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Cloud

Edge Computing: Explained (theverge.com) 159

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Verge, written by Paul Miller: In the beginning, there was One Big Computer. Then, in the Unix era, we learned how to connect to that computer using dumb (not a pejorative) terminals. Next we had personal computers, which was the first time regular people really owned the hardware that did the work. Right now, in 2018, we're firmly in the cloud computing era. Many of us still own personal computers, but we mostly use them to access centralized services like Dropbox, Gmail, Office 365, and Slack. Additionally, devices like Amazon Echo, Google Chromecast, and the Apple TV are powered by content and intelligence that's in the cloud -- as opposed to the DVD box set of Little House on the Prairie or CD-ROM copy of Encarta you might've enjoyed in the personal computing era. As centralized as this all sounds, the truly amazing thing about cloud computing is that a seriously large percentage of all companies in the world now rely on the infrastructure, hosting, machine learning, and compute power of a very select few cloud providers: Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM.

The advent of edge computing as a buzzword you should perhaps pay attention to is the realization by these companies that there isn't much growth left in the cloud space. Almost everything that can be centralized has been centralized. Most of the new opportunities for the "cloud" lie at the "edge." The word edge in this context means literal geographic distribution. Edge computing is computing that's done at or near the source of the data, instead of relying on the cloud at one of a dozen data centers to do all the work. It doesn't mean the cloud will disappear. It means the cloud is coming to you.
Miller goes on to "examine what people mean practically when they extoll edge computing," focusing on latency, privacy and security, and bandwidth.
Games

Free To Play, Expensive To Love: 'Fortnite' Changes Video Game Business (reuters.com) 191

An anonymous reader shares a report: To see the storm that online video game "Fortnite" has unleashed on the world, just visit Jett Sacher in Brooklyn. The 13-year-old spends an hour or two every day on the game with his friends and is not afraid to spend his pocket money on it - bit by bit. "So I bought one dance, two skins and the battle pass," Sacher told Reuters TV about recent gaming sessions. "So that's, I spent $20 on both skins so $40 ... and the dance was another $10 so $50, 60 bucks, something like that."

Sacher's pay-as-you-go expenditure on dressing up his online avatar in the 'free-to-play' game helped "Fortnite" take in an estimated $223 million from in-game purchases in March, according to Joost Van Dreunen at research firm SuperData. "Fortnite," a sort of hybrid of "The Hunger Games" and "Minecraft," drops 100 people onto an island to fight each other for survival. It is a game-changer in the industry, analysts have said, because of the huge revenue it is making from "tween" and teenage boys purchasing outfits and other add-ons. Its publisher, Epic Games, is now worth $4.5 billion, according to an estimate.
Further reading: Gamers are the new stars. Esports arenas are the new movie theaters (The New York Times).
Communications

Iran Bans Use of Telegram Messaging App To Protect 'National Security' (reuters.com) 44

Iran has banned all use of the popular Telegram messaging app. The ban had been introduced to protect "national security," said a statement aired on state television. From a report: Iran had been considering the ban since January when protests over economic grievances erupted in more than 80 cities and later turned into demonstrations against the clerical and security elite of the Islamic Republic. Some hardline officials said protesters used Telegram to organize the rallies, which were ultimately contained by the Revolutionary Guards and their affiliated volunteer Basij militia. The app was temporarily blocked in January. "Considering various complaints against the Telegram social networking app by Iranian citizens, and based on the demand of security organizations to confront the illegal activities of Telegram, the judiciary has banned its usage in Iran," state TV reported. "All Internet providers in Iran must take steps to block Telegram's website and app as of April 30," the judiciary website Mizan quoted a court order as saying.
Television

Comcast Won't Give New Speed Boost To Internet Users Who Don't Buy TV Service (arstechnica.com) 264

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Last week, Comcast announced speed increases for customers in Houston and the Oregon/SW Washington areas. The announcement headlines were "Comcast increases Internet speeds for some video customers." Customers with 60Mbps Internet download speeds are being upped to 150Mbps; 150Mbps subscribers are going to 250Mbps; and 250Mbps subscribers are getting a raise to 400Mbps or 1Gbps. Comcast says speed increases will kick in automatically without raising the customers' monthly bills -- but only if they subscribe to certain bundles that include both Internet and TV service.

"Cord cutters are not invited to the [speed increase] party," the Houston Chronicle wrote. "Only those who bundle Internet with cable television and other services... will see their speeds go up at no extra charge." Presumably, Internet-only customers can get the new speeds by paying more or by bundling their Internet subscriptions with video.

Television

While More People Switch To Streaming TV, Cable Stocks are Plummetting (investors.com) 120

An anonymous reader quotes Investor's Business Daily: Shares in Charter Communications plunged after the cable TV firm reported first quarter earnings and lost more video subscribers than expected, also sparking a sell-off in Comcast and Altice USA... Charter said it lost 122,000 video subscribers, nearly triple analyst predictions for a fall of 43,000. Comcast on Wednesday said it lost 96,000 video subscribers, exceeding estimates for a drop of 75,000.... With Friday's sell-off, Comcast stock is down 20% in 2018, with Charter falling more than 24%...

Cable TV firms aren't the only losers. AT&T this week said it lost 187,000 pay-TV customers, including satellite TV subscribers and its U-verse landline business. AT&T's DirecTV Now internet streaming service added 312,000 customers. But AT&T garners much lower profit margins from video streaming.

Cable companies are now raising prices on broadband services to compensate, according to the article.

MarketWatch notes that Charter also lost 100,000 customers in the same three-month period in 2017, calling the ongoing trend "a fundamental shift in consumer behavior."
Television

Cord Cutting Caused By 74 Percent TV Price Hikes Since 2000, Says Report (dslreports.com) 173

A new study by Kagan, S&P Global Market Intelligence finds that cord cutting is being caused primarily by a 74% increase in customer cable bills since 2000. From a report: That increase is even adjusted for inflation, and it should be noted that individual earnings have seen a modest decline during that same period, making soaring cable rates untenable for many. This affordability gap is "squeezing penetration rates, particularly among the more economically vulnerable households," the research company added. As their chart illustrates, prices for multichannel packages have steadily risen from just below $60 a month in 2000 to close to $100 in 2016. All while incomes remained largely stagnant. As customers grow increasingly angry at cable TV rate hikes and defect to streaming alternatives, most cable operators are simply raising the price of broadband (often via usage caps and overage fees) to try and make up for lost revenue. And because most parts of America still don't really see healthy broadband competition, they can consistently get away with it.
Television

8K TVs Are Coming, But Don't Buy the Hype (engadget.com) 299

If the 8,294,400 pixels of resolution on an Ultra High Definition television just don't seem to convey enough detail, fear not: The electronics industry has heard your cry. From a report: Even as UHD TVs, often called 4K TVs for their nearly 4,000 pixels of horizontal resolution, approach half of display shipments in the U.S., set manufacturers have been stepping up their demos of 8K sets that, with their 7680-by-4320 resolution, pack in a full 33,177,600 pixels. And Sharp is now expanding its distribution of one such set, the 70-inch LV-70X500E. Following its October debut in China and subsequent arrivals in Japan and Taiwan, this 8K display will go on sale across Europe at the end of April for about $13,800 at current exchange rates. That, apparently, is supposed to be a reasonable price for a set that supports a video format that offers next to nothing to watch, that can't be streamed on most broadband connections or fit onto Blu-ray discs and which can't even be properly appreciated unless you get a set too big to fit in many living rooms.

[...] The highlights reel playing on a demo unit of Sharp's 8K set required 300 megabits per second of bandwidth to stream, said Adrian Wysocki, group product manager at UMC, the Sharp-owned firm that builds TVs in Poland for the company. He suggested in a conversation Friday that more efficient formats could cut that to 100 Mbps. Only 23.2% of U.S. fixed-broadband connections hit that speed at the end of 2016, according to to the Federal Communications Commission's latest report on internet access services.

XBox (Games)

Xbox One April Update Rolling Out With Low-Latency Mode, FreeSync, and 1440p Support; 120Hz Support Coming In May Update (theverge.com) 48

Microsoft is rolling out a new Xbox One update that brings 1440p support for the Xbox One S and X, as well as support for AMD's FreeSync technology to allow compatible displays to sync refresh rates with Microsoft's consoles. A subsequent update in May will bring 120Hz-display refresh-rate support to the Xbox One. The Verge reports: FreeSync, like Nvidia's G-Sync, helps remove tearing or stuttering usually associated with gaming on monitors, as the feature syncs refresh rates to ensure games run smoothly. Alongside this stutter-free tech, Microsoft is also supporting automatic switching to a TV's game mode. Auto Low-Latency Mode, as Microsoft calls it, will be supported on new TVs, and will automatically switch a TV into game mode to take advantage of the latency reductions. The Xbox One will also support disabling game mode when you switch to another app like Netflix. Microsoft is also making some audio tweaks with the April update for the Xbox One. New system sounds take advantage of spatial sound to fully support surround sound systems when you navigate around. Gamers who listen to music while playing can also now balance game audio against background music right inside the Xbox Guide. Other features in this update include sharing game clips direct to Twitter, dark to light mode transitions based on sunrise / sunset, and improvements to Microsoft Edge to let you download or upload pictures, music, and videos.
Piracy

Netflix, Amazon, and Major Studios Try To Shut Down $20-Per-Month TV Service (arstechnica.com) 212

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Netflix, Amazon, and the major film studios have once again joined forces to sue the maker of a TV service and hardware device, alleging that the products are designed to illegally stream copyrighted videos. The lawsuit was filed against the company behind Set TV, which sells a $20-per-month TV service with more than 500 channels.

"Defendants market and sell subscriptions to 'Setvnow,' a software application that Defendants urge their customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of Plaintiffs' copyrighted motion pictures and television shows," the complaint says. Besides Netflix and Amazon, the plaintiffs are Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros. The complaint was filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The companies are asking for permanent injunctions to prevent further distribution of Set TV software and devices, the impoundment of Set TV devices, and for damages including the defendants' profits.

Businesses

Amazon Has a Top-Secret Plan to Build Home Robots (bloomberg.com) 91

After making smart speakers a household product (at least to some), Amazon seems to have found its next big consumer product: robots. Amazon is building smart robots that are equipped with cameras that let them drive around homes, Bloomberg reported Monday. These robots could launch as soon as next year. From the report: Codenamed "Vesta," after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home and family, the project is overseen by Gregg Zehr, who runs Amazon's Lab126 hardware research and development division based in Sunnyvale, California. Lab126 is responsible for Amazon devices such as the Echo speakers, Fire TV set-top-boxes, Fire tablets and the ill-fated Fire Phone.

The Vesta project originated a few years ago, but this year Amazon began to aggressively ramp up hiring. There are dozens of listings on the Lab 126 Jobs page for openings like "Software Engineer, Robotics" and "Principle Sensors Engineer." People briefed on the plan say the company hopes to begin seeding the robots in employees' homes by the end of this year, and potentially with consumers as early as 2019, though the timeline could change, and Amazon hardware projects are sometimes killed during gestation.

Displays

Are Widescreen Laptops Dumb? (theverge.com) 411

"After years of phones, laptops, tablets, and TV screens converging on 16:9 as the 'right' display shape -- allowing video playback without distracting black bars -- smartphones have disturbed the universality recently by moving to even more elongated formats like 18:9, 19:9, or even 19.5:9 in the iPhone X's case," writes Amelia Holowaty Krales via The Verge. "That's prompted me to consider where else the default widescreen proportions might be a poor fit, and I've realized that laptops are the worst offenders." Krales makes the case for why a 16:9 screen of 13 to 15 inches in size is a poor fit: Practically every interface in Apple's macOS, Microsoft's Windows, and on the web is designed by stacking user controls in a vertical hierarchy. At the top of every MacBook, there's a menu bar. At the bottom, by default, is the Dock for launching your most-used apps. On Windows, you have the taskbar serving a similar purpose -- and though it may be moved around the screen like Apple's Dock, it's most commonly kept as a sliver traversing the bottom of the display. Every window in these operating systems has chrome -- the extra buttons and indicator bars that allow you to close, reshape, or move a window around -- and the components of that chrome are usually attached at the top and bottom. Look at your favorite website (hopefully this one) on the internet, and you'll again see a vertical structure.

As if all that wasn't enough, there's also the matter of tabs. Tabs are a couple of decades old now, and, like much of the rest of the desktop and web environment, they were initially thought up in an age where the predominant computer displays were close to square with a 4:3 aspect ratio. That's to say, most computer screens were the shape of an iPad when many of today's most common interface and design elements were being developed. As much of a chrome minimalist as I try to be, I still can't extricate myself from needing a menu bar in my OS and tab and address bars inside my browser. I'm still learning to live without a bookmarks bar. With all of these horizontal bars invading our vertical space, a 16:9 screen quickly starts to feel cramped, especially at the typical laptop size. You wind up spending more time scrolling through content than engaging with it.
What is your preferred aspect ratio for a laptop? Do you prefer Microsoft and Google's machines that have a squarer 3:2 aspect ratio, or Apple's MacBook Pro that has a 16:10 display?
Bitcoin

Hackers Keep Robbing Cryptocurrency YouTubers (theverge.com) 42

Hackers are going after YouTubers who make videos about cryptocurrencies. Adrianne Jeffries, reporting for The Verge: Cryptocurrency vlogging has exploded on YouTube over the last two years. In the last 90 days, there were 122,000 videos on cryptocurrency or Bitcoin uploaded to YouTube, garnering 328 million views, according to video analytics platform Tubular Labs. As it turns out, YouTubers are juicy targets for hackers because they share so much information about themselves. They often share their screens as they make trades, which can reveal what apps, usernames, and cryptocurrency addresses they use. They may even tell their followers what systems they use to secure their holdings, which can end up being a blueprint for attackers.

"You have to be very careful about that stuff as a YouTuber," says Peter Saddington, the host of Decentralized TV on YouTube who infamously bought a Lamborghini with his Bitcoin earnings. "In my early days of YouTube, I used to show my trades. I learned that was not a good idea." Saddington was hacked in late 2017.

Businesses

Amazon and Best Buy Team Up To Sell Smart TVs (cnet.com) 98

Amazon and Best Buy want to sell you your next smart TV. From a report: The companies, which are two of the biggest electronics retailers in the US, on Wednesday revealed a new multiyear partnership to sell the next generation of TVs running Amazon's Fire TV operating system to customers in the US and Canada. Best Buy will be the exclusive seller for more than 10 4K and HD Fire TV Edition models made by Toshiba and Best Buy's Insignia brand starting this summer. Pricing on the sets has not yet been announced. These smart TVs will be available only in Best Buy stores, on BestBuy.com and, for the first time, from Best Buy as a seller on Amazon.com.
Transportation

Southwest Airlines Engine Failure Results In First Fatality On US Airline In 9 Years (heavy.com) 332

schwit1 shares a report from Heavy: Tammie Jo Shults is the pilot who bravely flew Southwest Flight 1380 to safety after part of its left engine ripped off, damaging a window and nearly sucking a woman out of the plane. The flight was en route to Dallas Love airport from New York City, and had to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Shults, 56, kept her cool during an incredibly intense situation, audio from her conversation with air traffic controllers reveals, while many passengers posted on social media that they were scared these were their last moments. She, with the help of the co-pilot and the rest of the crew, landed the plane safely. The NTSB reported that there was one fatality out of 143 passengers on board. Some passengers said that someone had a heart attack during the flight, but it's not yet known if this was the fatality reported by the NTSB. The woman who died has been identified by KOAT-TV as Jennifer Riordan, 43, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Movies

Netflix Licensed Content Generates 80% of US Viewing, Study Finds (variety.com) 109

Netflix is spending a pretty penny on original entertainment -- but while that stuff grabs most of the headlines, it's actually licensed titles like TV show reruns that still form the core of the company's streaming business. From a report: That's according to a data analysis from 7Park Data, which found that 80% of Netflix U.S. viewing is from licensed content with 20% from original shows like "House of Cards" or "Stranger Things." The firm also found that 42% of Netflix subscribers watch mostly licensed content (95% or more of their total streaming). Just 18% of Netflix's U.S. streaming customers are "originals dominant," whose viewing comprises 40%-100% of originals, according to 7Park. The data is for the 12-month period that ended September 2017.
Businesses

Comcast Is Bundling Netflix Into Cable Packages (techcrunch.com) 45

The latest option in Comcast's Xfinity cable bundle is Netflix. The two companies announced an expansion of their partnership today, which was first established in 2016 when Comcast added Netflix to its X1 interface. TechCrunch reports: The companies said they will expand that existing relationship by bundling Netflix into the overall subscription in new and existing Xfinity packages. Netflix's subscriber growth -- the primary driver of its value as a public company -- continues to surge, and it appears that this could be another piece in its tool kit to keep that engine humming. Those cable packages already include an increasing breakout of diverse services that allow for streaming outside of the over-the-top experience, like HBO Go and ESPN, and this offers another streaming service on-the-go for users. By tethering to additional over-the-top services, Netflix has a chance to woo subscribers that might otherwise just stick with their existing service providers and bake itself directly into that experience. The bundle, which will be available to new and existing Xfinity customers, will be included in its cable TV, phone and internet plans. More information about XFINITY service available in this XFINITY review.
Transportation

Tesla Issues Strongest Statement Yet Blaming Driver For Deadly Autopilot Crash (abc7news.com) 467

Tesla has released its strongest statement yet blaming the driver of a Tesla Model X that crashed on Autopilot almost three weeks ago. The driver, Walter Huang, died March 23rd in Mountain View when his Model X on Autopilot crashed headfirst into the safety barrier section of a divider that separates the carpool lane from the off-ramp to the left. Huang was an Apple engineer and former EA Games employee. ABC7News reports: Tesla confirmed its data shows Walter Huang was using Autopilot at the time of the crash, but that his hands were off the wheel for six seconds right before impact. Tesla sent Dan Noyes a statement Tuesday night that reads in part, "Autopilot requires the driver to be alert and have hands on the wheel... the crash happened on a clear day with several hundred feet of visibility ahead, which means that the only way for this accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road." The family's lawyer believes Tesla is blaming Huang to distract from the family's concern about the car's Autopilot.
Sci-Fi

Apple Is Developing a TV Show Based On Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series (deadline.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Deadline: In a competitive situation, Apple has nabbed a TV series adaptation of Foundation, the seminal Isaac Asimov science fiction novel trilogy. The project, from Skydance Television, has been put in development for straight-to-series consideration. Deadline revealed last June that Skydance had made a deal with the Asimov estate and that David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman were cracking the code on a sprawling series based on the books that informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series. Goyer and Friedman will be executive producers and showrunners. Skydance's David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross also will executive produce.

Originally published as a short story series in Astounding Magazine in 1942, Asimov's Foundation is the complex saga of humans scattered on planets throughout the galaxy, all living under the rule of the Galactic Empire. The protagonist is a psycho-historian who has an ability to read the future and foresees the empire's imminent collapse. He sets out to save the knowledge of mankind from being wiped out. Even the Game of Thrones' creative team would marvel at the number of empires that rise and fall in Foundation. Asimov's trilogy has been tried numerous times as a feature film at Fox, Warner Bros (with Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who greenlit The Lord of the Rings), and then at Sony with Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. Many top sci-fi writers have done scripts and found it daunting to constrict the sprawling saga to a feature film format. Most recently, HBO tried developing a series with Interstellar co-writer and Westworld exec producer Jonathan Nolan, but a script was never ordered.

Privacy

Comcast, AT&T, Verizon Pose a Greater Surveillance Risk Than Facebook (theguardian.com) 65

An anonymous reader writes: "Comcast, AT&T and Verizon pose a greater surveillance risk than Facebook -- but their surveillance is much harder to avoid," writes Salome Viljoen in an opinion piece for The Guardian. From the report: "Facebook isn't the only company that amasses troves of data about people and leaves it vulnerable to exploitation and misuse. As of last year, Congress extended the same data-gathering practices of tech companies like Google and Facebook to internet providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon. Because service providers serve as gatekeepers to the entire internet, they can collect far more information about us, and leave us with far less power to opt out of that process. This means that the risks of allowing our internet providers to collect and monetize the same type of user data that Facebook collects -- and the potential that such data will therefore be misused -- are much, much worse. Your internet provider doesn't just know what you do on Facebook -- it sees all the sites you visit and how much time you spend there. Your provider can see where you shop, what you watch on TV, where you choose to eat dinner, what medical symptoms you search, where you apply for work, school, a mortgage. Everything that is unencrypted is fair game. But internet providers don't just pose a greater surveillance risk than Facebook -- their surveillance is also far harder to avoid. 'Choosing' not to use an internet provider to avoid surveillance is not really a choice at all. As of 2016, only about half of Americans have more than one option for broadband internet. In rural areas, this number drops to just 13%.
Transportation

There's Growing Evidence Tesla's Autopilot Handles Lane Dividers Poorly (arstechnica.com) 238

An anonymous reader writes: Within the past week, two Tesla crashes have been reported while Autopilot was engaged, and both involved a Tesla vehicle slamming into a highway divider. One of the crashes resulted in the death of Walter Huang, a Tesla customer with a Model X. The other crash resulted in minor injuries to the driver, thanks largely to a working highway safety barrier in front of the concrete divider. Ars Technica reports on the growing evidence that Tesla's Autopilot handles lane dividers poorly: "The September crash isn't the only evidence that has emerged that Tesla's Autopilot feature doesn't deal well with highway lane dividers. At least two people have uploaded videos to YouTube showing their Tesla vehicles steering toward concrete barriers. One driver grabbed the wheel to prevent a collision, while the other slammed on the brakes. Tesla argues that this issue doesn't necessarily mean that Autopilot is unsafe. 'Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver,' a Tesla spokesperson told KGO-TV. Tesla argues that Autopilot can't prevent all accidents but that it makes accidents less likely. There's some data to back this up. A 2017 study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the rate of accidents dropped by 40 percent after the introduction of Autopilot. And Tesla argues that Autopilot-equipped Tesla cars have gone 320 million miles per fatality, much better than the 86 million miles for the average car. These figures don't necessarily settle the debate. That NHTSA figure doesn't break down the severity of crashes -- it's possible that Autopilot prevents relatively minor crashes but is less effective at preventing the most serious crashes. And as some Ars commenters have pointed out, luxury cars generally have fewer fatalities than the average vehicle. So it's possible that Tesla cars' low crash rates have more to do with its wealthy customer base than its Autopilot technology. What we can say, at a minimum, is that there's little evidence that Autopilot makes Tesla drivers less safe. And we can expect Tesla to steadily improve the car's capabilities over time."

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