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  1. BitTorrent Inc., the company behind the popular uTorrent file-sharing client, has laid off close to a third of its U.S. workforce. Speaking with TorrentFreak a source close to the company says that up to 45 workers had their contracts terminated Thursday, "gutting" the company's advertising team and pushing more work to its offices in Minsk, Belarus. During the past few years BitTorrent Inc. has grown at a surprising rate, taking on increasing numbers of employees to fill various roles at the expanding company. On Thursday, however, things took a turn for the worse. Rumors began to spread that BitTorrent Inc. had laid off dozens of staff in its biggest shake up since 2008, yet no official statement was forthcoming from the company. Then on Friday two separate sources, at least one of whom was a former employee at the San Franciso-based company, revealed the scale of the layoffs. “About 40-45 people in their US office just got laid off which represents a large percentage of the US workforce,†one of the sources revealed. Another described the cutting of “around a third†of an estimated 150 U.S.-based employees. “The Ads team has been gutted as have several other groups – more development work is being sent to the BitTorrent team in Minsk. Only one person from senior management was let go, as is often the case in these types of things,†an insider told TF. In comments to Buzzfeed, BitTorrent Inc. put a positive spin on events, describing the layoffs as a “realignment†of the business. “We’ve recently realigned resources based on a regular evaluation of the business,†a spokesperson said. “Regrettably, this did include some employee departures. The business however, remains healthy, profitable and growing.†A source close to the company painted a slightly different picture, however. “The whole point is to save money and to try and return the company to profitability since it expanded its headcount way too fast and based on very unrealistic revenue projections. The morale, as you can imagine, is pretty low just now,†the source said. One person presumed to be safe is Christian Averill, who was promoted to Vice President, Communications & Brand last month. “My efforts will be focused on having our brands such as Bundle and Sync stand on their own and have a strong mind share in the market,†he said. Averill’s promotion suggests that BitTorrent intends to continue efforts to put Sync and its content distribution deals front and center of its business. Meanwhile, its uTorrent and BitTorrent clients will continue to generate most of the company’s revenues.
  2. Summary Popular culture success for the Xbox has not translated into real bottom line growth for Microsoft. The Microsoft Xbox One has lost important ground to Sony's PlayStation 4. An Xbox spin-off would grant the standalone video game company more freedom and could ignite growth. Meanwhile, Microsoft could focus its efforts upon defending its core software businesses. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) launched its first Xbox video game console in 2001. From there, the Xbox may have emerged as the lone popular culture hit in a Microsoft lineup that grew to include the relatively ill-fated Windows 8 and Windows Phone releases. The gaming console industry has evolved into a winner-take-all duopoly pitting the Xbox against Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation platform. Nominal sales and popular culture success, of course, do not necessarily translate into profitability. Microsoft, at its core, sells software to enterprise customers. Most likely, Microsoft would deliver higher margins and returns, if it were to spin off its Xbox division to current shareholders or sell the unit altogether to third-party investors. Going forward, this move would help MSFT significantly outperform the S&P 500 benchmark index over the long term. For his part, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has claimed he would "absolutely" support a decision by Satya Nadella to spin off the Xbox. The Microsoft Business Model (click to enlarge)Going forward, Microsoft may dramatically outpace the S&P 500, if it were to spin off the Xbox. On June 30, 2014, Microsoft closed out the books on its 2014 fiscal year. During this period, Microsoft racked up $59.9 billion in gross margins off $86.8 billion in revenue. A closer look at the financials, again, may confirm the ongoing thesis that Microsoft has remained in the core business of supplying software and productivity tools to the enterprise market. For 2014, the Microsoft Commercial Licensing operating segment generated $38.6 billion in gross margins off $42 billion in segment revenue. Microsoft includes its server products, Office for business and the volume licensing of its Windows operating system in the dominant Commercial Licensing grouping. Microsoft breaks its Devices and Consumer operating segment into Licensing, Computing and Gaming Hardware, and Phone Hardware. Devices and Consumer Licensing accounts for original equipment manufacturer, academic and non-volume licensing of Windows and Office software. In all, Devices and Consumer Licensing generated $17.2 billion in gross margins on $18.8 billion in revenue through 2014. For the sake of comparison, Computing and Gaming Hardware generated a mere $893 million in gross margins off $9.6 billion in sales. Interestingly, Microsoft has combined both Xbox and Surface sales together beneath its Computing and Gaming Hardware subunit. Despite its iconic popular culture success, the Xbox gaming console has racked up losses for several quarters. For 2014, Microsoft specified that its Xbox platform revenue increased by $1.7 billion, or 34%, in comparison to 2013. Microsoft also reported that year-over-year Xbox cost of sales increased by $2.1 billion, or 72%, largely due to marketing expenses related to the November 2013 Xbox One launch. Gaming consoles, of course, are more likely to turn profits as they mature and component costs decline. In any event, Microsoft Xbox margins have been shockingly thin relative to software profits. The drumbeat and catcalls to spin off the Xbox appeared to reach a fever pitch between 2013 and 2014, with Steve Ballmer resigning as both CEO and as a board member. Last May, current CEO Satya Nadella, however, dismissed speculation that the Microsoft Xbox division was on the shopping block, in remarks made at the Code Conference in Southern California. Microsoft Xbox One Versus Sony PlayStation 4 Microsoft Xbox versus Sony PlayStation has emerged as one of the most polarizing wars within the consumer electronics space. To date, PlayStation 4 sales have far outpaced Xbox One receipts. Going forward, the pressure will likely mount for Microsoft to spin-off Xbox, if its current-generation gaming consoles continue to struggle against the Sony PlayStation 4 competition. Heading into November, Sony confirmed it sold a total of 13.5 million PlayStation 4 units directly to customers. Microsoft has yet to break out specific Xbox sales performance figures. Last November, Microsoft did issue a somewhat vague statement indicating that it had shipped 10 million Xbox One units to retailers. Microsoft did offer an aggressive $50 Xbox One price cut heading into the holiday season. The Xbox One now begins at $349.00 from an original price of $499.00. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) now offers the base 500GB PlayStation 4 console for $329.00. For $429.00, consumers may purchase an Xbox One console with one extra controller and their game of choice. Xbox peripherals include Kinect, a motion sensory tool and Xbox Live for building out online gaming communities and digital media streaming. For years, Microsoft has refereed a tug-of-war between overly ambitious executives pitching the Xbox as a multipurpose living room entertainment fixture and a subset of diehard fans only interested in gaming and crisp graphics. Last summer, online magazine Hardcore Gamer thoroughly slammed the Xbox for having "lost its identity." Apparently, the PlayStation 4 has earned a reputation for delivering raw horsepower and specifications to hardcore gaming enthusiasts, while Microsoft busied itself packaging its Xbox One with expensive, yet unwanted accessories. An Xbox spinoff, of course, would grant the video game company freedom to focus its energies strictly on gaming, rather than being dismissed as an unwitting apparatchik for Microsoft productivity and cloud software. Over time, it is inevitable for video game consoles to become increasingly commoditized to the point where pricing may emerge as the most important factor driving consumer behavior. Popular third-party video game franchises, such as NBA 2K, Madden, Grand Theft Auto, and Call of Duty, are all available for play on both the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation gaming platforms. Halo, with its more than 60 million in units sold, has emerged as the most important title exclusive to Xbox. One title, however, will not swing the balance of power away from Sony and towards Microsoft in these console wars. The Bottom Line On March 31, 2014, Nintendo (OTCPK:NTDOY) closed its 2014 books having racked up $225 million in net losses on $5.6 billion in revenue. At that time, traders valued Nintendo at roughly $15 billion in market capitalization, or for slightly less than three times revenue. The Xbox, with its branding, implicit early-stage Microsoft backing and growth potential should be able to command a price tag of 10 times revenue out on the open market, as a spinoff. For fiscal 2015, the Xbox platform may generate $2 billion in total net sales, which would calculate out to a $20 billion spin-off, at 10 times revenue. Microsoft, which trades for just under $49, as of this writing, now operates with approximately $400 billion in market capitalization. At these levels, Microsoft could spin off one share of the new standalone Xbox Corporation, for every 20 shares of common stock outstanding. Microsoft may also consider maintaining a 35% stake within the new Xbox Corporation, through a combination of cash and debt financing, as a poison pill, to ward off a hostile move from Sony. Certainly, Sony may look to aggressively purchase shares in the Xbox spinoff, simply to shut down the competition and ultimately monopolize the gaming console market. At the same time, long-term investors within the new Xbox spinoff would certainly prefer that Microsoft transitioned into a passive video game investor. This hands-off approach would enable the new entity to still leverage a slice of Microsoft's immense financial resources, while also granting Xbox executives the authority to navigate the gaming industry as they see fit. The proposed Xbox spinoff would be literally taking a page out of the Big Oil playbook. Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) each recently divested themselves out of low-margin downstream operations and gasoline retailing. In 2012, ConocoPhillips completely spun off its Phillips 66 (NYSE:PSX) refining, marketing, transportation and gas station operations to shareholders. Certainly, Microsoft would be very much well positioned to mint even greater amounts of cash, as the literal go-to business for productivity software. As a leaner company, Microsoft would far outpace the S&P 500, after plowing its fat profit margins back into defending core software operations, paying out higher dividends and aggressively buying back stock. In doing so, Microsoft may finally reenter the conversation alongside rival Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) as a story stock. Editor's Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.
  3. Foo Fighters are being accused of ripping off a Dio song with their new track 'Something From Nothing'. Dio fans have taken to the internet over the weekend to point out the obvious . that Foo Fighters 'Something From Nothing' is actually a thinly disguised rip-off of Dio's 'Holy Diver'. Listen to both tracks and make up your own mind. 'Holy Diver' was the title track from the debut album for Dio in 1983. Ronnie James Dio had just left Black Sabbath and formed his own band with Black Sabbath drummer at the time Vinny Appice. The track reached no 40 on the US Top 40 in 1981. It was more recently parodied in a South Park sketch were Dio performs the song at a school dance. Dio also featured Rainbow's Jimmy Bain and Sweet Savage's Vivian Campbell who went on to join Whitesnake then Def Leppard. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  4. Jamie Foxx hasn't needed to "scare off" any of his daughter's dates... yet. The 46-year-old actor-and-comedian is father to Corinne, 20, and also has five-year-old Annalise from different relationships. Corrine is a model and also studying at university, although she and her father remain very close. "Corinne is very sociable, but she is great about keeping me in the loop. She knows I'm cool as long as I know she's safe. Fortunately, she hasn't brought anyone home who required scaring off. I'm ready, though - just in case," he laughed to British magazine Hello! Jamie and his daughter spend a lot of time together and he couldn't be prouder of her achievements. At the moment she's preparing for a debutantes' ball in Paris next month, which will see her and Jamie treading the boards together. She's a little nervous about that, with Jamie promising to practise his waltz so he doesn't trip her up. The comedian is in awe of how much his daughter has packed into her life and loves that she's as interested in film and music as he is. One day the pair hope to collaborate, with Corrine admitting she'd love to be as funny as her dad. "He's definitely a cool dad. I still can't believe I was lucky enough to get a father like my dad. He's so loving, kind, generous, talented and smart," she gushed. "I look up to him and he inspires me to be a better person and to work harder. He always listens to me and values my opinion. He's also just so hilarious. He makes me and my friends laugh whenever we're together." Jamie enjoys seeing his eldest daughter following in his footsteps, and the little things they have in common make their bond even more special. "Corrine and I both love all kinds of music, we're creative types, we prefer warmer climates and we aren't morning people. She has my freckles and we have many of the same facial expressions. We can do quirky physical stuff, like rolling our stomachs and an eye trick where you move one pupil at a time," he laughed. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  5. "It just looks gorgeous," Scott Rohde says. The visual presentation for upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne is "off the charts," according to PlayStation executive Scott Rohde. He is the software product development head for Sony Worldwide Studios America. Speaking during latest PlayStation Blogcast, Rohde said what he enjoys so much about Bloodborne's visuals is the way the game feels "wet." "The way it looks; just off the charts to me," Rohde said about Bloodborne. "It has, I've said this before ... there's a certain, like, wetness to that game. I don't know what other word to use. It just feels like everything is dripping and oozing with whatever it is--it's water, it's blood, it's whatever it is; and it just looks gorgeous." According to a Famitsu report from June, the final version of Bloodborne is aiming to run at 1080p/30fps. Bloodborne is the latest game developed by From Software, the creators of the Demon's Souls and Dark Souls role-playing game franchises. The game launches on February 6, 2015 in North America, and you'll also be able to buy a special edition version of the game on that date. It is possible, too, that Bloodborne will be one of the games Sony talks about during December's PlayStation Experience event in Las Vegas. The company teased that attendees will get a glimpse at Sony's 2015 software lineup, which would include Bloodborne. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  6. Restoration process now underway; Imminent patch will help activate more online features; No update on PS Plus edition. Driveclub servers are "building a steady increase in performance", according to its developer. The performance increases follow a string of connection problems that affected players after the game shipped last week. Evolution Studios, the developer responsible for Driveclub's buggy netcode, has been persistently communicative during its disastrous week of connection problems and server timeouts. But late on Monday, the studio appeared to have turned a corner, claiming that an increasing number of players are now able to access the title. "Continual upgrades to the Driveclub servers are building a steady increase in performance, meaning that we're getting more and more players connected," the studio wrote. As an immediate response to the online problems last week, Evolution closed some of Driveclub's online features and postponed the free PS Plus edition. While there is still no new release date announced for the PS Plus version, the developer said another server update would arrive by Wednesday that would begin the process of switching on more online features. "We are sorry that we don't have more concrete news to share right now, but please be patient. We will have more information for you tomorrow," the studio added. Throughout the past seven days, Driveclub director Paul Rustchynsky has been actively addressing fans on Twitter, explaining that it was the game's buggy netcode that resulted in the server woes. He added that the team has not ruled out compensating those affected by the connection problems. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  7. Driveclub enters at fifth amid launch woes; Skylanders' impact on the wane. Sega's survival horror title Alien: Isolation has debuted at second spot in the UK all format chart, with FIFA 15 holding first. Electronic Arts' money-spinning soccer series is now in its third week at the top of the chart, having already held the spot from Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, which entered at second last week. Shadow of Mordor now drops to third to make way for Alien: Isolation, which was developed by UK studio The Creative Assembly and generated mixed reviews upon release. Some outlets praised the game for capturing the horror of Ridley Scott's iconic film while other critics, including GameSpot's, suggested there were unavoidable problems holding it back. By contrast, the 2013 game Aliens: Colonial Marines was widely panned by critics yet jumped in at first. Xbox One's racer Forza Horizon 2 drops down a notch to forth, ahead of the PlayStation 4 racer Driveclub, which at the time of writing is burdened by numerous server issues. Another new release is Skylanders Trap Team, which enters at seventh. Though individual sales figures are unavailable, the series appears to be having less impact at retail, with last year's edition (Skylanders Swap Force) debuting at third, while in 2012 the Skylanders Giants game jumped in at second. New release NBA 2K15 enters at ninth, while Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition hits thirteenth. The top ten is as follows: FIFA 15 Alien: Isolation Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor Forza Horizon 2 DriveClub Destiny Skylanders Trap Team NBA 2K15 Smash Bros. for 3DS Minecraft: PlayStation Edition
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  9. Quentin Tarantino is gearing up to start production on his next movie, Hateful Eight, early next year. The project, based on the Oscar-winner’s original script, takes place a few years after the end of the American Civil War, in Wyoming. There, an eclectic pack of stagecoach passengers (you guessed it, eight in total) are delayed by a winter blizzard and trapped in “a saloon in the middle of nowhere†– something that doesn’t ease tensions within the “pitiless and mistrustful group.†A Hateful Eight teaser trailer – one that will reportedly only be made available for viewing in theaters (officially, that is) - will be attached to select prints of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, when the latter opens in theaters later this week. Collider has gotten ahold of a description for said trailer; naturally, the preview doesn’t include any raw footage from Hateful Eight (because there isn’t any yet). It does, however, rundown the list of main characters and establish the general tone of the film. No surprise, the teaser sounds very Tarantino-esque – complete with a “western-style ballad†about the eponymous “Hateful Eightâ€, blood-splattered titles that hint at the violence to come, and a shot of “sand dunes†that, no doubt, harkens back to the style of classic westerns of the mid-20th century (much like the landscape shots featured in Django Unchained). The trailer also lists off the eight main characters of the film; you can read through the complete roster, below. Major Marquis Warren: “The Bounty Hunter†John Ruth: “The Hangman†Daisy Domergue: “The Prisoner†Chris Mannix: “The Sheriff†Bob: “The Mexican†Oswald Mobray: “The Little Man†Joe Gage: “The Cow Puncher†General Sandy Smithers: “The Confederate†We’ve yet to receive official confirmation from The Weinstein Company (which is backing the project) about which actors who participated in the Hateful Eight live script reading earlier this year will reprise their role (or a different one) in the actual film. However, Kurt Russell – who gave a John Wayne-esque performance as “The Hangman†in the live reading (according to those who caught the show, anyway) – has said that he’s onboard for the flick. Tarantino’s longtime frequent collaborator Samuel L. Jackson is expected to reprise as “The Bounty Hunter†from the live reading of the Hateful Eight script. Meanwhile, Amber Tamblyn and Bruce Dern (who each made a cameo in Django Unchained) also seem ready to make the jump from stage to screen – by portraying, respectively, “The Prisoner†and “The Confederate†in the Hateful Eight movie. Other live read cast members who may appear in the film include such previous Tarantino collaborators as Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, and James Remar. Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen in ‘Django Unchained’ One last thing to note: the Hateful Eight teaser reaffirms what the teaser posterindicated – that Tarantino will be shooting the film in 70 mm. That large-scale format isn’t generally used nowadays (with exceptions like P.T. Anderson’s The Master), in part because it requires the use of a camera that’s quite loud and not easy to handle; unlike with IMAX, 70 mm camera technology isn’t rapidly improving right now, either. That said, it’s fitting for someone like Tarantino to use a retro visual approach for his latest genre throwback. Hateful Eight should be all the more handsome looking for the filmmaker’s efforts, regardless of whether you see the western in the regular theater format or in all its 70 mm glory. Hateful Eight will reach theaters sometime in 2015.
  10. Tired of seeing the alert for changing your color scheme when Windows 7 is low on memory? Update: The intention of changing this setting is to stop Windows from interrupting you with a pop-up, not to stop Windows from changing the desktop window manager to Basic (that may still happen). When you're working on a Windows 7 machine, you're likely to come across the following warning: "Do you want to change the color scheme to improve performance?" If you opt to keep the current color scheme and ask Windows to stop showing the message, the computer may not deliver the cooperation that you're expecting. Fortunately, if you want to keep Windows from creating these warnings, there's a quick setting you can adjust to turn them off. Keep in mind: disabling this warning does not mean you are magically freed from the memory restraints of your computer. It's best to know which programs can run before this warning appears -- that way you'll know the limits of your system. Still want to disable it? Here's how: Step 1: Open Start > Control Panel. If you don't see the shortcut for the Control Panel, you can get there another way: Start > Accessories > System Tools > Control Panel. Control Panel Action Center. Step 2: Click on Action Center, then click change Action Center settings on the left. Step 3: Under Maintenance messages, uncheck the box next to Windows Troubleshooting. Now you won't see the warning about changing your color scheme. However, if you are often noticing a large decrease in performance, it might be wise to enable this option again to find out which app is taxing your system.
  11. GitHub has just removed the repositories of several popular Popcorn Time applications. The action was taken in response to a takedown request sent by the MPAA. Whether this will do anything to stop people from using the "Netflix for pirates" has yet to be seen. popcorncensorThe 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. Needless to say this has been a thorn in the side for Hollywood. Today the MPAA decided to deploy countermeasures by filing requests with development platform GitHub to take down several Popcorn Time related repositories. “We are writing to notify you of, and request your assistance in addressing the extensive copyright infringement of motion pictures and television shows that is occurring by virtue of the operation and further development of the GitHub projects Popcorn Time, and Time4Popcorn,†the MPAA writes in its takedown notice. GitHub swiftly complied and starting a few hours ago the repositories were absent from the website, leaving the following note. In its takedown notice the MPAA specifically targets the “popcorn-official†and the “time4popcorn†projects, but it also urges GitHub to remove all related forks. “By this notification, we are asking for your immediate assistance in stopping your users’ unauthorized activity. Specifically, we request that you remove or disable access to the infringing Projects’ repositories and all related forks,†MPAA writes. Interestingly, the MPAA doesn’t mention the original Popcorn Time repository, which remains intact. To prove the infringing nature of Popcorn Time the takedown notice was accompanied by several screenshots of the user interface, as well as several pirated copies of Hollywood movies playing. While the takedown notices may hinder the development of the software, at least temporarily, the websites of the forks remain online. This means that the applications themselves are still available for download. Earlier this week the team behind the Time4Popcorn fork informed us that they have gathered millions of users over the past several months, and that the application is being downloaded tens of thousands of times per day. Whether the MPAA also has plans to target the Popcorn Time fork websites remains to be seen.
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