Video game site lets players bet on their skills

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Although you can win or lose real money, BringIt.com is not considered online gambling, and it’s legal in 39 states.

The site, which lets players challenge other gamers for money, says it is different from online poker and other games of chance because video games are considered a game of skill.

BringIt is set to emerge from its “beta” test version in the next few days. It’s free to sign up, provided you are at least 18. The site makes money by taking a 10 percent cut from people’s wagers and a $4 fee from winners when they withdraw their loot.

Founder and CEO Woody Levin, 30, said most of the players on BringIt play for small amounts of money, $5 or $10. It’s not really for “hardcore, crazy gamers,” he said, but rather, people who “want to put their money where their mouth is, a little bit.”

To ensure that first-time players don’t go pawning engagement rings, BringIt limits players’ entry fees to $25 for the first 10 games they play. The limit increases in steps until it reaches $500.

BringIt supports the PlayStation 2, the PS3, the Xbox 360 and the Wii. Players challenge each other on the site, but play on their consoles. BringIt holds players’ entry fees until the game is finished. After the game is done, it verifies the results and credits the winner, minus the service fee.


Barnes & Noble launchs new e-bookstore

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Barnes & Noble Inc. on Monday stepped up its fight in the small but highly competitive market for electronic books with the launch of a new e-bookstore offering titles to be read on a variety of devices.

Barnes & Noble will sell books that shoppers can read on the iPhone, iTouch, BlackBerry and most personal computers, whereas competitors have sold devices designed solely for reading electronic books, such as Amazon.com’s Kindle or Sony Corp.’s Sony Reader.

New York-based Barnes & Noble said it also will be the exclusive provider of books for a reader from Mountain View, Calif.-based Plastic Logic, which expects to release it in 2010. And the company expects to make more devices compatible in the coming months.


Comcast to stream HBO, Cinemax online in trial

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Comcast Corp. said Monday it will be streaming HBO and Cinemax shows, movies and other content online to 5,000 subscriber households in a national trial set to start in coming weeks. It is the first time the two premium movie channels will be offering their programs over the Internet to computers. Downloads to mobile devices may come in the future.

HBO and Cinemax will join TNT, TBS and Starz in Comcast’s online video trial. If the technical test is successful, Comcast will roll out access coast-to-coast to its subscribers at no additional cost.

The trial is part of a joint effort with Time Warner Inc. to offer cable programming on the Internet as viewership increasingly moves outside of the living room. But programmers and pay-TV operators will provide access only behind a walled garden of subscribers.

Unveiled last month, the venture dubbed “TV Everywhere” by Time Warner and “On Demand Online” by Comcast began with TNT and TBS.


Oldest Christian bible made whole again online

Filed under: — Aviran

The surviving parts of the world’s oldest Christian bible will be reunited online on Monday, generating excitement among biblical scholars still striving to unlock its mysteries.

The Codex Sinaiticus was hand written by four scribes in Greek on animal hide, known as vellum, in the mid-fourth century around the time of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great who embraced Christianity.

Not all of it has withstood the ravages of time, but the pages that have include the whole of the New Testament and the earliest surviving copy of the Gospels written at different times after Christ’s death by four of the Apostles: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The bible’s remaining 800 pages and fragments — it was originally some 1400 pages long — also contain half of a copy of the Old Testament. The other half has been lost.

“The Codex Sinaiticus is one of the world’s greatest written treasures,” said Scot McKendrick, head of Western manuscripts at the British Library.

“This 1600-year-old manuscript offers a window into the development of early Christianity and first-hand evidence of how the text of the bible was transmitted from generation to generation,” he said.


AP unveils ‘treasure trove’ of historical footage

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The Associated Press is digitizing and has begun to release a “treasure trove” of historical film footage from the 1960s and ’70s that had been sitting in Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s former World War II headquarters in London.

The archive includes color film recordings of a young Yasser Arafat, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi immediately after taking power, Richard Nixon with Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Fidel Castro meeting Latin American and Eastern European leaders, as well as a young Saddam Hussein in Paris.

“The range and quality of what we’re finding in this lost archive is breathtaking and it’s incredibly exciting to be unearthing new history in this way,” said Alwyn Lindsey, AP’s director of international archives.

The footage had been sitting for decades in the Central London bunker, from which Eisenhower directed the D-Day landings.

Although the films have been well-preserved, the text that accompanied them has been scattered across the United States and the United Kingdom, the AP said. That text catalog was key to identifying the footage held in each of the 20,000 film cans.

AP’s footage business, AP Archive, brought in leading archival researchers to create a coherent online text database from the scattered paper records. The films are being cleaned, restored and transferred onto high-definition videotape for professional producers. They are also being digitized for viewing online.


Virgin Media, Universal to offer unlimited music

Filed under: — Aviran

British cable TV operator Virgin Media is to launch an unlimited music download subscription service through a partnership with the world’s largest music company, Universal.

The music industry has been desperate to boost digital sales in recent years to overcome online piracy, and the agreement comes a day before a British report sets out how the creative and telecoms industries should tackle the problem.

People familiar with the service said it would cost 10-15 pounds ($16.30-$24.50) per month, which could appeal to parents concerned by children accessing illegal sites.

The service, which both sides described as a world first, would allow Virgin Media broadband customers to both listen by streaming and download to keep as many music tracks and albums as they want from Universal’s catalog.

The music will be in the MP3 format, meaning it can be played on the vast majority of music devices, including the iPod and mobile phones.

The service, which would compete with Apple’s iTunes, is set to launch later this year.


Movie studios launch HD streaming service for films

Filed under: — Aviran

Three major movie studios are about to try an interesting experiment. They are launching a new TV network called Epix that will show their own recent films in HD, but they’re going a step beyond by bundling it with an online, on-demand service that offers HD streaming of the same films over the Internet. Think of it like Hulu for movies that aren’t yet out on DVD. Oh—and did we mention that the service will have no advertising and won’t appear on your cable bill?
A new business model

The music industry was never much good at being a digital retailer—anyone remember MusicNet and Pressplay?—but TV networks and movie studios now seem to think they have learned the lessons of the past.

Like Hulu, the Epix movie service is a joint venture formed by the content owners; in this case, the service is powered by the movie studios Lionsgate, Paramount, and MGM. The Epix TV network will air movies that are in the “pay-TV” window, those weeks before a film appears on DVD in which it is available on pay-per-view or HBO, among others.

That doesn’t sound so new, but Epix will be bundled directly into cable packages; under the current business model, it will never appear as a separate charge on the bill and will never have to be added to a package. If Epix can convince enough cable operators to sign on (it isn’t yet announcing partners), the service will have an immediate competitive advantage over pay-TV channels with an additional monthly fee.

But the best part is that Epix viewers can access the same material online, on demand, at Epixhd.com. Ars spoke with Emil Rensing, chief digital office at Epix, who says that watching films online will be a two-click experience with full support for 720p streaming.


Web site tracks policy changes at popular sites

Filed under: — Aviran

A new Web site unveiled Thursday will track policies imposed by popular Internet sites such as Facebook and Google, hoping to help users spot potentially harmful changes.

TOSBack.org, the brainchild of privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, will track terms of service modifications within hours of an update.

The site will compare old and new policies side by side and highlight changes. With about two dozen sites covered already, TOSBack.org plans to add more agreements, from credit card, bank, cable TV and other companies.

Tim Jones, the EFF’s activism and technology manager, hopes the site will help avoid debacles such as the one faced by Facebook in February.


Pope on Facebook in attempt to woo young believers

Filed under: — Aviran

You won’t get an email saying Pope Benedict added you as a friend and you can’t “poke” him or write on his wall, but the Vatican is still keen to use the networking site Facebook to woo young people back to church.

A new Vatican website, www.pope2you.net, has gone live, offering an application called “The pope meets you on Facebook,” and another allowing the faithful to see the Pope’s speeches and messages on their iPhones or iPods.


Disney launches site selling parks merchandise

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Walt Disney Co on Tuesday launched a new website offering merchandise from its theme parks and resorts as the entertainment group seeks new revenue sources during a slump in business at Disneyland and other parks.

Shoppers can go to www.disneystore.com/ to buy more than 100 top-selling products like customized Mickey Mouse ears or other items that were previously only available at the parks and resorts, the company said.


Startup embeds Web photos with shopping links

Filed under: — Aviran

Inspiration comes in many forms, and in the case of James Everingham, it appeared as a pair of knockoff Christian Dior shoes.

Everingham’s vision ultimately became Pixazza, an online advertising startup that converts photos on Web sites into interactive advertisements.

Mouse over an image, and tiny price tags appear over handbags, dresses and other items. Hover on top of one, and a balloon pops up with images and links to similar items you can buy online. Move your mouse away, and the balloon disappears.

Even Google Inc. is interested: The online advertising and search leader, through its new venture-capital fund, is among those that have recently invested a combined $5.8 million in the company.


DirecTV open to subscriber-only online shows

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

DirecTV Group Inc. said Tuesday that it’s open to giving subscribers exclusive online access to television shows such as HBO’s “Entourage” that are normally not available for free over the Internet, agreeing with a growing consortium of cable companies and networks.

Web content should be an extension of a customer’s satellite TV viewing experience, not a competing platform, Chief Executive Chase Carey said at the Deutsche Bank Securities Media and Telecommunications Conference.

The rising popularity of online video should be embraced instead of rejected, he said.

“In the past, when a company tries to stop or block something from happening, it’s usually failed,” Carey said.

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