The New Screen Savers 129: iPhone X is Here

– The iPhone X is here. Leo Laporte and Megan Morrone give their first impressions on how Face ID works, the lack of a home button, and screen.
– Kelsea Weber from iFixit.com already torn down the iPhone X. They found some inventive ways Apple built the phone, including using two batteries.
– Researchers at Stanford and Adobe developed an AI that can automatically edit video on a dialogue-driven scene in seconds.
– Megan and Leo will put an end to the Emjoi Cheeseburger kerfuffle in a taste-off between Facebook, Google, and Apple. Which emoji has the ingredients stacked correctly for taste?
– Jason Howell has the five most exciting features of the new Google Pixel 2 XL.
– Our Holiday Gift Guide continues. This week, Scott Wilkinson has his home theater picks including TVs, soundbars, AV receivers, UHD Blu-Ray players, and UHD streaming.

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More IoT insecurity: This Blu-ray disc pwns PCs and DVD players

For more than a decade, malicious hackers have used booby-trapped USB sticks to infect would-be victims, in rare cases to spread virulent, self-replicating malware on air-gapped computers inside a uranium enrichment plant. Now, a security researcher says he has found a way to build malicious Blu-ray discs that could do much the same thing—without any outward signs that an attack was underway.

Stephen Tomkinson, a security consultant at NCC Group, said he has devised a proof-of-concept exploit that allows a Blu-ray disc to compromise both a PC running Microsoft Windows and most standalone Blu-ray players. He spoke about the exploit on Friday at the Securi-Tay conference at the Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland, during a keynote titled “Abusing Blu-ray players.”

“By combining different vulnerabilities in Blu-ray players, we have built a single disc which will detect the type of player it’s being played on and launch a platform-specific executable from the disc before continuing on to play the disc’s video to avoid raising suspicion,” Tomkinson wrote in an accompanying blog post. “These executables could be used by an attacker to provide a tunnel into the target network or to exfiltrate sensitive files, for example.”

The Windows-based exploit targets PowerDVD, the media player software bundled with the OS Blu-ray-equipped PCs since at least Windows XP. The Blu-ray specification uses a variant of Oracle’s Java framework known as BD-J that allows disc creators to offer various user interfaces and embedded applications. The PowerDVD software offers additional Java classes that provide still more functions and can be invoked using “Xlets,” which are small snippets of code analogous to Applets found on websites.

One of the Java classes that Xlets call is a CUtil class that has the ability to read arbitrary files from the disc. Tomkinson discovered a way to manipulate the list of objects the software reads so he could add his own malicious code. “As Blu-ray discs will auto-play on systems with PowerDVD installed, we now have a mechanism to bypass Windows’ auto-run mitigations,” he noted.

To compromise standalone Blu-ray players, Tomkinson turned to the extensive amount of already existing research on rooting players, including this exploit, which makes use of a programming debugging process that allows the launching of a Web browser. Using some Xlet wizardry, the researcher found a way to run executable files embedded in the disc from the player’s supposedly limited environment.

NSS is working with software and hardware makers on a fix. In the meantime, the company recommends that people avoid using removable media drives from unknown origins and that they use the AutoPlay section of the Windows Control Panel to stop discs from playing as soon as they’re inserted. NSS also recommended using any available settings to prevent discs from accessing the Internet, since in many cases that will disable BD-J network access, including to the localhost. And as always, users should think long and hard before connecting standalone Blu-ray players, or any “Internet of things” device, to the Internet. If there’s not a clear benefit, it’s not worth the added security risk.

via More IoT insecurity: This Blu-ray disc pwns PCs and DVD players | Ars Technica.

Quality versus convenience: Can 4K Blu-ray discs fend off streaming media?

Streaming video may be the wave of the future but optical discs aren’t ready to concede defeat just yet. During the IFA trade show on Friday, the Blu-ray Disc Association said it is nearing completion of a version of its optical disc technology that can support high-resolution 4K videos.

They plan to license the new technology by mid-2015 which will enable the first 4K Blu-ray players to arrive on store shelves in time for the holiday buying season.

4K Blu-ray discs will offer much more than a simple boost in resolution. Victor Matsuda, chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association global promotions committee, told CNET that the new specification will also improve color gamut dramatically. It’ll also offer a higher dynamic range which will make details in highlights and shadows more visible.

But, will that be enough to keep customers interested?

Optical discs were once the preferred method to watch television shows and movies at leisure. Obtaining and watching media was convenient enough – something that couldn’t be said about the early days of streaming and custom-built home theater PCs.

Today, however, there’s no shortage of streaming outfits to choose from and while bandwidth still remains an issue for some, the quality of streams are generally good enough for most. Or in other words, most are willing to sacrifice quality in exchange for not having to deal with the hassle of obtaining physical media.

Do you think 4K Blu-rays will have a place in the industry or is the association just wasting its time trying to compete with streaming providers like Amazon, Hulu Plus and Netflix?

via Quality versus convenience: Can 4K Blu-ray discs fend off streaming media? – TechSpot.

Blu-ray looks ahead to 4K

LAS VEGAS—Seven years after the Blu-ray Disc Association announced at CES that it had completed the technical specification for the format, the Blu-ray format continues to forge ahead—and its proponents must ponder its future when 4K HDTV televisions are all the rage here at this week’s CES.

The first Blu-ray player was priced at $1000 from Samsung, but you can now buy a Blu-ray player for about one-tenth of what a unit cost in 2006. According to the Blu-ray Disc Association, the format is being widely adopted: 50 million households now have Blu-ray playback capability.

That’s not bad for a physical disc-based format that grew up with the cloud of, well, the cloud and digital distribution over the Internet.

Andy Parsons Blu-Ray Disc AssociationAndy Parsons

“Despite the dire predictions about internet distribution making physical media obsolete, Blu-ray has thrived,” says Andy Parsons, BDA president. Projected unit sales are for 2012 are up 21.3 percent year-over-year, according to Screen Digest, led by marquee titles like The Avengers, Brave, Ted, and Twilight.

Catalog sales of those classic titles from years gone by are also growing, according to industry association the Digital Entertainment Group. Parsons notes that this trend is encouraging. “People have been buying older titles that have been released on DVD, and now they’re replacing them on Blu-ray,” he says.

The attractive price drops of catalog titles, including sub-$10 bargains, has had a big impact on sales and is the reason for the boost in the past year; after all, studio revenue on these sales has only increased by slightly under 10 percent.

Why Blu-ray rocks

For one thing, Blu-ray remains the most consistent and highest quality option for watching video. The average home has just 6Mbps bandwidth, which often is not enough for viewing high-definition content.

This disc-based media also has the advantage of content ownership. As Parsons rightly observes, with “streaming services like Netflix or Hulu Plus, content that was there a couple of weeks ago may disappear. That’s when the benefits of ownership are becoming clear over the benefits of streaming, in terms of the quality of the delivery and the availability of content.”

Studios continue to bolster the appeal of Blu-ray Disc movies and television shows by adding value to the discs. You can often get Blu-rays in combo packs with a DVD, a Digital Copy option for use with a digital media player, and UltraViolet support for streaming or downloading via a digital locker.

And while the promise of BD-Live’s options for supplemental connected content never really materialized in a pervasive way, studios are increasingly finding ways to extend the value of Blu-ray—the latest way being by creating a second-screen app that ties into the Blu-ray Disc or movie via either time codes or audio cues. For example, the Sherlock Homes app would provide a map that showed the whereabouts of the detective at any given point in the movie.

Full Story: Blu-ray looks ahead to 4K | PCWorld.

Answer Line: The best way to watch Netflix

If you’re talking about a video sitting on your hard drive, rather than one you’re streaming over the Internet, this shouldn’t be too difficult. You would need Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) software on your computer (Windows Media Player works), and either an HDTV or a device connected to your HDTV that supports DLNA.

But since you mentioned Netflix, I’m assuming you want to stream to the television. You can buy a gadget that will do this, but I wouldn’t recommend it. They tend to be expensive and difficult to set up.

Besides, if the laptop is in the same room as the TV, you don’t need the hassles and expenses of a wireless connection. And if it’s not in the same room, how is that going to work? When the phone rings while you’re watching a movie, are you going to get up, run down the hall to the laptop, press pause, then answer the phone?

So let’s step back and consider what you really want to do: Watch content streaming off Netflix on your HDTV.

Since you have a laptop, there’s no reason why you can’t carry it into the room with the TV. If your laptop has an HDMI port (I’m assuming the TV has one), it’s an easy connection. If not, see The HDTV Has HDMI, but the PC Does Not.

Of course the laptop will have to be near the TV, not on your lap, making starting and pausing clumsy (although not as clumsy as if it was in another room). The solution? Buy a wireless mouse and use that to control the laptop from across the room.

Another option: Buy a device that connects your TV to the Internet and streams Netflix (and other services you like). You have plenty of options:

For $50, you can buy a Roku, which is basically a streaming machine. Or, for twice that, you can buy a Blu-ray player with streaming capabilities, that can also play Blu-ray discs and DVDs. Many gaming consoles also stream content.

Quite a few HDTVs these days can stream these services by themselves. But I’m guessing you don’t want to spend that much money to solve this problem.

From NCCT: There’s various other ways you can watch Netflix on your T.V.. Several other devices also support Netflix such as: PS3, XBOX, Google TV, Apple TV, NeoTV, Boxee Box.

via Answer Line: The best way to watch Netflix | PCWorld.