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Crime

Indiana's Inmates Could Soon Have Access To Tablets (abc57.com) 129

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC57 News in South Bend, Indiana: Indiana is looking to help offenders who are behind bars. Soon, each inmate in the Hoosier state could have their own tablet. The Indiana Department of Correction says the tablet will help inmates stay connected with their families and improve their education. Offenders will be able to use the tablets to access any classwork, self-help materials or entertainment. Officials expect to use entertainment, like music or movies, to reward good behavior. The proposal was first filed in January. Apple iPad's or kindles won't be used. Instead, a company that makes tablets specifically for prisons or jails will be hired. One San Francisco based-company they may consider, Telmate, has a device that is used in more than 20 states, including some jails in Marshall County. INDOC is hoping a vendor will front the costs of the entertainment apps so taxpayers won't have to. INDOC also says it wants to avoid charging inmate fees because charging fees that they can't afford would defeat the purpose of the system. If the company selected pays, the vendor would be reimbursed and still earn a profit.
Bitcoin

Venezuelan Developers Are Using Bitcoin, Rare Pepe Trading Cards To Fight Against a Dismal Economy (cryptoinsider.com) 88

According to Crypto Insider, Venezuelan developers have been selling "rare pepes" -- trading cards that contain unique illustrations and photoshops of the character Pepe the Frog. While the trading cards started out as nothing more than a joke, many of them have been traded for thousands of dollars on the Counterparty platform, which is built on top of Bitcoin, and have provided a way for many developers to sustain themselves in Venezuela's poor economy. From the report: The basic idea behind the issuance of rare pepes on top of the Counterparty platform is that it enables scarcity in a digital world. Each rare pepe card is linked to a little bit of bitcoin through a practice known as coin coloring. Whoever owns the private keys associated with the address where the bitcoins that represent a specific rare pepe card is located is the one who owns that particular trading card. Now, a group of developers in Venezuela are building games similar to Hearthstone and Pokemon where the rare pepe trading cards will play an integral role. If you go to rarepepe.party right now, you're mainly presented with a video of what the first game based on the Rare Pepe digital trading cards will look like. The concept is similar to Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering where players essentially do battle with their opponents via characters on trading cards, which have specific stats and features. In this case, the characters are various rare pepes. With many rare pepes already released (you can view them in the official rare pepe directory), the developers behind Rare Pepe Party are attempting to provide a use case for these new trading cards. While some rare pepe cards already have stats on them, the developer who chatted with Crypto Insider says those stats may not mean much when it's time to play the game. While rare pepes are nothing more than fun and games for much of the developed world, they're a matter of survival in Venezuela. "We're based in Venezuela, and our business has been saved by bitcoin many times," said the developer. The developer claims roughly 80 percent of the offices around the area where Rare Pepe Party is being developed have shut down over the past year. The biggest businesses on their street have also dropped as much as 90 percent of their employees.
Television

AMC Plans Ad-Free Streaming Service (fortune.com) 38

An anonymous reader shares a Fortune report: AMC Networks, whose shows include The Walking Dead, is planning to launch a commercial-free online video streaming service aimed at millennial TV subscribers, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters this week. Unlike standalone streaming options from Time Warner's HBO and from CBS, AMC's would be exclusively available to consumers who subscribe to a cable TV package. AMC is doing this, the sources said, as a way to support the traditional cable television industry at a time when many younger consumers are increasingly cutting the cord. AMC is discussing featuring digital-only spinoff shows of its existing programs like The Walking Dead and is considering pricing between $4.99 to $6.99 a month, according to the sources, who cautioned final details are still being worked out.
Movies

Hollywood Producer Blames Rotten Tomatoes For Convincing People Not To See His Movie (vanityfair.com) 388

An anonymous reader shares a VanityFair report: These days, it takes less than 60 seconds to know what the general consensus on a new movie is -- thanks to Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator site that designates a number score to each film based on critical and user reviews. Although this may be convenient for moviegoers not necessarily interested in burning $15 on a critically subpar film, it is certainly not convenient for those Hollywood directors, producers, backers, and stars who toiled to make said critically subpar film. In fact, the site may be "the worst thing that we have in today's movie culture" -- at least according to Brett Ratner, the Rush Hour director/producer who recently threw the financial weight of his RatPac Entertainment behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Sure, the blockbuster made over $850 million worldwide in spite of negative reviews ... but just think of how much more it could have made had it not had a Rotten Tomatoes score of 27 percent! Last week, while speaking at the Sun Valley Film Festival, Ratner said, "The worst thing that we have in today's movie culture is Rotten Tomatoes. I think it's the destruction of our business."
Businesses

Studios Flirt With Offering Movies Early in Home for $30 (variety.com) 127

It looks like Hollywood studios are not kidding around the concept of making the movies available in the home mere weeks after their theatrical debuts. Variety has a new report this week that claims that six out of seven Hollywood studios are in discussions. From the report: However, the companies, particularly Fox and Warner Bros., are showing greater flexibility about timing. Initially, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara had kicked off negotiations with exhibitors by offering to cut them in on a percentage of digital revenues if they agreed to let them debut films on-demand for $50 a rental some 17 days after they opened. Currently, most major movies are only made available to rent some 90 days after their release. Some studios offer films for sale electronically roughly 70 days after their bow in theaters. Other studios, particularly Fox and Universal, felt that $50 was too steep a price to ask consumers to pay. They are now trying to get exhibitors to agree to a plan that would involve a lower priced premium on-demand option that was made available at a slightly later date, according to three studio insiders and two exhibition insiders. Fox and Warner Bros., for instance, are considering making films available between 30 to 45 days after their opening, but at $30 a rental, a price they believe won't give customers sticker shock. Universal, which is seen as being the most aggressive negotiator in these talks, would like the home entertainment debut to remain in the 20-day range.
Movies

18 To 24-Year-Olds Are Hitting the Big Screen at Lower Rates (fastcompany.com) 222

An anonymous reader shares a report: For data and movie geeks, the MPAA's latest "Theatrical Market Statistics" report is a wealth of information about the health of the movie business. The big picture: 246 million people went to the movies in the United States and Canada last year, a 2% increase from the year before. But dig into the trends and things start to get a little more interesting. For instance, looking at per capita attendance broken down by age group shows 18- to 24-year-olds are hitting the big screen at lower rates than they were in 2012, although they saw an uptick last year.
Television

Cord-Cutting Isn't Nearly as Significant as Cable Providers Make It Out To Be (cnbc.com) 141

From a report on CNBC: Despite legacy media's anxieties about cord-cutting, data suggest that the phenomenon isn't nearly as significant as cable providers make it out to be. In its 11th annual "Digital Democracy Survey," Deloitte found that the percentage of American households that subscribe to paid television services has remained relatively stable since 2012, even as adoption of streaming services has accelerated. In its survey of 2,131 consumers, Deloitte said two-thirds of respondents reported they have kept their TV subscriptions because they're bundled with their internet plan. Kevin Westcott, vice chairman and U.S. media and entertainment leader at Deloitte, told CNBC that bundling seems to be a huge deterrent for cord cutting.
Firefox

Firefox for Linux is Now Netflix Compatible (betanews.com) 70

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: For a while, Netflix was not available for traditional Linux-based operating systems, meaning users were unable to enjoy the popular streaming service without booting into Windows. This was due to the company's reliance on Microsoft Silverlight. Since then, Netflix adopted HTML5, and it made Google Chrome and Chromium for Linux capable of playing the videos. Unfortunately, Firefox -- the open source browser choice for many Linux users -- was not compatible. Today this changes, however, as Mozilla's offering is now compatible with Netflix!
Desktops (Apple)

Popular Open-Source Audio Editor Audacity Adds Windows 10 Support, More Improvements (audacityteam.org) 102

Audacity, a popular open-source and cross-platform audio editor, has received a "maintenance" update that brings several improvements. Dubbed v2.1.3, the biggest new addition appears to be support for Windows 10 OS. For Mac users, Audacity now works in tandem with the Magic Mouse. "We now support Trackpad and Magic Mouse horizontal scroll without SHIFT key and Trackpad pinch and expand to zoom at the pointer," the release note says. We also have new "Scrub Ruler" and "Scrub Toolbar" scrubbing options in the application now. Read the full changelog here.
PlayStation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Best Virtual Reality Headsets? 141

Quantus347 writes: Straightforward question: I held off for a year to let the various manufacturers shake out the bugs, but now it's down to either a virtual-reality system or a new generation console. So I ask you, the Slashdot community, what are your personal experiences with any of the various VR systems out there? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What little things annoy you the most? What features make a given product the best (or worst) option? "Sprinkle us with wisdom from your mighty brain!" For reference, the HTC Vive costs $799.00, while the Oculus Rift with Oculus Touch motion controllers costs $598 (which is the price after the recent markdown from $799). These prices do not include the necessary hardware required to power each headset. The PlayStation VR ($399.99), Samsung Gear VR ($99.99), and Google Daydream View ($79.00) are also available for less moolah.
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) 213

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."
The Courts

Lack of Oxford Comma Could Cost Maine Company Millions in Overtime Dispute (nytimes.com) 331

Daniel VIctor, writing for The New York Times: A class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged entirely on a debate that has bitterly divided friends, families and foes: The dreaded -- or totally necessary -- Oxford comma, perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks. What ensued in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and in a 29-page court decision handed down on Monday, was an exercise in high-stakes grammar pedantry that could cost a dairy company in Portland, Me., an estimated $10 million. In 2014, three truck drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy, seeking more than four years' worth of overtime pay that they had been denied (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate link from a syndicated partner). Maine law requires workers to be paid 1.5 times their normal rate for each hour worked after 40 hours, but it carves out some exemptions. [...] The debate over commas is often a pretty inconsequential one, but it was anything but for the truck drivers. Note the lack of Oxford comma -- also known as the serial comma -- in the following state law, which says overtime rules do not apply to: "The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods. Oakhurst Dairy is arguing that "packing for shipment" and "distribution" are two different items in the list. But that's not how the truck drivers are seeing it. They argue that "packing for shipment or distribution" is one item.
AT&T

DirecTV Admits Screwing Up Regional Sports Fees, Starts Issuing Credits (arstechnica.com) 15

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T this week acknowledged that DirecTV has been charging the wrong regional sports fees to some customers and is now issuing bill credits to those who paid more because of the mistake. "We have identified a small percentage of customers who are receiving some inaccurate bills for regional sports network fees," an AT&T spokesperson told Ars yesterday. "We are working as quickly as possible to notify those customers and issue credits. We apologize for the error." AT&T bought DirecTV, the nation's largest satellite TV provider with about 21 million customers, in 2015. The mistake affects bills going back to late January. Customers will not have to do anything to get the credit, as it will be issued automatically. The billing problem came to light last week when Consumerist published a report detailing how the regional sports network fees vary by ZIP code in ways that simply didn't make sense. It wouldn't be surprising to see different fees in different metro areas and states, since different local sports networks and teams are broadcast in different areas. But there were numerous cases in which people in adjacent ZIP codes were charged very different amounts to watch the same exact networks and teams. Some customers were charged no sports fee, while others were charged amounts of $2.47, $5.83, or $7.29 a month.
Privacy

Buying a Samsung TV Online Could Jeopardize Your Data (cnet.com) 30

An anonymous reader shares a CNET report: If you buy a product from Samsung's online store, your name, address, order information and other data may be accessible to anyone who cares to look. Matt Metzger, a self-described "application security engineer" who said he has worked in shipping-industry compliance, wrote Wednesday on Medium about an accidental discovery. Metzger said he ordered a TV from the Samsung online store and was sent a URL to track his delivery. When he followed the URL, he discovered that his tracking number was the same one used for someone else's previous delivery and that he could see sensitive information, such as the person's name and items ordered, without any security measures getting in the way. Metzger also discovered that more information was attached in a TIFF file to his own order after the delivery was completed. The file included his full name, address and signature.Samsung told CNET it is aware of the issue and is looking into it.
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.
Software

Dungeons and Dragons Goes Digital (theregister.co.uk) 76

An anonymous reader writes: Seems like a new digital Dungeons and Dragons will soon be offered. It's not a game in the Baldur's Gate style but rather seems to be about using apps to complement the experience. I wonder if it includes some kind of VOIP facility so the D&D session can be established without everyone being in the same room. From The Register: "The game's publisher, Wizards of the Coast, calls its new effort 'D&D Beyond,' describes it as 'a digital toolset for use with the Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition rules' and has given the service the tagline 'Play with advantage.' Wizards' canned statement says the service will 'take D&D players beyond pen and paper, providing a rules compendium, character builder, digital character sheets, and more -- all populated with official D&D content.' We're also told the service 'aims to make game management easier for both players and Dungeon Masters by providing high-quality tools available on any device.' That repetition of the 'any device' point point suggests this will be a web-based effort, rather than an app. The service will debut in 'summer,' presumably northern hemisphere summer so that folks who play D&D will spend up big on their breaks from school or university." You can watch the promo video here.
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."

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