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.

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.

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.


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.

Facebook is Talking About Expanding Its TV-like Service, Watch, Into a Rival To YouTube (cnbc.com) 33

Facebook is talking about expanding its TV-like service, Watch, into a rival to Google's YouTube by opening the platform to more individual creators, CNBC reports citing people familiar with the plans. From the report: This would increase the amount of long-form video content that Facebook can sell ads against, and could reverse a decline in the time users are spending on the site. Facebook wants to allow more people to create their own shows on Watch, according to three media agencies who asked they remain anonymous because the conversations are private. Instead of buying rights to these shows, however, Facebook wants to create a system where creators can upload their shows for free, then earn a cut of the revenue from ads placed on that content -- similar to how YouTube pays its online creators. Another source with knowledge of the situation said Facebook's ultimate goal is to create a sustainable ad-supported video platform, where it won't have to pay for the majority of content.

Cloudflare Terminates Service To Sci-Hub Domain Names (torrentfreak.com) 91

While Sci-Hub is praised by thousands of researchers and academics around the world, copyright holders are doing everything in their power to wipe the site from the web. From a report: Last weekend another problem appeared for Sci-Hub. This time American Chemical Society (ACS) went after CDN provider Cloudflare, which informed the site that a court order requires the company to disconnect several domain names. "Cloudflare has received the attached court order, Case 1:17-cv-OO726-LMB-JFA," the company writes. "Cloudflare will terminate your service for the following domains sci-hub.la, sci-hub.tv, and sci-hub.tw by disabling our authoritative DNS in 24 hours." According to Sci-Hub's operator, losing access to Cloudflare is not "critical," but it may "cause a short pause in website operation."
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.

Flat Earther Fails To Launch His Homemade Rocket -- Yet Again (facebook.com) 162

An anonymous reader writes: Flat earther "Mad" Mike Hughes, who also bills himself as "the last great daredevil," promised Super Bowl-sized ratings for an event Saturday where he'd blast himself nearly half a mile into the sky on a homemade rocket. "We had 20 cameras on site today, ready for a full segment," explained the video-on-demand site Noize TV on their Facebook page. One newspaper described it as also being "an event which he hopes will get people to investigate the ideology which holds the earth is flat." But judging from online reactions, the event was just another disappointment.

Noize TV's Facebook post titled "The Launch!!! Finally" shows a picture of Mike standing beside his rocket -- but it's followed by a commenters saying things like "There was no launch. I doubt there will be," and the official Noize TV account saying "We thought he would press that button... He did not. And won't be doing so we are pretty certain." And this morning Noize TV posted that "we will no longer cover non launches, only launches... It turns out non launches are not as funny as we anticipated."

One woman even posted that "I was there for awhile...police were there. Ambulance was there. 100 people that weren't supposed to be there was there..." And while there's rumors Mike might still try again another day, her ultimate verdict about the limo-driver-turned-daredevil was cynical. "He's all about getting seen rather than getting launched... My husband gave him $100 cash the last time he was going to launch...live and learn."

The Internet

Bicyclist Protests Net Neutrality By Slowing Traffic Outside the FCC Building (thehill.com) 181

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: A protester opposed to the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) net neutrality repeal slowed traffic to a crawl outside the FCC Monday as a demonstration against the repeal. A video released Monday shows Rob Bliss, video director for the website Seriously.TV, setting up traffic cones to block all but one lane for cars, then riding a bike slowly in the lane. Bliss wore a sign encouraging drivers to upgrade to "priority access membership" for $5 a month, which would allow them to drive at normal speeds. The protest was meant to mimic what critics say will be the effect of the net neutrality repeal, which will allow internet service providers to favor certain content or require content providers to pay for faster speeds.

Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Sci-Fi Books, Movies, and TV Shows You're Looking Forward To? 364

Even as Hollywood studios report fewer footfalls in theaters, the last few years have arguably been impressive if you're a sci-fi admirer. Last year, we finally got to watch the Blade Runner 2049, and the The Last Jedi and Logan also found plenty of backers. In 2016, Arrival was a home run for many. Star Trek: Discovery, and Stranger Things TV shows continue to receive positive feedback from critics, and the The X-Files is also quickly winning its loyal fans back.

"Artemis" by Andy Weir and "New York 2140" by Kim Stanley have found their ways among best selling books. "Borne" by Jeff VanderMeer, and "Walkaway" by BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow have also been widely loved by the readers.

On that note, what are some movies, TV shows, and books on sci-fi that you are waiting to explore in the next two to three years?
United States

Americans Are Saving Energy Because Fewer People Go Outside (theverge.com) 202

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Americans are saving energy because they don't go outside as much anymore, researchers say. It's a plus for the environment, though in another light (no pun intended), it's just sad. In 2012, Americans spent an extra eight days at home compared to 2003, according to the American Time Use Surveys. Being at home means using more energy by keeping the lights on and watching TV. But it also means less travel, and it means that fewer people are outside operating offices and stores. So overall in 2012, we saved 1,700 trillion British thermal units (BTU) of heat, or 1.8 percent of the national total, according to an analysis published today in the journal Joule. That's about how much energy Kentucky produced in all of 2015. Specifically in 2012, Americans spent one day less traveling and one week less in buildings other than their homes when compared to a decade earlier. The trend of staying indoors is especially strong for those ages 18 to 24: the youths spent 70 percent more time at home than the general population. At the other end of the age spectrum, those 65 and older were the only group that spent more time outside the home compared to 2003. Next, the researchers want to look at energy consumption changes in other countries as a result of lifestyle changes.

Ask Slashdot: How Can I Build a Private TV Channel For My Kids? 163

Long-time Slashdot reader ljw1004 writes: I want to assemble my OneDrive-hosted mp4s into a "TV channel" for my kids -- so at 7am while I sleep in, they know they can turn the TV on, it will show Mr Rogers then Sesame Street then grandparents' story-time, then two hand-picked cartoons, and nothing for the rest of the day. How would you do this? With Chromecast and write a JS Chrome plugin to drive it? Write an app for FireTV? Is there any existing OSS software for either the scheduling side (done by parents) or the TV-receiver side? How would you lock down the TV beyond just hiding the remote?
"There are good worthwhile things for them to see," adds the original submission, "but they're too young to be given the autonomy to pick them, and I can do better than Nickeloden or CBBC or Amazon Freetime Unlimited."

Slashdot reader Rick Schumann suggested putting the video files on an external hard drive (or burning them to a DVD), while apraetor points out many TVs now play files from flash drives -- and also suggests a private Roku channel. But what's the best way to build a private TV channel for kids?

Leave your best answers in the comments.

Netflix Executives Say 'Bright' Success Proves Film Critics Are 'Disconnected From Mass Appeal' (indiewire.com) 330

Last month, movie critics slammed David Ayer and Will Smith's Netflix tentpole "Bright" movie. At present, it has less than 30 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But Netflix executives aren't worried. From a report on IndieWire: The abysmal reviews couldn't stop "Bright" from becoming a humongous hit on Netflix and earning a sequel. [...] According to both Netlfix bosses, "Bright's" success is proof that film critics don't matter as much when they're trying to tap into a global audience. "Critics are an important part of the artistic process, but [they are] pretty disconnected from the commercial prospects of a film," chief content officer Sarandos said. "[Film critics] speak to specific audiences who care about quality, or how objectively good or bad a movie is -- not the masses who are critical for determining whether a film makes money." CEO Hastings, chimed in to add "The critics are pretty disconnected from the mass appeal." Do ratings on movie websites matter? It's not a new topic of discussion. Last year, legendary director, producer and screenwriter Martin Scorsese said he believes real movie goers don't care about Rotten Tomatoes. But some people, including especially in the same room as Scorsese, disagree. Brett Ratner, the Rush Hour director/producer who threw the financial weight of his RatPac Entertainment behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice blamed Rotten Tomatoes for convincing people to not watch his movie. Along the same lines, DC fans were angry over Rotten Tomatoes's Justice League ratings .

Burger King Makes the Case For Net Neutrality (variety.com) 246

An anonymous reader writes: By now you've probably seen Burger King's spoof ad on the decision by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality. In the ad, Burger King customers are informed that there are now three "lanes" for ordering Whoppers -- each with substantially different prices and waiting times. The ad has already generated over a million views on Youtube and is lighting up Twitter. One thing I missed the first time is that while the Burger King "counter service" is clearly in on the act, the customers are apparently real; they learn of the cockamamie scheme at the counter in the style of the old TV show Candid Camera. Variety notes that the video "ends with an apparent dig at FCC Chairman Ajit Pai [...] as the Burger King character is shown drinking from an oversized Reese's coffee mug. That is the type of coffee mug that Pai uses at FCC meetings."

Study Links Decline In Teenagers' Happiness To Smartphones (pressherald.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Press Herald: In a study published Monday in the journal Emotion, psychologists from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia used data on mood and media culled from roughly 1.1 million U.S. teens to figure out why a decades-long rise in happiness and satisfaction among U.S. teenagers suddenly shifted course in 2012 and declined sharply over the next four years. Was this sudden reversal a response to an economy that tanked in 2007 and stayed bad well into 2012? Or did it have its roots in a very different watershed event: the 2007 introduction of the smartphone, which put the entire online world at a user's fingertips?

In the new study, researchers tried to find it by plumbing a trove of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders' responses to queries on how they felt about life and how they used their time. They found that between 1991 and 2016, adolescents who spent more time on electronic communication and screens -- social media, texting, electronic games, the internet -- were less happy, less satisfied with their lives and had lower self-esteem. TV watching, which declined over the nearly two decades they examined, was similarly linked to lower psychological well-being. By contrast, adolescents who spent more time on non-screen activities had higher psychological well-being. They tended to profess greater happiness, higher self-esteem and more satisfaction with their lives. While these patterns emerged in the group as a whole, they were particularly clear among eighth- and 10th-graders, the authors found: "Every non-screen activity was correlated with greater happiness, and every screen activity was correlated with less happiness."


Google Just Broke Amazon's Workaround For YouTube On Fire TV (cordcuttersnews.com) 264

Google has cracked down on Fire TV users once again. Today, the technology company blocked Silk and Firefox browsers from displaying the YouTube.com interface usually shown on large screens. Cord Cutters News reports: Now if you try to access YouTube.com/TV on a Fire TV through the Firefox or Silk browser you will be redirected to the desktop version of the site. According to Elias Saba from AFTVnews, "By blocking access to the version of YouTube made for television browsers, Google has deliberately made browsing their website an unusable experience on Amazon Fire TVs, Fire TV Sticks, and Fire TV Edition televisions." This fight over YouTube and Amazon has been going on for some time. The standoff heated up in early December as Google announced plans to pull the YouTube app from the Fire TV on January 1st 2018. Amazon responded by adding a browser to allow access to the web version on the Fire TV. Now Google has countered by blocking the Fire TV's browsers from accessing the made-for-TV edition of YouTube.com. Back on December 15th, The Verge reported that Google and Amazon are in talks to keep YouTube on the Fire TV, but as of today it looks like nothing has come from these talks.

Rupert Murdoch Pushes Facebook To Pay For News To Guarantee Quality (bloomberg.com) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Rupert Murdoch, the media billionaire who controls the Wall Street Journal, called on Facebook to begin paying publishers fees to carry the news that its users post and share online in a sign of the print industry's growing frustration with social media. "If Facebook wants to recognize 'trusted' publishers then it should pay those publishers a carriage fee similar to the model adopted by cable companies," Murdoch, the executive chairman of News Corp. said Monday in a statement. "The publishers are obviously enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not being adequately rewarded for those services." "Facebook and Google have popularized scurrilous news sources through algorithms that are profitable for these platforms but inherently unreliable," Murdoch said. "Recognition of a problem is one step on the pathway to cure, but the remedial measures that both companies have so far proposed are inadequate, commercially, socially and journalistically." Murdoch, who also leads 21st Century Fox, called for a system similar to that in cable television, where large distributors like Comcast and AT&T pay fees to the TV network owners that attract their viewers.

Flat Earther Plans New Rocket Launch, Predicts Super Bowl-Sized Ratings (phillyvoice.com) 219

Self-taught rocket scientist/daredevil "Mad" Mike Hughes will finally launch his homemade rocket in two weeks -- despite "anonymous online haters questioning his every move." An anonymous reader quotes PhillyVoice: He's found some private land in the "ghost town" of Amboy, California -- complete with a brand-spanking-new road that'll enable him to get his motor home and rocket gear to the site... "It'll be a vertical launch, me strapped into the rocket with 6,000 pounds of thrust, going up about three-eighths of a mile," he said, noting it's a prologue to a major launch this Fourth of July weekend. "It's the ultimate Wile E. Coyote move."

As with the scrubbed mission, this is in part an event which he hopes will get people to investigate the ideology which holds the earth is flat -- despite quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. He said it would've happened back in November if international publicity hadn't prompted government bureaucrats to "cover their asses" by pointing out that his launch site crept 150 feet into federal land. "I could've been arrested so at that point, I just went home and got back to work," he said... "But guess what? It's about to happen again... I should get more viewers than the Super Bowl," said Hughes, adding the launch will be aired on Noize TV [a video-on-demand service].

Noize TV has already posted video of a new interview with Hughes, touting his upcoming launch at 3 p.m. on Saturday, February 3, the day before the Super Bowl (which Hughes calls "nothing but bullshit.")

Hughes says he's also filing to run for Governor of California.

Is There a Warning in 'Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams'? (gizmodo.com) 51

An anonymous reader quotes io9: That signature feeling feeling of queasy, slow-burning tumult comes through in Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, which originally aired in the UK last September, but is making its American premiere on Amazon Prime this Friday, January 12. The breadth of interpretations across the show's 10 episodes is the real draw for Electric Dreams. One episode will be set in something meant to recognizably stand in for the real world while others are trippy explorations into realities that could never exist. Unfortunately, Electric Dreams' episodes don't just vary in aesthetics; they vary wildly in quality, too...

When Electric Dreams fires on all cylinders, it energizes these short story adaptations by drilling down into the minutiae of how science fiction concepts would alter our everyday existences in real life. The series' common theme is how scientific and technological advancement shears the soul away from our bodies...Electric Dreams' most important task is to show both new viewers and conversant fans why Dick's oeuvre matters, which is hard in a world where we're eerily close to some of his fictional realities...

We're so busy trying to ground ourselves amid constant change that it can be hard to pull out and see society's sweeping shifts. In the '50s and beyond, Dick's science fiction writing mapped out the darker corners of where hi-speed techno-fetishes could take us. For all its unevenness, Electric Dreams adapts his work to show us where we are, relative to his prognostications. If you feel weirded out while watching, that just means the show is doing its job.


Is Finland's Universal Basic Income Trial Too Good To Be True? (theguardian.com) 534

It was one year ago that Finland began giving money to 2,000 unemployed people -- roughly $652 a month (€560 or £475). But have we learned anything about universal basic incomes? An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: Amid this unprecedented media attention, the experts who devised the scheme are concerned it is being misrepresented. "It's not really what people are portraying it as," said Markus Kanerva, an applied social and behavioural sciences specialist working in the prime minister's office in Helsinki. "A full-scale universal income trial would need to study different target groups, not just the unemployed. It would have to test different basic income levels, look at local factors. This is really about seeing how a basic unconditional income affects the employment of unemployed people."

While UBI tends often to be associated with progressive politics, Finland's trial was launched -- at a cost of around €20m (£17.7m or $24.3 million) -- by a centre-right, austerity-focused government interested primarily in spending less on social security and bringing down Finland's stubborn 8%-plus unemployment rate. It has a very clear purpose: to see whether an unconditional income might incentivise people to take up paid work. Authorities believe it will shed light on whether unemployed Finns, as experts believe, are put off taking up a job by the fear that a higher marginal tax rate may leave them worse off. Many are also deterred by having to reapply for benefits after every casual or short-term contract... According to Kanerva, the core data the government is seeking -- on whether, and how, the job take-up of the 2,000 unemployed people in the trial differs from a 175,000-strong control group -- will be "robust, and usable in future economic modelling" when it is published in 2019.

Although the experiment may be impacted by all the hype it's generating, according to the Guardian. "One participant who hoped to start his own business with the help of the unconditional monthly payment complained that, after speaking to 140 TV crews and reporters from as far afield as Japan and Korea, he has simply not been able to find the time."

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