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Piracy

Google and Microsoft To Crackdown On Piracy Sites In Search Results (telegraph.co.uk) 74

Google and Microsoft pledged on Monday to crack down on sites hosting pirated content that show up on their search engines. In what is being called a first of its kind agreement, Google and Microsoft's Bing will demote U.K. search results of copyright infringing websites. From a report on The Telegraph: The search engine operators have signed up to a clampdown that will see the UK's copyright watchdog monitor the search results they provide for unlawful websites. The agreement follows years of campaigning by record labels and film studios, which have accused Google and Microsoft of turning a blind eye to piracy and dragging their feet over measures to protect copyright online. Under a new voluntary code, the tech giants have committed to demote websites that have repeatedly been served with copyright infringement notices, so that they do not appear on the first page for common searches.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Web Comic 'Pokey The Penguin' Celebrates Its 19th Anniversary (twitter.com) 67

It's one of the longest-running comics on the internet. (Slashdot is approaching its 20th anniversary, and in its first year ran two stories about Pokey.) Open source developer Steve Havelka of Portland, Oregon created the truly bizarre strip back in 1998 -- one legend says it was originally a parody of another comic drawn with Microsoft Paint -- and he's since sporadically cranked out 637 strips.

Since 2010 he's also been publishing the cartoons in printed books, and this year launched an equally surreal page on Patreon identifying himself as "Steve Havelka, THE AUTHORS of Pokey the Penguin," offering supporters a "mystery item in the mail". Pokey has lots of fans -- he earned a shout-out in the videogame Hitman: Blood Money -- and very-long-time Slashdot reader 198348726583297634 informs us that on this 19th anniversary Pokey "is celebrating on Twitter!" where he's apparently accosting other web cartoonists and touting a new birthday strip. (Not to be confused with that truly horrible Pokey-goes-to-a-party movie created in Adobe Flash.)

I'd like to hear from any Slashdot readers who remember Pokey the Penguin -- but I'm also curious to hear from Slashdot readers who have never read the strip. ComixTalk called it "one of those webcomics that really only exist because of the Internet -- it would be hard to see something like this in any other medium... there's just something about Pokey the Penguin that fits online."
Toys

German Government Tells Parents: Destroy This WiFi-Connected Doll (theverge.com) 129

It's illegal in Germany now to sell a talking doll named "My Friend Cayla," according to a story shared by Slashdot reader Bruce66423. And that's just the beginning. The Verge reports: A German government watchdog has ordered parents to "destroy" an internet-connected doll for fear it could be used as a surveillance device. According to a report from BBC News, the German Federal Network Agency said the doll (which contains a microphone and speaker) was equivalent to a "concealed transmitting device" and therefore prohibited under German telecom law... In December last year, privacy advocates said the toy recorded kids' conversations without proper consent, violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Cayla uses a microphone to listen to questions, sending this audio over Wi-Fi to a third-party company that converts it to text. This is then used to search the internet, allowing the doll to answer basic questions, like "What's a baby kangaroo called?" as well as play games. In addition to privacy concerns over data collection, security researchers found that Cayla can be easily hacked. The doll's insecure Bluetooth connection can be compromised, letting a third party record audio via the toy, or even speak to children using its voice.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has said toys like this "subject young children to ongoing surveillance...without any meaningful data protection standards." One researcher pointed out that the doll was accessible from up to 33 feet away -- even through walls -- using a bluetooth-enabled device.
Businesses

How Atari's Nolan Bushnell Pioneered the Tech Incubator In the 1980s (fastcompany.com) 25

harrymcc writes: After Nolan Bushnell founded Atari and Chuck E. Cheese in the 1970s, he had so many ideas for new tech products that he started a tech incubator called Catalyst to spin them off into startups. Catalyst's companies were involved in robotics, online shopping, navigation, electronic game distribution, and other areas that eventually became big businesses -- but they did it with 1980s technology. Over at Fast Company, Benj Edwards tells this remarkable, forgotten story. New submitter deej1097 provides an excerpt from Edwards' report: In the annals of Silicon Valley history, Nolan Bushnell's name conjures up both brilliant success and spectacular failure. His two landmark achievements were founding Atari in 1972 -- laying the groundwork for the entire video game industry -- and starting Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre in 1977. But there's another highlight of Bushnell's bio that has long gone undocumented: pioneer of the high-tech incubator.
Piracy

70 Percent of Young Swedish Men Are Video Pirates, Study Says (torrentfreak.com) 205

A new study from Sweden has found that just over half of all young people admit to obtaining movies and TV shows from the Internet without paying, a figure that rockets to 70 percent among young men, reports TorrentFreak, citing a study. From the report: According to figures just released by media industry consultants Mediavision, in January 2017 almost a quarter of all Swedes aged between 15 and 74 admitted either streaming or downloading movies from 'pirate' sites during the past month. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tendency to do so is greater among the young. More than half of 15 to 24-year-olds said they'd used a torrent or streaming site during December. When concentrating that down to only young men in the same age group, the figure leaps to 70 percent.
Censorship

CloudFlare Puts Pirate Sites on New IP Addresses, Avoids Cogent Blockade (torrentfreak.com) 88

Earlier this month, several users worldwide reported that they were unable to access pirate websites including the Pirate Bay. It was because the internet backbone network of Cogent Communications had blackholed the CloudFlare IP-address of pirate websites. Less than a week later, CloudFlare is fighting back. From a report on TorrentFreak: The Pirate Bay and dozens of other pirate sites that were blocked by Cogent's Internet backbone are now accessible again. CloudFlare appears to have moved the sites in question to a new pair of IP-addresses, effectively bypassing Cogent's blackhole. [...] As of yesterday, the sites in question have been assigned the IP-addresses 104.31.16.3 and 104.31.17.3, still grouped together. Most, if not all of the sites, are blocked by court order in the UK so this is presumably done to prevent ISP overblocking of 'regular' CloudFlare subscribers.
Sci-Fi

Lost Winston Churchill Essay Reveals His Thoughts On Alien Life (theverge.com) 186

"A newly discovered essay by Winston Churchill shows that the British statesman gave a lot of thought to the existential question that has inspired years of scientific research and blockbuster movies: are we alone in the University?" reports The Verge. "The essay was drafted in the 1930s, but unearthed in a museum in Missouri last year." Astrophysicist Mario Livio was the first scientist to analyze the article and has published his comments in the journal Nature. The Verge reports: Livio was "stunned" when he first saw the unpublished, 11-page essay on the existence of alien life, he tells The Verge. The astrophysicist was visiting Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, for a talk last year, when he was approached by Timothy Riley, the director of Fulton's US National Churchill Museum. Riley showed him the essay, titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?" In the essay, Churchill reasons that we can't possibly be alone in the Universe -- and that many other Suns will likely have many other planets that could harbor life. Because of how enormously distant these extrasolar planets are, we may never know if they "house living creatures, or even plants," Churchill concludes. He wrote this decades before exoplanets were discovered in the 1990s; hundreds have since been detected. What's impressive about the essay is the way Churchill approaches the existential and scientific question of whether life exists on other planets, Livio says. Churchill's reasoning mirrors extremely well the way scientists think about this problem today. The British leader also talks about several theories that still guide the search for alien life, Livio says. For example, he notes that water is the key ingredient for life on Earth, and so finding water on other planets could mean finding life there. Churchill also notes that life can only survive in regions "between a few degrees of frost and the boiling point of water" -- what today we call the habitable zone, the region around a star that is neither too hot or too cold, so that liquid water may exist on the planet's surface.
Facebook

Facebook To Autoplay Videos With Sound On By Default (androidandme.com) 116

Currently, Facebook videos autoplay on your News Feed as you scroll up and down. While they eat data and various resources, the saving grace is that they are silent -- that is, until now. Facebook has announced several new changes to its video platform today, including a setting that will autoplay videos with sound turned on by default. Android and Me reports: The audio of videos will fade in and out as you're scrolling through your feed. Fortunately, Facebook will at least make it so that audio won't autoplay if your phone is set to silent. If you're not a fan of this change, there will be a setting to turn audio autoplay off. The change is that it will now be on by default for everyone. Other feature introductions are larger previews for vertical videos, a picture-in-picture mode for videos so you can watch and continue scrolling (and even exit the app without interrupting the video on Android), and a Facebook Video app coming to smart TVs.
Canada

Canada Remains a 'Safe Haven' For Online Piracy, Rightsholders Claim (torrentfreak.com) 134

The MPAA, RIAA and other entertainment industry groups are calling out Canada, claiming that it remains a "safe haven" for copyright infringers and pirate sites, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: One of the main criticisms is that, despite having been called out repeatedly in the past, the country still offers a home to many pirate sites. "For a number of years, extending well into the current decade, Canada had a well-deserved reputation as a safe haven for some of the most massive and flagrant Internet sites dedicated to the online theft of copyright material," IIPA writes. Another disturbing development, according to IIPA, is the emergence of stand-alone BitTorrent applications that allow users to stream content directly through an attractive and user-friendly interface, hinting at Popcorn Time. In addition to the traditional pirate sites that remain in Canada, IIPA reports that several websites offering modified game console gear have also moved there in an attempt to escape liability under U.S. law.
Facebook

Facebook is Bringing Its Social Network To TV, Video App Announced For Apple's and Amazon's Set-Top Boxes (recode.net) 21

Facebook is making perhaps its biggest push yet to turn the social network into a destination for watching video with a new Facebook Video app for smart TVs. From a report on Recode: The social network on Tuesday announced a new app for set-top boxes, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and the Samsung Smart TV. The app will let you watch the same kinds of video you can already find on Facebook, but (presumably) on a much larger screen. Dan Rose, Facebook's VP of Partnerships, announced the new app at the Code Media conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, Calif. The new app, which will launch "soon," gives Facebook yet another way to reach consumers interested in videos and, most likely, another platform to sell video ads.
The Internet

Playboy Is Featuring Naked Women Again -- After Dropping Nudity a Year Ago Due To the Internet (nypost.com) 256

mi quotes a report from New York Post: The 63-year-old legendary men's magazine is bringing back nude models in its upcoming issue -- one year after banning naked photos in an effort to boost circulation and attract more mainstream advertisers. That effort obviously has failed. One of the main reasons why Playboy dropped nudity in the first place was because the internet filled the demand. Ravi Somaiya reports in the New York Times, "For a generation of American men, reading Playboy was a cultural rite, an illicit thrill consumed by flashlight. Now every teenage boy has an internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance." The issues published under the no-nudes policy, which featured both scantily clad models and could-be naked women with strategic parts of their body covered up, will all change with the March/April issue now hitting newsstands. The issue trumpets the change with a cover headline: "Naked is normal."
Media

Netflix Geoblocking Loosened Under New EU Law (thestack.com) 54

An anonymous reader writes: "The European Parliament is now finalizing legislation which will allow EU residents to access their paid subscriptions for online media -- such as video streaming, games and music -- while visiting other EU countries," reports The Stack. Under the new rules, companies will not be able to arbitrarily block subscribers from accessing the content catalog of their home countries while visiting other parts of the European Union, with country of origin to be established by various possible methods besides IP address, including payment details, public tax information and 'checks on electronic identification'. The issue was brought to a head last year when Netflix began blocking the known IPs of VPN providers, often used by subscribers to access the catalogs of their home countries while travelling.
Software

Valve Is Shutting Down Steam's Greenlight Community Voting System (theverge.com) 99

Valve's crowdsourced Greenlight submission program, which let the gaming community select which games get chosen for distribution via Steam, is shutting down after nearly five years. It will be replaced with a new system called Steam Direct that will charge developers a fee for each title they plan to distribute. The Verge reports: Steam Greenlight was launched in 2012 as a way for indie developers to get their games on Steam, even if they weren't working with a big publisher that had a relationship with Valve. Steam users would vote on Greenlight games, and Valve would accept titles with enough support to suggest that they'd sell well. Kroll says that "over 100" Greenlight titles have made $1 million or more. But Greenlight has also had significant problems. Developers could game the system by offering rewards for votes, and worthy projects could get lost amidst a slew of bad proposals. Since Valve ultimately made the call on including games, the process could also seem arbitrary and opaque. The big question is whether what's replacing it is better. To get a game on Steam Direct, developers will need to "complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account." Then, they'll pay an application fee for each game, "which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline" -- a polite way of saying that it will make people think twice before spending money submitting a low-quality game. Steam Direct is supposed to launch in spring of 2017, but the application fee hasn't been decided yet. Developer feedback has apparently suggested anything from $100 -- the current Greenlight submission fee -- and $5,000.
Piracy

Internet Backbone Provider Cogent Blocks Pirate Bay and Other 'Pirate' Sites (torrentfreak.com) 186

Several Pirate Bay users from ISPs all over the world have been unable to access their favorite torrent site for more than a week. Their requests are being stopped in the Internet backbone network of Cogent Communications, which has blackholed the CloudFlare IP-address of The Pirate Bay and many other torrent and streaming sites, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: When the average Internet user types in a domain name, a request is sent through a series of networks before it finally reaches the server of the website. This also applies to The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites such as Primewire, Movie4k, TorrentProject and TorrentButler. However, for more than a week now the US-based backbone provider Cogent has stopped passing on traffic to these sites. The sites in question all use CloudFlare, which assigned them the public IP-addresses 104.31.18.30 and 104.31.19.30. While this can be reached just fine by most people, users attempting to pass requests through Cogent's network are unable to access them.
Businesses

Jeff Bezos Talks About Music Streaming, and His Political Ambitions (billboard.com) 70

In a wide-ranging interview with Billboard, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, Blue Origin, and owner of The Washington Post, talked about music streaming business. He also talked about whether he desires to become the president of the United States. Excerpts from the interview: On music streaming business, being one of the late ones to join the party:Well, here's what I would say: We've been in the music category since 1998. It was the second category we launched after books. Our customers listen to a lot of music and we have a couple of freight trains kind of pulling the business along. One is Prime, and the other is Echo and Alexa.

On the prospect of seeing President Bezos and other political interests: Oh, no. I don't think so. No. I love my life. I love being an inventor. I love Blue Origin, my space company. I love The Washington Post. They are very good, but the Internet transition was difficult for them -- so I've been able to help them on that. But basically... I have a very full life. And I really like it.

Businesses

Overeager Investors Seeking Snap Buy Snap Interactive Instead (cnet.com) 55

Stephen Shankland, writing for CNET: Investors eager to cash in on the initial public offering of Snap, makers of the popular Snapchat app, have instead been buying shares of Snap Interactive, maker of the Paltalk video chat app and FirstMet dating app. Snap Interactive stock, traded over the counter and not on major exchanges like Nasdaq, has slid below $6 per share in recent years, according to Google Finance. On Monday, after Snap detailed its IPO plans, though, its stock surged to $15 and remained between $8 and $10 per share Wednesday.
Crime

Police Arrest Five Men For Selling Kodi Boxes 'Fully Loaded' With Illegal Streaming Apps (bbc.com) 105

Five people have been arrested in early morning raids for selling "fully loaded Kodi boxes," which are set-top boxes modified to stream subscription football matches, television channels and films for free. The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) said it believed the suspects had made roughly $250,000 selling the devices online. BBC reports: Kodi is free software built by volunteers to bring videos, music, games and photographs together in one easy-to-use application. Some shops sell legal set-top boxes and TV sticks, often called Kodi boxes, preloaded with the software. The developers behind Kodi say their software does not contain any content of its own and is designed to play legally owned media or content "freely available" on the internet. However, the software can be modified with third-party add-ons that provide access to pirated copies of films and TV series, or free access to subscription television channels. The five arrests were made in Bolton, Bootle, Cheadle, Manchester and Rhyl.
EU

EU Agrees To Cross-Border Access To Streaming Services (variety.com) 55

Putting in place the first piece of its hoped-for unified digital market, the European Union has agreed on new rules allowing subscribers of online services in one E.U. country access to them while traveling in another. From a report: "Today's agreement will bring concrete benefits to Europeans," said vice president in charge of the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, in a statement. "People who have subscribed to their favorite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in Europe. This is a new important step in breaking down barriers in the Digital Single Market." Variety explain: That said, "portability" is the least contentious of DSM regulations being advanced by the European Commission. Reached yesterday, the agreement between the Commission, the E.U.'s executive arm, the European Parliament and the E.U.'s Council of Ministers, representing its 28 member states, will allow consumers to fully use their online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services when traveling within the E.U. The online service providers who will be mandated to make these services available range from video-on-demand platforms (Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Mubi, Chili TV) to online TV services (Viasat's Viaplay, Sky's Now TV, Voyo), music streaming services (Spotify, Deezer, Google Music) and game online marketplaces (Steam, Origin).
The Almighty Buck

World of Warcraft Gold Can Now Be Used To Buy Other Blizzard Games (arstechnica.com) 69

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: It has been almost two years now since Blizzard began letting World of Warcraft players pay for their monthly game-time subscriptions using in-game gold rather than real money. Now, Blizzard is expanding that effort by letting players indirectly trade WoW gold for in-game items in other Blizzard games like Hearthstone and Overwatch. The new feature is really just a slight tweak to the WoW Token, a specialized item that can be purchased for $20 (£15/€20) in real money or for a free-floating, in-game gold price at World of Warcraft auction houses. Those Tokens can still be exchanged for 30 days of World of Warcraft subscription time, but as of this week, they can also be redeemed for $15 in balance on your Battle.net account. (European figures TBC.) That balance can then be spent on packs of Hearthstone cards, Overwatch Loot Boxes, Heroes of the Storm skins, or even downloadable copies of games like StarCraft II and Diablo III. That means that a dedicated WoW player can now fund a multigame Blizzard habit simply by earning enough in-game gold. You'd better be prepared to farm a lot of gold, though. The purchase price for a WoW Token at the auction house can fluctuate wildly -- as of this writing, the tokens have gone for anywhere from 59,833 gold to 108,924 gold in the last 24 hours, according to tracking site WowToken.info. That gives each in-game gold piece a rough value between 1/100th and 2/100th of a cent, when converted to Blizzard.net balance.

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