Movie ‘sanitizer’ VidAngel files for bankruptcy

Back in 2016, Hollywood studios were able to stop VidAngel from streaming sanitized versions of blockbuster hits, claiming that its system for doing so was covered under the Family Movie Act of 2005. The injunction, which VidAngel promised to appeal, claimed that the company was operating as an unlicensed video on demand service.Unfortunately, the company is now filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

"...chapter 11 is simply a reorganization and part of our legal and business strategy," Harmon wrote in a blog post. "Per federal law, chapter 11 reorganization automatically pauses our lawsuit with Disney and the other plaintiffs in California." In an attempt at positive spin, CEO Neal Harmon also wrote that the strategy lets them continue another lawsuit, this one in Utah, to prove that its filtering system is legal. According to Harmon, VidAngel has a new filtering system for Netflix, HBO and Amazon, millions of dollars in the bank and is generating even more millions in revenue. Apparently, the market for "clean" versions of movies and television shows is larger than you might have thought.

Harmon notes that even if the company loses the lawsuit brought by Disney and other studios in California, it will have enough revenue from its new system to pay any court-ordered damages. "That way," he wrote, "VidAngel can survive and reap a return for the many thousands of customers who invested in us."

Via: AV Club

Source: VidAngel


Ford’s commuter van service Chariot halts operations in San Francisco

Chariot, an on-demand commuter van service owned by Ford, had to suspend it's operations in San Francisco due to compliance issues with the California Highway Patrol, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

TechCrunch reports that the CHP found Chariot drivers without the correct Class B drivers licenses during three separate inspections. A re-inspection was conducted on Thursday, which is likely why service has been suspended. The company tweeted that it hoped to resolve the issue quickly.

Chariot, which also operates in other cities like Seattle, Austin, and New York City, has been looking to disrupt mass transit in San Francisco, an ambition somewhat thwarted this week when the city proposed rules to ban shuttles from driving along public transportation routes, said TechCrunch. While it's possible that Chariot will resolve the current licensing problem quickly, hopefully the company will have learned that it can't just operate without regard to local laws and regulations.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: San Francisco Business Times


Apps and gadgets for the ‘Blade Runner’ future we didn’t ask for

Punks, monks and Harrison Ford running scared through a poisonous cityscape were just a few of the details that made the original Blade Runner feel like its environment was a standalone character in the film. It felt as alien and familiar as the way we live today, with an environment turning against us, a government that couldn't care less, and a corporate ruling class that would make the Tyrell Corporation jealous.

The dystopian world of Blade Runner felt like it had naturally come to be. Unlike the version of Blade Runner we seem to be living in now, which feels like someone threw a switch at New Year's, and surprise, we're living in hell. Suddenly we have to catch up to living in dystopian fiction really fast, lest we die from fires, hurricanes, connected Nazis or nuclear war. So it's probably best that we use every bit of tech to our advantage so we make it to the next noodle bar, as it were.

Roy Batty's survival kit

Despite the best efforts of our federal government to deny it, climate change is real and the planet has had enough of our foolishness. From hurricane destruction to extreme heat and cold, everyone needs to plan for a local disaster -- at the very least. The way things are now, with fires and floods, and even hurricanes hitting Ireland, it seems like we need to prepare for everything. But not everyone can afford a survival pod.

Survival kits start with the basics: A "go bag" to keep by the exit, a kit (or extra supplies) for staying in your house, and an off-site stash in case you have to literally run from disaster (such as a "car kit"). Pick one, or all three if you have the luxury. The American Red Cross has a good starting list, while the Disaster Supply Center has a multitude of readymade kits.

Now that we're living in a Blade Runner future on Krack, we'll have to fill in the details of true life in a future gone wrong. Like many in Northern California, this past week set a record for locals comparing life in San Francisco to existing in the film itself. That had a lot to do with the fires, which have us investing in daily-wear face masks and conditioned to air quality worse than Shanghai. We realize that we're just catching up with the rest of the world in so many ways in terms of life with poisoned air.

Prep your cyberpet

On the Set of 'Blade Runner'

As Pris surely knew, real animals are rare in Blade Runner's universe. Animals were the first to start dying of the pollution which pushed humans Off-World. From fires to dust to gale-force winds, or bombs, your kit needs a face mask with N95 and N100 ratings.

Sure, you can get any old thing at the hardware store or Amazon, but this is the future. You can take advantage of living in a time when even product designers are allergic to everything, and get an air mask fit for a city dweller. In many instances, these nouveau air-pollution masks are better than what you'll get in that prepper survival kit.

Great daily use (or temporary daily use) masks that look good are now a competitive market. For the Cal Fires, a number of SF locals grabbed a Vogmask off Amazon for getting around town. Other recommended masks that will make you actually want to wear it are those from Airinum and the Cambridge Mask Co.

If Pris had survived her encounter with Deckard, she'd surely have an animal companion -- and the gear to make her darling doggo or kitteh ready for anything. For starters, she'd make sure that sweet little manufactured beast stayed far away from any actual blade runners with GPS tracking. One option is the Whistle Pet Tracker; internet famous travel cat Willow stays connected with the Tabcat tracker and a long-range (no cell service needed) MarcoPolo Tracking System.

Pris would also have a Pet First Aid Kit, certainly, but for the oppressive heat in a climate gone wrong, she'd own a swamp cooler pup jacket or a canine cooling harness. Or like me, she'd have read about the woman fleeing the Cal Fires who put her 80-lb pit bull in a backpack and bicycled to safety, and would want a quick escape solution -- like a U-Pet escape pod.

Off-World isn't yet an option

Blade Runner

Fire is one thing, but looking at recent events, everyone will probably need waterproof everything. When you can, get a waterproof (or water-resistant) case for all your devices, or try to invest in the newest versions of things like the Kindle, which is now waterproof.

Harrison Ford's character Deckard drank whiskey -- Johnny Walker Black Label, to be precise -- so that's one way you might be able to avoid the poisonous drinking water of our collective future. For those who may find this impractical for daily applications, a top-end water filtration device is the gadget you want. The most advanced consumer model is the MSR Guardian™ Purifier, but day trippers living in the future-now will want a handheld UV water purifier like the SteriPen.

Your biggest asset in a dystopian climate change emergency might just be your backups. You can make your backup with a reputable cloud service, like Crashplan or iCloud. But to be safe from today's security threats, you should have a secure backup hard drive that you keep at home (or in another safe place) and one that you can grab and go.

This portable drive can hold copies of everything you might have to leave behind, from family photos to scans of your passport. It should also be waterproof, shock-proof, and password protected. The gold standard for this type of external hard drive is IOSafe, which claims to also be fireproof. For a small drive to keep in a bag, in case the replicant hunters come looking for you or a hurricane strikes out of nowhere, consider a Silicon Power drive, with small versions storing up to 4TB.

Power will be a concern, no matter if you're in a sci-fi climate disaster future or just on the go in our Blade Runner day-to-day lives. For those who are oppressed by the sun, solar chargers are now easy to use and take everywhere with you. Adafruit's DIY solar charger tutorials will have your devices constantly charged, and can help you keep others charged as well.

If your modern-day Blade Runner experience doesn't include DIY tinkering, the American Red Cross FRX3+ All Purpose Weather and Radio Charger has it all. It includes a NOAA AM/FM weather alert radio, LED flashlight, a charger via its USB port, and it stays powered for a week when fully charged via hand crank, its solar panel, or its 2600 mAh rechargeable battery.

Alcon Entertainment

Apps for humans and replicants alike

One of the apps that made day to day living safe in the Bay Area over the past two weeks was AirVisual's air quality app. More immediate than local alerts, it let us know when we needed to wear masks to go to the grocery store, and when we'd expect to get a break with some fresh air.

That said, many were stuck inside worrying how fast we were dying from the air in our apartments. That's where the AirVisual Pro would come in handy, showing inside air quality as well as that outside our doors. Yet, inside is really where it counts in polluted dystopias like ours, which is why an air purifier is probably the "coolest" gift anyone can give in this coming holiday season. For the most tech-inclined, Dyson's pricey hot-cool air purifier is definitely the Cadillac of purifiers, and comes with its own app to help you monitor your space.

Radiation wasn't an influence on the original Blade Runner's storytelling, but it might be in ours. In case our dystopia takes a Fallout 4 turn, Idaho National Laboratory scientists created an Android app for detecting radiation -- and they tested it on several different smartphone models (Samsung Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung SIII and LG Nexus 4).

The CellRAD app wasn't released to the public, but a similar app called Radiation Alarm works on the same functionality. It uses an Android's camera app to detect gamma radiation, as long as you follow the instructions closely (and keep the camera covered to get a reading).

There are apps I wish I'd had before the fires, and apps I've found that make me glad I'm installing them now. Climate change has made Weather alert apps completely invaluable. Weather Underground, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, RainAware, and Hurricane by the American Red Cross would've helped me decide to get an air purifier in time, and will probably save me and my replicant cat before the next disaster.

It's too bad that IBM's mesh network weather alert app isn't available in America yet, but I'm setting an alert to download it when it can help us out. This will negate the need to have cell service to get alerts, and I wonder how many lives it might've saved this year so far.

Should hurricanes hit San Francisco, or if Deckard comes looking for me and my friends, I've now got the Red Panic Button. This app sends email, text, and GPS coordinates to trusted contacts in the event of an emergency, as well as notifying 911. The "ICE" app (In Case of Emergency) from American Red Cross keeps an unlocked medical alert on the lockscreen of my phone, just in case.

While we're on the subject, the American Red Cross has its problems, but the apps they provide are invaluable. Those include a Shelter Finder app, a hurricane/wildfire/earthquake app, and their first aid apps. The medial aid apps come in both human and pet versions, and they are stored offline should you end up without cell service and need to save a fellow replicant's life.

Some might say that Blade Runner was just a movie. But for the rest of us, it's suddenly a way of life, and also a guide to survival. Hopefully this little guide helps, too.

Images: Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images (Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty); Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images (Joanna Cassidy as Zhora Salome with Snake); Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images (Harrison Ford and Edward James Olmos as Deckard and Gaff); Alcon Entertainment / Blade Runner 2049 (Weather display)


Wireless charging will make drones always ready to fly

Drones are great until you realize running all those propellers, a camera, GPS and other assorted technology bits are a real drain on the battery. If you're just using one for images it's not too big of a deal. But if you're using one for surveying, security or delivering burritos, swapping out batteries all the time can be a huge pain and time suck. Fortunately, there's a new wireless charging landing pad on its way.

The WiBotic PowerPad is a three-foot by three-foot landing station that comes with an onboard charger that can be attached to pretty much any drone according to the company. The company says the weather-resistant platform can be mounted pretty much anywhere and can help alleviate the need to handle drones that run automated flights on a regular basis.

The PowerPad also can serve as a waypoint for long-distance flights. If a drone needs to survey a large plot of land, it can stop and recharge at regular intervals on distributed platforms. No word on pricing or when the pad will be available, but there are sure to more than a few companies interested in reducing the time they spend swapping batteries while gathering data about battery health in the drones they have deployed.

WiBotic PowerPad for Drones from WiBotic Inc. on Vimeo.

Via: Geek Wire

Source: WiBotic


Google’s Instant Apps hit the Play Store as a big step toward a future of cloud-based apps

At its annual Playtime event today Google showcased how it plans to make Play Store apps safer, speedier, and easier to find. The bottom line: You’re about to see a whole lot more Instant Apps.

Android’s Instant Apps were officially launched at I/O in May, but we’re just now starting to see how monumental they can be. Designed to get apps up and running within seconds, the feature lets users try out fully functioning Android apps without actually installing them. Just last week, Google unveiled the Instant Apps SDK 1.1, which brought a leaner and faster experience, and now Instant Apps are ready for their spotlight.

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FAA proposes ban on large electronics in checked baggage

While most of us probably keep our laptops and other large electronics in our carry-on bags, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) still wants to avoid the risk associated with exploding lithium-ion batteries in the cargo hold of passenger aircraft. According to an official FAA document uploaded by PetaPixel's Michael Zhang, the agency is proposing a ban on large personal electronics (anything bigger than a cell phone) in checked baggage.

The FAA conducted 10 tests of laptops inside of suitcases. A heater was set against the lithium ion cell to force the battery to overheat. In one of the tests, a can of aerosol dry shampoo was in the suitcase. The currently permitted shampoo ignited from the overheating battery and caused a fire that could not be extinguished by a cargo-hold fire suppression system typical of most airlines. Other tests found similar results with other "dangerous goods" like nail polish remover, hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol.

While banning this particular combination of items in checked baggage would be the logical next step, the FAA writes that doing so would confuse passengers even more. "We believe that it would be difficult for passengers to understand and correctly meet requirements that vary based on the specific content of their checked baggage," the FAA said in the document. "Complexity increases the likelihood of non-compliance and continued presence of the risk." Requiring that these items be carried on in airplane cabins remains the simplest method, according to the FAA. Cabin crews are more effective than automated cargo systems at stopping any fires from spreading, says the FAA.

The agency presented its results and recommendation to the ICAO Multidisciplinary Cargo Safety Group that met in Paris in July. Members of the group agreed to revisit the guidelines around large electronic devices, with plans to ban them from checked baggage altogether. The current document was presented to the Dangerous Goods Panel, a multi-national working group that tells governments what provisions to introduce into national legislation. The proposed ban is set to be discussed this week and next. We've reached out to the FAA for more details and will update this post when we hear back.

Via: PetaPixel

Source: FAA, uploaded by PetaPixel


This week in games: Civilization III for free, Halloween modes shower treats and tricks


Adobe’s Scribbler AI automatically colorizes any portrait

Finally! Adobe has devised a method of adding a touch of color to black and white images without all the dimension-jumping time travel (looking at you Pleasantville). At the company's Adobe MAX 2017 event on Thursday, research scientist Jingwan Lu demonstrated Project Scribbler, an AI-driven program that can not only add color but also shading and image texture to grey-scale pictures in just seconds.

Scribbler leverages Adobe's Sensei deep learning platform to automatically touch up images. Researchers trained the program on the various bits and pieces of the human face using tens of thousands of images, some monochromatic, others accurately colored. By comparing the two types of images, the program was able to work out the appropriate areas to color in (ie, not the teeth).

There are still limits to what Scribbler can do. For example, it can only currently handle painting faces, not entire bodies or scenes. Still, this technology should prove a boon to illustrators and editors who would otherwise spend hours accurately tinting these images. Scribbler is still in development as a standalone program, like the Adobe VoCo tool, and has yet to be integrated into any of the company's Creative Cloud apps as of yet.

Via: 9to5 MAc

Source: Adobe


YouTube Red’s next show is a Tinder dating comedy

YouTube Red, the company's premium service, has a built up a stable of original programming, but for the most part they don't resemble traditional TV shows. Now, YouTube is trying a different tactic. The company has greenlighted Swipe Right, a comedy series starring Carly Craig (American Housewife), Deadline reports. It'll focus on one woman's mission to date her 252 Tinder matches -- and of course, for full hilarity, she'll get some help from her married sister and widowed mother (who's also dating online). It sounds like a typical comedy setup for the Tinder age, but it's also the sort of multi-generational comedy YouTube Red needs to appeal to more people.

Swipe Right, which is co-created by Craig and Daniel Reisinger, will premiere on YouTube Red next year. Robin Schiff (Romy & Michele's High School Reunion) will serve as the showrunner. Given that there are already several Swipe Right projects listed on IMDB, I also wouldn't be surprised if the show ends up getting rebadged before its premiere.

Source: Deadline


Tech companies unite to fight for Dreamers

In September, President Trump announced that he would phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which offers protections to undocumented immigrants who came to the US at a young age. This week, Reuters reported that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and other large tech companies plan to lobby Congress to pass legislation that will continue to protect these so-called Dreamers. The total number of companies involved is around two dozen, though that could change before the coalition launches.

After the president announced his decision, tech company executives expressed their disappointment in numerous ways, including on Twitter and via email. Hundreds of CEOs signed an open letter from pro-immigration group FWD.us (co-founded by Mark Zuckerberg) urging the president to continue the program.

It's likely that some action will happen on the DACA front as the holidays approach. In December, Congress will hopefully pass a spending bill (or face a US government shutdown). Reuters reports that Democrats may use this opportunity to pass legislation to protect Dreamers, trading their votes to avert a shutdown in exchange for promised protections.

Via: Business Insider

Source: Reuters