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YouTube // Techmoan
YouTube // Techmoan

Remember When HD Movies Came on VHS Tapes?

YouTube // Techmoan
YouTube // Techmoan

In the early 2000s, most people in the US didn't have HDTVs, much less a good way to buy high-definition movies. We were lucky to have standard-definition DVDs! In 2002, an oddball format called D-Theater delivered HD video on Super-VHS tapes. This was accomplished in part by playing the tape at high speed, which generated so much heat that a giant fan had to be bolted onto the back of the player. In any case, the quality was (and remains) stunning, given the tech available at the time.

The whole system was encrypted and copy-protected out the wazoo, the player machines were costly, and of course HDTVs were still multi-thousand-dollar items. Oddly, the whole format died years before Blu-ray and HD-DVD debuted—leaving a gap in the HD-movies-at-home business that would mostly be filled by cable TV and DVRs.

Here's a detailed run-down of how the whole thing worked, including demos with movies including GalaxyQuest and I, Robot (the last movie released on the format). Enjoy:

Related: Watch Rare HD Footage of New York City in 1993.

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You Can Finally Mute Users on Instagram
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Since launching as a photo editing and sharing app in 2010, Instagram has grown into the third most popular social media platform behind YouTube and Facebook. That means the list of people you follow likely includes friends you like as well as exes, distant family members, and former high school classmates whose constant updates you could do without. Now BuzzFeed reports that Instagram just made it a lot easier to trim your feed of unwanted content without the user’s knowledge.

To mute someone without unfollowing them altogether, tap the ellipsis to the right of their username next time you see one their posts. Next, select “Mute” from the list of options that pops up. From there you can choose to just mute their regular posts or block their posts and Instagram Stories from showing up on your end. There’s no way for the user to know you muted them (at least not yet), and you can visit their profile to unmute them any time.

Instagram had already made it possible to mute someone’s Stories by tapping and holding their profile icon, but this is the first time users have the option to hide all posts from a person as well. Prior to the update, users either had to put up with obnoxious oversharing or hit the unfollow button and risk their friend (or acquaintance, family member, etc.) noticing their follower count dropped.

Interested in curating your other online feeds? If politics is your biggest social media peeve, here are some ways to see less of it.

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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Voice-Activated Assistants Can Hear Messages Hidden in Songs and Commercials
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The voice-activated assistant boom has inspired fears of tech companies playing Big Brother and eavesdropping on consumers' most intimate conversations. New research reported by The New York Times suggests that a bigger threat may be third parties sending messages to Alexa and Siri that their owners can't hear.

In 2016, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Georgetown University demonstrated that hijacking someone else's smart device to activate airplane mode or open a webpage without their knowledge was as easy as hiding the command in white noise. Some of those same researchers from Berkeley further explored this vulnerability in a new study. They found that voice assistants can hear commands concealed in regular recorded audio. Many voice assistants can be programmed to make online purchases, unlock doors, and make digital payments—all commands that hackers could potentially use for their own gain.

Even with all their privacy concerns, voice-activated assistants continue to gain popularity. Over 20 million homes use devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home to do things like make calls, search the web, and control appliances hands-free. But without the proper security measures in place, features that are convenient in one moment can quickly turn disastrous. One way to protect yourself is by password-protecting sensitive commands like online shopping, or disabling them all together. And remember that connecting your whole life to Alexa, including your accounts, passwords, and contacts, leaves you vulnerable to a single attack.

You can set up every privacy protection imaginable, but in the end there's not much you can do to hide your information from the corporation that owns your home assistant. As long as it's on, it's always listening and recording every noise it hears. Remember to delete your saved recordings on a regular basis. You can also switch off the microphone whenever you want your personal conversations to stay private and to delete your recordings regularly.

[h/t The New York Times]

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