Businesses

Amazon and Best Buy Team Up To Sell Smart TVs (cnet.com) 85

Amazon and Best Buy want to sell you your next smart TV. From a report: The companies, which are two of the biggest electronics retailers in the US, on Wednesday revealed a new multiyear partnership to sell the next generation of TVs running Amazon's Fire TV operating system to customers in the US and Canada. Best Buy will be the exclusive seller for more than 10 4K and HD Fire TV Edition models made by Toshiba and Best Buy's Insignia brand starting this summer. Pricing on the sets has not yet been announced. These smart TVs will be available only in Best Buy stores, on BestBuy.com and, for the first time, from Best Buy as a seller on Amazon.com.
Transportation

Southwest Airlines Engine Failure Results In First Fatality On US Airline In 9 Years (heavy.com) 311

schwit1 shares a report from Heavy: Tammie Jo Shults is the pilot who bravely flew Southwest Flight 1380 to safety after part of its left engine ripped off, damaging a window and nearly sucking a woman out of the plane. The flight was en route to Dallas Love airport from New York City, and had to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Shults, 56, kept her cool during an incredibly intense situation, audio from her conversation with air traffic controllers reveals, while many passengers posted on social media that they were scared these were their last moments. She, with the help of the co-pilot and the rest of the crew, landed the plane safely. The NTSB reported that there was one fatality out of 143 passengers on board. Some passengers said that someone had a heart attack during the flight, but it's not yet known if this was the fatality reported by the NTSB. The woman who died has been identified by KOAT-TV as Jennifer Riordan, 43, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Movies

Netflix Licensed Content Generates 80% of US Viewing, Study Finds (variety.com) 105

Netflix is spending a pretty penny on original entertainment -- but while that stuff grabs most of the headlines, it's actually licensed titles like TV show reruns that still form the core of the company's streaming business. From a report: That's according to a data analysis from 7Park Data, which found that 80% of Netflix U.S. viewing is from licensed content with 20% from original shows like "House of Cards" or "Stranger Things." The firm also found that 42% of Netflix subscribers watch mostly licensed content (95% or more of their total streaming). Just 18% of Netflix's U.S. streaming customers are "originals dominant," whose viewing comprises 40%-100% of originals, according to 7Park. The data is for the 12-month period that ended September 2017.
Businesses

Comcast Is Bundling Netflix Into Cable Packages (techcrunch.com) 45

The latest option in Comcast's Xfinity cable bundle is Netflix. The two companies announced an expansion of their partnership today, which was first established in 2016 when Comcast added Netflix to its X1 interface. TechCrunch reports: The companies said they will expand that existing relationship by bundling Netflix into the overall subscription in new and existing Xfinity packages. Netflix's subscriber growth -- the primary driver of its value as a public company -- continues to surge, and it appears that this could be another piece in its tool kit to keep that engine humming. Those cable packages already include an increasing breakout of diverse services that allow for streaming outside of the over-the-top experience, like HBO Go and ESPN, and this offers another streaming service on-the-go for users. By tethering to additional over-the-top services, Netflix has a chance to woo subscribers that might otherwise just stick with their existing service providers and bake itself directly into that experience. The bundle, which will be available to new and existing Xfinity customers, will be included in its cable TV, phone and internet plans. More information about XFINITY service available in this XFINITY review.
Transportation

Tesla Issues Strongest Statement Yet Blaming Driver For Deadly Autopilot Crash (abc7news.com) 466

Tesla has released its strongest statement yet blaming the driver of a Tesla Model X that crashed on Autopilot almost three weeks ago. The driver, Walter Huang, died March 23rd in Mountain View when his Model X on Autopilot crashed headfirst into the safety barrier section of a divider that separates the carpool lane from the off-ramp to the left. Huang was an Apple engineer and former EA Games employee. ABC7News reports: Tesla confirmed its data shows Walter Huang was using Autopilot at the time of the crash, but that his hands were off the wheel for six seconds right before impact. Tesla sent Dan Noyes a statement Tuesday night that reads in part, "Autopilot requires the driver to be alert and have hands on the wheel... the crash happened on a clear day with several hundred feet of visibility ahead, which means that the only way for this accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road." The family's lawyer believes Tesla is blaming Huang to distract from the family's concern about the car's Autopilot.
Sci-Fi

Apple Is Developing a TV Show Based On Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series (deadline.com) 140

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Deadline: In a competitive situation, Apple has nabbed a TV series adaptation of Foundation, the seminal Isaac Asimov science fiction novel trilogy. The project, from Skydance Television, has been put in development for straight-to-series consideration. Deadline revealed last June that Skydance had made a deal with the Asimov estate and that David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman were cracking the code on a sprawling series based on the books that informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series. Goyer and Friedman will be executive producers and showrunners. Skydance's David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross also will executive produce.

Originally published as a short story series in Astounding Magazine in 1942, Asimov's Foundation is the complex saga of humans scattered on planets throughout the galaxy, all living under the rule of the Galactic Empire. The protagonist is a psycho-historian who has an ability to read the future and foresees the empire's imminent collapse. He sets out to save the knowledge of mankind from being wiped out. Even the Game of Thrones' creative team would marvel at the number of empires that rise and fall in Foundation. Asimov's trilogy has been tried numerous times as a feature film at Fox, Warner Bros (with Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who greenlit The Lord of the Rings), and then at Sony with Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. Many top sci-fi writers have done scripts and found it daunting to constrict the sprawling saga to a feature film format. Most recently, HBO tried developing a series with Interstellar co-writer and Westworld exec producer Jonathan Nolan, but a script was never ordered.

Privacy

Comcast, AT&T, Verizon Pose a Greater Surveillance Risk Than Facebook (theguardian.com) 65

An anonymous reader writes: "Comcast, AT&T and Verizon pose a greater surveillance risk than Facebook -- but their surveillance is much harder to avoid," writes Salome Viljoen in an opinion piece for The Guardian. From the report: "Facebook isn't the only company that amasses troves of data about people and leaves it vulnerable to exploitation and misuse. As of last year, Congress extended the same data-gathering practices of tech companies like Google and Facebook to internet providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon. Because service providers serve as gatekeepers to the entire internet, they can collect far more information about us, and leave us with far less power to opt out of that process. This means that the risks of allowing our internet providers to collect and monetize the same type of user data that Facebook collects -- and the potential that such data will therefore be misused -- are much, much worse. Your internet provider doesn't just know what you do on Facebook -- it sees all the sites you visit and how much time you spend there. Your provider can see where you shop, what you watch on TV, where you choose to eat dinner, what medical symptoms you search, where you apply for work, school, a mortgage. Everything that is unencrypted is fair game. But internet providers don't just pose a greater surveillance risk than Facebook -- their surveillance is also far harder to avoid. 'Choosing' not to use an internet provider to avoid surveillance is not really a choice at all. As of 2016, only about half of Americans have more than one option for broadband internet. In rural areas, this number drops to just 13%.
Transportation

There's Growing Evidence Tesla's Autopilot Handles Lane Dividers Poorly (arstechnica.com) 238

An anonymous reader writes: Within the past week, two Tesla crashes have been reported while Autopilot was engaged, and both involved a Tesla vehicle slamming into a highway divider. One of the crashes resulted in the death of Walter Huang, a Tesla customer with a Model X. The other crash resulted in minor injuries to the driver, thanks largely to a working highway safety barrier in front of the concrete divider. Ars Technica reports on the growing evidence that Tesla's Autopilot handles lane dividers poorly: "The September crash isn't the only evidence that has emerged that Tesla's Autopilot feature doesn't deal well with highway lane dividers. At least two people have uploaded videos to YouTube showing their Tesla vehicles steering toward concrete barriers. One driver grabbed the wheel to prevent a collision, while the other slammed on the brakes. Tesla argues that this issue doesn't necessarily mean that Autopilot is unsafe. 'Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver,' a Tesla spokesperson told KGO-TV. Tesla argues that Autopilot can't prevent all accidents but that it makes accidents less likely. There's some data to back this up. A 2017 study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the rate of accidents dropped by 40 percent after the introduction of Autopilot. And Tesla argues that Autopilot-equipped Tesla cars have gone 320 million miles per fatality, much better than the 86 million miles for the average car. These figures don't necessarily settle the debate. That NHTSA figure doesn't break down the severity of crashes -- it's possible that Autopilot prevents relatively minor crashes but is less effective at preventing the most serious crashes. And as some Ars commenters have pointed out, luxury cars generally have fewer fatalities than the average vehicle. So it's possible that Tesla cars' low crash rates have more to do with its wealthy customer base than its Autopilot technology. What we can say, at a minimum, is that there's little evidence that Autopilot makes Tesla drivers less safe. And we can expect Tesla to steadily improve the car's capabilities over time."
Software

Valve Removes Steam Machines From Its Home Page (extremetech.com) 164

Steam Machines were supposed to take PC gaming mainstream by simplifying setup and moving the games in your living room, but they never took off. Today, ExtremeTech reports that Valve has removed Steam Machine listings from the Steam front page due to poor sales. From the report: You can still access what remains of the Steam Machine landing site via a direct link -- not that you'll see much when you get there. It lists only five devices, one of which is no longer available on the manufacturer's site. Several of the remaining systems are arguably not even Steam Machines as Valve envisioned -- they run Windows 10 instead of SteamOS. The final nail in the coffin for Steam Machines may have come from Valve itself. In late 2015, it released the Steam Link. It's a small box that you plug into a TV, allowing you to stream a game from your PC in real time. The original price was just $50, and Valve is basically giving them away right now. Valve is still developing SteamOS, but I don't expect that to go on much longer.
Facebook

It's Possible that the Facebook App is Listening To You, Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower Says (theoutline.com) 204

Jon Christian, writing for The Outline: During an appearance before a committee of U.K. lawmakers today, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie breathed new life into longstanding rumors that the Facebook app listens to its users in order to target advertisements. Damian Collins, a member of parliament who chaired the committee, asked whether the Facebook app might listen to what users are discussing and use it to prioritize certain ads.

"That's probably a question for Facebook," Wylie said. But, Wylie said in a meandering reply, it's possible that Facebook and other smartphone apps are listening in for reasons other than speech recognition. Specifically, he said, they might be trying to ascertain what type of environment a user is in in order to "improve the contextual value of the advertising itself. There's audio that could be useful just in terms of, are you in an office environment, are you outside, are you watching TV, what are you doing right now?" Wylie said, without elaborating on how that information could help target ads.

Graphics

Ask Slashdot: How Did Real-Time Ray Tracing Become Possible With Today's Technology? 145

dryriver writes: There are occasions where multiple big tech manufacturers all announce the exact same innovation at the same time -- e.g. 4K UHD TVs. Everybody in broadcasting and audiovisual content creation knew that 4K/8K UHD and high dynamic range (HDR) were coming years in advance, and that all the big TV and screen manufacturers were preparing 4K UHD HDR product lines because FHD was beginning to bore consumers. It came as no surprise when everybody had a 4K UHD product announcement and demo ready at the same time. Something very unusual happened this year at GDC 2018 however. Multiple graphics and GPU companies, like Microsoft, Nvidia, and AMD, as well as other game developers and game engine makers, all announced that real-time ray tracing is coming to their mass-market products, and by extension, to computer games, VR content and other realtime 3D applications.

Why is this odd? Because for many years any mention of 30+ FPS real-time ray tracing was thought to be utterly impossible with today's hardware technology. It was deemed far too computationally intensive for today's GPU technology and far too expensive for anything mass market. Gamers weren't screaming for the technology. Technologists didn't think it was doable at this point in time. Raster 3D graphics -- what we have in DirectX, OpenGL and game consoles today -- was very, very profitable and could easily have evolved further the way it has for another 7 to 8 years. And suddenly there it was: everybody announced at the same time that real-time ray tracing is not only technically possible, but also coming to your home gaming PC much sooner than anybody thought. Working tech demos were shown. What happened? How did real-time ray tracing, which only a few 3D graphics nerds and researchers in the field talked about until recently, suddenly become so technically possible, economically feasible, and so guaranteed-to-be-profitable that everybody announced this year that they are doing it?
Sci-Fi

Amazon Plans Blockbuster TV Series Based On Chinese Sci-Fi Trilogy 'The Three-Body Problem' (medium.com) 158

hackingbear writes from a report: Amazon is reportedly likely to earmark $1 billion for a television series (Warning: source paywalled, alternative source) based on the ultra-popular Chinese science fiction trilogy The Three Body Problem. The American video subscription service will likely acquire the rights to the Yugo-winning, extremely popular trilogy of novels written by Liu Cixin and produce three seasons of episodes. The rights to the trilogy are currently owned by Lin Qi, the chairman of Youzu Interactive, a Chinese developer and publisher that typically focuses on online and mobile games.
Facebook

William Shatner Criticizes Facebook Hoax Ad Announcing His Death (people.com) 76

"William Shatner is alive and well -- in fact, he turned 87 on Thursday, so the actor was not pleased when he saw an ad on Facebook sharing a story about his alleged death," writes the Hollywood Reporter. An anonymous reader quotes People: "@WilliamShatner I thought you might want to know you're dead," a Twitter user wrote, along with a screenshot of the ad. Less than a half hour later, Shatner posted his own message calling out the social media company for spreading the phony news... "Thought you were doing something about this?" he wrote. Several hours after Shatner's tweet, Facebook's director of product management Rob Leathern messaged the actor to let him know that the ad had been removed. "Thank you," Shatner replied. "I'm not planning on dying so please continue to block those kinds of ads..." Fortunately, Shatner's in good company when it comes to celebrity death hoaxes... News of Sylvester Stallone's fake death originally began circulating on Facebook in 2016.
In late 2016 Mark Zuckerberg posted that "We take misinformation seriously..." while adding that "we know people want accurate information. We've been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously." Ironically, that announcement appeared next to a similar fake ad announcing that Hugh Hefner was dead, though at the time Hefner was very much alive.

"We've made significant progress," Zuckerberg's post continued, "but there is more work to be done."
China

China Regulator Bans TV Parodies Amid Content Crackdown (reuters.com) 61

China's media regulator is cracking down on video spoofs, the official Xinhua new agency reported, amid an intensified crackdown on any content that is deemed to be in violation of socialist core values under President Xi Jinping. From a report: The decision comes after Xi cemented his power at a recent meeting of parliament by having presidential term limits scrapped, and the ruling Communist Party tightened its grip on the media by handing control over film, news and publishing to its powerful publicity department. Xinhua said video sites must ban videos that "distort, mock or defame classical literary and art works," citing a directive from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television on Thursday.
Media

KeepVid Site No Longer Allows Users To 'Keep' Videos (torrentfreak.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: For many years, KeepVid has been a prime destination for people who wanted to download videos from YouTube, Dailymotion, Facebook, Vimeo, and dozens of other sites. The web application was free and worked without any hassle. This was still the case earlier this month when the site advertised itself as follows: "KeepVid Video Downloader is a free web application that allows you to download videos from sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitch.Tv, Vimeo, Dailymotion and many more." However, a few days ago the site radically changed its course. While the motivation is unknown at the time, KeepVid took its popular video download service offline without prior notice. Today, people can no longer use the KeepVid site to download videos. On the contrary, the site warns that using video download and conversion tools might get people in trouble. "Video downloading from the Internet will become more and more difficult, and KeepVid encourages people to download videos via the correct and legal ways," the new KeepVid reads. The site now lists several alternative options to enjoy videos and music, including Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Pandora.
Piracy

Online Piracy Is More Popular Than Ever, Research Suggests (torrentfreak.com) 73

An anonymous user writes: A broad and detailed report from piracy tracking outfit MUSO shows that visits to pirate sites went up last year. The company recorded more than 300 billion visits in 2017, which suggests that "piracy is more popular than ever." TV remained the most popular category and most pirates prefer streaming over torrents or direct downloading.
Youtube

YouTube To Follow Amazon By Screening Its Movies Inside Theaters (engadget.com) 36

An anonymous reader shares a report: Following YouTube's announcement last month that it intends to spend "hundreds of millions" on original content for Red, it's just unveiled plans for a YouTube-made movie that'll also be released in theaters. And unlike its previous effort, 2016's widely-regarded flop Lazer Team, this project has a serious name attached to it: Susan Sarandon. The film, Vulture Club, is already in post-production. It stars Oscar-winning Susan Sarandon as an emergency room nurse whose son has been kidnapped by terrorists, and after being abandoned by the government, finds help in the unlikeliest of places. The thriller also stars Edie Falco of The Sopranos and Matt Bomer of Magic Mike, and is directed by Iranian-American Maryam Keshavarz, of Circumstance fame. Despite being slated for theatrical release, details on YouTube's plans to actually get the movie into theaters are scarce.
Medicine

Patients Regain Sight After Groundbreaking Trial (bbc.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Doctors have taken a major step towards curing the most common form of blindness in the UK -- age-related macular degeneration. Douglas Waters, 86, could not see out of his right eye, but "I can now read the newspaper" with it, he says. He was one of two patients given pioneering stem cell therapy at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Cells from a human embryo were grown into a patch that was delicately inserted into the back of the eye.

The macula is the part of the eye that allows you to see straight ahead -- whether to recognize faces, watch TV or read a book. The macula is made up of rods and cones that sense light and behind those are a layer of nourishing cells called the retinal pigment epithelium. When this support layer fails, it causes macular degeneration and blindness. Doctors have devised a way of building a new retinal pigment epithelium and surgically implanting it into the eye. The technique, published in Nature Biotechnology, starts with embryonic stem cells. These are a special type of cell that can become any other in the human body. They are converted into the type of cell that makes up the retinal pigment epithelium and embedded into a scaffold to hold them in place. The living patch is only one layer of cells thick -- about 40 microns -- and 6mm long and 4mm wide. It is then placed underneath the rods and cones in the back of the eye. The operation takes up to two hours.

Open Source

LG Releases Open-Sourced Version of webOS in Hopes To Push It Beyond TVs and Smart Refrigerators (theverge.com) 96

LG has released an open-sourced version of webOS that's freely available to anyone that wants to download and poke around the code. From a report: The release of webOS Open Source Edition is meant to act as a catalyst to drive further adoption of webOS beyond LG televisions, smart refrigerators, and the occasional never-to-be-released smartwatch. So, devices like webOS tablets and set-top boxes as pictured in the LG-supplied image above. This is the second time an open-source version of webOS has been released, the first coming under the failed tenure of HP back in 2011. LG's cross-town rival Samsung develops and uses the open-sourced Tizen operating system on a variety of devices including smartwatches, televisions, Blu-ray players, and robotic vacuums.
Ubuntu

Ubuntu Community Considers a Crowd-Sourced Promo Video (ubuntu.com) 40

Slashdot reader Beacon11 writes that "Alan Pope, a community advocate for Ubuntu, has requested comments and ideas regarding the creation of a crowd-sourced promo video that, in 30 seconds, conveys that Ubuntu is for everyone." Alan Pope writes: So for example you might see a woman on a train typing an article, a guy in an office creating a presentation, a kid on the sofa playing a game with a controller on their TV, someone watching a film, someone developing code, kids playing with robots, a farmer planning animal feeding. You get the idea...

So I'd really like to do this as a shared community project, with video clips submitted by Ubuntu users from around the world, perhaps even taking in a landmark or two here and there. I'd expect the video to represent the diversity of users, and variety of activities people are able to do with Ubuntu.

Though they're currently just discussing its feasibility, Alan writes that "I think if we work together we could make something amazing."

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