Music

Tidal Is Reportedly Months Behind On Royalty Payments To Labels (theverge.com) 40

According to a report from Dagens Naeringsliv, streaming service Tidal is "behind with payments directly to the three major international record companies." The claim is backed up by two executives from a label and its Sony-owned distributor. They say they have not seen royalty payments in over six months. The Verge reports: According to a translation by Music Business Worldwide, Sveinung Rindal, CEO of distribution company Phonofile (a Sony subsidiary), told the Norwegian paper, "It is correct that there are delays in payments from Tidal," while Frithjof Boye Hungnes, CEO of Propeller Recordings, confirmed, "We have not been paid since October ... People are talking about withdrawing [their music from Tidal]; I think there is a pretty upset mood." Last December, a separate report from the same newspaper said that Tidal was running out of money, suggesting that it only had about six months of working capital left. The news comes shortly after the service was accused of faking the streaming numbers for Kanye West and Beyonce. Tidal is denying any such wrongdoings, saying: "We have experienced negative stories about Tidal since its inception and we have done nothing but grow the business each year."
Android

OnePlus 6 Launched With 6.28-inch Display, Snapdragon 845 CPU, and Headphone Jack (phonedog.com) 109

OnePlus has launched their newest flagship smartphone today at an event in London. The OnePlus 6, as it is called, features a 6.28-inch 2280x1080 display with 19:9 aspect ratio and notch, Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor with up to 8GB of RAM, 16- and 20-megapixel rear-facing cameras, 3,330mAh battery, 3.5mm headphone jack, and Android 8.1 Oreo running out of the box with support for Android P coming soon. Strangely, the phone features a glass build construction but no support for wireless charging. OnePlus claims the glass back will be better for transmitting radio waves, but it's likely included in preparation for the OnePlus 6T, which will likely launch several months later and include wireless charging. PhoneDog reports: Around on the back of the OnePlus 6 is a vertically stacked dual rear camera setup that's now in the center of the phone for symmetry. There's a 16MP camera with Sony IMX 519 sensor, f/1.7 aperture, and support for optical image stabilization and electronic image stabilization, as well as a 20MP camera with Sony IMD 376K sensor and f/1.7 aperture. Also included are portrait mode and slow-motion 480fps video capture features.

The body of the OnePlus 6 is made of Gorilla Glass 5, which OnePlus says will be better for transmitting radio waves. Rounding out the OP6's spec list is a 16MP front-facing camera, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, an alert slider, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the security side of things, there's a rear fingerprint reader and face unlock, and when it comes to wireless capabilities, the OnePlus 6 supports 40 global LTE bands as well as 4x4 MIMO for speeds up to 1Gbps.
The OnePlus 6 will be available on May 22 with the following prices: 6GB/64GB: $529; 8GB/128GB: $579; 8GB/256GB: $629.
Sony

Sony Ends Production Of Physical Vita Games (kotaku.com) 35

Sony is ending physical production of Vita games, news outlet Kotaku reports. Although the hardware manufacturer says digital distribution will continue, this move will mark the end of physical cards for the maligned portable game system, Kotaku added. From a report: Sony's American and European branches "plan to end all Vita GameCard production by close of fiscal year 2018," the company told developers today in a message obtained by Kotaku. The message asks that all Vita product code requests be submitted by June 28, 2018, and that final purchase orders be entered by February 15, 2019. Sony's 2018 fiscal year will end on March 31, 2019.
Android

Google Details New Android P Features, Including iPhone X-Like Gesture Controls (arstechnica.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A public beta for Android P, as it's still known, is out today for those who want to try the software for themselves. The usual caveats with installing unfinished software still apply. Notably, however, Google has made the beta available on devices beyond the company's own Pixel smartphones. Google says those who own the Essential Phone, Nokia 7 Plus, Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Vivo X21, Oppo R15 Pro, and the OnePlus 6 (when it comes out) can access the early build alongside those with a Pixel or Pixel 2 phone. Google is crediting its Project Treble updating initiative for making this expansion possible.

As for the update itself, the biggest news in Preview 1 was a new design style that was applied to the notification panel, main settings screen, and some system UI bits. Android VP of Engineering Dave Burke recapped a couple of features that had already been announced in that earlier preview, including a simplified volume control widget and the option to change the screen orientation even when you've locked the device in portrait mode. Perhaps the most immediately noticeable new feature, however, is a new set of gesture controls that trade Android's traditional home and recent apps buttons for a setup similar to what Apple does with its iPhone X. Swiping up from a flatter button at the bottom of the screen will now display a horizontal (not vertical!) list of your recent apps, with icons for five "predicted apps" placed underneath them. Swiping up a second time from there will display the all apps screen, effectively allowing you to access it from anywhere on the phone. You can also slide the home button sideways to start scrolling through recent apps. The icons for those recent apps appear to be larger than before, and Google showed off the ability to highlight text within them. The back button is still there, but not as a global key; it instead appears to only show up in certain contexts, such as the new recent apps screen.
Also available in Android P is an "adaptive battery" feature that improves battery life, an "adaptive brightness" feature that uses AI to ensure the phone screen's brightness is more appropriately set for your surroundings, and an "app actions" feature that will surface shortcuts for frequently used apps within the app drawer and Search. Google is also including a "digital wellbeing" Dashboard app that will detail how much time you've spent in particular apps, how often you've unlocked your phone, and how many notifications you've received. There will even be an "app timer" to help you limit your time on a particular app, and a "shush" gesture that will make is so the phone automatically goes into Do Not Disturb mode. Finally, there's a "wind down" mode that will turn on Do Not Disturb until the morning and set your phone screen in a grayscale mode, which will intentionally make content on your phone appear less stimulating to ultimately help you put it down.
Microsoft

FTC Gives Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo 30 Days To Get Rid of Illegal Warranty-Void-if-Removed Stickers (vice.com) 133

Matthew Gault, reporting for Motherboard: The Federal Trade Commission put six companies on notice in early April for illegally telling customers that getting third-party repairs voids the warranty on their electronics. You've seen the stickers before and read the messages buried in end user license agreements. Plastered on the back of my PlayStation 4 is a little sticker that says "warranty void if removed." That's illegal. Motherboard has obtained copies of the letters via a Freedom of Information Act request and has learned the names of the six companies that were warned. They are Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Hyundai, HTC, and computer hardware manufacturer ASUS. The letters were sent by Lois Greisman, the FTC's associate director of marketing practices, on April 9; the FTC has given each company 30 days to change its official warranty policies and says that it may take legal action against the companies.
Sci-Fi

Apple Is Developing a TV Show Based On Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series (deadline.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Deadline: In a competitive situation, Apple has nabbed a TV series adaptation of Foundation, the seminal Isaac Asimov science fiction novel trilogy. The project, from Skydance Television, has been put in development for straight-to-series consideration. Deadline revealed last June that Skydance had made a deal with the Asimov estate and that David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman were cracking the code on a sprawling series based on the books that informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series. Goyer and Friedman will be executive producers and showrunners. Skydance's David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross also will executive produce.

Originally published as a short story series in Astounding Magazine in 1942, Asimov's Foundation is the complex saga of humans scattered on planets throughout the galaxy, all living under the rule of the Galactic Empire. The protagonist is a psycho-historian who has an ability to read the future and foresees the empire's imminent collapse. He sets out to save the knowledge of mankind from being wiped out. Even the Game of Thrones' creative team would marvel at the number of empires that rise and fall in Foundation. Asimov's trilogy has been tried numerous times as a feature film at Fox, Warner Bros (with Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who greenlit The Lord of the Rings), and then at Sony with Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. Many top sci-fi writers have done scripts and found it daunting to constrict the sprawling saga to a feature film format. Most recently, HBO tried developing a series with Interstellar co-writer and Westworld exec producer Jonathan Nolan, but a script was never ordered.

Businesses

FTC Warns Manufacturers That 'Warranty Void If Removed' Stickers Break the Law (vice.com) 143

schwit1 writes: The Federal Trade Commission put six companies on notice today, telling them in a warning letter that their warranty practices violate federal law. If you buy a car with a warranty, take it a repair shop to fix it, then have to return the car to the manufacturer, the car company isn't legally allowed to deny the return because you took your car to another shop. The same is true of any consumer device that costs more than $15, though many manufacturers want you to think otherwise.

Companies such as Sony and Microsoft pepper the edges of their game consoles with warning labels telling customers that breaking the seal voids the warranty. That's illegal. Thanks to the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, no manufacturer is allowed to put repair restrictions on a device it offers a warranty on. Dozens of companies do it anyway, and the FTC has put them on notice. Apple, meanwhile, routinely tells customers not to use third party repair companies, and aftermarket parts regularly break iPhones due to software updates.

Sony

Sony PlayStation 5 Unlikely To Arrive Until 2020: Gizmodo (kotaku.com) 46

A recent online rumor got people buzzing about a possible 2018 release of PlayStation 5, but that's probably not going to happen, Gizmodo reports. Citing a source, the outlet says it believes the next PlayStation may not arrive until 2020. From the report: It's been nearly five years since the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched, which has triggered bouts of nervousness and excitement among video game fans who want to know when they'll have to start hoarding pennies for a new generation of consoles. The PS4 launched seven years after the PS3, the Xbox One eight years after the Xbox 360. It's not unreasonable to be thinking about the next generation. We don't have a concrete answer just yet, but we have been asking around, and what we've heard is a whole lot of uncertainty.
Android

Google Lens Is Coming To All Android Phones Running Google Photos (theverge.com) 57

Google announced that Google Lens, a machine learning-powered image analyzer, will be rolling out to more Android devices and make an appearance on iOS. "This means users will be able to scan things through the app to receive information, like a dog's breed or a flower type," reports The Verge. Some phones will also be able to access Lens through the Google Assistant too, including flagships from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Sony, and HMD / Nokia. "Google says Lens is rolling out in batches, so you might not get the update right away," reports The Verge.
Businesses

Bad iPhone Notches Are Happening To Good Android Phones (theverge.com) 260

The Verge's Vlad Savov argues that Android smartphone manufacturers are copying the iPhone's design (specifically, the iPhone X's notch) with more speed and cynicism than ever before: I've been coming to Mobile World Congress for close to a decade now, and I've never seen the iPhone copied quite so blatantly and cynically as I witnessed during this year's show. MWC 2018 will go down in history as the launch platform for a mass of iPhone X notch copycats, each of them more hastily and sloppily assembled than the next. No effort is being made to emulate the complex Face ID system that resides inside Apple's notch; companies like Noa and Ulefone are in such a hurry to get their iPhone lookalike on the market that they haven't even customized their software to account for the new shape of the screen. More than one of these notched handsets at MWC had the clock occluded by the curved corner of the display. Asus is one of the biggest consumer electronics companies in the world, and yet its copycat notch is probably the most galling of them all. The Zenfone 5 looks and feels like a promising phone, featuring loud speakers, the latest Sony imaging sensor with larger-than-average pixels, and a price somewhere south of $499. I should be celebrating it right now, but instead I'm turning away in disgust as Asus leans into its copying by calling Apple a "Fruit Company" repeatedly. If you're going to copy the iPhone, at least have the decency to avoid trying to mock it.

It would be stating the obvious to say that this trend is not a good one. I'm absolutely of the belief that everyone, Apple included, copies or borrows ideas from everyone else in the mobile industry. This is a great way to see technical improvements disseminated across the market. But the problem with these notched screens on Android phones is that they're purely cosmetic. Apple's notch at the top of the iPhone X allows the company to have a nearly borderless screen everywhere else, plus it accommodates the earpiece and TrueDepth camera for Face ID. Asus et al have a sizeable "chin" at the bottom of their phones, so the cutouts at the top are self-evidently motivated by the desire to just look -- not function, look -- like an iPhone X.

Transportation

Sony May Launch an AI-powered Taxi Hailing System (engadget.com) 32

Sony definitely isn't the first name you think of when you're looking for a ride, but that might change soon in its native Japan. From a report: Nikkei has learned that the tech heavyweight is leading an alliance of taxi companies (Checker Cab, Daiwa Motor Transportation, Green Cab, Hinomaru Kotsu and Kokusai Motorcars) in the creation of an AI-powered hailing platform. The algorithmic system would dispatch taxis more effectively by studying a host of conditions like traffic, weather and events. It might send a horde of drivers near the end of a concert, for instance.
Television

Samsung and Roku Smart TVs Vulnerable To Hacking, Consumer Reports Finds (consumerreports.org) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Consumer Reports: Consumer Reports has found that millions of smart TVs can be controlled by hackers exploiting easy-to-find security flaws. The problems affect Samsung televisions, along with models made by TCL and other brands that use the Roku TV smart-TV platform, as well as streaming devices such as the Roku Ultra. We found that a relatively unsophisticated hacker could change channels, play offensive content, or crank up the volume, which might be deeply unsettling to someone who didn't understand what was happening. This could be done over the web, from thousands of miles away. (These vulnerabilities would not allow a hacker to spy on the user or steal information.) The findings were part of a broad privacy and security evaluation, led by Consumer Reports, of smart TVs from top brands that also included LG, Sony, and Vizio. The testing also found that all these TVs raised privacy concerns by collecting very detailed information on their users. Consumers can limit the data collection. But they have to give up a lot of the TVs' functionality -- and know the right buttons to click and settings to look for.
Google

Now Google Might Make a Game Console and Game-Streaming Service (fastcompany.com) 90

Google could try to get serious about gaming with a rumored console and game-streaming service, according to the Information. From a report: The service, codenamed "Yeti," would stream modern games over the internet instead of processing them on locally, allowing them to run weaker hardware such as Google's Chromecast dongles. Several other companies, including Nvidia and Sony, already offer their own game-streaming services, but the problems are always the same: Publishers tend to support these services halfheartedly or not at all, and even with an excellent internet connection, the experience isn't as responsive or dependable as a powerful home console. It's unclear how Google might solve those problems, but the company is reportedly considering a holiday 2017 launch.
Encryption

Camera Makers Resist Encryption, Despite Warnings From Photographers (zdnet.com) 291

An anonymous reader shares an article from the security editor of ZDNet: A year after photojournalists and filmmakers sent a critical letter to camera makers for failing to add a basic security feature to protect their work from searches and hacking, little progress has been made. The letter, sent in late 2016, called on camera makers to build encryption into their cameras after photojournalists said they face "a variety of threats..." Even when they're out in the field, collecting footage and documenting evidence, reporters have long argued that without encryption, police, the military, and border agents in countries where they work can examine and search their devices. "The consequences can be dire," the letter added.

Although iPhones and Android phones, computers, and instant messengers all come with encryption, camera makers have fallen behind. Not only does encryption protect reported work from prying eyes, it also protects sources -- many of whom put their lives at risk to expose corruption or wrongdoing... The lack of encryption means high-end camera makers are forcing their customers to choose between putting their sources at risk, or relying on encrypted, but less-capable devices, like iPhones. We asked the same camera manufacturers if they plan to add encryption to their cameras -- and if not, why. The short answer: don't expect much any time soon.

Sony

As Sony CEO Kaz Hirai Steps Down, the Future of Some Products Is In Question (arstechnica.com) 33

After six years with the company, Sony CEO Kaz Hirai will step down from his post on April 1, 2018. He will remain with the company as chairman, and the CEO seat will be filled by current CFO Kenichiro Yoshida. Samuel Axon reports via Ars Technica of the reputation his successor has built for making touch cuts to get back in the black: Hirai is perhaps best known to the general public for his role in the PlayStation business, which is where the majority of his background with the company lies. He was involved in developing the PlayStation's software lineup in the late '90s, and Hirai famously unveiled the PlayStation 3 before he became CEO. That unveiling might better be described as infamous: he announced the console's launch models at the extremely steep prices of $499 and $599, leading to shock and ire in the gaming community. The cheaper of those two was almost a non-starter, lacking Wi-Fi and adequate hard drive storage. That memorable blunder aside, investors in Sony have enjoyed significant gains in the six years since Hirai became CEO -- though the company has only been regaining partial ground since it fell a long way from its peak back in 2000. He has kept Sony's efforts diversified across several markets and products, from computers to Hollywood movies.

But much of the company's success under Hirai can be attributed to two things: the PlayStation division (whose profits rose by 70 percent over the holidays) and image sensors that Sony produces and sells to other companies for inclusion in various devices. Other divisions, like mobile, were de-emphasized as Hirai and Yoshida worked together to get Sony's house in order. [...] In other words, Yoshida made his mark on Sony by helping Hirai make tough calls to make major cuts to get the company on the right track. That effort is ongoing, so expect continuing changes with regards to both Sony's tech and entertainment products.

PlayStation (Games)

Sony's PlayStation 4 Has Nearly Outsold the PlayStation 3 (cnet.com) 50

Sony's PlayStation 3 sales stand at around 80 million -- which means its successor, the current gen PlayStation 4, will soon surpass it. From a report: The Japanese electronics giant sold 9 million PlayStation 4 consoles from October through December, it said on Friday in its latest quarterly earnings report. Sales for the console were at 67.5 million as of Sept. 30 2017, according to Sony's previous quarterly earnings report, bringing the total to 76.5 million. The PlayStation 2 remains Sony's best-selling console, with over 150 million units sold. These figures come days after Nintendo on Wednesday revealed the Switch, released last March, is up to 14.8 million in sales. Sales of Microsoft's Xbox One are estimated by VGChartz to be around 36 million.
Nintendo

Nintendo's Newest Switch Accessories Are DIY Cardboard Toys (theverge.com) 75

sqorbit writes: Nintendo has announced a new experience for its popular Switch game console, called Nintendo Labo. Nintendo Labo lets you interact with the Switch and its Joy-Con controllers by building things with cardboard. Launching on April 20th, Labo will allow you to build things such as a piano and a fishing pole out of cardboard pieces that, once attached to the Switch, provide the user new ways to interact with the device. Nintendo of America's President, Reggie Fils-Aime, states that "Labo is unlike anything we've done before." Nintendo has a history of non-traditional ideas in gaming, sometimes working and sometimes not. Cardboard cuts may attract non-traditional gamers back to the Nintendo platform. While Microsoft and Sony appear to be focused on 4K, graphics and computing power, Nintendo appears focused on producing "fun" gaming experiences, regardless of how cheesy or technologically outdated they me be. Would you buy a Nintendo Labo kit for $69.99 or $79.99? "The 'Variety Kit' features five different games and Toy-Con -- including the RC car, fishing, and piano -- for $69.99," The Verge notes. "The 'Robot Kit,' meanwhile, will be sold separately for $79.99."
Businesses

Buying Headphones in 2018 is Going To Be a Fragmented Mess (theverge.com) 276

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge: At CES this year, I saw the future of headphones, and it was messy. Where we once had the solid reliability of a 3.5mm analog connector working with any jack shaped to receive it, there's now a divergence of digital alternatives -- Lightning or USB-C, depending on your choice of jack-less phone -- and a bunch of wireless codecs and standards to keep track of. Oh, and Sony's working hard on promoting a new 4.4mm Pentaconn connector as the next wired standard for dedicated audio lovers. It's all with the intent of making things better, but before we get to the better place, we're going to spend an uncomfortable few months (or longer) in a fragmented market where you'll have to do diligent research to make sure your next pair of headphones works with all the devices you already own.
Portables (Apple)

10 Years of the MacBook Air (theverge.com) 152

Ten years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air. "Apple's Macworld 2008 was a special one, taking place just days after the annual Consumer Electronics Show had ended and Bill Gates bid farewell to Microsoft," The Verge recalls. "Jobs introduced the MacBook Air by removing it from a tiny paper office envelope, and the crowd was audibly shocked at just how small and thin it was..." From the report: At the time, rivals had thin and light laptops on the market, but they were all around an inch thick, weighed 3 pounds, and had 8- or 11-inch displays. Most didn't even have full-size keyboards, but Apple managed to create a MacBook Air with a wedge shape so that the thickest part was still thinner than the thinnest part of the Sony TZ Series -- one of the thinnest laptops back in 2008. It was a remarkable feat of engineering, and it signaled a new era for laptops. Apple ditched the CD drive and a range of ports on the thin MacBook Air, and the company introduced a multi-touch trackpad and SSD storage. There was a single USB 2.0 port, alongside a micro-DVI port and a headphone jack. It was minimal, but the price was not. Apple's base MacBook Air cost $1,799 at the time, an expensive laptop even by today's standards.
AI

French Songwriter Kiesza Composes First Mainstream Music Album Co-Written With AI (bbc.com) 51

dryriver shares a report from the BBC, highlighting "a new album that features everything from cowboy sci-fi to Europop." What's special about the album -- Hello World by Canadian singer Kiesza -- is that it's the first full-length mainstream music album co-written with the help of artificial intelligence. You can judge the quality for yourself: First, view the single "Hellow Shadow" with Canadian singer Kiesza. Next, the BBC story, which seems to think that the album is actually rather good: "Benoit Carre has written songs for some of France's biggest stars: from Johnny Halliday -- the French Elvis, who died last year -- to chanteuse Francoise Hardy. But this month, the 47-year-old is releasing an album with a collaborator he could never have dreamt of working with. It's not a singer, or rapper. It's not even really a musician. It's called Flow Machines, and it is, arguably, the world's most advanced artificially-intelligent music program. For musicians, there's been one good thing about these projects so far: the music they've produced has been easy to dismiss, generic and uninspiring -- hardly likely to challenge Bob Dylan in the songwriting department. But Carre's album, Hello World, is different for the simple reason that it's good. Released under the name SKYGGE (Danish for shadow), it features everything from sci-fi cowboy ballads to Europop, and unlike most AI music, if you heard it on the radio, you wouldn't think something had gone horribly wrong. Flow Machines, developed at Sony's Computer Science Laboratories in Paris, does indeed write original melodies, Carre adds. It also suggests the chords and sounds to play them with. But Carre says a human is always needed to stitch the songs together, give them structure and emotion. Without people, its songs would be a bit rubbish. "There were many people involved in this," he says, listing the likes of Belgian house producer Stromae and Canadian pop star Kiesza. "They gave their soul, their enthusiasm. I think that's the most important point of the album, in a way -- that it's a very human one.'"

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