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Media

Netflix Keeping Bandwidth Usage Low By Encoding Its Video With VP9 and H.264/AVC Codecs (slashgear.com) 75

Netflix announced last week that it is getting offline video downloads support. The company has since shared that it is using VP9 video compression codec to ensure that the file sizes don't weigh a lot. An anonymous reader shares an article on Slashgear (edited): For streaming content, Netflix largely relies on H.264/AVC to reduce the bandwidth, but for downloading content, it uses VP9 encoding. VP9 can allow better quality videos for the same amount of data needed to download. The challenge is that VP9 isn't supported by all streaming providers -- it is supported on Android devices and via the Chrome browser. So to get around that lack of support on iOS, Netflix is offering downloads in H.264/AVC High whereas streams are encoded in H.264/AVC Main on such devices. Netflix chooses the optimal encoding format for each title on its service after finding, for instance, that animated films are easier to encode than live-action. Netflix says that H.264 High encoding saves 19% bandwidth compared to other encoding standards while VP9 saves 36%.
Chrome

Chrome 55 Now Blocks Flash, Uses HTML5 By Default (bleepingcomputer.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: Chrome 55, released earlier this week, now blocks all Adobe Flash content by default, according to a plan set in motion by Google engineers earlier this year... While some of the initial implementation details of the "HTML5 By Default" plan changed since then, Flash has been phased out in favor of HTML5 as the primary technology for playing multimedia content in Chrome.

Google's plan is to turn off Flash and use HTML5 for all sites. Where HTML5 isn't supported, Chrome will prompt users and ask them if they want to run Flash to view multimedia content. The user's option would be remembered for subsequent visits, but there's also an option in the browser's settings section, under Settings > Content Settings > Flash > Manage Exceptions, where users can add the websites they want to allow Flash to run by default.

Exceptions will also be made automatically for your more frequently-visited sites -- which, for many users, will include YouTube. And Chrome will continue to ship with Flash -- as well as an option to re-enable Flash on all sites.
Mozilla

Mozilla Puts New Money To Use Fighting For 'Internet Health' (cnet.com) 110

Stephen Shankland, writing for CNET: Mozilla is marshaling public support for political positions, like backing net neutrality, defending encryption and keeping government surveillance from getting out of hand, says Denelle Dixon-Thayer, Mozilla's chief legal and business officer. The organization is funding the efforts with revenue from Firefox searches, which has jumped since 2014 when it switched from a global deal with Google to a set of regional deals. Mozilla brought in $421 million in revenue last year largely through partnerships with Yahoo in the US, Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China, according to tax documents released alongside Mozilla's 2015 annual report on Thursday. Pushing policy work brings new challenges well beyond traditional Mozilla work competing against Google's Chrome browser and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. They include squaring off against the incoming administration of Donald Trump.
Chrome

Windows 10 Informs Chrome and Firefox Users That Edge is 'Safer' (venturebeat.com) 123

An anonymous reader shares a VentureBeat report:Microsoft has turned on a new set of Windows Tips that inform Chrome and Firefox users on Windows 10 that Edge is a "safer" browser. We reached out to Microsoft to find out how long this latest recommendation has been active. "This wave of Windows Tips for Windows 10 users began in early November," a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat. If this sounds familiar, that's because Microsoft turned on similar Windows 10 tips back in July, warning Chrome/Firefox users about battery drain and then recommending Edge instead.
Chrome

New Chrome Extension Automatically Negotiates With Comcast For Rate Discounts (fiercecable.com) 62

A technology company called Trim aims to take away the stress and displeasure associated with talking to Comcast service representatives. They have created a bot via a Google Chrome extension that negotiates with Comcast reps over the internet, seeking discounts for various services offered by the cable giant. FierceCable reports: Trim is marketing the tool in this somewhat hilarious YouTube video, which shows the subscriber, "Brian Roberts," typing his Comcast customer information (name, phone number, email, etc.) into the application. The bot takes it from there, initiating chat with a Comcast "analyst" named "Sukhwinder."

"Hi. I'm trying to lower my bill," the bot says. "I don't want to upgrade anything or change my plan at all. I just want to get the best possible rate for my area. Can you help?" As the video shows, users can engage in one of four classic video games as the chat slowly runs its course. (The Trim developers in the video choose Pong.) The bot has two settings: "autopilot," which lets you sit back and watch it negotiate for you; and manual, which lets you step in.

Chrome

Scammers Bite Chrome Users With Forgotten 2014 Bug (betanews.com) 35

"Tech support scammers have started exploiting a two-year-old bug in Google Chrome to trick victims into believing their PC is infected with malware," reports security researcher Sophos. It begins by freezing the browser, BrianFagioli reports, sharing an article from Beta News: These bad guys pose as Microsoft tech support and display an in-browser message that says the user's computer is infected with "Virus Trojan.worm! 055BCCAC9FEC". To make matters worse, Google has apparently known about the exploit for more than two years and simply failed to patch it. "The bug was discovered in Chrome 35 in July 2014 in the history.pushState() HTML5 function, a way of adding web pages into the session history without actually loading the page in question. The developer who reported the issue published code showing how to add so many items into Chrome's history list that the browser would effectively freeze", says Sophos...

"Users can either close Chrome using the Task Manager or, in cases where the browser is using up so much processor power that Task Manager doesn't appear, by rebooting the computer. The chances of encountering this particular scam are small -- it's only been spotted on a single website -- but its existence underlines how small bugs that don't seem terribly important may nevertheless be abused by cybercriminals down the line."

Cellphones

Browser Use On Mobile Devices Exceeds PC Browsing Worldwide: StatCounter (cnet.com) 34

Google is only expected to push the mobile web further now that there are 2 billion active Chrome installs. At the Chrome Dev Summit, Google's vice president of Chrome engineering and the conference's opening speaker said, "We have over 2 billion Chrome instances that are active," which makes Chrome a platform with immense power. The company is expected to reveal how the platform's unbeatable reach earns Chrome and browsers in general a place on the big stage. CNET reports: That power is essential to making Google's vision a reality. If it succeeds, that browser icon might be the one you reach for on your home screen a lot more often. Success on that front also could help restore the fortunes of the web, the closest the computing industry has come to freeing us from software that works only on one device or another, like a Windows laptop but not an iPhone. In an era when tech giants wield tremendous power, the web levels the playing field and makes it easier for new competitors to join the game. It's no wonder Google is pushing the mobile web. This month, browser usage on tablets and phones for the first time surpassed usage on PCs, analytics firm StatCounter said. In October, global mobile and tablet browsing accounted for 51.3% compared to the desktop's 48.7%. However, in other parts of the world the desktop is still king. For example, in the UK the desktop accounts for 55.6% of browsing, 58% in the U.S. and 55.1% in Australia. StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen said: "This should be a wake up call especially for small businesses, sole traders and professionals to make sure that their websites are mobile friendly. Many older websites are not. Mobile compatibility is increasingly important not just because of growing traffic but because Google favors mobile-friendly websites for its mobile search results."
Chrome

Google Says There Are Now 2 Billion Active Chrome Installs (techcrunch.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Google is hosting its Chrome Dev Summit today. There hasn't been a lot of news out of the event, but one number that stood out in today's keynote by Chrome Engineering VP Darin Fisher was that there are now 2 billion Chrome installs in active use across desktop and mobile. This is the first time Google has shared this number. Sadly, Google didn't announce any new user numbers for Chrome today. The latest stat for active Chrome users remains at 1 billion -- a number Google shared in April. While this number is surely higher today than it was six months ago, the company decided to focus on the number of active browser install today. "I wanted to make this point that there are a lot of Chrome browsers out there," Fisher said. "What's exciting about this to you all is that when you think about building for the web, there' a lot of browsers out there that implement the latest web standards -- that implement the latest and greatest web features." The report also notes that Google has a total of seven products with more than a billion users: Gmail, Android, Chrome, Maps, Search, YouTube and Google Play Store.
Portables (Apple)

New MacBook Pro Has Already Outsold All Other Laptops This Year (macrumors.com) 209

New submitter TheFakeTimCook writes: An article on MacRumors has revealed that Apple's latest MacBook Pro has already outsold all competing laptops this year, according to new data shared by research firm Slice Intelligence: "Slice Intelligence says the new MacBook Pro accumulated more revenue from online orders during its first five days of availability than the Microsoft Surface Book, ASUS Chromebook Flip, Dell Inspiron 2-in-1, and Lenovo Yoga 900, based on e-receipt data from 12,979 online shoppers in the United States. The new MacBook Pro generated over seven times the revenue that the 12-inch MacBook did over its first five days of availability, according to Slice Intelligence. If accurate, that means it took the new MacBook Pro just five days to accumulate 78% of all the revenue generated by the 12-inch MacBook since its April 2015 launch. The data follows Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller's claim the new MacBook Pro had received more online orders than any previous MacBook Pro as of November 2. Apple has also reportedly told its overseas manufacturers to expect strong MacBook Pro shipments to last until at least the end of 2016. Slice Intelligence extracts detailed information from hundreds of millions of aggregated and anonymized e-receipts."
News

CBC Threatens Podcast App Makers, Argues that RSS Readers Violate Copyright (boingboing.net) 114

Cory Doctorow, writing for BoingBoing (condensed):The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) publishes several excellent podcasts, and like every podcast in the world, these podcasts are available via any podcast app in the same way that all web pages can be fetched with all web browsers -- this being the entire point of podcasts. In a move of breathtaking, lawless ignorance, the CBC has begun to send legal threats to podcast app-makers, arguing that making an app that pulls down public RSS feeds is a "commercial use" and a violation of the public broadcaster's copyrights. This is a revival of an old, dark era in the web's history, when linking policies prevailed, through which publishes argued that they had the right to control who could make a link to their sites -- that is, who could state the public, true fact that "a page exists at this address." But the CBC is going one worse here: their argument is that making a tool that allows someone to load a public URL without permission is violating copyright law -- it's the same thing as saying, "Because Google is a for-profit corporation, any time a Chrome user loads a CBC page in the Chrome browser without the CBC's permission, Google is violating CBC's copyright."We hope it was all an accidental mistake from the CBC, because it seems like a very stupid thing to do otherwise.
Social Networks

Ask Slashdot: Should Web Browsers Have 'Fact Checking' Capability Built-In? 240

Reader dryriver writes: There is no shortage of internet websites these days that peddle "information", "knowledge", "analysis", "explanations" or even supposed "facts" that don't hold up to even the most basic scrutiny -- one quick trip over to Wikipedia, Snopes, an academic journal or another reasonably factual/unbiased source, and you realize that you've just been fed a triple dose of factually inaccurate horsecrap masquerading as "fact". Unfortunately, many millions of more naive internet users appear to frequent sites daily that very blatantly peddle "untruths", "pseudo-facts" or even "agitprop-like disinformation", the latter sometimes paid for by someone somewhere. No small number of these more gullible internet users then wind up believing just about everything they read or watch on these sites, and in some cases cause other gullible people in the offline world to believe in them too. Now here is an interesting idea: What if your internet browser -- whether Edge, Firefox, Chrome, Opera or other -- was able provide an "information accuracy rating" of some sort when you visit a certain URL. Perhaps something like "11,992 internet users give this website a factual accuracy rating of 3.7/10. This may mean that the website you are visiting is prone to presenting information that may not be factually accurate." You could also take this 2 steps further. You could have a small army of "certified fact checkers" -- people with scientific credentials, positions in academia or similar -- provide a rolling "expert rating" on the very worst of these websites, displayed as "warning scores" by the web browser. Or you could have a keyword analysis algorithm/AI/web crawler go through the webpage you are looking at, try to cross-reference the information presented to you against a selection of "more trusted sources" in the background, and warn you if information presented on a webpage as "fact" simply does not check out. Is this a good idea? Could it be made to work technically? Might a browser feature like this make the internet as a whole a "more factually accurate place" to get information from?That's a remarkable idea. It appears to me that many companies are working on it -- albeit not fast enough, many can say. Google, for instance, recently began adding "Fact check" to some stories in search results. I am not sure how every participating player in this game could implement this in their respective web browsers though. Then there is this fundamental issue: the ability to quickly check whether or not something is indeed accurate. There's too much noise out there, and many publications and blogs report on things (upcoming products, for instance) before things are official. How do you verify such stories? If the NYTimes says, for instance, Apple is not going to launch any iPhone next year, and every website cites NYTimes and republishes it, how do you fact check that? And at last, a lot of fake stories circulate on Facebook. You may think it's a problem. Obama may think it's a problem, but does Facebook see it as a problem? For all it care, those stories are still generating engagement on its site.
Opera

Web of Trust, Downloaded 140M Times, Pulled From Extension Stores After Revelations That It Sells Users' Data (theregister.co.uk) 115

According to multiple reports, Web of Trust, one of the top privacy and security extensions for web browsers with over 140 million downloads, collects and sells some of the data of its users -- and it does without properly anonymizing it. Upon learning about this, Mozilla, Google and Opera quickly pulled the extension off their respective extension stores. From a report on The Register: A browser extension which was found to be harvesting users' browsing histories and selling them to third parties has had its availability pulled from a number of web browsers' add-on repositories. Last week, an investigative report by journalists at the Hamburg-based German television broadcaster, Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), revealed that Web of Trust Services (WoT) had been harvesting netizens' web browsing histories through its browser add-on and then selling them to third parties. While WoT claimed it anonymised the data that it sold, the journalists were able to identify more than 50 users from the sample data it acquired from an intermediary. NDR quoted the data protection commissioner of Hamburg, Johannes Caspar, criticising WoT for not adequately establishing whether users consented to the tracking and selling of their browsing data. Those consent issues have resulted in the browser add-on being pulled from the add-on repositories of both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, although those who have already installed the extension in their browsers will need to manually uninstall it to stop their browsing being tracked.
Chrome

Chrome Now Accounts For 55% of All Web Browsing (hothardware.com) 113

Google's Chrome browser "now accounts for more than half of all desktop browser usage and has nearly double the market share of Edge and Internet Explorer combined," reports Hot Hardware: Market research firm Net Applications has Chrome sitting pretty with a 54.99% share of the desktop browser market, up from 31.12% at this moment a year ago, while Internet Explorer and Edge combine for 28.39 percent and Firefox stuck at around 11%. Even more interesting is that when Windows 10 launched to the public at the end of July 2015, Chrome had a 27.82% share of the market while IE still dominated the landscape with a 54% share. Now the script has flipped.
Just six months ago, the same research firm reported Chrome with a 41.66%, share barely beating Microsoft's 41.35%.
Chrome

More Than 50 Percent of All Pages In Chrome Are Loaded Over HTTPS Now (onthewire.io) 136

Reader Trailrunner7 writes: After years of encouraging site owners to transition to HTTPS by default, Google officials say that the effort has begun to pay off. The company's data now shows that more than half of all pages loaded by Chrome on desktop platforms are served over HTTPS. Google has been among the louder advocates for the increased use of encryption across the web in the last few years. The company has made significant changes to its own infrastructure, encrypting the links between its data center, and also has made HTTPS the default connection option on many of its main services, including Gmail and search. And Google also has been encouraging owners of sites of all shapes and sizes to move to secure connections to protect their users from eavesdropping and data theft. That effort has begun to bear fruit in a big way. New data released by Google shows that at the end of October, 68 percent of pages loaded by the Chrome browser on Chrome OS machines were over HTTPS. That's a significant increase in just the last 10 months. At the end of 2015, just 50 percent of pages loaded by Chrome on Chrome OS were HTTPS. The numbers for the other desktop operating systems are on the rise as well, with macOS at 60 percent, Linux at 54 percent, and Windows at 53 percent.
Chrome

Google Joins Mozilla and Apple In Distrusting WoSign and StartCom Certificates (csoonline.com) 86

itwbennett quotes a report from CSO Online: Following similar decisions by Mozilla and Apple, Google plans to reject new digital certificates issued by certificate authorities WoSign and StartCom because they violated industry rules and best practices. The ban will go into effect in Chrome version 56, which is currently in the dev release channel, and will apply to all certificates issued by the two authorities after October 21. Browsers rely on digital certificates to verify the identity of websites and to establish encrypted connections with them. Certificates issued before October 21 will continue to be trusted as long as they're published to the public Certificate Transparency logs or have been issued to a limited set of domains owned by known WoSign and StartCom customers. "Due to a number of technical limitations and concerns, Google Chrome is unable to trust all pre-existing certificates while ensuring our users are sufficiently protected from further misissuance," said Chrome security team member Andrew Whalley in a blog post Monday. "As a result of these changes, customers of WoSign and StartCom may find their certificates no longer work in Chrome 56. Sites that find themselves on the whitelist will be able to request early removal once they've transitioned to new certificates," Whalley said. "Any attempt by WoSign or StartCom to circumvent these controls will result in immediate and complete removal of trust."
Windows

Google Discloses Exploited Windows Vulnerability 10 Days After Telling Microsoft (venturebeat.com) 101

An anonymous reader writes: Google today shared details about a security flaw in Windows, just 10 days after disclosing it to Microsoft on October 21. To make matters worse, Google says it is aware that this critical Windows vulnerability is being actively exploited in the wild. That means attackers have already written code for this specific security hole and are using it to break into Windows systems.In a blog post, security researchers at Google write, "The Windows vulnerability is a local privilege escalation in the Windows kernel that can be used as a security sandbox escape. It can be triggered via the win32k.sys system call NtSetWindowLongPtr() for the index GWLP_ID on a window handle with GWL_STYLE set to WS_CHILD. Chrome's sandbox blocks win32k.sys system calls using the Win32k lockdown mitigation on Windows 10, which prevents exploitation of this sandbox escape vulnerability."
Portables

Ask Slashdot: What's The Best Cheap Linux-Friendly Netbook? 187

Seems like a good time to revisit this question -- assuming anyone's still using a netbook. Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino writes: I'm looking for a cheap lightweight netbook that is Linux-friendly, i.e. lets me install Linux without any shoddy modern BIOS getting in my way... The Lenovo 100S-11 looks really neat, but I just read about installation problems... Are there any alternatives?

And if there aren't, what experience do you guys have running Linux on a Chromebook using Crouton -- the Linux-parallel-to-Chrome-OS hack? Is it a feasible alternative to dumping ChromeOS and installing a 100% lightweight Linux?

His budget is around $200, and he ends his submission with "Many thanks from a fellow Slashdotter." So leave your suggestions in the comments. What's the best cheap Linux-friendly netbook?
Chrome

Benchmark Battle October 2016: Chrome Vs. Firefox Vs. Edge (venturebeat.com) 137

Krystalo quotes a report from VentureBeat: It's been more than a year since our last browser benchmark battle, and the competition remains fierce. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge have all gained a variety of new features and improvements over the past year. It's time to see if any of them have managed to pull ahead of the pack. It appears that Edge has made the biggest gains since last year. That said, browser performance is improving at a very rapid pace, and it shouldn't be your only consideration when picking your preferred app for consuming Internet content. You can click on individual tests below to see the details:

SunSpider: Edge wins!
Octane: Edge wins!
Kraken: Chrome wins!
JetStream: Edge wins!
Oort Online: Firefox wins!
Peacekeeper: Firefox wins!
WebXPRT: Edge wins!
HTML5Test: Chrome wins!

You can also read all about the setup used for the benchmark tests here. VentureBeat used a custom desktop PC, featuring an Intel Core i5 4440 processor (6M Cache, 3.10 GHz), 8GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, a 500GB SATA hard drive (7200 RPM), an Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics card, and a 24-inch widescreen LED monitor (1920 x 1080).
Chrome

Chrome For Android Gets Its Own Canary Channel (betanews.com) 22

Google is bringing bleeding-edge Canary channel for Chrome to Android. Through Canary channel, the company introduces early versions of Chrome upgrades to the early adopter and developers, and seeks feedback. Prior to this, Canary channel was available for the desktop version of Chrome. Alex Mineer, APK Administrator & Bug Basher said, "Just like the Canary channel for other platforms, new versions are built from the most recent code available and often contain a variety of new features, enhancements, and bug fixes. These builds are shipped automatically with no manual testing, which means that the build can be unstable and may even stop working entirely for days at a time. However, the goal is for Canary to remain usable at all times, and the Chrome team prioritizes fixing major issues as quickly as possible."
Encryption

Firefox Users Reach HTTPS Encryption Milestone (techcrunch.com) 63

For the first time ever, secure HTTPS encryption was used for over half the pageloads served to Mozilla users, representing a big milestone for encryption. TechCrunch reports on the telemetry data tweeted by the Head of Let's Encrypt: Mozilla, which is one of the organizations backing Let's Encrypt, was reporting that 40% of page views were encrypted as of December 2015. So it's an impressively speedy rise...

The Let's Encrypt initiative, which exited beta back in April, is doing some of that work by providing sites with free digital certificates to help accelerate the switch to HTTPS. According to [co-founder Josh] Aas, Let's Encrypt added more than a million new active certificates in the past week -- which is also a significant step up. In the initiative's first six months (when still in beta) it only issued around 1.7 million certificates in all.

The "50% HTTPS" figure is just a one-day snapshot, and it's from "only a subset of Firefox users who are running Mozilla's telemetry browser...not default switched on for most Firefox users (only for users of pre-release Firefox builds)." But the biggest caveat is it's only counting Firefox users, which in July represented just 7.7% of web surfers (according to Statista), behind both Chrome (49.5%) and Safari (13.68%) -- but also ahead of Internet Explorer (5.4%) and Opera (5.99%).

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