacy policy to address concerns about data collection, including "the ability to opt out of playback statistics for personal content on your Plex Media Server" and a promise "to 'generalize' playback stats in order to make it impossible to create any sort of 'fingerprint' that would allow anyone to identify a file in a library."

Here's what the original kerfuffle was about. Slashdot reader bigdogpete wrote: Many users of Plex got an email that said they were changing their privacy policy which goes into effect on 20 September 2017. While most of the things are pretty standard, users found it odd that they were now not going to allow users to opt-out of data collection. Here is the part from their website explaining the upcoming changes.

"In order to understand the usage across the Plex ecosystem and how we need to improve, Plex will continue to collect usage statistics, such as device type, duration, bit rate, media format, resolution, and media type (music, photos, videos, etc.). We will no longer allow the option to opt out of this statistics collection, but we do not sell or share your personally identifiable statistics. Again, we will not collect any information that identifies libraries, files, file names, and/or the specific content stored on your privately hosted Plex Media Servers. The only exception to this is when, and only to the extent, you use Plex with third-party services such as Sonos, Alexa, webhooks, and Last.fm."

What do you all think?

Music

How Hackers Can Use Pop Songs To 'Watch' You (fastcompany.com) 33

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fast Company: Forget your classic listening device: Researchers at the University of Washington have demonstrated that phones, smart TVs, Amazon Echo-like assistants, and other devices equipped with speakers and microphones could be used by hackers as clandestine sonar "bugs" capable of tracking your location in a room. Their system, called CovertBand, emits high-pitched sonar signals hidden within popular songs -- their examples include songs by Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake -- then records them with the machine's microphone to detect people's activities. Jumping, walking, and "supine pelvic tilts" all produce distinguishable patterns, they say in a paper. (Of course, someone who hacked the microphone on a smart TV or computer could likely listen to its users, as well.)
Businesses

A 'Netflix Tax'? Yes, and It's Already a Thing in Some States (usatoday.com) 131

An anonymous reader shares a report: Your monthly bill for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streaming entertainment services could go up soon as states such as Illinois try to find ways to offset declining sales taxes and other revenue shortfalls. Chicago, Pennsylvania and Florida have already passed a so-called Netflix tax, and cities such as Pasadena, Calif. have broached the issue. These taxes can translate to additional fees of less than $1 each month to consumers. But over the months -- and tacked onto multiple streaming subscriptions -- they might add up to $50 or more each year. Netflix, consumer tax groups and tech trade organizations have voiced their opposition to such taxes, warning they can be unfair and deter innovation. Some opponents have initiated legal challenges, and at least one state has shelved plans after a court decision. But state and local governments aren't likely to halt fresh efforts as falling pay-TV subscriptions and video rentals mean there's less opportunity to tax cable bills or charge sales tax at the cash register.
Operating Systems

PlayStation 4 Update 5.0 Officially Revealed (gamespot.com) 33

After the PlayStation 4's 5.0 update was leaked last week, Sony decided to officially reveal what's coming in the update. GameSpot highlights the new features in their report: Some of the enhancements center around streaming using the PS4's built-in broadcasting capabilities. PS4 Pro users will be able to stream in 1080p and 60 FPS, provided their connection is strong enough, and PSVR users will be able to see new messages and comments coming through while broadcasting. PSVR is also adding 5.1ch and 7.1ch virtual surround sound support. Next up, the PS4's Friends List is being updated with greater management tools, such as the ability to set up separate lists of friends. You'll be able to create a list of all the people you play Destiny with and send them all an invite, for example. This feature replaces the old Favorite Groups tab. In another move to help reduce the amount of time spent in menus, the Quick Menu is being updated to have more options. For example, you'll be able to check on download progress and see new party invites. You can also leave a party from within that menu and see your current Spotify playlist. Notifications are also being improved when watching films and TV, as you can now disable message and other notification pop-ups while watching media. You can also change how much of a message is displayed, as well as its color, when playing or watching any form of content.

Finally, Parental Control features are being overhauled in favor of what Sony calls "Family on PSN." This replaces the old Master/Sub account system; instead, one user is deemed the Family Manager, and they can set up other accounts and appoint them as a Parent/Guardian, Adult, or Child. Parents or Guardians can restrict Child accounts in their "use of online features and communication with other players, set restrictions for games, restrict the use of the internet browser, and set spending limits for PlayStation Store." Note that Sony says the first time any North American user tries to set up an Adult account, they will be charged $0.50 "to verify that you are an adult."

Television

YouTube Has An Illegal TV Streaming Problem (mashable.com) 119

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: Most people turn to Netflix to binge watch full seasons of a single TV show, but there could be a much cheaper way: YouTube. You might be surprised to learn that you can watch full episodes of popular TV shows on YouTube for free, thanks to a large number of rogue accounts that are hosting illegal live streams of shows. Perhaps the most shocking thing about these free (and very illegal) TV live streams might even make their way into your suggested video queue, if you watch enough "random shit" and Bobby Hill quote compilations on the site, as Mashable business editor Jason Abbruzzese recently experienced. He first noticed the surprisingly high number of illegal TV streaming accounts on his YouTube homepage, which has tailored recommended videos based on his viewing habits. Personalized recommendations aren't exactly new -- but the number of illegal live streams broadcasting copyrighted material on a loop was a shocker. When we looked deeper into the livestreams, the number we found was mindblowing. Many of these accounts appear to exist solely to give watchers an endless loop of their favorite shows and only have a few other posts related to the live streamed content. "YouTube respects the rights of copyright holders and we've invested heavily in copyright and content management tools to give rights holders control of their content on YouTube," a YouTube spokesperson told Mashable in an email. "When copyright holders work with us to provide reference files for their content, we ensure all live broadcasts are scanned for third party content, and we either pause or terminate streams when we find matches to third party content."
Businesses

Apple Is Bringing a Billion Dollar Checkbook To Hollywood and Wants To Buy 10 TV Shows (recode.net) 79

Apple is officially open for business in Hollywood. From a report: The company is telling content makers it wants to spend $1 billion on its own stuff over the next year. That's music to studios' ears, and a tune they have been expecting for some time -- especially after Apple hired two top Sony TV executives in June. We still don't know what Apple wants to do with that content: The Wall Street Journal says Apple wants to make up to 10 "Game of Thrones" -- or "House of Cards"-scale shows, but that's not enough to launch a full-scale subscription service.
Displays

Samsung Pushes Its 4K/HDR TV Service in Europe (4k.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes 4K.com: Samsung Electronics has announced that its premium Smart TV content service, TV Plus, is now available for users of Samsung Smart TVs in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom... Owners of eligible Samsung Smart TVs with 4K / HDR capabilities in the above-mentioned European countries now have direct access to premium 4K UHD HDR content offered by Samsung, in partnership with Rakuten TV, and can find their favorite shows using the TV Plus straightforward interface... The expansion comes at what could be considered a strategically well timed moment in the European market, given that 4K TV sales in the huge continental market are steadily growing year by year and are expected to rise to over 17 million 4K TV units shipped by the end of 2017. Meanwhile, TV Plus content has become a success in Southeast Asia since its launch, where 70% of Smart TV users in Korea are watching TV PLUS channels, and 41% of Smart TV users in Vietnam are using TV PLUS.
Businesses

Some Retailers Criticize Amazon's Recall of Eclipse Glasses (kgw.com) 150

An anonymous reader quotes Portland TV station KGW: Amazon issued a widespread recall for solar eclipse glasses early Saturday morning, one week before the August 21 eclipse. That move stunned some sellers who say their glasses are verified safe.... "We recommend that you DO NOT use this product to view the sun or the eclipse," Amazon wrote... "Out of an abundance of caution, we have proactively reached out to customers and provided refunds for eclipse glasses that may not comply with industry standards." At least a dozen KGW viewers said they received recall notices from Amazon Saturday... KGW viewer Heather Andersen said she bought two separate sets of solar glasses and learned both were not verified. "I give up," she tweeted...

Manish Panjwani's Los Angeles-based astronomy product business, AgenaAstro, has sold three times its average monthly revenue in the past month. Ninety-five percent is related to the solar eclipse... Panjwani's eclipse glasses come from two NASA-approved sellers: Thousand Oaks Optical in Arizona and Baader Planetarium in Germany. He said he provided documentation to Amazon proving the products' authenticity weeks ago, with no response from Amazon. On Saturday morning, he woke up to 100 emails from customers after Amazon issued a recall for his products. "People have some of the best glasses in the world in their hands right now and they don't believe in that product," he said. "They're out there looking for something inferior." Panjwani said Amazon is temporarily retaining some of his profits because of the recall. He also has almost 5,000 glasses at an Amazon warehouse, which customers can no longer purchase. "That's just sitting there. I cannot sell it and I cannot get it back in time for the eclipse," he said.

Google

Fired Google Engineer Says Company Execs Shamed and Smeared Him (bloomberg.com) 711

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report, in which the recently fired employee has been interviewed: James Damore, who until Monday worked as an engineer on video and image search at Alphabet's Mountain View, California, headquarters, said he initially shared the 3,300-word memo internally a month ago. But it was only after the memo went viral that company leaders banded together to make him an outcast, he said on Bloomberg TV. When he initially circulated the memo, "no one high up ever came to me and said, 'No, don't do this,' even though there were many people who looked at it," Damore said. "It was only after it got viral that upper management started shaming me and eventually firing me." The memo, which was leaked to the public over the weekend, argues that conservative viewpoints are suppressed at Google and that biological differences between men and women explain in part why so few women work in software engineering. Even if someone in Google management had agreed with some of the arguments put forth in his piece, they wouldn't have felt safe speaking up, he said. "There was a concerted effort among upper management to have a very clear signal that what I did was harmful and wrong and didn't stand for Google," Damore said. "It would be career suicide for any executives or directors to support me."
Facebook

Facebook Launches Watch Tab For Video Shows, Uses TV's 75-Year-Old Marketing Pitch (marketwatch.com) 40

From a report: Facebook's push toward original video content will take a big step forward Thursday with the launch of a new section, dubbed Watch. The new tab, which Facebook FB, said late Wednesday will launch for a limited number of U.S. users for now, will feature about 40 original series, with plans to eventually scale up to hundreds of shows. Facebook said it will become available to more users in the coming weeks. The Mountain View, Calif., social network is hoping to tap into lucrative TV advertising revenue to boost its ever-expanding bottom line. If successful, Watch could stem the ad-load slowdown for the rest of the year that Chief Financial Officer David Wehner warned about last month when Facebook filed its quarterly earnings. Facebook also hopes the Watch tab will open up a new method of advertising that doesn't clutter users' News Feeds, and keep its 2 billion users on its site longer. Company's founder Mark Zuckerberg is understandably very excited about the move. He says the company believes "it's possible to rethink a lot of experiences through the lens of building community -- including watching video. Watching a show doesn't have to be passive. It can be a chance to share an experience and bring people together who care about the same things." If that pitch sounds familiar to you, it's because TV has been doing it for more than 75 years.
Power

Mass Market Hopes For Battery-free Cell Phone Technology (reuters.com) 102

Mark Hanrahan, writing for Reuters: Researchers in the United States have unveiled a prototype of a battery-free mobile phone, using technology they hope will eventually come to be integrated into mass-market products. The phone is the work of a group of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and works by harvesting tiny amounts of power from radio signals, known as radio frequency or 'RF' waves. "Ambient RF waves are all around us so, as an example, your FM station broadcasts radio waves, your AM stations do that, your TV stations, your cellphone towers. They all are transmitting RF waves," team member Vamsi Talla told Reuters. The phone is a first prototype and its operation is basic - at first glance it looks little more than a circuit board with a few parts attached and the caller must wear headphones and press a button to switch between talking and listening.
Communications

Disney To Pull Its Movies From Netflix and Start Its Own Streaming Service (theverge.com) 270

Disney announced today that it will end its distribution deal with Netflix and launch its own streaming service in 2019. "The move is a real blow to Netflix, which secured a valuable streaming deal with Disney back in 2012 -- before streaming had really taken off," reports The Verge. "The deal only kicked into effect last year, so Netflix is barely seeing any benefit here." From the report: Netflix won't lose its Disney movies right away. Disney says it plans to cut Netflix off starting with the studio's 2019 films, and Netflix says it'll be able to keep all the Disney movies it gets through the end of that year. That means Netflix should be able to stream the next two Star Wars movies, but it'll miss out on the new trilogy's final installment. "We continue to do business with the Walt Disney Company on many fronts, including our ongoing deal with Marvel TV," said a spokesperson for Netflix. Disney's streaming service will be built off technology from BAMTech, the MLB-founded video streaming platform. Disney was already a major investor in BAMTech, and today it's making an even bigger investment -- of $1.58 billion -- giving it a 75 percent stake in the company. The acquisition still requires regulatory approval. The Disney-branded streaming service will be the "exclusive home in the U.S. for subscription-video-on-demand viewing," and will kick off with films including Toy Story 4 and the sequel to Frozen. "Original movies, TV shows, [and] short-form content" will be added to the service, and it'll be filled out with older movies from Disney and Pixar's catalog and shows from Disney's TV channels. The report also notes Disney plans to launch a streaming service exclusively for ESPN, targeted for launch early next year. "Disney is promising about '10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year,' with individual sports packages available as well," reports The Verge.
Television

David Letterman Returning to TV With Netflix Talk Show (hollywoodreporter.com) 70

Lesley Goldberg, writing for The Hollywood Reporter: Two years after signing off CBS' The Late Show, David Letterman is returning to the small screen. The longest-serving host in U.S. late-night TV history is set to topline a new talk show for Netflix. The untitled six-episode series will premiere in 2018. Unlike The Late Show, each hourlong episode of the Netflix series will be prerecorded and feature Letterman conducting longform conversations with a singular guest as well as exploring topics on his own -- outside of the studio. A guest list has not yet been revealed. "I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix. Here's what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely," Letterman said.
Businesses

Netflix's First Takeover: a Comics Firm (bbc.com) 37

Netflix announced today that it is acquiring Mark Millar, a well-known name in the world of comics. As part of the deal, the on-demand streaming company said, it will be creating original movies and TV shows from the content. It's Netflix's first acquisition. From a report: Millarworld, founded by Mark Millar from Coatbridge, includes his portfolio of characters and stories such as Kick-Ass, Kingsman, and Old Man Logan. Mr Millar said he was still "blinking" over the news. He said it was only the third time a comic book purchase on this scale had ever happened, with Warner Bros buying DC Comics in 1968, and Disney buying Marvel in 2009. Mr Millar, who lives in Glasgow, started Millarworld as a creator-owned comic-book company nearly 15 years ago. He runs the company with his wife Lucy Millar. It is the first ever company acquisition in Netflix's history. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Mr Millar said: "I'm so in love with what Netflix is doing and excited by their plans. Netflix is the future and Millarworld couldn't have a better home."
Sci-Fi

CBS Delaying 'Star Trek: Discovery' To Maintain Quality (foxnews.com) 228

New submitter Zorro shares a report from Fox News: The premiere of "Star Trek: Discovery" on CBS' subscription streaming service, CBS All Access, was postponed nine months to maintain the quality of the brand. Executive producer Alex Kurtzman told the Television Critics Association Tuesday that they "spent a lot of time" discussing how to create this new world for TV that felt authentic to the "Star Trek" universe. Also during that time, executive producer Bryan Fuller decided to exit the series as showrunner to focus on other projects. Kurtzman said "it became clearer and clearer" that the targeted January debut would "compromise the quality of the show," so it was pushed with the blessing of CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves.
Software

Cable Giants Step Up Piracy Battle By Interrogating Montreal Software Developer (www.cbc.ca) 185

New submitter wierzpio writes: In more news about TVAddons, Canadian cable companies used a civil search warrant to visit the owner and developer of TVAddons, a library of hundreds of apps known as add-ons that allow people easy access to pirated movies, TV shows, and live TV. According to Adam Lackman, founder of TVAddons and defendant in the copyright lawsuit launched by the television giants, "The whole experience was horrifying. It felt like the kind of thing you would have expected to have happened in the Soviet Union." During the 16 hour-long visit, he was interrogated, denied the right not to answer the questions, and denied the right to consult his answers with his lawyer, who was present. His personal possessions were seized. Adam is fighting back (link to Indiegogo fundraising page) and already the judge declared the search warrant "null and void." "I am of the view that its true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defense to the claim made against him," the judge wrote. "The defendant has demonstrated that he has an arguable case that he is not violating the [Copyright] Act," the judge continued, adding that by the plaintiffs' own estimate, only about one per cent of Lackman's add-ons were allegedly used to pirate content. Lackman's belongings still haven't been returned, and he can't acess the TVAddons website or its social media accounts, which were also seized. "Bell, Rogers and Videotron has appealed the court decision and a Federal Court of Appeal judge has ruled that until the appeal can be hard, Lackman will get nothing back," reports cbc.ca.
Television

Millennials Unearth an Amazing Hack to Get Free TV: the Antenna (wsj.com) 564

From a report on WSJ: Dan Sisco has discovered a technology that allows him to access half a dozen major TV channels, completely free. "I was just kind of surprised that this is technology that exists (alternative source)," says Mr. Sisco, 28 years old. "It's been awesome. It doesn't log out and it doesn't skip." Let's hear a round of applause for TV antennas, often called "rabbit ears," a technology invented roughly seven decades ago, long before there was even a cord to be cut, which had been consigned to the technology trash can along with cassette tapes and VCRs. The antenna is mounting a quiet comeback, propelled by a generation that never knew life before cable television, and who primarily watch Netflix , Hulu and HBO via the internet. Antenna sales in the U.S. are projected to rise 7 percent in 2017 to nearly 8 million units, according to the Consumer Technology Association, a trade group. Mr. Sisco, an M.B.A. student in Provo, Utah, made his discovery after inviting friends over to watch the Super Bowl in 2014. The online stream he found to watch the game didn't have regular commercials -- disappointing half of his guests who were only interested in the ads. "An antenna was not even on my radar," he says. He went online and discovered he could buy one for $20 and watch major networks like ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS free.

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