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Industry & Technology

DVD and Blu-ray sales nearly halved over five years, MPAA report says

Ars Technica - April 12, 2019 - 12:58pm

Enlarge / Samsung's UBS-K8500, introduced in 2015, was positioned as the world's first UltraHD, 4K Blu-ray player. (credit: Mark Walton)

In its annual Theatrical Home Entertainment Market Environment report, the Motion Picture Association of America described an immensely sharp drop-off of physical media sales over the past five years. According to the data, which was obtained from DEG and IHS Markit, global sales of video disc formats (which in this context means DVD, Blu-ray, and UltraHD Blu-ray) were $25.2 billion in 2014 but only $13.1 in 2018. That's a drop in the ballpark of 50 percent.

Don't expect 8K Blu-rays or other emerging quality-focused formats to turn the tide, either. Market data published by Forbes showed that the aging, low-definition DVD format still accounts for 57.9 percent of physical media sales, and 4K Blu-rays are only 5.3 percent.

Samsung introduced the very first UltraHD (that's the industry certification for 4K discs) Blu-ray in 2015 but told the press it was stopping manufacture of Blu-ray players in the US this year—and not just 4K ones, either. Chinese OEM Oppo made a similar announcement last year, though Sony and Panasonic continue to make dedicated Blu-ray players. Also, Microsoft and Sony's game consoles still play Blu-rays.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Upskirting now a crime after woman's campaign

BBC Technology News - April 12, 2019 - 12:56pm
Gina Martin campaigned after a man photographed her at a festival, changing the law in England and Wales.

Bounty pregnancy club fined £400,000 over data handling

BBC Technology News - April 12, 2019 - 12:54pm
The club shared the personal data of more than 14 million people without proper consent.

Wikileaks: Document dumps that shook the world

BBC Technology News - April 12, 2019 - 12:39pm
Since 2006, Wikileaks has published thousands of classified documents and emails.

Rocket Report: Virgin to fly from Guam, why SpaceX is mum on the Moon plan

Ars Technica - April 12, 2019 - 12:00pm

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (credit: Aurich Lawson/SpaceX)

Welcome to Edition 1.44 of the Rocket Report! There remains no let-up in the world of lift, with lots of activity in the realm of smallsat launchers as well as some interesting speculation about the future of Aerojet's rocket engine business. Oh, and we think we know why SpaceX hasn't had too much to say yet about a Falcon Heavy Moon mission.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Relativity announces first launch contract. The California-based rocket company Relativity announced its first customer on Friday, the global satellite operator Telesat. The contract for flights on the Terran 1 rocket includes "multiple" launches, but in an interview with Ars Relativity CEO Tim Ellis said he could not provide additional details. Although this is the first contract the company has chosen to announce, he said, Relativity has signed other binding deals earlier.

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Disney, Netflix, Amazon: The battle for streaming survival

BBC Technology News - April 12, 2019 - 11:54am
As Disney moves into streaming TV what will it mean for Netflix, Apple and Amazon?

World Snooker Championship: Mark Williams left off official video game cover

BBC Technology News - April 12, 2019 - 11:29am
Snooker fans wonder where the world champion could be on the official video game's jacket.

The robot supermarket shelf scanner and other news

BBC Technology News - April 12, 2019 - 10:37am
BBC Click's Paul Carter looks at some of the week's best technology stories.

Singapore airport: Tallest indoor waterfall opens

BBC Technology News - April 12, 2019 - 9:26am
Thousands are flocking to Singapore's Changi Airport to see the world's tallest indoor waterfall.

Tesla starts leasing Model 3s; $35,000 version is now software-locked

Ars Technica - April 12, 2019 - 5:42am

Enlarge / My favorite view of the Model 3 is from dead-ahead. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Update: Tesla contacted us this morning to say that in fact you can get a $35,000 Model 3 with no autopilot, if you call or visit one of its stores. As noted below, that information was not mentioned in its blog post on Thursday night.

Original story: On Thursday night, Tesla announced some changes to its Model 3 range. The lineup has been simplified, the prices have been altered, and in the US it will now be possible to lease the car.

First, Autopilot is now a mandatory option, although the company is only raising prices by $2,000 on each configuration instead of the $3,000 that customers have paid until this evening.

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Police detectors to warn mobile phone-using drivers

BBC Technology News - April 12, 2019 - 1:02am
Two police forces will use detectors in a bid to deter drivers using mobile phones at the wheel.

Disney+ launches on November 12 for $6.99/mo, plus new Marvel, Star Wars series

Ars Technica - April 12, 2019 - 12:16am

The Walt Disney Company finally took the wraps off of its Disney+ streaming services app, slated to launch on November 12 of this year at a $6.99/mo rate or an annual price of $69. The company also confirmed a few new series exclusive to the paid, ad-free subscription service, along with some technical details—and Disney+'s exclusive acquisition of the complete Simpsons archives.

Ahead of the event, rumors pointed to one major Marvel-affiliated series revolving around the hero Hawkeye. Instead, Disney confirmed a series in the Disney+ "Marvel" tab titled Falcon and Winter Soldier while showing off the service's interface. No footage was shown of this series as of press time, but the characters will be portrayed by their MCU actors, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan. Additional series announced by Marvel at the event include What If, an animated series that will "take pivotal moments from the MCU and turn them on their head," and WandaVision, a vaguely teased series starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as Wanda Maximoff and The Vision, respectively.

"The post-Endgame vision will be extremely different," Marvel added as a sneaky tease to its upcoming blockbuster (and its assumedly crazy ramifications on the MCU).

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How does it feel to be watched at work all the time?

BBC Technology News - April 12, 2019 - 12:10am
Many more firms are monitoring and analysing employee communications and behaviour. Does it work?

Colourful bin bags help robots sort trash

BBC Technology News - April 12, 2019 - 12:08am
A city with impressive recycling credentials has a unique waste system involving seven coloured bags.

Strong corporate desktop sales limit the decline of the PC market

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 11:21pm

Enlarge / The corporate desktop lives. (credit: Thomas Claveirole / Flickr)

Gartner and IDC have both published their quarterly reports on the size of the PC market in the first quarter of 2019, and they've both agreed: about 58.5 million systems were shipped. The two companies use somewhat different definitions of PCs—for Gartner they're desktops, laptops, and "ultramobile premiums" such as the Surface Pro, but exclude Chromebooks and iPads; for IDC they're desktops, laptops, and workstations, including Chromebooks, but don't include any tablets at all—but this quarter they've ended up at almost exactly the same number of units sold.

The two analysts don't, however, agree on who the top seller was. IDC puts HP top, at 13.6 million systems (0.8 percent fewer than the same quarter a year ago) and a 23.2 percent market share, with Lenovo in second place, at 13.4 million systems (up 1.8 percent) and a 23.0 percent share of the market. Gartner, in contrast, puts Lenovo top at 13.2 million systems (up 6.9 percent), and a 22.5 percent share, and HP in second, with 12.8 million systems (up 0.8 percent) and a 21.9 percent share.

Both companies put Dell in third place, with around 10 million systems shipped, and Apple in fourth place, with 4 million systems sold. Gartner then puts Asus fifth, just behind Apple at 3.6 million systems shipped. IDC instead gives the nod to Acer, again at 3.6 million machines sold.

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One Falcon Heavy rocket launched, three Falcon cores landed [Updated]

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 10:10pm

Enlarge / The Falcon Heavy rocket, at sunset along the Florida coast. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann for Ars Technica)

7pm ET Update: Well, that was exhilarating. SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket launched at the top of its window on Thursday evening from Florida, and soared into space under clear skies. First, the two side boosters separated. And then the center core detached from the second stage, which carried its satellite payload on toward geostationary orbit.

Then, the fun began. In something of a space ballet, the two side boosters reentered Earth's atmosphere, and then made controlled burns to land within meters of one another at sites along the Florida coast. A few minutes later the center core, burning its engines hard, landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Original post: On Wednesday evening, SpaceX ended its first attempt to fly the Falcon Heavy rocket and its Arabsat-6A payload in the middle of a two-hour launch window. The upper-level wind shear was unacceptable, and with a poor forecast, it just didn't make sense to load kerosene and oxygen on the rocket.

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YouTube, Facebook put up ad roadblocks for Weedcraft, Inc. business sim

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 9:20pm

Enlarge / A scene from a grow room in Weedcraft, Inc., where you can become "Lord of Canabusiness"

Online social and video networks have taken action to limit discussion of Weedcraft, Inc., a new simulation game focused on building a business empire to sell the drug. Videos of the game have been demonetized on YouTube and the game's Facebook page has been restricted to prevent ad sales, according to a representative for publisher Devolver Digital.

Weedcraft Inc., launching today on Steam and GOG, includes Tycoon-style business-growing scenarios that focus on both the legal and illegal sides of the marijuana trade during what developer Vile Monarch calls the "semi prohibition-era" for the drug. Situations where you have to conceal grow rooms from cops exist in the game alongside legitimate lobbying efforts to legalize the drug in more jurisdictions through two distinct story scenarios.

Despite the nuanced and decidedly artistic take on the drug war, though, Devolver says its partners on YouTube are reporting their videos about the game have been blocked from receiving any revenue from advertising. And Devolver's ad manager tells Ars that "basically they've said we can't advertise on [Facebook or Instagram], restricted the page (still trying to find out what that means exactly), and they completely banned my personal ad account because why not, I guess."

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Declassified photos from U2 planes are helping archaeologists unlock the past

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 9:15pm

Enlarge / Comparison of the resolution of U2 aerial photography (left) over Ur, Iraq, from October 30, 1959, versus CORONA satellite imagery (right) taken May 4, 1968. (credit: E. Hammer and J. Ur)

During the 1950s and 1960s, US spy planes made regular flights across Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East, photographing the terrain to track military targets. A chunk of the Middle Eastern photographs were declassified in 1997, and now those airborne images are helping archaeologists track changing features in the landscape that in many cases are no longer visible today, according to a new paper published in Advances in Archaeological Practice.

Co-author Emily Hammer is a landscape archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, meaning she studies how humans in the past were organized with respect to their environment and landscape: where people were living, where their roads were, where their irrigation canals were, and so forth. But it's not always possible to see more large-scale features on the ground, so aerial photos and satellite imagery are a critical tool for landscape archaeologists.

"It's like an impressionist's painting," said Hammer, in that there is no discernible pattern when viewed up close. "Just like stepping back from the blobs of paint on an Impressionist painting reveals the full picture, [aerial and satellite imagery] lets you stand back and see larger patterns that tell us about how humans relate to their environment in the past."

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Acer’s new ConceptD line is for creatives who want powerful yet quiet PCs

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 8:52pm

NEW YORK—Acer added to its already extensive family of PCs with an entirely new line today. Dubbed ConceptD, the new family of laptops, towers, and displays are designed for creatives who often gravitate to gaming PCs for their power but may also be turned off by those devices’ unique designs and loud cooling noise.

Acer explained at its event in Brooklyn, New York, today that it took a lot of inspiration from its Predator gaming line when making ConceptD machines. However, that inspiration manifested mostly in the new machines’ internals—most ConceptD devices have the latest 9th-gen Intel processors and powerful Nvidia graphics cards, providing the necessary performance to serve a number of creatives (think animators, graphic designers, VR engineers, etc).

As far as external design goes, ConceptD machines borrow some aspects from Acer’s consumer families but also incorporate white and wooden accents for an airier, modern look. The ConceptD 9 convertible has a design similar to Acer’s Aspire R13, featuring a hinge that allows you to move the display forward and backward (Acer calls this its Ezel Aero hinge). The display itself is a 17.3-inch 4K display that has a DeltaE of less than one, which means it will render colors that are nearly as accurate as those in real life (a DeltaE closer to 0 results in more accurate colors).

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A private spacecraft from Israel crashed into the Moon Thursday [Updated]

Ars Technica - April 11, 2019 - 8:35pm

Enlarge / Beresheet captured this image of the Moon from an altitude of 500km. (credit: SpaceIL)

Thursday 3:35pm ET Update: The Moon remains a harsh mistress.

On Thursday, SpaceIL's lunar lander attempted to make a soft landing on the surface of the Moon, but it apparently crashed instead into the gray world. Although a postmortem analysis has not yet been completed, telemetry from the spacecraft indicated a failure of the spacecraft's main engine about 10km above the Moon. Thereafter, it appears to have struck the Moon at a velocity of around 130 meters per second.

“We have had a failure in the spacecraft," Opher Doron, general manager of the space division at Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the lander, said during the landing webcast. "We have unfortunately not managed to land successfully.” Israeli engineers vowed to try again.

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