Thursday, 29 May 2014


Blu-Ray Becomes Less and Less Popular

Once regarded as the savior of the entertainment industry, Blu-Ray is now being pushed out of the market by video-on-demand and downloads. Sony, for example, has officially warned of heavy losses primarily connected with its exit from the PC business. Another reason for the decline is the fact that demand for physical media is contracting faster than the company expected.

One of the recent reports showed that revenue from DVD and Blu-ray sales would likely decrease by 38% over the next 4 years. Meanwhile, online movie revenue will grow 260% from $3.5 billion in 2014 to $12.7 billion in 2018.

The researchers believe that people are now used to the instant availability of online media, and the idea of purchasing a physical is weird for people under 25. Finally, it was pointed out that the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) video compression standard might finally kill off Blu-Ray, as the former doubles the amount of data available for streaming in HD format. For instance, the standard allows to stream 8K Ultra-High Definition content with resolutions up to 8192x4320.

It should be noted that Blu-Ray never did as well as DVD. The latter dominated the home entertainment world 10 years ago with almost $22 billion in sales representing an overwhelming 96% of home entertainment spendings. Today DVDs still have respectable sales figures, with many people believing that DVD is good enough. In addition, optical media might survive as a way to back-up personal data, as it can prove more reliable than cloud storage.

Blu-Ray was officially introduced 8 years ago, backed by Sony and other tech giants, but the format had a slow take up, and its success was largely determined by its integration with Sony’s PlayStation 3. Back in 2013, around 124 million of Blu-Ray discs were sold in the United States, which is a 4.2% increase over 2012. But even taking this increase in consideration, the reduced pricing for the format negatively influenced the revenue, which only increased 2.6%. As for DVD sales, they have been plummeting for many years now, and dropped 13.6% in 2013.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Book Worms??

Indie Booksellers against Amazon

UK independent booksellers face reinforcements in the battle against the online retailer with a website that would support the high street traders, backed by the largest publisher in the globe.

A social network for book lovers called “My Independent Bookshop” was officially launched as an online space where any member can review their favorite books. The most important part is that readers are also able to purchase books from the website, and a small proportion of takings will proceed to support scores of local independent book stores.

About seventy shops are already connected to the network, and several hundred will hopefully add up soon. As for the proceeds, the reader’s nominated home store receives 5% of the revenues from every paper book they buy and 8% from every ebook. The service is a tie-up with the e-commerce website Hive. The latter has been offering similar services to local shops for the last three years.

Many book writers, including Terry Pratchett, Lisa Jewell, Alastair Campbell, Irvine Welsh and Tony Parsons, have appreciated the website and registered there during a testing phase.

The digital publisher at the service explained that national chains, like Waterstones or Foyles, hadn’t been included in order to support non-chain bookshops. The publishing giant wouldn’t make money from the website, but can see other benefits. They admit that the information is very valuable, and on the website it can be seen what is trending, what books are popular and how people are interacting.

In recent times, publishers found out that they are competing with an ever increasing range of entertainment choices on various mobile devices, with high street bookshops closing their doors in the face of competition from Amazon and other giants. Thus far, fewer than 1,000 independent bookshops remain in the United Kingdom, and the future of the industry is dim.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Spaced Out Fuel Station??

York petrol station hoping to trade in space prepares by ‘employing’ Transformer, Storm Trooper, Daleks and Cyberman

A petrol station owner in York is hoping to trade in space one day and has even fitted his shop with characters from sci-fi films in preparation.

Inner Space Service Station owner Graham Kennedy has installed models of Transformers and Storm Troopers inside, plus Daleks and even a Cyberman on the roof, as he counts down the days until lift off (whenever that is).

‘The idea behind Inner Space Stations is that the company would eventually operate and retail in space,’ he said.

‘We are a 24hr life support company. We are not in space yet… but one day we will be.’


The sci-fi fan recently travelled to Cambodia to buy a nine-foot Bumblebee Transformer replica he hoped would give him the edge in an ongoing price war with local supermarkets.

‘It is the only one in the UK,’ he told the York Press. ‘It is a massive amount of work. You could not get it done in this country.’

‘He is going to be my secret weapon in my price war with the supermarkets.’

Monday, 19 May 2014

Open For Business!!

Online Drugs Marketplace Rebranded as OpenBazaar

DarkMarket, a portal which is going to create a decentralized alternative to infamous online drugs marketplace Silk Road, has renamed as "OpenBazaar" in order to improve its image. The new system exists as little more than a proof of concept: its plan was drafted by a group of hackers in Toronto a month ago, where they won the $20,000 first prize for their idea.

OpenBazaar allows any user of the software to connect with other users and open a deal. A 3rd OpenBazaar user is brought in an arbiter, having the power to release the buyer’s funds (paid in Bitcoins, naturally) to the seller after the deal is completed. The users can also leave feedback as a cryptographically signed comment distributed across the network. The users’ identities in the system are tied to their Bitcoin keys, which prevents anyone from impersonating another user.

The idea of the system is obviously aimed at replacing the infamous Silk Road – online marketplace used to buy and sell drugs – which was shut down by the FBI seven months ago. Considering that it lacks centralized headquarters, the authorities would have to track down every single user of the system individually, and there’s no way to shut down the network entirely.

DarkMarket was developed by Amir Taaki, Damian Cutillo and William Swanson. The first is a veteran of the Bitcoin community currently developing a wallet application that will allow users to spend the cryptocurrency completely anonymously, while the other two are building a Bitcoin startup called Airbitz. The system now known as OpenBazaar was initially released as open-source software after the hackathon was finished. However, none of the three creators want to continue working on it, because they all focused on their own projects. This is why it is left to the community to continue the coding, and the community decided to rename it from DarkMarket to OpenBazaar at the first place.

Earlier, Redditors had started a petition to change the name from Dark Market to “Free Market”, which would sound better in the news that were to say, for example, that the authorities are “looking into banning the free market”. But the system creators’ initial response was to refuse, claiming that people need to stop being afraid and reclaim the words of power used to control them. Now the name was changed anyway.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Watch Out Google!!

The jury deciding the patent infringement lawsuit between the two tech giants seems to be focused on Steve Jobs’ comments, being concerned about what the Apple founder meant when he decided to sue Samsung and whether he also wanted to pursue Google.

The jury apparently wants to know what Steve Jobs said when he decided to prosecute a case against Samsung – in particular, whether Google was mentioned or included in that directive. It is known that Google is responsible for much of the Android software code being fought over, but for some reason the company wasn’t named by Apple in its lawsuit. This is what Samsung had used in its defense, claiming that it was Google who developed the software in question.

In addition, the jury also asked how Apple chose the 5 patents to pursue against Samsung, how Samsung chose the 2 patents to launch its counter case, and what Samsung’s top executive think of the case launched by Apple. However, the jurors discovered that the answers to such questions fell outside of the information the parties can provide.

Samsung’s attorneys wanted the jurors to refer to a Steve Jobs 2010 memo where he called for a “holy war” against Android, while Apple attorneys argued that the document couldn’t answer the question of what Jobs said at the time the decision was made to sue Samsung.

The US District Court Judge agreed and answered all of the questions asked with the same answer: “You have all the evidence available to you and you need to make your decision based on what you have at the moment”. In other words, the jury seems to be thinking that Samsung might have been caught in an anti-competitive proxy fight between the other two giants. This is no good news for Apple, as the company hoped to put the fear of Jobs into Google’s suppliers to make them too frightened to use Android, or force them to pay a lot of money to Apple to use it.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The EU At It Again!!

EU lays down the law on coffee making

European Union issues new rules requiring filter coffee machines to turn off automatically in order to help save energy

Filter coffee machines will have to turn off automatically to help save energy, under new European Union rules.

All of the devices on sale for domestic use from next year will be required to go into “standby mode” after brewing the drink, the Sun reported.

The European Commission said the changes would save money on electricity bills and were “supported by consumer and industry organisations” as well as member states including the UK.

However campaigners claimed the rules would leave many people with “cold coffee”.

Under the new regulation domestic drip filter machines which store coffee in an insulated jug will have to go on “standby” within five minutes of brewing the drink - meaning that the heated plate or element will switch off.

Those machines with non-insulated jugs will have to go on standby after no more than 40 minutes. Espresso makers will be given a half hour limit.

All new machines will be required to have the “eco mode” as their default setting, although manufacturers will be able to create an option for people to disable the limits.

Alan Murad from the Get Britain Out campaign group described the regulation as “ludicrous”.

"Not content with the £55 million they take from Britain every day, our European masters have now come after our hot coffee," he said.

“More than one in five Britons own a coffee machine and could be affected by this latest diktat from Brussels.

“The sooner the Great British Public are given a referendum on Britain’s relationship with the EU, the sooner we can say goodbye to ludicrous laws like this.”

The European Commission said the rules would not affect commercial machines or those which people already have in their homes.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Nosey Parker!!!!

Dog rescued after wedging head in a concrete wall

A curious golden retriever in Nottingham was helped by firefighters after getting her head stuck in a decorative concrete garden wall

Fire crews were called to rescue a hapless dog after she managed to get her head stuck in a concrete wall.

Sunny, a nine-year-old Golden Retriever, became wedged in a garden wall gap as she tried to greet a neighbour’s new puppy.

Her owner Shelley Jones, 22, found her in the garden of her home in Gedling, Nottingham, with her head through the block at around 11am.

Sunny was so firmly stuck in the six inch gap that even with Shelley, her brother Ivan Bishop, 28, and neighbour Gemma Beck, 30, pushing they were unable to free her.

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service then attended the scene where they spent 20 minutes cutting the dog free.

Shelley, a beauty consultant, said: "I couldn't believe it. I was out in the garden and my neighbour was there. We were just chatting.

"But next door's new beagle puppy was out for the first time and I thought Sunny might want to jump up but not put her head through the wall.

"The dog was more calm than I was, but was completely stuck.

"I called my brother as he is a builder so I thought he would have some tools to help.

"But we decided to call the fire brigade though as we didn't know how to set her free and I was worried she would hurt herself.

"The fire fighters were amazing though. They put a sheet over Sunny's head to stop the debris going over her and then one of them sat with her while they cut her out.

"It took about 20 minutes in total and the wall had to be completely taken down. There is just a board up at the moment.

"It was definitely a bit of a shock but Shelley seems to be fine. She was a bit quiet after and had a rest but we have taken her for a nice walk since.

"It is not what I imagined I'd be doing on a Sunday morning either.

"I am just glad it ended okay."

A fire crew from Carlton Fire Station, near Nottingham arrived at the property just before 11am and had to use hammers and chisels to remove part of the wall to release Sunny.

Station manager Andy Shepherd said: "It is not an everyday occurrence I must admit, but we do love a story with a happy ending."

Sunday, 11 May 2014

What A Surprise!!

Gmail Officially Scans Your Emails

Google has recently clarified its email scanning practices by updating its Gmail terms of service to inform users that all emails are analyzed by automated software. In other words, the company explicitly states that Google’s system scans the content of emails stored on its servers or sent and received by any Google email account. Of course, this practice has seen Google face criticism from privacy action outfits and lawsuits from the education sector.

Google announced that it wants its policies to be simple and easy for everyone to grasp, and the recent changes are supposed to give people even greater clarity and were based on feedback received over the last several months. You should know that Google’s automated systems scan the content of emails for spam and malware detection, as well as part of the company’s “priority inbox” service and tailored advertising.

Of course, people are concerned about it and believe they should be able to completely switch it off if they want to. The company’s ads use data gleaned from your email combined with data from your Google profile (including search results, map requests and YouTube views). In result, the system displays what it considers is relevant in the hope that you are more likely to click on them and generate more advertising revenue.

The email scanning practices of the search giant stretch across Gmail displaying adverts to support the service, while its products for business and education have the turn-it-off option.

The privacy groups argue that such scanning and indexing of emails could be in violation of an American law known as Ferpa (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), the main law guarding student educational records. By the way, this particular law was used to launch a lawsuit against Google in California.

Aside from email scanning, the Open Rights Group considers other aspects of the company’s practices most troubling. They say that Google does more dangerous things like information held in Analytics, cookies in advertising and the profiling on individual accounts. The outfit explains that it is the amount of data held on people which should be concerning us, because it’s attractive to government and can leak out in various ways.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Taking The Piss!!

38 million gallon reservoir drained after teenager caught urinating

Mount Tabor Reservoir in Portland, Oregon, had to be drained after the water was contaminated

Mount Tabor Reservoir in Portland, Oregon, was drained by water chiefs after CCTV footage captured a teenager urinating into the water supply.

The 38 million gallon reservoir provides water to the city's population of 600,000.

The refill is estimated to have cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of dollars. It is not the first time the reservoir has been drained - over the past five years it has happened several times, most recently in October following an almost identical incident.

Portland Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff defended the decision, saying the reservoir could not distribute "deliberately contaminated" water.

''The reality is that our customers don't anticipate drinking water that's been contaminated by some yahoo who decided to pee into a reservoir.'

Friday, 9 May 2014

Beauty Blow??

Beauty contest turns into brawl over row about winner

Miss Scarborough beauty pageant descends into a brawl after the favourite is eliminated and supporters claim the wrong woman is given the crown

A beauty pageant descended into a "brawl" when angry supporters claimed the wrong woman had won.

After the favourite for Miss Scarborough was eliminated from the contest, security staff were reportedly punched and kicked, as well as attacked with handbags, by angry spectators. Pensioners were also caught up in the row and thrown to the floor.

The winner of the competition, Jess Gale, 18, was greeted with boos and hisses as she was crowned the winner and walked on stage to collect her tiara.

Other beauty queens were reported to be in tears during the brawl at a hall at the Scarborough Fair Collection - a museum - sited on a holiday park in Lebberston in north Yorkshire.

Diane Yalezo, organiser of the competition, said the group had “completely ruined” the event for Miss Gale.

She told the Yorkshire Post: “I had picked One Moment in Time to be the winner's song this year, and Jess should have been able to walk onto that stage and have that one moment but it was totally ruined.”

Ms Yalezo said they wanted to continue running the competition so Scarborough could enter the Miss England pageant in June.

She said they would hold the north Yorkshire competition in a hotel in future, and replace alcohol with cream teas.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

What A Surprise!!

Over 1/3 of Film Industry Professionals are Pirates

A recent survey among movie industry professionals revealed that about 40% of them have downloaded films and TV shows illegally. There have been lots of surveys covering piracy-related issues in recent years. However, they usually fail to mention that many people who obtain files for free also cheerfully pay for content as well. Now some studies have revealed that the entertainment industry’s best customers are also engaged in illegal downloads.

In fact, some of those pirates appeared to be the very people who help to create films and TV shows. The recent research of 1,235 movie industry professionals, where the respondents were people from one of the 3 major films markets, included a few new questions.

The first set of questions focused on whether the movie experts felt that piracy had affected their business. Surprisingly enough, 53% of all respondents said that piracy had either no effect or a positive effect on their business. The respondents belonged to all sectors of the industry, including development, production, sales and distribution. The respondents in sales and distribution admitted they were most worried by piracy.

There also was an anonymous additional statement “I have illegally downloaded a TV show or feature film”, and 39% of people agreed with that additional statement. People working on lower budgets were more likely to have illegally downloaded content than respondents working on big budgets. Only 2% of people working on movies over $10 million admitted to illegally downloading a movie or TV show, on the contrary to 65% of respondents working on movies under $1 million.

The percentage of people who admitted illegal downloading also fluctuated according to industry sector: for example, 55% of respondents in marketing said they have infringed content versus 0% percent in exhibition (movie theaters). Professionals from sales and distribution, who said they had been most affected by piracy, saw the lowest piracy “confession” rate of 28%. These people are mediators behind the scenes of the industry who negotiate the rights between producers and cinemas or retailers, and they have the largest vested interest in stopping piracy, because they don’t have many other reasons for doing what they do and no other source of income.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Real Pole Dancers??

Yorkshire community to resurrect maypole dancing

A group of girls from Carleton-in-Craven are learning the traditional dances of the Maypole, which has fallen out of fashion

A group of youngsters are determined to revive Maypole dancing - 25 years since the tradition has been taught in their community.

The 12 girls from Carleton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire, are being taught May Day songs and dances amid fears the tradition could be lost forever if it is not passed on.

Sarah Churcher, 34, is leading the initiative and part of a team of women passing on the skills to a new generation.

Mum-of-two Sarah said: "I think the excitement of going around the village and showing the villagers what we had done was a real treat.

"It felt like a really special thing to be involved in.

"The fun of it is what stands out to me."

Solicitor-by-day Sarah became involved after answering the rallying cry of her community to revive the tradition - before it's too late.

So far, 12 girls have begun learning the songs and dances in advance of this year's May Day performance.

Sarah said: "I really felt it was something I wanted to do because I so enjoyed it and I have a real feeling that if our generation do not get involved in things like this then they will completely die away."

But the revival is going further than just the classes - with a local joiner offering to make the maypole and the village pantomime group stepping forward to make the costumes.

Although much has changed since some of the women involved were younger the fundamental elements have remained the same, drawing on traditional folk songs for music.

"They are a little unusual for the children to sing but they sing them so well and they are so lovely and they have really entered into the spirit of doing it in the traditional way," said Sarah.

As a child, Sarah was taught the songs and dances of the Maypole after school alongside her female classmates by the ladies of the village ahead of an annual performance.

She said: "We used to go from one end of the village to the other and stop and dance and sing.

"People would come out of their houses and watch and then we would move on. It took a couple of hours during the morning.

"I think it probably felt like it was something quite out of the ordinary to us when we were that age.

"It was very popular around the village. People came out to support children of the village.

"That's something that goes on now. All the villagers are supportive of our community activities."

The invitation was open to boys but only girls are taking part - something the group hopes will change next year.

Unlike the travelling Maypoles of years gone by, this year's will remain in one place.

The Maypole dance will take place outside the Swan Inn in Carleton, at 3pm on May 5.