Spotify's Big Bet On Podcasts Is Failing, Citi Says

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Spotify’s multimillion-dollar bet on podcasting may not be working out, Citi analysts wrote in a note to clients Friday. “The cadence of Premium gross additions (through 3Q20) and app download data (through 4Q20) do not show any material benefit from recent podcast investments (that began in 2019),” the analysts wrote. The firm downgraded the stock to sell from neutral.

Spotify kicked off its venture into podcasting in early 2019, after acquiring podcast companies Gimlet Media, Anchor and Parcast. Since then, the company has acquired sports and entertainment news company The Ringer, as well as Megaphone, which will bolster its ad tech business. It also spent what’s likely millions gaining the exclusive rights to stream celebrity podcasts, including those from Joe Rogan, Kim Kardashian West, Michelle Obama and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The idea was that by bringing exclusive content to the app, the company could strengthen its advertising business as well as bring in Premium subscribers. “To date, we have not seen a material positive inflection in app downloads or Premium subscriptions,” the Citi analysts wrote.

“If we were to see a material positive inflection in app downloads or Premium subs (from higher gross adds or materially lower churn), we would alter our view,” they added. “But, our fear is that if podcasting doesn’t provide a way for Spotify to shift away from music label dependence, the Street may reassess the underlying value of the business. And, that would be bad for Spotify’s multiple and equity value.”

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Source: Slashdot – Spotify’s Big Bet On Podcasts Is Failing, Citi Says

Capsaicin Spices Up Perovskite-Based Solar Cells To Record Efficiencies

“Researchers claim achievement of new record photovoltaic conversion efficiencies for perovskite-based solar cells by spicing them up with a little capsaicin,” writes Slashdot reader ffkom, adding: “Of course everyone who loves to eat chilis already knew capsaicin energizes you to record levels.” The researchers have published their findings in the journal Joule. From the report: Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) suffer from significant nonradiative recombination, limiting their power conversion efficiencies. Here, for the first time, we directly observe a complete transformation of perovskite MAPbI 3 surface region energetics from p- to n-type during defect passivation caused by natural additive capsaicin, attributed to the spontaneous formation of a p-n homojunction in perovskite active layer. We demonstrate that the p-n homojunction locates at 100 nm below perovskite surface. The energetics transformation and defect passivation promote charge transport in bulk perovskite layer and at perovskite/PCBM interface, suppressing both defect-assisted recombination and interface carrier recombination. As a result, an efficiency of 21.88% and a fill factor of 83.81% with excellent device stability are achieved, both values are the highest records for polycrystalline MAPbI 3 based p-i-n PSCs reported to date. The proposed new concept of synergetic defect passivation and energetic modification via additive provides a huge potential for further improvement of PSC performance.

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Source: Slashdot – Capsaicin Spices Up Perovskite-Based Solar Cells To Record Efficiencies

Scientists may have found the background ripples of the universe

Scientists may have identified the gravitational waves that make up some of the universe’s background, not just those coming from unusual events like black hole collisions. New Atlas reports that the NANOGrav research team has discovered a “strong si…

Source: Engadget – Scientists may have found the background ripples of the universe

Tim Cook: Why I Kicked Parler Off Apple's App Store

Charlotte Web shares a report from CNN: Apple, along with Amazon and Google, effectively kicked Parler off the internet in the wake of the January 6 US Capitol siege. Despite criticism that Big Tech wields too much power over speech, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended his decision. “We looked at the incitement to violence that was on there,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Sunday. “We don’t consider that free speech and incitement to violence has an intersection…”

Cook disputed that it’s Apple’s job to host every service, regardless of its content. He noted that Apple has terms of service for the 2 million apps its hosts, and apps that refuse to play by the rules aren’t allowed to access Apple’s massive audience. “We obviously don’t control what’s on the internet, but we’ve never viewed that our platform should be a simple replication of what’s on the internet,” Cook said.Apple will welcome back Parler — provided Parler finds a new cloud provider to host the social network — if the app effectively moderates users’ speech, said the Apple CEO. “We’ve only suspended them,” Cook noted. “If they get their moderation together they would be back on there.” With regard to the Capitol siege, Cook said: “It was one of the saddest moments of my life — seeing an attack on our Capitol and an attack on our democracy. I felt like I was in some sort of alternate reality, to be honest with you. This could not be happening.”

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Source: Slashdot – Tim Cook: Why I Kicked Parler Off Apple’s App Store

Virgin’s LauncherOne Rocket Reaches Orbit for the First Time and Drops Off NASA Satellites

The commercial race to space just got a little more crowded. Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, Virgin Galactic’s sister company, has successfully launched a rocket into orbit for the first time. It also managed to successfully deliver payloads for a customer, NASA, dropping off a number of nanosatellites sponsored by…

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Source: Gizmodo – Virgin’s LauncherOne Rocket Reaches Orbit for the First Time and Drops Off NASA Satellites

Apple's iPhone 13 Could Ditch the Lightning Port, Feature Next-Gen Vapor Chamber Cooling and In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor

According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple’s upcoming iPhone 13 could feature vapor chamber cooling, as well as an in-screen fingerprint sensor. It may also completely ditch the Lightning port in favor of wireless charging. Apple Insider reports: Kuo believes Apple is highly likely to incorporate vapor chamber tech into an upcoming iPhone model, though it is not clear if the system will be ready in time for 2021. Generally speaking, vapor chamber (VC) technology involves evaporation of a liquid (typically water) within a specialized heat pipe or heat retention structure that snakes its way through a device chassis. Heat from processors and other high load electronic components causes the liquid to evaporate into a vapor that spreads thermal energy through the evaporation chamber as it travels to areas of lower pressure. Fins or other condenser bodies remove heat from the vapor, which returns to a liquid state and is carried back to areas of high pressure through capillary action.

“The iPhone’s critical reason not to adopt VC is because of its reliability test results that cannot meet Apple’s high requirements,” Kuo writes. “Still, we are optimistic about the VC reliability improvement schedule and expect that at least high-end iPhone models would be equipped with VC in the near future.” Kuo believes iPhone will need VC to keep up with rapid adoption of 5G and ever-increasing CPU thermal loads. In a separate report, Bloomberg reports that Apple is testing another key feature for its 2021 iPhone(s): an in-screen fingerprint reader. “This would add a new method for users to unlock their iPhone, going beyond a passcode and Face ID facial recognition,” reports Bloomberg. “Apple won’t remove its facial recognition scanner though as it’s still useful for augmented reality and camera features.”

The report also mentions that Apple is discussing removing the Lightning port on at least some of the 2021 iPhone models, instead relying entirely on wireless charging or USB-C.

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Source: Slashdot – Apple’s iPhone 13 Could Ditch the Lightning Port, Feature Next-Gen Vapor Chamber Cooling and In-Screen Fingerprint Sensor

Sling TV users can now add NHL Center Ice to their plan for $29 a month

With the NHL’s shortened 56-game season getting underway last week, Sling TV is adding NHL Center Ice so you can follow all the action through to May when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. The monthly $29 add-on lets you watch up to 40 out of market re…

Source: Engadget – Sling TV users can now add NHL Center Ice to their plan for a month

Telegram Says It Shut Down "Hundreds Of Public Calls To Violence" From US Channels Last Week

In the weeks since Trump-sympathizing rioters laid siege to the U.S. Capitol, platforms have scrambled to account for the ways right-wing zealots used their communication networks to strategize, coordinate or otherwise inflame tensions related to the deadly insurrection. Apparently, Telegram has been no exception: On…

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Source: Gizmodo – Telegram Says It Shut Down “Hundreds Of Public Calls To Violence” From US Channels Last Week

Capitol Riot Suspect Plotted To Sell Stolen Pelosi Laptop To Russian Intelligence, Authorities Say

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: A Pennsylvania woman accused of being one of the Capitol rioters told a former “romantic partner” that she planned to steal a laptop computer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and sell it to Russian intelligence, court documents revealed Monday. The woman, Riley June Williams, 22, was on the run, charged with disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds with the intent to disturb a session of Congress and other charges after her former flame turned her in.

“Williams is not in custody,” a federal law enforcement officials said Monday afternoon. William’s ex, who was described in Special Agent Jonathan Lund’s charging document as W1 (witness one), called the FBI and told it that she “intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.” “According to W1, the transfer of the computer device to Russia fell through for unknown reasons and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it,” the document states. Lund said the device and circumstances of what Williams was doing with it remain under investigation. The laptop was reported stolen from the conference room on Jan. 6 but was “only used for presentations,” according to Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hamill.

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Source: Slashdot – Capitol Riot Suspect Plotted To Sell Stolen Pelosi Laptop To Russian Intelligence, Authorities Say

Wi-Fi 6E arrives at CES 2021

Wi-Fi 6E is very slowly coming to a product near you. The Wi-Fi Alliance started certifying devices on January 7, and CES 2021 saw plenty of product announcements related to the Wi-Fi 6E rollout.

Wi-Fi 6E, if you haven’t heard, is a new standard for Wi-Fi that was approved by the FCC last year. While Wi-Fi 6 (no “e,” aka 802.11ax) is a bunch of technical improvements mostly aimed at more efficient usage of existing spectrum, Wi-Fi 6E is all about expanding Wi-Fi to a newly freed-up chunk of spectrum. Previously, Wi-Fi only worked on the 2.4Ghz and 5GHz spectrum, but Wi-Fi 6E uses the 6GHz spectrum. In the United States, 6E has a huge chunk of continuous spectrum—1200MHz. Previously, 5GHz only offered 140MHz of useful, non-DFS spectrum, and 2.4 GHz only had 70MHz of very crowded spectrum, which is vulnerable to running microwaves and other interference.

Neither Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E is about more speed—both are more about dealing with Wi-Fi capacity issues, which frequently rear their heads in apartment buildings and large public gatherings. If your Wi-Fi is currently terrible due to crowded airwaves in a densely populated area, Wi-Fi 6E could greatly improve your wireless performance. Getting on Wi-Fi 6E will mean buying new clients and new access points, though, hence this roundup article.

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Source: Ars Technica – Wi-Fi 6E arrives at CES 2021

Creatures of the Night Fight to Survive in John Carpenter Homage Goodnight, Halloween

The year is 1986, the tech is appropriately old-school, and alt-history America empowers a gang of powerful, right-wing zealots to hunt down every creature of the night who dares to challenge the country’s homogeneous ideal. That’s the set-up for Luther Bhogal-Jones’ retro horror short Goodnight, Halloween.

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Source: io9 – Creatures of the Night Fight to Survive in John Carpenter Homage Goodnight, Halloween

Parler CEO Brings Back Website, Promises Service Will Follow 'Soon'

Right-wing social media platform Parler, which has been offline since Amazon Web Services dropped it like a hot potato last week, has reappeared on the Web with a promise to return as a fully functional service “soon.” Ars Technica reports: Although the platform’s Android and iOS apps are still defunct, this weekend its URL once again began to resolve to an actual website, instead of an error notice. The site at the moment consists solely of the homepage, which has a message from company CEO John Matze. “Now seems like the right time to remind you all — both lovers and haters — why we started this platform,” the message reads. “We believe privacy is paramount and free speech essential, especially on social media. Our aim has always been to provide a nonpartisan public square where individuals can enjoy and exercise their rights to both. We will resolve any challenge before us and plan to welcome all of you back soon. We will not let civil discourse perish!”

Parler, however, was deplatformed in the first place explicitly because the content it allowed to flourish was anything but “civil,” and as multiple reports have made clear, the service backend was designed with basically no thought given to privacy. Meanwhile, the path Parler appears to be taking to rejoin the Internet is a shady one paved for it by other explicitly extremist, white nationalist platforms that lost access to more mainstream services after being tied to terrorism. […] Parler has apparently secured hosting from Epik to bring itself back online. Epik is best known for helping far-right extremist platform Gab to come back online a short time after a Gab user committed a mass murder at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018; it has also provided services to other white nationalist, anti-Semitic, and neo-Nazi platforms including 8chan (now known as 8kun) and The Daily Stormer. Multiple security researchers have also pointed out that Parler appears to have secured the services of DDos-Guard, a cloud services company based in Russia.

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Source: Slashdot – Parler CEO Brings Back Website, Promises Service Will Follow ‘Soon’

Did One of Those Capitol Idiots Really Just Try to Sell Pelosi's Laptop to Russian Spies?

The pro-Trump insurgents who descended on the Capitol building earlier this month got up to a lot of dumb, violent, and almost certainly illegal antics. But this one takes the cake: A capitol rioter allegedly stole a laptop from House Speaker Nancy’s Pelosi’s office to try to pawn it off to the Russian government,…

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Source: Gizmodo – Did One of Those Capitol Idiots Really Just Try to Sell Pelosi’s Laptop to Russian Spies?

'Apex Legends' season 8 adds a new demolitionist character

On Monday, Respawn Entertainment detailed what players can expect from season eight of Apex Legends. “Mayhem” will kick off on February 2nd, two days before the game’s second anniversary. The update will add Fuse, Apex’s 16th playable character. Resp…

Source: Engadget – ‘Apex Legends’ season 8 adds a new demolitionist character

Telegram took down 'hundreds' of calls for violence from public US channels

With just two days before Wednesday’s presidential inauguration, Telegram said it has spent much of the last two weeks monitoring the situation in the US and subsequently taking enforcement action. In a post to his public channel spotted by The Verge…

Source: Engadget – Telegram took down ‘hundreds’ of calls for violence from public US channels

OpenWRT Forum User Data Stolen In Weekend Data Breach

The OpenWRT forum, a large community of enthusiasts of alternative, open-source operating systems for routers, announced a data breach over the weekend. Bleeping Computer reports: The attack occurred on Saturday, around 04:00 (GMT), when an unauthorized third party gained admin access to and copied a list with details about forum users and related statistical information. The intruder used the account of an OpenWRT administrator. Although the account had “a good password,” additional security provided by two-factor authentication (2FA) was not active. Email addresses and handles of the forum users have been stolen, the moderators say. They add that they believe the attacker was not able to download the forum database, meaning that passwords should be safe. However, they reset all the passwords on the forum just to be on the safe side and invalidated all the API keys used for project development processes.

Users have to set the new password manually from the login menu by providing their user name and following the “get a new password” instructions. Those logging in using GitHub credentials are advised to reset or refresh it. The OpenWRT forum credentials are separate from the Wiki. Currently, there is no suspicion that the Wiki credentials have been compromised in any way. OpenWRT forum administrators warn that since this breach exposed email addresses, users may become targets of credible phishing attempts.

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Source: Slashdot – OpenWRT Forum User Data Stolen In Weekend Data Breach

Cryptocat Author Gets Insanely Fast Backing To Build P2P Tech For Social Media

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The idea for Capsule started with a tweet about reinventing social media. A day later cryptography researcher, Nadim Kobeissi — best known for authoring the open-source E2E-encrypted desktop chat app Cryptocat (now discontinued) — had pulled in a pre-seed investment of $100,000 for his lightweight mesh-networked microservices concept, with support coming from angel investor and former Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan, William J. Pulte and Wamda Capital.

The nascent startup has a post-money valuation on paper of $10 million, according to Kobeissi, who is working on the prototype — hoping to launch an MVP of Capsule in March (as a web app), after which he intends to raise a seed round (targeting $1 million-$1.5 million) to build out a team and start developing mobile apps. For now there’s nothing to see beyond Capsule’s landing page and a pitch deck (which he shared with TechCrunch for review). But Kobeissi says he was startled by the level of interest in the concept.

“I posted that tweet and the expectation that I had was that basically 60 people max would retweet it and then maybe I’ll set up a Kickstarter,” he tells us. Instead the tweet “just completely exploded” and he found himself raising $100,000 “in a single day” — with $50,000 paid in there and then. “I’m not a startup guy. I’ve been running a business based on consulting and based on academic R&D services,” he continues. “But by the end of the day — last Sunday, eight days ago — I was running a Delaware corporation valued at $10 million with $100,000 in pre-seed funding, which is insane. Completely insane.”

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Source: Slashdot – Cryptocat Author Gets Insanely Fast Backing To Build P2P Tech For Social Media

Parler seems to be sliding back onto the Internet, but not onto mobile

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Source: Ars Technica – Parler seems to be sliding back onto the Internet, but not onto mobile

Mt. Gox exchange users may finally get to recover some of their lost Bitcoin

When Mt. Gox went bankrupt in 2014, it was the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, holding 850,000 Bitcoins from thousands of users. Now, creditors might finally be able to get a portion of those riches back. One of Mt. Gox’s largest creditors, CoinLab…

Source: Engadget – Mt. Gox exchange users may finally get to recover some of their lost Bitcoin

Elizabeth Olsen's Love of Star Wars Inspired Her Shift From Indies to Blockbusters

Though she hails from a famous show biz family, and she’s now starring in her own Marvel TV series after appearing in multiple Avengers blockbusters, Elizabeth Olsen started out making indie films, like 2011 cult tale Martha Marcy May Marlene. So what inspired her shift from art-house to multiplex?

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Source: io9 – Elizabeth Olsen’s Love of Star Wars Inspired Her Shift From Indies to Blockbusters