The TV-streaming paradox:
Why you may miss the cable bundle
future of TV may well be a mishmash of streaming services that could
wind up costing pretty close to a $100 cable bundle, but that are way
too difficult to use. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
New York (AP) -
The future of TV may well be a mishmash of streaming services that could
rival the cost of a $100 cable bundle - but that are way more difficult
Disney’s plan for
two new streaming services (and possibly more) is just the latest sign
that everyone is jumping into the streaming business. It intends to
launch a kids-oriented movie and TV streaming service in 2019 that will
pull Disney and Pixar films from Netflix, as well as an ESPN sidekick
service (minus pro football and basketball) expected early next year.
The company is even exploring the possibility of separate streaming
services for its Star Wars and Marvel superhero films.
All of that will
simply add to a cacophony of existing Netflix-style video services that
let you watch what you want, when you want. More are probably on their
way, as entertainment companies see profits in controlling not only the
creation of their films and shows, but also their distribution.
Potentially bigger bills, and more work for people who just want to find
something to watch. “Ultimately for consumers, it means that experience
is dreadful,” says Paolo Pescatore, a vice president with research firm
Problem One: Finding stuff to watch
New Yorker David
Berkowitz still pays for cable, streams from Netflix and Amazon, and
sometimes buys individual movies from Amazon; his three-year-old
daughter already watches “Finding Dory” and “Finding Nemo” on two
separate services. The prospect of a new Disney-only service isn’t
reassuring. “Having a third thing in the mix seems like a lot to
juggle,” he says.
To find stuff to
watch, Berkowitz’s family uses a Roku box attached to their TV, which
suggests streaming channels the family may like and lets them search for
the shows and movies he wants to watch. There are also websites to guide
streamers, like justwatch.com.
That’s fine if you
know what you’re looking for. But the modern-day channel surfer has it
much harder. “There’s going to be a proliferation of niche content,”
says Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of Xumo, a streaming-channel provider for
smart TVs. “The way for it to be managed, findable for a user - that has
not emerged yet.”
Problem Two: Paying the price
People quit cable
because they can’t justify a $100-and-always-climbing monthly payment,
especially with so much good stuff on cheaper services. But the cost of
multiple streaming services adds up, too.
A $30 TV antenna
gets you local channels - CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS, Univision - for free,
though you have to watch whatever’s on at the moment unless you have a
DVR. If you want to see the edgy shows everyone talks about, then
Netflix is, for most, $10 a month; Amazon is $8.25 a month if you sign
up for a year. Hulu starts at $8. HBO Now, $15.
Tickled by ads for
a specific network show? “The Sinner,” an eerie-looking new Jessica Biel
vehicle on USA, costs $20 on Amazon for the season. All that together is
already more than $60 a month. It’s even worse if you’re a sports fan.
MLB.TV is $113 for the year, and you won’t get home team games.
Berkowitz says he’s
curious about the Disney service, especially since he expects to save
money by cutting cable. “For us, if it’s $5 a month it’ll almost be like
that impulse buy, go to a store and pick up a candy bar,” he says.
settled on prices yet, saying only it wants an affordable service that’s
broadly appealing. Its DisneyLife streaming video app in the U.K.
launched at 10 pounds a month in November 2015 and now costs half that -
Of course, Disney
might still bundle Marvel movies and the Star Wars franchise into its
service, which would help it appeal to a wider demographic. For kid’s
programming, there’s already a lot out there. Much of it is free.
Darcy Hansen, a
communications consultant and stay-at-home mom in the Dallas suburbs,
has two kids under age 5 whose favorite show - “Sheriff Callie’s Wild
West” - is a Disney series on Hulu. But a Disney app isn’t a must-have
Her kids already
watch “all sorts of things” on YouTube and on the free PBS Kids app, and
they have Netflix too, Hansen says. “I don’t think Disney has a monopoly
on children’s programming, in our house at least.”
Facebook anonymously launched an app in China
New York (AP) -
Facebook anonymously launched a new photo-sharing app in China in a new
effort to make inroads in the world’s most populous country.
Communist Party controls internet traffic across the country’s borders
and tries to keep the public from seeing thousands of websites including
The app, called
Colorful Balloons, was launched in China earlier this year and does not
carry Facebook’s name. Facebook confirmed Saturday that it launched the
The social media
company’s connection to the app was first reported Friday by The New
York Times, which said it was released in China through a
separate local company called Youge Internet Technology.
The launch of the
app comes as China is cracking down on technology that allows web
surfers to evade Beijing’s online censorship.
Last month, users
of Facebook’s What’sApp messaging service, which normally operates
freely in China, were no longer able to send images without using a
virtual private network. That came amid official efforts to suppress
mention of the death of Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate.
internet service provider, China Telecom Ltd., sent a letter to
corporate customers last month saying that VPNs, which create encrypted
links between computers and can be used to see sites blocked by
Beijing’s web filters, would be permitted only to connect to a company’s
headquarters abroad. The move could block access to news, social media
or business services that are obscured by China’s “Great Firewall.”
have long blocked Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, arguing that foreign
social media services operating beyond their control pose a threat to
Take down: Hackers looking to shut down factories for pay
undated photo provided by AW North Carolina shows production operations
inside the company’s Durham, N.C., factory. Malware entered the North
Carolina transmission plant’s computer network via email last August,
spreading like a virus and threatening to lock up the production line
until the company paid a ransom. They refused and no money was paid. (AW
North Carolina via AP)
Emery P. Dalesio
(AP) - The malware entered the North Carolina
transmission plant’s computer network via email last August, just as the
criminals wanted, spreading like a virus and threatening to lock up the
production line until the company paid a ransom.
AW North Carolina
stood to lose $270,000 in revenue, plus wages for idled employees, for
every hour the factory wasn’t shipping its crucial auto parts to nine
Toyota car and truck plants across North America, said John Peterson,
the plant’s information technology manager.
The company is just
one of a growing number being hit by cyber-criminals looking for a
thieves have long targeted banks for digital holdups, today’s
just-in-time manufacturing sector is climbing toward the top of hackers’
that integrate computer-imaging, barcode scanners and measuring
tolerances to a hair’s width at multiple points are more vulnerable to
“These people who
try to hack into your network know you have a set schedule. And they
know hours are meaningful to what you’re doing,” Peterson said in an
interview. “There’s only a day and a half of inventory in the entire
supply chain. And so if we don’t make our product in time, that means
Toyota doesn’t make their product in time, which means they don’t have a
car to sell on the lot that next day. It’s that tight.”
He said that
creates pressure on manufacturers to make the criminals go away by
paying the sums demanded.
“They may not know
what that number is, but they know it’s not zero. So what is that
number? Where do you flinch?”
Last August at the
2,200-worker Durham transmission factory, the computer virus coursed
through the plant’s network, flooding machines with data and stopping
production for about four hours, Peterson said.
Data on some
laptops was lost, but the malware was blocked by a firewall when it
tried to exit the plant’s network and put the hackers’ lock on the
plant’s computer network.
The plant was hit
again in April, this time by different crooks using new malware designed
to hold data or devices hostage to force a ransom payment, Peterson
said. The virus was contained before affecting production, and no ransom
was paid to either group, he said.
government and financial firms are now the top targets globally for
illicit intrusions by criminals, foreign espionage agencies and others
up to no good, according to a report this spring by NTT Security.
A survey of nearly
3,000 corporate cybersecurity executives in 13 countries last year by
Cisco Systems Inc. found about one out of four manufacturing
organizations reported cyberattacks that cost them money in the previous
Since 2015, U.S.
manufacturers considered “critical” to the economy and to normal modern
life, like makers of autos and aviation parts, have been the main
targets of cyberattacks - outstripping energy, communications and other
critical infrastructure, according to Department of Homeland Security
incident response data. The numbers may be imprecise because companies
in key industries often don’t report attacks for fear of diminished
demanding ransom against all U.S. institutions are spiraling higher. The
FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 2,673 ransomware reports
in the year ending last September - nearly double from 2014.
are increasingly prey to these cyber-stickups, it may just be because
criminals are playing the odds and striking as many enterprises of all
types as they can across a targeted region, said John Miller, who heads
a team at cybersecurity firm FireEye that tracks money-driven online
necessarily going after manufacturing to the exclusion of other sectors
or with a preference above other sectors. It’s more that, ‘OK, we’re
going to try to infect everybody in this country that we can,’” Miller
example came in May and June, when auto manufacturers including Renault
shut down production after they were swept up in the worldwide onslaught
of the WannaCry ransomware virus.
But attackers also
are increasingly injecting ways to remotely control the robots and other
automated systems that control production inside targeted factories.
The threat of
computer code tailored to hit specific targets has been around since
researchers in 2010 discovered Stuxnet, malware apparently designed to
sabotage Iran’s nuclear program by causing centrifuge machines to spin
out of control. Stuxnet is widely believed to be a covert American and
Israeli creation, but neither country has officially acknowledged a role
in the attack.
that attacked Ukraine’s electricity grid last December was built to
remotely sabotage circuit breakers, switches and protection relays,
reach into industrial control systems have doubled in the past two years
in the U.S. to nearly four dozen so far in the federal fiscal year that
ends in September, outstripping last year’s total, according to DHS
“I think the
emerging threat you’re going to see in the future now is really custom
ransomware that’s going to be targeted more toward individual
companies,” said Neil Hershfield, the acting director of the DHS team
that handles emergency response to cyberattacks on industrial control
SoftBank CEO sees massive data, AI as key to future advances
Dynamics Chief Executive Marc Raibert, right, gestures beside his
four-legged robot SpotMini as SoftBank Group Corp. Chief Executive
Officer Masayoshi Son, left, watches him on stage during a SoftBank
World presentation at a hotel in Tokyo, Thursday, July 20, 2017. (AP
Tokyo (AP) - Masayoshi Son,
chief executive of SoftBank Group Corp., says artificial intelligence
combined with data gathered by billions of sensors will bring on an
“information revolution,” that will benefit people more than the 19th
Century Industrial Revolution.
Son, Japan’s richest person, told
Softbank customers and partners gathered at a Tokyo hotel on Thursday
that he believes massive data will help treat cancer, deliver
accident-free driving and grow safer food.
SoftBank, the first carrier to
offer the Apple iPhone in Japan, has bought leading British
semiconductor company ARM, and its acquisition of U.S. robotics pioneer
Boston Dynamics, announced last month, is undergoing regulatory
approval. Its investments have included Chinese e-commerce company
Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.
Son set up a private fund last year
for global investments in the technology sector, called Vision Fund,
with the potential to grow to as much as $100 billion. He has won praise
from President Donald Trump for promising to invest $50 billion in U.S.
startups to create 50,000 jobs.
This week Softbank announced it
will invest in Encored, a U.S. company specializing in IoT technology in
the energy sector.
During a nearly three hour
presentation, Son introduced some of the ventures he is partnering,
including OneWeb, whose founder and chairman Greg Wyler wants to offer
affordable internet access for everyone using satellites instead of
Son also brought on stage Spot, a
four-legged robot that can climb steps and dance. Other robots will be
able to carry heavy loads, said Marc Raibert, Boston Dynamics chief
“Marc, we are going to change the
world together,” Son said on stage.
SoftBank already offers one of the
most sophisticated companion robots on the market, the chatty, childlike
Pepper. Son seemed a bit protective of his flagship robot, saying those
who have criticized it as “not too smart” haven’t seen what he has
Another of Son’s partner ventures,
Guardant Health, offers blood biopsies, which are safer and quicker than
tissue biopsies, to detect cancers in their early stages.
Son noted the prevalence of ARM’s
chips in nearly all smartphones and wearables. Sensor technology can
enhance a doctor’s surgical skills or help train doctors in an emergency
room with virtual reality, said ARM Chief Executive Simon Segars.
Data gathered from such omnipresent
sensors will be far greater than what can be gotten from mobile phones
or computers, Son said, opening up all kinds of possibilities for
delivering better human life.
“Those who rule chips will rule the
entire world. Those who rule data will rule the entire world.” Son said.
“That’s what people of the future will say.”
China announces goal of
AI leadership by 2030
Oct. 21, 2016 photo, an autonomous vehicle is put through its paces at
the World Robot Conference in Beijing. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Beijing (AP) - China’s
government has announced a goal of becoming a global leader in
artificial intelligence in just over a decade, putting political muscle
behind growing investment by Chinese companies in developing
self-driving cars and other advances.
Communist leaders see AI as key to
making China an “economic power,” said a Cabinet statement on Thursday,
July 20. It calls for developing skills and research and educational
resources to achieve “major breakthroughs” by 2025 and make China a
world leader by 2030.
Artificial intelligence is one of
the emerging fields along with renewable energy, robotics and electric
cars where communist leaders hope to take an early lead and help
transform China from a nation of factory workers and farmers into a
They have issued a series of
development plans over the past decade, some of which have prompted
complaints Beijing improperly subsidizes its technology developers and
shields them from competition in violation of its free-trade
Already, Chinese companies
including Tencent Ltd., Baidu Inc. and Alibaba Group are spending
heavily to develop artificial intelligence for consumer finance,
e-commerce, self-driving cars and other applications.
Manufacturers also are installing
robots and other automation to cope with rising labor costs and improve
Thursday’s statement gives no
details of financial commitments or legal changes. But previous
initiatives to develop Chinese capabilities in solar power and other
technologies have included research grants and regulations to encourage
sales and exports.
“By 2030, our country will reach a
world leading level in artificial intelligence theory, technology and
application and become a principal world center for artificial
intelligence innovation,” the statement said.
That will help to make China “in
the forefront of innovative countries and an economic power,” it said.
The announcement follows a sweeping
plan issued in 2015, dubbed “Made in China 2025,” that calls for this
country to supply its own high-tech components and materials in 10
industries from information technology and aerospace to pharmaceuticals.
That prompted complaints Beijing
might block access to promising industries to support its fledgling
suppliers. The Chinese industry minister defended the plan in March,
saying all competitors would be treated equally. He rejected complaints
that foreign companies might be required to hand over technology in
exchange for market access.
China has had mixed success with
previous strategic plans to develop technology industries including
renewable energy and electric cars.
Beijing announced plans in 2009 to
become a leader in electric cars with annual sales of 5 million by 2020.
With the help of generous subsidies, China passed the United States last
year as the biggest market, but sales totaled just over 300,000.
What drug-dealing ‘darknet’ sites have in common with eBay
screen grab provided by the U.S. Department of Justice shows a hidden
website that has been seized as part of a law enforcement operation by
the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration
and European law enforcement agencies acting through Europol. (U.S.
Department of Justice via AP)
New York (AP) -
AlphaBay, the now-shuttered online marketplace that authorities say
traded in illegal drugs, firearms and counterfeit goods, wasn’t all that
different from any other e-commerce site, court documents show.
Not only did it
work hard to match buyers and sellers and to stamp out fraud, it offered
dispute-resolution services when things went awry and kept a
public-relations manager to promote the site to new users.
Of course, AlphaBay
was no eBay. It went to great lengths to hide the identities of its
vendors and customers, and it promoted money-laundering services to mask
the flow of bitcoin and other digital currencies from prying eyes.
sites operate in an anonymity-friendly internet netherworld that’s
inaccessible to ordinary browsers. If you’ve ever found yourself
wondering just how they really work, a U.S. criminal case unveiled
Thursday offers an eye-opening look.
What is AlphaBay?
General Jeff Sessions calls it the largest darknet marketplace shut down
in a sting. Darknet refers to the use of various technologies to mask
the site’s operators and users, allowing buyers and sellers to connect
anonymously - to each other and to law enforcement.
Authorities say the
site trafficked drugs such as heroin and cocaine, fake and stolen IDs,
computer hacking tools, firearms and counterfeit goods. The site also
facilitated services such as money laundering and swatting - the
practice of making bomb threats and other false reports to law
enforcement, usually to harass perceived enemies.
AlphaBay went so
far as to hire scam watchers to monitor and quash scams on the site. It
had a public-relations manager responsible for outreach to users and the
broader illicit-trade community. The site also employed moderators to
resolve disputes and refund payments when necessary.
AlphaBay hid its
tracks with Tor, a network of thousands of computers run by volunteers.
With Tor, traffic gets relayed through several computers. At each stop,
identifying information is stripped, so that no single computer knows
the full chain. It would be like one person passing on a message to the
next, and so on. The 10th person would have no clue who the first eight
Tor has a number of
legitimate uses. Human rights advocates, for instance, can use it to
communicate inside authoritarian countries. But Tor is also popular for
trading goods that eBay and other legitimate marketplaces won’t touch.
To further promote
secrecy, AlphaBay accepted only digital currencies such as bitcoin and
monero. In doing so, participants skirted reporting requirement that
come when moving $10,000 or more in a single transaction. While bitcoin
can be traced when converted back to regular currencies, AlphaBay
offered “mixing and tumbling services” to shuffle bitcoin through
several accounts before the conversion.
Vendors were also
required to use encryption for all communications to keep them safe from
Buyers funded their
accounts with digital currencies, similar to loading an Amazon gift card
with money. When making a purchase, buyers moved money from their
accounts to an escrow. The payment was released to sellers once buyers
confirmed receipt of the goods.
AlphaBay took a 2
percent to 4 percent commission, and that added up. The suspect behind
the site, Alexandre Cazes, had amassed a fortune of $23 million. As part
of the case, authorities sought the forfeiture of properties in
Thailand, bank accounts and four vehicles, including a Lamborghini and a
bans use of proxy
Internet services, VPNs
Moscow (AP) -
Russia’s parliament has outlawed the use of virtual private networks, or
VPNs, and other Internet proxy services, citing concerns about the spread of
The State Duma on
Friday unanimously passed a bill that would oblige Internet providers to
block websites that offer VPN services. Many Russians use VPNs to access
blocked content by routing connections through servers outside the country.
The lawmakers behind
the bill argued that the move could help to enforce Russia’s ban on
disseminating extremist content online.
The bill has to be
approved at the upper chamber of parliament and signed by the president
before it comes into effect.
have been cracking down on Internet freedoms in recent years. Among other
things they want Internet companies to store privacy data on Russian servers.