Microsoft appears to have backed away from their rather absurd and draconian DRM policies for their upcoming Xbox One console. According to a blog post by the company, the company will be backing away from the console's previous "online check in every 24 hours" requirement, as well as lifting many of the restrictions on used games. Microsoft's also backing off of the restrictions on game rentals, something that would have seriously harmed companies like Gamefly.com. Even region locks will be going away after consumer complaints.
According to Microsoft's President of Interactive Entertainment Business Don Mattrick, the following changes are going to be made after receiving "candid feedback":
•An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
•Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.
Last fall we noted that Facebook was tinkering with the idea of offering people free Wi-Fi at select locations, if users were willing to check in there. Facebook has very quietly been expanding the offer since then, Wired pointing out that they're now offering the free Wi-Fi in cafes in Palo Alto and San Francisco and even now offer the functionality in a line of Cisco's Meraki routers. You are the product every time you log in to Facebook, so at least, as Wired notes, in this instance "Facebook Wi-Fi has the virtue of at least offering the user something valuable in return for (your) location." read comment(s)
Back in March the state buried a study on their spending of the stimulus money (which they spent $118,000 for) that leaked anyway, highlighting that how Frontier Communications did a sloppy job in tracking spending, may have overbilled taxpayers substantially, and only built a mish mash of geographically scattered fiber upgrades that the majority of state residents wouldn't benefit from in the slightest.
Eyre has another story out this week with yet more detail on the state's shenanigans, noting that the orginal $17,000 per mile fiber estimate by the state has ballooned to $47,500 per mile -- and what fiber that will be deployed will be significantly scaled back. Despite the previously suppressed report that shows Frontier's record keeping was poor and might have resulted in double billing, state officials have blamed everyone but Frontier for the magically soaring costs:
In an annual report posted online last week, state Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato blamed the rising fiber costs on "storms in late 2012" -- presumably Hurricane Sandy, which caused an estimated $14 million in damage across West Virginia. The state's report also cited environmental studies for the fiber construction's higher costs. The previous year, state officials blamed fallout from the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami for a sharp spike in fiber prices.
In short: use your money to further entrench the local monopoly, bury the report that shows said monopoly wasn't accountable with their spending, then blame, well, pretty much everything other than the cause. The mess in West Virginia shows pretty clearly what happens when anti-competitive corporations and broken political systems get too cuddly, and unfortunately overshadows the many good things the broadband stimulus has done. read comment(s)
As we noted earlier this year, there have been a steady stream of rumors that AT&T is cooking up some speed increases, even though the timeline for deployment remains anything but clear. This thread in our forums is full of rumblings from those claiming to be AT&T techs, who say the faster speeds are being trialed in several markets with a rumored launch sometime this year. Such upgrades are long overdue, given that cable operators have been offering considerably faster speeds than AT&T's top offering for some time now.
I have seen a lot of questions regarding 2013 upgrades. I have also seen a LOT of incorrect responses to these questions. Ill cover what I KNOW is on the way and what is being tested. The area I work in is a very well known test location for testing.
•Stream increase- U-verse is an IP based TV service that currently offers 4 streams per customer. Mid July there will be an increase to 6 streams. •New Gateway- The NVG589 Gateway has been released already and is currently very limited and is for NEW installs only. •Internet speed increase- The top is 24MB down 5MB up. July is the release for 48-60MB down and up to 10MB upload.
AT&T isn't commenting on the rumors, and given we've seen these upgrade promises for a while, take this all with a grain of salt (or two). There's also the fact that most users won't have short enough loop lengths or decent enough bondable lines to qualify the fastest speeds, so like every AT&T broadband upgrade -- you can expect these deployments to be highly selective. read comment(s)
Last week I noted that CenturyLink had tacked on a new and absurd $1 "Internet Cost Recovery Fee" to user bills starting in July. The fee, like all fees of this kind, allows carriers to jack up prices using below the line fees while keeping the advertised price the same. According to CenturyLink, the fee was to "help cover the costs associated with building and maintaining the internet network," which is, of course, what your full bill should already be contributing to.
Now user uid://730983 writes in to note that CenturyLink is also informing some users of yet another fee.
"Beginning with your next invoice you will notice an additional item in the Optional Features/Services subsection of the Local Services portion of your bill, referred to as the Non-Telcom Services Surcharge," CenturyLink informs users. The fee appears applied to users who receive Voicemail (a rather telecom-ish "non telecom service") or Lineguard -- a $4.50 per month insurance program CenturyLink often signs users up for without asking.
According to the CenturyLink website, this new $1.55 fee is imposed " to reduce the number of potential increases to customers," which of course also makes absolutely no sense given it's a rate hike either way.
When you multiply the $1 "Internet Cost Recovery Fee" and the $1.55 "Non Telecom Services Surchage" times the millions of CenturyLink DSL and POTS subscribers, you'll understand that CenturyLink's making a pretty penny doing absolutely nothing. Well perhaps not "nothing"; they're engaging in false advertising and using nonsensical fees to jack up the below the line price, something U.S. regulators continue to ignore. read comment(s)
Comcast this week expanded availability of their new X1 set top into Baltimore. The Pace-made device is a QAM/IP hybrid set top that brings a lot of IP-based functionality to users already seen in set tops deployed by telcoTV competitors (widgets ahoy). This thread in our forums offers some user impressions of the new set top, and while many users like it, there appear to be many bugs that still need ironing out. To lure users to the new platform, Comcast is offering a variety of new 12 month promotional offers (including this one that expires today) to new customers that involve free premium TV channels, the new X1 set top, gift cards, and the company's 20 Mbps broadband tier for $89.
In what isn't a particularly surprising development, NSA boss Keith Alexander has been pushing for law changes that would give greater legal immunity for companies that help the NSA with their spy programs (with language as broad and ill-defined as possible). While some argue that giving companies some protection from lawsuits for doing things they're being forced to do makes sense, the problem is that this all just leads to greater secrecy, with the involved companies having no incentive to stand up against requests to bend or break the law. The argument is that individuals can sue the government instead, but we've repeatedly seen how that turns out. read comment(s)
Netflix may have just voluntariliy lost access to Viacom's library, but the streaming operator hopes to counter those losses with the news that they've struck a deal with DreamWorks to develop content exclusively for Netflix. According to Netflix, this is the largest deal they've every struck for exclusive new content, the results airing as a suite of new television shows that should premiere sometime next year. The new series will be "inspired" by previous Dreamworks Animations characters including "Shrek" and "The Croods." The streaming landscape got increasingly more fractured this week with the news that Downton Abbey is now an Amazon exclusive. read comment(s)
itwbennett writes "Speaking at a cloud panel discussion hosted by Reuters on Wednesday, Terry Wise, head of global partner ecosystem for Amazon Web Services, explained how the company handles government requests for data stored on Amazon's cloud: 'If a U.S. entity is serving us with a legally binding subpoena, we contact our customer and work with that customer to fight the subpoena.' But Wise's best advice to customers is to encrypt their data: 'If the data is encrypted, all we'd be handing over would be the cypher text,' he said."
gurps_npc writes "Two radical pro-Israel terrorists were caught in upstate NY when they tried to solicit money from various honorable Jewish organizations to build a truck based x-ray weapon. They intended to drive the truck around and then turn on the x-ray machine, focusing on enemies of Israel. But the Jewish organizations they tried to solicit money from refused to participate. Instead they called the FBI, who promptly set up a sting. The men were arrested before the machine was in working order."
sfcrazy writes "A top Monsanto executive has won the prestigious World Food Prize. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the award where Robert T. Fraley, the executive vice president and CTO of Monsanto, won the prize along with two other scientists from Belgium and the US. The award was given for devising a method to insert genes from another organism into plant sell, which could produce new genetic lines with highly favorable traits."
Trailrunner7 writes "After years of saying that the company didn't need a bug bounty program, Microsoft is starting one. The company today will announce the start of a new program that will pay security researchers up to $100,000 for serious vulnerabilities and as much as $50,000 for new defensive techniques that help protect against those flaws. Microsoft security officials say that the program has been a long time in development, and the factor that made this the right time to launch is the recent rise of vulnerability brokers. Up until quite recently, most of the researchers who found bugs in Microsoft products reported them directly to the company. That's no longer the case. The system that Microsoft is kicking off on June 26 will pay researchers $100,000 for a new exploit technique that is capable of bypassing the latest existing mitigations in the newest version of Windows."
malachiorion writes "Does George Lucas hate metal people? I know, sounds like standard click-bait, but I think I present a relatively troll-free argument in the piece I wrote for Slate. We stuck to the Star Wars canon, pointing out the relatively grim state of affairs for droid rights, and the lack of any real sympathy for their plight from the heroes, or, it would seem, George Lucas. C-3PO is more correct than he might realize, when the says that droids 'seem to be made to suffer.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Previously, developer Jeff Cogswell focused on the respective performances of C# and Java. Now he's looking at yet another aspect of the languages: the runtime libraries—what exactly the libraries are, how they are called, and what features the languages provide for calling into them. Examining the official Java API (now owned by Oracle) and the official .NET API owned by Microsoft, he finds both pretty complete and pretty much a 'tie' with regard to ease-of-use and functionality, especially since Java version 7 release 6 allows for automatic resource management. Read on and see if you agree."
MakerBot Industries, creators of the popular Thing-O-Matic and Replicator line of 3-D printers, is being acquired by Stratasys, a company that's been working on 3-D printing and production systems since 1989. '[Stratasys] facilitates the printing of prototypes, concepts, components, parts and more on an industrial scale and for commercial applications. ... Stratasys has demonstrated it’s going to be aggressive about owning the 3D printing space, and the MakerBot buy is the consumer-focused piece in that puzzle. For MakerBot, it gives the startup access to Stratasys’ wealth of industry experience.' According to the official news release, 'MakerBot will operate as a separate subsidiary of Stratasys, maintaining its own identity, products and go-to-market strategy.' MakerBot has sold 11,000 of its Replicator 2 devices in the past 9 months, accounting for half of all its 3-D printer sales since 2009.
One of the biggest criticisms of Microsoft's recently-announced Xbox One console was that it would require an internet connection once every 24 hours in order to keep playing games. Enough people complained about the DRM, and Microsoft listened. Today, they announced that they're removing the phone-home requirement. "After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360." They've also scrapped the game trading and resale system they'd built, which allowed publishers to set their own rules with regard to used game sales. "There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360." Unfortunately, that also means users won't be able to take advantage of the good parts of the original system, such as trading and gifting games without needing the disc, or sharing games with remote family members. "While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds." Also noteworthy: they've dropped region-locks as well.
astroengine writes "If you were in any doubt as to Curiosity's photography prowess, this panorama of Gale Crater should allay your concerns. In this billion-pixel photo from Mars, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory snapped nearly 900 separate images that were then stitched together to create a wonderful high-definition view from the robot's mast-mounted cameras. 'It gives a sense of place and really shows off the cameras' capabilities,' said Bob Deen of the Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., who assembled the scene. 'You can see the context and also zoom in to see very fine details.'"
The OIN (Open Invention Network) site's front page starts out by saying, "Open source software development has been one of the greatest sources of innovation. It has reduced costs, improved functionality and spurred new industries." After another few sentences it says, "Open Invention Network® is an intellectual property company that was formed to promote the Linux system by using patents to create a collaborative ecosystem." Go a little deeper, on the About page, and you learn that: "Patents owned by Open Invention Network® are available royalty-free to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux System. This enables companies to make significant corporate and capital expenditure investments in Linux — helping to fuel economic growth." Today's interviewee, Deb Nicholson, is the OIN's Community Outreach Director. We did a video interview with OIN CEO Keith Bergelt back in February. This one adds to what he had to say. And once again, we remind you: "...if you or your company is being victimized by any entity seeking to assert its patent portfolio against Linux, please contact [OIN] so that we can aid you in your battle with these dark forces." Make your first contact through Linux Defenders 911 -- and may the OIN be with you!