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Television

Television's Most Infamous Hack Is Still a Mystery 30 Years Later (vice.com) 107

It has been 30 years since the Max Headroom hack, arguably the creepiest hack in the television history took place. Caroline Haskins, writes about the incident for Motherboard: It was a few minutes after 9 PM on Sunday, November 22, 1987. Chicago sportscaster Dan Roan was cheerily summarizing the Bears's victory that day for Channel 9 local news. Suddenly, televisions went silent, and their screens went black. At first, it seemed like an equipment malfunction. Without warning, televisions in the area blasted loud radio static. It was overlain with the screech of a power saw cutting into metal, or a jet engine malfunctioning. At center screen, a person wore a Max Headroom mask -- a character who appeared on various television shows and movies in the 1980s. He appeared to have yellow skin, yellow clothes, and yellow slicked-back hair. As purple and black lines spun behind him, Max nodded and swayed back and forth. His plastic face was stuck in laughter, and opaque sunglasses covered his eyes, which seemed to peer through the screen. The screen went black again. After a moment, Roan reappeared. "Well if you're wondering what'll happen," Roan said with a laugh, unaware of what had happened during the interruption, "so am I." Two hours later, it happened again on another channel. This time, Dr. Who had just turned to get his companion, Leela, a hot drink, when a line of static rolled across the screen, revealing the yellow man. After 30 years and an intense FCC investigation, the people behind the Headroom hack remain unknown. The correspondent has spoken to the newscasters who were interrupted and mocked that day. You can read the interview here.
Television

FCC Approves Next-Gen ATSC 3.0 TV Standard (reuters.com) 157

New submitter mikeebbbd writes: "U.S. regulators on Thursday approved the use of new technology that will improve picture quality on mobile phones, tablets and television, but also raises significant privacy concerns by giving advertisers dramatically more data about viewing habits," reports Reuters. ATSC3.0 will apparently make personal data collection and targeted ads possible. New TVs will be necessary, and broadcasters will need to transmit both ATSC 2.0 (the current standard) for 3 to 5 years before turning off the older system. For now, the conversion is voluntary. There appears to be no requirement (as there was when ATSC 2.0 came out) for low-cost adapter boxes to make older TVs work; once a channel goes ATSC 3.0-only, your old TV will not display it any more.
Businesses

FCC Repeals Decades-Old Rules Blocking Broadcast Media Mergers (variety.com) 146

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Federal regulators rolled back decades-old rules on Thursday, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold -- potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a handful of companies. The regulations, eliminated in a 3-to-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission, were first put in place in the 1970s to ensure that a diversity of voices and opinions could be heard on the air or in print. But now those rules represent a threat to small outlets that are struggling to survive in a vastly different media world, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. One long-standing rule repealed Thursday prevented one company in a given media market from owning both a daily newspaper and a TV station. Another rule blocked TV stations in the same market from merging with each other if the combination would leave fewer than eight independently owned stations. The agency also took aim at rules restricting the number of TV and radio stations that any media company could simultaneously own in a single market. A major beneficiary of the deregulatory moves, analysts say, is Sinclair, a conservative broadcasting company that is seeking to buy up Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.
Businesses

37% of Netflix Subscribers Say They Binge-Watch While at Work (netflix.com) 154

On-demand video streaming service Netflix has found that more people than ever are watching video outside their homes. About 67% of people now watch movies and TV shows in public, according to an online survey it commissioned of 37,000 adults around the world. The survey also found that about 37% of Netflix's US subscribers binge-watch shows and movies while at work.
The Internet

Ads May Soon Stalk You on TV Like They Do on Your Facebook Feed (bloomberg.com) 203

Targeted ads that seem to follow us everywhere online may soon be doing the same on our TV. From a report: The Federal Communications Commission is poised to approve a new broadcast standard that will let broadcasters do something cable TV companies already do: harvest data about what you watch so advertisers can customize pitches. The prospect alarms privacy advocates, who say there are no rules setting boundaries for how broadcasters handle personal information. The FCC doesn't mention privacy in the 109-page proposed rule that is scheduled for a vote by commissioners Thursday. "If the new standard allows broadcasters to collect data in a way they haven't before, I think consumers should know about that," Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in an interview. "What privacy protections will apply to that data, and what security protections?" For broadcasters, Next Gen TV represents an advance into the digital world that for decades has been siphoning viewers away to the likes of Facebook, Netflix, Google's YouTube and Amazon's Prime video service.
Android

OnePlus Phones Come Preinstalled With a Factory App That Can Root Devices (bleepingcomputer.com) 73

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Some OnePlus devices, if not all, come preinstalled with an application named EngineerMode that can be used to root the device and may be converted into a fully-fledged backdoor by clever attackers. The app was discovered by a mobile security researcher who goes online by the pseudonym of Elliot Alderson -- the name of the main character in the Mr. Robot TV series. Speaking to Bleeping Computer, the researcher said he started investigating OnePlus devices after a story he saw online last month detailing a hidden stream of telemetry data sent by OnePlus devices to the company's servers.
Television

Amazon Is Making a 'Lord of the Rings' Prequel Series (techcrunch.com) 109

Amazon is making a Lord of the Rings prequel TV series for its Amazon Instant streaming service. The show, which already carries a multi-season commitment, will "explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring." TechCrunch reports: It's possible the new series will mine the ponderous but rich Silmarillion for material, as fan fiction writers and lore aficionados have done for decades. The exploits of the Elf-Lords of old would make for a stirring epic, while many would thrill at the possibility of seeing Moria at the height of its grandeur. So much depends on the quality of the adaptation, though. Amazon has been pretty good about its Originals, but this will be an undertaking far beyond the scope of anything its studios and partners have yet attempted. Amazon is partnering with New Line Cinema, which of course was the film company behind the much-loved trilogy that began in 2001, and the Tolkien Estate, as well as HarperCollins for some reason. The deal also "includes a potential additional spin-off series," presumably if it's popular enough.
Businesses

Amazon Developing a Free, Ad-Supported Version of Prime Video: Report (adage.com) 74

Amazon is developing a free, ad-supported complement to its Prime streaming video service, AdAge reported on Monday, citing people familiar with Amazon's plans. From the report: The company is talking with TV networks, movie studios and other media companies about providing programming to the service, they say. Amazon Prime subscribers pay $99 per year for free shipping but also access to a mix of ad-free TV shows, movies and original series such as "Transparent" and "The Man in the High Castle." It has dabbled in commercials on Prime to a very limited degree, putting ads inside National Football League games this season and offering smaller opportunities for brand integrations. A version paid for by advertisers instead of subscribers could provide a new foothold in streaming video for marketers, whose opportunities to run commercials are eroding as audiences drift away from traditional TV and toward ad-free services like Netflix and Prime.
Classic Games (Games)

Text Adventure Competition Reports A 36% Spike In Entries (ifcomp.org) 21

There's just four days left to vote for the winner of the 23rd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition. An anonymous reader writes: This year's contest set a record, drawing 79 new text adventures -- 36% more entries than the previous year's 58. All of this year's games are available online, furthering the competition's goal of "making them freely available in order to encourage the creation, play, and discussion of interactive fiction." (And they're also available in a 236-megabyte .zip archive.)

Each game's developer is competing for $4,800 in cash prizes, to be shared among everyone who finishes in the top two-thirds (including a $247 prize to the first-place winner). Authors of the top-rated games will also get to choose from a 38-prize pool (which includes another $200 cash prize donated by Asymmetric Publications, as well as a "well-loved" used Wii console). But the most important thing is there's a bunch of fun new text adventures to play. Reviews are already appearing online, lovingly collected by the Interactive Fiction Wiki. And one game designer even livestreamed their text adventure-playing on Twitch.

Sci-Fi

Star Trek: Discovery Will Return On January 7th, 2018 (theverge.com) 278

CBS announced that Star Trek: Discovery will return for the second half of the split season on Sunday, November 12th. There will be roughly a two month gap between the last episode of the first half of the split season, which aires on Sunday, November 12th, and the first episode of the second half of the split season. The Verge reports: When the network announced the series's September release date, it revealed that the first season would be split into two "chapters." The second chapter begins with the show's 10th episode, "Despite Yourself." Chapter 2 will contain the season's remaining six episodes, and will run through February 11th. According to CBS, the show will apparently find the crew of the USS Discovery in "unfamiliar territory," and they'll have to get creative about ways to return home. In this week's episode, the crew came face-to-face with the Klingon Empire over the planet Pahvo, after the planet's native species summoned them, hoping to resolve their conflict. After that, it'll be a longer wait for the show to return: CBS recently announced that it renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a second season, but that announcement didn't come with further details about a second season release date, or the number of episodes or chapters planned for season 2.
News

The Crisis in Local News (axios.com) 118

Sara Fischer, writing for Axios: The economic strains on local news have forced local outlets to close, shutter their print editions or consolidate into major holding groups, often headquartered in far-away cities. Why it matters: "As long as [cuts to local news] continues, the people in power will get away with murder," veteran NYC TV journalist Errol Louis told CNN's Brian Stelter on Sunday. Most recently, billionaire Joe Ricketts' decision to shut down local city coverage site DNAInfo and Gothamist in response to employees voting to unionize has called into question how local news outlets can survive through conflicting business interests of ownership. The cuts are the latest of local coverage setbacks this month. The Houston Press has effectively closed down; The Baltimore City Paper, a 40-year-old publication, published its last issue November 1. Local media continues to have a complicated relationship with technology, because while technology can be blamed for upended news economics, local media companies still rely on it for traffic and resources.
The Internet

Comcast's Xfinity Internet Service Is Down Across the US [Update] (theverge.com) 104

Readers share a report: Comcast's internet service, Xfinity, appears to be suffering an outage across the country. DownDetector.com shows it being down around the United States, including in large cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston. So far, online reports don't suggest that TV service or home phones are affected. On Twitter, Comcast confirmed the outage. Adding, "Some customers are having issues with their XFINITY Internet service. We apologize & appreciate your patience while we work to fix." The company tweeted moments ago, "Our teams continue to monitor an external network issue. We apologize for the inconvenience -- will provide updates as we learn more." In another tweet, Comcast said the issue is nationwide.

Update: At 20:39 GMT on Monday, Comcast said it had resolved the issue.
Television

Ask Slashdot: Can Smart TVs Insert Ads Into Your Movies? (gigaom.com) 235

dryriver writes: Back in 2015, the owners of some Samsung smart TVs complained about their viewing of films and other content being constantly interrupted by a recurring Pepsi ad. It turned out that yes, the Samsung TV itself was inserting the ad into content.

Samsung said at the time that it was a software glitch that caused this. They left a function on by default that should have been off when they shipped the TVs. But it proves that Smart TVs have an unnerving capability built into them -- the ability to interrupt content playback with product ads actually stored on the TV itself.

So here's the question -- what if all Smart TV makers suddenly decide that having the ability to push custom ads to the owner of the TV is "fair game"? What if they decide "You want to own this model of TV for XXX Dollars? Well, you can have it, but we'll reserve the right to show you customized advertising as you are viewing stuff with it"? Are there any laws anywhere that would protect TV owners from such intrusive advertising?

Lord of the Rings

Amazon (and Netflix) Pursue a 'Lord of The Rings' TV Series (theverge.com) 236

An anonymous reader quotes The Verge: Amazon Studios has been looking for a way to duplicate HBO's success with Game of Thrones, and the company may have found a solution: adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings into a TV series. Variety reports that the company is currently in talks with Warner Bros. Television and the late author's estate, and while discussions are said to be in "very early stages," it is clearly a high priority, with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos himself involved in the negotiations.

Amazon isn't the only one looking into the rights, according to Deadline, which reports that the Tolkien Estate is looking to sell the television rights to the iconic fantasy series to the tune of $200-250 million, and has approached Netflix and HBO as well. There appears to be some strings attached: the rights might not encompass all of the characters in the story. HBO has reportedly passed on the project.

"We can hear the pitch now," jokes The Verge. "It's like Game of Thrones, only with a series of books that are actually finished."
Television

Ask Slashdot: Should I Allow A 'Smart TV' To Connect To The Internet? 299

Slashdot reader GovCheese has a question: I use Roku and also the client apps on my gaming consoles for Amazon and Netflix. But it seems less prudent to allow my television, a Samsung, to connect to the internet. My Phillips Blu-ray wants to connect also. But I'd rather not. Is it illogical to allow Roku and a console to connect to streaming services but prevent a "smart" television from doing so?
Slashdot reader gurps_npc argues there's a distinction between devices that need internet access and devices that want it, adding "Smart TVs overcharge in privacy invasion for the minimal advantages they offer."

Leave your own best answers in the comments. Should you let a smart TV connect to the internet?
The Media

Peter Thiel Could End Up Owning Gawker (pagesix.com) 68

An anonymous reader writes: Gawker's assets are now up for sale, and Page Six reports that they could be sold to a Hollywood movie studio which is "seriously interested" in adapting the site's stories into movies or TV shows -- and is also looking into filming the story of Gawker itself. Another interested buyer is described as a "group of hard-core Gawker fans" who are currently performing their own due diligence. But the bankruptcy manager for Gawker "has not ruled out the possibility" of selling the site to Peter Thiel. Also up for sale are "potential legal claims" Gawker may have against Peter Thiel, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Sci-Fi

CBS To Reboot 'The Twilight Zone' (hollywoodreporter.com) 125

phalse phace writes: During CBS's Thursday evenings conference call for their 3rd quarter earnings, CEO Leslie Moonves revealed that CBS was planning to reboot the classic fantasy science-fiction television series "The Twilight Zone." According to the Hollywood Reporter, "the show hails from Jordan Peele's Monkeypaw banner, with Marco Ramirez set to pen the script and serve as showrunner." This wouldn't be the first time CBS has brought the show back. "The network revived the series in the 1980s that ran for three seasons and again in 2002 for a season on UPN with host Forest Whitaker. The franchise has also been licensed to a new stage play set to premiere in December at the Almeida Theatre in London and run through January. The original series won three Emmys during its 156-episode run and explored topics including humanity's hopes, despairs, prides and prejudices."
Upgrades

Xbox One X is the Perfect Representation of the Tech Industry's Existential Crisis (mashable.com) 190

A reader shares commentary on the newly launched Xbox One X gaming console: Fundamentally, Xbox One X is the same machine that Microsoft released in 2013. It plays the same games, runs the same apps, depends on the same operating system. You can still plug your cable box into it and watch OneGuide magically sync with your local TV listings. Most of the things you can do look a little better and run a little faster/more efficiently, sure. The actual casing is smaller than the previous iterations, too. It's a gorgeous $500 machine. That's why I keep eyeballing it. My brain screams, "Why do you exist?" The Xbox One X does not answer. This is a familiar problem in 2017. Look around at all the tech in your life and do a quick, informal poll: How many of those items become outdated every year or every few years when a newer, shinier version of the same thing comes along? I'm talking about your iPhone and iPad. Your Amazon Echo and Kindle. Your Pixel and Daydream VR headset. Your Apple Watch. Your Roku, your Apple TV, your Chromecast. Incremental upgrades that push features like 4K! HDR! Wireless charging! Slimmer design! No headphone jack! (Wait, no, that last one is awful.) Breathless bullet point after breathless bullet point. Some of these additions have genuine utility and add value to the product. Many don't, or depend on you also possessing some other piece of incrementally upgraded tech (like the kinds of fancy-shmancy TVs that play the nicest with Xbox One X).
Television

Another Million Subscribers Cut the Pay TV Cord Last Quarter (dslreports.com) 105

A report from FierceCable says that a million more U.S. pay TV subscribers cut the TV cord last quarter. "Only five of the seven biggest pay TV providers have released their third quarter subscriber data, but collectively these companies saw a net loss of 632,000 pay TV subscribers during the period (385,000 for AT&T and DirecTV, 125,000 for Comcast, 104,000 for Charter, 18.000 for Verizon FiOS TV)," reports DSLReports. "Dish has yet to report its own cord cutting tallies, but the company is again expected to be among the hardest hit due to a high level of retransmission fee feuds and a lack of broadband bundles."
AT&T

Department of Justice Considers Blocking AT&T Deal For Time Warner (reuters.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: AT&T and the U.S. Department of Justice are discussing conditions the No. 2 wireless carrier needs to meet in order for its acquisition of Time Warner Inc to win government approval. The $85.4 billion deal, hatched last October, is opposed by some consumer groups and TV companies on the grounds that it would give the wireless company too much power over the media it would carry on its own network. Donald Trump, who has accused media companies like Time Warner's CNN of being unfair to him, criticized the deal on the campaign trail last year and vowed that as president his Justice Department would block it. The proposed deal represents an early challenge for the Justice Department's new antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, a Trump appointee who was confirmed by Congress in late September. Delrahim may be looking to ramp up pressure on AT&T. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department was laying the groundwork for a potential lawsuit aimed at stopping the deal if settlement talks did not work out.

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