writes "Giant photos are slowing the Web down. Google has a plan to make your pages load faster.
The search giant has developed a new kind of image format that promises to shrink the size of Web photos and graphic files down by about 35%. That's a big deal, considering that images are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the size of an average website — a figure that grew by more than 30% last year, according to the HTTP Archive.
To boost load times for websites, Google (GOOGL, Tech30) developed a new image format, called WebP. At its I/O developers conference last month, Google announced that it has converted most of YouTube's thumbnail images to WebP, improving the site's load time by 10%. That may not sound like much, but Google says that alone has saved users a cumulative 140,000 hours each day.
Google has also changed the Chrome Web store and Google Play store over to WebP, speeding up load times on those sites by nearly a third. Facebook, Netflix, eBay (EBAY, Tech30) and several other websites have also begun supporting WebP."Link to Original Source
writes "500 Mbps uploads, 500 Mbps downloads are now a reality on FiOS
For existing Verizon FiOS customers (or those that are looking to adopt the service), there’s some good news to report this morning. Verizon has made significant upgrades to its network infrastructure and as a result, data upload speeds will now match existing download speeds. This means that customers on the “lowly” 15 Mbps service will seen a 3x performance in upload speeds (up from 5 Mbps) while those on the range-topping 500 Mbps service will see their speeds boost by 5x (up from 100 Mbps)"Link to Original Source
writes "FOIA request turns up 9 years of records, including plaintext credit card numbers
In May 2014, Cyrus Farivar reported on his efforts to learn what the feds know about me whenever I enter and exit the country. In particular, he wanted my Passenger Name Records (PNR), data created by airlines, hotels, and cruise ships whenever travel is booked.
ASK ARS: CAN I SEE WHAT INFORMATION THE FEDS HAVE ON MY TRAVEL?
One Ars editor tries to FOIA travel documents on himself.
But instead of providing what he had requested, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turned over only basic information about my travel going back to 1994. So he appealed—and without explanation, the government recently turned over the actual PNRs I had requested the first time.
The 76 new pages of data, covering 2005 through 2013, show that CBP retains massive amounts of data on us when we travel internationally. His own PNRs include not just every mailing address, e-mail, and phone number I've ever used; some of them also contain:
The IP address that I used to buy the ticket
His credit card number (in full)
The language he used
Notes on his phone calls to airlines, even for something as minor as a seat change
The breadth of long-term data retention illustrates yet another way that the federal government enforces its post-September 11 "collect it all" mentality."Link to Original Source
writes "Dozens of companies were sued over an old Polaroid digital imaging patent.
The most litigious "patent troll" in the US has lost a major case after the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found its patent was too abstract.
Court declines to stop software patents altogether.
The ruling from last week is one of the first to apply new Supreme Court guidance about when ideas are too "abstract" to be patented. In the recent Alice v. CLS Bank case, the high court made clear that adding what amounts to fancy computer language to patents on basic ideas shouldn't hold up in court.
The patents in this case describe a type of "device profile" that allows digital images to be accurately displayed on different devices. US Patent No. 6,128,415 was originally filed by Polaroid in 1996. After a series of transfers, in 2012 the patent was sold to Digitech Image Technologies, a branch of Acacia Research Corporation, the largest publicly traded patent assertion company. A study on "patent trolls" by RPX found that Acacia Research Corporation was the most litigious troll of 2013, having filed 239 patent lawsuits last year."Link to Original Source
writes "Report reveals suspicious ticketing patterns at dozens of Chicago intersections.
At least 13,000 Chicago motorists have been cited with undeserved tickets thanks to malfunctioning red-light cameras, according to a 10-month investigation published Friday by the Chicago Tribune. The report found that the $100 fines were a result of "faulty equipment, human tinkering or both."
According to the investigation:
Cameras that for years generated just a few tickets daily suddenly caught dozens of drivers a day. One camera near the United Center rocketed from generating one ticket per day to 56 per day for a two-week period last summer before mysteriously dropping back to normal.
Tickets for so-called rolling right turns on red shot up during some of the most dramatic spikes, suggesting an unannounced change in enforcement. One North Side camera generated only a dozen tickets for rolling rights out of 100 total tickets in the entire second half of 2011. Then, over a 12-day spike, it spewed 563 tickets—560 of them for rolling rights.
Many of the spikes were marked by periods immediately before or after when no tickets were issued—downtimes suggesting human intervention that should have been documented. City officials said they cannot explain the absence of such records."Link to Original Source
writes "FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says budget constraints have forced his agency "to operate with an IT infrastructure that would be unacceptable to any well-managed business." This is why the FCC website has crashed multiple times when inundated by people trying to submit comments on the commission's network neutrality plan, Wheeler says.
The comments website relies on a backend system created in 1996. To handle the influx of comments, the FCC extended the deadline and set up an e-mail address that could accept comments into the official record.
And it could get worse, as Congress is fighting over whether to cut the FCC's budget or approve a requested funding increase.
"Efforts to upgrade this IT capability were a casualty of sequestration," Wheeler wrote in a blog post yesterday. "Most recently, the agency requested of Congress approximately $13 million for IT upgrades in the FY 2015 appropriation. I appreciate that the Senate subcommittee has provided the Commission with full funding in its FY 2015 spending bill, so that we can make these important upgrades. Unfortunately, the appropriations bill passed by the House today would fund the FCC at $17 million below current levels and $53 million below our overall budget request, dramatically undermining any effort to modernize our IT systems.""Link to Original Source
writes "Facebook Inc is testing a new "buy" button on its website that will let consumers purchase products that are advertised on its social network.
The new service, which Facebook described on Thursday as a test with a "few small and medium-sized businesses" in the United States, represents the Internet social networking company's latest effort to play a bigger role in the e-commerce business.
Facebook said its new Buy button will be available on the mobile and desktop PC version of its website and will allow consumers to purchase goods directly from participating businesses."Link to Original Source
writes "Microsoft has started accepting requests from users in Europe who want to remove search links from Bing under a recent “right-to-be-forgotten” ruling by Europe’s top court.
The company has asked European residents, who want Microsoft to block search results that show on Bing in response to searches of their names, to fill up a four-part online form.
Besides the name and country of residence of the person and the details of the pages to be blocked, the form also asks if the person is a public figure or has or expects a role that involves trust, leadership or safety.
Microsoft does not guarantee removal of links after they are submitted for removal through the form. It will also consider other sources of information to verify or supplement what is provided in the form.
The information provided will help the company “consider the balance” between the applicant’s individual privacy interest and the public interest in protecting free expression and the free availability of information, in line with European law, Microsoft said."Link to Original Source
writes "Ever since the release of the movie Jurassic Park, the Velociraptor has been in tough competition with the Tyrannosaurs rex for the most feared and dangerous dinosaur of all time. Its razor-sharp teeth, lighting speed and purported ruthless nature made it an ideal predator across the lands that dinosaurs roamed.
Now scientists have discovered fossils that indicate that some members of the raptor family may have terrorized the skies as well.
While working in the Chinese province of Liaoning near the border of North Korea in 2012, researchers from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles found the fossilized remains of Changyuraptor yangi — a relative of the mighty Velociraptor that had the longest feathers of any known dinosaur, and not two, but four wings.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Luis Chiappe of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles told The Washington Post. “It is a stunning specimen and it was stunning to see the size of the feathers. This is the dinosaur with the longest known feathers — by far. There is nothing like this by a very good distance. The feathers were one-fourth the size of the animal.”"Link to Original Source
writes ""Containment control" model looks at how groups of influencers can manipulate people.
Facebook isn’t the only organization conducting research into how attitudes are affected by social media. The Department of Defense has invested millions of dollars over the past few years investigating social media, social networks, and how information spreads across them. While Facebook and Cornell University researchers manipulated what individuals saw in their social media streams, military-funded research—including projects funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Social Media in Strategic Communications (SMISC) program—has looked primarily into how messages from influential members of social networks propagate.
One study, funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), has gone a step further. “A less investigated problem is once you’ve identified the network, how do you manipulate it toward an end,” said Warren Dixon, a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering and director of the University of Florida’s Nonlinear Controls and Robotics research group. Dixon was the principal investigator on an Air Force Research Laboratory-funded project, which published its findings in February in a paper entitled “Containment Control for a Social Network with State-Dependent Connectivity.”
The research demonstrates that the mathematical principles used to control groups of autonomous robots can be applied to social networks in order to control human behavior. If properly calibrated, the mathematical models developed by Dixon and his fellow researchers could be used to sway the opinion of social networks toward a desired set of behaviors—perhaps in concert with some of the social media “effects” cyber-weaponry developed by the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ."Link to Original Source
writes "Patrick Sensburg, chairman of the German parliament's National Security Agency investigative committee, now says he’s considering expanding the use of manual typewriters to carry out his group's work.
In an appearance (German language) Monday morning on German public television, Sensburg said that the committee is taking its operational security very seriously. "In fact, we already have [a typewriter], and it’s even a non-electronic typewriter," he said.
If Sensburg’s suggestion takes flight, the country would be taking a page out of the Russian playbook. Last year, the agency in charge of securing communications from the Kremlin announced that it wanted to spend 486,000 rubles (about $14,800) to buy 20 electric typewriters as a way to avoid digital leaks."Link to Original Source
writes "Dell’s only Chromebook is at least temporarily unavailable for online purchase through the company’s website, only seven months after the model started shipping.
Facing rising commercial demand for the devices, Dell has not been able to keep up with orders.
The Chromebook 11, which shipped in December, is listed as unavailable on Dell’s Chromebook website, and the company is asking potential buyers to call in orders.
“Due to strong demand, the Dell Chromebook 11 is currently not available for order on Dell.com. It continues to be available for our education customers and can be ordered through their sales representative,” said Ellen Murphy, a Dell spokeswoman, in an email.
The laptop will eventually come online again, though the company did not provide a specific date.
With Dell keeping Chromebook purchases open mainly to commercial customers, individual buyers may have to turn to competitive products from Samsung, Toshiba, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard, which are available online starting at under $200."Link to Original Source
writes "Babak Parviz, who also created the Google Contact lens, is off to Amazon.
Google Glass has been struggling a bit lately: Android Wear showed up to eat the product's lunch, and there was almost no mention of Glass at the company's recent I/O conference. To make matters worse, The Glass KitKat update made the device slow and buggy, and it removed video chat, one of Glass' highlight features.
Now the founder and former head of Google Glass, Babak Parviz, is leaving Google for Amazon. Parviz announced the move on his Google+ page, updating the "About" section to say:"Link to Original Source
writes "Ed Summers, an open source Web developer, recently saw a friend tweet about Parliament WikiEdits, a UK Twitter “bot” that watched for anonymous Wikipedia edits coming from within the British Parliament’s internal networks. Summers was immediately inspired to do the same thing for the US Congress.
“The simplicity of combining Wikipedia and Twitter in this way immediately struck me as a potentially useful transparency tool,” Summers wrote in his personal blog. “So using my experience on a previous side project [Wikistream, a Web application that watches Wikipedia editing activity], I quickly put together a short program that listens to all major language Wikipedias for anonymous edits from Congressional IP address ranges and tweets them.”
The stream for the bot, @congressedits, went live a day later, and it now provides real-time tweets when anonymous edits of Wikipedia pages are made. Summers also posted the code to GitHub so that others interested in creating similar Twitter bots can riff on his work.
So far, @congressedits hasn’t caught anything scandalous; most of the edits caught have been stylistic changes rather than factual ones. The most interesting edit found so far was to the Wikipedia article on horse head masks—adding a reference to President Obama shaking hands with a man in such a mask on a recent trip to Denver."Link to Original Source
writes "An app for Google Glass provides real-time updates on missile attacks against Israel. Does this mean Israelis really are safe under that Iron Dome?
The Times of Israel says The Rustybrick is offering them.
“The alerts will provide the (predicted) time and location of the attack, giving Israeli Glass users time to head for shelter,” said Barry Schwartz, CEO of RustyBrick Software, author of the app and a pioneer in Jewish and Israel-oriented Google Glass apps. “Be it bomb shelters, safe rooms or covering up on the highway as they drive home from work, this app will allow them to get notifications of those missile attacks so they can seek shelter.”
Shouldn’t android phones offer them?"Link to Original Source