Piracy

Netflix, Amazon, Movie Studios Sue Over TickBox Streaming Device (arstechnica.com) 127

Movies studios, Netflix, and Amazon have teamed up to file a lawsuit against a streaming media player called TickBox TV. The device in question runs Kodi on top of Android 6.0, and searches the internet for streams that it can make available to users without actually hosting any of the content itself. An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The complaint (PDF), filed Friday, says the TickBox devices are nothing more than "tool[s] for mass infringement," which operate by grabbing pirated video streams from the Internet. The lawsuit was filed by Amazon and Netflix Studios, along with six big movie studios that make up the Motion Picture Association of America: Universal, Columbia, Disney, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros.

"What TickBox actually sells is nothing less than illegal access to Plaintiffs' copyrighted content," write the plaintiffs' lawyers. "TickBox TV uses software to link TickBox's customers to infringing content on the Internet. When those customers use TickBox TV as Defendant intends and instructs, they have nearly instantaneous access to multiple sources that stream Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works without authorization." The device's marketing materials let users know the box is meant to replace paid-for content, with "a wink and a nod," by predicting that prospective customers who currently pay for Amazon Video, Netflix, or Hulu will find that "you no longer need those subscriptions." The lawsuit shows that Amazon and Netflix, two Internet companies that are relatively new to the entertainment business, are more than willing to join together with movie studios to go after businesses that grab their content.

Transportation

Unpatched Exploit Lets You Clone Key Fobs and Open Subaru Cars (bleepingcomputer.com) 60

An anonymous reader writes: Tom Wimmenhove, a Dutch electronics designer, has discovered a flaw in the key fob system used by several Subaru models, a vulnerability the vendor has not patched and could be abused to hijack cars. The issue is that key fobs for some Subaru cars use sequential codes for locking and unlocking the vehicle, and other operations. These codes -- called rolling codes or hopping code -- should be random, in order to avoid situations when an attacker discovers their sequence and uses the flaw to hijack cars. This is exactly what Wimmenhove did. He created a device that sniffs the code, computes the next rolling code and uses it to unlock cars...

The researcher said he reached out to Subaru about his findings. "I did [reach out]. I told them about the vulnerability and shared my code with them," Wimmenhove told BleepingComputer. "They referred me to their 'partnership' page and asked me to fill in a questionnaire. It didn't seem like they really cared and I haven't heard back from them."

His Subaru-cracking feat -- documented in a video -- was accomplished using a $25 Raspberry Pi B+ and two dongles, one for wifi ($2) and one for a TV ($8), plus a $1 antenna and a $1 MCX-to-SMA convertor.
Television

Cord-Cutters Drive Cable TV Subscribers to a 17-Year Low (houstonchronicle.com) 197

An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: On Wednesday, AT&T told regulators that it expects to finish the quarter with about 90,000 fewer TV subscribers than it began with. AT&T blamed a number of issues, including hurricane damage to infrastructure, rising credit standards and competition from rivals. The report also shows AT&T lost more traditional TV customers than it gained back through its online video app, DirecTV Now. And analysts are suggesting that that's evidence that cord-cutting is the main culprit... "DirecTV, like all of its cable peers, is suffering from the ravages of cord-cutting," said industry analyst Craig Moffett in a research note this week. Moffett added that while nobody expected AT&T's pay-TV numbers to look good, hardly anyone could have predicted they would look "this bad."

The outlook doesn't look much healthier for the rest of the television industry. Over the past year, cable and satellite firms have collectively lost nearly 3 million customers, according to estimates by market analysts at SNL Kagan and New Street Research. The number of households with traditional TV service is hovering at about the level it was in 2000, according to New Street's Jonathan Chaplin, in a study last week. Other analysts predict that, after factoring in AT&T's newly disclosed losses, the industry will have lost 1 million traditional TV subscribers by the end of this quarter.

Microsoft

Microsoft Employees Can Now Work In Treehouses (cnbc.com) 95

Microsoft's campus now features three outdoor treehouses for its employees. An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: More than 12 feet off the ground, the treehouses feature charred-wood walls, skylights, at least one gas fireplace, Wi-Fi and hidden electrical outlets. Employees can even grab a bite at an outdoor extension of the indoor cafeteria. The "more Hobbit than HQ" treehouses are designed by Pete Nelson of the TV show "Treehouse Masters" and are part of Microsoft's growing "outdoor districts..." The company touts the professional benefits of working in nature -- greater creativity, focus and happiness -- but honestly, the treehouses are just plain cool.
Microsoft touts a Harvard physician who believes nature "stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response, which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improved immune response." There's a short video on the "Working at Microsoft" channel on YouTube, but I'm curious what Slashdot readers think about working outdoors. Or, in a tree...
Television

Comcast Pressures Local Cable Firms to Curb Low-Cost TV Packages (bloomberg.com) 98

Gerry Smith, reporting for Bloomberg: Comcast is trying to restrict cable operators' sales of low-cost TV service to ensure its regional sports networks don't lose too many subscribers, according to a trade group of about 750 smaller companies that have taken their complaint to regulators. Comcast has tried to limit the availability of sports-free offerings in contract talks with pay-TV operators, according to the American Cable Association, whose members have about 7 million subscribers. In addition to being the largest U.S. cable provider, Comcast owns regional sports channels in markets such as Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. The claim shows programmers are fighting back as more consumers seek TV options that don't include sports. Cable operators are trying to stem subscriber losses by offering a "basic" service with just a few channels and internet access for fans of Netflix or Amazon.
Businesses

Legal Online Gambling Could Return To the US (digitaltrends.com) 103

A new report says legal online gambling may be coming back to the U.S., not from an casino magnate such as Steve Wynn or Sheldon Adelson, but rather a headphone industry executive. From a report: Now Monster, the same company that turned the headphone industry upside down with Dr. Dre, plans to revive online gambling in America by enlisting someone with a different kind of notoriety: Fred Khalilian. He's a former telemarketing kingpin, wannabe reality TV personality, two-time FTC loser -- and now, the new COO of Monster. He plans to open the company's gambling site, PokerTribe.com, on or before December 15. And he might just make the company billions. So he might also be a genius. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Gambling is illegal, right? Sort of. How will a headphone maker succeed in online gambling where Trump, Branson, and others have failed? "The roadmap is unbelievable, fraught with laws, certifications, international law, gaming commissions, all that stuff. Very, very complex," Monster CEO Noel Lee exclusively told Digital Trends. "But [Fred] has overcome. He's found his niche, he's worked his way through the government, through the Federal Trade Commission, through all of that, with a strategy that's built around the American Indians."
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Favorite William Gibson Novel? 298

dryriver writes: When I first read William Gibson's Neuromancer and then his other novels as a young man back in the 1990s, I was blown away by Gibson's work. Everything was so fresh and out of the ordinary in his books. The writing style. The technologies. The characters and character names. The plotlines. The locations. The future world he imagined. The Matrix. It was unlike anything I had read before. A window into the far future of humanity. I had great hopes over the years that some visionary film director would take a crack at creating film versions of Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive . But that never happened. All sorts of big budget science fiction was produced for TV and the big screen since Neuromancer that never got anywhere near the brilliance of Gibson's future world. Gibson's world largely stayed on the printed page, and today very few people talk about Neuromancer, even though the world we live in, at times, appears headed in the exact direction Gibson described in his Sprawl trilogy. Why does hardly anybody talk about William Gibson anymore? His books describe a future that is much more technologically advanced than where we are in 2017, so it isn't like his future vision has become "badly dated." To get the conversation going, we rephrased dryriver's question... What is your favorite William Gibson novel?
Television

Hulu Lowers Prices After Netflix Raises Theirs (variety.com) 108

Coincidentally, as Netflix raised their prices last week, Hulu decided to lower theirs. The streaming service is now offering a plan, which includes commercials, for $5.99 per month for the first year -- a short-term promotion aimed at luring new subs with the kickoff of the fall television and Hulu's expanded TV library lineup. Variety reports: Hulu's special offer for the limited-commercials plan is available through Jan. 9, 2018, only to new or returning Hulu subs. After one year, the regular $7.99 monthly price will kick in. Hulu offers a commercial-free option for $12 per month, and a live TV service (which includes access to original series like Emmy-winning "The Handmaid's Tale" and on-demand titles) for $40 monthly. A Hulu rep said the company's new promo is intended to draft off the fall 2017 TV season. As it looks for another original series on the order of "Handmaid's Tale" -- so far its only breakout hit -- Hulu has inked deals to bring thousands of current and older TV shows to the platform to armor-up in its battle with rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Media

Windows 10 Update Removes Windows Media Player (betanews.com) 255

Recently made available Windows 10 update KB4046355 for the Fall Creators Update disables Windows Media Player from the operating system. BetaNews reports: While it could be argued that Windows Media Player is no longer an essential addition to Windows -- there are plenty of quality third-party alternatives, such as VLC Media Player, not to mention the Films & TV app in Windows 10 itself -- many users still rely on it. The feature's removal came to light when users installed KB4046355 on devices running Windows 10 version 1709 -- the Fall Creators Update. This update, referred to as FeatureOnDemandMediaPlayer, removes Windows Media Player from the OS, although it doesn't kill access to it entirely. If you want the media player back you can install it via the Add a Feature setting. Open Settings, go to Apps > Apps & Features, and click on Manage optional features.
Television

Latest TVs Are Ready for Their Close-Ups (wsj.com) 219

An anonymous share a WSJ article: The latest televisions have more pixels than ever. But can your eyes detect the difference? The answer is yes -- if you sit close enough. Old TVs had 349,920 pixels. High-definition flat screens bumped up the total to 2 million. Ultrahigh-definition sets inflated it to 8 million. And manufacturers are now experimenting with 8K TVs that have an astounding 33 million pixels. More pixels render hair, fur and skin with greater detail, but the benefit depends on viewing the screen from an ideal distance so the sharpness of the images is clear, but the tiny points of illumination aren't individually distinguishable. According to standards set by the International Telecommunication Union, that ideal distance is 3 times the height of an HDTV screen, 1.5 times the height of a UHDTV screen and .75 times the height of an 8K screen (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; here's a PDF copy of the newspaper). Given those measurements, viewers should sit 6 feet away from a 50-inch HDTV with a 24.5-inch tall screen. But they should sit just 3 feet from a UHDTV of the same size, closer than most Americans prefer.
NES (Games)

Third 'Nintendo World Championship' Ends With Three Unreleased Switch Game Levels (kotaku.com) 14

An anonymous reader writes: The Nintendo World Championships wrapped up in Manhattan Saturday with two finalists competing on three as-yet-unreleased levels from the upcoming Nintendo Switch game Super Mario Odyssey. 16 contenders had been selected from Mario Kart 7 qualifying rounds at Best Buy stores in eight U.S. cities, and Thomas G. "surged up through the 'underground,' the loser's bracket," reports Kotaku, "after overcoming opponents in games like Mario Party 2 and Super Mario Bros. Deluxe."

Thomas G. found himself in the final round against defending champion John Number, and Kotaku has embedded video clips from Twitch of their climactic final showdown on the three unreleased levels. "The first level forced the two to do a little timing-based puzzle solving, hitting buttons with their caps to create platforms on walls, which they could then hop across to the moon. Level two was a vertical platforming stage using Mario's new cap abilities to fling and fly up the side of a tower. The final boss fight from above closed out the race, with Thomas G. landing the final punch to the boss' face and taking home the trophy."

Advertising

Facebook Fought Rules That Could Have Exposed Fake Russian Ads (bloomberg.com) 193

According to Bloomberg, Facebook has for years fought to avoid being transparent about who's behind election-related ads online. "Since 2011, Facebook has asked the Federal Election Commission for blanket exemptions from political advertising disclosure rules -- transparency that could have helped it avoid the current crisis over Russia ad spending ahead of the 2016 U.S. election," reports Bloomberg. From the report: Communications law requires traditional media like TV and radio to track and disclose political ad buyers. The rule doesn't apply online, an exemption that's helped Facebook's self-serve advertising business generate hundreds of millions of dollars in political campaign spots. When the company was smaller, the issue was debated in some policy corners of Washington. Now that the social network is such a powerful political tool, with more than 2 billion users, the topic is at the center of a debate about the future of American democracy. Back in 2011, Facebook argued for the exemption for the same reasons as internet search giant Google: its ads are too small and have a character limit, leaving no room for language saying who paid for a campaign, according to documents on the FEC's website. Some FEC commissioners agreed, while others argued that Facebook could provide a clickable web link to get more information about the ad.

Facebook wouldn't budge. It warned that FEC proposals for more political ad disclosure could hinder free speech in a 2011 opinion written by Marc Elias, a high-powered Democratic lawyer who later became general counsel for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. Colin Stretch, a top Facebook lawyer, said the agency "should not stand in the way of innovation," and warned that such rules would quickly become obsolete. When it came time for the FEC to decide in June 2011, the agency's six commissioners split on a 3-3 vote. Facebook didn't get its exemption, so an advertiser using its platform was still subject to a 2006 ruling by the FEC requiring disclosure. But the company allowed ads to run without those disclaimers, leaving it up to ad buyers to comply.

Sci-Fi

According To Star Trek: Discovery, Starfleet Still Runs Microsoft Windows (theverge.com) 237

AmiMoJo shares a report from The Verge: The third episode of Star Trek: Discovery aired this week, and at one point in the episode, Sonequa Martin-Green's Michael Burnham is tasked with reconciling two suites of code. In the show, Burnham claims the code is confusing because it deals with quantum astrophysics, biochemistry, and gene expression. And while the episode later reveals that it's related to the USS Discovery's experimental new mycelial network transportation system, Twitter user Rob Graham noted the code itself is a little more pedestrian in nature. More specifically, it seems to be decompiled code for the infamous Stuxnet virus, developed by the United States to attack Iranian computers running Windows.
Advertising

T-Mobile Won't Stop Claiming Its Network Is Faster Than Verizon's (theverge.com) 106

T-Mobile says it will continue to claim it has the country's fastest LTE network even after the National Advertising Division, a telecom industry watchdog group, "recommended" that it stop doing so in print, TV, and web advertisements. In a statement given to Ars Technica, "NAD previously recognized third-party crowdsourced data as a way to look at network performance, so we looked at the latest results, and verified what we already knew. T-Mobile is still the fastest LTE network and we'll continue to let consumers know that." The Verge reports: The dispute arose earlier this year as part of a T-Mobile ad campaign that insinuated that Verizon's network was older and slower, and that its service did not feature unlimited plans. Verizon then filed a complaint with the NAD, which is a self-regulatory body of the telecom industry designed to settle disputes, avoid litigation, and protect against unwanted government regulation. Verizon said at the time that because T-Mobile was relying on crowdsourced data from third-party speed test providers Ookla and OpenSignal, the data was skewed in favor of T-Mobile. The data was pulled from a one-month period after Verizon first reintroduced its unlimited plans. Verizon's logic wasn't super bulletproof: the company claimed that because it had never before offered unlimited plans, T-Mobile customers -- who were familiar with the concept of throttling after a certain data threshold -- were more likely to be sampled in the crowdsourced data set provided to the NAD. Still, T-Mobile discontinued the disputed commercial, and the NAD felt the need to offer guidelines last week, advising the company not to claim its network was faster or newer. In addition, the NAD also told T-Mobile to modify its claim that it covered 99.7 percent of Verizon customers to make clear that the coverage is by population and not geographic area.
Input Devices

Meet The Next Major Operating System: Amazon's Alexa (zdnet.com) 168

ZDNet's editor-in-chief warns that Amazon has ambitious plans for its new Echo Plus: Amazon is making an explicit play to be the home hub because it can automatically discover and set up lights, locks, plugs, and switches without the need for additional hubs or apps. And the Alexa 'routines' feature will be able to tie all of this together by allowing you to automate a series of actions with a single voice command: saying "Alexa, good night," and having it turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV, for example. A platform that other apps and devices can connect into? This starts to sound a lot like an operating system for the home to me.

It's not just the home, either; Amazon announced a deal to make Alexa available in BMW and Mini vehicles from the middle of next year, allowing drivers to use the digital assistant to get directions, play music or control smart home devices while travelling, without having to use a separate app. Travellers will also have access to Alexa skills from third-party developers like Starbucks, allowing them to order their coffee while driving and thus skip the line. Back in January, Amazon and Ford said they were working together to allow voice commands to turn on the engine, lock or unlock the doors as well as play music and use other skills...

It's still early days but I think Alexa has a good shot at becoming one of the standard interfaces, certainly for consumers -- an operating system for the home, if not more, if the automotive tie-ups take off too. All of this will make Amazon a serious force to be reckoned with. Windows has the desktop, and Android and iOS can fight it out for the smartphone, but right now Alexa has a lock on the smart home.

DRM

Hollywood's International War on Kodi Plugins And Video-Streaming Boxes (eff.org) 57

An anonymous reader quotes the EFF: In the past few years, the sale of pre-configured Kodi boxes, and the availability of a range of plugins providing access to streaming media, has seen the software's popularity balloon -- and made it the latest target of Hollywood's copyright enforcement juggernaut. We've seen this in the appearance of streaming media boxes as an enforcement priority in the U.S. Trade Representative's Special 301 Report, in proposals for new legislation targeting the sale of "illicit" media boxes, and in lawsuits that have been brought on both sides of the Atlantic to address the "problem" that media boxes running Kodi, like any Web browser, can be used to access media streams that were not authorized by the copyright holder...

The difficulty facing the titans of TV is that since neither those who sell Kodi boxes, nor those who write or host add-ons for the software, are engaging in any unauthorized copying by doing so, cases targeting these parties have to rely on other legal theories. So far several legal theories have been used; one in Europe against sellers of Kodi boxes, one in Canada against the owner of the popular Kodi add-on repository TVAddons, and two in the United States against TVAddons and a plugin developer... These lawsuits by big TV incumbents seem to have a few goals: to expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement yet again, to force major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on the few bad actors in that ecosystem.

The EFF details the specific lawsuits in each region, and concludes that their courts "should reject these expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits."
Television

Comcast's New 'Xfinity Instant TV' Streaming Service Charges $18 For What Antennas Offer For Free (exstreamist.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Exstreamist: Comcast announced this week that they plan on rolling out their streaming service, "Xfinity Instant TV" as an option for broadband-only customers. At our very first glance, it seemed like a pretty good deal, a live-streaming service for $18 a month, not bad right? But once we actually looked into the offering, we noticed something funny. Almost the entirety of what they're planning on charging $18 a month for could be viewed free with an antenna. According to the Wall Street Journal, the antenna as an option is apparently a long lost TV option for many consumers. Variety is reporting, "Xfinity Instant TV" intro packages, the ones that are $18, will only include a handful of broadcast channels, and a few "freebies" like the Home Shopping Network, and CSPAN So we're not exactly talking about getting access to ESPN, CNN, FX, or other more desirable channels for cord cutters, those will cost you at least $45 more a month, so basically the cost of your current cable television package. The report notes that the service is only available to Comcast internet subscribers and does include access to on-demand services.
Piracy

Star Trek: Discovery Nearly Cracks Pirate Bay's Top 10 In Less Than 24 Hours (ew.com) 390

Yesterday was the season premiere of the first new Star Trek TV series in 12 years. While the first episode aired on the CBS broadcast network Sunday night, the second episode -- and all the rest to come -- was made available exclusively on the CBS All Access streaming service for $6 a month. Naturally, this upset Trekkies and led many of them to find alternative methods to watch the show. EW reports that Star Trek: Discovery "is on the verge of cracking Pirate Bay's Top 10 most illegally downloaded shows in less than 24 hours." From the report: The Discovery pilot is currently at No. 11 on the list (apparently at No. 15 just a few hours ago), the pilot is up there with the likes of HBO's Game of Thrones, Adult Swim's Rick and Morty and, for some reason, TNT's The Last Ship. The show's second episode is at No. 17, which is a tad surprising as that was the one that wasn't free. Ever since the distribution plan was first announced fans have resisted with some vehemence the idea of paying for "yet another streaming service just to watch a single show" (there's more than one show on All Access, CBS is quick to point out, and then a debate over the relative merits of NCIS and MacGyver repeats ensues).
Movies

Amazon Slashes Prices on 4K Content in Response To Apple TV 4K's Launch (theverge.com) 25

An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the many announcements at Apple's keynote a couple weeks ago was that 4K movies would be added to iTunes at the same price as HD content. Previously purchased HD movies would also be upgraded to 4K for free, though for streaming only. In response, Amazon Video has drastically slashed the prices of its own 4K content to match iTunes. As Pocket Lint notes, Amazon Video's 4K selection is not only limited in comparison to Apple's, but was incredibly expensive with purchases running over $30. (This price was comparable to services like Vudu and Google, but Apple's worked out deals to offer 4K HDR movies at $19.99.) Over the weekend, it appears prices for 4K titles on Amazon Video are now starting at around $5, with newer releases in the range of $7 to $19.
Sci-Fi

'Star Trek: Discovery' Premieres Tonight (ew.com) 456

An anonymous reader quotes EW.com: Tonight CBS will premiere the first new Star Trek TV series in 12 years at 8:30 p.m. on the company's regular broadcast network. Immediately afterward, the second episode of Star Trek: Discovery will stream exclusively on CBS All Access -- the company's $6 per month streaming service... CBS saw an opportunity to leverage the built-in popularity of Star Trek to help fuel its fledgling All Access streaming service. The service currently has about 1 million subscribers and the company's goal is to grow it to 4 million by 2020...

But once fans watch Discovery, they'll notice the show's production values aren't like a typical broadcast show, but more reminiscent of a premium cable or streaming show. CBS was able to justify spending a bit more money on Discovery since it's going onto the paid tier. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.

The Los Angeles Times reports each episode costs $8 million -- though Netflix is paying $6 million for each episode's international broadcast rights. The show's main title sequence has been released, and the Verge reports that the show is set before the original 1966 series (but after Star Trek: Enterprise) along with some other possible spoilers.

Space.com asked one of the show's actors who his favorite Star Trek captain was. "I mean, Kirk," answered James Frain, who plays the Vulcan Sarek in Discovery. "That's like, 'Who's your favorite James Bond?', and if you don't say 'Sean Connery,' really? Come on."

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