By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Disney and WarnerMedia are each launching their own streaming services in 2019 in a challenge to Netflix's dominance. Netflix viewers will no longer be able to watch hit movies such as "Black Panther" or "Moana," which will soon reside on Disney's subscription service. WarnerMedia, a unit of AT&T, will also soon have its own service to showcase its library of blockbuster films and HBO series. Families will have to decide between paying more each month or losing access to some of their favorite dramas, comedies, musicals and action flicks. "There's definitely a lot of change coming," said Paul Verna at eMarketer, a digital research company. "People will have more choices of what to stream, but at the same time the market is already fragmented and intimidating and it is only going to get more so."
Media companies are seeking to capitalize on the popularity and profitability of streaming. But by fragmenting the market, they're also narrowing the once wide selection that fueled the rise of internet-based video. About 55 percent of U.S. households now subscribe to paid streaming video services, up from just 10 percent in 2009, according to research firm Deloitte. Just as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime tempted people to "cut the cord" by canceling traditional cable TV packages, the newer services are looking to dismember those more-inclusive options. [...]
The cost of multiple streaming services could quickly approach the average cost of a cable bill -- not counting the cost of internet service. That's around $107 per month, according to Leichtman Research Group.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
A team of developers has accused several popular smartphone vendors of compromising the functionality of third-party apps and other background processes on their phones in an attempt to "superficially improve" the battery life. The team, Urbandroid, further alleges that these vendors have not correctly implemented Doze mode feature that Google introduced with Android Marshmallow. They also say that Google appears to be doing nothing about it.
Among the worst offenders are, per developers (in descending order): Nokia, OnePlus, Xiaomi, Huawei, Meizu, Sony, Samsung, and HTC.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Why have wages been so slow to rise at a time when demand for workers has pushed the U.S. unemployment rate to its lowest point in nearly half a century? One answer: contracts that tie millions of unspecialized workers to their jobs. Bloomberg reports: In far too many cases, these so-called noncompetes are an unwarranted restriction on freedom to transact and a drag on growth. If Congress won't act to narrow their scope, states should take the lead. The desire to keep workers from defecting to rival employers is as old as employment itself. As far back as the 15th century, English masters, such as dyers or blacksmiths, made apprentices promise not to set up shop nearby. Courts often refused to uphold such agreements, viewing them as coercive. As a House of Lords decision put it in 1893, "There is obviously more freedom of contract between buyer and seller than between master and servant or between an employer and a person seeking employment."
More than a century later, the idea is back in vogue, as companies exploit the power that comes with increasing size and market concentration. In the U.S., new employees are commonly required to sign contracts that forbid them to work in the same industry for a given period. The practice makes sense for highly paid jobs involving big investments in training, and for staff with valuable proprietary knowledge. But it isn't being limited to those kinds of employees. A 2014 survey found that about two in five workers were or had at some point been bound in this way, including workers such as security guards and camp counselors. Some 12 percent of employees without a bachelor's degree and earning less than $40,000 a year were tied down.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's course-correction department
In a sea of 3D audio products and true-wireless earbuds, USB Type-C headphones were nowhere in sight at CES 2019. From a report: This absence isn't an accident, however. Rather, it's the deafening silence of an abandoned product category. While many looked to USB-C audio as the successor to the famed physical port, the available models aren't catching on, and they don't seem to be going anywhere. Their absence at CES 2019 doesn't paint a rosy picture of their future, either.
In general, it takes new standards quite a while to catch on, however, USB-C was thrust into the limelight far before its time. When Apple and Google ditched their headphone jacks, it limited the pool of audio peripherals to Bluetooth, or the very young USB-C category. Perhaps with a little more time and backing from a few more serious partners this could have matured alongside its older brother the TRRS plug, but it just wasn't to be. [...] One of the biggest issues that companies need to navigate pertains to source and peripheral device compatibility. USB Type-C headphone cables can either be active or passive -- or manifest as a dongle adapter. This inconsistency, paired with the fact that Audio Accessory Mode has yet to be universally supported, results in a barrage of compatibility issues. Hence why many users are unable to operate playback controls or use a headset's integrated microphone.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
dryriver writes: Electronic Arts has mismanaged the Battlefield franchise in the past -- BF3 and BF4 were not great from a gameplay perspective -- but with Battlefield 5, Electronic Arts is facing a real disaster that has sent its stock plummeting on the stock exchanges. First came the fierce cultural internet backlash from gamers to the Battlefield 5 reveal trailer -- EA tried to inject so much 21st Century gender diversity and Hollywood action-movie style fighting into what was supposed to be a reasonably historically accurate WWII shooter trailer, that many gamers felt the game would be "a seriously inauthentic portrayal of what WW2 warfare really was like." Then the game sold very poorly after a delayed launch date -- far less than the mildly successful WW1 shooter Battlefield 1 for example -- and is currently discounted by 33% to 50% at all major game retailers to try desperately to push sales numbers up. This was also a disaster for Nvidia, as Battlefield 5 was the tentpole title supposed to entice gamers into buying expensive new realtime ray-tracing Nvidia 2080 RTX GPUs. Electronic Arts had to revise its earnings estimates for 2019, some hedge funds sold off their EA stock, fearing low sales and stiff competition from popular Battle Royal games like Fortnite and PUBG, and EA stock is currently 45% down from its peak value in July 2018. EA had already become seriously unpopular with gamers because of annoying Battlefield franchise in-game mechanisms such as heaving to buy decent-aiming-accuracy weapons with additional cash, having to constantly pay for additional DLC content and game maps, and the very poor multiplayer gameplay of its two Star Wars: Battlefront titles (essentially Battlefield with laser blasters set in the Star Wars Universe). It seems that with Battlefield 5, EA -- not a company known for listening to its customers -- finally hit a brick wall, in the form of many Battlefield fans simply not buying or playing Battlefield 5.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: As good as they are at causing mischief, researchers from the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab realized GANs, or generative adversarial networks, are also a powerful tool: because they paint what they're "thinking," they could give humans insight into how neural networks learn and reason. [T]he researchers began probing a GAN's learning mechanics by feeding it various photos of scenery -- trees, grass, buildings, and sky. They wanted to see whether it would learn to organize the pixels into sensible groups without being explicitly told how. Stunningly, over time, it did. By turning "on" and "off" various "neurons" and asking the GAN to paint what it thought, the researchers found distinct neuron clusters that had learned to represent a tree, for example. Other clusters represented grass, while still others represented walls or doors. In other words, it had managed to group tree pixels with tree pixels and door pixels with door pixels regardless of how these objects changed color from photo to photo in the training set.
Not only that, but the GAN seemed to know what kind of door to paint depending on the type of wall pictured in an image. It would paint a Georgian-style door on a brick building with Georgian architecture, or a stone door on a Gothic building. It also refused to paint any doors on a piece of sky. Without being told, the GAN had somehow grasped certain unspoken truths about the world. Being able to identify which clusters correspond to which concepts makes it possible to control the neural network's output. The team has now released an app called GANpaint that turns this newfound ability into an artistic tool. It allows you to turn on specific neuron clusters to paint scenes of buildings in grassy fields with lots of doors. Beyond its silliness as a playful outlet, it also speaks to the greater potential of this research.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's open-and-unprotected department
According to a report from HackenProof, a database containing resumes of over 200 million job seekers in China was exposed last month. "The leaked info included not just the name and working experience of people, but also their mobile phone number, email, marriage status, children, politics, height, weight, driver license, and literacy level as well," reports The Next Web. From the report: Bob Diachenko, Director of Cyber Risk Research at Hacken.io and bug bounty platform HackenProof, found an unprotected instance of MongoDB containing these resumes on December 28. Diachenko found the resumes in the open database search engines Shodan and BinaryEdge. The 854GB database didn't have any password protection and was open to anyone to read.
Diachenko wasn't able to identify who generated the database or who owned it, but a now-defunct GitHub code repository featured a code that used an identical data structure to the leaked database. The database contained scraped data from multiple Chinese classified websites like bj.58.com. However, in a blog post, the website's spokesperson denied the leak. Interestingly, the database was taken down as soon as Diachenko posted about the database on Twitter. Sadly, the MongoDB log showed at least a dozen IP addresses that read the instance before it went off the grid.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department
Arborists are cloning saplings from the stumps of the world's largest, strongest, and longest-lived trees -- felled for timber more than a century ago -- to create redwood "super groves" that can help fight climate change. "Using saplings made from the basal sprouts of these super trees to plant new groves in temperate countries around the world means the growths have a better chance than most to become giants themselves," reports Quartz. "Their ancestors grew up to 400 ft (122 m) tall and to 35 ft in diameter, after all, larger than the largest living redwood today, a giant sequoia in California's Sequoia National Park." From the report: Already, super saplings from the project are thriving in groves in Canada, England, Wales, France, New Zealand, and Australia. None of these locales are places where coastal redwoods grow naturally, but they all have cool temperatures and sufficient fog for the redwoods, which drink moisture from the air in summer rather than relying on rain. [David Milarch, founder of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, a U.S. nonprofit that propagates the world's largest trees] calls this "assisted migration." Last month, his organization planted another such grove in the Presidio in San Francisco, California. The park lies along the U.S. west's redwood corridor, which runs from Oregon to California, home to the stumps the saplings were cloned from. But 95% of giant growths there were cut long ago. Many of the redwoods along the corridor now are young trees. Milarch notes that as the local climate is getting hotter and less foggy, it's no longer as conducive to producing the mega growths of yore. Now, 75 saplings created from the basal sprouts of the most rugged and massive ancient tree stumps of the coastal region will grow in the Presidio. They may eventually become the hardiest and tallest trees around, if their ancestors are any indication.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's better-late-than-never department
Apple's long-delayed AirPower wireless charging mat might finally be in production. According to a tweet from ChargerLAB, a "credible source" says that Apple has begun manufacturing the long-delayed wireless charging mat. The Verge reports: If true, it could mean that the long-overdue product could finally reach the hands of consumers before too much longer. Apple announced in September 2017, that it was introducing wireless charging capabilities in with the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and gave a preview for its own wireless charging mat that would not only charge the iPhone, but its Apple Watch and AirPods. At the time, Apple didnâ(TM)t announce a price -- only that it was expected to be released sometime in 2018. That obviously didnâ(TM)t happen...
If what ChargerLAB says is accurate, that could mean that weâ(TM)ll see more about them in the near future. The siteâ(TM)s tweet says that the devices are being manufactured at Luxshare Precision, which already manufactures Appleâ(TM)s AirPods and some cords. MacRumors translated a screenshot of ChargerLABâ(TM)s WeChat conversation, in which the siteâ(TM)s source expects the device be released soon. But given the chargerâ(TM)s history of delays and technical challenges, itâ(TM)s probably best not to get oneâ(TM)s hopes up just yet.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's permanent-residency department
hackingbear writes: During Elon Musk's trip to China for the ground-breaking of Tesla's first overseas factory, which will allow it to sell vehicles directly in the world's largest market for electric vehicles, he was offered a Chinese green card when he met with Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday in Beijing, where they discussed Tesla's China ambitions. "I love China and want to come here more often," Musk was quoted as saying in the report. "If you do, we can issue you a Chinese green card," the premier replied. Getting a Chinese "green card" has been described as "one of the most difficult tasks in the world." By 2017, only about 10,000 foreigners had been granted permanent residency since the program was introduced in 2004, out of an estimated 1 million foreigners living in China; recipients include Dutch scientist Bernard Feringa, who won the 2016 Nobel Prize in chemistry.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's too-good-to-be-true department
dryriver writes: A recent Guardian article about the need for actors and celebrities -- male and female -- to look their best in a high-definition media world ended on the note that several low-profile Los Angeles VFX outfits specialize in "beautifying actors" in movies, TV shows and video ads. They reportedly use a software named "Beauty Box," resulting in films and other motion content that are -- for lack of a better term -- "motion Photoshopped." After some investigating, it turns out that "Beauty Box" is a sophisticated CUDA and OpenGL accelerated skin-smoothing plugin for many popular video production software that not only smooths even terribly rough or wrinkly looking skin effectively, but also suppresses skin spots, blemishes, scars, acne or freckles in realtime, or near realtime, using the video processing capabilities of modern GPUs.
The product's short demo reel is here with a few examples. Everybody knows about photoshopped celebrities in an Instagram world, and in the print magazine world that came long before it, but far fewer people seem to realize that the near-perfect actor, celebrity, or model skin you see in high-budget productions is often the result of "digital makeup" -- if you were to stand next to the person being filmed in real life, you'd see far more ordinary or aged skin from the near-perfection that is visible on the big screen or little screen. The fact that the algorithms are realtime capable also means that they may already be being used for live television broadcasts without anyone noticing, particularly in HD and 4K resolution broadcasts. The question, as was the case with photoshopped magazine fashion models 25 years ago, is whether the technology creates an unrealistic expectation of having to have "perfectly smooth looking" skin to look attractive, particularly in people who are past their teenage years.Read Replies (0)