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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.
Facebook

Facebook To Autoplay Videos With Sound On By Default (androidandme.com) 116

Currently, Facebook videos autoplay on your News Feed as you scroll up and down. While they eat data and various resources, the saving grace is that they are silent -- that is, until now. Facebook has announced several new changes to its video platform today, including a setting that will autoplay videos with sound turned on by default. Android and Me reports: The audio of videos will fade in and out as you're scrolling through your feed. Fortunately, Facebook will at least make it so that audio won't autoplay if your phone is set to silent. If you're not a fan of this change, there will be a setting to turn audio autoplay off. The change is that it will now be on by default for everyone. Other feature introductions are larger previews for vertical videos, a picture-in-picture mode for videos so you can watch and continue scrolling (and even exit the app without interrupting the video on Android), and a Facebook Video app coming to smart TVs.
Media

Netflix Geoblocking Loosened Under New EU Law (thestack.com) 56

An anonymous reader writes: "The European Parliament is now finalizing legislation which will allow EU residents to access their paid subscriptions for online media -- such as video streaming, games and music -- while visiting other EU countries," reports The Stack. Under the new rules, companies will not be able to arbitrarily block subscribers from accessing the content catalog of their home countries while visiting other parts of the European Union, with country of origin to be established by various possible methods besides IP address, including payment details, public tax information and 'checks on electronic identification'. The issue was brought to a head last year when Netflix began blocking the known IPs of VPN providers, often used by subscribers to access the catalogs of their home countries while travelling.
Microsoft

Microsoft Teases Windows 10's Upcoming 'Project Neon' Design Language (windowscentral.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windows Central: Microsoft just gave developers a sneak peek at Project Neon, Microsoft's upcoming design language for Windows 10 that aims to add fluidity, animation and blur to apps and the operating system. We exclusively revealed that this was in the works in late 2016, and today Microsoft has given us a first peak at what Project Neon will look like. During the Windows Developer Day livestream, an image of Project Neon was seen the background of one of the PowerPoint slides being shown off on stage. Although not much, it's further confirmation that this is the end goal for Windows 10's UI, and Project Neon will be bringing a fresh coat of paint to apps. Project Neon should benefit all types of Windows 10 devices, including Windows 10 Mobile, HoloLens and even Xbox. We're still several months away from Project Neon being everywhere in Windows 10, and we're expecting to see more at BUILD this coming May. In fact, a lot of the Project Neon APIs are available in the latest Insider Preview builds of Windows 10, meaning developers can already begin taking advantage of these new user interfaces and design language! Animations and transitions are a big deal with Project Neon, with the goal of making the operating system and apps feel like they work together. Peter Bright does a good job summarizing the looks of the screenshot via Ars Technica: "The picture shows a refreshed version of the Groove music app on a Windows desktop. The fundamentals of the app and its layout aren't changed, underscoring that Neon is very much an iteration of the current Metro/Microsoft Design Language (MDL). The window has shed its discrete title bar and one pixel border, with the application content now extending to the very edge of the window. The search text field no longer has a box around it, and the left hand pane has a hint of translucency to it." You can view the screenshot here and judge it for yourself.
Businesses

Jeff Bezos Talks About Music Streaming, and His Political Ambitions (billboard.com) 70

In a wide-ranging interview with Billboard, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, Blue Origin, and owner of The Washington Post, talked about music streaming business. He also talked about whether he desires to become the president of the United States. Excerpts from the interview: On music streaming business, being one of the late ones to join the party:Well, here's what I would say: We've been in the music category since 1998. It was the second category we launched after books. Our customers listen to a lot of music and we have a couple of freight trains kind of pulling the business along. One is Prime, and the other is Echo and Alexa.

On the prospect of seeing President Bezos and other political interests: Oh, no. I don't think so. No. I love my life. I love being an inventor. I love Blue Origin, my space company. I love The Washington Post. They are very good, but the Internet transition was difficult for them -- so I've been able to help them on that. But basically... I have a very full life. And I really like it.

Android

Android Wear 2.0 Is An Evolutionary Update To Google's Smartwatch OS (techcrunch.com) 40

Google is officially launching Android Wear 2.0 today -- the biggest update to the company's wearable operating system since its launch in 2014. While Android Wear 2.0 will be launching with two new flagship watches from LG -- the LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style, a number of existing Wear watches will also get this update in the coming weeks and months. TechCrunch reports: The first thing you'll notice when you get a 2.0 watch is the overall update to its design -- both in terms of the overall look but also the user experience. The look of Wear 2.0 now skews closer to Google's Material Design guidelines. While the overall look will still feel familiar to Wear 1.0 users, the update put a stronger emphasis on cards, for example. This means every notification now gets a full screen to show its preview and you can use the watch's dial to scroll through them (assuming your watch has a dial, of course -- otherwise you can obviously still use the touch screen to scroll). The other marquee feature of Wear 2.0 is support for standalone apps that don't need a companion app to run on your phone. That means developers can write apps that are purely geared toward the watch and they can then publish it on the Google Play store, which is now also available directly on the watch. That sounds more useful than it is -- unless you plan on getting an LTE-enabled watch and leave your phone at home. That's an option now that you could run Hangout or Google Music directly on the watch, but, except for runners, that's likely not a typical use case. At the end of the day, the most important use case for a smartwatch remains dealing with notifications. Everything else often feels like an unnecessary complication. [In summary, Frederic Lardinois writes via TechCrunch:] The Android smartwatch market could use a revolution to kickstart what now occasionally feels like a moribund ecosystem. Wear 2.0 doesn't feel revolutionary. It is, however, a perfectly adequate update that addresses many of the issues with Android Wear. It also puts it on parity with its competitors, like Apple's watchOS or Samsung's Tizen. It does also introduce some new use cases for LTE-enabled watches, but I can't help but feel that this will remain a niche category. Much, however, will depend on Google's hardware partners who will now have to bring Wear 2.0 to life.
Crime

Police Arrest Five Men For Selling Kodi Boxes 'Fully Loaded' With Illegal Streaming Apps (bbc.com) 105

Five people have been arrested in early morning raids for selling "fully loaded Kodi boxes," which are set-top boxes modified to stream subscription football matches, television channels and films for free. The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) said it believed the suspects had made roughly $250,000 selling the devices online. BBC reports: Kodi is free software built by volunteers to bring videos, music, games and photographs together in one easy-to-use application. Some shops sell legal set-top boxes and TV sticks, often called Kodi boxes, preloaded with the software. The developers behind Kodi say their software does not contain any content of its own and is designed to play legally owned media or content "freely available" on the internet. However, the software can be modified with third-party add-ons that provide access to pirated copies of films and TV series, or free access to subscription television channels. The five arrests were made in Bolton, Bootle, Cheadle, Manchester and Rhyl.
EU

EU Agrees To Cross-Border Access To Streaming Services (variety.com) 55

Putting in place the first piece of its hoped-for unified digital market, the European Union has agreed on new rules allowing subscribers of online services in one E.U. country access to them while traveling in another. From a report: "Today's agreement will bring concrete benefits to Europeans," said vice president in charge of the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, in a statement. "People who have subscribed to their favorite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in Europe. This is a new important step in breaking down barriers in the Digital Single Market." Variety explain: That said, "portability" is the least contentious of DSM regulations being advanced by the European Commission. Reached yesterday, the agreement between the Commission, the E.U.'s executive arm, the European Parliament and the E.U.'s Council of Ministers, representing its 28 member states, will allow consumers to fully use their online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services when traveling within the E.U. The online service providers who will be mandated to make these services available range from video-on-demand platforms (Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Mubi, Chili TV) to online TV services (Viasat's Viaplay, Sky's Now TV, Voyo), music streaming services (Spotify, Deezer, Google Music) and game online marketplaces (Steam, Origin).
Patents

Patent Troll With Good Record in Past Sues Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Others Over Offline Downloads (arstechnica.com) 94

Netflix added the ability to download movies and TV episodes for offline viewing in November last year. Music streaming service SoundCloud, and video hosting service Vimeo have had this feature for quite some time, too. But they are all being sued now by a patent troll. From an ArsTechnica report: The plaintiff is a company few have heard of: Blackbird Technologies, a company with no products or assets other than patents. Blackbird's business is to buy up patent rights and file lawsuits over them, a business known colloquially as "patent trolling." Last week, Blackbird (who tells potential clients about being "able to litigate at reduced costs and achieve results") filed lawsuits against Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Starz, Mubi, and Studio 3 Partners, which owns the Epix TV channel. [...] The patent-holding company, which filed the lawsuits in Delaware federal court, has good reason to hope for success. The '362 patent already has a track record of squeezing settlement cash out of big companies.
Blackberry

The Brief, Bumbling Tech Careers of Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, and Will.i.am (backchannel.com) 97

"Four years ago this week, Blackberry named Alicia Keys its global creative officer... Keys was really going to work for Blackberry -- to participate in weekly calls addressing product development; develop ideas and content for the Keep Moving Projects, which targeted artists and athletes; and of course, promote the brand during her upcoming tour... It didn't work." Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes: For a minute in history, it was oh-so-cool for legacy tech companies to hire pop stars... In 2005, HP brought Gwen Stefani on as a creative director. In 2010, Lady Gaga landed the job of creative director at Polaroid. In 2011, Will.i.am was the director of creative innovation at Intel. In 2012, Microsoft brought on Jessica Alba as creative director to promote its Windows Phone 8.

These roles were all touted as far more involved than the mere celebrity pitchman: The artists promised, to varying degrees, to dive into the business. But in all of these cases, the strategy failed. At Backchannel, Jessi Hempel dives into why that is, and how big names in entertainment are now finding other ways to harness the momentum of tech.

Lady Gaga left Polaroid in less than a year after "collaborating" on video camera sunglasses that offered playback through LCD lenses. While they weren't popular, this article argues most of these tech companies "faced structural business issues too significant to be addressed through celebrity branding and artistic energy." One digital ad agency even tells the site that "It's always been a flawed strategy," and calls the hiring of a celebrity "a press cycle hack."
Medicine

Misophonia: Scientists Crack Why Eating Sounds Can Make People Angry (bbc.com) 152

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Why some people become enraged by sounds such as eating or breathing has been explained by brain scan studies. The condition, misophonia, is far more than simply disliking noises such as nails being scraped down a blackboard. UK scientists have shown some people's brains become hardwired to produce an "excessive" emotional response. Olana developed the condition when she was eight years old. Her trigger sounds include breathing, eating and rustling noises. Scientists, including Olana, at multiple centers in the UK scanned the brains of 20 misophonic people and 22 people without the condition. They were played a range of noises while they were in the MRI machine, including: neutral sounds such as rain; generally unpleasant sounds such as screaming; people's trigger sounds. The results, published in the journal Current Biology, revealed the part of the brain that joins our senses with our emotions -- the anterior insular cortex -- was overly active in misophonia. And it was wired up and connected to other parts of the brain differently in those with misophonia. Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, from Newcastle University, told BBC News: "They are going into overdrive when they hear these sounds, but the activity was specific to the trigger sounds not the other two sounds. The reaction is anger mostly, it's not disgust, the dominating emotion is the anger -- it looks like a normal response, but then it is going into overdrive." There are no treatments, but Olana has developed coping mechanisms such as using ear plugs. It is still not clear how common the disorder is, as there is no clear way of diagnosing it and it was only recently discovered. Ultimately, the researchers hope, understanding the difference in the misophonic brain will lead to new treatments. One idea is that low levels of targeted electricity passed through the skull, which is known to adjust brain function, could help.
Communications

Hackers Take Over Unsecured Radio Transmitters, Play Anti-Trump Song (arstechnica.com) 99

Ars Technica is reporting that "a certain model of Low Power FM radio transmitter with known vulnerabilities has been targeted in a new wave of radio-station hacks this week." Hackers have taken advantage of an exploit that was known all the way back in April 2016 to take over terrestrial radio stations and broadcast the YG and Nipsey Hussle song "Fuck Donald Trump." From the report: News of the song's unexpected playback on radio stations began emerging shortly after Trump's inauguration on January 20, and the hack has continued to affect LPFM stations -- a type of smaller-radius radio station that began to roll out after the FCC approved the designation in 2000. Over a dozen stations experienced confirmed hacks in recent weeks, with more unconfirmed reports trickling in across the nation. Thus far, the stations' commonality isn't the states of operation or music formats; it's the transmitter. Specifically, hackers have targeted products in the Barix Exstreamer line, which can decode many audio file formats and send them along for LPFM transmission. As Barix told its products' owners in 2016, Exstreamer devices openly connected to the Internet are incredibly vulnerable to having their remote login passwords discovered and systems compromised. The company recommends using full, 24-character passwords and placing any live Internet connections behind firewalls or VPNs. Reports have yet to connect any dots on why the exploit has apparently focused on the YG and Nipsey Hussle song -- though it is fairly popular, having recently finished in the Top 15 of the Village Voice's 2016 Pazz and Jop music critics' poll. Plus, the uncensored lyrics and topical nature are certainly more likely to catch people's attention, especially when played on stations with formats like oldies, classic rock, and Tejano.
Businesses

Apple Sets a New Record For iPhone Sales (theverge.com) 131

Apple has reported strong financial results for the first quarter of 2017. According to CEO Tim Cook, the "holiday quarter results generated Apple's highest quarterly revenue ever, and broke multiple records along the way." The company took in $78.4 billion in revenue and sold 78 million iPhones. The Verge reports: Apple reported a profit of $17.8 billion, and said its earnings per share were boosted by the high demand for the larger models of its iPhones, which have higher margins. On the earnings call, Chief financial officer Luca Maestri said that customer satisfaction with iPads, and the new iPad pro, was very high. He predicted strong growth in that category. But the sales figures don't reflect that optimism, with unit sales and revenue from iPad both down around 20 percent year over year. With over a billion iOS devices active around the world, Apple has been able to shore up its flagging hardware sales growth with an increase in revenue from services to those devices. This includes money from Apple Pay, iCloud storage, Apple Music, and App Store sales. It was by far the fastest-growing segment of Apple's revenue this quarter, climbing 18 percent to $7.17 billion since the same period last year. Cook said Apple is aiming to double service revenue over the next four years. Maestri said Apple's App Store had double the revenue of Google's Play Store in 2016. Apple has more than $200 billion in cash parked overseas. Cook said on today's call that he was optimistic about tax reform in the U.S. happening this year, and that this might allow Apple to bring a lot of that money back home. "With our toe in the water, we're learning a lot about the original content business," Cook said, hinting at one way Apple might deploy all that capital.
Music

Vinyl Record Production Gets a Much-Needed Tech Upgrade (engadget.com) 303

Ever wondered why you sometimes have to wait months after an album's launch to get the music on vinyl? It's not necessarily because the label hates vinyl -- in many cases, it's because the decades-old manufacturing process can't keep up with the format's resurgence. From a report on Engadget: Relief may be in sight for turntable fans, though. Viryl Technologies is producing a pressing machine system, WarmTone, that should drag vinyl production into the modern era. Much of WarmTone's improvement rests in its use of modern engineering. It's more reliable when producing the "pucks" that become records, makes it easier to switch out stampers (the negatives that press records) and sports a trimming/stacking system that can better handle large-scale production. Also, there's a raft of sensors -- the machine checks everything from pressure to temperature to timing, so companies will immediately know if something goes wrong.
Piracy

ISPs Finally Abandon The Copyright Alert System (engadget.com) 113

"Major internet providers are ending a four-year-old system in which consumers received 'copyright alerts' when they viewed peer-to-peer pirated content," reports Variety. An anonymous reader quotes Engadget's update on the Copyright Alert System. It was supposed to spook pirates by having their internet providers send violation notices, with the threat of penalties like throttling. However, it hasn't exactly panned out. ISPs and media groups have dropped the alert system with an admission that it isn't up to the job. While the program was supposedly successful in "educating" the public on legal music and video options, the MPAA states that it just couldn't handle the "hard-core repeat infringer problem" -- there wasn't much to deter bootleggers. The organizations, which include the RIAA, haven't devised an alternative.
"Surprise: it's hard to stop copyright violators just by asking them," reads their article's tagline, which attributes the failure of the system to naive optimism. "It assumed that most pirates didn't even realize they were violating copyright, and just needed to be shown the error of their ways."
Businesses

Apple Is Moving Its Entire International iTunes Business To Ireland (billboard.com) 114

Starting February 5th, Apple will be moving its entire international iTunes business from Luxembourg to its European headquarters in Cork, Ireland, according to a note sent to developers this week. The non-U.S. iTunes business consists of Apple Music and the individual stores for iTunes, iBooks and Apps. Internationally, iTunes is available in over 140 countries, while Apple Music is streaming in roughly 115 territories. Billboard reports: Apple announced its intentions to move its iTunes biz to Ireland in September when it transferred an estimated $9 billion of iTunes assets. At that time it also shuffled all existing developer contracts to Ireland-based Apple Distribution International. Like Luxembourg, Ireland is known for being a low-tax haven for international businesses. Last month, both Apple and Ireland announced they would appeal a record $14 billion tax bill from the European Commission, which earlier found it had been underpaying tax on profits across the European bloc from 2003 to 2014. Apple today is the biggest private employer in Cork, the Irish Republic's second-largest city, with a workforce exceeding 5,500. Economists estimate Apple's Cork operation pumps around $17 billion annually in salaries, tax and investment into the Irish economy.
Programming

Software Engineers Are the Heroes of New Computer History Museum Exhibit (ieee.org) 115

Tekla Perry writes: The Computer History Museum set out to turn the spotlight on software engineers and show how they are the changing the world. But what projects to feature in the new, permanent exhibit [called "Make Software: Change the World!"] (that opens to the public this Saturday, January 28th)? The curators whittled a list of 100 technologies that owe their existence to breakthroughs in software down to seven: Photoshop, the MP3, the MRI, car crash simulation, Wikipedia, texting, and World of Warcraft. They expect these choices to be debated at length, in particular, World of Warcraft, but hope the exhibition elevates the prominence of software engineers and gets more than a few middle schoolers talking about targeting their career plans in that direction.
Android

Samsung's Galaxy S8 Will Feature a Headphone Jack, Desktop Dock, 'Infinity Display' and More, Says In-Depth Report (theguardian.com) 146

The Guardian has published a considerable amount of information on Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S8 smartphone. The phone will reportedly launch in March with a headphone jack and a desktop dock, among other features. From the report: Samsung's Galaxy S8 will come in two sizes, have an almost bezel-less, edge-to-edge "infinity" display and an iris scanner, the Guardian has learned. The two variants will have screens in the 5in to 6in region, with the devices having the same or smaller proportions of previous versions of Samsung's flagship smartphone but with larger displays, according to several well placed sources talking to the Guardian. The S7 was available with either a 5.1in and 5.5in screen. The two smartphones are codenamed Dream and Dream 2, representing the smaller and larger Galaxy S8 respectively, according to two sources. Both versions will have screens that curve down at the left and right sides of the device similar to the Galaxy S7 Edge, two sources have said. The so-called "infinity display" will cover the majority of the front of the device, with very little body on the top and bottom of the screen not dedicated to the display. Two sources said there wasn't even room to put a logo or brand name on the front of the device. Samsung has moved the fingerprint scanner to the back of the device, multiple sources said. The Galaxy S8 will have a traditional 3.5mm headphone socket, according to several sources. Samsung also plans a range of new accessories for the Galaxy S8. Two sources said a new dock and service that turns the Galaxy S8 into an Android desktop computer, connecting to a monitor, keyboard and other peripherals called DeX (desktop extension) will be available. DeX has been likened to Microsoft's Continuum, which connects Windows smartphones to a desktop extension to allow them to be used as Windows PCs, but only with Windows Store applications.
Communications

Apple Investigating Issue With AirPods Randomly Disconnecting During Calls (macrumors.com) 128

According to MacRumors, Apple is investigating multiple reports from iPhone owners of AirPods randomly disconnecting and reconnecting during calls. While the issue doesn't appear to be widespread, it appears to be a big enough problem to attract Apple's attention. One of the main reasons why the AirPods were so late to the market was because Apple needed more time to ensure the earpieces had reliable connectivity. Specifically, they were delayed to ensure both earpieces receive audio at the same time. MacRumors reports: A MacRumors forum thread and a long thread on Apple's Support Communities website have been generated by AirPods users who are regularly experiencing Bluetooth connection dropouts during phone calls, despite the fact that the wireless earphones almost never lose their connection when used to listen to music or anything else. MacRumors forum member protobiont wrote: "I've had this happen on two phone calls today. I am talking and suddenly the audio switches to the phone, I hear the Airpod connect tones and the audio switches back. This will repeat itself a few times, which is quite distracting during a phone call." At present, the issue appears to be limited to iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus devices, with several users reporting no such problems after upgrading to an iPhone 7. MacRumors was also unable to replicate the problem on Apple's latest handset. Initial reports suggested the dropout issue only occurs if users also have an Apple Watch paired to their iPhone, but MacRumors was able to replicate the problem with a Fitbit Blaze, suggesting a more general conflict when other Bluetooth devices are also connected. Unpairing and then repairing the AirPods does not appear to solve the problem, neither does rebooting nor resetting the iPhone. Until Apple offers a solution, users are advised to use only one AirPod for conducting calls, as the dropouts only seem to occur when both earpieces are in use.
Businesses

Sprint Purchases 33 Percent Stake in Tidal For $200 Million (billboard.com) 63

Sprint has acquired a 33 percent stake in Jay Z's music streaming service Tidal, the two companies announced today. From a report: A source familiar with the matter tells Billboard that the purchase was for $200 million and that Jay and each of the company's two dozen artist-owners will remain part owners. As part of the deal, Tidal will become available to Sprint's 45 million retail customers, while the companies will partner for exclusives from its artists, according to a press release.

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