When the local movie theater in Oakhurst, California went out of business, residents were stuck without a way to watch films on the big screen without driving for at least an hour beforehand. Now, three men are trying to resurrect the theater with one major change: instead of relying solely on ticket sales, their business model revolves around subscriptions. From the article: 'They ran models of Nelson's subscription-based theater idea, showing that to break even they would need 3,000 people, or 15% of the mountain communities, to sign up. For $19.95 per month, a member would be able to see each movie one time and buy individual tickets for friends. Non-members could buy a $16 day pass. While researching the theater business, Nelson learned that studios are transitioning to digital distribution. Thousands of independent theaters that couldn't afford equipment upgrades have closed over the last 10 years, according to industry experts. Hundreds of others — which, like the Met, still show print films — remain on the brink. The subscription business model could pay for the new equipment.'
An article at Space.com forecasts an important year for private space companies in 2013. SpaceX is working on a new version of its Dragon capsule that is quite different from the current model. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the first iteration looked similar to other space capsules because the SpaceX team was learning as they went. Now, they're drawing on the expertise they've gained to tailor the new capsule to their needs. "Musk described Dragon version 2 as having 'legs that pop out' and added that it uses parachutes and its eight SuperDraco thrusters for a 'propulsive landing.'" The capsule will hold up to seven people, and they hope to win a crew transportation contract for getting NASA astronauts up to the ISS. The bidding for that contract starts in the second half of 2013. Commercial space planes are also set to reach new heights in 2013. XCOR Aerospace will be building its Lynx I rocket plane, and a spokesman said, "we’ll be doing test fights throughout the year from early 2013 and then go into commercial flights." Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo will also undergo its first rocket-powered flight this year.
An anonymous reader writes "According to data from the American Automobile Association, the average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. was higher in 2012 than in any year before it. Nationwide, gas averaged $3.60/gallon, up from $3.51/gallon in 2011. 'The states with the most expensive annual averages for 2012 included Hawaii ($4.31), Alaska ($4.09), California ($4.03), New York ($3.90) and Connecticut ($3.90). The states with the least-expensive annual averages included South Carolina ($3.35), Missouri ($3.38), Mississippi ($3.39), Tennessee ($3.40) and Oklahoma ($3.41). The highest daily statewide average of the year was $4.67 in Calif. on Oct. 9, while the lowest daily statewide average was $2.91 a gallon in South Carolina on July 3.' Bloomberg reports that fuel consumption is down 3.6% compared to last year, while U.S. oil production reached almost 7 million barrels a day recently, a level that hasn't been reached since 1993. AAA predicts gas prices will be cheaper in 2013."
An anonymous reader writes "Joerg Sprave is at it again. This time, in order to bring in the New Year, he's got something with a bit more bang to it: a firecracker-launching slingshot. Being German, Joerg has built a slingshot that will accommodate the largest legal firecracker in that country. '2 grams of black powder in a tight cardboard "cigar" make a pretty loud bang! In order to make these bangs more spectacular, it is desirable to shoot them as high into the air as possible. A special slingshot crossbow has been designed, chambered for the strongest legal firecrackers. The weapon is a breech loader, and an integrated storm lighter allows the shooter to light the fuse when the weapon is all ready for the shot. The weapon launches the firecracker with tremendous force. The blunt object easily crashes through a moving card board box, and — equipped with a wooden tip — even goes in all the way into a block of ballistic gelatin.' His two videos are available on YouTube: part 1, part 2." This is the same gentleman who made a slingshot that launches machetes.
An anonymous reader sends word that the Russian Space industry will be getting a big boost over the next eight years. Prime Minister Medvedev has approved $68.71 billion in space-related funding from 2013 to 2020. That's a huge increase from the $3.3 billion spent annually in 2010 and 2011. The increased funding is one of several efforts to restoring Russia's slowly fading spaceflight capabilities. "The failure of a workhorse Proton rocket after launch in August caused the multimillion-dollar loss of an Indonesian and a Russian satellite. A similar problem caused the loss of a $265 million communications satellite last year. Medvedev criticized the state of the industry in August, saying problems were costing Russia prestige and money." Medvedev said, "The program will enable our country to effectively participate in forward-looking projects, such as the International Space Station, the study of the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies in the solar system."
Dr Herbert West writes "Executing the cost-reduction plan CEO Mark Pincus announced in November, Zynga has shut down, pulled from the app stores, or stopped accepting new players to more than 10 games such as PetVille, Mafia Wars 2, FishVille, Vampire Wars, Treasure Isle, Indiana Jones Adventure World, Mafia Wars Shakedown, Forestville, Montopia, Mojitomo, and Word Scramble Challenge. Comments from gamers on the shutdown notices included things like 'my daughter is heartbroken' and 'Please don't remove petville. I been playing for 4 yrs. and I'M going to miss my pet Jaime.why do you want cause depression for me and others. Why do you want to kill my pet?' For players that have invested a lot of microtransactions and/or time, this comes as a heavy blow."
dgharmon sends this news from the Atlantic Wire: "After a years-long legal battle, federal prosecutors in Belgium now believe their investigation is complete enough to charge the Church of Scientology and its leaders as a criminal organization on charges of extortion, fraud, privacy breaches, and the illegal practice of medicine. ... Multiple reports and the group's legal history point to one key factor here: The Belgian government won't charge Scientology for being a cult — authorities are focusing on prosecuting it as a criminal organization. Which is a new twist, as most of the group's many court battles over the years have focused on establishing its legitimacy as a religion. ... The Church of Scientology houses its European headquarters in Brussels, so a ban in Belgium could be crippling to the group — and authorities there seem to know it."
EagleHasLanded writes "The U.S. Metric Association has been advocating for metrication since 1916 – without much success. In the mid-1970s, the U.S. government passed the Metric Conversion Act, but now it seems the time for complete conversion has come and gone. Or could U.S. educators and health & safety advocates put this issue back on Congress' radar screen?"
jrepin writes "While the UK has seen the light, the EU has actually gone backwards on open standards in recent times. The original European Interoperability Framework required royalty-free licensing, but what was doubtless a pretty intense wave of lobbying in Brussels overturned that, and EIF v2 ended up pushing FRAND, which effectively locks out open source — the whole point of the exercise. Shamefully, some parts of the European Commission are still attacking open source."
hypnosec writes "Babak Parviz, the founder and head of Project Glass at Google, has revealed that the feature set of Google Glass and state of apps is still in flux and that there is a lot of testing going on at the moment. In an interview with IEEE Spectrum, Parviz provided insights into Project Glass, the reasons behind having such a gadget and what's there for the project in near future. Parviz said that they are trying out new ideas and ways in which the platform can be used while also trying to make the platform more robust. There is no specific feature set that Google has been talking about and 'It is still in flux.'" My favorite question / answer pair: "IEEE Spectrum: What kind of business model is associated with Google Glass? Babak Parviz: This is still being worked on, but we are quite interested in providing the hardware."
SternisheFan writes with this excerpt from CNET: "Installous, a major portal for pirated paid apps from Apple's App Store, won't be around anymore. Development team Hackulous today announced the closure of Installous on their official Web site. As of today, the pirated app store no longer works, and only shows these errors: 'Outdated version. Installous will now terminate' or 'API Error. API unavailable.' For many years, Installous offered complete access to thousands of paid iOS apps for free for anyone with a jailbroken iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Think of it as being able to walk into a fancy department store, steal anything you want, and never get caught."
An anonymous reader writes with an article from Duke Law on what would have entered the public domain today were it not for the copyright extensions enacted in 1978. From the article: "What could have been entering the public domain in the U.S. on January 1, 2013? Under the law that existed until 1978, works from 1956. The films Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, The Best Things in Life Are Free, Forbidden Planet, The Ten Commandments, and Around the World in 80 Days; the stories 101 Dalmations and Phillip K. Dick's The Minority Report; the songs 'Que Sera, Sera' and 'Heartbreak Hotel', and more. What is entering the public domain this year? Nothing." And Rick Falkvinge shares his predictions for what the copyright monopoly will try this year. As a bit of a music fan, excessive copyright hits home often: the entire discographies of many artists I like have been out of print for at least a decade. Should copyright even be as long as in the pre-1978 law? Is the Berne Convention obsolete and in need of breaking to actually preserve cultural history?
In their December newsletter, Open webOS announced that they've ditched the webOS-specific hardware interface that was part of Enyo 1.x for the Cordova project (formerly PhoneGap). Combined with the portable Enyo 2.0 framework, applications written for webOS are now portable to other platforms (and the other way around). There were also a number of other under-the-hood improvements: "This month we completed and delivered the pluggable keyboard project, WebAppMgr separation and upgrading to Qt 4.8.3. Work continues as planned on upgrading Qt5/webkit2 (more details next month). Also, the complete rewrite of mediaServer has been completed and is now undergoing internal QA testing, look for this to hit the repos in the coming weeks."
New submitter NettiWelho writes with even more bad news for Microsoft. From the article: "Windows 8 uptake has slipped behind Vista's at the same point after its release. Windows 8 online usage share is around 1.6% of all Windows PCs, which is less than the 2.2% share that Windows Vista commanded at the same two-month mark after release. Net Applications monitors operating system usage by recording OS version for around 40,000 sites it monitors for clients. The slowdown for Windows 8 adoption is a bad sign for Microsoft, who experienced great success with the release of Windows 7. Data was measured up to the 22nd of December, so there is still time by the end of the month for Windows 8 to claim a higher percentage of the user base."
New submitter Jetra wrote with word that the House of Representatives failed to vote on the "fiscal cliff" deal before midnight, technically sending the U.S. over the fiscal cliff. The White House and Senate, however, reached an agreement at the last minute to allow for some tax increases, and a House vote approving it is expected in the next day or two: "The agreement came together after negotiators cleared two final hurdles involving the estate tax and automatic spending cuts set to hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies later this week. Republicans gave ground on the spending cuts, known as the sequester, by agreeing to a two-month delay paid for in part with fresh tax revenue, a condition they had resisted. White House officials yielded to GOP wishes on how to handle estate taxes, aides said." The battle over required spending cuts has predictably been delayed for another day, making the deal far from complete.