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The Almighty Buck

Streaming Services Generated More Than 50% of All US Music Industry Revenue in 2016 (variety.com) 14

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety: Streaming music services were for the first time ever responsible for more than 50 percent of all U.S. music industry revenue in 2016, according to new numbers released by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Thursday. Paid and ad-supported streaming together generated 51 percent of music revenue last year, to be precise, bringing in a total of $3.9 billion. In 2015, streaming music was responsible for 34 percent of the music industry's annual revenue. Much of that increase can be attributed to a strong growth of paid subscriptions to services like Spotify and Apple Music. Revenue from paid subscription plans more than doubled in 2016, bringing in $2.5 billion, with an average of 22.6 million U.S. consumers subscribing to streaming services last year. The year before, subscription services had an average of 10.8 million paying subscribers.
Music

Safe Harbor Cost the US Music Industry Up To $1B in Lost Royalties Per Year, Study Finds (musicweek.com) 126

An anonymous reader shares a report: For the first time, researchers have quantified the "value gap" and its impact on the US recorded music industry. A study published yesterday (March 29) by Washington, DC-based economy think tank the Phoenix Centre For Advanced Legal And Economic Public Policy Studies attempted to calculate how much revenue the recording industry loses from the distortions caused by the safe harbor provisions. Entitled Safe Harbors And The Evolution of Music Retailing, the study was conducted by T. Randolph Beard, George S. Ford and Michael Stern who applied "accepted economic modelling techniques" to simulate revenue effects from royalty rate changes on YouTube. It showed that if YouTube were to pay the recorded music industry market rates, similar to what other streaming services pay, its economic contributions to the sector would be significantly bigger. The premises used by the Phoenix Centre economists was that, according to the music recording industry, YouTube evades paying market rates for the use of copyrighted content by exploiting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's "safe harbor" provisions, which allow to post creative content online in good faith and remove it if rights holders so require. Using 2015 data, the Phoenix Centre found that "a plausible royalty rate increase could produce increased royalty revenues in the US of $650 million to over one billion dollars a year."
Microsoft

Xbox One's Faster, Simpler Interface is Now Available To Everyone (engadget.com) 15

Microsoft today announced it is releasing a major update to the Xbox One gaming console. The much-awaited update comes with a few new features and improvements such as Beam, the company's livestreaming client that does similar things as Twitch; and a faster and simpler interface. From a report on Engadget: The March update centers around a redesigned interface that's designed for speed above all else. It's quicker to perform more than a few tasks, such as finding a group to join. The revamped Guide should be much quicker, too -- it promises faster access to recent apps, background music controls and game recording. A few tweaks are designed with multitasking in mind, such as a brand new achievement tracker and a Cortana rework that puts the voice assistant into an overlay that won't disrupt what you're doing.
Games

One in Five Mobile Phones Shipped Abroad Are Phoney (theregister.co.uk) 58

Nearly one-fifth of mobile phones and one-quarter of video game consoles shipped abroad are fake, according to a report by the the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Register adds: The Trade in Counterfeit ICT Goods report, published ahead of the 2017 OECD Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum this month, identified a growing trend in fake goods. Smartphone batteries, chargers, memory cards, magnetic stripe cards, solid state drives and music players are also increasingly falling prey to counterfeiters. On average, 6.5 per cent of global trade in ICT goods is in counterfeit products, according to analysis of 2013 customs data, that is up from 2.5 per cent of overall traded goods found to be fake in a 2016 report. China is the primary source of fake ICT goods, and US manufacturers are the worst affected by lost revenue and erosion of brand value, the report said. Almost 43 per cent of seized fake ICT goods infringe the IP rights of US firms, followed by 25 per cent for Finnish firms and 12 per cent for Japanese firms.
Crime

Indiana's Inmates Could Soon Have Access To Tablets (abc57.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC57 News in South Bend, Indiana: Indiana is looking to help offenders who are behind bars. Soon, each inmate in the Hoosier state could have their own tablet. The Indiana Department of Correction says the tablet will help inmates stay connected with their families and improve their education. Offenders will be able to use the tablets to access any classwork, self-help materials or entertainment. Officials expect to use entertainment, like music or movies, to reward good behavior. The proposal was first filed in January. Apple iPad's or kindles won't be used. Instead, a company that makes tablets specifically for prisons or jails will be hired. One San Francisco based-company they may consider, Telmate, has a device that is used in more than 20 states, including some jails in Marshall County. INDOC is hoping a vendor will front the costs of the entertainment apps so taxpayers won't have to. INDOC also says it wants to avoid charging inmate fees because charging fees that they can't afford would defeat the purpose of the system. If the company selected pays, the vendor would be reimbursed and still earn a profit.
GNOME

GNOME 3.24 Released (softpedia.com) 118

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: GNOME 3.24 just finished its six-month development cycle, and it's now the most advanced stable version of the modern and popular desktop environment used by default in numerous GNU/Linux distributions. It was developed since October 2016 under the GNOME 3.23.x umbrella, during which it received numerous improvements. Prominent new features of the GNOME 3.24 desktop environment include a Night Light functionality that promises to automatically shift the colors of your display to the warmer end of the spectrum after sunset, and a brand-new GNOME Control Center with redesigned Users, Keyboard and Mouse, Online Accounts, Bluetooth, and Printer panels. As for the GNOME apps, we can mention that the Nautilus file manager now lets users browse files as root (system administrator), GNOME Photos imitates Darktable's exposure and blacks adjustment tool, GNOME Music comes with ownCloud integration and lets you edit tags, and GNOME Calendar finally brings the Week view. New apps like GNOME Recipes are also part of this release. The full release notes can be viewed here. Softpedia notes in conclusion: "As mentioned before, it will take at least a couple of weeks for the new GNOME 3.24 packages to land on the stable repositories of your favorite distro, which means that you'll most probably be able to upgrade from GNOME 3.22 when the first point release, GNOME 3.24.1, is out on April 12, 2017."
Desktops (Apple)

Popular Open-Source Audio Editor Audacity Adds Windows 10 Support, More Improvements (audacityteam.org) 102

Audacity, a popular open-source and cross-platform audio editor, has received a "maintenance" update that brings several improvements. Dubbed v2.1.3, the biggest new addition appears to be support for Windows 10 OS. For Mac users, Audacity now works in tandem with the Magic Mouse. "We now support Trackpad and Magic Mouse horizontal scroll without SHIFT key and Trackpad pinch and expand to zoom at the pointer," the release note says. We also have new "Scrub Ruler" and "Scrub Toolbar" scrubbing options in the application now. Read the full changelog here.
AI

Ray Kurzweil On How We'll End Up Merging With Our Technology (foxnews.com) 161

Mr.Intel quotes a report from Fox News: "By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence," Kurzweil said in an interview at the SXSW Conference with Shira Lazar and Amy Kurzweil Comix. Known as the Singularity, the event is oft discussed by scientists, futurists, technology stalwarts and others as a time when artificial intelligence will cause machines to become smarter than human beings. The time frame is much sooner than what other stalwarts have said, including British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, as well as previous predictions from Kurzweil, who said it may occur as soon as 2045. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, who recently acquired ARM Holdings with the intent on being one of the driving forces in the Singularity, has previously said it could happen in the next 30 years. Kurzweil apparently ins't worried about the rise in machine learning and artificial intelligence. In regard to AI potentially enslaving humanity, Kurzweil said, "That's not realistic. We don't have one or two AIs in the world. Today we have billions." He shares a similar view with Elon Musk by saying that humans need to converge with machines, pointing out the work already being done in Parkinson's patients. "They're making us smarter," Kurzeil said during the SXSW interview. "They may not yet be inside our bodies, but, by the 2030s, we will connect our neocortex, the part of our brain where we do our thinking, to the cloud... We're going to be funnier, we're going to be better at music. We're going to be sexier. We're really going to exemplify all the things that we value in humans to a greater degree." You can watch the full interview on Facebook.
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: Is the Internet Killing Old and New Art Forms or Helping Them Grow? (nytimes.com) 110

The thing about the internet is that as it gained traction and started to become part of our lives, it caused a lot of pain -- bloodbath, many say -- to several major industries. The music industry was nearly decimated, for instance, and pennies on the dollar doesn't begin to describe what has happened to the newspapers. But things are starting to change, many observers note. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings noted at the New Yorker Tech Festival last year, the internet is increasingly changing the way people consume content and that has forced the industries to innovate and find new ways to cater to their audiences. But some of these industries are still struggling to figure out new models for their survival. Farhad Manjoo, a technology columnist at The New York Times, argues that for people of the future, our time may be remembered as a period not of death, but of rejuvenation and rebirth. He writes: Part of the story is in the art itself. In just about every cultural medium, whether movies or music or books or the visual arts, digital technology is letting in new voices, creating new formats for exploration, and allowing fans and other creators to participate in a glorious remixing of the work. [...] In the last few years, and with greater intensity in the last 12 months, people started paying for online content. They are doing so at an accelerating pace, and on a dependable, recurring schedule, often through subscriptions. And they're paying for everything. [...] It's difficult to overstate how big a deal this is. More than 20 years after it first caught mainstream attention and began to destroy everything about how we finance culture, the digital economy is finally beginning to coalesce around a sustainable way of supporting content. If subscriptions keep taking off, it won't just mean that some of your favorite creators will survive the internet. It could also make for a profound shift in the way we find and support new cultural talent. It could lead to a wider variety of artists and art, and forge closer connections between the people who make art and those who enjoy it.
Security

It's Possible To Hack a Smartphone With Sound Waves, Researchers Show (cnbc.com) 41

A security loophole that would allow someone to add extra steps to the counter on your Fitbit monitor might seem harmless. But researchers say it points to the broader risks that come with technology's embedding into the nooks of our lives. John Markoff, writes for the NYTimes: On Tuesday, a group of computer security researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of South Carolina will demonstrate that they have found a vulnerability that allows them to take control of or surreptitiously influence devices through the tiny accelerometers that are standard components in consumer products like smartphones, fitness monitors and even automobiles. In their paper, the researchers describe how they added fake steps to a Fitbit fitness monitor and played a "malicious" music file from the speaker of a smartphone to control the phone's accelerometer. That allowed them to interfere with software that relies on the smartphone, like an app used to pilot a radio-controlled toy car. "It's like the opera singer who hits the note to break a wine glass, only in our case, we can spell out words" and enter commands rather than just shut down the phone, said Kevin Fu, an author of the paper, who is also an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan and the chief executive of Virta Labs, a company that focuses on cybersecurity in health care. "You can think of it as a musical virus."
Businesses

Pandora Debuts Premium On-Demand Music Tier (usatoday.com) 41

Pandora will now let you listen to whatever you want, for a price. The internet radio firm today announced Pandora Premium, for which it will charge customers $9.99 a month. From a report on USA Today: The new on-demand service Pandora Premium, which costs $9.99 monthly, lets subscribers choose and play any song or album and use new playlist creation features. Currently, Pandora's Internet radio can be listened to free with advertisements, but you cannot choose a specific song, only artists or a type of music. Listeners can give songs a thumbs up to hear more songs similar to that or thumbs down to not hear that track again on that station. Pandora will send out invitations to current select users on Wednesday, with options for all users to upgrade in coming weeks. Pandora hopes this new tier of service helps strengthen its position in the competitive music streaming market. It already reigns as the top music service in terms of overall listening, earning 28% of all streaming music hours in 2016, according to research firm MusicWatch.
Music

Music Charts No Longer Make Sense (qz.com) 167

American rapper Future's back to back new albums have created a stir among music enthusiasts and the studios alike. Billboard today refreshed its weekly US Top 200 chart, and the American rapper officially became the first artist to ever knock his own album out of the #1 spot with another one of his albums. Future released the self-titled FUTURE on Feb. 17. One week later, the artist then dropped a second album HNDRXX which is the new champion. What does it mean, though? Confusion, some say. From a report on Quartz: Up till December 2014, Billboard's Top 200 chart -- which pulls its numbers from data juggernaut Nielsen -- measured new music in the US only by album sales. As music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, came into the mainstream, Nielsen and Billboard revamped their system to be based off "units." How does is work? One "unit" is equivalent to either one album sale, 10 track sales, or 1,500 song streams. In other words, listeners on a streaming platform would need to stream a Future song 1,500 times for it to count the same way a single album purchase does. While that number may seem high, consider that it costs (more or less) $9.99 a month to stream tens of thousands of songs, as opposed to dropping $10-15 on a single album to own it, either physically or digitally. That means people who subscribe to online streaming services aren't taking out an additional cost to listen to every new Future song or album or the same ones over and over again -- it's essentially free. It becomes an odd, if necessary, way of calculating charts, because it means people who pay the most for an artist's music count for the least when sales are tallied.
Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: Best File System For the Ages? 475

New submitter Kormoran writes: After many, many years of internet, I have accumulated terabyte HDDs full of software, photos, videos, eBooks, articles, PDFs, music, etc. that I'd like to save forever. The problem is, my HDDs are fine, but some files are corrupting. Some videos show missing keyframes and some photos are ill-colored. RAID systems can protect online data (to a degree), but what about offline storage? Is there a software solution, like a file system or a file format, specifically tailored to avoid this kind of bit rot?
Communications

New Technique Turns Random Objects Into FM Radio Stations (thestack.com) 69

"A new technology is enabling everyday objects, such as posters and clothing, to be transformed into FM radio stations," reports The Stack, citing research from the University of Washington. An anonymous reader quotes their report. The team has introduced a technique called "backscattering" which uses ambient low-power radio signals to broadcast messages from random objects to smartphones in the local vicinity.The researchers hope that the development could help support various smart city applications, and picture a future where anything from a poster at a bus stop to a road sign can transmit audio updates and information to passers-by.

During testing, the researchers were able to use the backscattering technique to create a "singing poster" which could send out the music of an advertised band to smartphone users at a distance of up to 4 meters and to cars in an 18-meter [59-foot] radius. "What we want to do is enable smart cities and fabrics where everyday objects in outdoor environments -- whether it's posters or street signs or even the shirt you're wearing -- can 'talk' to you by sending information to your phone or car," explained lead faculty and UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering Shyam Gollakota.

Android

Sorry, Apple, the Headphone Jack Isn't Going Anywhere (yahoo.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Rob Pegoraro via Yahoo Finance: Two things unite almost every phone on display here at Mobile World Congress 2017: Android and a headphone jack. Apple doesn't exhibit its wares at this trade show, so the domination of Google's operating system is predictable. But the headphone jack's persistence did not look so inevitable when Apple cut it from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus last September. Lenovo's Motorola subsidiary had already shipped a phone without a headphone hack, the Moto Z, and Apple's influence over the rest of the smartphone industry remains formidable -- indeed, within months, the Chinese firm LeEco had debuted a lineup of Android phones devoid of headphone jacks. As my colleague David Pogue predicted in a post approving Apple's move: "Other brands worldwide will be following suit." The hardware on display here at the world's largest mobile tech conference, though, suggests otherwise. Two days of walking around the show floor showed companies expressing a consistent unwillingness to abandon the humble headphone jack, even on models as thin as, or thinner than, the iPhone 7. The MWC floor revealed only one company willing to do away with the headphone jack: HTC. The Taiwan-based firm, which has struggled financially for years despite shipping such well-reviewed models as the HTC 10, used its exhibit to showcase the U Ultra and the U Play, which rely on their USB-C ports for audio output. Unlike, Apple, though, the company didn't make the move to save space, but rather to incorporate its "USonic" feature, which lets the phones' headphones calibrate themselves to your ears and provide noise cancellation.
Government

UK: New Drivers Caught Using a Phone Will Lose Their License (bbc.com) 180

Under new rules in England, Scotland and Wales, drivers caught using a phone within two years of passing their test will have their license revoked. BBC reports: Penalties for using a phone at the wheel double from March 1 to six points and a 200 British pound fine. New drivers who get six points or more must retake their practical and theory. More experienced drivers can be banned if they get 12 points in three years. Can I check social media or texts if I'm queuing in traffic or stopped at traffic lights? No -- a hand held phone cannot be used, even if stopped at lights. Texting and scrolling social media (even if the phone is mounted on a hands-free holder) is distracting and dangerous. It doesn't come under the handheld mobile phone law but the police may decide to charge you with a number of other offenses. Can I use my phone to listen to music, play podcasts or watch video clips? You can't watch video clips -- not even if your phone is mounted in a hands-free holder. You can use your phone to listen to music and podcasts but only if your phone is in a hands-free holder or connected by Bluetooth. However, just as you can be distracted by the noise of a car radio, if it affects your ability to drive safely, you could still be prosecuted by the police. Can I use my phone's sat nav? Yes -- as long as the phone is mounted in a hands-free holder. If it's in your hands, it's illegal. However, if you are distracted by the sat nav and it affects your ability to drive safely, you could still be prosecuted by the police.
Music

Spotify Is Testing a Lossless Subscription Tier For $15 to $20 Per Month (techcrunch.com) 77

Spotify is seemingly preparing to launch a lossless audio version of its streaming service. The offering, which is currently called Spotify Hi-Fi, will offer lossless CD-quality audio to users -- similar to what Tidal offers in its Hi-Fi service. From a report: For an extra $5 to $10, you could get all the features in Spotify Premium as well as lossless high fidelity streaming. There could also be a couple of new features. What is lossless quality anyway? Currently, if you go into Spotify's settings and choose the highest quality, Spotify serves you 320kbps audio files. It's very high quality, but it's not perfect -- in other words, it's a compromise. This way, files are still quite small and load quickly. Lossless files are perfect copies of the songs on an audio CD. They are then compressed, but without any quality loss.
Music

Radio Is the Worst Place To Listen To Music, Says Jay Z (qz.com) 203

An anonymous reader shares a Quartz report: In a candid interview between Frank Ocean and Jay Z that aired on Apple Music's Beats 1 radio station last week, the latter spent a good portion mourning the golden days of radio, where he got his own start in the 1990s as a hip-hop artist. Said Jay, about modern radio: "It's pretty much an advertisement model. You take these pop stations, they're reaching 18-34 young, white females. So they're playing music based on those tastes. And then they're taking those numbers and they're going to advertising agencies and people are paying numbers based on the audience that they have. So these places are not even based on music. Their playlist isn't based on music... A person like Bob Marley right now probably wouldn't play on a pop station. Which is crazy. It's not even about the DJ discovering what music is best. You know, music is music. The line's just been separated so much that we're lost at this point in time."
Youtube

One Billion Hours of YouTube Are Watched Every Day (thenextweb.com) 72

YouTube announced in a blog post that people around the world are now watching a billion hours of YouTube videos every single day. According to YouTube, "If you were to sit and watch a billion hours of YouTube, it would take you over 100,000 years." Mashable reports: The milestone "represents the enjoyment of the fantastically diverse videos that creative people make every single day," Cristos Goodrow, VP of engineering at YouTube, wrote in a blog post Monday. "Around the world, people are spending a billion hours every day rewarding their curiosity, discovering great music, keeping up with the news, connecting with their favorite personalities, or catching up with the latest trend." The 1 billion figure is a 10-fold increase since 2012, YouTube said. The statistic is one that underscores YouTube's efforts to dominate the digital space. On YouTube -- which operates under the motto "Broadcast Yourself" -- users upload 400 hours of video each minute, or 65 years of video a day.
Piracy

Seven Film Studios Want 41 Web Sites Blocked By Australian ISPs (computerworld.com.au) 43

angry tapir writes: A group of film studios is undertaking what is set to be the most significant use so far of Australia's anti-piracy laws, which allow rights holders to apply for court orders that can compel ISPs to block their customers from accessing certain piracy-linked sites. A pair of rights holders last year successfully obtained court orders forcing Australia's most popular ISPs to block a handful of sites including The Pirate Bay. Now Village Roadshow wants to have 41 more sites blocked.
Village Roadshow joined six other studios in requesting an injunction Friday in federal court, reports Computerworld. And meanwhile, "a separate site-blocking application has been launched by Australian music labels, which are seeking to have Telstra, Optus, TPG and Foxtel's broadband arm block access to Kickass Torrents."

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