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NSF Antes Up $200K For Spin-off of Microsoft-Funded 'Code Trip' TV Show 2

theodp writes: The Microsoft-sponsored PBS 'reality' show Code Trip, in which Roadtrip Nation and Microsoft YouthSpark partnered to send three students across the U.S. on a "transformative journey into computer science" is getting a spin-off. According to the National Science Foundation Award Abstract for a Computer Science Roadtrip (CS Roadtrip), $199,866.00 in funding has been awarded for a pilot project that began in October "to design and develop pilot materials for a Computer Science Roadtrip (CS Roadtrip)."

From the abstract: "Through this pilot project, Roadtrip Nation will lay the groundwork and provide proof-of-concept for a CS Roadtrip, leveraging a combination of multimedia deliverables, an evidence-based educational curriculum, and dynamic engagement strategies that will provide critical connections between students' natural interests, positive role models who align with those interests, and corresponding CS educational and career pathways. To that end, the CS Roadtrip Pilot will develop up to four student-facing videos that feature the stories of diverse computing professionals, appropriate for on-air, online, and classroom purposes, along with the appropriate Learning Guides."

The NSF study's Principal Investigator is Roadtrip Nation co-founder Mike Marriner, who explained his company's relationship with Microsoft in a July 30th press release, "Roadtrip Nation is proud to partner with Microsoft's YouthSpark initiative not only to inform others of the many career routes one can take with a computer science background, but also to engage in the much-needed conversation of diversifying the tech field with more pluralistic perspectives."
The Almighty Buck

Patton Oswalt Recruited For New MST3K Cast ( 46

An anonymous reader writes: Joel Hodgson has announced that actor and comedian Patton Oswalt will join the MST3K cast as "TV's Son of TV's Frank". "I first became aware of Patton around fourteen years ago, when he was doing commentary for the MTV Awards — live in the room during the event!" Hodgson wrote on the Kickstarter page. "I realized right away he was a kindred spirit, and damn funny too," Hodgson added. "Since then, obviously, he's bloomed into this amazing comedy/Internet dynamo. I've seen a lot of stand-ups over the years, but Patton really is one of the best ever. And just as important, he's a very fun, articulate and witty soul — just the kind of person who we've always tried to bring onboard for MST3K." Comedian Jonah Ray and actor Felicia Day are also on board for the potentially record breaking relaunch.

VTech Hack Gets Worse: Chat Logs, Kids' Photos Taken In Breach ( 61

An anonymous reader writes: The VTech hack just got a little worse. Reports say that in addition to the 4.8 million records with parents' names, home addresses, passwords and the identities of 227k kids, the hackers also have hundreds of gigabytes worth of pictures and chat logs belonging to children. ZDNet reports: "Tens of thousands of pictures — many blank or duplicates — were thought to have been taken from from Kid Connect, an app that allows parents to use a smartphone app to talk to their children through a VTech tablet. Motherboard was able to verify a portion of the images, and the chat logs, which date as far back as late-2014. Details about the intrusion are not fully known yet. The hacker, who for now remains nameless, told Motherboard that the Hong Kong-based company 'left other sensitive data exposed on its servers.'"

MST3K Kickstarter Poised To Break Kickstarter Record ( 99

New submitter the_Bionic_lemming writes: Recently Joel Hodgson, the creator of Mystery Science 3000 -- which had a successful run of over 197 shows -- has after 15 years launched a kickstarter to relaunch the series. In just over two weeks Joel has been wildly successful in not only having over 25000 fans contribute, but actually scoring the second-highest show kickstarter on record — he has just under two weeks to shoot past the Number 1 kickstarter, Veronica Mars.
Christmas Cheer

Finnish IT Retailer Reveals Most Returned Products 105

jones_supa writes: The largest computer gear retailer in Finland,, has unveiled top 20 lists of most returned and most serviced equipment in 2015 (Google translation). To offer an alternative to Black Friday, the company is going with a theme called "Sustainable Christmas". They want to guide shoppers to make good choices, as product returns always create extra burden for the distribution chain. Is there anything that catches your eye in the lists, or something else that you would like to warn about?

Richard Dawkins Opposes UK Cinemas Censoring Church's Advert Before Star Wars ( 317

An anonymous reader writes: A controversy has erupted in the United Kingdom following the decision of the three theatre chains that control 80% of the movie screens in the country to refuse to show an advertisement for the Anglican church. The 60 second advertisement is for a new Church of England website,, the purpose of which is to encourage people to pray. The Odeon, Cineworld and Vue chains refused to allow it to be shown due to a policy not allowing political or religious advertising. Richard Dawkins supported the Church on free speech grounds, stating, "I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might 'offend' people. If anybody is 'offended' by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended." Dawkins was joined by fellow atheist, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston in backing the right of the Church to show the advertisement, stating "As a gentle atheist, I'm not offended by Church screening gentle cinema adverts; we shouldn't reject our deep cultural roots in Christianity." The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said he was "flabbergasted" by the decision to refuse to show it. The National Secular Society found it a "perfectly reasonable decision." The Anglican church had wanted to show the advert prior to the screening of the upcoming Star Wars movie given the expected large, multi-generational audiences.

What Is the Future of the Television? ( 232

An anonymous reader writes: Benedict Evans has an interesting post about where television hardware is headed. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the tech industry made a huge push to invade the living room, trying to make the internet mesh with traditional TV broadcasts. As we all know, their efforts failed. Now, we periodically see new waves of devices to attach to the TV, but none have been particularly ambitious. The most successful devices of the recent wave, like the Chromecast and Apple TV, are simply turning the TV into a dumb screen for streamed content. Meanwhile, consumption of all types of video content is growing on smaller screens — tablets, phones, etc. Even game consoles are starting to see their market eroded by boxes like the Steam Link, which acts as a pipe for a game being played elsewhere on a PC. It raises an intriguing question: where is the television headed? What uses and functions does one giant screen serve that can't be cleverly redistributed to smaller screens? Evans concludes, "The web's open, permissionless innovation beat the closed, top-down visions of interactive TV and the information superhighway."

Even the Dumbest Ransomware Is Almost Unremovable On Smart TVs ( 151

An anonymous reader writes: Apparently even the easiest-to-remove ransomware is painfully hard to uninstall from smart TVs, if they're running on the Android TV platform, and many are. This didn't happen in a real-world scenario (yet), and was only a PoC test by Symantec. The researcher managed to remove the ransomware only because he enabled the Android ADB tool beforehand, knowing he would infect the TV with the ransomware. "Without this option enabled, and if I was less experienced user, I'd probably still be locked out of my smart TV, making it a large and expensive paper weight," said the researcher.
Star Wars Prequels

George Lucas: "I'm Done With Star Wars" 424 writes: Entertainment Weekly reports that George Lucas has compared his retirement from Star Wars to a break-up – a mutual one, maybe, but one that nonetheless comes with hard feelings and although Lucas came up with story treatments for a new trilogy, those materials, to put it bluntly, were discarded. "They decided they didn't want to use those stories, they decided they were gonna go do their own thing," says Lucas. "They weren't that keen to have me involved anyway. But at the same time, I said if I get in there I'm just going to cause trouble. Because they're not going to do what I want them to do. And I don't have the control to do that anymore. All I would do is muck everything up. So I said, 'Okay, I will go my way, and I'll let them go their way.'" Lucas says he was going to tell a story about the grandchildren of figures from the original trilogy. "The issue was, ultimately, they looked at the stories and they said, 'We want to make something for the fans,'" says Lucas. "So, I said, all I want to do is tell a story of what happened – it started here and went there. It's all about generations, and issues of fathers and sons and grandfathers. It's a family soap opera."

Although the team behind The Force Awakens acknowledges they're taking the story in a different direction from what Lucas intended, they maintain affection for his original creations and the man himself. "Before I showed up, it was already something that Disney had decided they wanted to go a different way with," says J. J. Abrams. "But the spirit of what he wrote, both in those pages and prior, is everything that this movie is built upon." Some fans question why there was no "Based on" credit for Lucas in the poster for The Force Awakens. "I don't know why it isn't on the poster, but it's a valid point. I'm sure that that will be a credit in the film," says Abrams. "We are standing on the shoulders of Episodes I through VI."

Amazon Screenplay-Writing Software Submits Work To Amazon Studios ( 33

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has released new screenplay-writing software aimed to help connect new writing talent to its original content production company, Amazon Studios. Storywriter contains many of the autoformatting tools familiar to users of similar software such as Final Draft and Celtx, but no other screenwriting tool can claim to actually send unknown writers' output to potentially interested producers.

Netflix Remaking Lost In Space ( 169

An anonymous reader writes: Classic sci-fi show Lost in Space is making a comeback. Netflix is developing a new version of the series, according to Kevin Burns, the executive producer in charge of the project. "The original series, which lasted three seasons and 83 episodes, is set in a futuristic 1997 and follows the Robinson family's space exploration. After the villainous Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) sabotages the navigation system, they become helpless and, yes, lost. (The robot tasked with protecting the youngest child, the precocious Will, utters "Danger, Will Robinson!" — a phrase that still tortures this reporter.)" Burns has been trying to bring the series back for more than 15 years, and it looks likely he'll finally get his chance.

MST3K Successfully Crowdsources Its Comeback ( 53

An anonymous reader writes: At least three new episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will be filmed, thanks to over $2 million in online contributions from fans. Responding to a Kickstarter plea by series creator Joel Hodgson, fans contributed over $1.5 million within just two days, and after five more they'd push Hodgson over the first $2 million threshold. "We've got movie sign," Hodgson posted on Twitter, noting that for each additional $1.1 million raised over the next 20 days, three more new episodes would be filmed. And this Thursday he'll be hosting a grateful online marathon of classic episodes on Thanksgiving Day, a tradition which dates back nearly 25 years, when "Mystery Science Theater 3000" first began its 8-year run on Comedy Central and the Sci-Fi channel.
XBox (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Xbox One Or PlayStation 4? 375

An anonymous reader writes: I'm looking at getting the kids a new gaming console for Christmas this year. I'm stuck trying to decide between getting an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4. I'm really wary on the PlayStation because of the 5 PS2s with broken optical drives sitting in my garage; none lasted more than two years. On the other hand, I'm also wary of buying a Microsoft product; I'm a Linux user for life after getting tired of their crappy operating system. I've also considered getting a gaming PC, whether Linux or Windows, but it's more expensive and game reviews show most are not as good as a dedicated game console. The kids want Fallout 4, and I want Star Wars Battlefront and any version of Gran Turismo. We currently have a Nintendo Wii and a crappy gaming PC with some Steam games. So, which gaming console should I get that will last a long time?
Lord of the Rings

Now We Know Why the Hobbit Movies Were So Awful ( 175 writes: Everyone seems to agree that the key to the success of Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy was years of careful planning before production ever began. Now Bryan Bishop writes at The Verge that in what can only be described as the most honest promotional video of all time, we find out why the Hobbit trilogy turned out to be such a boring mess. In the clip, Peter Jackson, Andy Serkis, and other production personnel confess that due to the director changeover — del Toro left the project after nearly two years of pre-production — Jackson hit the ground running, but was never able to hit the reset button to get time to establish his own vision. Once the new director was hired, the harried crew members had to scramble to redesign everything to suit Jackson's vision, but they could barely even keep up with the production schedule, let alone prepare anything in advance.

At some junctures in the process, Jackson found himself essentially having to improvise on set because there was nothing really prepared for his actors to do. "You're going on to a set and you're winging it, you've got these massively complicated scenes, no storyboards and you're making it up there and then on the spot," said Jackson. "I spent most of The Hobbit feeling like I was not on top of it."

But wait: "Peter has never made a secret of the fact that he took over the Hobbit directing job with very little preparation time remaining before shooting had to begin. It was a challenge he willingly took on. His comments are an honest reflection of his own personal feelings at times during the movie's production," says a spokesman for Jackson. "Somebody has decided to create this cut-down, using only the sections of The Gathering Clouds that discuss the difficulties faced, not the positive ways they were addressed and overcome – which are also covered in this and other featurettes."


Structural Engineer On the Fallacies of Movie Bridge Destruction ( 211

szczys writes: Suspension bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge are favorite victims for movie makers but are almost always shown to perform in violation of the laws of physics. Structural Engineer Alex Weinberg couldn't stay silent any longer. He covers how bridge collapses in several major films should have looked. The biggest offender? Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises.
Star Wars Prequels

Star Wars Battlefront Released ( 126

An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday marked the release of Star Wars Battlefront, EA DICE's attempt to resurrect a Star Wars video game series that had great success a decade ago, but gradually petered out over the course of several years. Early reviews for the game are mixed. Games Radar's video review gives it a lot of credit for being incredibly faithful to the feeling of Star Wars. Polygon's review praises the game's accessibility and its broad variety of PvP options, but acknowledges that it had to trade complexity to get there. Giant Bomb's review is much more blunt: "Slick production values, solid controls, and tons of fan service can't make up for mediocre progression and a lack of content." Many reviews rate the graphics highly, and performance is solid even on consoles. It's worth noting that user ratings on Metacritic come in significantly lower than critics' ratings, with the most common complaint being about the dearth of content.

Pandora To Buy Rdio Assets For $75M In Cash ( 20

An anonymous reader writes: Pandora is acquiring music subscription service Rdio for $75 million in cash. "The transaction is contingent upon Rdio seeking protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. Upon approval of the proposed transaction by the bankruptcy court, Rdio will be winding down the Rdio-branded service in all markets," Pandora said in a statement. TechCrunch reports: "That was fast: just as soon as it was reported that Pandora was in talks to buy Rdio, the two sides have confirmed that an acquisition is indeed taking place. Pandora has acquired "key assets" from Rdio for $75 million, the company has just announced. But as part of it, the Rdio service as we know it is tanking: the streaming service is shutting down and Rdio is filing for bankruptcy."

ISP To Court: BitTorrent Usage Doesn't Equal Piracy ( 175

An anonymous reader writes: The music industry has long argued that evidence of BitTorrent is evidence of piracy, and ISPs have generally gone along with them. But now, ISP Cox Communications is pushing back against that claim. They have been sued by publishers for failing to halt service for users alleged to have pirated music. Not only has Cox argued that the piracy evidence is invalid, they're also contesting the idea that BitTorrent is only used for piracy (PDF). "Instead of generalizing BitTorrent traffic as copyright infringement, the music companies should offer direct proof that Cox subscribers pirated their work. Any other allegations are inappropriate and misleading according to Cox." The company says, "the Court should preclude Plaintiffs from relying on mere innuendo that BitTorrent inherently allows individuals to infringe Plaintiffs' copyrights."

Microsoft Kills Off Zune Music Service ( 66

alphadogg writes: It's one of those "You mean it was still alive?" moments: Microsoft today officially has killed off its Zune music streaming and download service. The company notified users in September that Zune services would be retired on Nov. 15. Microsoft has been phasing out its Zune brand for some time now, with Zune music service being morphed into Xbox music and then Groove music. Devices were discontinued in 2011.

Why Free Services From Telecoms Can Be a Problem On the Internet 89 writes: T-Mobile said last week that it would let customers watch as many movies as they wanted on services like Netflix and HBO as well as all other kinds of video, without having it count against their monthly data plans. But the NYT editorializes that there are real concerns about whether such promotions could give telecommunications companies the ability to influence what services people use on the Internet, benefiting some businesses and hurting others. Earlier this year, the FCC adopted net neutrality rules to make sure that companies like T-Mobile, Verizon and Comcast did not seek to push users toward some types of Internet services or content — like video — and not others. The rules, which telecom companies are trying to overturn in court, forbid phone and cable companies to accept money from Internet businesses like Amazon to deliver their videos to customers ahead of data from other companies. The rules, however, do not explicitly prevent telecom companies from coming up with "zero rating" plans like the one T-Mobile announced that use them treat, or rate, some content as free.

"Everybody likes free stuff, but the problem with such plans is that they allow phone and cable companies to steer their users to certain types of content. As a result, customers are less likely to visit websites that are not part of the free package." T-Mobile has said that its zero-rating plan, called Binge On, is good for consumers and for Internet businesses because it does not charge companies to be part of its free service. "Binge On is certainly better than plans in which websites pay telecom companies to be included," concludes The Times. "But it is not yet clear whether these free plans will inappropriately distort how consumers use the Internet."