A consortium including Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures and Fox are backing the UK launch of a new service that aims to revolutionise home entertainment, and cut piracy, by offering consumers a digital locker of films and TV shows they can
watch on any device.
The UK is the second market after the US to launch the UltraViolet service, a digital library for films and TV shows, which gives consumers the rights to buy once but be able to play on several devices.
UltraViolet's backers -- 75 companies as varied as Tesco, Samsung, Nokia, Sky and LoveFilm -- claim their open system has the edge over more restricted services offered by Apple and Disney.
When a consumer buys an UltraViolet enabled DVD or Blu-ray disc of the title they will be able to register for an account on Flixster -- the social movie site Warner Bros acquired in May -- where they can get several digital versions of the film
or TV show.
They can then stream it to devices in allowed territories from up to a year after purchase (or less if sold with restricted rights).
Users can also download 3 presumably DRM protected digital copies to compatible devices for up to a year after purchase. Geographic restrictions do not apply for downloads.
Some purchases may enable a hard copy download suitable for burning on a DVD or keeping on a computer (maybe outside of DRM controls?).
Interestingly these downloads and streams may be shared with up to 5 family members (or friends?).
Warner Bros is the first content owner to unveil its plans for UltaViolet (UV), with the launch of Final Destination 5 on 26 December being the first UV-enabled title to be made available to consumers in the UK.
US technology researchers have demonstrated that they can link up facial recognition camera technology with a database of people with their pictures tagged by Facebook.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University combined off-the-shelf image scanning, cloud computing and public profiles from social network sites to identify individuals in the offline world.
In another experiment, researchers were able to extract the social security number of a student starting only with their photo.
When we share tagged photos of ourselves online, it becomes possible for others to link our face to our names in situations where we would normally expect anonymity, said team leader Professor Alessandro Acquisti.
The researchers have also developed an augmented reality mobile app that can display personal data over a person's image captured on a smartphone screen.
The results of the research will be presented at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas this week.
ICM Registry, the company behind .xxx, plans to launch Search.xxx, a search engine that only delivers porn results.
News of Search.xxx was first announced at the YNOT Summit 2011, a trade show devoted entirely to the porn industry, which took place last month in San Francisco. ICM president Stuart Lawley told The Register that the smutty search engine will
only index sites with .xxx domains. About a dozen premium .xxx domains, including porn.xxx and sex.xxx, will feed traffic to the search engine, which will make money off of advertising and sponsorships.
We know what you're thinking: If Search.xxx only includes other .xxx domains, then a whole bunch of my favorite naughty bits will be left out. Which, unfortunately, is true. Not only that, but the porn industry as a whole is chaffing against the
ICM and their .xxx domains, which will cost far more to register than a standard .com domain.
Fortunately for everybody, Google, Bing and other search engines will also index .xxx domains, along with all the porn you're already used to.
The FBI and the US Department of Justice have announced that, as far as they were concerned, notice and take down now had almost zero value as an aid to law enforcement re child porn. The highly organised, technically literate distributors
have by and large deserted publicly accessible places, burrowing deep into file sharing environments, peer-to-peer networks and closed groups of one kind or another. Police work today in this field is principally covert, intelligence led.
Obviously the US Government was not saying they were indifferent to the images remaining on public view. Getting them off any and all parts of the internet remains an important goal of policy for everyone, particularly the child protection
community. The Feds were simply pointing out that the amount of time and money devoted to notice and take down was disproportionate to the benefits obtained in terms of reducing the total volume of illegal activity or helping to secure
Step forward Microsoft. They have described new software they had developed. It's called PhotoDNA. Microsoft will give it away free to appropriate companies.
Every image stored on a computer can already be reduced to a nearly unique hash value . There are various programmes around that can pick up and read these values and compare them with known illegal images. The trouble is if anyone does
anything as elementary or obvious as edit the picture, even by the tiniest fraction it then takes on a totally different hash value. The picture then goes undetected.
By contrast PhotoDNA looks at what makes the picture what it is i.e. the visual content. Thus, even if the picture changes format, shape, size or colour, within certain generous tolerances it will still be picked up. Using the parameters
Microsoft recommends the chances of the software making a mistake seemingly are around 1 in 10 billion.
It may be several years before we see how well PhotoDNA works at scale around the world. Using a database of illegal images supplied by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Facebook is currently trialling it in an environment in
which between 200 and 300 million new pictures go up every day. The early signs are good.
PhotoDNA in the wrong hands might be a worry. It could be used to prevent publication of a cartoon of the King or the Archbishop. Microsoft is fully aware of this and will be watching like hawks how their licences are deployed.
Automatic image-analysis systems are already used to catch filtered pornography before it reaches a computer monitor. But they often struggle to distinguish between indecent imagery and more innocuous pictures with large flesh-coloured regions,
such as a person in swimwear or a close-up face. Analysing the audio for a sexual scream or moan could solve the problem, say electrical engineers MyungJong Kim and Hoirin Kim at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in
Daejeon, South Korea.
The pair used a signal-processing technique to create spectrograms of a variety of audio clips, each just half a second long. They found that speech signals are normally low-pitched and musical clips have a wide range of pitches; both vary only
gradually over time. In contrast, pornographic sounds tend to be higher-pitched, change quickly and also periodically repeat. These characteristics allow software to distinguish porn audio from other content.
It's quite ingenious, says Richard Harvey, a computer scientist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, who previously worked on image-based pornography detection. But image-based methods are no less accurate, he says, and only
require a single frame whereas the performance of the audio method needs to analyse longer clips.
He suggests it might be better to combine both methods to weed out unusual cases: Think of that scene in When Harry Met Sally [in which a female character fakes an orgasm while fully clothed in a diner] -- the audio is very clearly pointing in
one direction, but the video is not.
Mozilla officials have refused a US government request to ban a Firefox add-on that helps people to access sites that use internet domain names seized earlier this year.
The Firefox add-on, available on Mozilla.org, made it easy for users to access sites that used some of the confiscated addresses. It did this by redirecting them to substitute domain names that were out of the reach of US courts, such as those
with a .de top level domain.
You simply type Demoniod.com into your browser as usual, the add-on's authors wrote in an FAQ explaining how it works. The browser sends the address to the add-on, the add-on checks if Demoniod.com is on the list of sites to be
redirected and immediately redirects you to the mirror site.
US officials alleged MafiaaFire circumvented their seizure order and asked Mozilla to remove it. The open-source group, in not so many words, said no. Our approach is to comply with valid court orders, warrants, and legal mandates, but in this
case there was no such court order, Harvey Anderson of Mozilla explained.
A vocal chorus of lawmakers and policy wonks have decried the domain seizures, arguing that the ex parte actions are a serious power grab that threaten the stability of the internet. If the US government can confiscate addresses it doesn't agree
with, what's to stop China or any other country from doing the same thing?
The seizure of file-sharing related domain names by the US Government hasn't been as effective as the entertainment industries had hoped since many of them simply continued their operations under new domains. To make these type of domain
transitions go more smoothly, an anonymous group has coded a simple Firefox add-on that automatically redirects users to these new homes.
ICE director John Morton confirmed last week that the seizures will continue in the coming years. But at the same time the authorities amp up their anti-piracy efforts, those in opposition are already coming up with ways to bypass them.
One of these initiatives is the MAFIAA Fire add-on for Firefox. The plugin, which will support the Chrome browser at a later stage too, maintains a list of all the domains that ICE (hence the fire) has seized and redirects their users to
an alternative domain if the sites in question have set one up.
Should I see it in the cinema or wait for the DVD? That fairly loaded question is easily the most popular one people ask me about new films. I used to unequivocally answer that cinema was the best way to see any film, but these days,
factoring in the high ticket cost, generally inconsiderate behaviour of audiences and the impressive quality of home cinema setups, I'm more than likely to amend it to or possibly the Blu-ray .
When Blu-ray Discs (BDs for short) hit the market a few years back, it looked as if the format was intended to replace DVDs. I liked the unknown, frontier-territory aspect of releases, how random the titles were, as if they were at the beginning
of the DVD revolution. For instance, you could get almost every film Martin Lawrence has ever appeared in on BD, but only a handful of Stanley Kubrick films. We were also led to believe that by the far-flung futuristic year of 2011, everything
would be on BD. But this is clearly not the case; realistically it was never all that likely. Things are just as random as ever -- more so, even.