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Sony Pictures side entrance

The Sony Pictures hack and its resulting fallout may have caught many people by surprise, but not the FBI -- it apparently suspected for months that something like this might happen. The Intercept has obtained a December 2013 agency report warning that it was just a matter of time before a US company faced a "data-destruction attack" like the one that hit Sony, where malware deletes enough data to render systems unusable. The alert was meant for "critical infrastructure" organizations (like energy providers) and never reached Sony, but the scenario was apparently very similar to what the company would face a year later. Intercept's tipsters even believe that Sony could have avoided a lot of the resulting damage if it had been aware of the report and heeded its advice on defending against hacks of this nature.

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Alexandra & The Starlight Band Celebrate

Jack White and his Third Man Records imprint aren't the only ones benefiting from the vinyl boom. Oxford, Mississippi-based Fat Possum Records took matters into its own hands, building a pressing plant to meet the demands of its avid collectors. After using other record makers and encountering issues with backorders and the headache of international shipping, founder Matthew Johnson (with a hand from others) bought used equipment and set up shop in Memphis. The plant is modest compared to other more established operations, but with the new setup, the goal is to crank out 13,000 to 14,000 records a day -- plus it'll keep everything in-house. Fat Possum's vinyl releases include LPs from Modest Mouse and Waylon Jennings. If you'll recall, White's Lazaretto is the best-selling vinyl release in two decades, serving as more evidence that the classic format refuses to die.

[Photo credit: David Buchan/Getty Images]


Vizio may not be jumping on the curved TV bandwagon anytime soon, but it does have several TVs on the shelf chasing the Ultra HD/4K trend. Those P-Series displays will get some new tweaks soon, including an Amazon app with support for 4K video from its subscription Prime video service or VOD. Also coming soon are apps for UltraFlix and Toon Goggles, and both have 4K content ready for streaming. Netflix already streams 4K to Vizio's TVs, and other apps available include Plex and Spotify. A better upgrade is the one noted by our friend Robert Heron: When the new firmware rolls out, it will fix a bug that overly sharpened the picture on still photos, Blu-ray movies and even 4K video, while also improving the LED backlighting and motion processing. Owners can look out for the v1.1.13 update in the "coming days," which should go over better than another sweater or pair of socks.

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DirecTV satellite dish

If you subscribe to DirecTV, you're about to get a few more ways to tune in online. As part of a renewed deal with Disney, the satellite TV provider will get Watch ABC, Watch Disney and WatchESPN streaming services in early 2015. You'll also see more viewing features on regular channels, and the two companies will "explore new opportunities" for internet-only offerings. There's no question that DirecTV is a bit late to the party when it comes to embracing Disney's more advanced services, but better late than never, right?

[Image credit: Associated Press]


Girls tapping away on smartphones

Your smartphone is changing more than just your habits -- it's changing the way your hands work, too. Swiss researchers have discovered that activity in the brain's cortex associated with index fingers and thumbs is enhanced directly in proportion to how often you use your phone's touchscreen. That area of your mind will light up if you message your friends all week, but it'll fade the longer you spend away from your device. People with basic cellphones don't see this, according to the scientists. This suggests that repetitive smartphone use is altering your sensory processing, and that your brain is perceiving your digits in a different way. Whether or not that's a good thing is still up in the air, but it shows that you don't have to be in a profession driven by hand dexterity (such as music) to see a shift in how your brain and fingers work together.

[Image credit: Shutterstock / nenetus]


Korg isn't the only instrument company planning to reboot the classic ARP Odyssey synth. Tipping its hand via Facebook, Behringer revealed that it too has a remake of the iconic '70s analog synthesizer in the works. Details are scarce for now, but the post indicates that Behringer may be planning to use three-mode VCF circuitry in order to pack in sounds from the ARP Odyssey MK I, MK II and MK III series with full MIDI control via USB. The company says it can do all of that and keep the price around $500. Korg's "faithful recreation" was scheduled to arrive in September, but that date was pushed to early 2015, so we could see its final product at NAMM near the end of January. There's no word on when Behringer's instrument will ship.


St. Louis Rams v Dallas Cowboys

Ready for some in-your-face(book) football? According to the WSJ, Facebook is now showing NFL news, highlights and fantasy info in US feeds, topped off by clickable Verizon ads. The social network said the new arrangement was a "small video sponsorship test ... to evaluate how people, publishers and marketers respond to co-branded video content on Facebook." Facebook has made a big video push recently by courting YouTube stars, adding counters and launching video ads. NFL clips will no doubt give those efforts some extra prestige and help parry Twitter, which recently scored its own curated content deal with the NFL.

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It's James Franco on a tank

Sure, Sony may be defying hackers' threats by letting independent theaters screen The Interview, but you might not live close enough to watch the flick. What if you want to see it online? You might get that chance. Sources for both CNN and Recode claim that Google has "tentatively agreed" to distribute the movie online in rental form, both through Play Movies and YouTube; Sony would also stream the movie through its own website. There's a possibility that the Google deal will fall apart (this happened with iTunes, apparently), since distributors are reportedly worried that they'll face retaliatory hacks. If an agreement comes together, though, it would represent an important milestone -- it's not often that you see a major studio movie launch both online and in theaters at the same time. We've reached out to Google for details, and we'll let you know if there's anything official.

Update: Yep, it's happening. Sony will make the comedy available through a special page, Google Play, YouTube and Xbox Video starting today at 1PM Eastern. It'll cost $6 to rent, or $15 to own. A PlayStation Network release date, meanwhile, is coming "shortly." We're also gathering tweets from early reactions to the movie right here.

Update 2: And now The Interview has its first international premiere, as Google Canada just announced the movie is available on its outlets there too.

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We didn't expect Disney Research to have one of the more inventive uses of YouTube's crazy frame-rate capabilities, but here we are. The outfit's released its trippy Lucid Dreams of Gabriel short via Google's video wing and, despite it being around four months late, the filmmaking techniques are impressive in their finished form. As a quick refresher, the clip combines novel computational shutters, multiple frame rates within the same shot and high-dynamic range tone mapping to achieve its surreal look. But, in the context of a short film they distract from the story (however hippie-dippy it may be) and make Gabriel seem more like a tech demo than an actual, structured narrative; the tricks do more to call attention to themselves than they do support the action onscreen.

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Pop quiz, hotshot: What do you get when you heat gas above 3 million degrees Celsius? High-energy X-rays, of course -- just the kind that NuSTAR was launched to detect. The space telescope took a break from hunting black holes to snap its first-ever shot of the sun. When that X-ray image (blue and green) is overlaid onto an infrared photo from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (in orange), it shows how X-rays relate to high-temperature solar activity like flares and sunspots. Scientists want to figure out why the sun's corona (outer atmosphere) is 1 million degrees Celsius, while the surface is a mere 6,000 degrees Celsius -- a discrepancy that's like a "flame coming out of an ice cube," according to NASA. Though it might sound risky to point the world's most sensitive high-energy X-ray telescope at the sun, it's actually quite safe -- our star emits plenty of X-rays, but very few of the high-energy type.

[Image credit: NASA/JPL]


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