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Canada

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Makes Game For Third Annual Hour of Code (gamasutra.com) 25

Eloking writes: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Twitter account lit up today with a message all too familiar to many indie devs: Mr. Trudeau has made a video game, and he'd like everyone to play it. It was a cute bit of promotion for Hour of Code, the computer science education event masterminded every year by the Code.org nonprofit. While the Hour of Code websites hosts one-hour tutorials (in 45 languages) for coding all sorts of simple applications, game developers may appreciate that the lion's share appears to be game projects, like the one Trudeau modified into a sort of hockey-themed Breakout variant.
Google

'The Circle' Trailer Looks An Awful Lot Like Google (cnet.com) 31

theodp writes: If you never got around to reading Dave Eggers' novel The Circle, the tale of a powerful tech company that bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Google (and has an Apple spaceship-like HQ) is coming to the big screen and the first trailer is out. The film has a release date of spring 2017, and stars Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and John Boyega. Remember, sharing is caring!
Software

Apple Launches Single Sign-On Service To Make Logging Into TV Apps Less Time-Consuming (macrumors.com) 18

Apple has launched Single Sign-on, a service designed to make logging into TV apps much less annoying. It "allows cable subscribers to sign in once with their cable credentials to gain access to all cable-restricted content in iOS and tvOS apps," writes Juli Clover via MacRumors: Single Sign-on is limited to the United States, and according to a support document, is available for the following providers: CenturyLink Prism, DirecTV, Dish, GVTC, GTA, Hawaiian Telecom, Hotwire, MetroCast, and Sling. While Single Sign-on was introduced and tested in the tvOS 10.1 and iOS 10.2 betas, the feature was remotely released today to all iOS 10 and tvOS 10 devices. Using Single Sign-on does not require one of the betas, and is instead immediately available to all iPhone and Apple TV users running iOS 10 or tvOS 10. With Single Sign-on, customers with a supported provider will use the Settings options in iOS or tvOS to sign in with their cable credentials. From then on, when accessing a supported app that requires a cable subscription, the app will ask to use the saved sign-on credentials. Most cable channels and content providers offer individual apps on the Apple TV and iOS devices, but still require cable authentication before users can access content. Prior to Single Sign-on, customers were required to enter their credentials in each individual app, a frustrating and time-consuming process.
Music

Vinyl Records Outsold Digital Downloads In the UK Last Week (adweek.com) 158

Sales of vinyl outstripped those of downloaded music for the first time since the advent of digital downloads last week in the UK. From a report on AdWeek: The U.K.-based Entertainment Retailers Association, or ERA, said Monday that Britons spent 2.4 million pounds ($3.03 million) on the old-school wax last week while only doling out 2.1 million pounds ($2.65 million) for digital downloads. Vinyl Factory, a website dedicated to records, reported that those numbers represent a big change from the same week in 2015, when just 1.2 million pounds was spent on records compared with 4.4 million on digital downloads. That's a 100 percent year-over-year increase in vinyl sales and also the first time that vinyl album sales have bested digital downloads over a weeklong period in years, per Vinyl Factory. The surge in vinyl sales could be attributed to the popularity of vinyl as a Christmas gift and the growing number of retailers. You know it's a gift because, as BBC adds: But 48% of those surveyed said they did not play the vinyl they bought -- while 7% did not even own a turntable.
Youtube

YouTube Pays Music Industry $1 Billion From Ads (cnet.com) 61

YouTube, the music industry's enemy No. 1 earlier this year, said Tuesday it has paid more than $1 billion in advertising revenue to artists, labels and publishers in the last 12 months. From a report on CNET: The milestone, released in a blog post by business chief Robert Kyncl, is a stab by Google's giant video site at mending fences with music industry critics. At least, it's YouTube hoping to convince some of them that the massive amount of free, ad-supported music listening that happens there is a valuable complement to music subscriptions, the industry's main area of growth right now.
Movies

Netflix Says People Watch Same Amount of Movies Regardless of Perceived Quality or Depth (news.com.au) 149

Two of the most common issues people have with Netflix is: the movie catalog is shrinking, and the quality of the movies aren't that great anymore. Netflix says it is aware of those issues, and it thinks, in reality, those factors don't really matter much as people end up watching the same amount of movies as they always have. From a report:According to the Netflix exec, subscribers spend about the same time watching movies on the service regardless of the depth or perceived quality of the movie library. "No matter what, we end up with about one-third of our watching being movies," he told the audience. Mr Sarandos cited two contrasting examples of the United States and Canada as proof of such behavior. In Canada, Netflix has five major deals with movie studios to use their content while in the US the company basically has none, with the exception of the recently signed Disney deal. Despite US subscribers having far less access to movies from big studios, both countries spend roughly the same proportion of their time on the service watching movies. Netflix believes that by the time many blockbuster movies make it onto the platform -- many months after being released in the cinema -- a majority of fans have already seen them. "If you were passionate (about a movie), you've already seen it," he said.
Displays

Panasonic Announces 1,000,000:1 Contrast Ratio LCD Panel To Rival OLED (androidauthority.com) 100

OLED panels have always been known to have higher contrast ratios than LCD panels, but that may be about to change with Panasonic's recently announced LCD IPS display. The display boasts a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, which is up to 600 times more contrast than some of the company's conventional LCD panels that tend to offer around 1800:1 ratios, and rivals OLED specifications. Android Authority reports: Panasonic has accomplished this through the use of its new light modulating cell technology, which allows the company to switch off individual pixels in the display using a secondary control layer. Typically, LCD backlights mean that either the entire or only large parts of the display can be dimmed at any one time. OLED panels switch off lights entirely for a black pixel to offer very high contrast ratios, and this new LCD technology works on a very similar principle. This is particularly important for reproducing HDR video content, which is becoming increasingly popular. Furthermore, this new light modulating cell technology allows Panasonic to increase the peak brightness and stability of the display, which can reach 1,000 cd/m2 while also providing HDR colors. Many other HDR TV panels top out in the range of 700 to 800 cd/m2, so colors, highlights, and shadows should appear vivid and realistic. Panasonic plans to ship the new display starting in January 2017 with sizes ranging from 55 to 12 inches.
Television

Most DVR Owners Are Recording Live Sports, Survey Says (cnet.com) 134

A new survey by Thuurz Sports, a company that works with TV providers to increase the size of sports viewing audiences, finds that 84.1 percent of DVR owners record live sports, many of them as a "backup" for when they might miss the end (or the beginning) or the game, and a majority (58 percent) to skip the ads. From a report on CNET: "Over the past decade, DVR viewing has undermined certain elements of the TV business. Reacting to this threat, sports TV executives have rightly focused on the genre's relative strength, calling sports programming 'DVR-proof'," says Brian Ring, the consultant who created the survey for Thuuz, in the press release. "Sports are best viewed live, but this survey highlights the fact that most fans with DVRs regularly use. Most TV shows and movies these days are available on-demand from various sources, but live events, particularly sports, are considered among the most "DVR-proof" since there's more value in seeing the result live.
Media

Netflix Keeping Bandwidth Usage Low By Encoding Its Video With VP9 and H.264/AVC Codecs (slashgear.com) 75

Netflix announced last week that it is getting offline video downloads support. The company has since shared that it is using VP9 video compression codec to ensure that the file sizes don't weigh a lot. An anonymous reader shares an article on Slashgear (edited): For streaming content, Netflix largely relies on H.264/AVC to reduce the bandwidth, but for downloading content, it uses VP9 encoding. VP9 can allow better quality videos for the same amount of data needed to download. The challenge is that VP9 isn't supported by all streaming providers -- it is supported on Android devices and via the Chrome browser. So to get around that lack of support on iOS, Netflix is offering downloads in H.264/AVC High whereas streams are encoded in H.264/AVC Main on such devices. Netflix chooses the optimal encoding format for each title on its service after finding, for instance, that animated films are easier to encode than live-action. Netflix says that H.264 High encoding saves 19% bandwidth compared to other encoding standards while VP9 saves 36%.
Perl

Perl Advent Calendar Enters Its 17th Year (perladvent.org) 37

An anonymous reader writes: Thursday brought this year's first new posts on the Perl Advent Calendar, a geeky tradition first started back in 2000. Friday's post described Santa's need for fast, efficient code, and the day that a Christmas miracle occurred during Santa's annual code review (involving the is_hashref subroutine from Perl's reference utility library). And for the last five years, the calendar has also had its own Twitter feed.

But in another corner of the North Pole, you can also unwrap the Perl 6 Advent Calendar, which this year celebrates the one-year anniversary of the official launch of Perl 6. Friday's post was by brian d foy, a writer on the classic Perl textbooks Learning Perl and Intermediate Perl (who's now also crowdfunding his next O'Reilly book, Learning Perl 6). foy's post talked about Perl 6's object hashes, while the calendar kicked off its new season Thursday with a discussion about creating Docker images using webhooks triggered by GitHub commits as an example of Perl 6's "whipupitude".

Movies

Free TV-Show Streaming Hurts Online Sales, Research Finds (torrentfreak.com) 67

New research from Carnegie Mellon University shows that online piracy is not the only worry for TV distributors. Based on Downton Abbey streaming and sales data provided by PBS, as reported by TorrentFreak, the researchers find that free legal streams can significantly reduce download sales. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that free streaming options should be banned. From the report: The researchers were able to estimate the impact in a natural experiment, since PBS was required to pull the free streams for all episodes at the same time. This means that some were streamable for more than a month, while others only for a week, or two. In addition, they had sales data for several seasons, allowing them to make an alternative comparison between years, where the streaming windows varied. In both cases, they show that free streaming cannibalizes download sales. "Our analysis in our primary specification indicates that availability in the free streaming window reduces EST sales by 8.4%. Using an alternative specification we find that free availability reduces EST sales by 9.9%," they write. The negative effect is not unexpected. However, it doesn't mean that it is wrong to offer free streaming in the long run, as there are several positive side-effects. That's where the puzzle starts to get complicated.
Media

Plex Media Player Now Doesn't Require a Subscription; Pass Users Get Kodi Plug-in (engadget.com) 84

Plex and Kodi, two popular home theater apps, can get both of them together. Plex has announced its new Kodi add-on so you can include your Plex library in Kodi (provided you're a Pass user). From a report on Engadget: The new plugin includes most of the features you'd come to expect from Plex, which means it'll play back nearly any video or music format and cleverly categorize your media library. It simply lets you run the two media centers simultaneously without losing any of your customizations. It's currently only available to Plex Pass subscribers (it will be released publicly soon) and it doesn't yet work with Plex Companion remote control, but it does sport a brand new user interface (UI) that Plex says helps to "showcase some of our new thinking."
Movies

British Film Institute To Digitize 100,000 Old TV Shows Before They Disappear (bbc.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Thousands of British TV programs are to be digitized before they are lost forever, the British Film Institute says. Anarchic children's show Tiswas and The Basil Brush Show are among the programs in line for preservation. The initiative was announced as part of the BFI's five-year strategy for 2017-2022. "Material from the 70s and early 80s is at risk," said Heather Stewart, the BFI's creative director. "It has a five or six-year shelf life and if we don't do something about it will just go, no matter how great the environment is we keep it in. "Our job is make sure that things are there in 200 years' time." The BFI has budgeted $14.3 million of Lottery funding towards its goal of making the UK's entire screen heritage digitally accessible. This includes an estimated 100,000 of the "most at-risk" British TV episodes and clips held on obsolete video formats. The list includes "early children's programming, little-seen dramas, regional programs and the beginnings of breakfast television." The issue for the BFI, Ms Stewart added, was also to do with freeing up storage space. "We have a whole vault which is wall-to-wall video. If we digitized it, it would be in a robot about the size of a wardrobe," she said.
Advertising

No Man's Sky's Steam Page Didn't Mislead Gamers, Rules UK Ad Watchdog (arstechnica.com) 76

Shortly after it officially launched in August on PlayStation and Windows, No Man's Sky -- the game that sees the protagonist explore space and experience uncertain places -- was accused of false advertising. Players felt that the pictures and videos used to promote the game on its Steam page didn't represent the sort of things players might expect to encounter in the game. Today, a UK advertising regulator has ruled the opposite -- the game didn't mislead gamers. Ars Technica reports: The complainants -- who had been part of a semi-organized campaign upset with the state of the game at release -- insisted that the screenshots on the storefront had seemed to promise various features that turned out to be absent from the final game. These included things like the appearance and behavior of animals, large in-game buildings, large-scale space combat, loading screens, a promised system wherein the different factions contested galactic territory, and general graphical polish. Hello Games' defense rested on the fact that No Man's Sky is procedurally generated, and that while players would not enjoy the exact experience shown in promotional images, they could reasonably expect to see similar things. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) agreed, saying: "The summary description of the game made clear that it was procedurally generated, that the game universe was essentially infinite, and that the core premise was exploration. As such, we considered consumers would understand the images and videos to be representative of the type of content they would encounter during gameplay, but would not generally expect to see those specific creatures, landscapes, battles, and structures." It also ruled that the developers hadn't misled customers over graphics: "We understood the graphical output of the game would be affected by the specifications of each player's computer, and considered that consumers would generally be aware of this limitation."
Facebook

Social Media Is Killing Discourse Because It's Too Much Like TV (technologyreview.com) 219

Reader Joe_NoOne writes: Like TV, social media now increasingly entertains us, and even more so than television it amplifies our existing beliefs and habits. It makes us feel more than think, and it comforts more than challenges. The result is a deeply fragmented society, driven by emotions, and radicalized by lack of contact and challenge from outside. This is why Oxford Dictionaries designated "post-truth" as the word of 2016: an adjective "relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals." Traditional television still entails some degree of surprise. What you see on television news is still picked by human curators, and even though it must be entertaining to qualify as worthy of expensive production, it is still likely to challenge some of our opinions (emotions, that is). Social media, in contrast, uses algorithms to encourage comfort and complaisance, since its entire business model is built upon maximizing the time users spend inside of it. Who would like to hang around in a place where everyone seems to be negative, mean, and disapproving? The outcome is a proliferation of emotions, a radicalization of those emotions, and a fragmented society. This is way more dangerous for the idea of democracy founded on the notion of informed participation. Now what can be done? Certainly the explanation for Trump's rise cannot be reduced to a technology- or media-centered argument. The phenomenon is rooted in more than that; media or technology cannot create; they can merely twist, divert, or disrupt. Without the growing inequality, shrinking middle class, jobs threatened by globalization, etc. there would be no Trump or Berlusconi or Brexit. But we need to stop thinking that any evolution of technology is natural and inevitable and therefore good. For one thing, we need more text than videos in order to remain rational animals. Typography, as Postman describes, is in essence much more capable of communicating complex messages that provoke thinking. This means we should write and read more, link more often, and watch less television and fewer videos -- and spend less time on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Media

Netflix Finally Gets Download Option (netflix.com) 105

For years, people asked Netflix to give them the ability to download movies and TV episodes. Though this might not seem like that big of a deal in many regions where internet connectivity is cheap and omnipresent, same is not the case everywhere, especially in developing regions. Netflix is finally addressing this need: the on-demand media streaming service said Wednesday that people can now download shows on their Android and iOS devices . From the company's blog post: Just click the download button on the details page for a film or TV series and you can watch it later without an internet connection. Many of your favorite streaming series and movies are already available for download, with more on the way, so there is plenty of content available for those times when you are offline.It's worth pointing out that the offline playback -- or the ability to download videos isn't available on desktop platforms. Also, it appears that a heck lot of shows currently don't have this feature -- as of today.
Facebook

Facebook Is Bringing Games Like Pac-Man, Space Invaders To Messenger and Your News Feed (techcrunch.com) 22

Facebook is launching Instant Games, "a new HTML5 cross-platform gaming experience" that is available on Messenger and Facebook News Feed for both mobile and web users. Since they're built on the HTML5 mobile web standard, the games load in seconds and don't need to be downloaded. Instant Games is available in 30 countries and launches with 17 games "from classic developers like Bandai Namco, Konami, and Taito as well as newer studios like Zynga and King," writes Josh Constine via TechCrunch: The biggest draw of Instant Games is how quick you can start playing. You tap the game controller icon in one of your message threads, choose a game from the list, it loads in seconds, you play a short round, and your high score gets automatically posted to the private or group chat thread. You can even share a stylized high score screenshot that you can Doodle on top of like Snapchat to trash talk your opponents. And if you share a game to the News Feed, friends can jump right into the action from Facebook's app or website. For now, the platform is in closed beta, but developers can apply to build Instant Games here.
Businesses

CNN Acquires Social-Video Startup Beme, Co-Founded By YouTube Star Casey Neistat (variety.com) 62

CNN announced Monday that it has purchased video-sharing app Beme, and will work with its founder, Casey Neistat, to build a new media brand next year focused on storytelling for a younger audience. Casey Neistat is a YouTube celebrity and tech entrepreneur who launched Beme last year. Variety reports: CNN said the new venture that it's forming out of the acquisition -- aimed at reaching millennial viewers with the street cred of Neistat's reporting and commentary -- will launch in the summer of 2017. All 11 of Beme's employees will join CNN; the cable news network will be shutting down Beme, which had garnered more than 1 million downloads. New York-based filmmaker Neistat, who has more than 5.8 million subscribers on YouTube, announced earlier this month on his channel that he would be suspending his personal vlog to focus on new projects, one of which turns out is the pact with CNN. His daily vlog dispatches cover current political and news events as well as action sequences like his viral "Snowboarding With the NYPD" video last winter. Led by Hackett, formerly VP of engineering at Yahoo's Tumblr, Beme's development team will "build technology to enable the new company and also develop mobile video capabilities for CNN's portfolio of digital properties," according to the Turner-owned cable news network. Neistat, 35, will lead the new venture's "editorial vision" as executive producer. CNN said it will employ its global resources to launch the new media brand, and plans to hire dozens of producers, builders, developers, designers and content creators for the new company. CNN said the new Beme-based company will operate as a standalone business under the CNN Digital umbrella.
AT&T

AT&T Unveils DirecTV Now Streaming TV Service With Over 100 Channels (theverge.com) 80

ATT has officially unveiled its DirecTV Now internet TV streaming service, which launches Wednesday, November 30th, in the U.S. on iPhone, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and PC/Mac, starting at $35 per month. The Verge reports: Like its over-the-top rivals, DirecTV Now will let customers stream live programming on smartphones, tablets, and PCs -- no cable box necessary -- and requires no long-term contracts or commitments. For a limited time, ATT will offer the "Go Big" channel tier with 100 channels for $35 per month. If you sign up in time, the offer will remain valid each month until you cancel. But that $35 rate is not the long-term pricing for 100+ channels. DirecTV Now offers step-up subscriptions that include other channels and content for a higher monthly cost. ATT has signed programming agreements with nearly all major networks with the exception of CBS and Showtime; negotiations with those companies remain ongoing. DirecTV Now allows customers to watch up to two streams simultaneously. HBO and Cinemax can be added to any of these packages for just $5 extra (each) per month. DirecTV Now is "zero rated" for the company's wireless customers, so regardless of how much time they spend streaming, that activity will have no impact on data usage for their monthly bill. Importantly, while these are the subscription rates as of today, the company is being straightforward about the possibility of increases in the future. ATT also plans to air original shows including a Taylor Swift series.
Television

Ron Glass, Firefly's Shepherd Book, Has Died (hollywoodreporter.com) 67

Slashdot reader tiqui tells us that Emmy-nominated actor Ron Glass has died. The actor was 71 and the family has not released more details of his death, but Firefly/Serenity fans can follow this link to the Hollywood Reporter for more information.
Firefly creator Joss Whedon posted on Twitter that Glass "got there with grace, humor and enormous heart. He was, among so many other things, my Shepherd. Raise, appropriately, a glass. Rest, Ron." And Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Reynolds on Firefly, posted an appropriate quote on Instagram. ("Shepard, don't move." "Won't go far...")

The actor's Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor came in 1982, for his role on the long-running TV series Barney Miller. Interestingly, one of Glass's co-stars on that show was Abe Vigoda, who also died earlier this year at age 94 -- a full 34 years after his death was mistakenly reported by People magazine.

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