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Movies

CBS, Paramount Settle Lawsuit Over 'Star Trek' Fan Film (hollywoodreporter.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: Stand down from battle stations. Star Trek rights holders CBS and Paramount have seen the logic of settling a copyright suit against Alec Peters, who solicited money on crowdfunding sites and hired professionals to make a YouTube short and a script of a planned feature film focused on a fictional event -- a Starfleet captain's victory in a war with the Klingon Empire -- referenced in the original 1960s Gene Roddenberry television series. Thanks to the settlement, CBS and Paramount won't be going to trial on Stardate 47634.44, known to most as Jan. 31, 2017. According to a joint statement, "Paramount Pictures Corporation, CBS Studios Inc., Axanar Productions, Inc. and Alec Peters are pleased to announce that the litigation regarding Axanar's film Prelude to Axanar and its proposed film Axanar has been resolved. Axanar and Mr. Peters acknowledge that both films were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law." Peters' Axanar video and script, which feature such arguably copyrighted elements as Vulcan ears, the Klingon language and an obscure character from a 1969 episode, sparked a lawsuit in December 2015. The litigation then proceeded at warp speed with the case almost making it to trial in just 13 months, an amazingly brisk pace by typical standards. When Axanar comes out, it will look different. "Axanar and Mr. Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation, and have also assured the copyright holders that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr. Peters will be in accordance with the 'Guidelines for Fan Films' distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016," states the parties' joint announcement of a settlement.
NASA

NASA Is Making New Robots That Can Control Themselves (vice.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: NASA wants humans and robots to work together as teams. To ensure that, the space agency's autonomous robotics group is currently developing new technology to improve how humans explore the solar system, and how robots can help. When NASA began working with remotely operated robots several years ago, Fong said the scientists needed a piece of software that would allow them to look at terrain and sensor data coming from autonomous robots. That led to the creation of VERVE, a "3D robot user interface," which allows scientists to see and grasp the three-dimensional world of remotely operated robots. VERVE has been used with NASA's K10 planetary rovers (a prototype mobile robot that can travel bumpy terrain), with its K-Rex planetary rovers (robot to determine soil moisture), with SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) on the International Space Station (ISS), and with the new robot Astrobee (a robot that can fly around the ISS). In 2013, NASA carried out a series of tests with astronauts on the ISS, during which astronauts who were flying 200 miles above Earth remotely operated the K10 planetary rover in California. Because of time delay, astronauts can't just "joystick a robot," said Maria Bualat, deputy lead of intelligent robotics group at the NASA Ames Research Center. "You need a robot that can operate on its own, complete tasks on its own," she said. "On the other hand, you still want the human in the loop, because the human brings a lot of experience and very powerful cognitive ability that can deal with issues that the autonomy's not quite ready to handle." That's why, according to NASA, human capabilities and robotic capabilities comprise a powerful combination.
Government

President Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence (theverge.com) 792

The New York Times is reporting that President Obama has commuted Chelsea Manning's sentence. What this translates to is a reduced sentence for Manning, from 35 years to just over seven years. Since Manning has already served a majority of those years, she is due to be released from federal custody on May 17th. The Verge reports: While serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning leaked more than 700,000 documents to Wikileaks, including video of a 2007 airstrike in Baghdad that killed two Reuters employees. In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role in the leak and has been held at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth for the past three years. Julian Assange, who has long been sought by U.S. and EU authorities for extradition on Swedish rape charges, had previously pledged to surrender himself to U.S. authorities if Manning was pardoned. Born Bradley Manning, Chelsea announced her gender transition the day after the verdict was handed down. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female," she said in a statement. "Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible." Obtaining the resulting medical treatments was extremely difficult for Manning, and was the subject of significant and sustained activism. After a lawsuit, Manning was approved for hormone therapy in 2015. In September 2016, she launched a hunger strike, demanding access to gender reassignment surgery; the military complied five days later.
Google

Porn Pirates Exploit Well-Known Loophole To Upload Raunchy Videos On YouTube (thenextweb.com) 91

Adult video websites appear to be exploiting a YouTube loophole to host explicit material on the platform. An anonymous reader shares a report on The Next Web: A number of adult streaming websites have begun using a known backdoor that ultimately makes it possible to store infringing material on Google's servers -- entirely free of charge. To pull this off, the pirates essentially take advantage of YouTube's option to upload content without sharing it publicly, which effectively allows them to embed the videos on their websites and bypass Google's Content-ID takedown system. This means the content remains unlisted on YouTube and is served directly from the GoogleVideo.com domain instead. While the move hasn't gone unnoticed by the porn industry, California-based adult content-maker Dreamroom Productions claims it has made it much harder for producers to hunt down and flag infringing material, since the videos are not shared publicly.
Youtube

Safari Users Unable to Play Newer 4K Video On YouTube in Native Resolution (macrumors.com) 122

It appears Google recently turned on VP9 codec on YouTube for delivering 4K video. However, because of this, Safari users are unable to watch videos uploaded to the service since early December in full 4K resolution. From a report: Specifically, YouTube appears to be storing video on its servers using either the more efficient VP9 codec or the older H.264 codec. Safari only supports the latter, which explains why recently uploaded 4K videos are only able to be viewed in up to 1440p. Funnily enough, the same videos can be streamed by Safari in native 4K as long as they're embedded in another website, suggesting that the VP9 codec support requirement only applies to videos viewed directly on YouTube's website. Until Apple updates Safari to support the VP9 codec, Mac users who want to access newer 4K video on YouTube in native 2160p resolution are advised to use a different browser.John Gruber of DaringFireball writes, "I'm curious what Google's thinking is here. My guess: a subtle nudge to get more Mac users to switch from Safari to Chrome. 4K playback is going to require H.264 support if they want it to work on iOS, though."
Moon

NASA Astronaut Gene Cernan, Last Man To Walk On the Moon, Dies At 82 (engadget.com) 99

NASA astronaut and retired U.S. Navy captain Gene Cernan was the second American to walk in space and the last to set foot on the moon during that mission. Unfortunately, today Cernan passed away at age 82. Engadget reports: During his time as an astronaut, Cernan logged over 500 hours in space and he spent more than 73 of those on the surface of the moon. Captain Cernan's NASA career began in 1963 and he made his first trip to space as part of the three-day Gemini IX mission in 1966. He went on to serve as the lunar module pilot for the Apollo 10 mission in 1969 before taking the role of spacecraft commander for Apollo 17 in December 1972. Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the moon for the United States. Cernan retired from the U.S. Navy after a 20-year career in 1976 and left NASA at the same time. Watch Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt sing "I Was Strolling on the Moon One Day" on YouTube.
Privacy

Hackers Corrupt Data For Cloud-Based Medical Marijuana System (bostonglobe.com) 144

Long-time Slashdot reader t0qer writes: I'm the IT director at a medical marijuana dispensary. Last week the point of sales system we were using was hacked... What scares me about this breach is, I have about 30,000 patients in my database alone. If this company has 1,000 more customers like me, even half of that is still 15 million people on a list of people that "Smoke pot"...
" No patient, consumer, or client data was ever extracted or viewed," the company's data directory has said. "The forensic analysis proves that. The data was encrypted -- so it couldn't have been viewed -- and it was never extracted, so nobody has it and could attempt decryption." They're saying it was a "targeted" attack meant to corrupt the data rather than retrieve it, and they're "reconstructing historical data" from backups, though their web site adds that their backup sites were also targeted.

"In response to this attack, all client sites have been migrated to a new, more secure environment," the company's CEO announced on YouTube Saturday, adding that "Keeping our client's data secure has always been our top priority." Last week one industry publication had reported that the outage "has sent 1,000 marijuana retailers in 23 states scrambling to handle everything from sales and inventory management to regulatory compliance issues."
Advertising

Drone Maker Lily Robotics Faked Promotional Video, Gets Sued For False Advertising and Misleading Business Practices (theregister.co.uk) 38

Dotnaught quotes a report from The Register: Lily Robotics says its decision on Thursday to shut down and return pre-order payments for a never-delivered drone, which came on the same day that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon charged the company with false advertising and misleading business practices, was purely coincidental. According to a source familiar with the complaint filed against the company, Lily Robotics has known about the DA's investigation for several months. On the strength of a promotional video on YouTube in May 2015, embedded below, Lily Robotics raised more than $34 million in pre-order sales over the course of that year for a drone called Lily Camera. The flying gadget, when built, would be capable of being launched with a throw, following people, and recording them. But after pushing the delivery date back multiple times, Lily Robotics has yet to ship a single drone to its 60,000 prospective customers, according to the lawsuit filed against the company. In theory, Lily Robotics could face a fine of more than a hundred million dollars, depending upon the outcome of a trial, if it comes to that. The company faces potential fines for at least two business code violations subject to a civil penalty of $2,500 per violation, and there are some 60,000 individuals affected. In practice, however, such fines are usually orders of magnitude less, particularly if both sides agree on a settlement. The complaint against Lily, obtained by The Register, alleges that the company knowingly misled customers by creating a promotional video that purported to show video footage captured with a Lily drone prototype. "In fact, none of the video in the Promotional Video was shot by a Lily Camera," the complaint says. "Most notably, the POV footage used in the promotional video was filmed using a professional camera drone called the DJI Inspire." Among the Lily Camera prototypes present at the video shoot, the complaint says, the ones that could actually record video were able to do so because they had Go-Pro cameras mounted on them.
Google

Google Boosts Python By Turning It Into Go (infoworld.com) 129

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Grumpy, an experimental project from Google, transpiles Python code into Go, allowing Python programs to be compiled and run as static binaries using the Go toolchain... In a blog post announcing the open source release, Google stated the project stemmed from its efforts to speed up the Python-powered front end for YouTube. But Google hit an obstacle that's familiar to folks who've deployed Python in production: It's hard to get CPython -- the default Python interpreter written in C -- to scale efficiently. "We think Grumpy has the potential to scale more gracefully than CPython for many real world workloads," writes Google...

Because it doesn't support C extensions, Grumpy doesn't have CPython's Global Interpreter Lock, which is commonly cited as a roadblock to running Python concurrent workloads smoothly. Grumpy also uses Go's garbage collection mechanisms to manage memory under the hood, instead of CPython's. Grumpy creates close interoperation between Python and Go by allowing Go packages to be imported and used with the same syntax as Go modules.

China

Apple Removes NYTimes App in China, Shows How Far It Is Willing To Go To Please Local Authority (theguardian.com) 174

Apple has removed the New York Times app from its store in China after a government request, in an example of how far the company will go to please the authorities in its third-largest market. From a report: China operates what is thought to be the largest internet censorship regime in the world, blocking thousands of foreign websites viewed as a threat by the ruling Communist party. Google, Twitter, Facebook Youtube and Instagram are all inaccessible. Apple removed the English and Chinese-language versions of the New York Times app on 23 December, although it was not immediately clear why. "We have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations," said Carolyn Wu, an Apple spokeswoman. "As a result the app must be taken down off the China app store. When this situation changes the app store will once again offer the New York Times app for download in China."
Earth

New Analysis Shows Lamar Smith's Accusations On Climate Data Are Wrong (arstechnica.com) 502

Layzej writes from a report via Ars Technica: In 2015, NOAA released version 4 of their marine temperature dataset called ERSST. The new dataset accounted for a known cooling bias introduced when ocean temperature measurements transitioned from being taken in ship engine intake valves to buoy-based measurements. The warming of the last couple decades increased ever so slightly in NOAA's new analysis. This was a red flag for U.S. House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX), who rejects the conclusions of climate science -- like the fact that the Earth's climate is warming. Suddenly he wanted to see the researchers' e-mails and echoed the accusations of contrarian blogs about scientists' supposedly nefarious adjustments to sea surface temperature measurements. Rather than invoking scientific conspiracies, issues like this should be settled by analyzing the data. A new study, led by University of California Berkeley's Zeke Hausfather, does just that -- and Rep. Smith won't like these results, either. To test the NOAA dataset, Zeke's team created instrumentally homogeneous temperature records from sensors available only over the last couple decades. As it happens, the Argo float data, the buoy data, and the satellite data each hew closer to the updated dataset that NOAA used. The older version (3b) gives a global average that is too cool in recent years, growing to an offset of about 0.06 degrees Celsius. The researchers repeat this same analysis for two more major sea surface datasets that are used by the UK Met Office and the Japanese Meteorological Agency for their global temperature records. Both of those datasets also drift cooler than the comparison data, but less so than NOAA's old dataset.
Television

Dish's New AirTV Set-Top Box Does Over-the-Air and 4K Streaming (techcrunch.com) 22

On Tuesday, Dish unveiled a new streaming device, the AirTV, which uses Android TV as its base operating system, and provides access to the wealth of Android media apps available. TechCrunch reports: But it's also able to grab over-the-air signals with an antenna for streaming live TV, and it works with Sling TV for a cable-free streaming subscription cord cutting experience. The AirTV also handles 4K, which is good news if you picked one of these up over the holiday shopping season. The 4K support will primarily grab content from Netflix and YouTube apps, but because the underlying platform is Android TV, there are other sources available, which is not necessarily true for other smart TV devices looking to bring more 4K into the living room. It's also not necessary for AirTV users to even use Sling TV, the subscription over-the-top streaming service Dish owns. Which is yet another sign of the changing world that TV and cable providers now find themselves in. The AirTV is also available in both OTA and streaming only hardware configurations, and retails for $129 for the antenna-compatible version, and $99 without.
Cellphones

Google and Facebook Dominate The List of 2016's Top Ten Apps (betanews.com) 37

After surveying over 9,000 Android and iPhone users, Nielsen's "Electronic Mobile Measurement" has calculated the 10 most popular apps of 2016. Interestingly, the #1 and #2 most popular apps of the year were Facebook and Facebook Messenger. BrianFagioli writes: Facebook holds the first, second, and eighth spots -- remember, the company owns Instagram too. Google has the most number of spots in the top 10, with three, four, five, six, and seven [YouTube, Google Maps, Google Search, Google Play, and Gmail]. Rounding out the bottom of the list is Apple [for Apple Music] and Amazon. Google Play is sort of a weird inclusion, however, as it is the app which downloads other apps -- it probably should have been excluded.

Amazon saw insane growth, seeing a massive 43 percent year-over-year gain. Instagram comes in at second place with 36 percent. Facebook Messenger scores the third spot. The biggest surprise is that Apple Music is the top streaming music app, beating apps like Pandora and Spotify...because other music apps had huge head-starts.

Facebook

Facebook Developing Copyright ID System To Stem Music Rights Infringement (billboard.com) 42

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Billboard: As Facebook continues to grapple with its role in proliferating "fake news" amidst the heated U.S. election this year, it has another showdown looming on the horizon -- this one with the music industry. In the wake of NMPA president/CEO David Israelite's op-ed in Billboard in October, in which he called out the social media giant for hosting videos with copyrighted music without securing licensing deals or paying creators, Facebook is working to develop a copyright identification system -- similar to YouTube's Content ID -- that would find and remove videos containing copyrighted music, a source tells Billboard. The story was first reported by the Financial Times. One music industry source, confirming Facebook's plans to develop a copyright ID system, says the company has a massive infringement problem in regards to music on the site. "They see the huge amount of traffic music content is responsible for on their platform and don't want to be on the wrong end of an artist fight," the person says. "They also see that there's a potential opportunity to position themselves as friendly to content creators as opposed to YouTube, so they are working fast to get this right." Talks between Facebook and the major labels are underway to license content moving forward, Billboard has learned, though they are still in the preliminary stages. In its report, the Financial Times referenced a source saying a deal would not be done before the spring.
Youtube

YouTube Views Are Down Across the Board, Analysis Says (kotaku.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Kotaku: For months, YouTubers have complained that their view counts are down. New data from the third-party stat tracker SocialBlade confirms what YouTubers fear: viewership is lower across the board. SocialBlade crunched some numbers for Kotaku and determined that, since the first half of the year, YouTube views are now 5-7% lower. Between July and September, that decrease was 10%. It's pretty significant. Why YouTube views have gone down is unclear, but some good theories are floating around. SocialBlade Community Manager Danny Fratella pointed to two potential causes: view audits and altered video-promoting algorithms. During view audits, YouTubers don't actually lose views. YouTube is removing botted or invalid playbacks from the view count. This happens all at once in a sort of purge -- something YouTube has explained publicly. But now that YouTubers have tools like SocialBlade to more rigorously moderate their data, they may be noticing these purges more, Fratella suggested. He added that SocialBlade doesn't see view counts purged as often as subscriber counts -- the main complaint going around YouTube communities. Although YouTubers have widely complained that fans are now randomly unsubscribed from their channels, YouTube and SocialBlade both told me that they've noticed nothing out of the ordinary in subscription data. YouTube's video-promoting algorithm may also play a role in an apparent decreased viewership. What videos the platform draws more eyes to reflects their philosophy on what videos should go viral.
Government

US Government Begins Asking Foreign Travelers About Social Media (politico.com) 121

schwit1 quotes a report from Politico: Since Tuesday, foreign travelers arriving in the United States on the visa waiver program have been presented with an "optional" request to "enter information associated with your online presence," a government official confirmed Thursday. The prompt includes a drop-down menu that lists platforms including Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, as well as a space for users to input their account names on those sites. The new policy comes as Washington tries to improve its ability to spot and deny entry to individuals who have ties to terrorist groups like the Islamic State. But the government has faced a barrage of criticism since it first floated the idea last summer. The Internet Association, which represents companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter, at the time joined with consumer advocates to argue the draft policy threatened free expression and posed new privacy and security risks to foreigners. Now that it is final, those opponents are furious the Obama administration ignored their concerns. The question itself is included in what's known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, a process that certain foreign travelers must complete to come to the United States. ESTA and a related paper form specifically apply to those arriving here through the visa-waiver program, which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel and stay in the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. "There are very few rules about how that information is being collected, maintained [and] disseminated to other agencies, and there are no guidelines about limiting the government's use of that information," said Michael W. Macleod-Ball, chief of staff for the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington office. "While the government certainly has a right to collect some information... It would be nice if they would focus on the privacy concerns some advocacy groups have long expressed."
Social Networks

Using Multiple Social Networks May Lead To Depression and Anxiety, Says Study (dailydot.com) 119

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Daily Dot: The more social media you use, the higher the likelihood that you'll be anxious or depressed. At least according to the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health. In a study published online this month with more than 1,700 millennial adults, it found people who report using seven to 11 social media platforms had more than three times the risk of depression or anxiety than millennials who use zero to two platforms. The participants were asked about the most popular social media platforms in 2014, the year the study was conducted, which included Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and LinkedIn. Those who used more than seven platforms showed higher levels of depressive symptoms, even when researchers controlled for factors like race, gender, relationship status, household income, education, and total time spent on social media. Brian A. Primack, lead author of the study, notes that the correlation is not certain. He told PsyPost: "It may be that people who suffer from symptoms of depression or anxiety, or both, tend to subsequently use a broader range of social media outlets. For example, they may be searching out multiple avenues for a setting that feels comfortable and accepting. However, it could also be that trying to maintain a presence on multiple platforms may actually lead to depression and anxiety. More research will be needed to tease that apart."
Iphone

Filmmaker Installed Security Software On a Decoy Phone To Spy On Smartphone Thieves (theverge.com) 118

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Dutch film student Anthony van der Meer had the unfortunate pleasure of having his phone stolen while having lunch in Amsterdam. Unsatisfied with the response from the Amsterdam police, who register an average of 300 stolen phones per week, Meer decided to find out what kind of person steals a phone. He downloaded DIY security software on a decoy Android phone, intentionally got the phone stolen, and was able to spy on his thief for weeks. He recorded the ups and downs of his covert investigation and turned it into a 22-minute documentary called Find My Phone. Meer preloaded the decoy device with an anti-theft application called Cerberus, which allows the owner of the device to access any file on the phone remotely, as well as discretely activate the phone's camera and microphone. Meer and his friends were able to navigate the technicalities of surveilling the thief with relative ease. They even snapped a close-up of the guy's face. The hard part, it turns out, was getting the preloaded phone stolen in the first place. It took Meer four days to get his device pilfered in a city with high rates of theft because concerned citizens kept coming to his rescue.
Television

YouTube Bans North Korea's State-Owned TV Channel (asiancorrespondent.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Asian Correspondent: YouTube has blocked North Korea's state television channel, purportedly to avoid breaching U.S. sanctions against the totalitarian state. The Korean Central Television's page, which broadcasts breaking news videos including Pyongyang's nuclear tests and leader Kim Jong Un's outings, now has a message saying "the account has been terminated for violating YouTube's Community Guidelines." YouTube's community guidelines bans harmful, dangerous, violent and graphic content, as well as videos that violate copyright laws or that contain threats and that may incite others to commit violence. According to The Washington Post, the action to terminate the account was taken in November because the North Korean government could earn money from YouTube through advertisements, which would in turn violate a U.S. directive that bans any person or company from doing business with the hermit state.
Desktops (Apple)

A $300 Device Can Steal Mac FileVault2 Passwords (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: Swedish hardware hacker Ulf Frisk has created a device that can extract Mac FileVault2 (Apple's disk encryption utility) passwords from a device's memory before macOS boots and anti-DMA protections kick in. The extracted passwords are in cleartext, and they also double as the macOS logon passwords. The attack requires physical access, but it takes less than 30 seconds to carry out. A special device is needed, which runs custom software (available on GitHub), and uses hardware parts that cost around $300. Apple fixed the attack in macOS 10.12.2. The device is similar to what Samy Kamker created with Poison Tap.

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