Music

SUSE Shares Linux-Themed Music Video Parodies (itwire.com) 27

Long-time Slashdot reader troublemaker_23 quotes ITWire: German Linux company SUSE Linux is well-known for its Linux and other open source solutions. It is also known for producing videos for geeks and debuting them at its annual SUSECon conference. This year, in Prague, was no different. The company, which marked its 25th year on 2 September, came up with two videos, one to mark the occasion and the other all about Linux and open source. Both videos are parodies of well-known songs: the video Linus Said is based on "Momma Said", while 25 Years is a parody of "7 Years". Some of the lyrics in both SUSE videos would be meaningless to the average person -- but every word will ring a bell, sometimes a very poignant one, with geeks. And that's the primary audience it targets.
The article embeds both videos -- and also links to the music videos they're parodying. And it includes links to SUSE's two previous annual music video parodies -- Uptime Funk (based on Bruno Mars' blockbuster hit "Uptown Funk"), and Can't Stop the SUSE, a parody of Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling".
Google

Google Slashes Prices of Its USB-C Headphone Dongle Following Minor Outrage (mashable.com) 193

At its hardware event last week, Google unveiled its two new flagship smartphones: the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. While these devices feature high-end specifications and the latest version of Android, they both lack headphone jacks, upsetting many consumers who still rely heavily on wired headphones. To add insult to injury, Google announced a USB-C adapter for a whopping price of $20 -- that's $11 more than Apple's Lightning to 3.5mm adapter. This resulted in some minor outrage and caused Google to rethink its decision(s). As reported by 9to5Google, Google decided to slash the price of the dongle by over 50%. It is now priced at a more reasonable $9.
IBM

How Does Microsoft Avoid Being the Next IBM? (arstechnica.com) 223

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: For fans of the platform, the official confirmation that Windows on phones isn't under active development any longer -- security bugs will be fixed, but new features and new hardware aren't on the cards -- isn't a big surprise. This is merely a sad acknowledgement of what we already knew. Last week, Microsoft also announced that it was getting out of the music business, signaling another small retreat from the consumer space. It's tempting to shrug and dismiss each of these instances, pointing to Microsoft's continued enterprise strength as evidence that the company's position remains strong. And certainly, sticking to the enterprise space is a thing that Microsoft could do. Become the next IBM: a stable, dull, multibillion dollar business. But IBM probably doesn't want to be IBM right now -- it has had five straight years of falling revenue amid declining relevance of its legacy businesses -- and Microsoft probably shouldn't want to be the next IBM, either. Today, Microsoft is facing similar pressures -- Windows, though still critical, isn't as essential to people's lives as it was a decade ago -- and risks a similar fate. Dropping consumer ambitions and retreating to the enterprise is a mistake. Microsoft's failure in smartphones is bad for Windows, and it's bad for Microsoft's position in the enterprise as a whole.
Businesses

Is Amazon Lowering The Global Rate of Inflation? (businessinsider.com) 146

An anonymous reader quotes Business Insider: Another investment bank analyst has signed on to the idea that the internet is holding down the rate of inflation. Bilal Hafeez, the global head of G10 FX strategy and head of EMEA research at Nomura, published two notes last month on whether the value of the dollar was being held down by Amazon and its ilk. In one note he called it "the Amazonization of inflation"... [O]nline commerce typified by Amazon is making the supply and distribution of goods so cheap that "Amazonisation" itself is now a deflationary force at a macro level, Hafeez argues. He writes: "While globalisation was the meme of the 2000s, this decade's has to be the 'Amazonisation' of commerce. Given the bulk of the cost of goods is distribution costs, Amazon's unique distribution model and widening range of products could impart a new disinflationary impulse on goods prices."

This idea is becoming more popular among analysts as the months roll by. Back in September 2016, we told you about the "Spotify problem," in an interview with HSBC's James Pomeroy. His theory is that the internet allows consumers to shop around and compare prices incredibly easily. It also substitutes cheap digital goods over more expensive physical ones. For instance, people stop paying £20 every month for a CD when they start paying £10 a month for endless music from Spotify. The result is that businesses are aggressively driving down their own prices because consumers simply won't go to the ones that charge more, and are no longer trapped into shopping in their own neighbourhoods. Sweden is so advanced as a digital economy that it may be importing its own deflation via digital shopping, Pomeroy argued.

Google

Clever Hack Fakes A Sleep Timer For Google Home (vortex.com) 50

Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: I've long been bitching about Google Home's lack of a basic function that clock radios have had since at least the middle of the last century -- the classic "sleep timer" for playing music until a specified time or until a specific interval has passed... Originally, sleep timer type commands weren't recognized at all by GH, but eventually it started admitting that the concept at least exists... Officially, GH still responds with "Sleep timer is not yet supported" when you give commands like "Stop playing in an hour"... A somewhat inconvenient but seemingly serviceable way to fake a sleep timer is now possible with Google Home. I plead guilty, it's a hack. But here we go.
The hack exploits the new "Night Mode" in the firmware, which lets you set a maximum volume for specific hours of the day, creating silent (but still-active) music streaming. "Yep, a hack, but it works," writes Lauren. "And it's the closest we've gotten to a real sleep timer on Google Home so far."

Any other Slashdot readers have their own favorite personal assistant tricks?
Google

Bluetooth Won't Replace the Headphone Jack -- Walled Gardens Will (theverge.com) 380

Last year, when it was rumoured that the then upcoming iPhone models -- 7 and 7 Plus -- won't have the 3.5mm audio jack, The Verge's Nilay Patel wrote that if Apple does do it, it would be a user-hostile and stupid move. When those iPhone models were official announced, they indeed didn't have the audio jack. Earlier this week, Android-maker Google announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones that also don't feature the decades-old audio jack either, a move that would likely push rest of the smartphone makers to adopt a similar change. The rationale behind killing the traditional headphones jack, both Apple and Google say, is to move to an improved technology: Bluetooth. But there is another motive at play here, it appears. Patel, writes for The Verge: As the headphone jack disappears, the obvious replacement isn't another wire with a proprietary connector like Apple's Lightning or the many incompatible and strange flavors of USB-C audio. It's Bluetooth. And Bluetooth continues to suck, for a variety of reasons. Newer phones like the iPhone 8, Galaxy S8, and the Pixel 2 have Bluetooth 5, which promises to be better, but 1. There are literally no Bluetooth 5 headphones out yet, and 2. we have definitely heard that promise before. So we'll see. To improve Bluetooth, platform vendors like Apple and Google are riffing on top of it, and that means they're building custom solutions. And building custom solutions means they're taking the opportunity to prioritize their own products, because that is a fair and rational thing for platform vendors to do. Unfortunately, what is fair and rational for platform vendors isn't always great for markets, competition, or consumers. And at the end of this road, we will have taken a simple, universal thing that enabled a vibrant market with tons of options for every consumer, and turned it into yet another limited market defined by ecosystem lock-in. The playbook is simple: last year, Apple dropped the headphone jack and replaced it with its W1 system, which is basically a custom controller chip and software management layer for Bluetooth. The exemplary set of W1 headphones is, of course, AirPods, but Apple also owns Beats, and there are a few sets of W1 Beats headphones available as well. You can still use regular Bluetooth headphones with an iPhone, and you can use AirPods as regular Bluetooth headphones, but the combination iPhone / W1 experience is obviously superior to anything else on the market. [...] Google's version of this is the Pixel Buds, a set of over-ear neckbuds that serve as basic Bluetooth headphones but gain additional capabilities when used with certain phones. Seamless fast pairing? You need Android N or higher, which most Android phones don't have.
Google

Google Pixel Buds Are Wireless Earbuds That Translate Conversations In Real Time (arstechnica.com) 162

At its hardware event today, Google debuted new wireless earbuds, dubbed "Pixel Buds." These are Google's first wireless earbuds that give users access to Google Translate so they can have conversations with people who speak a different language. Ars Technica reports: Unlike Apple's AirPods, the Pixel Buds have a wire connecting the two earpieces. However, that wire doesn't connect to a smartphone or other device. Pixel Buds will pair via Bluetooth to the new Pixel smartphones -- and presumably any other devices that accept Bluetooth wireless earbuds. All of the Pixel Buds' controls are built in to the right earpiece, which is a common hardware solution on wireless earbuds. You can access Google Assistant by tapping or pressing on the right earbud, and the Assistant will be able to read notifications and messages to you through the Buds.

But the most intriguing feature of the Pixel Buds is the integrated Google Translate feature. Demoed on stage at Google's event today, this feature lets two Pixel Bud wearers chat in their native languages by translating conversations in real time. In the demo, a native English speaker and a native Swedish speaker had a conversation with each other, both using their native languages. Google Translate translated the languages for each user. There was barely any lag time in between the speaker saying a phrase and the Buds' hearing those words and translating them into the appropriate language. The Pixel Buds will use Google Translate to comprehend conversations in 40 different languages.
Some other features include a 5-hour battery life, and a charging case that can hold up to 24 hours of battery life. They're available for preorder today for $159.
Google

Google Debuts Its $400 Google Home Max Speaker To Rival Apple's HomePod (techcrunch.com) 60

In addition to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, Google debuted a $400 speaker, called Home Max, that looks to compete directly with Apple's recently announced HomePod. The Home Max is a larger Google Home that features stereo speakers and more premium looks and materials. It's expected to go on sale in December in the U.S. TechCrunch reports: It can tune its audio to its own space, analyzing the sound coming from the speaker using its built in microphones to determine the best equalizer settings. This is called Smart Sound, and it evolves over time and based on where you move the speaker, using built-in machine learning. It has Cast functionality, as well as input via stereo 3.5 mm jack. Home Max can output sound that's up to 20 times more powerful than the standard version of Home, Google says, and it has two 4.5 inch woofers on board with two 0.7 inch custom-built tuners. It can sit in either vertical or horizontal orientation, and it comes in both 'chalk' and 'charcoal.' Of course, this bigger speaker also includes a noise isolating array that makes it work even in open rooms with background noise, and it's Assistant-enabled, so you can use it to control your music playback via voice, or manage your smart home devices, set yourself reminders, alarms, and timers and much more. Google also launched a budget-friendly Google Home Mini that features the Google Assistant but in a smaller form factor. 9to5Google reports: Google touts the Home Mini as having a powerful speaker with "crisp" 360 degree sound. The Mini can also be connected to any Chromecast wireless speaker, but there is no 3.5mm jack like Amazon's Echo Dot. In the center, there are four white lights that note when the Home Mini is listening or responding. Besides saying the "Ok, Google" hotword, users can tap on the Home Mini to issue a command. Google also retained the Home's original button for disabling the microphone with a toggle next to the charging port. The Google Home Mini will be go on sale later this month for $49, with pre-orders starting today.
Microsoft

Microsoft Shutters Groove Music, Will Move Users To Spotify (techcrunch.com) 51

Microsoft announced today that it will soon shutter both its Groove Music Pass streaming service and the ability to purchase songs and albums in the Windows Store. The biggest surprise isn't that the service never took off, it's that Microsoft has partnered with Spotify to move all its Groove Music Pass customers over to Spotify. TechCrunch reports: Starting December 31, the Groove Music app will lose its features for streaming, purchasing and downloading music. Microsoft promises that moving to Spotify will be pretty seamless and that virtually all the songs and playlists that Groove users created over the years will transfer to the new service. Windows Insiders will be able to test this out with the next update, which is scheduled to roll out next week. Users will have until at least January 31, 2018 to make the move, though. For the most part, Spotify offers a superset of Groove's music catalog, so except for a few edge cases, there's no reason to believe that moving to Spotify would be a great loss for Groove Music Pass customers. And because Spotify is available on Windows Phone, too, even the few users still left on Microsoft's failed mobile platform won't miss out. As for Groove Music itself, Microsoft says the actual app won't go away anytime soon. It'll still be available for playing back and managing music that's stored locally.
Android

Ask Slashdot: Why Would Anyone Want To Spend $1,000 on a Smartphone? 487

Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the $1,000 sticker price for the base model of iPhone X, the latest flagship smartphone from the company which goes on sale next month, is "a value price for the technology that you're getting." An anonymous reader writes: I simply don't understand why anyone would want to spend such amount on a phone. Don't get me wrong. Having a smartphone is crucial in this day and age. I get it. But even a $200 phone, untethered from any carrier contract, will let you install the apps you need, will allow you to take good pictures, surf the web, and listen to music. That handset might not be as fast as the iPhone X or Samsung's new Galaxy Note 8, or it might not be able to take as great pictures, but the difference, I feel, doesn't warrant an additional $800. The reader shares a column: When considering a purchase, comparing the value a product will add to our lives, and its cost is wise. Subjective perceptions affect how we value possessions, but let's consider the practical value of how we use smartphones. Smartphones aren't used for talking as often as the phones that preceded them were. In fact, actual "phone" use ranks below messaging, web surfing, social media and other activities that dominate smartphone usage. Furthermore, statistically we use only six core apps regularly. [...] My point is, smartphones have't changed all that much relatively speaking. Sure they're bigger, faster, more powerful and have awesome cameras. But the iPhone X is fundamentally the same device the earlier iPhones were, and provides the same basic and sought after functions. It's a glass-covered rectangular slab mostly used for messaging, web-surfing, music and social media activity. An individual's perception of self, financial resources, desired or actual social position and love for tech will likely play a role in his perception of the value of a $1,000 smartphone.
United States

Las Vegas Shooting Leaves at Least 50 Dead, More Than 200 Wounded (wsj.com) 1219

Readers share a report: At least 50 people are dead and more than 200 wounded after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). Police said they were first alerted to reports of an incident at 10:08 p.m. and then determined there was a shooter on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino who was targeting the nearby Route 91 Harvest Festival. Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said in a briefing that officers responded and shot dead the suspect. He said the suspect was a local resident but declined to identify him, citing the ongoing investigation. Police are also trying to locate a female companion, who they named as Marilou Danley, who was traveling with the suspect.
Mozilla

Donate Your Noise To Xiph/Mozilla's Deep-Learning Noise Suppression Project (xiph.org) 119

Mozilla-backed researchers are working on a real-time noise suppression algorithm using a neural network -- and they want your noise! Long-time Slashdot reader jmv writes: The Mozilla Research RRNoise project combines classic signal processing with deep learning, but it's small and fast. No expensive GPUs required -- it runs easily on a Raspberry Pi. The result is easier to tune and sounds better than traditional noise suppression systems (been there!). And you can help!
From the site: Click on this link to let us record one minute of noise from where you are... We're interested in noise from any environment where you might communicate using voice. That can be your office, your car, on the street, or anywhere you might use your phone or computer.
They claim it already sounds better than traditional noise suppression systems, and even though the code isn't optmized yet, "it already runs about 60x faster than real-time on an x86 CPU."
Input Devices

Meet The Next Major Operating System: Amazon's Alexa (zdnet.com) 168

ZDNet's editor-in-chief warns that Amazon has ambitious plans for its new Echo Plus: Amazon is making an explicit play to be the home hub because it can automatically discover and set up lights, locks, plugs, and switches without the need for additional hubs or apps. And the Alexa 'routines' feature will be able to tie all of this together by allowing you to automate a series of actions with a single voice command: saying "Alexa, good night," and having it turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV, for example. A platform that other apps and devices can connect into? This starts to sound a lot like an operating system for the home to me.

It's not just the home, either; Amazon announced a deal to make Alexa available in BMW and Mini vehicles from the middle of next year, allowing drivers to use the digital assistant to get directions, play music or control smart home devices while travelling, without having to use a separate app. Travellers will also have access to Alexa skills from third-party developers like Starbucks, allowing them to order their coffee while driving and thus skip the line. Back in January, Amazon and Ford said they were working together to allow voice commands to turn on the engine, lock or unlock the doors as well as play music and use other skills...

It's still early days but I think Alexa has a good shot at becoming one of the standard interfaces, certainly for consumers -- an operating system for the home, if not more, if the automotive tie-ups take off too. All of this will make Amazon a serious force to be reckoned with. Windows has the desktop, and Android and iOS can fight it out for the smartphone, but right now Alexa has a lock on the smart home.

Communications

FCC Chief Tells Apple To Turn on iPhone's FM Radio Chip (cnet.com) 235

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai pushed Apple on Friday to activate the FM radio chips in the iPhone. From a report: In the wake of three major hurricanes that have wiped out communications for millions of people over the past month, Pai issued a statement urging Apple, one of the largest makers of cellphones in the US, to "reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria." FM radios that are already included in every phone could be used to access "life-saving information" during disasters, he said. For years the majority of smartphones sold in the US have included FM radios, but most of them have been turned off so that you couldn't use the function. Why? Mobile customers would be a lot less likely to subscribe to streaming music services if they could just listen to traditional, free broadcast radio. This incentive is especially true for Apple, which has a streaming music service. Apple said in a statement: "iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products."
EU

EU Paid For Report That Said Piracy Isn't Harmful -- And Tried To Hide Findings (thenextweb.com) 169

According to Julia Reda's blog, the only Pirate in the EU Parliament, the European Commission in 2014 paid the Dutch consulting firm Ecorys 360,000 euros (about $428,000) to research the effect piracy had on sales of copyrighted content. The final report was finished in May 2015, but was never published because the report concluded that piracy isn't harmful. The Next Web reports: The 300-page report seems to suggest that there's no evidence that supports the idea that piracy has a negative effect on sales of copyrighted content (with some exceptions for recently released blockbusters). The report states: "In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements. That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect. An exception is the displacement of recent top films. The results show a displacement rate of 40 per cent which means that for every ten recent top films watched illegally, four fewer films are consumed legally."

On her blog, Julia Reda says that a report like this is fundamental to discussions about copyright policies -- where the general assumption is usually that piracy has a negative effect on rightsholders' revenues. She also criticizes the Commissions reluctance to publish the report and says it probably wouldn't have released it for several more years if it wasn't for the access to documents request she filed in July.
As for why the Commission hadn't published the report earlier, Reda says: "all available evidence suggests that the Commission actively chose to ignore the study except for the part that suited their agenda: In an academic article published in 2016, two European Commission officials reported a link between lost sales for blockbusters and illegal downloads of those films. They failed to disclose, however, that the study this was based on also looked at music, ebooks and games, where it found no such connection. On the contrary, in the case of video games, the study found the opposite link, indicating a positive influence of illegal game downloads on legal sales. That demonstrates that the study wasn't forgotten by the Commission altogether..."
Youtube

More Are Paying To Stream Music, But YouTube Still Holds the Value Gap (theregister.co.uk) 43

An anonymous reader shares a report: With Google's user-generated content loophole firmly in lawmaker's sights, global music trade body IFPI has published new research looking at demand for music streaming. The research confirms YouTube's pre-eminence as the world's de facto jukebox. 46 percent of on-demand music streaming is from Google's video website. 75 percent of internet users use video streaming to hear music. The paid-for picture is bullish: 50 percent of internet users have paid for licensed music in the last six months, in one form or another, of which 53 per are 13- to 15-year-olds. Audio streaming is split between 39 percent who stream for free and 29 percent who pay. [...] So what's the problem? European policy makers have become convinced by the "value gap" argument: compensation doesn't reflect usage. Google finds itself with a unique advantage here, thanks to YouTube's "user-generated content" exception, as we explained last year.
Piracy

Can The Pirate Bay Replace Ads With A Bitcoin Miner? (betanews.com) 123

Mark Wilson writes: When it comes to the Pirate Bay, it's usually movie studios, music producers and software creators that get annoyed with the site — you know, copyright and all that. But in an interesting twist it is now users who find themselves irked by and disappointed in the most famous torrent site in the world.

So what's happened? Out of the blue, the Pirate Bay has added a Javascript-powered Bitcoin miner to the site. Nestling in the code of the site is an embedded cryptocurrency miner from Coinhive. Users who have noticed an increase in resource usage on their computers as a result of this are not happy.

TorrentFreak reports the miner is being tested for about 24 hours -- as a possible way to earn enough revenue to remove advertising from the site.
Bug

Equifax CSO 'Retires'. Known Bug Was Left Unpatched For Nearly Five Months (marketwatch.com) 196

phalse phace quotes MarketWatch: Following on the heels of a story that revealed that Equifax hired a music major with no education related to technology or security as its Chief Security Officer, Equifax announced on Friday afternoon that Chief Security Officer Susan Mauldin has quit the company along with Chief Information Officer David Webb.

Chief Information Officer David Webb and Chief Security Officer Susan Mauldin retired immediately, Equifax said in a news release that did not mention either of those executives by name. Mark Rohrwasser, who had been leading Equifax's international information-technology operations since 2016, will replace Webb and Russ Ayres, a member of Equifax's IT operation, will replace Mauldin.

The company revealed Thursday that the attackers exploited Apache Struts bug CVE-2017-5638 -- "identified and disclosed by U.S. CERT in early March 2017" -- and that they believed the unauthorized access happened from May 13 through July 30, 2017.

Thus, MarketWatch reports, Equifax "admitted that the security hole that attackers used was known in March, about two months before the company believes the breach began." And even then, Equifax didn't notice (and remove the affected web applications) until July 30.
Security

Equifax CEO Hired a Music Major as the Company's Chief Security Officer 430

Susan Mauldin, the person in charge of the Equifax's data security, has a bachelor's degree and a master of fine arts degree in music composition from the University of Georgia, according to her LinkedIn profile. Mauldin's LinkedIn profile lists no education related to technology or security. If that wasn't enough, news outlet MarketWatch reported on Friday that Susan Mauldin's LinkedIn page was made private and her last name was replaced with "M", in a move that appears to keep her education background secret.

Earlier this month Equifax, which is one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, said that hackers had gained access to company data that potentially compromised sensitive information for 143 million American consumers, including Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers. On Friday, the UK arm of the organisation said files containing information on "fewer than 400,000" UK consumers was accessed in the breach.

UPDATE (9/16/2017): CSO Susan Mauldin has abruptly 'retired' from Equifax.
Music

Can Blockchain Save The Music Industry? (wired.com) 129

An anonymous reader quotes Wired: Last fall, a group of music industry heavyweights gathered in New York City to do something they'd mostly failed to do up to that point: work together. Representatives from major labels like Universal, Sony, and Warner sat next to technologists from companies like Spotify, YouTube, and Ideo and discussed the collective issues threatening their industry... The participants of that confab would later form a group called the Open Music Initiative... "Pretty early on it was obvious that there's an information gap in the industry," says Erik Beijnoff, a product developer at Spotify and a member of the OMI.

That "information gap" refers to the data around who helped create a song. Publishers might keep track of who wrote the underlying composition of a song, or the session drummer on a recording, but that information doesn't always show up in a digital file's metadata. This disconnect between the person who composed a song, the person who recorded it, and the subsequent plays, has led to problems like writers and artists not getting paid for their work, and publishers suing streaming companies as they struggle to identify who is owed royalties. "It's a simple question of attribution," says Berklee College of Music's vice president of innovation and strategy, Panos A. Panay. "And payments follow attribution."

Over the last year, members of the OMI -- almost 200 organizations in total -- have worked to develop just that. As a first step, they've created an API that companies can voluntarily build into their systems to help identify key data points like the names of musicians and composers, plus how many times and where tracks are played. This information is then stored on a decentralized database using blockchain technology -- which means no one owns the information, but everyone can access it.

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