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2017: The Year That Horror Saved Hollywood

Mon, 30/10/2017 - 6:12pm
A reader shares a report: If there's a silver lining in any of that for America's film industry, it's that the horror genre is still plugging merrily along, seemingly immune to the financial troubles that have befallen most studios. As the rest of Hollywood flounders in 2017, horror is in the midst of its highest-grossing year ever. On the backs of huge hits like It and Get Out, the horror genre has combined for a record $733.5 million in the US this year, according to box office data compiled by the New York Times (paywall). The year has proven that horror films are more than just cheaply made movies for niche audiences and can still cross into the mainstream to become bona fide successes. Ticket sales during the 2017 summer movie season, billed by Variety as "The Summer of Hell," were down nearly 11% from last year due to a series of epic flops, namely King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and The Dark Tower. Arguably the only saving grace was It, the adaptation of the novel of the same name by Stephen King that became the highest-grossing horror film of all time in September (not adjusted for inflation). Today, it has made a very fitting $666.6 million (seriously) worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Following a solid first half of 2017 with Dunkirk and Wonder Woman, It helped Warner Bros. rebound from the disastrous King Arthur and the disappointing Blade Runner 2049 -- to say nothing of this month's box office catastrophe, Geostorm.

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Microsoft is Killing Outlook.com Premium

Mon, 30/10/2017 - 5:30pm
Paul Thurrott, writing for Thurrott.com: A support document describing new premium Outlook.com features for Office 365 subscribers hides the real story today: Microsoft just killed Outlook.com Premium. I wrote earlier about how Microsoft was bringing some Outlook.com Premium features, like an ad-free inbox, to Office 365 Home and Personal subscribers. That's great news, of course. But a related support document buries the lede. "The Outlook.com Premium standalone offering is now closed to new subscribers," the support document notes. "Current subscribers can renew their subscriptions to continue receiving subscription benefits." Yikes. There's also a link to another support document that continues this conversation. But there really isn't much more to say. If you're already using Outlook.com Premium, you can continue to do so. And for now, at least, you can even renew the subscription and keep using its unique features, like custom domain support.

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Bug in Google's Bug Tracker Lets Researcher Access List of Company's Vulnerabilities

Mon, 30/10/2017 - 4:51pm
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, writing for Motherboard: Google's platform to deal with bugs and unpatched vulnerabilities had a bug that allowed a security researcher to see a full list of known, unpatched vulnerabilities within Google, creating a kind of bug inception that could have led to more damaging hacks. Alex Birsan, a security researcher, found three vulnerabilities inside the Google Issue Tracker, the company's internal platform where employees keep track of requested features or unpatched bugs in Google's products. The largest one of these was one that allowed him to access the internal platform at all. The company has quickly patched the bugs found by Birsan, and there's no evidence anyone else found the bugs and exploited them. Still, these were bad bugs, especially the one that gave him access to the bug-tracking platform, which could have provided hackers with a list of vulnerable targets at Google. "Exploiting this bug gives you access to every vulnerability report anyone sends to Google until they catch on to the fact that you're spying on them," Birsan told Motherboard in an online chat. "Turning those vulnerability reports into working attacks also takes some time/skill. But the bigger the impact, the quicker it gets fixed by Google. So even if you get lucky and catch a good one as soon as it's reported, you still have to have a plan for what you do with it."

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Carbon Pollution Touched 800,000 Year Record in 2016, WMO Says

Mon, 30/10/2017 - 4:10pm
Carbon dioxide levels surged to their highest level in at least 800,000 years because of pollution caused by humans and a strong El Nino event, according to the World Meteorological Organization. From a report: Concentrations of the greenhouse gas increased at a record speed in 2016 to reach an average of 403.3 parts per million, up from 400 parts per million a year earlier, the WMO said in a statement on Monday warning of "severe ecological and economic disruptions." The WMO said the last time the Earth had a comparable concentration of CO2s, the temperature of the planet was 2 degrees to 3 degrees Celsius warmer and sea levels were 10 meters to 20 meters higher than now.

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The Meaning of AMP

Mon, 30/10/2017 - 3:30pm
Last week, Ethan Marcotte, an independent web designer, shared how Google describes AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). People at Google says AMP "isn't a 'proprietary format'; it's an open standard that anyone can contribute to." But that definition, Marcotte argues, isn't necessarily an honest one. He writes: On the face of it, this statement's true. AMP's markup isn't proprietary as such: rather, all those odd-looking amp- tags are custom elements, part of the HTML standard. And the specification's published, edited, and distributed on GitHub, under one of the more permissive licenses available. So, yes. The HTML standard does allow for the creation of custom elements, it's true, and AMP's license is quite liberal. But spend a bit of time with the rules that outline AMP's governance. Significant features and changes require the approval of AMP's Technical Lead and one Core Committer -- and if you peruse the list of AMP's Core Committers, that list seems exclusively staffed and led by Google employees. Now, there's nothing wrong with this. After all, AMP is a Google-backed project, and they're free to establish any governance model they deem appropriate. But when I hear AMP described as an open, community-led project, it strikes me as incredibly problematic, and more than a little troubling. AMP is, I think, best described as nominally open-source. It's a corporate-led product initiative built with, and distributed on, open web technologies. Jeremy Keith, a web developer, further adds: If AMP were actually the product of working web developers, this justification would make sense. As it is, we've got one team at Google citing the preference of another team at Google but representing it as the will of the people. This is just one example of AMP's sneaky marketing where some finely-shaved semantics allows them to appear far more reasonable than they actually are. At AMP Conf, the Google Search team were at pains to repeat over and over that AMP pages wouldn't get any preferential treatment in search results ... but they appear in a carousel above the search results. Now, if you were to ask any right-thinking person whether they think having their page appear right at the top of a list of search results would be considered preferential treatment, I think they would say hell, yes! This is the only reason why The Guardian, for instance, even have AMP versions of their content -- it's not for the performance benefits (their non-AMP pages are faster); it's for that prime real estate in the carousel. The same semantic nit-picking can be found in their defence of caching. See, they've even got me calling it caching! It's hosting. If I click on a search result, and I am taken to page that has a URL beginning with https://www.google.com/amp/s/... then that page is being hosted on the domain google.com. That is literally what hosting means. Now, you might argue that the original version was hosted on a different domain, but the version that the user gets sent to is the Google copy. You can call it caching if you like, but you can't tell me that Google aren't hosting AMP pages. That's a particularly low blow, because it's such a bait'n'switch.

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Google Denies Demoting the Pirate Bay In Some Countries

Mon, 30/10/2017 - 2:40pm
An anonymous reader writes: Google and The Pirate Bay have had an interesting relationship over the years, to say the least. This week, users pointed out that The Pirate Bay can appear significantly lower down in search results (and definitely not on the first page), depending on which country you are searching in. We reached out to Google, and it denied the allegations that it was demoting the site. TorrentFreak first spotted the odd behavior. The publication used Chrome in incognito mode to search for "The Pirate Bay" in Google with different IP addresses to see where the site's thepiratebay.org domain showed up. An IP address in the U.K., for example, would result in The Pirate Bay showing up on the fifth or sixth page, while an IP address in the U.S. would bring back The Pirate Bay as the top result.

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