Great BBC feature concept: Giving up music for Lent

A truly unique concept for a feature,  this — giving up music for Lent.  That’s what Professor of Acoustic Engineering,  Trevor Cox,  at the University of Salford, decided he would do. 

Giving up music for Lent will be broadcast at 1600 GMT on 16 March on BBC Radio 4. Meanwhile,  here’s what the excellent professor discovered in the process of his experiment with extreme abstemiousness with music.  The man was assailed by earworms and more.  Here it is, then,  in  his own words.

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Professor Trevor Cox found it surprisingly difficult to get music out of his life

In preparation for a BBC Radio 4 documentary, Giving up music for Lent, to be broadcast on Monday, I have been trying to avoid all music.

This fast is not being done for religious reasons, instead it is about getting an insight into how the ever-present music in modern society affects us all. These are some of the things I’ve discovered so far.

1. My inner jukebox went into overdrive

Virtually all of us hear music in our heads. At the start of the experiment I was flooded with musical imagery. Repetitive tunes that get stuck in the brain are called “earworms” and currently mine is a bizarre mix including the theme tune from the movie Airplane!, Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and snippets of saxophone music I play.

This bombardment of earworms lasted for the first few days of the fast, and then it gradually settled down to something more normal.

Victoria Williamson, a music psychologist from Sheffield University, told me some people who go on silent retreats have a similar reaction. When I removed music from my life, my brain compensated for this by creating excessive musical imagery.

2. I desperately wanted to hum and sing

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The professor's saxophone music had to be put on hold but he soon found music is everywhere

The professor’s saxophone music had to be put on hold but he soon found music is everywhere

During the early days, I had to work hard not to sing along to my inner music, especially with so many tunes swirling around my head. Cycling around Salford, pottering around the house, typing in my office… throughout the day I was desperate to externalise the sound.

When I let a few notes out by accident, I also noticed how much more satisfying it was than just imagining the tune inside my head. Boris Kleber and colleagues have researched the difference between overt and imagined singing. They got classical singers to perform the first line of the bel canto aria Caro Mio Ben by Tommaso Giordani in a brain scanner.

They found some differences in the areas of the brain that were activated depending on whether the subjects imagined or actually sung the tune. My suspicion is that I found the few vocalised notes more satisfying because the musical stimulus was more potent as it involved more of the body.

3. There are people who don’t like music

After a week without music I started to get very tired and weary. One cause could have been that I was missing music’s ability to stimulate the reward centres of the brain. There are people, however, who do not seem to get the same hit when listening to music, even though they can hear and perceive perfectly well.

A study from the University of Barcelona published last year found that there are people who do not seem to enjoy music. The researchers named the condition musical anhedonia. In one part of the study the researchers played subjects pieces of music, in another, they got them playing a game that had monetary rewards.

They found that people with musical anhedonia gained pleasure from the game but not from the music, indicating differences in how the reward centres of their brains are accessed compared to most people.

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Even resorting to a prepared piece of 'rumbling noise' on the professor's MP3 player couldn't solve the problem of hearing external music

4. The only way to completely avoid music is to become a hermit

It’s impossible to completely avoid music and try and go about a normal life. Out and about during the fast I have heard snippets of tunes leaking out from headphones as people pass me in the street, music spilling from shop entrances, and the distant sounds of my sons starting to practise their instruments.

While ear plugs and ear defenders can stop some sound, they are not completely effective if the music is loud. To solve this problem I have a track on my MP3 player of rumbling noise. This masking sound played from in-ear headphones is very effective.

But the only way to guarantee not hearing even the tiniest snippet of music would be to play this noise all day, something that alarmingly mimics sensory deprivation techniques that the CIA have been accused of doing. So if someone wants to do an experiment that involves no music being heard whatsoever, then they would have to find a remote hermitage and completely switch off all technology.

5. Music is so ubiquitous it’s easy to overlook

I have walked into cafes and into the reception areas of offices, and it has sometimes taken a good few minutes for me to notice that there is music playing. We have no “earlids”, and there is no auditory equivalent of averting our gaze.

Our hearing is constantly picking up sounds and our brain then has to work out which sounds are important and must be paid attention to, and which ones can be safely ignored.

Something noisy and abrupt, like the squealing of car brakes, catches our attention immediately so that we can fight or take flight.

When we hear something less threatening, like subtle background music, our brain decides whether we should consciously notice it. Often music is so quiet in public places, that if I was concentrating on something else, like what sandwich to buy in a cafe, my brain would not register the music.

Once I noticed, I had to leave in a hurry.

Thanks for commenting and sharing – @PavanRChawla (Twitter)

#Facebook changes removal rules; shares more info on banned elements

Facebook is providing the public with more information about what material is banned on the social network,  Leo Kelion, BBC News’ Technology desk Editor,  has written in a detailed story.

He reports that Facebook’s revamped community standards now include a separate section on “dangerous organisations” and give more details about what types of nudity it allows to be posted.

The US firm said it hoped the new guidelines would provide “clarity”.

One of its safety advisers praised the move but said that it was “frustrating” other steps had not been taken.

Facebook says about 1.4 billion people use its service at least once a month

Confused users

The new guide will replace the old one on the firm’s website, and will be sent to users who complain about others’ posts.

Monika Bicket, Facebook’s global head of content policy, said the rewrite was intended to address confusion about why some takedown requests were rejected.

“We [would] send them a message saying we’re not removing it because it doesn’t violate our standards, and they would write in and say I’m confused about this, so we would certainly hear that kind of feedback,” she told the BBC.

“And people had questions about what we meant when we said we don’t allow bullying, or exactly what our policy was on terrorism.

“[For example] we now make clear that not only do we not allow terrorist organisations or their members within the Facebook community, but we also don’t permit praise or support for terror groups or their acts or their leaders, which wasn’t something that was detailed before.”

Ms Bicket stressed, however, that the policies themselves had not changed.

Buttocks ban

The new version of the guidelines runs to nearly 2,500 words, nearly three times as long as before.

The section on nudity, in particular, is much more detailed than the vague talk of “limitations” that featured previously.

Facebook now states that images “focusing in on fully exposed buttocks” are banned, as are “images of female breasts if they include the nipple”.

It adds that the restrictions extend to digitally-created content, unless posts are for educational or satirical purposes. Likewise, text-based descriptions of sexual acts that contain “vivid detail” are forbidden.

However, Facebook adds that it will “always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring”.

Other sections with new details include:

• Bullying – images altered to “degrade” an individual and videos of physical bullying posted to shame the victim are now expressly forbidden

• Hate speech – while the site maintains the same list of banned topics, it now adds that people are allowed to share examples of others’ hate speech in order to raise awareness of the issue, but they must “clearly indicate” that this is their purpose

• Criminal activity – the network now states that users are prohibited from celebrating any crimes they have committed, but adds that they are allowed to propose the legality of illegal activities

• Self-injury – the site says that it will remove content that identifies victims and targets them for attack, even if done humorously. But it says that it does not consider “body modification” to be a type of self-injury

Graphic violence

The changes have been welcomed by the Family Online Safety Institute (Fosi), one of five independent organisations that make up Facebook’s safety advisory board.

“I think it’s great that Facebook has revamped its community standards page to make it both more readable and accessible,” the body’s chief executive Stephen Balkam told the BBC.

“I wish more social media sites and apps would follow suit.”

But he expressed concern that Facebook was still not doing enough to protect youngsters from seeing disturbing videos.

While Facebook’s new guidelines state that users should “warn their audience about what they are about to see if it includes graphic violence”, it provides no way for members to add cover pages to clips to prevent them from auto-playing.

In January, after months of pressure from Fosi and others, Facebook revealed it had introduced a way for its own staff to add such “interstitial” warnings. They have been used over clips showing the murder of a French policeman in the Charlie Hebdo attacks among other material.

However, Facebook only adds the alerts if it has received a complaint, rather than letting the original posters do so.

“It is frustrating that after all this time, Facebook users are still not able to put up interstitials on violent or controversial images and videos,” said Mr Balkam.

“Facebook has done the right thing to place interstitials themselves once a user has reported an image or extreme content, but my hope is that they will bring this to ordinary users sooner rather than later.”

Facebook has acknowledged the point.

“We are always looking to provide more tools for people to use themselves,” responded Ms Bicket.

“Right now we are not in a position to provide those tools to people, but we are always looking at ways to do better.” (To read the story on BBC News,  go here)

Thanks for commenting and sharing – @PavanRChawla (Twitter)

Facebook changes removal rules; shares more info on banned elements

Facebook is providing the public with more information about what material is banned on the social network,  Leo Kelion, BBC News’ Technology desk Editor,  has written in a detailed story.

He reports that Facebook’s revamped community standards now include a separate section on “dangerous organisations” and give more details about what types of nudity it allows to be posted.

The US firm said it hoped the new guidelines would provide “clarity”.

One of its safety advisers praised the move but said that it was “frustrating” other steps had not been taken.

Facebook says about 1.4 billion people use its service at least once a month

Confused users

The new guide will replace the old one on the firm’s website, and will be sent to users who complain about others’ posts.

Monika Bicket, Facebook’s global head of content policy, said the rewrite was intended to address confusion about why some takedown requests were rejected.

“We [would] send them a message saying we’re not removing it because it doesn’t violate our standards, and they would write in and say I’m confused about this, so we would certainly hear that kind of feedback,” she told the BBC.

“And people had questions about what we meant when we said we don’t allow bullying, or exactly what our policy was on terrorism.

“[For example] we now make clear that not only do we not allow terrorist organisations or their members within the Facebook community, but we also don’t permit praise or support for terror groups or their acts or their leaders, which wasn’t something that was detailed before.”

Ms Bicket stressed, however, that the policies themselves had not changed.

Buttocks ban

The new version of the guidelines runs to nearly 2,500 words, nearly three times as long as before.

The section on nudity, in particular, is much more detailed than the vague talk of “limitations” that featured previously.

Facebook now states that images “focusing in on fully exposed buttocks” are banned, as are “images of female breasts if they include the nipple”.

It adds that the restrictions extend to digitally-created content, unless posts are for educational or satirical purposes. Likewise, text-based descriptions of sexual acts that contain “vivid detail” are forbidden.

However, Facebook adds that it will “always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring”.

Other sections with new details include:

• Bullying – images altered to “degrade” an individual and videos of physical bullying posted to shame the victim are now expressly forbidden

• Hate speech – while the site maintains the same list of banned topics, it now adds that people are allowed to share examples of others’ hate speech in order to raise awareness of the issue, but they must “clearly indicate” that this is their purpose

• Criminal activity – the network now states that users are prohibited from celebrating any crimes they have committed, but adds that they are allowed to propose the legality of illegal activities

• Self-injury – the site says that it will remove content that identifies victims and targets them for attack, even if done humorously. But it says that it does not consider “body modification” to be a type of self-injury

Graphic violence

The changes have been welcomed by the Family Online Safety Institute (Fosi), one of five independent organisations that make up Facebook’s safety advisory board.

“I think it’s great that Facebook has revamped its community standards page to make it both more readable and accessible,” the body’s chief executive Stephen Balkam told the BBC.

“I wish more social media sites and apps would follow suit.”

But he expressed concern that Facebook was still not doing enough to protect youngsters from seeing disturbing videos.

While Facebook’s new guidelines state that users should “warn their audience about what they are about to see if it includes graphic violence”, it provides no way for members to add cover pages to clips to prevent them from auto-playing.

In January, after months of pressure from Fosi and others, Facebook revealed it had introduced a way for its own staff to add such “interstitial” warnings. They have been used over clips showing the murder of a French policeman in the Charlie Hebdo attacks among other material.

However, Facebook only adds the alerts if it has received a complaint, rather than letting the original posters do so.

“It is frustrating that after all this time, Facebook users are still not able to put up interstitials on violent or controversial images and videos,” said Mr Balkam.

“Facebook has done the right thing to place interstitials themselves once a user has reported an image or extreme content, but my hope is that they will bring this to ordinary users sooner rather than later.”

Facebook has acknowledged the point.

“We are always looking to provide more tools for people to use themselves,” responded Ms Bicket.

“Right now we are not in a position to provide those tools to people, but we are always looking at ways to do better.” (To read the story on BBC News,  go here)

Thanks for commenting and sharing – @PavanRChawla (Twitter)

India-Pak match India’s biggest TV event in last 4 yrs; 288m viewers tuned in

The most anticipated clash of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 created Indian television history as 288 million viewers (TAM data CS4+ extrapolated to the universe using a standard conversion factor) tuned in to watch India take on Pakistan on February 15, 2015. The game was the most watched television event in India in the last four years, since the finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011.

The match between arch rivals rated 14.8 TVR (TAM data M15+ ABC) across Star network including DD. The match rated 11.9 TVR (TAM data M15+ ABC) on Star network and 2.9 TVR (TAM data M15+ ABC) on DD. The India Pakistan game delivered across town classes led by the top 6 Metros rating 17.2 TVR and 1million+ towns rating 15.5TVR (All data TAM data M15+ ABC).

Uday Shankar,  CEO,  Star India,  said,  “Nothing is bigger than the ICC Cricket World Cup and the Indian fans have shown their unflinching faith and passionate following for Team India as they began their World Cup campaign with a bang. As the country’s leading broadcaster, our efforts have been to showcase the best of cricket, have wider coverage, offer multiple languages and take the sport deeper by reinventing the viewer experience. With a host of innovations, we are committed to make this edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup the biggest ever.”

Star unleashed a host of innovations for the biggest spectacle in the country. The first ever broadcast in six languages of the India Pakistan game received 76% of the viewership from Hindi and regional feeds and the balance 24% from English validating the multi-lingual strategy pioneered by Star.

A disruptive ‘Mauka’ Campaign, which went beyond cricket on the field and leveraged fan passion in a unique way, went viral with over 17 million views online.

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<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/oB1CUxX1JJE” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

Star roped in the biggest voice in Indian cinema, Amitabh Bachchan, for India’s biggest game as he debuted as a commentator with the Star Sports panel of Kapil Dev, Shoaib Akhtar, Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar for the India Pakistan game at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. 

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Unmatched in its sheer scale, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 broadcast is bolstered by new look graphics, a first ever global broadcast of cricket in 4k and the best of experts on the commentary panel with 13 World Cup captains, 20 World Cup winners and 26 World Cup semi-finalists. With nearly 4 million households having access to HD, Star Sports aired the games across a network of 4 HD channels including the newly launched Star Sports HD3, India’s first all Hindi HD channel for sports. The epic encounter created global history by recording more than 25 million views on Star’s digital platforms- the highest ever for a sports event on a single day across the world.

The India Pakistan clash at the World Cup took Social Media in India by storm. 324,000 consumers spoke 500,000 times about the match, generating a potential 3 billion impressions. The match dominated conversations on Twitter, with 10/10 trends on Twitter Web, and 15/15 trends on Twitter Mobile, India spoke about nothing else. Indian fans were hopeful of India’s victory, and #Indwins was used 90,000 times, starting well before the game ended. The Star Sports campaign #wontgiveitback was used 24,000 times, and the second instalment of the Mauka Mauka campaign was viewed half a million times within hours of its release!

(Humour) Tough guy!

The thing about jokes is,  well,  they catch you unawares,  of course. This one did so completely :)  Enjoy this forward I received.

Dear Ma and Pa, 

I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them To join up quick before maybe all of the places are filled.

I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m., but am getting so I like to sleep late. 

Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there’s warm water. 

Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food. But tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit between two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you till noon, when you get fed again.

It’s no wonder these city boys can’t walk much.  We go on “route” marches, which the Platoon Sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it is not my place to tell him different. A “route march” is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks.

The country is nice, but awful flat. The Sergeant is like a schoolteacher. He nags some.  The Capt. is like the school board. Majors and Colonels just ride around and frown. They don’t bother you none. 

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don’t know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don’t move. And it ain’t shooting at you, like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don’t even load your own cartridges.  They come in boxes. 

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain’t like fighting with that ole bull at home.

I’m about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. He joined up the same time as me. But I’m only 5’6″ and 130 pounds and he’s 6’8″ and weighs near 300 pounds dry. 

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in. 

Your loving daughter, Gail.

Salute the Sikhs for feeding the homeless in Britain

I salute the wonderful Sikhs! What a great,  caring,  truly wonderful  community of lion-hearts.

Just read a lovely BBC  feature on why homeless Britons are turning to the Sikh community for food. 

Amazing faith,  great teachings,  GREAT,  venerable Gurus who preached love,  tolerance,  values and valour.  And look at the wonderful community who have been carrying forward and living these in letter and spirit! Truly,  one Sikh equals ‘savaa-lakkh’ (a lakh and a quarter other people)  in generosity and in valour. And they’re the most fiercely self-respecting people one has seen. Have you ever seen a Sikh beggar? No. And you never will,  too.  They look after their own,  and others too. 

Salute!

And read this story about homeless people in the UK who are getting free meals thanks to a centuries-old Sikh tradition. Why, asks Rajeev Gupta.

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“We come here because we get food… A hot meal. It’s a luxury for me.” John Davidson is 55 and homeless. He is one of 250 people who have just received a hand-out of hot soup, drinks, chocolate bars and other supplies from the Sikh Welfare and Awareness Team van parked up on the Strand in central London on a cold Sunday evening. The Swat team, as they’re known, park at the same spot every week so a group of volunteers from the Sikh community can hand out vital supplies. Homeless people, who overwhelmingly are not Sikh, patiently wait in line to be served.

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For the volunteers handing out food here, this is more than just good charitable work. For them this is a religious duty enshrined by the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak, over 500 years ago. At a time of deep division by caste and religious infighting between Hindus and Muslims in India, Guru Nanak called for equality for all and set forward the concept of Langar – a kitchen where donated produce, prepared into wholesome vegetarian curry by volunteers, is freely served to the community on a daily basis.

Today, thousands of free Langar meals are served every day in Sikh temples throughout the UK. The Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Southall, thought to be the biggest Sikh temple outside of India, says it alone serves 5,000 meals on weekdays and 10,000 meals on weekends. Every Sikh has the duty to carry out Seva, or selfless service, says Surinder Singh Purewal, a senior member of the temple management team. “It means we’re never short of donations or volunteers to help prepare the Langar.”

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In recent times the Langar meal has acted as a barometer for the state of the economy. After the 2008 recession many Sikh temples reported a surge in the numbers of non-Sikhs coming in for the free Langar meals. It’s now common to see non-Sikhs inside the temple, Purewal says: “We don’t mind it. As long as people show respect, are not intoxicated and cover their heads in line with our traditions, then everyone is welcome.”

The Swat team say they decided to take the concept of Langar outside its traditional setting in temples and out onto the streets when they saw a growing homelessness problem in London. Randeep Singh who founded SWAT says: “When you go to the temple, what’s the message? The message is to help others, help your neighbours. That’s what we are doing.”

You can hear the full faith and food programme on the BBC Radio World Service’s Heart and Soul at 09:30 GMT on Sunday 22 February or listen back via the BBC iPlayer. (The story I’ve shared above is here in its original form)

Going by online piracy, American Sniper would win Best Picture Oscar: Irdeto

A report  by Irdeto, a US company that sells piracy controls to the pay-TV sector,  suggests the Oscar nominations and resulting media coverage drove many users to search for the films on illegal sites.  It  noted the DVDs used to let Academy Awards voters watch and judge the movies sometimes became the source of the pirated files.

Sounds familiar to Indian film producers?

A report by Leo Kelion, Technology desk Editor at BBC.

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American Sniper would win best picture and Birdman’s Alejandro Inarritu best director if the Oscars were determined by online piracy rates, a study says.

It suggests being nominated in one of the four major categories has a particularly profound effect on illegal downloads of indie and art house films.

The authors suggest that producers of such movies become more flexible about how and when their titles are released.

But one industry expert said that was easier said than done.

Many of the nominated films are publicising their nominations

The report was carried out by Irdeto, a US company that sells piracy controls to the pay-TV sector.

It used “crawler” software to monitor downloads via Bittorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing services around the world and says its figures represent the minimum number of illegal downloads.

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As part of the study, the company compared the amount of piracy in the week before nominations with the week after.

Selma, Wild, American Sniper, Still Alice and Birdman saw some of the biggest swings in popularity, and each accounted for more than 100,000 downloads.

By contrast, two other films that had been tipped for the awards but failed to secure nominations in the major categories did not experience similar demand: Mr Turner has been downloaded 9,086 times since 15 January, and Inherent Vice has been downloaded 53,008 times, according to the study.

For comparison’s sake, the study also provided download figures for three big-budget mainstream films over the same post-nomination period:

• Interstellar – 1.4 million downloads

• The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – 1.3 million downloads

• John Wick – 1.3 million downloads

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Irdeto suggests the Oscar nominations and resulting media coverage drove many users to search for the films on illegal sites, and it noted the DVDs used to let Academy Awards voters watch and judge the movies sometimes became the source of the pirated files.

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Whiplash is one of the indie films vying for the best picture award

The company acknowledged that not every download represented a lost sale, but it suggested the activity was particularly damaging to films that would not be classed a conventional “blockbusters”.

“The Oscars are traditionally a time for independent and less mainstream movies to generate significant revenues,” said Rory O’Connor, the company’s vice-president of sales.

“In the past, such high quality movies could be funded through the Oscars mechanism by reaching a broader public – [distributors] might not have had such a big budget to publicise the films first time round, but they could then piggyback the Oscars media campaign.

“But that mechanism is breaking down because of piracy.”

He added that a solution would be for “windows” – used to stagger a film’s initial cinema release and its later screenings in other countries and sale on other formats – to be “collapsed”.

So, if a film was nominated, it could be offered for rent or sale around the world shortly after, to provide an alternative to piracy.

“People are willing to pay premium pricing for good quality and early availability [on their home TV], so I think there is an opportunity to compensate for the revenue that may be lost from a cinematic release,” Mr O’Connor said.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has still seen high levels of piracy despite being available to rent or buy in many countries

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‘Caught in a bind’

However, an adviser to the Independent Film and Television Alliance said its members had less latitude to act than the major studios, which control their own films’ releases.

Bertrand Moullier said smaller movies often relied on funding from local distributors who bought the release rights before filming started.

These distributors might be unwilling to suddenly change their plans, he said, because of concerns the films would then clash with others coming out locally at the same time.

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“We are caught in a bit of a bind because [the idea of] beating piracy by releasing a movie everywhere in a saturation-release pattern to beat the peer-to-peer sharers is logically right,” said Mr Moullier.

“Unfortunately, it also goes against the grain of how independent films must be assembled and put together.

“But [relying on local distributors] is also a very effective way of making sure a film gets the right adapted marketing strategy in each of the cultures where it’s shown.”

BBC © 2015

Older Samsung smart TVs fail to encrypt voices, are hacker-susceptible

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Samsung has said that some of its older smart TVs do not encrypt voice-related data.  It has acknowledged that some of its smart TV models are uploading their owners’ voices to the internet in an unencrypted form.

The apparent oversight makes it easier for hackers to spy on customers’ activities,  writes BBC Technology desk Editor Leo Kelton.  Read on.

The matter was brought to the public’s attention by UK-based cybersecurity experts.

Samsung told the BBC it planned to release new code that would encrypt the voice commands to protect its users.

“Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously and our products are designed with privacy in mind,” the company said in a statement.

Reassure consumers

“Our latest Smart TV models are equipped with data encryption and a software update will soon be available for download on other models.”

The revelation is the latest in a series of PR problems for the South Korean company’s smart TV division.

On 10 February it felt compelled to update its privacy policy after the original language raised concerns that its TVs were recording and transmitting everything said in front of them.

The blog post that clarified under what limited circumstances voice commands were shared specifically made mention of Samsung’s use of “industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption” as part of its efforts to reassure consumers.

David Lodge carried out the test on Samsung’s UE46ES8000 model, which went on sale in 2012 and is still available to buy

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Last week it also said it was investigating why some of its sets were adding adverts to programmes and films where they did not belong.

‘Easy to solve’

Concerns that Samsung was not always using encryption, as indicated, were raised by Ken Munro and David Lodge, from the London-based Pen Test Partners on Monday.

During their tests of one of Samsung’s older internet-connected TVs, they discovered that it was uploading audio files of their commands to the voice recognition specialist Nuance in an unencrypted form alongside information about the TV, including its MAC address, which could act as an identifier.

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Furthermore, when a transcribed copy of what had been said was sent back to the TVs – allowing the screen to act on the commands – this was also in an unencrypted form.

This meant that a hacker could read the words off a screen if they managed to hijack the data connection, rather than having to listen to each recording.

Samsung believes that such hacks would not be easy to achieve, and wants to reassure owners of older sets that they should not be too concerned.

But Mr Munro said he believed the flaw was serious.

David Lodge spotted the various words Nuance thought his pronunciation of “Samsung” might be in the unencrypted data that its servers sent back to the TV

“Intercepting those communications could be done over wi-fi by neighbours and/or hackers outside your house, if you use the wireless feature of the TV to hook up to the internet,” he said.

“It could also be carried out by your ISP [internet service provider], and by anyone else that has access to internet backbones. I’m thinking governments, law enforcement.

“This is an easy problem to solve. The communications should be encrypted using SSL [Secure Sockets Layer cryptographic protocols] just like other sensitive internet communications are.”

BBC © 2015

Sony takes orders for smart glasses

Will a thick,  intrusive piece of eyewear that keeps tech literally in your face rather than in the background,  really take off? Why did Google pull out its Glass initiative and say it needed to get back to the drawing board?

Here’s the BBC story about the SmartEyeglass,  being prebooked by Sony:

The SmartEyeglass will come with a developer kit so that wearers can create apps for it.

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A developer edition of Sony’s augmented reality smart glasses will go on sale in ten countries next month, the tech giant has announced.

Pre-orders for the SmartEyeglass, costing $840 (£620), are now being taken in the UK and Germany, with Japan and the US to follow shortly.

The black-framed glasses are compatible with recent Android operating systems.

Last month Google announced that it was withdrawing its smart glasses for redevelopment.

Sony’s initial model will come with a software development kit to encourage people to design apps for it, the company said.

The glasses, which weigh 77g, contain an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, image and brightness sensors, 3-megapixel camera and a microphone.

They also come with a controller, designed to be attached to clothing, which contains a speaker, touch sensor and the device’s battery.

Text is displayed in front of the wearer in monochrome green.

‘Intrusive’

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has been open about his dislike of glasses as a wearable device.

“We always thought that glasses were not a smart move, from a point of view that people would not really want to wear them,” he told the New Yorker.

“They were intrusive, instead of pushing technology to the background, as we’ve always believed.”

Stuart Miles, founder of tech site Pocket-lint, said: “I think [Sony is] wasting their time, energy and effort.

“Google Glass obviously needed a complete rethink… I can’t see how something thick-rimmed and more invasive-looking than Google Glass is going to catch on.

“People are keen on wearables like fitness bands and watches, but they care about their faces. Wearing something on your head is a lot stronger than wearing something on your arm,” he added.

“The industry keeps pushing it but consumers just don’t want it.”

BBC © 2015

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31502579

World Cup: Was MS Dhoni behind Yuvraj Singh’s ouster?

World Cup: Was MS Dhoni behind Yuvraj Singh’s ouster?

As Team India and its fans were still in the euphoria of victory over Pakistan at ICC World Cup 2015, Yuvraj Singh’s father decided to spoil it.

World Cup SpecialYuvraj sets IPL record

On a day (February 16, Monday) when Yuvraj landed Indian Premier League’s (IPL) highest ever bid in players auction with a whopping Rs 16 croresfrom Delhi Daredevils (DD), his dad Yograj Singhlaunched an attack on India captain MS Dhoni.(Yuvraj on missing WC)

“Want to know what is MS Dhoni’s problem with my son, he played for the nation even while suffering from cancer,” Yograj told the media.

He further stated, “If MS Dhoni is having personal issues with my son, I won’t do anything. God will do justice. Pray India wins World Cup under his captaincy but nothing can be more sad that you behaved this way.

“I was shocked that Yuvraj Singh was not in the (World Cup) squad,” he added.

Yograj, a former India Test player, placed the blame squarely on Dhoni for his son’s omission from World Cup 2015 squad. In 2011, Yuvraj was India’s World Cup winning hero and the Man-of-the-series award. This time he is not wanted.

To everyone’s surprise, Yograj chose only one reason – read Dhoni, for his son’s ouster from the team. Though the Indian team is picked by five selectors, Yograj feels there was Dhoni’s hand behind Yuvraj’s name not figuring in the 15-man list. He was not even among the 30 probables.

Captain and coach are consulted by every selection committee before picking a squad. And in this case too, Dhoni’s views would have been sought by the Sandeep Patil-led panel.

Did the skipper tell the five men that he did not want Yuvraj? Nobody knows. However, Yograj, as a former cricketer, will be well aware of what goes on in Indian cricket.

Is Yuvraj’s father right in publicly criticising Dhoni? Is it only an emotional outburst? The real truth might not come out.

Soon after Yograj’s statements, Yuvraj was on Twitter to control the damage. He wrote, “Like every parent my dad is also passionate and I am sure got carried away always enjoyed playing under Mahi n would do so in future.”

Just before the World Cup squad was to be announced, Yuvraj roared back to form, hitting three centuries in Ranji Trophy. This gave a lot of hope to his fans. But those were soon extinguished by the selectors when the World Cup squad was revealed.

Even when the team was announced, Yuvraj’s fans were very angry to see Stuart Binny’s name. They felt the left-handed all-rounder was far better choice than Binny.

The 33-year-old Yuvraj’s last appearance for India was in April, 2014 in the final of World Twenty20 against Sri Lanka in Dhaka.

On that day, Yuvraj struggled to put bat to ball, which produced an infamous 21-ball 11. For this, he came under heavy attack from the fans on social media and even his house was stoned. India lost the final and 50-over World Cup hero turned into a T20 World Cup villain. (Yuvraj on WT20 final innings)

After this game, Yuvraj was never picked to don India blue jersey again. But he continues to be the king of IPL after yesterday’s big paycheck.

Yuvraj’s international career looks over now. However, questions over his non-selection for World Cup remain unanswered. Was it based on pure cricketing logic or one man’s word?

http://newshunt.com/share/36415236