Television

Cord-Cutters Are Ditching Their Cable Packages At the Fastest Rate Ever (axios.com) 164

Sara Fischer, writing for Axios: Cord-cutters are ditching their cable packages at the fastest rate ever, opting instead for cheaper, bundled digital TV options, according to the latest Magid Broadcast Study. The trend reflects consumers' preferences to ditch bundled cable packages for more affordable, niche bundled services that can be accessed on TV box tops or on mobile. For consumers, there are more bundled packages than ever, all popping up around similar price ranges. YouTube TV and Hulu TV launched within the past two month, joining the likes of SlingTV and DirectTV Now -- all at a roughly $40 monthly price point -- a bargain considering the average American pays $92 monthly for cable.
Social Networks

Facebook and Twitter 'Harm Young People's Mental Health' (theguardian.com) 120

Instagram and Snapchat are really bad for young people's mental health, according to research by two health organisations. Virtually all major social media platforms have a negative impact on the well-being of 14-24-year-olds, the study adds. Instagram was the worst -- followed by Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. From a report on The Guardian: Instagram has the most negative impact on young people's mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people's feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact. The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children's and young people's body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.
Earth

Humans Accidentally Made a Space Cocoon For Ourselves Out of Radio Waves (vice.com) 136

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard article: Humans have accidentally created a protective bubble around Earth by using very low frequency (VLF) radio transmissions to contact submarines in the ocean. It sounds nuts, but according to recent research published in Space Science Reviews, underwater communication through VLF channels has an outer space dimension. This video explainer, released by NASA on Wednesday, visualizes how radio waves wafting into space interact with the particles surrounding Earth, and influence their motion. Satellites in certain high-altitude orbits, such as NASA's particle-watching Van Allen Probes, have observed these VLF ripples creating an 'impenetrable boundary,' a phrase coined by study co-author Dan Baker, director of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. This doesn't mean impenetrable to spacecraft or asteroids, per se, but rather to potentially harmful particle showers created by turbulent space weather.
Sci-Fi

Star Trek Discovery's First Trailer Brings a New Ship, New Characters, and Old Conflicts (cbs.com) 507

nyquil superstar writes: Hey all, the Star Trek: Discovery trailer is out. Looks entertaining! From a report via Vox: "The trailer features Sonequa Martin-Green, fresh from The Walking Dead, as Michael Burnham, a first officer promoted unexpectedly to the position of captain by her mentor, Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Set 10 years before the original Star Trek series (and 90 years after the franchise's only other prequel, Star Trek: Enterprise), the new series follows the starship Discovery as Burnham learns to become a captain. But she soon finds her abilities tested by a host of challenges that will be familiar to all lovers of the classic sci-fi universe: new worlds to explore and alliances to forge, hostile Klingons, and the difficulty of adhering to the Federation's peacekeeping mission."
Google

Google Home Gets Notifications, Hands-Free Calling, a TV Interface and More (theverge.com) 37

Google has announced several news features for Google Home to help it better compete against the Amazon Echo. The six new features coming to Google Home include: notifications, free calling to phones in the U.S. and Canada, calendar and reminders, more streaming services, a TV interface, and new locations. The Verge details each feature in its report: Notifications: Google calls this feature "proactive assistance." Essentially, Google Home will do its best to alert owners to things they need to know, like reminders, traffic alerts, or flight delays.
Free Calling To Phones In U.S. and Canada: Google is one-upping Amazon by letting the Home dial out to actual landline and mobile phones. Whenever this feature rolls out, you'll be able to ask the Home to call anyone on your contacts list, and it'll dial out to them on a private number.
Calendar and Reminders: You can finally set reminders and calendar entries. Finally.
More Streaming Services: Google Home has already been able to control a handful of music and video services, but it's about to get a bunch of major missing names. For music, that includes Spotify's free tier, Deezer, and SoundCloud. For video, it includes HBO Now and Hulu. On top of that, Home is also getting the ability to stream anything over Bluetooth.
A TV Interface: Sometimes you actually want to see what's going on, so Google's making a TV interface for the Google Home. You'll soon be able to ask the Home to send information to your TV, from basics like the weather and your calendar, to information it's looking up like nearby restaurants or YouTube videos you might want to watch.
New Locations: The Home is going to expand to five new countries this summer: Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan.

News

Can You Copyright a Joke? (npr.org) 229

Reader AnalogDiehard writes: Writer Alex Kaseburg has filed a lawsuit against TBS and Time Warner alleging that jokes recited on the Conan O'Brien show were stolen from his blog shortly after they were published. The case gets heard in August and could create new protections in a legal forum in which there is little precedent or clear definition in what defines a joke as "original" and subject to legal protection, especially in an industry where theft of humor occurs on a regular basis. But the outcome of any judicial decision opens a big can of worms and raises serious questions: Will YouTube videos get shut down from DMCA notices citing copyrighted jokes? Will compliance staff have to be retained to ensure that their magazine or news article, TV show, movie, or broadway act is not infringing on copyrighted jokes? Will copyrights on jokes get near-perpetual protection like the controversial Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act? Will people be able to recite limericks without fear of infringing? Will tyrannical politicians copyright critical jokes to oppress freedom of speech? Will legal cases be filed arguing that a comedian's joke(s) bears too much similarity to a copyrighted joke recited decades ago? Will girl scouts be free to tell copyright jokes around the campfire?
Movies

Our Obsession With Trailers Is Making Movies Worse (cnet.com) 206

An anonymous reader shares an article: Our increasing obsession with trailers is changing how we watch movies. We're becoming audiences afraid of surprise, audiences that would rather watch movies we're certain we'll like than risk watching films that surprise us into love. In some cases, this fixation is even lowering the quality of movies themselves by encouraging bad filmmaking habits. The most extreme example happened when Warner Bros released such a successful trailer for 'Suicide Squad' it brought on the company that cut it to edit the whole film -- dropping the director's original cut altogether. [...] Thanks to trailers' easy accessibility on YouTube and those shot-by-shot breakdowns that quickly appear online once trailers drop, anyone interested in a given flick can pore over all the available footage for hours -- even if that leads to major spoilers for them and everyone they share it with.
Communications

Our Obsession With Trailers Is Making Movies Worse (cnet.com) 28

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via CNET: Our increasing obsession with trailers is changing how we watch movies. We're becoming audiences afraid of surprise, audiences that would rather watch movies we're certain we'll like than risk watching films that surprise us into love. In some cases, this fixation is even lowering the quality of movies themselves by encouraging bad filmmaking habits. The most extreme example happened when Warner Bros. released such a successful trailer for 'Suicide Squad' it brought on the company that cut it to edit the whole film -- dropping the director's original cut altogether. [...] Thanks to trailers' easy accessibility on YouTube and those shot-by-shot breakdowns that quickly appear online once trailers drop, anyone interested in a given flick can pore over all the available footage for hours -- even if that leads to major spoilers for them and everyone they share it with.
Businesses

Google Releases Study Defending YouTube's Value To Music Biz; Trade Bodies Hit Back (billboard.com) 80

The ongoing tussle between YouTube and the music industry took a new turn this week when Google assured everyone that its video platform doesn't have any negative impact on the other streaming music services -- despite all the free music it offers. From a report: A Google-commissioned report into how YouTube impacts on the wider music economy has -- somewhat unsurprisingly -- found that the hugely popular, yet much-maligned platform significantly drives sales and stops users from visiting pirate music services. According to a European study carried out by RBB Economics, if music content was removed from YouTube around 85 percent of the time that users spend on the platform would switch to lower value channels, such as TV, radio or internet radio. RBB claimed there would also be a significant increase in time spent listening to pirated content (up 29 percent), while only 15 percent of heavy users, defined as someone who watches more than 20 hours of music videos per month, would switch to higher value offerings like subscription streaming services. In the U.K., that number increases to 19 percent; in France it's 12 percent. [...] In response, music trade bodies poured scorn on the paper's findings. "Google's latest publicity push once again seeks to distract from the fact that YouTube, essentially the world's largest on-demand music service, is failing to license music on a fair basis and compensate artists and producers properly by claiming it is not liable for the music it is making available," reads a statement from IFPI. "Services like YouTube, that are not licensing music on fair terms, hinder the development of a sustainably healthy digital music market," claimed the international trade body, repeating its regular call for tighter regulation around safe harbour licensing.
Education

'The Traditional Lecture Is Dead' (wired.com) 233

Rhett Allain, an Associate Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, writing for Wired: What is the traditional lecture? It is a model of learning in which a teacher possesses the knowledge on a given topic and disseminates it to students. This model dates to the beginning of education, when it was the only way of sharing information. In fact, you occasionally still see the person presenting the lecture called a reader, because way back before the internet and even the printing press, a teacher would literally read from a book so students could copy it all down. Now, don't get me wrong. The traditional lecture model worked wonderfully for eons. But it is an outdated idea (free pass for adblockers). Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a college physics course with a professor giving a traditional lecture. Now open your eyes. Did you envision The Best Physics Lecture EVAR? I doubt it. You probably pictured someone droning on and on in front of a chalkboard or PowerPoint presentation. No way that is more engaging or interesting than an episode of The Mechanical Universe , and if you're a teacher who uses traditional lectures, just stop and play the show instead. Everyone will be better off. You may think by now that I think most physics professors are dolts. I promise that's not the case. But traditional lectures simply aren't effective. Research shows students don't learn by hearing or seeing, they learn by doing, a model often called active learning. Physics faculty should start thinking about how they can go beyond just a traditional lecture. There are some easy things they can do (or students can ask them to do) to make learning more engaging. First, make students read the book outside of class, rather than in class. If your lecture merely covers the material in the textbook, why make students buy the textbook? Now, you may put a different spin on the material, but still. You're merely repeating what students can read on their own. Let them do that on their own time, and use the classroom for experiments and demonstrations and so forth.
Databases

Azure Goes Database Crazy With One New NoSQL, Two New SQL Services (arstechnica.com) 39

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In its continued efforts to make Azure a platform that appeals to the widest range of developers possible, Microsoft announced a range of new features at Build, its annual developer conference. Many of the features shown today had a data theme to them. The most novel feature was the release of Cosmos DB, a replacement for, or upgrade to, Microsoft's Document DB NoSQL database. Cosmos DB is designed for "planet-scale" applications, giving developers fine control over the replication policies and reliability. Replicated, distributed systems offer trade-offs between latency and consistency; systems with strong consistency wait until data is fully replicated before a write is deemed to be complete, which offers consistency at the expense of latency. Systems with eventual consistency mark operations as complete before data is fully replicated, promising only that the full replication will occur eventually. This improves latency but risks delivering stale data to applications. Document DB offered four different options for the replication behavior; Cosmos DB ups that to five. The database scales to span multiple regions, with Microsoft offering service level agreements (SLAs) for uptime, performance, latency, and consistency. There are financial penalties if Microsoft misses the SLA requirements. Many applications still call for traditional relational databases. For those, Microsoft is adding both a MySQL and a PostgreSQL service; these provide the familiar open source databases in a platform-as-a-service style, removing the administrative overhead that comes of using them and making it easier to move workloads using them into Azure. The company is also offering a preview of a database-migration service that takes data from on-premises SQL Server and Oracle databases and migrates it to Azure SQL Database. Azure SQL Database has a new feature in preview called "Managed Instances" that offers greater compatibility between on-premises SQL Server and the cloud variant, again to make workload migration easier.
Medicine

Microsoft's Emma Watch Is a Game-Changer For People With Parkinson's (betanews.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: Called "Emma," it is a wrist wearable that can help people suffering with Parkinson's disease. The device is named after the Parkinson's sufferer that helped Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft Research, create the device. What exactly does it do? Well, the incurable disease causes body tremors in those inflicted, and as a result, Emma has very shaky hands. This disease makes it impossible for her to draw straight lines or write legibly. With the wearable on her wrist, however, normal writing and drawing is possible. Remarkably, how it works isn't 100 percent known. "While the wait for a cure continues, Zhang has created what she hopes could be a 'revolutionary' aid for reducing tremors. The Emma Watch uses vibrating motors -- similar to those found in mobile phones -- to distract the brain into focusing on something other than trying to control the patient's limbs. Put simply, Zhang believes Lawton's brain is at war with itself -- half is trying to move her hand, the other half is trying to stop it. The two signals battle and amplify each other, causing the tremors. The device stops that feedback loop," says Microsoft. You will want to watch this video.
Businesses

Amazon Just Announced the Touchscreen Echo Nobody Asked For (gizmodo.com) 95

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon just announced a new grandmaster Echo gadget with the company's voice-assistant technology built in. It's called the Echo Show. It's got a touchscreen. It's got wi-fi and Bluetooth. It costs $230. And it's even creepier than its siblings. At its core, the Echo Show is just a regular Echo with a 7-inch screen. That screen lets you watch YouTube videos and see the weather forecast after you've asked for it. The new gadget also lets you make calls, video calls, and send text messages to other people using Echos or to mobile devices with the Alexa app installed. Thanks to Alexa integration with gadgets from Arlo and Ring, you can also see what your nanny cam sees. But check this out: the Echo Show also has a 5-megapixel, front-facing camera. So now, instead of your Echo just listening to your commands, it can watch you as well. The Echo Show joins the screen-free Echo Look as the second Amazon Echo device to feature a camera. On a sidenote, Amazon said it will bring the voice-calling ability to all other Echo devices.
Software

Researchers Create Touchpads With a Can of Spray Paint (phys.org) 31

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have figured out a way to turn any surface into a touchpad using none other than spray paint. "Walls, furniture, steering wheels, toys and even Jell-O can be turned into touch sensors with the technology, dubbed Electrick," reports Phys.Org. From the report: The "trick" is to apply electrically conductive coatings or materials to objects or surfaces, or to craft objects using conductive materials. By attaching a series of electrodes to the conductive materials, researchers showed they could use a well-known technique called electric field tomography to sense the position of a finger touch. With Electrick, conductive touch surfaces can be created by applying conductive paints, bulk plastics or carbon-loaded films, such as Desco's Velostat, among other materials. Like many touchscreens, Electrick relies on the shunting effect -- when a finger touches the touchpad, it shunts a bit of electric current to ground. By attaching multiple electrodes to the periphery of an object or conductive coating, Zhang and his colleagues showed they could localize where and when such shunting occurs. They did this by using electric field tomography -- sequentially running small amounts of current through the electrodes in pairs and noting any voltage differences. The tradeoff, in comparison to other touch input devices, is accuracy. Even so, Electrick can detect the location of a finger touch to an accuracy of one centimeter, which is sufficient for using the touch surface as a button, slider or other control, Zhang said. You can watch a video about how it works here.
Social Networks

Social Media Giants Sued For Helping ISIS (torontosun.com) 135

Long-time Slashdot reader nnet quotes the Toronto Sun: Social media giants Twitter, Google and Facebook are being sued by the families of victims of the San Bernardino terror attacks. The lawsuit claims those companies aided ISIS by letting them build their online profile and bolster recruitment. Fourteen people were killed in the December 2015 attacks by twisted husband-wife Islamist extremists Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. "Without defendants Twitter, Facebook and Google (YouTube), the explosive growth of IS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible," the suit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles, alleges.
Blackberry

BlackBerry KeyOne Review By The Verge: Part Productivity, Part Nostalgia (theverge.com) 34

Dan Seifert reviews the new BlackBerry KeyOne flagship smartphone via The Verge. Here's an excerpt from the report: It was in about the third hour of using the new BlackBerry KeyOne, available this month for $549 unlocked, that I started to question my longtime preference for touchscreen keyboards. Because as I was pushing on the KeyOne's tiny little buttons with the tips of my thumbs, I remembered why some people still have such an affinity for these things. It wasn't that I was able to type faster with the BlackBerry's keyboard (I wasn't), or that I was more accurate with it (I still used autocorrect). It was that I felt like I was more productive when using it. I wasn't wasting time tweeting nonsense or sending emoji in ephemeral messages. I was sending important emails, working with my colleagues in Slack, creating and completing to-do lists, and adding appointments to my calendar. I was Getting Shit Done. Getting shit done is really the entire ethos of the new KeyOne, and arguably, the many BlackBerry devices that preceded it. The KeyOne is a phone for a very specific person, one that longs for the days when the BlackBerry Bold was the most important device in the office and the majority of business communications happened over email. It's not the best choice for watching hours of YouTube videos, sending thousands of Snaps, or reading novel-length ebooks (though it can technically do all of those things). It is for sending email. Lots of email.
Education

10 Percent of Harvard's Popular 'Introduction To Computer Science' Class Accused of Cheating (thecrimson.com) 131

theodp writes: The Harvard Crimson reports that more than 60 of the 636 students enrolled in last fall's CS50: "Introduction to Computer Science I" course appeared before the College's Honor Council in a wave of academic dishonesty cases that has stretched the Council to its limits over the past few months. Former students and course staff, though, said course policy was unclear about what constituted cheating, creating the potential for unintentional violations. Consistently, one of the most popular courses at Harvard, CS50 is known for an unconventional atmosphere, complete with flashy promotional videos and corporate-sponsored events.
Youtube

YouTube Finally Embraces Google's Material Design, Puts Focus On Content (googleblog.com) 118

Google's Material Design specs are finally coming to the YouTube desktop site, the company said on Tuesday. The feature isn't rolling out to all just yet, but you can test drive it here. My initial impressions after playing with the new design: lots and lots of white space, but the optional dark theme looks pretty. Here's how the company describes the changes: The key principles of this new design are:
1. Simplicity: The only thing you should be concerned about is watching the content you love. The new design is clean and fresh, thanks to the removal of visuals that can distract from your browsing or watching experience. We're focused on making the content shine!
2. Consistency: The new design is aligned across Google platforms, including the YouTube mobile app, while still providing the features you know and love.
3. Beauty: We strive to combine beauty and purpose to create an effortless experience.

Privacy

How To Delete Your Data From Google's 'My Activity' (vortex.com) 44

Last summer Google revealed personalized data dashboards for every Google account, letting users edit (or delete) items from their search history as well as their viewing history on YouTube. Now Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: Since posting "The Google Page That Google Haters Don't Want You to Know About" last week, I've received a bunch of messages from readers asking for help using Google's "My Activity" page to control, inspect, and/or delete their data on Google. The My Activity portal is quite comprehensive and can be used in many different ways, but to get you started I'll briefly outline how to use My Activity to delete activity data.
CNET points out you can also access the slightly-creepier "Google Maps location history" by clicking the menu icon in the upper left corner and selecting "Other Google activity." But Weinstein writes, "I have no problems with Google collecting the kinds of data that provide their advanced services, so long as I can choose when that data is collected, and I can inspect and delete it on demand. The google.com/myactivity portal provides those abilities and a lot more."
Google

Advertisers Are Still Boycotting YouTube Over Offensive Videos (go.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press:The fallout from the YouTube boycott is likely to be felt through the rest of this year. Skittish advertisers have curtailed their spending until they are convinced Google can prevent their brands from appearing next to extremist clips promoting hate and violence... At one point, about 250 advertisers were boycotting YouTube... The list included big-spending marketers such as PepsiCo, Wal-Mart Stores, Starbucks, AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, and Volkswagen.

It's unclear how many, if any, of those have returned to YouTube since Google promised to hire more human reviewers and upgrade its technology to keep ads away from repugnant videos. Both Verizon and AT&T, two companies that are trying to expand their own digital ad networks to compete with Google, told The Associated Press that they are still boycotting YouTube. FX Networks confirmed that it isn't advertising on YouTube either. Several other boycotting marketers contacted by AP didn't respond.

Thursday CEO Sundar Pichai told analysts that responding to the boycott, Google held "thousands and thousands" of conversations with advertisers, and one analyst now estimates reduced ad spending on YouTube and Google could cost the company $300 million this year alone.

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