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  1. Amazon has removed the popular media center Kodi from the app store claiming it facilitates piracy. The software, formerly known as XBMC, doesn't link to or host any infringing content, but third-party add-ons are giving the software a bad reputation. Taking “infringing†apps out of popular app stores is one of Hollywood’s key anti-piracy priorities for the years to come. Various entertainment industry groups frequently report “piracy-enabling†apps to Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, alongside requests for the stores to take them offline. The stores themselves also screen for potentially problematic software. Apple, for example, has notoriously banned all BitTorrent related apps. Increasingly, Amazon is also policing its app marketplace for possibly infringing content. A few days ago, this led to the removal of the popular media center Kodi, previously known as XBMC. “In reviewing your app, we determined that it can be used to facilitate the piracy or illegal download of content. Any facilitation of piracy or illegal downloads is not allowed in our program,†Amazon wrote to Kodi. “Please do not resubmit this app or similar apps in the future,†Amazon’s support team added. TF spoke with XBMC Foundation board member Nathan Betzen, who was surprised to hear Amazon’s decision. In recent months the project has worked hard to distance their brand from piracy, so Amazon’s accusation is a huge disappointment. The Kodi software itself is an entirely legal media center that doesn’t come with any infringing features or content. However, there are many third-party addons that allow users to stream pirated movies and TV-shows. The Kodi team is actively pursuing infringing addons and sellers who abuse the brand, and is also trying to obtain a trademark so they can go after these piracy promoters more effectively. “Most importantly, we’re working to finalize our trademark filing. Once our trademark is registered, it becomes dramatically easier to issue takedown requests with the various organizations that provide voice for these groups advertising and selling pirate boxes,†Betzen tells TF. “We always say we don’t care what our users do with the software, and we stand by that position. But we sure do hate it when companies destroy the name of our software in order to make a profit.†For Amazon to ban the app is “absurd†according to the Kodi team, because the company is still allowing vendors to sell boxes that are giving the software this bad reputation. “I assume I don’t have to tell you how absurd it is that Amazon won’t let us into their appstore, but they have no problem selling the boxes that are pushing the reason they won’t let us into their app store,†Betzen says. Removing Kodi may also hurt Amazon in the long run, according to Betzen. The application allowed many other third-party services that are currently not on Amazon, available to Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick users. “This is a bad decision on Amazon’s part simply because Kodi is one giant reason people buy Amazon Fire TVs and Amazon Fire TV Sticks. Compatibility with our software makes for a really simple backdoor for entering the Amazon ecosystem.†“I personally have sideloaded Kodi onto Amazon sticks for a number of my family members, who then found themselves also using Amazon Prime and many other Amazon services,†he adds. Coincidentally, around the same time Amazon booted Kodi from their market, Google decided to include it in the Play Store. According to the Kodi team this is yet another reason for people to leave Amazon hardware behind. “It’s going to be extraordinarily difficult for Kodi users to justify going down the Amazon hardware path and recommending the Amazon path to others,†Betzen concludes. People who are interested in trying out Kodi’s media player, which is available on most operating systems, can head over to the official site. https://torrentfreak.com/amazon-bans-kodi-app-over-piracy-concerns-150616/
  2. After promising so much the highly anticipated encrypted chat project Hemlis has come to an end. The software was left with too many obstacles to overcome, not least the absence of former Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde who was arrested and taken away to serve his jail sentence for copyright infringement last summer. During the summer of 2013 the Internet was abuzz with the revelations of Edward Snowden. The PRISM scandal exploded and suddenly everyone had confirmation that everything they do online can be stored and monitored on a staggering scale. As a direct result of this massive privacy breach, people around the world became motivated to fight back against what has developed into one of the biggest technology scandals of recent times. One of those groups consisted of former Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde, who together with friends and Flattr allies Linus Olsson and Leif Högberg began working on Hemlis, a messaging app for both iOS and Android. The aim of the game was for Hemlis (‘secret’ in Swedish) to provide absolute secrecy, with only the sender and recipient able to read messages – not middle men like prying governments. “People act differently if they think someone is listening in to their conversation. That’s what Stasi taught us for instance. It’s one of many reasons why privacy is so vital,†Sunde told TF at the time. But with hundreds of news articles behind them and the two-year anniversary of the project’s birth just around the corner, the Hemlis team have now delivered the ultimate in bad news. “Lately we have been awfully quiet. The reasons are many, sad and non important right now. They have though made this project drag along and that made us understand a thing we feared for quite a while but neglected to accept. New messengers fail miserably,†the team said in a statement. “Each new attempt has made us understand that our goal of creating a mass market messenger just based on the fact that it is private, secure and beautiful, is not nearly enough. As the only reason we are doing this is to give you viable huge scale alternative to the existing systems there is really only one thing to do at this stage. Accept our current roadmap and goals as defunct.†While there were many reasons for the project to succeed, the challenges faced by the Hemlis team proved insurmountable. At least initially, financing wasn’t a problem, with around $150,000 raised via a short crowd-funding campaign. Then disaster struck when around $30,000 disappeared after a bitcoin wallet was stolen from Hemlis’ bitcoin supplier. Keeping up with the budgets of the competition also took its toll. “We decided to hire some people to help us out with the things we are not experts in. The process was slow and hit with lots of realizations that certain things would not work. The ideas were too complex and sometimes just too expensive,†Peter Sunde explains. “We had a lot of money, but far away [from] the same amount (we’re talking millions or billions) that our competitors had access to… They’ve had more progress and financial support so they could speed up their process to the level that they’re now really good. Better than our messaging app could become right now. Ok, they’re missing on features but they have the ability and cash to resolve those issues. And our goal was always to ensure that the everyday users would be protected.†But financial and technical issues aside, personal issues also played a big part in the project’s demise. “In the middle of it all one of our team members got a kid and had to focus on that of course. I personally had other issues as I got kidnapped by the Swedish government and locked up for my work with another project – The Pirate Bay. In the middle of the kidnapping, my father died,†Sunde explains. “I had no way of working on anything, and I’ve had a hard time with how I personally need to handle things. This project – as well as the other projects I’m involved in – were hit massively by my absence. And they still are, since I have not been able to get 100% on my feet yet. I’m getting there but just as with other things, it takes a lot of time.†A few weeks ago Sunde said the team took a step back to assess its position. While decent apps for both iOS and Android exist semi-completed, Hemlis is far from a market-ready product. More time and money would be need to be pumped in for it to succeed. “We decided that we could go two ways. We could ask for more money (a lot), either from the community or some investors. Or we could close down. Since we already got money from the community with way too little to show back from the expectations that felt wrong,†Sunde explains. “And we don’t think that it would be a good idea to ask investors for money since we’d lose control over the project. So in the end, closing it down felt like the least bad thing to do.†While many supporters of the project are supportive of the brave decision to close Hemlis down, others have been more critical. Some, having pumped money into the project and received nothing, are downright angry. Nevertheless, one of the big takeaways is that in some shape or form, Heml.is will be handed back to its backers. “We’ll release the usable parts of the code as free software with the most free license we can. It belongs to the community (and the community paid for it),†Sunde says, adding that there may be other ways to achieve similar aims. “I’m personally trying to influence people and politicians to make sure we don’t need systems like Heml.is. We should be protected by the governments instead of trying to protect ourselves from them. It’s a multi-angle attack needed, technology, political work and transparency,†Sunde concludes. https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bays-peter-sunde-kills-nsa-proof-messenger-app-150424/
  3. With nearly three million active users FrostWire is one of the most popular Android apps but a few hours ago the BitTorrent client and media downloader disappeared from the Play store. Google cites a YouTube related violation of the Developer Distribution Agreement. FrostWire has become a well-known file-sharing brand over the past decade. The application was first released in 2004 as a LimeWire fork, but underwent several changes over the years. Today it’s mostly a BitTorrent client, but it also offers the option to access content from YouTube. FrostWire is available on all major operating systems and does particularly well on Android where it has 2.9m active installs. Yesterday, however, the popular app was rendered unavailable. FrostWire developer Angel Leon informs TF that Google pulled the application citing a violation of the Developer Distribution Agreement. Unlike the recent ban by Amazon, the removal has nothing to do with torrents but was triggered by FrostWire’s YouTube integration. “After a regular review, we have determined that your app downloads, monetizes, or otherwise accesses YouTube videos in violation of the YouTube Terms of Service or YouTube API Terms of Service,†Google informed FrostWire while cautioning over the possibility of a permanent disconnection. “All removals are tracked. Repeated removals will result in app suspension, at which point this app will count as a strike against the good standing of your developer account and no longer be available on Google Play. After the first warning last Friday FrostWire submitted a YouTube-less app to get it re-listed. This worked, as the app was put back in the store by Saturday, but yesterday it was removed again citing the “YouTube†violation. “We’re pretty pissed by how Google is acting all bully on app developers,†Leon tells us in response to the recent troubles. The app’s users are not happy either. Many were happy to have the YouTube integration and berated FrostWire for removing it. To please these users the developers made a separate version with YouTube functionality that can be installed directly from the FrostWire site. “Our solution to pissed off users after Google forced us to remove YouTube integration from FrostWire, was to simply build another version of the app which didn’t disable the feature, and tell users to get the installer directly from our website,†Leon says. The YouTube situation was explained in the FrostWire client and more than a million people saw the notification over the weekend. Interestingly, Google doesn’t allow developers to promote apps outside the market so this notification had to go too. Facing these and other restrictions, the FrostWire team is growing increasingly frustrated but without solid competition there’s not much they can do. “Google is acting too much like a bully lately, they need to be put on the spot, and they deserve some serious competition in the mobile space,†Leon says. At the time of writing FrostWire is still unavailable in the Play store. If everything goes well, however, the app should be reinstated in the near future. https://torrentfreak.com/google-removes-frostwire-bittorrent-app-from-play-store-150408/
  4. One of the most-used Popcorn Time forks will release an iOS app for non-jailbroken devices tomorrow. The new release opens up a whole new audience of hundreds of millions of devices. In addition, the Popcorn Time team suggests that other developers will soon be able to use the custom installer to break Apple's closed ecosystem too. In just a year the Popcorn Time brand has managed to establish itself as one of Hollywood’s main threats, and even Netflix fears the open source project. One of the big appeals, aside from the easy-to-use interface, is the fact that it’s available on many platforms and devices. Now, there’s a brand new release that will extend this list. On its one year anniversary tomorrow the Popcorn-Time.se fork will release an installer for non-jailbroken iOS devices. This means that anyone with an iPhone or iPad can install the popular app. “We intentionally postponed our one year celebration since we wanted to celebrate it with this groundbreaking release the world has been waiting for,†the Popcorn-Time.se team tells TF. The Popcorn Time fork already had an iOS app, which they released a few months ago. However, the new one is special as it can be installed on any device. The developers say they use a new custom installer that can add apps to iOS devices without requiring a jailbreak. Popcorn Time’s dedicated iOS page will link to the new installer starting tomorrow “The beauty is in the simplicity of this installer,†the team says. “All a user will need to do to get Popcorn Time on a jailbroken iOS device is to download the ‘iOS installer’ to his desktop computer, connect his iOS device to the computer with a USB cable, and then just follow simple instructions that will download the app on the iOS device.†Popcorn Time on iOS In addition to watching films and TV-series on mobile devices, the iOS app also supports playback on Chromecast and Apple TV, similar to the desktop application. According to the developers, however, having the option to easily add apps to iOS devices without a jailbreak is the main ‘revolution’ of this new release. And Popcorn Time is just the start. “The team we worked with on this solution has already launched this website with one clear intention in mind: To fight the closed ecosystem Apple has created, screening and choosing for us what we can or cannot install on the devices we purchased and paid top dollar for,†the team tells TF. This means that many more non-Apple-approved apps may come to iOS devices in the future. Needless to say, Apple is not going to like this, but the team says that the developers are prepared for battle. “The installer guys have no doubt that this will be a long journey, playing ‘cat and mouse’ with Apple that probably won’t like them breaking their closed eco-system. But seeing their work now and future updates for the installer they’re already working on, we’re sure they’re ready for any obstacle Apple will throw their way,†they note. TF tried a closed alpha release of the new installer and it works as advertised. The Popcorn Time app does indeed install without any hassle. The only limitation is that the installer requires a Windows machine, but the Mac version is expected be ready later this month. It will be interesting to see how Apple responds to the new revelations. In any case, it’s clear that the list of Popcorn Time enemies just got longer. Stay tuned… Breaking Apple’s ecosystem https://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-releases-jailbreak-free-ios-app-150407/
  5. Clean and simple, Popcorn Time has made illegal downloads easier than ever For more than a decade, pirating a movie or TV show using BitTorrent, the Internet’s notorious file-sharing protocol, required a modicum of work and technical ability. You had to use a clunky program specially designed to seek out and decode pirated files, then learn to refine its search tools to find the videos you wanted. Annoying banner ads within the search program were part of the deal, as was occasional malware. Pirating wasn’t just a pain for the Hollywood studios whose products were being passed freely around the Web; it was a pain for unscrupulous seekers of free video, too. In the past year, a program called Popcorn Time has become the kinder, gentler face of piracy online, taming BitTorrent to make it far more user-friendly and less obviously sketchy. Free incarnations for PCs, phones, and tablets look pretty much like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Instant Video, except with vastly deeper catalogs that include theatrical releases such as Oscar winner Birdman and with little to no advertising. Those benefits have raised fresh concern in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Although it’s difficult to estimate total viewership of a pirate service, in Netflix’s latest annual report to shareholders Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings and Chief Financial Officer David Wells named Popcorn Time a major worry. The sharp rise of Google searches for Popcorn Time, Hastings and Wells wrote, is “sobering.†Netflix’s Jan. 20 report included a chart showing that about as many people in the Netherlands search Google for Popcorn Time, which made its debut in March 2014, as for Netflix or HBO. As of Feb. 25, Google data show similar results for Italy, Portugal, and Spain. In the U.S., Popcorn Time grew by 336 percent from July to January and now accounts for one-ninth of the country’s torrent traffic, estimates Ceg Tek International, a company that movie studios contract to find and stop copyright infringement. Netflix declined to comment for this story. Popcorn Time’s crisp grids of TV shows and movies, including the most recent episodes and blockbusters, use art straight from marketing posters. The service looks so professional that many viewers think it’s legal, says Kyle Reed, chief operating officer of Ceg Tek. “Some people don’t even seem to know that it’s BitTorrent,†he says. “We send out copyright infringement notices, and they question why they received them. It just looks like Netflix to some people.†“Some people don’t even seem to know that it’s BitTorrent. We send out copyright infringement notices, and they question why they received them.†—Kyle Reed Creating a less cumbersome wrapper for BitTorrent was the primary objective of Popcorn Time’s anonymous developers, a group of friends in Argentina, says a Dutch blogger who goes by Ernesto van der Sar and runs TorrentFreak, a news site that covers file sharing. The creators abandoned Popcorn Time just a few weeks after its launch, writing on their website that they needed to “move on with our lives.†In an e-mail later revealed by the hack of Sony’s computer systems, the Motion Picture Association of America bragged at the time to Sony and other movie studios that it had “scored a major victory in shutting down the key developers of Popcorn Time†by coordinating with law enforcement on three continents. The MPAA declined to comment. Nonetheless, Popcorn Time survived. Its code is open-source, so several other groups of coders quickly released versions after the site shut down. (Would-be viewers need to choose carefully; some of the knockoffs contain malware.) “We were users of the original and were sad to watch it go,†wrote a developer of one of the spinoff versions, who answered an e-mail sent through his group’s website and insisted on communicating through anonymous Internet chat software to protect his identity. “The amount of attention this project has been receiving is HUGE, ground breaking and way above anything we expected when we first picked it up.†The developers don’t call themselves pirates. Asked about the consequences of making illicit file sharing easier, the anonymous developer claims Popcorn Time doesn’t break any laws because it’s just an index of other BitTorrent sites and doesn’t host any pirated material. “The torrent world was here with millions of users way before us and will be here with BILLIONS of users way after us,†he wrote. Robert Red English, a developer of a separate Popcorn Time spinoff who communicated over Skype Instant Messenger from Ontario, also said the responsibility for obeying copyright laws should fall to users. “I’m not going to justify it,†he wrote. “If it’s stealing or not varies by country and each user is given the choice to use the program, and warned we use torrents. It’s up to them to choose if they wish to continue.†That’s a common defense among people who collect links to pirated videos, but judicial precedent doesn’t back it up. The founders of Pirate Bay, a popular BitTorrent hub, made similar arguments in a Swedish court and received prison sentences. Older file-sharing networks such as Napster and Grokster shut down, because U.S. courts ruled that they were emboldening users to break laws. “If you are seen as encouraging people to infringe, then you have a copyright problem,†says Corynne McSherry, the acting legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for consumer rights online. Users are also vulnerable to suits, she says, though most studios and other major rights holders no longer target individual viewers for redress. Instead, the MPAA has for the past few months demanded that organizations such as EURid, the nonprofit that distributes .eu domain names, withdraw URLs from popular versions of Popcorn Time and that hosting company LeaseWeb withdraw the servers running them. The lobbying group has also sent takedown requests to sites such as GitHub, where programmers store the open-source code they’re working on. GitHub declined to comment. The anonymous Popcorn Time developer says the added pressure is motivating him and his colleagues to finish a version of the software that operates entirely by connecting viewers’ computers and doesn’t rely at all on central servers. “When we release this, there will be nothing to be taken down again,†he says. Even if Popcorn Time’s coders succeed in that effort, studios and legitimate streaming services will have at least one other way to answer its growing popularity: making sure legal alternatives are widely available, affordable, and desirable. In the U.S. and U.K., where Netflix and other legal streaming services are well established, Popcorn Time’s Google search numbers are still way behind. The bottom line: In a year, Popcorn Time has become the Internet’s pirate service of choice, despite the MPAA’s best efforts.
  6. Early February an Android dev revealed how his popular calendar app was suffering from 85% piracy rates. The news was echoed in dozens of headlines, but how did things turn out? TorrentFreak is informed that sales are dramatically up and piracy has been slashed by a third. Today Calendar Pro is a popular replacement calendar for Android. Several thousand voters on Google Play agree on its quality, most voting near to the fabled five stars. However, at the start of February developer Jack Underwood announced that rather than pay for his software, a huge majority are preferring to pirate it instead. The figures were substantial. According to the UK-based dev, 85% of ‘pro’ users were using his software without paying for it. While that fact might’ve caused some creators to go nuclear, Underwood remained pragmatic. He engaged his public and decided to make light of the situation by introducing some novel anti-piracy measures in his software. Rather than make it unusable, Underwood added some pirate-themed events as detailed in our earlier article. It turned out to be a great move on the PR front. News of Underwood’s approach spread quickly and dozens of news outlets covered the story giving the developer and his software plenty of exposure. Interested in the effects of this new-found fame, TF caught up with the dev to assess his mood. As it turns out Underwood was in fine form. News of massive piracy of his app published February 2nd/3rd onwards had certainly turned into a positive. Sales of his software enjoyed a significant boost, as the graph below illustrates. While reluctant to talk about money generated, Underwood did reveal the size of the increase over regular sales. Today Calender Pro sold around three times more than it usually does after the news broke, leveling to twice as many sales shortly after. However, it was the effect on Google Play’s rankings that appears to have done Underwood the biggest favor. Following news of the high piracy rates there was a five-fold increase in Play user ratings, averaging a score of 4.8. This means that Today Calendar Pro is now the highest rated calendar on the Play store. The ratings boost means that sales are now running at a steady 50% uplift, a great result all considered. Interestingly, however, the free version of the app hasn’t done quite so well. On the first day sales increased two-fold, dropping to 1.5x the day after. Unlike the ‘Pro’ version, there was no change in Play ratings and ‘sales’ are now back to the level they were before. But perhaps of most interest is how these new figures have affected piracy rates overall, which previously sat at 85%. “Over the last week pirated installs have made up 56% of the downloads,†Underwood informs TF. “Much better, but I guess we’ll see how long it lasts!†Finally, Underwood says that interest in the pirate-themed events he added to his software has resulted in lots of requests from users wanting to see them. He’s come up with the following solution. “Users can now trigger the pirate events themselves. Any event title with ‘walk the plank’ or ‘swashbuckling’ or ‘pirate’ (providing there’s no other trigger words) will cause the pirate images to be displayed,†he concludes. http://torrentfreak.com/android-piracy-news-gives-app-a-sales-boost-150215/
  7. Following in the footsteps of Apple, Amazon has decided to ban a popular BitTorrent client because it "can be used to facilitate piracy." The developer of the FrostWire Android app is perplexed and stresses that his software only promotes free and legal downloads. Taking “infringing†apps out of popular app stores is one of Hollywood’s key anti-piracy priorities for the years to come. Various copyright holder groups frequently report “piracy-enabling†apps to Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, alongside requests for the stores to take them offline. The stores themselves also screen for potentially problematic software. Apple, for example, has notoriously banned all BitTorrent related apps. This week, Amazon is following in Apple’s footsteps by banning one of the most used BitTorrent clients from its store. The Android version of FrostWire had been listed for well over a year but Amazon recently had a change of heart. FrostWire developer Angel Leon tells TF that the app was removed without prior warning. When he asked the company for additional details, he was told that Amazon sees his app as a pirate tool. “In reviewing your app, we determined that it can be used to facilitate the piracy or illegal download of content. Any facilitation of piracy or illegal downloads is not allowed in our program,†Amazon’s support team writes. Leon was baffled by the response. FrostWire had been a member of the Developer Select program for over a year and always made sure to avoid any links to piracy. On the contrary, FrostWire was actively promoting Creative Commons downloads and other legal content. “We have never promoted illegal file sharing, we actually promote creative commons downloads, and free legal downloads from soundcloud, archive.org. The app is also a full blown music player, but none of this probably counts,†Leon tells us. “Web browsers and email clients are still there, programs that also fall in the category of being ‘used to facilitate the piracy or illegal download of content’,†he adds, pointing out the arbitrary decision. While it’s not clear why Amazon changed its stance towards FrostWire, it wouldn’t be a surprise if pressure from copyright holders played a role. FrostWire’s developer believes that the mobile developer industry may have to come up with a less censorship prone store in the future. There’s a need for a decentralized app store that secures the interests of both iOS and Android developers. For now, Leon hopes that other stores will be less eager to pull the plug on perfectly legal apps. While it may seem to be a small decision for the stores, having a popular app removed can ruin a developer’s entire business. The beauty of FrostWire and other BitTorrent clients is that they offer the freedom to share files with people from all over the world without being censored. Restricting access to apps that make this possible will harm society, Leon believes. “This is a freedom which eventually protects society from the likes of totalitarian governments, something some of us at FrostWire have lived first hand in Latin America, something that forced me and so many Venezuelans to leave our countries and start again from scratch in the US,†Leon concludes. Despite being banned from Amazon’s store, Kindle users will still be able to get updates via the FrostWire website. A special installer for Kindle will be available soon. http://torrentfreak.com/amazon-bans-bittorrent-app-frostwire-over-piracy-concerns-150128/
  8. When the Popcorn Time app brought BitTorrent streaming to the masses this year the "Netflix for Pirates" gained the hearts of millions. Today, one of the most popular Popcorn Time forks expands the potential user base further still with the release of an iOS app, jailbreak only for now. The Popcorn Time phenomenon is one of the biggest piracy stories of the year thus far. The software amassed millions of users by offering BitTorrent-powered streaming in an easy-to-use Netflix-style interface. When the original version shut down various forks continued the project, each releasing their own features. One of the most-used Popcorn Time versions comes from time4popcorn.eu, who remain very active on the development side. After previously rolling out an Android version and Chromecast and Apple TV support, today the fork released the first Popcorn Time app for iOS. The first releaserequires a jailbreak and can be accessed through the Cydia platform. TorrentFreak spoke with the developers who say they are working on a solution for non-jailbroken devices as well, but that will take some more time to complete. Nonetheless, they are happy with the progress they’ve made thus far. “After only 5.5 months, Popcorn Time is available on all major platforms! And this is only the beginning. Our future plans are huge,†the time4popcorn.eu team notes. The iOS app is currently missing some features that are available in the desktop version. Chromecast and Apple TV support are still works in progress, likewise the built-in VPN. The standard functionality appears to work just fine, provided that there’s enough bandwidth available to stream the video files via BitTorrent. The developers have released the iOS source code under a GPL V3 license, which allows others to extend and improve it. The team itself will also continue to work on improving the code, and they promise to release more “exiting details†on the application’s future in a week or two. Popcorn Time’s appeal to pirates hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hollywood. Two months ago the MPAA pushed back and managed to get two popular forks removed from Github claiming that the apps are hurting the major movie studios. While this was a setback, it doesn’t seem to have hindered development much. Both Popcorn Time forks are still around and show no sign of throwing the towel voluntarily anytime soon. http://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-now-available-ios-140930/
  9. Vine users around the world can now spend even more time getting their seconds-long videos to look even better, thanks to newly released updates in the form of a new camera and editing tools. When Vine says users can now utilize a new camera, they don’t necessarily mean one that looks radically different. In fact, the company means that the new, updated camera allows for more ways to interact with your videos. One new feature adds a new source for Vines: videos already saved to your phone. That’s right. Think you have a funny video from, say, a friend’s birthday party that has a perfect moment? Export it to the Vine app and turn it into a Vine video. As explained in the announcement post, the new import feature is found on the bottom left of the capture screen, and from there, you can bring in one or several videos at a time. And for you fans of slow-motion, those videos are supported too. Vine claims the videos are now easier than ever to make and get just right, and they’ve added several new editing tools to prove their point. In addition to the duplicate button and mute button, previewing of the last clip you made is also possible, as well as an undo button. You know, just in case something doesn’t work out to your liking. Additional tools also include grid; the focus lock, which gets support for both the front and rear-facing cameras; ghost mode, a tool that shows users the last frame from the last thing you shot and, finally, a torch setting that makes it easier to film in areas that don’t offer much light. “When we introduced Vine, we wanted to make it easier for people to create, share and discover short, looping videos,†explained the company in the announcement. “Today, people enjoy Vines not only within our mobile apps, but also on vine.co, across the web through embedded Vines, and on services like Twitter and Facebook.†According to previously tracked data, millions of people are watching Vine videos, regardless of where they are on the Internet. And they’re sticking around to watch videos over and over, topping over a billion loops per day. It doesn’t look like the Vine trend is going to go away anytime soon. The new Vine camera is available today for iOS devices and while the app is optimized for the iPhone 5, any iOS device that can easily run iOS 6 should be able to handle it. Android owners will have to wait a bit for their own release, though Vine didn’t detail when it would release.
  10. Foursquare announced some time ago that the company intended to divide its Foursquare app into two, with the core app being reserved for recommendations to restaurants, landmarks, and other places and the other (the new app called Swarm) for check-ins and searches for friends at local locations. The company recently released the new Foursquare app that now leads Android and iOS users to download the Swarm app, but Windows Phone users finally get to “check-in†on the fun. The new Swarm app has been released for Windows Phone today. “We’re so excited to announce Swarm is now available to download on Windows Phone. It’s the best way to keep up and meet up with your friends, so pin it to your start screen today,†the company announced at The Foursquare Blog. While Swarm, the familiar check-in and social networking app, has been released, Foursquare hasn’t yet released the new Foursquare app. The site announced today that the new Foursquare app should arrive this Fall, so you’ll have to wait until then. For now, however, Windows Phone users have 1 (and soon 2) new social apps to win over your Android and iOS friends to the Windows Phone platform. To get the new Swarm app, head on over to the Windows Phone Store and download it today.
  11. A quick Terminal command can turn off App Nap, letting all of your apps run at their full capacity when hidden from view. We've covered how to disable App Nap on an app-by-app basis should you find the OS X Mavericksfeature interfering with some desired features or performance of a background app. If you are on aMac desktop, however, and don't care about the battery life gains that App Nap delivers, then you can disable the feature across your entire Mac. To do so, fire up Terminal and enter this command and hit Enter: defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAppSleepDisabled -bool YES Any apps that are running need to be restarted for the change to take effect, or you can simply restart your system to disable App Nap for all of your applications. You can use Activity Monitor to check to see if any of your apps hidden from view are using App Nap. Open Activity Monitor, click on the Energy tab and take a look at the App Nap column. To reverse this change and bring back App Nap, use this Terminal command: defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAppSleepDisabled -bool NO http://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-disable-app-nap-system-wide-on-os-x-mavericks/
  12. Ever since the inception of the App Store, Apple has notoriously banned all BitTorrent related apps. However, this week a native BitTorrent client managed to get approval, albeit not without sacrifice. Hoping to prevent trouble, the developer only allows users to download from a small selection of known legal sources. Over the past years dozens of apps have been rejected from the App Store because they mention the word BitTorrent. Apple defended this policy and told developers that their apps were not allowed “because this category of applications is often used for the purpose of infringing third-party rights.†This BitTorrent aversion is also one of the main reasons why popular BitTorrent clients such as uTorrent, Vuze and Transmission don’t have an Apple-approved presence on the iPhone and iPad. This week the BitTorrent client “Blue Downloader†was approved by Apple and added to the App store. The application allows users to control and add torrent downloads through a built-in browser. The torrents can then be directly downloaded to the device. The application handles torrent downloads without any problems, but there is one rather big restriction. The developer has decided to only allow downloads from a few trusted sources. Trying to add files from The Pirate Bay or KickassTorrents wont work, but white-listed sites such as Archive.org, Linuxtracker and Bitlove are freely accessible. Talking to TorrentFreak, Blue Downloader developer Harrison Tyler says that he implemented these restrictions to improve his odds of getting the app approved by Apple. “Apple is very restrictive about torrent downloading, so I thought I would take the same precautions. If Apple were to see a completely unrestricted torrent downloader, they would not take it as well as what I have now,†Tyler tells us. “I am not for restrictions normally, but as I am bending the accessibility of the app based on Apple’s will,†he adds. This strategy appears to have worked, for now, as the torrent client is still available in the App store. There is a chance that it may not be around for long though. Blue Downloader carefully avoided the B-word and Apple may still ban the app if they spot the connection. The self-censoring developer believes that BitTorrent is unfairly stigmatized. Pirated files can be found all over the Internet, and Apple has no restrictions for apps that download from direct sources. “There is an unfortunate stigma associated with torrent downloading. Even though there is almost an equal amount of illegal files on the Internet to regularly download, people still crack down on the evils of BitTorrent,†Tyler says. For those interested in giving the rather limited Blue Downloader a try, it’s availablein the App Store for $2.99. http://torrentfreak.com/apple-approves-self-censoring-bittorrent-app-140810/
  13. Facebook’s given its user base approximately one week to download the new messaging app in which texting abilities are being separated from the core Facebook app. Some users that have already downloaded the Facebook Messenger app are finding it to be offensive. One Facebook user in particular said that she is outraged at the privacy approvals users must give Facebook in order to download the Facebook Messenger app. “It makes me feel really angry. I think it’s a complete invasion of my privacy. We are growing up in a digital age but it’s hard knowing that everything you do is followed. It’s weird that Facebook and other apps are getting involved in your phone. It’s weird that I completely overlooked it,†she told CBS 6 News. Facebook’s new Messenger app is designed to let you text other Facebook friends, but you have to give away some privacy in order to gain texting capabilities. Here are the permissions you must give the new Facebook Messenger app: Identity Find accounts on the device Read your own contact card Contacts/Calendar Read your contacts Location Approximate location (network-based) Precise location (GPS and network-based) SMS Edit your text messages (SMS or MMS) Receive text messages (SMS) Read your text messages (SMS or MMS) Phone Directly call phone numbers Photos/Media/Files Read the contents of your USB storage Modify or delete the contents of your USB storage Camera/Microphone Take pictures and videos Record audio Wi-Fi connection information View Wi-Fi connections These permissions do not count others, such as the permission to give Facebook full network access to your phone and to even “change network connectivity.†For all of these permissions, you can view them by going to the Facebook Messenger app at Google Play, then scroll down to the section above “Google Play Content†that says “permissions.†While some are what normal apps require, we have to admit: the “edit and read your text messages,†as well as “record audio†permissions are a little weird for Facebook Messenger. If the company wants to learn more about its users, we’re not sure this is such a good idea. The best advice we can give users is this: read the permissions before agreeing to download the app. If these permissions make you feel uncomfortable, or if you think they give Facebook too much control, then do not download it. If you downloaded it in the past and you now feel uncomfortable, then the best thing to do is to use a carrier messaging app such as Verizon’s Message+, or some other carrier app that you think does a better job at maintaining privacy (FaceTime, or iMessage, for example). It’s likely the case that Instagram comes with many of the same permissions as Facebook Messenger.
  14. ou’ve been enjoying the convenience of having your messages and Facebook status updates in the core Facebook app. Well, prepare to be inconvenienced! Facebook’s now moved your messages to its Facebook Messenger app – prompting yet another download by some Facebook users who feel that the social media company should centralize its offerings. Facebook is now notifying users who’ve yet to download the Facebook messenger app on their phone by way of the Facebook Home page as well as their current list of Facebook messages sent to friends in the core Facebook app. There’s a “learn more†button you can press to learn about why Facebook’s moving its messages. In short, Facebook claims by way of its FAQ page that Facebook messenger gets your messages to you faster than the core Facebook app. At the same time, however, we here at Inferse have used both the core Facebook app for messages and the Facebook Messenger app – and we’ve yet to understand the difference in message delivery speeds. We’d like to be optimistic here, but we believe that Facebook’s doing this for company benefit rather than user benefit. In any case, the company’s not yet relocating everything. According to its FAQ page, “We’ll keep giving you links to install Messenger, and soon you’ll see a reminder notice where you’d normally see your messages. At that point, you’ll need to install Messenger or go to www.facebook.com from a browser to view and send messages.â€
  15. Following a complaint from Microsoft, GitHub has removed the code repository of an app that provides access to unprotected Xbox Music tracks. The developer of the software is surprised by Microsoft's move, stating that the company itself is offering access to DRM-free music through its API. A few weeks ago Microsoft extended its Xbox Music API, allowing third-party developers to link their apps to the music service. This resulted in a range of new apps that provide access to Xbox Music tracks, but Microsoft is not happy with all of them. Earlier this week the company contacted developer platform GitHub, asking the company to remove all code related to the Audiotica download tool, which they did. In its takedown notice Microsoft explains that the app in question provides users with DRM-free music, something it is not allowed to do. Specifically, the app is said to violate the circumvention clause of the DMCA. “This code violates [...] the DMCA in that it allows users to circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to copyrighted works by facilitating the unauthorized conversion of songs streamed via Xbox Music into DRM-free MP3s that can be easily shared online,†Microsoft writes. Microsoft explains that the application puts its licensing agreements with the major music labels in jeopardy. Under these agreements the company has to protect music tracks from being shared online without restrictions. “As part of Microsoft’s agreements with the copyright owners of the songs included in the service, Microsoft has both authorization from and an obligation to those copyright owners to control access to their works by employing an effective DRM system,†Microsoft notes. An interesting argument, since the tracks provided by Xbox’s Music service appear to be free of DRM. Xbox Music API TorrentFreak contacted Audiotica developer Harry who was unpleasantly surprised by Microsoft’s takedown notice. He notes that Microsoft itself is the one making it easy to access DRM-free music through the Xbox Music API. “Audiotica is programmed so users with an Xbox Subscription can download directly from Xbox Music. This is what surprised me about the takedown. Microsoft claims we can’t allow users to obtain DRM free music from their service, while they’re the one providing it,†Harry says. Microsoft most likely took offense to the fact that the application allowed users to download and store tracks. Although this might not technically be a form of “circumvention,†it does violate the API’s terms of service. The Audiotica developer says he will ask GitHub to reinstate his project, without the Xbox Music feature. The application will still be able to access music from other sources including YouTube, VK and Soundcloud. “Right now I will be filling a counter notice to bring it back. To avoid further problems with Microsoft I will be removing Xbox Music from the MP3 crawler engine and the downloader.†Microsoft’s takedown request follows a new trend in which copyright holders are targeting GitHub projects. Previously the MPAA successfully requested the takedown of two popular Popcorn Time forks. While both the MPAA and Microsoft don’t own any of the code, the alleged indirect infringements were sufficient to take the code down. http://torrentfreak.com/microsoft-gets-github-to-remove-infringing-xbox-music-app-140731/
  16. When the Popcorn Time app brought BitTorrent streaming to the masses this year the "Netflix for pirates" gained the hearts of millions. Today, one of the most popular Popcorn Time forks continues to innovate by adding Airplay support, and a native iOS app is coming soon. The Popcorn Time phenomenon is one of the biggest piracy stories of the year thus far. The software became an instant hit by offering BitTorrent-powered streaming in an easy-to-use Netflix-style interface. While the original app was shut down by the developers after a few weeks, the project was quickly picked up by others. This resulted in several popular forks that have gained millions of users in recent months. Today one of the most popular Popcorn Time forks releases a highly anticipated feature. The developers inform TorrentFreak that the latest version now has Airplay support, making it possible to stream movies directly to Apple TVs and other supported devices. Ironically, Airplay support is currently limited to the Windows release, but a Mac version is due early next week and the Linux release will follow shortly after. The latest feature follows the addition of Chromecast support a few weeks ago, but this is by no means the last planned development. Popcorn Time adds Airplay support Looking ahead the developers hope to bring the Popcorn Time experience to as many operating systems and devices as possible. “Our ultimate goal is to bring Popcorn Time to every platform, operating system and device that can play videos, so Airplay is one particle of a huge revolution we’re making to the torrents and movies world online,†the time4popcorn.eu team told us. “This is only the beginning… You know us, we have many more surprises coming your way,†they add. One of the “surprises†is a native iOS app. Although it probably won’t be featured in Apple’s App Store anytime soon, Popcorn Time will be available on jailbroken iPhones and iPads in the near future. “Support for iOS devices will be ready in August. It’s already working in our development environment and it’s looking beautiful,†the team notes. Popcorn Time’s popularity hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hollywood. A few weeks ago the MPAA pushed back and managed to get two popular forks removed from Githubclaiming that the apps are hurting the major movie studios. While this was a setback, it doesn’t seem to have hindered development much. Both Popcorn Time forks are still around and new features are being rolled out faster than ever. http://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-adds-apple-tv-support-ios-app-coming-soon-140730/
  17. Root out duplicate files to reclaim precious hard-drive space on your Mac. One of the chief culprits behind a slow Mac is a cluttered hard drive. If your Mac's hard drive is nearing capacity, it's time to take action. I have offered a handful of tips about how to clean and speed up your Mac, but here's another: Mac app Duplicate Zapper. Duplicate Zapper is currently discounted at $1.99 as part of $2 Tuesday in the US (£1.49 in the UK and AU$2.49 in Australia). Once installed, the app offers six sliders to narrow your duplicate hunt. Because I like to think I keep my music, movies, and pictures in some semblance of order, I chose three types: Folders, Archives, and Documents. Next, Duplicate Zapper asks you to name locations to include and exclude from your search. I simply selected my Macintosh HD so it would scan everything. When you have your locations set, click the big green Scan button and Duplicate Zapper will begin its scan. It took about 12 minutes to scan my hard drive. When it finishes the scan, the app shows you a list of duplicates it found. Next to each file in the list are two numbers: the number on the right is the total number of copies found, and the number on the left is the number you have selected to delete. You can manually select each file on the list and then check out a preview of each of the copies to verify that they are, indeed, duplicates. If you hover over a file in the right panel, you can view its location, and clicking on the magnifying-glass icon opens Finder. Going manually through the list, file by file, can be time consuming. Thankfully, Duplicate Zapper offers a number of preset selections. From the drop-down menu at the top labeled Auto Select, you can choose to a method for choosing which files to keep and which to trash. Your choices include keeping the earliest files, keeping the latest files, keep those with the shortest or longest path, or keeping the originals. Below the Auto Select options is a drop-down menu for sorting your list of files. With my first scan, I reclaimed 1.55GB of hard drive space. Not bad for roughly 15 minutes of work. The developer states on the app's page in the Mac App Store that Duplicate Zapper "will never scan important system or application files, ensuring your Mac stays safe." http://www.cnet.com/how-to/free-up-disk-space-with-mac-app-duplicate-zapper/