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Mars

Mars Rover Spots Clouds Shaped By Gravity Waves (sciencemag.org) 36

sciencehabit writes from a report via Science Magazine: NASA's Curiosity rover has shot more than 500 movies of the clouds above Mars, including the first ground-based view of martian clouds shaped by gravity waves, researchers reported this week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. The shots are the best record made so far of a mysterious recurring belt of equatorial clouds known to influence the martian climate. Understanding these clouds will help inform estimates of ground ice depth and perhaps recurring slope lineae, potential flows of salty water on the surface, says John Moores, a planetary scientist at York University in Toronto, Canada, who led the study with his graduate student, Jake Kloos. "If we wish to understand the water story of Mars's past," Moores says, "we first need to [separate out] contributions from the present-day water cycle." Using Curiosity's navigation camera, Moores and Kloos recorded eight-frame movies of this wispy cloud belt for two martian years. They've used two angles to capture the clouds: one pointed directly up, to see wind direction and speed, and another that keeps the rover's horizon in the frame, allowing a view into the clouds' depth. Given the limited water vapor, solar energy, and atmosphere, the martian clouds lack the variety of shapes seen on Earth. But during one day of cloud gazing -- Curiosity's 1302th martian day, to be precise -- the team got lucky and saw something unusual. That day, when Curiosity looked to the horizon, it saw a sequence of straight, parallel rows of clouds flowing in the same direction: the first ground-based view of a gravity wave cloud. Similar to the waves that follow a pebble tossed into a pond, gravity waves are created when some unknown feature of the martian landscape causes a ripple in the atmosphere that is then seen in clouds. Such waves are common at the edge of the martian ice caps, but thought to be less frequent over its equator.
Businesses

Apple's Next Big Thing: Augmented Reality (bloomberg.com) 94

Apple is beefing up its staff with acquisitions and some big hires to help design augmented reality glasses and iPhone features, according to Bloomberg. From a report: Apple is working on "digital spectacles" that could connect to an iPhone and beam content like movies and maps, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported on Monday. The Cupertino, Calif.- based company is also working on augmented reality features for the iPhone that are similar to Snapchat, Bloomberg said. To make its augmented reality push, Apple has acquired augmented reality start-ups FlyBy Media and Metaio, and hired major players from Amazon, Facebook's Oculus, Microsoft's HoloLens, and Dolby.
Mars

Scientists Sent a Rocket To Mars For Less Than It Cost To Make 'The Martian' (backchannel.com) 179

Ipsita Agarwal via Backchannel retells the story of how India's underfunded space organization, ISRO, managed to send a rocket to Mars for less than it cost to make the movie "The Martian," starring Matt Damon as Mark Watney. "While NASA's Mars probe, Maven, cost $651 million, the budget for this mission was $74 million," Agarwal writes. In what appears to be India's version of "Hidden Figures" (a movie that also cost more to make than ISRO's budget for the Mars rocket), the team of scientists behind the rocket launch consisted of Indian women, who not only managed to pull off the mission successfully but did so in only 18 months. Backchannel reports: A few months and several million kilometers later, the orbiter prepared to enter Mars' gravity. This was a critical moment. If the orbiter entered Mars' gravity at the wrong angle, off by so much as one degree, it would either crash onto the surface of Mars or fly right past it, lost in the emptiness of space. Back on Earth, its team of scientists and engineers waited for a signal from the orbiter. Mission designer Ritu Karidhal had worked 48 hours straight, fueled by anticipation. As a child, Minal Rohit had watched space missions on TV. Now, Minal waited for news on the orbiter she and her colleague, Moumita Dutta, had helped engineer. When the signal finally arrived, the mission control room broke into cheers. If you work in such a room, deputy operations director, Nandini Harinath, says, "you no longer need to watch a thriller movie to feel the thrill in life. You feel it in your day-to-day work." This was not the only success of the mission. An image of the scientists celebrating in the mission control room went viral. Girls in India and beyond gained new heroes: the kind that wear sarees and tie flowers in their hair, and send rockets into space. User shas3 notes in a comment on Hacker News' post: "If you are interested in Indian women scientists and engineers, there is a nice compilation (a bit tiresome to read, but worth it, IMO) of biographical essays called 'Lilvati's Daughters.'"
Communications

Netflix Replacing Star Ratings With Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down (variety.com) 97

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Variety: Get ready to say goodbye to star ratings on Netflix: The company is getting ready to replace stars with Pandora-like thumbs ups and thumbs downs in the coming weeks. Previously-given star rating will still be used to personalize the profiles of Netflix users, but the stars are disappearing from the interface altogether. Netflix VP of Product Todd Yellin told journalists on Thursday during a press briefing at the company's headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif., that the company had tested the new thumbs up and down ratings with hundred of thousands of members in 2016. "We are addicted to the methodology of A/B testing," Yellin said. The result was that thumbs got 200% more ratings than the traditional star-rating feature. Netflix is also introducing a new percent-match feature that shows how good of a match any given show or movie is for an individual subscriber. For example, a show that should close to perfectly fit a user's taste may get a 98% match. Shows that have less than a 50% match won't display a match-rating, however.
Movies

Movie Theaters Haven't Innovated Beyond Popcorn, Says Netflix CEO (variety.com) 209

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety: Asked about his company's relationship with major theater chains, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings didn't pull any punches on Thursday. "How did distribution innovate in the movie business in the last 30 years? Well, the popcorn tastes better, but that's about it," he quipped. "What Netflix wants to do is to unleash film," he said. "It's fundamentally about growing the movie business." [...] On Thursday, Hastings pushed back against the notion that the company aims to bypass theaters. "We are not anti theater," he said. "We just want things to come out at the same time."
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: Is the Internet Killing Old and New Art Forms or Helping Them Grow? (nytimes.com) 110

The thing about the internet is that as it gained traction and started to become part of our lives, it caused a lot of pain -- bloodbath, many say -- to several major industries. The music industry was nearly decimated, for instance, and pennies on the dollar doesn't begin to describe what has happened to the newspapers. But things are starting to change, many observers note. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings noted at the New Yorker Tech Festival last year, the internet is increasingly changing the way people consume content and that has forced the industries to innovate and find new ways to cater to their audiences. But some of these industries are still struggling to figure out new models for their survival. Farhad Manjoo, a technology columnist at The New York Times, argues that for people of the future, our time may be remembered as a period not of death, but of rejuvenation and rebirth. He writes: Part of the story is in the art itself. In just about every cultural medium, whether movies or music or books or the visual arts, digital technology is letting in new voices, creating new formats for exploration, and allowing fans and other creators to participate in a glorious remixing of the work. [...] In the last few years, and with greater intensity in the last 12 months, people started paying for online content. They are doing so at an accelerating pace, and on a dependable, recurring schedule, often through subscriptions. And they're paying for everything. [...] It's difficult to overstate how big a deal this is. More than 20 years after it first caught mainstream attention and began to destroy everything about how we finance culture, the digital economy is finally beginning to coalesce around a sustainable way of supporting content. If subscriptions keep taking off, it won't just mean that some of your favorite creators will survive the internet. It could also make for a profound shift in the way we find and support new cultural talent. It could lead to a wider variety of artists and art, and forge closer connections between the people who make art and those who enjoy it.
Movies

Netflix Will Explore Mobile-Specific Cuts of Its Original Series (theverge.com) 80

An anonymous reader shares an article: Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt said in a briefing today with journalists in San Francisco that the company plans to explore streaming mobile-specific cuts of its original movies and TV shows, to satisfy what he said was a growing audience of mobile Netflix watchers. "It's not inconceivable that you could take a master [copy] and make a different cut for mobile," Hunt said. To date, Netflix hasn't been delivering different cuts for different viewing platforms, Hunt said, but "it's something we will explore over the next few years." The idea would be to create a version of the content with scenes or shots that are more easily visible or immersive on a mobile phone, since certain shots can be hard to see or can appear diminished on a relatively small phone screen.
Piracy

Court Orders ISP To Hand Identities Behind 5,300 IP Addresses To Copyright Trolls (torrentfreak.com) 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: An initiative, fronted by Danish law firm Njord and backed by known international copyright trolls Guardaley, made headlines when it began targeting the customers of several ISPs, including Telia, Tele2 and Bredbandsbolaget, the provider that was previously ordered to block The Pirate Bay. At the time it was unclear how many people the law firm had in its sights but the situation has become more clear following a recent legal development. Sweden's new Patent and Market Court, that was formed last year to handle specialist copyright complaints, handed down a ruling on Friday. It grants Njord and its partners the right to force ISP Telia to hand over the personal details of subscribers behind thousands of IP addresses, despite the ISP's objections. Telia says that although it places great value on its subscribers' right to privacy, complying with a court order is a legal requirement. In all, subscribers behind 5,300 Telia IP addresses will be affected, with claims that each unlawfully downloaded and shared a range of movie titles including CELL, IT, London Has Fallen, Mechanic: Resurrection, Criminal and September of Shiraz. All have featured in previous Guardaley trolling cases in the United States. It's not known how many of the 5,300 IP addresses Telia will be able to match to subscribers, or whether each IP address will identify a unique subscriber, but it's safe to say that thousands of households will be affected. "There is probable cause of infringement of copyright in the films in that they were unlawfully made available to the public via file sharing networks," the Court wrote in its judgement. "The applicants' interest in having access to the information outweighs any opposing interests, including the interest of the individual [subscribers] to remain anonymous." A Telia press spokesperson told SVT: "We believe that our customers' privacy is incredibly important, but now we must comply with this court decision."
Movies

'The Matrix' Reboot: It's Finally Happened. Hollywood Has Run Out of All the Ideas (qz.com) 542

An anonymous reader shares a Quartz report: In our hearts, we all knew this day would come. Warner Bros. is planning a reboot of The Matrix just 18 years after the iconic sci-fi action film dazzled audiences around the world, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Matrix films were lauded for their creativity, special effects, and distinct cyberpunk and manga influences. In total, the trilogy grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide. The Matrix will join other famous film properties -- Star Wars, Godzilla, Planet of the Apes, and Terminator among them -- receiving a recent franchise reboot or "reimagining." Others include RoboCop, Star Trek, Ghostbusters, and Jurassic Park. Meanwhile, reboots of Indiana Jones, Predator, Jumanji, and every superhero movie that's ever existed, are scheduled to hit theaters soon. And TV, for its part, is a dystopian wasteland of bland prequels to famous action movies. Hollywood relying on tentpole franchises, instead of taking risks on original ideas, is not new or surprising. But many believed that certain properties like The Matrix were off limits -- at least so soon after originally being made. It's clear now, though, that the major film studios can't afford to wait. They have no other ideas. This puts the studios in a precarious situation, because the once tried-and-true strategy of inundating cinemas with popular franchise extensions no longer looks as foolproof as it used to.
Television

82% of Kids in 'Netflix Only' Homes Have No Idea What Commercials Are (exstreamist.com) 300

Two anonymous readers share a report: We decided to survey parents of young children (below 10 years old) to see how many kids in "Netflix only" homes knew what commercials are, compared to those homes who watch regular television. We surveyed 100 parents (50 Netflix-only homes, 50 normal television homes), here were their responses: 82% of kids in Netflix only homes don't know what commercials are. 38% of kids in regular television homes don't know what commercials are.
Movies

How Seven Movie Studios Forced A Pirated Movie Site Offline (hollywoodreporter.com) 136

A major pirated movie site went offline last month after seven Hollywood studios won a preliminary court injunction. An anonymous reader quotes the Hollywood Reporter: The MPAA-member studios sued the operators of PubFilm/PidTV in February, asking the court for a temporary restraining order to shut down what it described as a ring of six interconnected large-scale piracy sites. The suit was initially sealed, but was made public on Friday. Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Universal, Disney, Paramount and Viacom are named as plaintiffs in the suit for direct and secondary copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition.

They're seeking statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement plus restitution of the sites' profits. So, depending on how many instances of infringement are discovered, the damages in this case could be astronomical. The studios claim the sites had more than 8 million visitors each month, nearly half of which were linked to IP addresses in the U.S... The sites are believed to be operated in Vietnam.

The court also ordered GoDaddy, VeriSign and Enom to disable all six domain names, to prevent the domains from being transferred, and to do it without communicating or warning the sites' owners first. In response, the defendants purchased a new domain, and then began publicizing it with ads on Google AdSense.
Television

Amazon Says It's Open To Pushing Content Through Cable Boxes (bloomberg.com) 21

Amazon, the e-commerce giant that's shaking up the entertainment industry, says it's open to pursuing deals to stream content through cable operators' set-top boxes, much like Netflix has done in the U.S. and Europe. From a report on Bloomberg: "Amazon is definitely open to those partnerships and to be fair, we haven't done as much there as Netflix have done," Alex Green, managing director of Amazon Video, said Thursday at the Cable Congress conference in Brussels. So far, Amazon has been more focused on growing its customers and building its own devices, he said. But "we do talk to all sorts of players in the cable industry." Amazon, which won its first Academy Awards last month for movies "Manchester by the Sea," and "The Salesman," is challenging pay-TV providers and video-game developers as the Seattle-based company expands beyond its online retail roots with growing media ambitions. The rise of internet-based subscription services from the likes of Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Alphabet's YouTube, have stoked analyst predictions that consumers will increasingly ditch cable and kill traditional TV.
Businesses

Despite Netflix and Amazon Prime, Most of the World Watches Pirated Content (techinasia.com) 244

An anonymous reader shares a TechInAsia report: More than half of the people surveyed across the world still watch pirated movies and TV shows, a new survey shows. The study, conducted by digital security firm Irdeto, asked more than 25,000 adults across 30 countries about video watching trends. Here's what it found: 52 percent of those surveyed said they watch pirated videos. 48 said they would stop, or watch less illegal content after they were told about the damaging effects of piracy on the media industry. While many recognize that producing or sharing pirated video is illegal (70 percent), far fewer people are aware that streaming or downloading is also against the law (59 percent).
Movies

For the First Time, More US Households Have Netflix Than a DVR (variety.com) 70

For the first time, U.S. households with the Netflix video-streaming service outnumber those that own a digital video recorder (DVR), a dramatic rise from just five years ago, according to new data. From a report: About 54% of U.S. adults said they have Netflix in their household -- while 53% have a DVR, according to Research Group's annual on-demand study. It's the first time that households with Netflix have surpassed the level of those with a DVR in the history of LRG's studies. In 2011, according to the research firm, 44% of TV households had a DVR and 28% had Netflix. Netflix has now eclipsed DVR usage despite the latter having a years-long head start. TiVo's first digital video recorder shipped in 1999, while Netflix debuted its video-streaming service in 2007 and started the shift away from its DVD-by-mail business. As of the end of 2016, Netflix had 49.4 million streaming subscribers in the U.S., up 10.5% year over year.
Piracy

Streaming Pirate Content Isn't Illegal, UK Trading Standards Says (torrentfreak.com) 70

Every day millions of people use PCs, tablets, phones and Kodi-style devices to stream pirated content, but is it illegal? According to Trading Standards, local UK authorities tasked with investigating commercial organizations, if users only stream and don't download, they're likely exempt from copyright law. An anonymous reader shares a TorrentFreak report: "Accessing premium paid-for content without a subscription is considered by the industry as unlawful access, although streaming something online, rather than downloading a file, is likely to be exempt from copyright laws," the spokesperson added. This statement certainly carries some weight. Although in a different region of the UK, Trading Standards is the driving force behind the prosecution of Kodi box seller Brian Thompson who entered a not guilty plea in January. He'll face a trial in a couple of months but it now seems more clear than ever that his customers and millions like them around the country are not breaking the law, a position that's shared by the EU Commission.
Television

Streaming TV Sites Now Have More Subscribers Than Cable TV (axios.com) 47

Nielsen reported this week that millennials "spend about 27% less time watching traditional TV than viewers over the age of 35," possibly threatening the dominance of cable TV. An anonymous reader quotes Axios: Streaming service subscribers (free or paid) increased again (68% in 2016 vs. 63% in 2014) and have caught up with the percentage of paid TV service providers (67%) for the first time ever, according to the Consumer Technology Association's new study, The Changing Landscape for Video and Content. The rise of streaming services represents a shift in consumption habits towards cord-cutting, primarily amongst millennials.
Some other trends are impossible to ignore. 2016 also saw a saw dramatic drops in the use of physical disks -- from 41% in 2015 to just 28% -- as well as another big drop in the use of antennas, from 18% to just 10%.
DRM

Free Software Foundation Challenges Tim Berners-Lee On DRM (defectivebydesign.org) 207

Slashdot reader Atticus Rex writes: On Monday, W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) director Tim Berners-Lee released a post defending his decision to allow Netflix, Microsoft, Apple and Google to enshrine DRM in Web standards, arguing that blocking it would be pointless. Zak Rogoff, FSF campaigns manager, writes in the response:

"As Director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), Berners-Lee has the ability to block [the DRM proposal] from ratification as an official Web standard... Of course, a refusal to ratify could not immediately stop the use of DRM, but it could meaningfully weaken the position of DRM in the court of public opinion, and put EME proponents Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, and Google on notice that a very prominent figure was willing to stand up to them on behalf of users. Changes in society's technological infrastructure require political movements, not just technological arguments, and political movements benefit greatly from the support of prominent figures."

Berners-Lee takes the position that "The web has to be universal, to function at all. It has to be capable of holding crazy ideas of the moment, but also the well polished ideas of the century. It must be able to handle any language and culture. It must be able to include information of all types, and media of many genres. Included in that universality is that it must be able to support free stuff and for-pay stuff, as they are all part of this world.

"This means that it is good for the web to be able to include movies, and so for that, it is better for HTML5 to have EME than to not have it."
The Internet

Netflix Uses AI in Its New Codec To Compress Video Scene By Scene (qz.com) 67

An anonymous reader shares a Quartz report: Annoying pauses in your streaming movies are going to become less common, thanks to a new trick Netflix is rolling out. It's using artificial intelligence techniques to analyze each shot in a video and compress it without affecting the image quality, thus reducing the amount of data it uses. The new encoding method is aimed at the growing contingent of viewers in emerging economies who watch video on phones and tablets. "We're allergic to rebuffering," said Todd Yellin, a vice president of innovation at Netflix. "No one wants to be interrupted in the middle of Bojack Horseman or Stranger Things." Yellin hopes the new system, called Dynamic Optimizer, will keep those Netflix binges free of interruption when it's introduced sometime in the next "couple of months." He was demonstrating the system's results at "Netflix House," a mansion in the hills overlooking Barcelona that the company has outfitted for the Mobile World Congress trade show. In one case, the image quality from a 555 kilobits per second (kbps) stream looked identical to one on a data link with half the bandwidth.
Communications

Netflix CEO Predicts Mobile Operators Will Soon Offer Unlimited Video (phys.org) 36

An anonymous reader shares an AFP report: Netflix head Reed Hastings predicted Monday that mobile carriers will soon offer data plans that give users unlimited video streaming to meet the rising popularity of watching TV and movies on mobile devices. Carriers offer unlimited data caps but they are usually very expensive. But Hastings said he believed mobile carriers will eventually create a two-tear system where video data is unlimited to meet the growing demand for watching TV series and movies on mobile devices. "What we are going to see I think is a number of companies pioneering new ways of offering services to the consumers where it is unlimited video data but it is limited to say one megabit speed," he said. "So it is a slower speed but you get unlimited data on that and that turns out to be very efficient on network so an operator can offer unlimited viewing."
Youtube

One Billion Hours of YouTube Are Watched Every Day (thenextweb.com) 72

YouTube announced in a blog post that people around the world are now watching a billion hours of YouTube videos every single day. According to YouTube, "If you were to sit and watch a billion hours of YouTube, it would take you over 100,000 years." Mashable reports: The milestone "represents the enjoyment of the fantastically diverse videos that creative people make every single day," Cristos Goodrow, VP of engineering at YouTube, wrote in a blog post Monday. "Around the world, people are spending a billion hours every day rewarding their curiosity, discovering great music, keeping up with the news, connecting with their favorite personalities, or catching up with the latest trend." The 1 billion figure is a 10-fold increase since 2012, YouTube said. The statistic is one that underscores YouTube's efforts to dominate the digital space. On YouTube -- which operates under the motto "Broadcast Yourself" -- users upload 400 hours of video each minute, or 65 years of video a day.

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