New Software is Looking to Crack Down on Netflix and Hulu Password Sharing

iStock.com/wutwhanfoto
iStock.com/wutwhanfoto

Not everyone who binge-watches Stranger Things is paying for the privilege. In 2017, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 21 percent of streaming service viewers aged 18 to 24 accessed a service like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go using someone else’s account and password.

Thanks to a combination of technology and an appetite for subscriber growth, you might be forced into a Netflix password reset.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, UK-based technology company Synamedia announced a software program that uses artificial intelligence to track account activity for streaming subscriptions. If login behavior is atypical—for example, an account sign-in at another home with substantially different tastes in content—the account can be flagged for review. The content provider would then have the choice of offering the user an account upgrade allowing for multiple users or disallowing the sharing activity.

Synamedia is banking on the idea that popular streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime might be interested in the technology, though past comments by executives have indicated the opposite—the companies find account sharing, even outside the household, to be an effective form of advertising.

“We love people sharing Netflix,” CEO Reed Hastings said in 2017. “That’s a positive thing, not a negative thing.”

What could change their tune? If new subscriber growth slows down. Industry analysts believe any significant drop in new account sign-ups could prompt investors to urge streaming companies to curtail sharing. That may become more of an issue as more of these content providers crop up, inching closer toward a monthly billing amount that users may compare unfavorably to expensive cable packages. If you pay for three services, you might be more tempted to borrow the password for the fourth.

Netflix has yet to comment on Synamedia’s efforts.

[h/t WTOC]

10 Simple Tricks for Charging Your Smartphone Faster

Makidotvn, iStock via Getty Images
Makidotvn, iStock via Getty Images

Smartphones always seem to reach low power at the least convenient moments possible. If you've ever urged your device to charge faster in the minutes before a phone interview or when you're about to board a plane, you can relate. While the easiest way to avoid this scenario is to plug in your device before the battery dips into the danger zone, if you've already reached this point, there are simple ways to speed up the charging process.

Some hacks for charging a phone faster involve steps you can take in anticipation of the next time you're surviving on minimum energy. Certain gadgets, like special chargers and battery packs, will power-up your device more efficiently than others. For moments when your phone is dying and all you have is your regular charging cable, adjusting your phone's settings to minimize the power it consumes also works in a pinch.

You can find some specific ways to charge your phone quickly below: 

  1. Plug it into a wall outlet instead of a USB port.
  1. Use a portable battery pack.
  1. Buy a special "fast" phone charger.
  1. Switch to low power mode.
  1. Switch to airplane mode.
  1. Let your phone drain completely on its own once a month to the extend the battery life.
  1. Close any background apps.
  1. Stop automatic app updates.
  1. Don't check your phone while it's charging
  1. Keep your phone out of the heat.

For more tricks for making your phone usage more efficient, check out these tips for typing faster.

Does Pushing the Button at a Crosswalk Actually Do Anything?

Pressing this crosswalk button may or may not do something.
Pressing this crosswalk button may or may not do something.
David Tran/iStock via Getty Images

Since crosswalk signals rarely seem to give you the green light (or more accurately, the white, human-shaped light) right after you press the button, you may find yourself wondering if those buttons actually work. The potentially exasperating answer is this: It depends.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that crosswalk buttons aren’t designed to have an immediate effect; they’re just supposed to tell the system that a person is waiting to cross. As CityLab explained, some systems won’t ever give pedestrians the crossing signal unless someone has pressed the button, while others are programmed to shorten the wait time for walkers when the button has been pressed. No matter what, the system still has to cycle through its other phases to give cars enough time to pass through the intersection, so you’ll probably still have to stand there for a moment.

During busy traffic times or under other extenuating circumstances, however, cities can switch the system to what’s known as “recall mode,” when pedestrian crossings are part of the cycle already and pressing the button quite literally changes nothing. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if a particular button is in recall mode, short of calling your city officials and asking an expert to come inspect it.

But if you feel like a button isn’t doing anything, there’s a pretty good chance it’s been permanently deactivated. As congestion has increased and the systems to manage it have become more advanced over the years, cities have moved away from using crosswalk buttons at all. In 2018, for example, CNN reported that only around 100 of New York City’s 1000 buttons were still functioning. Since actually removing the buttons from crosswalks would be a costly endeavor, cities have opted to leave them intact, just waiting to be pummeled by impatient pedestrians who don’t know any better.

What about 'close door' buttons on elevators, you ask? That depends, too.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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