from the well-that's-great dept
To me, that seems like a broken system.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 2nd 2015 6:21am
by Leigh Beadon
Sat, Sep 26th 2015 9:00am
It's an age-old symbol of tech dismay: a dozen interconnected devices, a dozen remote controls, all failing to work smoothly with each other. This week, we're looking at a device that aims to sort out some of the mess when it comes to video: Skreens, a robust HDMI input mixer aimed at streamers and heavy media users.
Juggling multiple video devices is no picnic. Even having multiple windows open on a desktop or laptop is less than ideal, and once you bring in external devices other than general purpose computers, things get even tougher, leaving you with little option but to split your attention between multiple displays. Skreems offers another option: it takes two or four HDMI inputs (depending on the model), and lets you arrange them as you see fit and send them all to a single output. Sports on the left, Twitter feed on the right? No problem. Want to watch a movie, play Xbox, and use Skype all at once? Just drag and drop the three separate screens into your desired configuration and fire it up. It all runs through one compact box and is controlled by a separate app, which can also serve as a universal remote control. Skreens has the potential to be a complete solution to most multiple-media-device woes.
Skreens comes in four models: the two-input and the four-input version, each with both a regular and pro model. That makes perfect sense until you take a closer look at the specs, and notice that they've made one very unfriendly choice: the pro models, which come with an extra $100 on the price tag, don't actually include any superior hardware — they just have some extra unlocked capabilities. In other words, it appears the non-pro models are capable of letting you do absolutely everything the pros are, but some of those features are artificially restricted, such as advanced video quality settings and the aforementioned universal remote capabilities. This sort of artificial limitation benefits nobody, and it's just begging to be circumvented — though we'll have to wait and see if the people behind Skreens make an effort to stop people from doing so. It's a shame that half of the models of this otherwise-impressive device have been intentionally hamstrung in order to push people into spending more.
Of course, part of the reasoning behind this is clearly that the creators see their biggest potential market among online streamers, and are hoping those increasingly-professional ranks will be willing to spend the extra bucks. And it's true that Skreens looks like a pretty exciting tool for people who stream their gaming sessions online, since they are usually either stuck with the limited options provided by a gaming console or various PC apps that add an extra software burden to their gaming rig. Skreens opens up lots of new possibilities for streaming gamers, and I suspect we'll see it being used to widen the possibilities for just what you can stream to Twitch or the new YouTube Gaming, beyond the now-standard "webcam feed in the top corner" configuration. Livestreaming is a rapidly growing entertainment sector with an already-massive audience, and Skreens has a shot at becoming a standard piece of every streaming gamer's setup — even with the unfortunate premium price tag on the pro models.
by Karl Bode
Fri, Sep 25th 2015 6:18am
"According to Nielsen’s second-quarter Total Audience report, the number of homes with pay-TV subscriptions—a crucial number for the industry—is down 1.2% to 100.4 million from 101.6 million a year ago. The number of broadband only homes rose 52% to 3.3 million from 2.2 million...Meanwhile, the share of homes with subscription video on demand rose 18% to 45% in the second quarter of 2015 from 38% in the second quarter a year ago. The number of homes with enabled smart TVs rose to 18% from 11%."So, yeah. Traditional TV is slowly and surely dying. While Nielsen helped prop up the industry belief that cord cutting was over-hyped, other tracking firms were busy pointing out that not only were cable TV providers slowly hemorrhaging subscribers each quarter, but the number of new pay TV subscriptions weren't scaling in line with new home ownership growth like they used to.
"According to Nielsen fast national data, every returning Tuesday night drama suffered double-digit ratings declines, while the three new series were a mixed bag. Leading off the night at 8 p.m., ABC's reboot of "The Muppets" put up decent numbers, averaging 8.91 million viewers and a 2.8 among adults 18-to-49, making it the night's No. 2 rated show behind "The Voice."..Networks have always banked on Premiere Week as an interval of peak sampling, but Tuesday night's PUT (or people using television) levels were discouraging. The number of adults 18-to-49 watching primep-time programming dropped 8% versus the year-ago period and overall usage in the demograhic for the last two nights is down 10%.Gosh, it's almost like viewers are headed to a fictional land where they have more control over what they view for much less money? It gets worse: TV viewing among adults 18-to-24 dropped 20% from last year, and male usage in that holy-grail demographic has wilted by roughly 24%. Again, cable and broadcast executives (and if you're Comcast NBC Universal, that's one and the same) could stop all of this right now if they were willing to offer more flexible channel lineups and compete on price, but they've grown too fat and comfortable to notice the storm clouds gathering on the horizon.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 14th 2015 12:46pm
Defendants obtained the recording and the documents in the course of conducting an investigation into possible illegal activity, with the purpose of documenting and exposing this activity to the public to spur action and reform. The complained-of conduct is quintessential newsgathering, protected by the First Amendment. Plaintiffs' complaint, therefore, is directed at conduct (newsgathering) in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right to free speech and petition....And, as Popehat explains, it appears the judge is now realizing that a restraining order is likely unconstitutional. The decision in response to the anti-SLAPP motion points out that there really isn't any legitimate reason to block the release of the video.
Plaintiff does not persuade the Court that the discovery it seeks is necessary to obtain the preliminary injunction. That is because it appears unlikely that the Court is going to grant the preliminary injunction. The injunction Plaintiff seeks would prevent Defendants from disseminating the videotapes. First, this proposed injunction would constitute a prior restraint on the Defendants' rights under the First Amendment and the parallel protections under the California Constitution.... Therefore, it is unlikely that the preliminary injunction will ultimately be granted.... This general prohibition on prior restraints even applies to speech whose publication is false, defamatory, violative of privacy rights or otherwise tortious.This is a procedural step away from a final ruling on the issue, but is rather in response to a discovery request. But, at the very least, it suggests that StemExpress's attempt to block the release of the video is almost certain to fail. And, of course, it has now called much more attention to the video when it does get released.
Second, even if Plaintiff's evidence demonstrates that the videotapes were obtained in violation of Penal Code Section 632, Section 632 does not prohibit the disclosure of information gathered in violation of its terms.... For that reason, the Court is unlikely to enjoin the dissemination of the tapes. Nor does Penal Code Section 637.2 help Plaintiffs. That section permits a person injured by a violation of Penal Code Section 632 “to bring an action to enjoin and restrain” such violation. It does not permit an action to prevent the dissemination of the unlawfully obtained recording.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 30th 2015 1:55pm
Of course, Popehat also notes that if the group already gave the video to someone else -- such as a journalist -- the court can't block that group from releasing it, as that is definitely prior restraint.
Remarkably, StemExpress' TRO application contains no prior restraint analysis whatsoever. Its sole concession to the First Amendment is an argument that (1) this isn't a First Amendment violation because it's an illegal recording, and (2) it's not a First Amendment violation because the defendants are free to speak or write about what happened at the meeting, they just can't release the recording. We don't have a transcript of the hearing, and we don't know what other arguments the court may have considered, but this is troubling.
In my opinion, StemExpress could have made a decent argument if it had focused on the apparent fact that CMP signed nondisclosure agreements and then violated them. First Amendment rights are broad, but can be deliberately waived. That's why confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements are often enforceable. While the state of the law isn't perfectly clear, there's a colorable argument that threatened breach of a nondisclosure agreement may be a basis for prior restraint if the underlying confidentiality interest is strong enough. It's not a bulletproof argument, but it's much better than ignoring the prior restraint issue entirely.
In sum: if the court based the prior restraint on a violation of California's secret-recording law, I think it probably violates the First Amendment. But the order might be sustainable because CMP engaged in the dubious practice of signing a pledge of confidentiality with the intent of breaking it.
by Leigh Beadon
Sat, Jul 25th 2015 9:00am
GoPro cameras were a revolution in the world of video, enabling a level of high-action photography with a low-cost, out-of-the-box solution. In general, there's a growing number of rugged outdoor devices for capturing video, pictures and sound — but there's still a stumbling block for people who venture to the corners of the earth with their cameras in tow. This week, we're looking at the Gnarbox, which could be the final piece of the puzzle for outdoor action photographers.
What's the one stumbling block I mentioned? Simple: dealing with all your footage. A day out with a GoPro at full resolution generates gigabytes of video, leaving you with two main options, neither of them great. You can carry a bunch of backup memory cards for the camera, or you can add a laptop to your travelling kit — largely negating the ability to just toss a bunch of extremely rugged gear in your bag without fear of damage (or requiring the purchase of a rugged outdoor laptop — something far rarer and more expensive than a camera).
Gnarbox is the new third option: a tiny, heavy-duty device that's halfway to being a full-fledged computer. It has 128gb of internal storage, so you can quickly load it up with the day's footage (by USB or with the built-in SD card reader), but that's just the beginning: it also has its own GPU and CPU, and serves as a WiFi hotspot to create a local network. This means that once you've got the footage loaded up, you can wirelessly connect to the Gnarbox with your smartphone, control it via the app, and actually start editing and sharing videos — even full-resolution 4K ones. Not only does this eliminate the problem of dealing with all your footage and clearing off your camera for the next day's adventure, it also makes it easy to rapidly share the videos you are creating without needing to wait until you reach a computer-equipped home base.
The (Not Actually) Bad
In many of these Awesome Stuff posts, I've bemoaned the fact that otherwise-cool devices are so often limited by the choice to make them exclusively smartphone-controlled. But the Gnarbox is a different case: its entire purpose is to replace more robust computers in situations where they aren't ideal, and to bring a level of video editing capability to your phone that was formerly the exclusive realm of higher-power devices. So, for once, I have no complaints about the fact that it requires the use of an Android or iOS app, since if you're near a desktop or laptop then you don't have any need for it to begin with. That's the right reason to build a smartphone-only device: not because you want to lock people in to your proprietary app or you want to block power-users from getting into the nuts and bolts of your product, but in order to bring a new capability to smartphones that they didn't have before. Editing 128gb of 4k footage certainly qualifies.
If any of this has piqued your interest, now is the time to go check out the Gnarbox, because there are some pretty great deals for Kickstarter backers. Even the projected retail price of $250 is attractive for such a device, but the Kickstarter rewards knock 40% off that price and let you order one for only $150, two for only $279, or a big pack of ten for only $100 a pop. But be warned, these are all limited quantities, and not just for the early bird prices but for the device itself — the initial Kickstarter run of 1000 Gnarboxes is already down to less than 200, so there doesn't seem to be much time left.
by Karl Bode
Mon, Jul 6th 2015 2:42pm
"To improve data experience for the majority of users, throughput may be limited, varied or reduced on the network. Streaming video speeds will be limited to 600Kbps at all times, which may impact quality. Sprint may terminate service if off-network roaming usage in a month exceeds: (1) 800 min. or a majority of min.; or (2) 100MB or a majority of KB."Users quickly made it clear that they weren't interested in an "unlimited" data plan with such limits, forcing Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure -- who claimed he was asleep in Tokyo during all the ruckus -- to reverse course and remove the 600 kbps limit. This flub came after the company's CEO had been making it perfectly clear Sprint is planning to kill unlimited data entirely, one of the few things people actually like about Sprint. In short, Sprint's trying very hard lately to act like the more-disruptive T-Mobile, but as the uncool "dad jeans" of the wireless sector, isn't quite sure how to go about it.
@JohnLegere I am so tired of your Uncarrier bullshit when you are worse than the other two carriers together. Your cheap misleading lease— MarceloClaure (@marceloclaure) July 2, 2015
.@marceloclaure you mad bro?— John Legere (@JohnLegere) July 2, 2015
by Leigh Beadon
Fri, Jul 3rd 2015 12:00pm
A few weeks ago, we featured the Gloveone and talked about the growing market for supplemental virtual reality devices. We also talked about the coming VR future on this week's podcast episode. But there's another half of the VR world we haven't talked a lot about: the capture and creation of VR environments. This week, we're looking at the Sphericam 2, a 360-degree 4k camera.
As VR devices like the Oculus Rift become more popular, there's going to be a huge thirst for content — and in this everyone-is-a-creator world, a huge thirst for content-making tools, too. Though much of the excitement has been around video games and from-scratch environments, there are also plenty of compelling things to be done with material captured the real world. For that, you need an elaborate multi-camera setup — or a device like the Sphericam. It's tiny (about the size of a tennis ball), rugged and full-featured, and requires no special knowledge to capture 360-degree footage which can then be converted to a navigable VR environment. It's basically a GoPro combined with a Google Street View car, and that's pretty cool. For the videophile, it has solid specs: 60fps raw video at 4096x2048 resolution, on six cameras with no blind spots.
There's really only one major drawback here, and that's the price. At $1500 plus shipping, it's not something that's going to find its way into everyone's pocket overnight. That's not to say the price is unfair — given the amount of technology packed into the device, it seems at least reasonable, but for the time being it remains an obstacle. Still, just like the VR devices themselves, it's likely that things like the Sphericam will only get more and more accessible as time goes on.
The User Generated
This is the part that's really exciting and interesting about devices like this. Today, it's simply no longer enough to release a new means of consuming content to the world — it needs to come with ways of creating that content. The world of virtual reality will have no multi-decade gap between early "professional only" days and later "everyone's in on it" days, like photography or film or recorded music — the two will arrive almost simultaneously, with content coming from a huge spectrum from amateur to professional and everything in between. Devices like the Sphericam are paving the way for this, demonstrating that even something cutting-edge like virtual reality can and will be adopted by creators of all classes. It's going to be an interesting future in more ways than one.
by Karl Bode
Tue, Apr 28th 2015 6:16am
"A statement from the network explains that “ESPN is at the forefront of embracing innovative ways to deliver high-quality content and value to consumers on multiple platforms, but that must be done in compliance with our agreements. We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts."Would that be the same contract that ESPN believes prevents innovative ways of delivering high-quality content? As 2015 becomes the year that Internet video finally starts to see some interesting but imperfect new options, ESPN's swimming upstream if it hopes to sue its way toward keeping cable permanently stuck in 2003. Consumers are increasingly making it clear that soaring programming rates simple aren't tenable, and they intend to cut the cord or flee to piracy if the cable industry wants to continue stumbling drunkenly down the current path.
by Karl Bode
Mon, Mar 30th 2015 9:16am
"But there's one whopping big question that nobody's asking: Can you replace cable with streaming Internet TV and get the same experience — and save money? After all, if you can't make the switch without missing your favorite TV shows and saving money, then what's the point?"Except they can! Through piracy! One gets the sense that media outlets feel like if they so much as even acknowledge that piracy is a real thing -- they'll somehow be taken as advocates for piracy. It's as if piracy is some kind of angry and strange Lovecraftian god, and even mentioning its name will invite unspeakable terror upon the local village. And it's not just the media -- I've seen countless professional firms paid millions to analyze the state of the pay TV sector similarly just pretend that piracy doesn't exist -- in large part because tracking these users can be difficult to impossible. As such, it's best to just pretend piracy doesn't exist and isn't even worth trying to monitor. Nobody will notice, right?
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