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Youtube

YouTube Pays Music Industry $1 Billion From Ads (cnet.com) 20

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

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

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

GoPro Slashes 15% of Workforce, Shuts Down Entertainment Division (variety.com) 94

GoPro has announced that it will lay off more than 200 employees and freeze hiring, amounting to a reduction of about 15% of its workforce. As part of the restructuring, the company is also shutting down its entertainment division. In addition, the company said president Tony Bates will be leaving the company. From a report on Variety: Also Wednesday, GoPro also said Black Friday camera unit sales were up more than 35% year-over-year at leading U.S. retailers. GoPro said its Hero5 Black camera has been the best-selling digital-imaging device in the U.S. since it launched Oct. 2, citing NPD Group data. GoPro shares climbed more than 4% in premarket trading Wednesday on the news. The move appears to spell the end of the struggling company's ambitions to branch out beyond device sales into the entertainment biz, which had included plans to produce original shows. The GoPro entertainment unit has been led by Ocean MacAdams, who previously held programming posts at MTV, Warner Music Group, and the Madison Square Garden Co., after Zander Lurie left in January to become CEO of SurveyMonkey. The division at one point had about 200 staffers, including Bill McCullough, who produced award-winning sports documentaries for HBO, and Joe Lynch, who previously led Time Inc.'s live-streaming initiatives.
Businesses

Amazon and eBay Sellers' VAT Fraud Rife Despite Crackdown (theguardian.com) 81

Huge numbers of VAT fraudsters are illegally selling goods tax-free to British shoppers on Amazon and eBay, despite new government efforts to crack down on this ballooning 1bn pound VAT evasion crisis, reports the Guardian. From the article: A Guardian investigation found a wide variety of popular goods being illegally sold without VAT on Britain's leading shopping sites. They range from cheap Christmas tree lights, electric toothbrushes and thermal socks to expensive laptops, iPads, music keyboards, violins and pingpong tables. In some cases, VAT fraudsters offer unbeatable prices. Mostly, however, their prices remain in line with law-abiding competitors and the proceeds of evasion disappear overseas, often to China. Guardian investigations found many tax-evading sellers were trading without displaying VAT numbers on Amazon or eBay. Others were showing made up numbers, or numbers cloned, without authorisation, from unsuspecting legitimate businesses.
Businesses

Amazon Puts New Limit On Customer Reviews: No More Than 5 a Week Except For Verified Purchases (geekwire.com) 95

Amazon says it will start capping the number of product reviews any customer can submit in a given week, limiting each person to five/week except for products that have been verified by the company as purchased by the reviewer. From a GeekWire report: Books, music and video are exempt from the limit, but the new cap applies to the rest of Amazon's vast online selection of products. It's the latest move by the e-commerce giant to police its online reviews, a critical resource used by many online shoppers to assess products before buying. The news comes during the peak holiday shopping season, the most important time of year for Amazon, as the company tries to get more people comfortable with doing more of their shopping online. An Amazon spokeswoman confirmed the changes in a message to GeekWire, and they're spelled out in Amazon's updated Community Guidelines.
Music

Security Researchers Can Turn Headphones Into Microphones (techcrunch.com) 121

As if we don't already have enough devices that can listen in on our conversations, security researchers at Israel's Ben Gurion University have created malware that will turn your headphones into microphones that can slyly record your conversations. TechCrunch reports: The proof-of-concept, called "Speake(a)r," first turned headphones connected to a PC into microphones and then tested the quality of sound recorded by a microphone vs. headphones on a target PC. In short, the headphones were nearly as good as an unpowered microphone at picking up audio in a room. It essentially "retasks" the RealTek audio codec chip output found in many desktop computers into an input channel. This means you can plug your headphones into a seemingly output-only jack and hackers can still listen in. This isn't a driver fix, either. The embedded chip does not allow users to properly prevent this hack which means your earbuds or nice cans could start picking up conversations instantly. In fact, even if you disable your microphone, a computer with a RealTek chip could still be hacked and exploited without your knowledge. The sound quality, as shown by this chart, is pretty much the same for a dedicated microphone and headphones. The researchers have published a video on YouTube demonstrating how this malware works.
Piracy

Aussie Internet Pirates Are The Best Customers (torrentfreak.com) 48

A report commissioned by the Australian government has found a drop in piracy rates for 2016. The fall is being attributed to improved availability of legal streaming alternatives, but as TorrentFreak points out, the report also reveals that the much reviled Aussie pirate is often the industry's best customer. From the report: Streaming, on the other hand, increased from 54% to 57% year on year, with TV shows and movies making the biggest gains. "The proportion of internet users who streamed TV programs increased from 34% to 38% (making TV the most commonly accessed content type via online streaming) and the proportion of internet users who streamed movies increased from 25% to 29%," the report reads. This year the most-consumed content were TV shows (41%, up from 38% in 2015), music (39%, down from 42% in 2015) and movies (33%) and video games (15%). When all four content types were considered, the survey found that consumers streaming content on a weekly basis increased significantly, with 71% doing so for music and videos games, 55% for TV programs and 51% for movies. [...] However, in yet another blow to those who believe that genuine consumers and pirates are completely different and separate animals, the survey also reveals that millions of pirates are also consumers of legitimate content. In 2016, just 6% of Internet users exclusively obtained content from pirate sources. And there was an improvement in other areas too. When the survey presents figures from internet users who consumed content in the period (instead of just 'all Internet users 12+'), 37% consumed at least one unlawful file, down from 43% in the same period in 2015. Using the same parameters, 9% consumed all of their files unlawfully, down from 12% in 2015. But while there have been improvements in a number of areas, the volume of content being consumed illegally is not coming down across the board. According to the report, an estimated 279m music tracks, 56m TV shows, 34m movies, and 5m video games were consumed in the three month period.
Portables (Apple)

Slashdot Asks: Which Windows Laptop Could Replace a MacBook Pro? 315

Last month, Apple unveiled new MacBook Pros, featuring an OLED Touch Bar, Touch ID, and all-new form factor that shaves off roughly 3mm in thickness. There are three base versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Intel Core i5 processors and 8GB of memory (upgradable to 16GB RAM and dual-core Intel Core i7 processors) for $1,499, $1,799 and $1,999. The base model 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with Core i7 processors and 16GB of memory for $2,399 and $2,799. Of course, adapters and AppleCare support are sold separately. The new laptops are great for Apple users -- but what about Windows users? Is there a Windows laptop that matches the new MacBook Pro in terms of build quality, reliability, and performance? Jack Schofield via The Guardian attempts to help Patrick, who is looking for a PC that matches Apple's new offerings as closely as possible. "I use my Mac for all the usual surfing, watching videos, listening to music and so on," Patrick writes. "I also use Adobe Photoshop pretty heavily and video-editing software more lightly." Schofield writes: The Dell XPS 13 and 15 are the most obvious alternatives to MacBooks. Unfortunately, they are at the top of this price range. You can still get an old-model XPS 13 (9350) for $950, but that has a Core i5-6200U with only 4GB of memory. The latest 9360 version has a 2.5GHz Core i5-7200U, 8GB of memory and a 128GB SSD for $1,050. If you go for a 512GB SSD at $1,150, you're only saving $420 on a new 2.0GHz MacBook Pro. HP's Spectre x360 range offers similar features to Dell's XPS range, except that all the x360 laptops have touch screens that you can rotate to enable "tent" (eg for movie viewing) or tablet operation. The cheapest model is the HP Spectre x360 13-4126na. This has a 13in screen, a Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD for $1,050. You can upgrade to an HP Spectre x360 13-4129na with better screen resolution -- 2560 x 1440 instead of 1920 x 1080 -- plus a 2.5GHz Core i7-6500U and 512GB SSD for $1,270. Again, this is not much cheaper than a 2.0GHz MacBook Pro 13. You could also look at the Lenovo ThinkPad T560, which is a robust, professional 15.6in laptop that starts at $800. Do any Slashdotters have any comparable Windows laptops in mind that could replace a new MacBook Pro?
Music

Music Torrent Site What.CD Has Been Shut Down (theverge.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: What.cd, an invite-only music torrent website first launched in 2007, has been shut down after a raid by French authorities. The private tracker offered free (and often illegal) access to a massive, deeply thorough collection of music and was popular among audiophiles for its strict rules around quality and file formats. The site was created after the shutdown of another well-known torrent website, Oink, which operated between 2004 and 2007. Though its primary focus was music sharing, What.cd also permitted torrents of computer software, ebooks, and other content. Zataz Magazine is reporting 12 servers that powered What.cd's infrastructure were seized by French cybercrime authorities. What.cd hasn't been taken offline completely, but torrents are unavailable and the homepage now displays a message confirming its demise: "Due to some recent events, What.CD is shutting down. We are not likely to return any time soon in our current form. All site and user data has been destroyed. So long, and thanks for all the fish."
Games

In 5 Years, Games Experience Will Move From Discrete To Indiscrete, Says EA CEO (theverge.com) 182

The Verge has an insightful interview of Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts. In the wide-ranging interview, Wilson has talked about how the landscape of video games have changed over the years, and where it will be in the next few years. One remarkable comment he has made is about how video games will move from discrete experience that we have today to indiscrete experience in the next coming years. From the article (condensed): The biggest shift I think we'll see is games moving from being a discrete experience to an indiscrete experience. When I was 15 years old, if I wanted to listen to music, I had a couple of choices. I could sit up all night and hope they'd play what I liked on the radio, or I could go down to the record store. [...] Today, by virtue of the fact that almost every device I own plays me music, and services like Spotify curate and cultivate and personalize that music for me, music permeates almost every aspect of my life. It's moved from being something I have to make a conscious decision to engage with, to something that really surrounds every aspect of my life from the minute I get up in the morning to the minute I go to bed at night. When we think about games today -- already we've got more people playing more games on more platforms in more geographies around the world than ever before. It's not just a console business, or a PC business, or even a mobile business. We've now got virtual reality and augmented reality and streaming, too. Now fast-forward that to the future, and you think about what the world looks like with a 5G network streaming latency-free gaming to every device you own. It's really easy to imagine that games would permeate our lives much the way digital music does today. From the minute I get up in the morning, everything I do has an impact on my gaming life, both discrete and indiscrete. The amount of eggs I have in my internet-enabled fridge might mean my Sims are better off in my game. That length of distance I drive in my Tesla on the way to work might mean that I get more juice in Need for Speed. If I go to soccer practice in the afternoon, by virtue of internet-enabled soccer boots, that might give me juice or new cards in my FIFA product. This world where games and life start to blend I think really comes into play in the not-too-distant future, and almost certainly by 2021.
Music

Shazam Keeps Your Mac's Microphone Always On, Even When You Turn It Off (vice.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: What's that song? On your cellphone, the popular app Shazam is able to answer that question by listening for just a few seconds, as if it were magic. On Apple's computers, Shazam never turns the microphone off, even if you tell it to. When a user of Shazam's Mac app turns the app "OFF," the app actually keeps the microphone on in the background. For the security researcher who discovered that the mic is always on, it's a bug that users should know about. For Shazam, it's just a feature that makes the app work better. Patrick Wardle, a former NSA hacker who now develops free Mac security tools, discovered this issue thanks to his latest software OverSight, which is designed to alert users when apps use their webcam and microphone. After he released OverSight, Wardle received an email from a user who noticed that the security app alerted him that Shazam was still listening even after he had switched the toggle to "off." Curious about this discovery, and worried his own software might be issuing a false alarm, Wardle reverse engineered the Shazam app to figure out what was happening. After a few hours analyzing the code, Wardle found out that, in fact, Shazam never stops listening, as he explained in a blog post published on Monday. James Pearson, VP of global communications for Shazam, said in a statement to Motherboard: "There is no privacy issue since the audio is not processed unless the user actively turns the app 'ON.' If the mic wasn't left on, it would take the app longer to both initialize the mic and then start buffering audio, and this is more likely to result in a poor user experience where users 'miss out' on a song they were trying to identify."
Government

US Finalizes Rules That Require Quiet Hyrbid and Electric Cars To Make Noise At Low Speeds (reuters.com) 361

In an effort to prevent injuries among pedestrians, the U.S. government has finalized rules that require quiet hybrid and electric vehicles to emit alert sounds when they are traveling at low speeds. Reuters reports: The rules, which were required by Congress, will require automakers like Tesla Motors Inc, Nissan Motor Co and Toyota Motor Corp to add the sounds to all vehicles by September 2019. The U.S. Transportation Department said it expects the rules would prevent 2,400 injuries a year by 2020 and require the addition of alert sounds to about 530,000 2020 model vehicles. The U.S. National Highway Transportation Department said the rules will cost the auto industry about $39 million annually because automakers will need to add an external waterproof speaker to comply. But the benefits of the reduced injuries are estimated at $250 million to $320 million annually. NHTSA estimates the odds of a hybrid vehicle being involved in a pedestrian crash are 19 percent higher compared with a traditional gas-powered vehicle. About 125,000 pedestrians and bicyclists are injured annually. The rules will also help the blind and visually impaired. The rules apply to hybrid and electric cars, SUVs, trucks and buses weighing up to 10,000 pounds and seek to prevent crashes at intersections or when electric vehicles are backing up. At higher speeds, the alert is not required because other factors like tire and wind noise adequately warn pedestrians, NHTSA said.
Music

Red Hat Announces Fedora Will Support MP3 Playback (fedoraproject.org) 140

Long-time Slashdot reader jrincayc shares news from Red Hat's Fedora Engineering Manager, Tom Callaway. On the Fedora-legal mailing list, Callaway announced: Red Hat has determined that it is now acceptable for Fedora to include MP3 decoding functionality (not specific to any implementation, or binding by any unseen agreement). Encoding functionality is not permitted at this time.
And the same day Christian Schaller announced on the Gnome blog that mp3 playback would be supported in Fedora Workstation 25. You should be able to download the mp3 plugin on Day 1 through GNOME Software or through the missing codec installer in various GStreamer applications. For Fedora Workstation 26 I would not be surprised if we decide to ship it on the install media.
He added, "I know this has been a big wishlist item for a long time for a lot of people..."
Piracy

University Bans BitTorrent To Stop Flood of Infringement Notices (torrentfreak.com) 123

A university in Canada has taken sweeping action in an effort to stem the tide of piracy notices. Following changes to Canada's copyright law in early 2015, ISPs are now required to forward copyright infringement notices to their customers. Over the past years, copyright owners have aggressively targeted users and ISPs with volumes of notices to generate more revenue. TorrentFreak adds:The phenomenon has also been felt at the University of Calgary, which acts as a service provider to thousands of students. Inevitably, some of those students have been using their connections to obtain music and movies for free, which has led to the university receiving large numbers of notices. So, in an effort to reduce the instances of alleged infringement, the university has recently banned BitTorrent usage on several Wi-Fi networks. Speaking to student newspaper The Gauntlet, vice-president finance and services Linda Dalgetty said that the effect was felt immediately. During the first eight days of the ban, the university received 90% fewer notices than usual. "I think what we're finding is it has definitely made a difference. But we have to monitor that, because statistically, we have to go through a longer time frame than eight days," Dalgetty said.According to Dalgetty, reducing the number of infringement notices wasn't the only consideration. The volume of traffic and other threats were also on the agenda. "The more streaming we have on the campus, the more it impacts network performance and that takes away the user experience for other pursuits," she said. "The third [reason] is security. The more streaming we have, the [higher chance] of inadvertently downloading something that would create issues."
Data Storage

Spotify Is Writing Massive Amounts of Junk Data To Storage Drives (arstechnica.com) 196

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: For almost five months -- possibly longer -- the Spotify music streaming app has been assaulting users' storage devices with enough data to potentially take years off their expected lifespans. Reports of tens or in some cases hundreds of gigabytes being written in an hour aren't uncommon, and occasionally the recorded amounts are measured in terabytes. The overload happens even when Spotify is idle and isn't storing any songs locally. The behavior poses an unnecessary burden on users' storage devices, particularly solid state drives, which come with a finite amount of write capacity. Continuously writing hundreds of gigabytes of needless data to a drive every day for months or years on end has the potential to cause an SSD to die years earlier than it otherwise would. And yet, Spotify apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux have engaged in this data assault since at least the middle of June, when multiple users reported the problem in the company's official support forum. Three Ars reporters who ran Spotify on Macs and PCs had no trouble reproducing the problem reported not only in the above-mentioned Spotify forum but also on Reddit, Hacker News, and elsewhere. Typically, the app wrote from 5 to 10 GB of data in less than an hour on Ars reporters' machines, even when the app was idle. Leaving Spotify running for periods longer than a day resulted in amounts as high as 700 GB. According to comments left in the Spotify forum in the past 24 hours, the bug has been fixed in version 1.0.42, which is in the process of being rolled out.
Desktops (Apple)

Pro Video Editor Says MacBook Pro Beats Out Superior Spec'd Windows Machines In Real-World (9to5mac.com) 259

An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Mac: Reviews for Apple's new MacBook Pro have yet to officially go live, despite a couple false starts earlier this week. Those should arrive any day now ahead of a retail release for the machine, but one pro video editor today published his early hands-on review after using the new 15-inch model in a real-world setting. The review also aims to address some of the early criticisms of the new MacBook Pro from pros, showing how the machine held up in a real-world, professional environment. The author Thomas Grove Carter works at Trim Editing, a studio in London where he edits "high end commercials, music videos and films" using Final Cut Pro. The review specifically focuses on the experience using the machine in a professional video editor's daily workflow. Carter's conclusion is that the new 15-inch model he was using (he doesn't detail specs), is more than capable of handling daily editing in FCP X with 5K ProRes footage. He also notes that machine "tears strips off 'superior spec'd' Windows counterparts in the real world." Thomas Grove Carter writes: "First off, It's really fast. I've been using the MacBook Pro with the new version of FCP X and cutting 5k ProRes material all week, it's buttery smooth. No matter what you think the specs say, the fact is the software and hardware are so well integrated it tears strips off 'superior spec'd' Windows counterparts in the real world. This has always been true of Macs. If you're running software with old code which doesn't utilize the hardware well, you're not going to get great performance (as pointed out here)."
Android

Google Is Making Android Auto Available In Any Car (techcrunch.com) 50

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Earlier this year, Google announced its plans to bring Android Auto, its phone-centric in-car infotainment platform, "to every car" by launching it as a stand-alone Android app, too. It's taken a while, but the company today launched an update to the Android Auto app for -- well -- Android that makes good on this promise. Even if your car isn't Android Auto compatible, you can now get all the benefits of Android Auto without the cost of a new mid-size sedan. Android Auto on the phone provides you with a simplified interface that combines directions, music, and incoming messages into a relatively distraction free experience. That's essentially the same interface you would see on an in-car display with Android Auto support. Android Auto works with popular apps like Spotify, Pandora, Google Maps and others. Like all things Google, the app will also soon let you use "Ok Google" commands to use directions, send messages and control your music. What's more is that the app will automatically boot-up when the phone connects to your car's Bluetooth network. It's compatible with smartphones running Android 5.0 and newer and will be available to users in more than 30 countries over the course of the next few days.
Linux

Meet VoCore2 Lite, a $4 Coin-Sized, Open Source Linux Computer (zdnet.com) 106

An anonymous reader shares a report on ZDNet:Four bucks buys a lot of hardware these days, and nothing highlights this more than a project like the VoCore2 Lite. VoCore2 is an open source Linux computer and a fully-functional wireless router that is smaller than a coin. It can also act as a VPN gateway for a network, an AirPlay station to play lossless music, a private cloud to store your photos, video, and code, and much more. The Lite version of the VoCore2 features a 580MHz MT7688AN MediaTek system on chip (SoC), 64MB of DDR2 RAM, 8MB of NOR storage, and a single antenna slot for Wi-Fi that supports 150Mbps. Spend $12 and go for the full VoCore2 option and you get the same SoC, but you get 128MB of DDR2 RAM, 16MB of NOR storage, two antenna slots supporting 300Mbps, an on-board antenna, and PCIe 1.1 support.
Facebook

Facebook Deletes Music Piracy Groups Following Complaints (torrentfreak.com) 26

Back in the early days of the internet, users would post links to pirated content on dedicated file-sharing sites. But that trend has died down significantly over the past several years in favor of social media and sites like Reddit. Facebook is one of the sites that has been under pressure from the entertainment industry about taking action against piracy, and they are complying. According to anti-piracy outfit BREIN, the company responded by deleting nine "pirate" groups complained about by the entertainment industry. TorrentFreak reports: "Links to infringing files hosted on cloud services were indexed on the pages. Knowingly posting links to infringing files is itself a violation," BREIN says. After being contacted by BREIN, Facebook responded by deleting all nine 'pirate' groups. However, this wasn't the first time the social network has taken this kind of action. BREIN says that earlier this year Facebook removed a number of similar groups following complaints of infringement. But while shutting down 'pirate' groups will have some short-term effect, the people that were participating in them are likely to regroup and set up elsewhere. Of course, BREIN can follow them to their new homes but it's also aware of the value of targeting individuals. "The posters of the infringing links are also often the illegal uploader of unauthorized files [on cyberlocker sites]," BREIN says, adding that in some circumstances it will seek to hold those people responsible for their actions.
Youtube

YouTube's Seven-Year Stand-off Ends (bbc.com) 44

YouTube has resolved a long-running dispute that prevented many of its clips being accessible in Germany. The Google-owned video service had been at odds with Gema - a German rights body representing musicians, composers and publishers - since 2009. From a report on BBC:The disagreement had affected clips in which the artists appeared as well as those that used their songs in the background. Payments will now be made, but neither side has disclosed the terms. Google's Content ID system means that clips flagged as containing Gema-protected tracks can now have adverts automatically added to them to recompense the songs' creators. And red banners that had prevented thousands of YouTube's clips from playing in Germany have now been removed as a consequence. "This is a win for music artists around the world, enabling them to reach new and existing fans in Germany... and for YouTube users in Germany, who will no longer see a blocking message on music content," blogged YouTube's head of international music partnerships, Christophe Muller.

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