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AT&T

AT&T Undercuts Verizon, T-Mobile With New Unlimited Plan (cnet.com) 1

Roger Cheng, writing for CNET: AT&T just fired the latest salvo in the unlimited data wars. The Dallas telecommunications giant unveiled two new unlimited data plans. The first is Unlimited Choice, a stripped-down plan that comes with unlimited data at a maximum speed of 3 megabits per second, standard definition, and no mobile hotspot. At $60, it's lower than T-Mobile's $70 plan and Verizon's $80 option. Both plans, however, offer you full high-definition video and 10 gigabytes of mobile hotspot access. Sprint still offers the cheapest option at $50 a month, although prices rise by $10 after a year. AT&T continues to push its video aspirations with higher end option called Unlimited Plus that includes HD video and 10GB of mobile hotspot access. The plan costs $90 a month, but gives you the option to add DirecTV Now streaming video service for $10 and DirecTV home satellite TV service for $25 a month.
Transportation

Questioning The Privacy Policies Of Data-Collecting Cars (autoblog.com) 58

Remember when Vizio's televisions started collecting data about what shows people were watching? One transportation reporter is more worried about all the data being collected by cars. schwit1 quotes Autoblog: Nowadays, auto manufacturers seem to be tripping over each other pointing out that they offer Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. And more recent phenomenon are announcements -- from companies including Ford and Hyundai -- that they are offering Amazon Alexa capabilities. You talk. It listens... Here's the thing. While it may seem appealing to have all manner of connectivity in cars, there is the other side of that. Without getting all tinfoil hat about this, when your TV set is ratting you out, isn't it likely that your car will? It drives. And watches. And listens. And collects data...
That data could be shared with everyone from auto insurers and advertisers to law enforcement officials and divorce attorneys. But the real problem may be consumers assuming strong privacy protections that don't actually exist. The article argues that GM's privacy policy "is like most privacy policies, which boils down to: You use it (the device, software, etc.), you potentially give up a portion of your privacy."
Displays

Slashdot Asks: Are Curved TVs Worth It? (cnet.com) 175

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) 243

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.
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.
Security

Netflix Just Announced a User Focused Security Application (netflix.com) 43

Moving beyond movies and TV shows (and their DVDs), Netflix announced on Tuesday Stethoscope, its "first project following a User Focused Security approach." From a company's blog post: The notion of "User Focused Security" acknowledges that attacks against corporate users (e.g., phishing, malware) are the primary mechanism leading to security incidents and data breaches, and it's one of the core principles driving our approach to corporate information security. [...] Stethoscope is a web application that collects information for a given user's devices and gives them clear and specific recommendations for securing their systems. If we provide employees with focused, actionable information and low-friction tools, we believe they can get their devices into a more secure state without heavy-handed policy enforcement. The company says Stethoscope tracks disk encryption, firewall, automatic updates, up-to-date OS/software, screen lock, jailbroken/rooted status, security software stack configurations of the device.
Displays

Some Recyclers Give Up On Recycling Old Monitors And TVs (vice.com) 274

An anonymous reader writes: "In many cases, your old TV isn't recycled at all and is instead abandoned in a warehouse somewhere, left for society to deal with sometime in the future," reports Motherboard, describing the problem of old cathode-ray televisions and computer monitors with "a net negative recycling value" (since their component parts don't cover the cost of dismantling them). An estimated 705 million CRT TVs were sold in the U.S. since 1980, and many now sit in television graveyards, "an environmental and economic disaster with no clear solution." As much as 100,000 tons of potentially hazardous waste are stockpiled in two Ohio warehouses of the now-insolvent recycler Closed Loop, plus "at least 25,000 tons of glass and unprocessed CRTs in Arizona...much of it is sitting in a mountainous pile outside one of the warehouses."
One EPA report found 23,000 tons of lead-containing CRT glass abandoned in four different states just in 2013.
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.
The Courts

Your Personal Facebook Live Videos Can Legally End Up on TV (thememo.com) 144

Kitty Knowles, reporting for the Memo: Think you control what happens to your personal videos? Think again. One father who live-streamed his partner's labour on Facebook last May, has found out the hard way: he saw the birth of his son replayed on Good Morning America and numerous other media outlets. This week, he lost a high-profile court battle against the broadcasters. If you don't want this to happen to you, don't make the same mistakes. It's one thing wanting to share a life-changing moment with friends and family. But most would understand why Kali Kanongataa didn't want his child's birth aired for all to see. That hasn't however, stopped a US judge throwing out Kanongataa's copyright infringement case against the likes of the ABC, Yahoo, and Rodale, the company that publishes Women's Health. Apparently, the father-to-be realised his film was streaming publicly on social media about 30 minutes into recording, but decided to leave it that way. Media outlets broadcasting the clips have defended doing so on the terms of "fair use." Legally, "fair use" means that when pictures or videos are the focus of a major news story, selected footage can be used.Heads up, Facebook will soon release a video app for set-top boxes by Apple and Amazon to broadcast Live videos on the big screen.
Facebook

Facebook is Bringing Its Social Network To TV, Video App Announced For Apple's and Amazon's Set-Top Boxes (recode.net) 21

Facebook is making perhaps its biggest push yet to turn the social network into a destination for watching video with a new Facebook Video app for smart TVs. From a report on Recode: The social network on Tuesday announced a new app for set-top boxes, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and the Samsung Smart TV. The app will let you watch the same kinds of video you can already find on Facebook, but (presumably) on a much larger screen. Dan Rose, Facebook's VP of Partnerships, announced the new app at the Code Media conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, Calif. The new app, which will launch "soon," gives Facebook yet another way to reach consumers interested in videos and, most likely, another platform to sell video ads.
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.
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).
Communications

Vizio Settles With FTC, Will Pay $2.2 Million and Delete User Data (venturebeat.com) 44

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today announced that smart TV maker Vizio has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a case involving the TVs' data collection techniques. From a report on VentureBeat: Vizio allegedly collected data on what people viewed on 11 million of its TVs and then shared the data with third parties, without informing people about the data collection or receiving consent. As part of the settlement with the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, Vizio must also delete data that it collected prior to March 1, 2016, and implement a data privacy program that is to be evaluated twice a year, according to a statement. The commission voted 3-0 in favor of the ruling, according to the statement.
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.
Businesses

'The End Of The Level Playing Field' (avc.com) 108

Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson writes in a blog post: When the Internet came along in the early 90s, we saw something completely different. Here was a level playing field where anyone could launch a business without permission from anyone. We had a great run over the last 25 years but I fear it's coming to an end, brought on by the growing consolidation of market power in the big consumer facing tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc, by the constricted distribution mechanisms on mobile devices, and by new leadership at the FCC that is going to tear down the notion that mobile carriers can't play the same game cable companies played. It is certainly true that consumers, particularly low-income consumers, like getting free or subsidized data plans. There is no doubt about that. But when the subsidies are coming from the big tech companies, who can easily pay them, to buy competitive advantage over that nimble startup that is scaring them, well we know how that movie ends.
The Media

A Super Bowl Koan: Does The NFL Wish It Were A Tech Company? (siliconvalley.com) 126

Are tech companies cashing in on the popularity of Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl trying to get into the world of tech? An anonymous reader writes: The NFL hosted a startup pitch competition before the game. And they also ran tech-themed "future of football" ads during the game which showcased the robot tackling dummies that provide moving targets for training players. Lady Gaga's halftime show is even expected to feature hundreds of drones.

But Microsoft was also hovering around outside the stadium, pushing the concept of "social autographs" (digital signatures drawn onto images) with their Surface tablets. Intel ran ads during the game touting their 360-degree replay technology. Besides the usual game-day ads for beer, there were also several for videogames -- Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Mobile Strike, and a reality TV show parody suddenly turned into an ad for World of Tanks. So is technology subtly changing the culture of the Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl turning into a massive pageant of technology?

Are any Slashdot readers even watching the Super Bowl? All I know is the Bay Area Newsgroup reported that a Silicon Valley engineer ultimately earns more over their lifetime than the average NFL football player.
AT&T

FCC Rescinds Claim That AT&T, Verizon Violated Net Neutrality (arstechnica.com) 197

jriding writes: The Federal Communications Commission's new Republican leadership has rescinded a determination that ATT and Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules with paid data cap exemptions. The FCC also rescinded several other Wheeler-era reports and actions. The FCC released its report on the data cap exemptions (aka "zero-rating") in the final days of Democrat Tom Wheeler's chairmanship. Because new Chairman Ajit Pai opposed the investigation, the FCC has now formally closed the proceeding. The FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau sent letters to ATT, Verizon, and T-Mobile USA notifying the carriers "that the Bureau has closed this inquiry. Any conclusions, preliminary or otherwise, expressed during the course of the inquiry will have no legal or other meaning or effect going forward." The FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau also sent a letter to Comcast closing an inquiry into the company's Stream TV cable service, which does not count against data caps. The FCC issued an order that "sets aside and rescinds" the Wheeler-era report on zero-rating. All "guidance, determinations, and conclusions" from that report are rescinded, and it will have no legal bearing on FCC proceedings going forward, the order said. ATT and Verizon allow their own video services (DirecTV and Go90, respectively) to stream on their mobile networks without counting against customers' data caps, while charging other video providers for the same data cap exemptions. The FCC under Wheeler determined that ATT and Verizon unreasonably interfered with online video providers' ability to compete against the carriers' video services.

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