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The NYT's OS-Restrictive Video Policies 223

Posted by Zonk
from the could-be-an-oversight dept.
ro1 writes to mention a story on Linux.com about the NYT's confusing video policies. Essentially, if you're running Linux you can only see videos running on the front page of the site; videos elsewhere on the site require Windows or OSX. Roblimo has a video tour of the NYT site to explain the issue in detail. (Linux.com and Slashdot are both owned by OSTG.)
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The NYT's OS-Restrictive Video Policies

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  • Funny! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday August 28, 2006 @02:42AM (#15992462) Homepage Journal
    From the intro to the video:

    by Robin "Roblimo" Miller
    A Linux/.com/OSTG production

    *snort* Production? Using vnc2swf does not make you a producer ;-)

    Seriously tho' - roblimo's correct. It's an utterly absurd situation. A linux user should not have to change their UA string (illegal in some jurisdictions) just to watch videos. Why the hell isn't the NYT checking flash versions rather than OS anyway?

    Nicely done anyway - and using flash a little flash presentation is a good way to get your point across to the non-techies around (I imagine even a senior editor at the NYT could understand the problem after watching that video).
    • illegal in some jurisdictions
      Now _that's_ ridiculous!
      • Re:Funny! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Monday August 28, 2006 @04:33AM (#15992639) Homepage Journal
        Now _that's_ ridiculous!

        Yes. However, I think I should have qualified it. I wrote that due to something in the wget man page [linuxselfhelp.com]:

        Identify as agent-string to the HTTP server. The HTTP protocol allows the clients to identify themselves using a User-Agent header field. This enables distinguishing the WWW software, usually for statistical purposes or for tracing of protocol violations. Wget normally identifies as `Wget/version', version being the current version number of Wget. However, some sites have been known to impose the policy of tailoring the output according to the User-Agent-supplied information. While conceptually this is not such a bad idea, it has been abused by servers denying information to clients other than Mozilla or Microsoft Internet Explorer. This option allows you to change the User-Agent line issued by Wget. Use of this option is discouraged, unless you really know what you are doing. NOTE that Netscape Communications Corp. has claimed that false transmissions of `Mozilla' as the User-Agent are a copyright infringement, which will be prosecuted. DO NOT misrepresent Wget as Mozilla.

        However - that item is not in the current version of wget, so who knows.

        Interesting hoever, that netscape at least at one point in time claimed copyright on "Mozilla" in a UA string.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by 1u3hr (530656)
          NOTE that Netscape Communications Corp. has claimed that false transmissions of `Mozilla' as the User-Agent are a copyright infringement, which will be prosecuted. DO NOT misrepresent Wget as Mozilla.

          That's total bullshit. You can't copyright a single word. (Trademark is another thing; but many browsers say "Mozilla compatible" and that can't be illegal as there is no attempt to say that it actually IS Mozilla.)

      • Re:Funny! (Score:4, Funny)

        by level_headed_midwest (888889) on Monday August 28, 2006 @11:27AM (#15994015)
        Of course it's illegal. It is like putting a fake license plate on your truck when you drive it through the tubes that make up the Internet.
    • by EJB (9167)
      Now that's funny. I've got a browser here from a really big software firm that claims in its UA string that it is actually its primary competitor.

      User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1 .4322)

      So you are saying that they could be prosecuted in some jurisdictions? :-)

      Erwin
    • Re:Funny! (Score:5, Funny)

      by suv4x4 (956391) on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:23AM (#15992709)
      Seriously tho' - roblimo's correct. It's an utterly absurd situation. A linux user should not have to change their UA string (illegal in some jurisdictions) just to watch videos. Why the hell isn't the NYT checking flash versions rather than OS anyway?

      I thought if something ever runs on Linux without additional configuration, compilation and hacketry, the universe would implode from the created paradox.
    • Flash Versions (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cjb-nc (887319)
      Why the hell isn't the NYT checking flash versions rather than OS anyway?
      That would be a very simple way to rule out linux users as well. Just require Flash 8, as many sites are already doing for their video content. Macromedia/Adobe is doing a wonderful job of stacking the deck against linux by simply refusing to develop a version 8 (or 9) flash player for the platform.
  • A big, fat, so what. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @02:46AM (#15992471)
    Well considering slashdot's attitude towards NYT concerning their registration policy.* Why should we concern ourselves with their video policies?

    *BugMeNot for example.
  • Karma Whoring (Score:4, Informative)

    by Aqws (932918) on Monday August 28, 2006 @02:57AM (#15992492) Journal
    For everyone using firefox, here's a nice little extension [mozilla.org] to get past this stuff. You can also set it as a googlebot and get all their articles for free.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Aqws (932918)
      Ok, nevermind, RTFA, the parent is incorrect
    • PrefBar [mozdev.org] has one too, but I think its UA list is outdated. Does anyone have a full list of UA so I can change my list?
    • by Ilgaz (86384)
      If all users of that nice little extension contacted those sites and asked "Are you Microsoft corp. or NY Times Corp.?Why you alienate my OS of choice?" politely, there wouldn't be need for such extension.

      If you use that extension, clueless webmaster wins! :)
      • Absolutely. I work for a large media company (not NYT large, but large nonetheless), and if even a few dozen people emailed our webmaster (or editor, or even a reporter who cares) to say they'd love to be able to view video on our site, but can't due to technological limitations, the problem would get fixed very quickly.

        Just about all companies exist to make money. For whatever reason the NYT (and many others) have left out non MS users here. But a few friendly emails and calls can often get that issue reso
  • ...contains scripts that take advantage of unpatched exploits in Windows and Mac OS X that would send to NYT copies of all the gossips you send thru the internet. So far, there is little progress on the native Linux version. If you're an avid programmer of FOSS and would like to know what gossips you're girlfrie... errr I mean your CEO are spreading about you contact as at careers@nyt.com
  • ahem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Monday August 28, 2006 @03:07AM (#15992511)
    I'm 'Needless Paranioa' and I aprove of this message.

    I'm sorry, but what? All I can see is that their current online video authoring package isn't very good, and they don't want to have people who's OS doesn't support it thinking that there's a bug with their site.

    Ok, it's not a good plan to not have it working in linux, but lets be honest, how many of the people working at nyt have anything but windows at their desk? I'm guessing none, with possibly a few macs about the place.
    For that matter, how many users will be on linux? Not many I'll wager. Sad, but almost certainly true. Therefore this problem will effect only a very small minority of their readers.

    The chances are that most people here use linux (me included). However, we are still in the minority, and we don't have persuasive reps loaded with free pens going round selling authoring packages and other web software to newspapers.
    While that's the case, linux will get the short straw.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by babbling (952366)
      First of all, since when is discrimination okay as long as you are only discriminating against a minority?

      Secondly, Linux is Free Software. Not just the operating system core, but graphics applications, an office suite, and so on. Don't underestimate the ability of Free Software to spread once people start to find out about it. See Firefox as an example. I predict that Ubuntu is about to become "cool" and take off in the same way Firefox did. It will happen sooner or later.
      • by giorgiofr (887762)
        Since it's their own frigging website and they can whatever they feel like doing with it, including restricting access to those who know the answers to the Three Secret Questions or those who wear purple underwear. It's not oike you have some intrinsic "right" to access their content.
        Don't like it? Make your own and set your own restrictions.
        • by babbling (952366)
          I don't think this is as clear cut as you would like people to believe it is. This is called discrimination. Unlike most forms of discrimination, they are not discriminating against people based on their racial background or religion, but we need to ask ourselves whether or not that matters.

          The New York Times does get to decide what goes on their site, but should they be allowed to purposely discriminate against users based on what software they use? I'm not convinced that they should be allowed to.
          • by giorgiofr (887762)
            Whereas I'm convinced that their website is their property and you have no right and no reason, really, to force them to follow your diktat. Please remember that their freedom to discriminate against you is the same freedom YOU have to keep people you don't like out of your home. Freedom goes both ways and that's a good thing.
            Frankly with all the antidiscrimination laws being passed right and left (at least in my country), I am worried that soon there will be special "marriage quotas" or something similar,
            • by babbling (952366)
              I also am not a fan of laws that cause certain groups to receive special treatment.

              In this case, I'm suggesting that the NY Times has a moral responsibility to treat everyone THE SAME way, though! You're confusing two separate issues.
              • by giorgiofr (887762)
                My bad! If you're talking about moral responsibility, seeing as they are a news source and enjoy a large market share, I agree they should at least make some gesture of good will towards Linux users. Anyways in this particular case I suspect the discrimination is caused by technical deficiency rather that malice. It's like those idiot sites that check some UA string or installers that look for your Windows signature (if you know what I mean), instead of trying to use the functionality and see if it works or
                • by babbling (952366)
                  I agree that this is probably due to technical deficiency. I think a lot of discrimination is quite possibly due to people not realising that they are discriminating. For example, someone opening a shop might get a nice step put in from the street, without realising that this makes their shop inaccessible to people in wheelchairs.

                  Whatever the reasons, this is discrimination. Their intent does matter, but the results of their actions matter more. The discrimination should be pointed out to them, and they sho
        • by richlv (778496)
          soooo....
          could they discriminate against black people ? against white poeple ?
          against homosexuals ? against lesbians ?
          against christians ? against muslims ?

          it's their site, right ? for a taxi driver, it's his taxi. for a restourant owner it's his restoran. and so on.
          • by giorgiofr (887762)
            Of course, it's their property. I guess you would have no problems simply allowing anyone and everyone to enter your house, right? That would be discrimination, I suppose.
            As a matter of fact, a restaurant owner can (and soetimes will) throw out obnoxious patrons or refuse access to street bums. Do you have a problem letting people do what they like with their own property?
            • by richlv (778496)
              first, don't mix up private property with publicly accessible areas. there is a distinction in laws )at least in most countries :) ).

              second, throwing out somebody from a restaurant usually is based on behaviour. i'd like to see you throwing out people based on their skin colour or religious beliefs. or try throwing out disabled people. as, you know, it's your property.
              • by giorgiofr (887762)
                Hey I never said that they are allowed by the law to do it... Just one more example of a stupid law. Besides... In my country discos and pubs most always have a different status than eg restaurants, they have the "club" status which means they can keep you out for any reason or no reason. Precisely because it's their property. If they are kind enough to let you in, you can enter... and give them lots of money for the dubious privilege :)
                Anyways, I would probably not discriminate against people based on the
        • by aussie_a (778472)
          I agree. And another thing, bus companies should be allowed to say where people sit on their bus. And if a bus company wants the black people sitting at the black while the clean people sit at the front, well it's their bus so it's their god given right to do what they want. Damn them liberals for making bus companies allow blacks to sit wherever they want in buses. All those liberals should be burnt at the stake.
          • by giorgiofr (887762)
            See, if it's my car, *you* are certainly not getting on it. I mean, *you specifically* because I don't like you. How about you buy your own?
            BTW stake burning is so demodé... I like a clean, quick kill, preferably involving the usage of snipers.
      • by jb.hl.com (782137)
        I predict that Ubuntu is about to become "cool" and take off in the same way Firefox did. It will happen sooner or later.

        Firefox is a web browser, which requires minimal upheaval to change on a normal person's system. You run the installer, you can import your bookmarks and history over with another click. Done.

        Ubuntu is a whole operating system, which requires backing up data, repartitioning data and various other tasks which the average home user would have a ridiculously hard time doing. Not gonna happen
    • All I can see is that their current online video authoring package isn't very good

      From TFA..and yes, even from TFS, videos on the NYT's site's front page work just fine under GNU/Linux/Firefox/Macromedia Flashplayer Plugin. If they have a current online video authoring package that is good enough to produce videos for all on the front page, why not use it on the rest of the site?

      Ok, it's not a good plan to not have it working in linux, but lets be honest, how many of the people working at nyt have anyth

    • by pesc (147035)
      All I can see is that their current online video authoring package isn't very good, and they don't want to have people who's OS doesn't support it thinking that there's a bug with their site.

      By not supporting standards and by intentionally crippling operating systems that can deal with their site, I'm fully convinced there is a bug with their site. Can't they just stop putting energy into doing this crap?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rucs_hack (784150)
        I strongly suspect that stupidity is the main reason for this problem, not a deliberate plan.
    • I'm sorry, but what? All I can see is that their current online video authoring package isn't very good, and they don't want to have people who's OS doesn't support it thinking that there's a bug with their site.

      Did you even watch the video? The whole point of it is that the video player does work on Linux, since the videos on the NYT front page work. There are no technical reasons why the videos are not displayed to Linux users, only (one has to assume) political.

      • by rucs_hack (784150)
        I did watch the video, yes. And beforeI'd had my second cup of coffee, a major acheivement.

        It will be their package of web services/application that has that message. I imagine that it isn't certain to work on linux, so they just said it won't ever. Then they won't (or rather hope they won't) have problems when it doesn't work.

        They have a subscriber service too. So if the subscribers didn't get such a warning, they might get all legal if stuff doesn't work.

        America is the land of improbable warnings after al
    • by Ilgaz (86384)
      MS Media division works very aggressively with cheap/free servers on major sites so people will be forced to use windows media clients/plugins and the browser running them best (IE).

      That is how that pathetic format without multi layered files, auto speed negotiation etc. is still relevant to people.

      OS X people are somehow forced to use a third party plugin these days, Flip4Mac WMV. While it is coded much better than that carbon monster having Tiger issues and PPC only (wmedia player for mac) you can't expec
      • as an avid bbc website user I rather like realmedia. All their content (well, almost all), is in the realmedia format. I think there are a few options for wmv, and they do have mp3 podcasts/downlaods

        Realmedia works in linux and windows, with no problems at all. I don't get the hatred of it at all.

        Ok, there was a time when Real were awful, and their programs were intrusive and horrible. I bought realjukebox once, which I rather liked, and that freed me from advert land, but they renaged on their contract/cha
  • by jkrise (535370) on Monday August 28, 2006 @03:17AM (#15992524) Journal
    Apparently this is NYT's way of saying that if you're smart enough to be using Linux, and diligent enough to go beyond the front page, then New York Times isn't meant for you! It could be their strategy to cater to only the dumber sections of the poulace, perhaps?
    • by b1t r0t (216468)

      Apparently this is NYT's way of saying that if you're smart enough to be using Linux, and diligent enough to go beyond the front page, then New York Times isn't meant for you! It could be their strategy to cater to only the dumber sections of the poulace, perhaps?

      Hell, I'm surprised to hear that they even have video content. They are a newspaper, after all.

      And I don't care because I don't want to waste my time with video news content even where I expect it, like cnn.com.

  • by corychristison (951993) on Monday August 28, 2006 @03:19AM (#15992529)
    As a web developer I'd like to say that it would take more effort to restrict browsers/operating systems than to accomodate for them.

    Seems as though they have their priorities a little backwards.
    Stupid f**king people these days.
    • Indeed, the amount of time that has been spent making pages around the web that detect your browser or flash version using assumptions about old oooold versions and then blocking you from the actual content is time wasted. in 99% of cases (everything but activex) the protected areas will work without any problem in recent versions of firefox/flash player. It gets tiring having to look in the source to figure out where you are supposed to go to get to content that has been needlessly locked out from you.
  • by andymadigan (792996) <amadigan AT gmail DOT com> on Monday August 28, 2006 @03:55AM (#15992594)
    I just set my User Agent in Firefox 1.5.0.5/Ubuntu Linux 6.06 to Opera 8.0/Win 2000, after whitelisting the site with flashblock, the video played perfectly in the Videos section, and I wasn't shooed away by any browser detection.
    • Linux Desktop Share Drops Dramatically to 0%

      The latest Internet Operating System Usage survey revealed yesterday was not without surprise: the Linux Operating System, a free project maintained by a community of volunteers around the world, saw its usage percentage drop from 1.5% to a stunning 0.0%. This is a unexpected turn-around for the open-source community and a severe blow to what was previously considered an increasingly popular product.

      The survey also showed an increase in popularity of the Opera bro


    • If you don't like their policy, don't work around it. Let them know their policy stinks and should be corrected.

      I personally hate the NYTimes. I don't want to register and log in to see a new web page, so I don't go there. They don't get my eyeballs for their ads, and google news almost always has the same story somewhere else.

      They have a ton of email addresses listed at:
      http://nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/infoservd irectory.html [nytimes.com]

      Some include:
      publisher@nytimes.com
      managing-editor@nytime
  • But I'm not sure what's more annoying. How NYT cut out Linux users, or that video Linux.com shot which basically went as:

    we can see videos on the front page blah blah blah blah blah
    now we go in the video section *rants*
    now we go to the front page: we can watch videos blah blah blah
    now we go in the video section *rants*
    but we go on the front page: we can watch videos blah blah blah
    now we go in the columnist's video section *rants* ... ...

    repeat for more fun.

    or you could've just took that smug toned video of
  • It is very aggravating to try to watch some flash video and only see parts of it because whomever created it did so using Flash player 8 or 9. Flash player 8 has been out for at least a year now, and Flash 9 has subsequently been released for windows and osx. Why no new Linux Flash player?

    Now, after visiting this site with and without the "Switch User Agent" and being blocked when it was set to Firefox and allowed when set to IE6, I too can see that there seems to be no technical reason for blocking Linux

    • "IMHO, if a company is going to be the only choice for some product or service, they really need to support everybody. The argument that "we don't have a linux/unix guy shouldn't fly. They are a service in which the consumer cannot chose an alternative, which means that they are rakin' in the cash, they should be able to scrounge up $50K/yr to get a linux guy if they don't already have one."

      On the other hand, "they are a service", not a right. They can configure and handle their site as they see fit. If t
      • by omega9 (138280)
        Walmart used to have this nasty tactic of moving into town, forcing all the local pharmacies to close shop, then refuse to sell birth control because it just wasn't something they do. Their excuse was that people could always go somewhere else (they weren't taking away their right to birth control), but in many cases that meant driving a couple hours out of town. I don't think they're quite like that anymore though.

        I agree with the parent, that, while it's obviously rediculous to compare Walmart+birth contr
        • FUD.

          Walmart doesn't sell the after morning pill, Preven. They do sell normal pre conception birth control pills.

          Don't know about you, but my HMO (HealthNet) lets you order Rx though the mail, often giving you 3 refills for the cost of 2 and ship it for free. Most of these sites give the same discount if you don't have perscription coverage.

          They are currently selling it in any state with a law saying they have to and do not sue for relief from those laws. Illinios and Mass have such laws.
  • by linebackn (131821) on Monday August 28, 2006 @06:52AM (#15992850)
    The question in TFA is why do they do this?


    The answer is: They are assholes, idiots, lazy, in bed with Microsoft, or some combination thereof.
    Personally I get left out of video sites all the time because I choose to use an older version of Windows (because I can). These sites will kindly tell me that they only "support" running on a PC with Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Yet sites like Google Video work perfectly for me.


    What really blows my mind are old sites that check your UA to make sure you are running "Netscape", although spoofing the UA in Firefox usually lets it work fine.


    I follow the Firefox bad site reporter data at http://reporter.mozilla.org/app/ [mozilla.org] and it boggles my mind how many sites are like this.

  • by smchris (464899) on Monday August 28, 2006 @09:05AM (#15993214)
    It is probably the same mentality at the NYT that many streamers have. The NYT has its free stuff and it has it subscription stuff. I suspect they think they are being shrewd by only allowing open media on the "free" front page.

    But is it shrewd? A radio station wouldn't make it _hard_ to tune in their broadcast because that would be counterproductive to the value of their station for ad revenue, right?

    Yet internet streamers often act like every copyrighted word from their announcers is archive gold to be sold and resold for decades and they would be insane to allow access to a program like mplayer where the savvy user knows how to save their invaluable content. Well, I've got a shock for them. What they often stream is no more valuable than what is being broadcast on the radio or TV and people are no more likely to save every byte than people are to tape radio or TV all day. And, sadly, it may be that if ad revenue can't pay for stream, perhaps stream isn't a useful medium?

    Now that I've got my MythTV setup running and MythStream compiled in, I can see that proprietary embedded streaming isn't going to cut it for me. EVEN IF they accommodate something like linux RealPlayer, in the living room I'm going to be listening to stations where I can add a static URL to my MythStream page and click on it with a remote.
  • If there is a subscription option for the NYT site, then it makes sense that there would be some minimal system requirements. I would think that they do this so as to avoid having to refund money when people can't play video or see content. So now they do a short circuit and decide for you that the video won't play. In some weird way, it is understandable.

    That said, does it make sense that they do the check in one place but not the other? I mean, why do what a lot of other people do and certify against a
  • Lee DeForest and William Shockley, aren't my favorite guys.

    Lee DeForest created the triode, for which he deserves credit. However as an inventor, he was a fiddler and a bit of a hack. His strength was in using the patent system and legal system to crush his competitors.

    DeForest filed a patent that infringed on Armstrong's superheterodyne receiver patent, which made high quality long distance audio transmission possible. The courts, unable to understand the engineering involved, were unable to render a def

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