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Apple Family Sharing Prevents Pirates, Locks Out Users for a Year

posted Sunday Sep 21, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Apple Family Sharing Prevents Pirates, Locks Out Users for a Year

Apple is fully aware that families use their products. Additionally, Apple is aware that some people like to pirate music and movies. When both of those facts, come together, you can sometimes get headaches, which is exactly what is happening with Apple's new Family Sharing feature on its iProducts.

With Family Sharing, you are able to add up to six family members to your account, allowing you to share media from iTunes and iCloud. It's kind of like the Xbox One's feature for sharing Xbox Live Gold membership with others on the home console. At any rate, it's a great idea to allow your family or room mates to enjoy content you've paid for. However, because Apple recognizes people like to pirate said media, apparently the company is preventing users from adding members to the plan for up to one full year.

The Apple forums are ablaze with reports that customers are unable to add members to the account. Specifically, there seems to be a bug where you are unable to share content to those who you've recently added to Family Sharing. For most people, simply removing and re-adding a person would make sense, but Apple doesn't want you removing people who just want to watch The Hangover during the weekend. So if you removed a person and want to add them back, you won't be able to for a calendar year. Woops.

Here's where it gets more interesting. A person is only allowed to be added to two "families" in the course of a year. Even if you leave a family to join a third, you won't be able to for, you guessed it, a full year.

Looking at it from the broader perspective, it makes sense that Apple would restrict people switching back and forth on these accounts. Those switching multiple times probably aren't using the Family Sharing for its intended purpose. However, these restrictions are quite heavy for Apple users, especially those who are trying to add people and aren't understanding why the feature isn't working. These are the same consumers who believed the iPhone 5 was waterproof and that the iPhone 6 can be charged by putting it in the microwave. If Apple didn't think its customer base wouldn't be confused by this new addition to their phone, and would be removing and re-adding people, then they clearly do not have a grasp on their demographic. Quick side note: has anyone actually microwaved their iPhone 6? How has that worked out for you?

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Kickstarter Brings Accountability to Project Creators

posted Sunday Sep 21, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Kickstarter Brings Accountability to Project Creators

Kickstarter, one of the popular crowd-funding sites, has changed its policies in order to try and prevent companies from taking your money and running. The company has begun to understand that people have become more reserved about handing over cash to a project that might not ever turn into anything. Kickstarter has now outlined requirements the campaign must adhere to and looks to make the site a safer place to invest your money.

The key rule changes seem to be around how a campaign documents its use of funds, or how to detail any possible shortfalls or delays in the project. It also clearly states that if you get the money you ask, you must come through with the product. No exceptions. Overall, the message is one of transparency and communication, something a lot of projects weren't doing. Kickstarter now says you don't get a choice. If you're going to ask for money from people for a thing that hasn't been created yet, you are going to be held accountable for how you spend that money.

Here's some of the highlights from the policy amendments to Section 4, "How Projects Work."

When a project is successfully funded, the creator must complete the project and fulfill each reward. Once a creator has done so, they've satisfied their obligation to their backers.

If a creator is unable to complete their project and fulfill rewards, they've failed to live up to the basic obligations of this agreement. To right this, they must make every reasonable effort to find another way of bringing the project to the best possible conclusion for backers. A creator in this position has only remedied the situation and met their obligations to backers if:

  • they post an update that explains what work has been done, how funds were used, and what prevents them from finishing the project as planned;
  • they work diligently and in good faith to bring the project to the best possible conclusion in a timeframe that's communicated to backers;
  • they're able to demonstrate that they've used funds appropriately and made every reasonable effort to complete the project as promised;
  • they've been honest, and have made no material misrepresentations in their communication to backers; and
  • they offer to return any remaining funds to backers who have not received their reward (in proportion to the amounts pledged), or else explain how those funds will be used to complete the project in some alternate form.

The creator is solely responsible for fulfilling the promises made in their project. If they're unable to satisfy the terms of this agreement, they may be subject to legal action by backers.

As you can see, Kickstarter has even said that projects who do not play by the rules can now be subject to legal action, which is something that's been sort of a grey area until now. This definitely puts some pressure on creators to follow through, no matter how big or small the project is.

Do you think that this addition to the agreement between creators and backers has anything to do with creators taking funds to buy Ferraris? Maybe creators making millions and not delivering the first prototype, let alone the final product?

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Vimeo Lands Deal with Mystery Science Theater 3000 for its OnDemand Service

posted Saturday Sep 20, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Vimeo Lands Deal with <i>Mystery Science Theater 3000</i> for its OnDemand Service

Just recently we've talked about YouTube fighting a losing battle in keeping its top spot as the world's go-to video service. Despite recent platform and service enhancements, Google is still losing to the competition like Hitbox, Twitch and DailyMotion. Another company YouTube needs to look out for is Vimeo, a site that's been rapidly growing over the past two years and is gunning for the lead position in all things video. Vimeo further proved its motive this week, when it acquired the Mystery Science Theater 3000 catalog.

MST3K being picked up by Vimeo is cool for a lot of reasons. First, listeners and readers of our content will now we are proudly partnered with Rifftrax, the new endeavor formed by the creators of MST3K. Knowing that 80 episodes of the crew's previous work will be on display for people both familiar and unfamiliar with the series to see is kind of cool. Next, this finally gives people a legal way to view the content. Until this deal, episodes have been trickled to Netflix and Hulu, or you have to pick them up on iTunes, Google Play or Vudu as you wished.

So, how is this all going down? 80 episodes of MST3K are up on Vimeo right now, but not in the way most video content on Vimeo is viewed. Instead, this collection is behind Vimeo's OnDemand service. For $299.99, you can have unlimited access to all 80 episodes, wherever you want to watch them. If that's not up your budget alley, that's okay. You can rent each episode individually for $2.99 or buy it for $9.99. Even at that $10 price point, I can assure you most of these episodes are worth it, but you can see how you save money by buying them all up in one shot.

Here's where it gets better. In the next year, MST3K will be clearing about another dozen episodes, and those will also be available on the platform. Vimeo says it is working with the show and the movie studios to get rights to all 198 episodes at some point, but have not said where the parties are in the contract negotiations. And for those who are wondering about those new episodes and how it plays into you purchasing all 80 existing for $300, Vimeo said any newly-released content will be included in that bundle, so that's even more value added to the offer.

So I'm pretty excited about all of this, especially that you can now pick up the entire digital collection in one place. Are you excited, too? What's your favorite MST3K episode? Let me know in the comments section.

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Hackers Claim They Know Who the Creator of Bitcoin is and Seek Payment for Info

posted Sunday Sep 14, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Hackers Claim They Know Who the Creator of Bitcoin is and Seek Payment for Info

The Bitcoin saga is an interesting one. Amidst the violent ups and downs of the virtual currency, there has been a constant question on the minds of everyone. People have been wanting to know who the founder and creator of Bitcoin is. We know that the name Satoshi Nakamoto has been tossed around but we've not been able to put a face to the name. Whoever it is has made it very difficult to trace the concept of Bitcoin back to him or her. Even Newsweek went down a rabbit hole and came up empty-handed and confused. That was all true until this week, when we may have a new lead on who could've created Bitcoin.

Hackers have apparently gotten into Nakamoto's email address and have sent out emails and posted to Pastebin messages requesting payment for the hackers to disclose the true identity of the creator of Bitcoin. In the different messages, there have been five different Bitcoin addresses to send payment to, saying that, "Satoshis dox, passwords and IP addresses will be published when this address has reached 25 BTC."

Like we mentioned in previous articles, Satoshi could be a false name for an entire group of people for all we know. However the hackers have made it seem that it's one person and they know who it is. But given that they're hackers whose sole mission is to profit from others' loss, all of this could be a hoax. We do know that somebody has accessed the email account satoshin@gmx.com, which is the email address included in the original Bitcoin documents. We also have seen small snippets of information that the hackers have posted online, but again, that could all be fabricated.

Then there's the warning directed to Satoshi and his/her safety. A message posted on the P2P Foundation forum said,

Dear Satoshi. Your dox, passwords and IP addresses are being sold on the darknet. Apparently you didn't configure Tor properly and your IP leaked when you used your email account sometime in 2010. You are not safe. You need to get out of where you are as soon as possible before these people harm you. Thank you for inventing Bitcoin.

So, hackers are trying to extort money from people in order to reveal who Satoshi really is. Should we really play into this? If someone created something, no matter how revered it may be, do we have a right to know who it is and demand that the person speak to the public? Bitcoin isn't a publicly-traded company or anything, so shouldn't we respect the privacy of the ones behind the creation? A lot of questions have been raised by this new bit of information. It'll be interesting to see what happens if the documents are released.

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Pandora Signs Licensing Deal with BMG to Expand Music Catalog

posted Sunday Sep 14, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Pandora Signs Licensing Deal with BMG to Expand Music Catalog

For some time now, there's been this interesting dynamic with the music-streaming company Pandora. Revenue has been steady but active subscribers are decreasing, yet the company responds by limiting free listening time. Then the company's CEO resigns amidst a very strong fourth quarter, leading to more confusion. But now, another positive move for Pandora happened this week as the company signed a huge deal with BMG, the distribution group that owns the rights to everyone's music from Jay-Z to Billy Idol.

Lately, Pandora has been at war with the music labels, much like Spotify, in order to try and reduce the payouts of royalties. It's been a largely unsuccessful endeavor, however this new deal solidifies the first step in the right direction as CFO of Pandora, Mike Herring, said that Pandora "ensured a royalty structure that works better for both of us."

So what's included in this new licensing package? Pandora will now pickup rights to BMG's collection of music from BMI and the American Society of Composers, and both have a pretty extensive catalog of pieces. No terms of the deal have been disclosed but sources close to the matter report both parties are pleased with the outcome.

This ties in to Pandora's mission to keep growing, despite having some pretty rough times with its music curation. With just under 75 million active users, according to Pandora, the company said it wants to reach 100 million in the next year or two. While having a lot of music will certainly help, the program's selection process still needs a lot of refinement. The same songs will constantly show up, or songs that have nothing to do with each other will play on the same station, just because they were composed by the same producer. In order to get that next 25 million, some hard work and effort will have to go into the actual service, otherwise people will stay attracted to alternative platforms.

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Mojang, makers of Minecraft, to be Acquired by Microsoft for $2.5 Billion

posted Sunday Sep 14, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Mojang, makers of <i>Minecraft</i>, to be Acquired by Microsoft for $2.5 Billion

The "serious discussion" rumors that Microsoft would be buying Mojang are apparently true. Microsoft will be planning to announce on Monday that it has acquired the gaming studio behind the insanely popular game, Minecraft, for $2.5 billion.

The acquisition, which will be huge for Microsoft's gaming properties, looks to bring more attention to Microsoft's mobile operating system, Windows Phone. The Xbox and PC brands are already locked-in with a huge core following and have supported Mojang, the makers of the PC version, 4J Studios, the devs behind the console edition and Notch, the founder of Minecraft.

Speaking of Notch, having Mojang picked up by Microsoft definitely wasn't something on anyone's radar due to Notch's blunt disdain for Microsoft technology. He has gone on record saying that he wouldn't even consider building a version of Minecraft for the Windows Phone, and that he isn't fond of Microsoft's platform. In late September of 2012, he went on Twitter to say,

Got an email from microsoft, wanting to help "certify" minecraft for win 8. I told them to stop trying to ruin the pc as an open platform.

I guess $2.5 billion would change that tune in two years. At any rate, a lot of people are enraged, mostly PC gamers interestingly enough, about the potential of Microsoft buying up their coveted game and dev studio.

To me, the move makes perfect sense on the business level. Sure, the game is already crazy popular on the PC and the Xbox 360, PS3 and Xbox One versions are doing incredibly well, with the 360 iteration breaking day-one sales records for non-disc games and moving over 8 million units since launch. To compare, Minecraft for the PC has just eclipsed 14 million and the game has been around three years longer.

But it goes beyond the game itself, and I'm a firm believer in Microsoft's proven track record that the company looks at the bigger picture. What gamers fail to see is that Minecraft is a brand, not just a game. Not only do you have a truly talented group of developers inside of Mojang that actually care about putting out a solid product, but they all seem to share the big-picture mentality that the executives do. Minecraft has licensing deals that can almost put Disney to shame. Plush toys, mini-games, clothing, cereal, computer mice, backpacks, LEGOs, and that's just the consumer-facing side of it. Mojang also uses Minecraft for a humanitarian purpose, with the game helping the United Nations with a project called Block by Block, which helps countries with urban development planning. Considering that Microsoft is involved both in helping others through its services and raking in money on licensing fees and patents, I can't see a better home for Mojang than with the Redmond-based tech giant. Plus, Windows Phone sales might skyrocket if a pocket version of Minecraft was made available for the platform.

No word yet on details like if the studio will move and who might be terminated, as Microsoft doesn't comment on things until they are official. We should have that information tomorrow, but what do you think of all this as it stands? Are you happy with the decision? Why or why not? Let it fly in the comments below.

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