Taco Cowboy writes "The vehicles we drive are getting smarter and smarter, as more and more gadgets are being crammed into them. But as those devices creep into the driving experience, they offer the driver an increasing number of displays to monitor. Thus, drivers are more distracted than ever. At the recent 'Connected Car Expo,' which was held in Los Angeles, panelists discussed how these smart car features can impair driving ability. For example, researchers led by Bruce Mehler at MIT revealed that drivers using voice command interfaces to control in-car navigation systems or USB-connected music devices can end up spending longer with their eyes off the road than those using conventional systems. You'd think being able to operate it by voice alone would be beneficial compared to older radio systems. (Tuning an older radio was used as a baseline task in these tests.) But according to Mehler, problems arise when the system needs clarification of what the driver wants, which often happens while they're trying to feed an address into a navigation system."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Dennis Overbye reports in the NY Times that two years ago Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss set off on a barnstorming tour to save the world from religion and promote science. Their adventure is now the subject of The Unbelievers, a new documentary. 'If you think a road trip with a pair of intellectuals wielding laptops is likely to lack drama, you haven't been keeping up with the culture wars,' writes Overbye. The scientists are mobbed at glamorous sites like the Sydney Opera House. Inside, they sometimes encounter clueless moderators; outside, demonstrators condemning them to hellfire. At one event, a group of male Muslim protesters are confronted by counterprotesters chanting, 'Where are your women?' 'Travelogue shots, perky editing and some popular rock music, as well as interview bits with such supportive celebrities as Woody Allen, Cameron Diaz, Sarah Silverman and Ricky Gervais, shrewdly enliven the brainy — but accessible — discourse,' writes Gary Goldstein in the LA Times, 'but mostly the movie is an enjoyably high-minded love fest between two deeply committed intellectuals and the scads of atheists, secularists, free-thinkers, skeptics and activists who make up their rock star-like fan base.' The movie ends at the Reason Rally in Washington, billed as the largest convention of atheists in history. Dawkins looks out at the crowd standing in a light rain and pronounces it 'the most incredible sight I can remember ever seeing' and declares that too many people have been cowed out of coming out as atheists, secularists or agnostics. 'We are far more numerous than anybody realizes.'"
First time accepted submitter cs80 writes "I've been looking high and low for a decent, open-source, cross-platform audio player that can import an existing iTunes library and sort my files based on their ID3 tags. Nightingale, with its iTunes-like interface, would have been the obvious answer, but its file organization feature was pulled for being too buggy. What open-source audio player did you migrate to after dumping iTunes?"
walterbyrd writes "Streaming services are ailing. Pandora, the giant of its class and the survivor at 13 years old, is waging an ugly war to pay artists and labels less in order to stay afloat. Spotify, in spite of 6 million paid users and 18 million subscribers who humor some ads in their stream, has yet to turn a profit. Rhapsody axed 15% of its workforce right as Apple's iTunes Radio hit the scene. On-demand competitor Rdio just opted for layoffs too, in order to move into a 'scalable business model.' Did no one wonder about that business-model bit in the beginning? Meanwhile, Turntable.fm, a comparatively tiny competitor with what should have been viral DNA, just pulled the plug on its virtual jam sessions this week—and it just might be the canary in the coal mine."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that the country's interior ministers will meet this week to discuss use of an app developed by local police in Saxony that has attracted the unofficial name of 'Nazi Shazam.' Just like Shazam works out what song you're hearing from just a few bars, the system picks up audio fingerprints of neo-Nazi rock so police can intervene when it's being played. The whole situation sounds pretty insane to an outsider, but apparently far-right music is a big problem in Germany, where it's considered a 'gateway drug' into the neo-Nazi scene. The Guardian reported that in 2004, far-right groups even tried to recruit young members by handing out CD compilations in schools. That sort of action is illegal in Germany, where neo-Nazi groups are outlawed and the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors is tasked with examining and indexing media — including films, games, music, and websites — that may be harmful to young people."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Spotify wants to change the perception that it's killing artists' ability to make a living off music. In a new posting on its Website, the streaming-music hub suggests that songs' rights-holders earn between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream, on average, and that a niche indie album on the service could earn an artist roughly $3,300 per month (a global hit album, on the other hand, would rack up $425,000 per month). 'We have succeeded in growing revenues for artists and labels in every country where we operate, and have now paid out over $1 billion USD in royalties to-date ($500 million of which we paid in 2013 alone),' the company wrote. 'We have proudly achieved these payouts despite having relatively few users compared to radio, iTunes or Pandora, and as we continue to grow we expect that we will generate many billions more in royalties.' But does that really counter all those artists (including Grizzly Bear and Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500) who are on the record as saying that Spotify streaming only earns them a handful of dollars for tens of thousands of streaming plays? Let's say an artist earns $0.0084 per stream; it would still take 400,000 'plays' per month in order to reach that indie-album threshold of approximately $3,300. (At $0.006 per stream, it would take 550,000 streams to reach that baseline.) If Spotify's 'specific payment figures' with regard to albums are correct, that means its subscribers are listening to a lot of music on repeat. And granted, those calculations are rough, but even if they're relatively ballpark, they end up supporting artists' grousing that streaming music doesn't pay them nearly enough. But squeezed between labels and publishers that demand lots of money for licensing rights, and in-house expenses such as salaries and infrastructure, companies such as Spotify may have little choice but to keep the current payment model for the time being."
hessian writes "Despite being extensively pirated worldwide, Iron Maiden have managed to put themselves in the £10-20m for 2012. This means that despite the growing popularity of the band on social media, and the extensive and pervasive torrent downloading of the band's music, books and movies, the band is turning a profit. This is in defiance of the past business model, and the idea that piracy is killing music. In fact, piracy seems to be saving music in Iron Maiden's case. One reason for this may be metal itself. It has a fiercely loyal fanbase and a clear brand and identity. The audience identifies with the genre, which stands in contrast to genericized genres. It doggedly maintains its own identity and shuns outsiders. As a result, fans tend to identify more with their music, and place a higher value on purchasing it."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Kurt Anderson has an interesting read at Vanity Fair about Dutch painter Jan Vermeer, best known for 'Girl with a Pearl Earring,' and the search for how he was able to achieve his photo-realistic effects in the 1600s. Considered almost as mysterious and unfathomable as Shakespeare in literature, Vermeer at age 21, with no recorded training as an apprentice, began painting masterful, singular, uncannily realistic pictures of light-filled rooms and ethereal young women. 'Despite occasional speculation over the years that an optical device somehow enabled Vermeer to paint his pictures, the art-history establishment has remained adamant in its romantic conviction: maybe he was inspired somehow by lens-projected images, but his only exceptional tool for making art was his astounding eye, his otherworldly genius,' says Anderson. To try to learn how Vermeer was able to achieve such highly realistic painting, American inventor and millionaire Tim Jenison spent five years learning how to make lenses himself using 17th-century techniques, mixed and painted only with pigments available in the late 1600s and even constructed a life-size reproduction of Vermeer's room with wooden beams, checkerboard floor, and plastered walls. The result has been a documentary movie, Tim's Vermeer, by magicians Penn & Teller that may have resolved the riddle and explains why it has remained a secret for so long. 'The photorealistic painters of our time, none of them share their techniques,' says Teller. 'The Spiderman people aren't talking to the Avatar people. When [David] Copperfield and I have lunch, we aren't giving away absolutely everything.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Over the last couple years, I have taught myself the basic concepts behind Computational Neuroscience, mainly from the book by Abbott and Dayan. I am not currently affiliated with any academic Neuroscience program. I would like to take a DIY approach and work on some real world problems of Computational Neuroscience. My questions: (1) What are some interesting computational neuroscience simulation problems that an individual with a workstation class PC can work on? (2) Is it easy for a non-academic to get the required data? (3) I am familiar with (but not used extensively) simulators like Neuron, Genesis etc. Other than these and Matlab, what other software should I get? (4) Where online or offline, can I network with other DIY Computational Neuroscience enthusiasts? My own interest is in simulation of Epileptogenic neural networks, music cognition networks, and perhaps a bit more ambitiously, to create a simulation on which the various Models of Consciousness can be comparatively tested."
An anonymous reader writes "On Cyber Monday, millions of Americans will take to the Internet in search of the newest gadgets to bestow upon their loved ones. Most of these 'gifts' are trojan horses that will spy on their recipients, prevent them from doing what they want with their device, or maybe even block access to their favorite books or music. The Free Software Foundation is proud to introduce a map through this minefield: our 2013 Giving Guide. The Giving Guide features gifts that will not only make your recipients jump for joy; these gifts will also protect their freedom."
assertation writes "According to The Guardian, 62% of readers between the age of 16 and 24 prefer physical copies of books over ebooks. Reasons given were the feel of 'real books,' a perceived unfairly high cost for eBooks, and the ease of sharing printed books. 'On questions of ebook pricing, 28% think that ebooks should be half their current price, while just 8% say that ebook pricing is right.' The preference for physical copies was in contrast to other forms of media, such as games, movies, and music, where a majority preferred the digital version."
minty3 writes "The team used graphene's mechanical 'stretchability' in order to create a voltage controlled oscillator (VCO) – an electronic component that can generate an FM signal. The VCO was used to send and receive audio signals of 100 megahertz. The team used pure tones and more complex music signals to tune the VCO's output and found that both kinds of signals could be 'faithfully reproduced' by an ordinary radio receiver."
New submitter Cid Highwind writes "If you want to download the latest version of Winamp, you'd better do it soon. According to a new banner on the download page, AOL will be pulling the plug on the iconic llama-whipping music player in a month. 'Winamp.com and associated web services will no longer be available past December 20, 2013. Additionally, Winamp Media players will no longer be available for download. Please download the latest version before that date. See release notes for latest improvements to this last release. Thanks for supporting the Winamp community for over 15 years.' Ars Technica ran an article last year detailing how the music player lost its dominance."
theodp writes "In June, Google unveiled Project Loon to acclaim from the press for its "moonshot" project that aims to use high-altitude balloons to cheaply provide internet connectivity to rural, remote, and underserved areas of the developing world. So it's interesting to see that a just-published Google patent application for Balloon Clumping to Provide Bandwidth Requested in Advance, which pre-dated the Loon launch by a year, paints a not entirely altruistic picture of balloon-powered Internet access technology. Google describes the invention — which had been kept secret with a non-publication request — as just the ticket for those well-to-do enough to pay a tiered-pricing premium to get faster internet access while attending concerts, conferences, air shows, music festivals, and sporting events where a facility's overtaxed Wi-Fi simply won't do. Hope this revelation doesn't make Bill Gates think any less of the project!"
An anonymous reader writes "From the guy who brought you CD syncing and the original music locker (both of which saw lawsuits from record labels) comes the latest invention to rock the music world: a real-time radio search engine. 1000s of worldwide stations are indexed in real-time and users can search and play most any popular artist — even the digital holdouts (Tool, Led Zeppelin, etc) that are unavailable on paid services like Spotify. (Kinda wonder why Google hasn't done this.) Link on main page points to an API for those who want to build mobile and web services."
alphadogg writes "A music industry group is warning some 50 website that post song lyrics that they need to be licensed or face the music, possibly in the form of a lawsuit. The National Music Publishers Association said Monday that it sent take-down notices to what it claims are 50 websites that post lyrics to songs and generate ad revenue but may not be licensed to do so. The allegedly infringing sites were identified based on a complicated algorithm developed by a researcher at the University of Georgia." The "complicated algorithm" (basis statistics using Excel and Google) is described in the NMPA's "Undesirable Lyric Website List." Anyone remember lyrics.ch?
An anonymous reader writes "A number of groups, including the MPAA, are pushing to educate elementary school kids about the dangers of piracy. From the article: 'A nonprofit group called the Center for Copyright Information, which is supported by the MPAA and other groups, has commissioned a school curriculum to teach elementary-age children about the value of copyrights. The proposed curriculum is still in draft stage, but it's already taking flak. Some critics say the curriculum promotes the biased agenda of Hollywood studios and music labels. Others contend it would use up valuable classroom time when U.S. public schools are already struggling to teach the basics.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "While Google built its highly profitable search business atop a complex mix of algorithms and machine learning, its latest initiative actually depends on people power: Helpouts, which allows users (for a fee) to video-chat with experts in particular fields. Google has rolled out the service with a few brands in place, such as One Medical and Weight Watchers, and promises that it will expand its portfolio of helpful brands and individuals over the next several months. Existing categories include Cooking, Art & Music, Computers & Electronics, Education & Careers, Fashion & Beauty, Fitness & Nutrition, Health, and Home & Garden. Some Helpouts charge nothing for their time; for example, the 'Cooking' section of the Website already features a handful of chefs willing to talk users through baking, broiling, slicing and dicing for free. A few vendors in the Computers & Electronics section, by contrast, charge $2 per minute or even $200 per Hangout session for advice on WordPress setup, Website design, and more. So why is Google doing this? There are plenty of Websites that already dispense advice, although most rely on the written word—Quora, for example, lets its users pose text-based questions and receive answers. There's also rising interest in Massive Open Online Courses, also known as MOOCs, in which thousands of people can sign online to learn about something new. In theory, Helpouts (if it's built out enough) could make Google a player in those markets, as well as specialized verticals such as language learning — and earn some healthy revenue in the process."
mask.of.sanity writes "Stand aside P!nk, Niki Minaj; you've just been beaten by a music generator. One Aussie security expert curious about the fraud mechanisms at play on streaming services like Spotify uploaded garbage music tracks and directed three Amazon virtual machines to click the play button 24/7 for a month, earning him top spot in online music charts and $1000 in royalties."
blogologue writes "I have played the guitar for some years now, and these days I think it's good therapy to be creative with music, learning the piano and singing as well. So far I've been using Audacity as the tool to compose improvisations and demos. I haven't done much audio work before, but it is already becoming too limited for my needs. Being a Linux-fanboy since the mid-nineties, I'm now looking for a good audio processing/editing/enhancing setup that can run on different platforms, the most important being Linux. Are there any suggestions for Open Source or proprietary audio editing software that run on Linux?"