Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Yahoo!

Moving Beyond Flash: the Yahoo HTML5 Video Player (streamingmedia.com) 50

Slashdot reader theweatherelectric writes: Over on Streaming Media, Amit Jain from Yahoo has written a behind-the-scenes look at the development of Yahoo's HTML5 video player. He writes, "Adobe Flash, once the de-facto standard for media playback on the web, has lost favor in the industry due to increasing concerns over security and performance. At the same time, requiring a plugin for video playback in browsers is losing favor among users as well. As a result, the industry is moving toward HTML5 for video playback...

At Yahoo, our video player uses HTML5 across all modern browsers for video playback. In this post we will describe our journey to providing an industry-leading playback experience using HTML5, lay out some of the challenges we faced, and discuss opportunities we see going forward."

Yet another brick in the wall? YouTube and Twitch have already switched to HTML5, and last year Google started automatically converting Flash ads to HTML5.
Communications

The Verge's Deputy Editor Chris Ziegler Was Secretly Working For Apple For Two Months (gizmodo.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Late this afternoon, Nilay Patel, the editor-in-chief of The Verge, published a post detailing the circumstances around the departure of Chris Ziegler, a founding member of the site. As it turns out, according to Patel, Ziegler had been pulling double duty as an employee of both The Verge and Apple. "The circumstances of Chris' departure from The Verge raised ethical issues which are worth disclosing in the interests of transparency and respect for our audience," Patel wrote. "We're confident that there wasn't any material impact on our journalism from these issues, but they are still serious enough to merit disclosure." According to Patel, Ziegler, whose most recent post was published in July, began working for Apple in July but didn't disclose his new job; The Verge apparently didn't discover he'd been working there until early September. Patel noted that Ziegler continued to work for The Verge in July, but "was not in contact with us through most of August and into September." What's not clear is how The Verge leadership went six weeks without hearing from their deputy editor or taking serious action (like filing a missing person's report) to try to find him. Patel says they "made every effort to contact him and to offer him help if needed." Patel noted the obvious conflict of interest, and added that Ziegler was fired the same day they verified his employment at Apple. "Chris did not attempt to steer any coverage towards or away from Apple, and any particular decisions he helped make had the same outcomes they would have had absent his involvement," Patel wrote. However, it's still unclear how exactly the team at Vox Media, The Verge's parent company, ascertained there was no editorial consequences from the dual-employment. You can read Patel's full statement here. Vox Media's Fay Sliger followed up with a statement to Gizmodo: "Chris is no longer an employee of The Verge or Vox Media. Chris accepted a position with Apple, stopped communicating with The Verge's leadership, and his employment at The Verge was terminated. Vox Media's editorial director Lockhart Steele conducted an internal review of this conflict of interest, and after a thorough investigation, it was determined that there was no impact on editorial decisions or journalism produced at The Verge or elsewhere in Vox Media. We've shared details about this situation with The Verge's audience and will continue to be transparent should any new information come to light."
Medicine

Sugar Industry Bought Off Scientists, Skewed Dietary Guidelines For Decades (arstechnica.com) 526

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Back in the 1960s, a sugar industry executive wrote fat checks to a group of Harvard researchers so that they'd downplay the links between sugar and heart disease in a prominent medical journal -- and the researchers did it, according to historical documents reported Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. One of those Harvard researchers went on to become the head of nutrition at the United States Department of Agriculture, where he set the stage for the federal government's current dietary guidelines. All in all, the corrupted researchers and skewed scientific literature successfully helped draw attention away from the health risks of sweets and shift the blame to solely to fats -- for nearly five decades. The low-fat, high-sugar diets that health experts subsequently encouraged are now seen as a main driver of the current obesity epidemic. The bitter revelations come from archived documents from the Sugar Research Foundation (now the Sugar Association), dug up by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Their dive into the old, sour affair highlights both the perils of trusting industry-sponsored research to inform policy and the importance of requiring scientists to disclose conflicts of interest -- something that didn't become the norm until years later. Perhaps most strikingly, it spotlights the concerning power of the sugar industry. In a statement also issued today, the Sugar Association acknowledged that it "should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities." However, the trade-group went on to question the UCSF researchers' motives in digging up the issue and reframing the past events to "conveniently align with the currently trending anti-sugar narrative." The association also chastised the journal for publishing the historical analysis, which it implied was insignificant and sensationalist. "Most concerning is the growing use of headline-baiting articles to trump quality scientific research -- we're disappointed to see a journal of JAMA's stature being drawn into this trend," the association wrote. But scientists disagree with that take. In an accompanying editorial, nutrition professor Marion Nestle of New York University argued that "this 50-year-old incident may seem like ancient history, but it is quite relevant, not least because it answers some questions germane to our current era."
Science

Sri Lanka, Once Severely Affected By Malaria, Now Absolutely Free Of It (thehindu.com) 30

The World Health Organization has declared Sri Lanka free of malaria, calling it a "remarkable public health achievement" for the Indian Ocean island, which was once the most affected nations in the world. The Hindu reports:Sri Lanka has become malaria-free. On September 5, the World Health Organisation officially recognised this huge public health achievement. The WHO certifies a country so when the chain of local transmission is interrupted for at least three consecutive years; the last reported case was in October 2012. With no local transmission reported, Sri Lanka's priority since October 2012 has been to prevent its return from outside, particularly from malaria-endemic countries such as India. There were 95, 49 and 36 cases reported in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively, all contracted outside Sri Lanka. In a commendable initiative, Sri Lanka adopted a two-pronged strategy of targeting both vector and parasite, undertaking active detection of cases and residual parasite carriers by screening populations irrespective of whether malaria symptoms were present.
Open Source

Netflix Finds x265 20% More Efficient Than VP9 (streamingmedia.com) 178

Reader StreamingEagle writes (edited): Netflix conducted a large-scale study comparing x264, x265 and libvpx (Google-owned VP9), under real-world conditions, and found that x265 encodes used 35.4% to 53.3% fewer bits than x264, and between 21.8% fewer bits than libvpx, when measured with Netflix's advanced VMAF assessment tool. This was the first large-scale study to use real-world encoder implementations, and a large sample size of high quality, professional content.A Netflix spokesperson explained why they did the test in the first place; "We wanted to understand the current state of the x265 and libvpx codec implementations when used to generate non-realtime encodes optimized for OTT use case. It was important to see how the codecs performed when testing on a diverse set of premium content from our catalog. This test can help us find areas of improvement for the different codecs."
Mars

NASA Announces New Mars Probe, While SpaceX Is Urged To Focus on Launches 84

NASA will land a new probe on Mars on November 26, 2018, "paving the way toward an ambitious journey to send humans to the Red Planet," according to one NASA official. The $828 million project will investigate how the planet was formed, NASA announced Friday, calling it "an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about the internal structure of the Red Planet."

Meanwhile, long-time Slashdot reader taiwanjohn shares an editorial published by Ars Technica the same day, titled "We love you SpaceX, and hope you reach Mars. But we need you to focus." Noting that SpaceX receives the majority of its funding from NASA, the site's senior space editor writes that the company's business model requires that they ultimately deliver a reusable launch system. "I understand SpaceX has a master plan -- the company wants to colonize Mars... But at some point you have to focus on the here and now, and that is the Falcon 9 rocket... if there is no Falcon 9, there is no business."
In a related story, Saturday NASA's history office shared a photograph from the Viking 2's landing on the surface of Mars -- which happened exactly 40 years ago.
Facebook

Facebook Says Humans Won't Write Its Trending Topic Descriptions Anymore (recode.net) 76

Following a former Facebook journalist's report that the company's workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network's Trending Topics section, the company has been in damage control mode. First, the company announced it would tweak its Trending Topics section and revamp how editors find trending stories. Specifically, they will train the human editors who work on Facebook's trending section and abandon several automated tools it used to find and categorize trending news in the past. Most recently, Facebook added political scenarios to its orientation training following the concerns. Now, it appears that Facebook will "end its practice of writing editorial descriptions for topics, replacing them with snippets of text pulled from news stories." Kurt Wagner, writing for Recode: It's been more than three months since Gizmodo first published a story claiming Facebook's human editors were suppressing conservative news content on the site's Trending Topics section. Facebook vehemently denied the report, but has been dealing with the story's aftermath ever since. On Friday, Facebook announced another small but notable change to Trending Topics: Human editors will no longer write the short story descriptions that accompany a trending topic on the site. Instead, Facebook is going to use algorithms to "pull excerpts directly from stories." It is not, however, cutting out humans entirely. In fact, Facebook employees will still select which stories ultimately make it into the trending section. An algorithm will surface popular stories, but Facebook editors will weed out the inappropriate or fake ones. "There are still people involved in this process to ensure that the topics that appear in Trending remain high-quality," the company's blog reads.
Media

Gawker.com To End Operations Next Week (gawker.com) 134

After nearly 14 years of operations, Gawker.com will be shutting down next week, the company's outgoing CEO Nick Denton told the staff Thursday. The decision comes days after Univision said it would buy Gawker Media properties -- Gizmodo, Jezebel, Kotaku etc (but not Gawker.com) -- for a sum of $135 million. The publication is currently in the middle of multiple lawsuits, with billionaire Peter Thiel revealing his clandestine legal campaign against the company. In a blog post, Gawker made the announcement. From the story:Nick Denton, the company's outgoing CEO, informed current staffers of the site's fate on Thursday afternoon, just hours before a bankruptcy court in Manhattan will decide whether to approve Univision's bid for Gawker Media's other assets. Staffers will soon be assigned to other editorial roles, either at one of the other six sites or elsewhere within Univision. Near-term plans for Gawker.com's coverage, as well as the site's archives, have not yet been finalized.
Twitter

Stopping Trolls Is 'Now Life and Death For Twitter', Argues Backchannel (backchannel.com) 637

"This is the year that Twitter's future will be determined," argues Backchannel's editorial director, noting that Twitter's revenue growth is slowing, and "None of the features that cofounder Jack Dorsey has introduced since he returned to the company as CEO last year have succeeded in attracting new users." But Backchannel suggests it's because the trolls "are winning," discouraging new sign-ups and driving existing customers to leave. "We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform, and we've sucked at it for years," Twitter's CEO wrote in an internal memo in 2015. Backchannel argues bluntly that Twitter "has a hate problem." New submitter mirandakatz writes: It's been exactly three years since Twitter first promised to solve its harassment problem. In those three years, the company has made countless such promises, introducing dozens of new "fixes" and even going so far as to ban notorious troll Milo Yiannopoulos last month. But still, abuse on Twitter continues, and stopping it is now critical to the platform's future success...
"Twitter did an excellent job of inventing a digital platform for realtime idea exchange, but it has yet to create the feature that allows the community itself to ferret out the abusers..." writes Backchannel. "And if it cannot figure out how to eradicate the harassers, Twitter's other challenges will remain intractable."
Government

Almost Half Of All TSA Employees Have Been Cited For Misconduct (mercurynews.com) 128

Slashdot reader schwit1 writes: Almost half of all TSA employees have been cited for misconduct, and the citations have increased by almost 30 percent since 2013... It also appears that the TSA has been reducing the sanctions it has been giving out for this bad behavior.
Throughout the U.S., the airport security group "has instead sought to treat the misconduct with 'more counseling and letters that explain why certain behaviors were not acceptable'," according to a report from the House Homeland Security Commission, titled "Misconduct at TSA Threatens the Security of the Flying Public". It found 1,206 instances of "neglect of duty", and also cited the case of an Oakland TSA officer who for two years helped smugglers slip more than 220 pounds of marijuana through airport security checkpoints, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The newspaper adds that "The misconduct ranges from salacious (federal air marshals spending government money on hotel rooms for romps with prostitutes) to downright dangerous (an officer in Orlando taking bribes to smuggle Brazilian nationals through a checkpoint without questioning)." Their conclusion? "The TSA's job is to make airline passengers feel safer and, not incidentally, actually make us safer. It's failing on both."
Businesses

Why Tech Support Is (Purposely) Unbearable 209

HughPickens.com writes: Getting caught in a tech support loop -- waiting on hold, interacting with automated systems, talking to people reading from unhelpful scripts and then finding yourself on hold yet again -- is a peculiar kind of aggravation that mental health experts say can provoke rage in even the most mild-mannered person. Now Kate Murphy writes at the NYT that just as you suspected, companies are aware of the torture they are putting you through as 92 percent of customer service managers say their agents could be more effective and 74 percent say their company procedures prevented agents from providing satisfactory experiences. "Don't think companies haven't studied how far they can take things in providing the minimal level of service," says Justin Robbins, who was once a tech support agent himself and now oversees research and editorial at ICMI. "Some organizations have even monetized it by intentionally engineering it so you have to wait an hour at least to speak to someone in support, and while you are on hold, you're hearing messages like, 'If you'd like premium support, call this number and for a fee, we will get to you immediately.'" Mental health experts say there are ways to get better tech support or maybe just make it more bearable. First, do whatever it takes to control your temper. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Losing your stack at a consumer support agent is not going to get your problem resolved any faster and being negative in your dealings with others can quickly paint you as a complainer no one wants to work with. Don't bother demanding to speak to a supervisor, either. You're just going to get transferred to another agent who has been alerted ahead of time that you have come unhinged. To get better service by phone, dial the prompt designated for "sales" or "to place an order," which almost always gets you an onshore agent, while tech support is usually offshore with the associated language difficulties. Finally customer support experts recommended using social media, like tweeting or sending a Facebook message, to contact a company instead of calling. You are likely to get a quicker response, not only because fewer people try that channel but also because your use of social media shows that you know how to vent your frustration to a wider audience if your needs are not met.
Social Networks

Internal Docs Show Human Intervention at Almost Every Stage Of Facebook's News Operation (theguardian.com) 215

More evidence has surfaced to support Gawker's two recent reports that claimed editors manipulate the trending news and a few other aspects on Facebook. The Guardian, citing leaked documents it obtained, reports that the topics one sees on Facebook are determined on a number of factors including "engagement, timeliness, Pages you've liked and your location." From the report: But the documents show that the company relies heavily on the intervention of a small editorial team to determine what makes its "trending module" headlines -- the list of news topics that shows up on the side of the browser window on Facebook's desktop version. The company backed away from a pure-algorithm approach in 2014 after criticism that it had not included enough coverage of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in users' feeds. The guidelines show human intervention -- and therefore editorial decisions -- at almost every stage of Facebook's trending news operation, a team that at one time was as few as 12 people.Sam Biddle of Gawker, wrote: Never trust what a company tells you, on/off record -- FB straight up lied to Recode last year. He adds: unless they're under oath a company like Facebook has every incentive to lie about how it operates. It's not illegal to lie to a reporter!"

Update: 05/12 20:49 GMT by M : Facebook has published a blog post in which it explains how Trending Topics on its platform works. The company insists that there is no discrimination against sources of any political origin.
Facebook

Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News (gizmodo.com) 639

Michael Nunez, reporting for Gizmodo: Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network's influential "trending" news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site's users. In other words, Facebook's news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing -- but it is in stark contrast to the company's claims that the trending module simply lists "topics that have recently become popular on Facebook." The revelation comes amid a report on the same publication which claimed that a small group of journalists controlled and decided what should trend on Facebook. Also recently, a leaked screenshot revealed Facebook employees asking whether they should do something to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the president.
The Courts

Are US Courts 'Going Dark'? (justsecurity.org) 163

An anonymous reader writes: Judge Stephen Wm. Smith argues that questions about the government's "golden age of surveillance" miss an equally significant trend: that the U.S. Courts are "going dark". In a new editorial, he writes that "Before the digital age, executed search warrants were routinely placed on the court docket available for public inspection," but after the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, more than 30,000 secret court surveillance orders were given just in 2006. He predicts that today's figure is more than double, "And those figures do not include surveillance orders obtained by state and local authorities, who handle more than 15 times the number of felony investigations that the feds do. Based on that ratio, the annual rate of secret surveillance orders by federal and state courts combined could easily exceed half a million."

Judge Smith also cites an increase in cases -- even civil cases -- that are completely sealed, but also an increase in "private arbitration" and other ways of resolving disputes which are shielded from the public eye. "Employers, Internet service providers, and consumer lenders have led a mass exodus from the court system. By the click of a mouse or tick of a box, the American public is constantly inveigled to divert the enforcement of its legal rights to venues closed off from public scrutiny. Justice is becoming privatized, like so many other formerly public goods turned over to invisible hands -- electricity, water, education, prisons, highways, the military."

The judge's conclusion? "Over the last 40 years, secrecy in all aspects of the judicial process has risen to literally unprecedented levels. "
Encryption

Top Security Experts Say Anti-Encryption Bill Authors Are 'Woefully Ignorant' (dailydot.com) 90

blottsie writes from a report on the Daily Dot: In a Wall Street Journal editorial titled "Encryption Without Tears," Sens. Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein pushed back on widespread condemnation of their Compliance with Court Orders Act, which would require tech companies to provide authorities with user data in an "intelligible" format if served with a warrant. But security experts Bruce Schneir, Matthew Green, and others say the lawmakers entirely misunderstand the issue. "On a weekly basis we see gigabytes of that information dumped to the Internet," Green told the Daily Dot. "This is the whole problem that encryption is intended to solve." He added: "You can't hold out the current flaws in the Internet as a justification for why the Internet shouldn't be made secure." "These criticisms of Burr and Feinstein's analogy emphasize an important point about digital security: The differences between the levels of encryption protecting certain types of data -- purchase records on Amazon's servers versus photos on an iPhone, for example -- lead to different levels of risk," writes Eric Geller of the Daily Dot.
Education

Schools Are Helping Police Spy On Kids' Social Media Activity (orlandosentinel.com) 215

schwit1 shares this excerpt from an article in The Washington Post: Schools in Florida are renewing a program that monitors their students' social media activity for criminal or threatening behavior, although it has caused some controversy since its adoption last year. The school system in Orange County, where Orlando is located, recently told the Orlando Sentinel that the program, which partners the school system with local police departments, has been successful in protecting students' safety, saying that it led to 12 police investigations in the past year. The school district says it will pay about $18,000 annually for SnapTrends, the monitoring software used to check students' activity. It's the same software used by police in Racine, Wisconsin, to track criminal activity and joins a slew of similar social media monitoring software used by law enforcement to keep an eye on the community.

SnapTrends collects data from public posts on students' social media accounts by scanning for keywords that signify cases of cyberbullying, suicide threats, or criminal activity. School security staff then comb through flagged posts and alert police when they see fit.

Government

DC Metro Closes For Emergency Safety Inspection (nbcwashington.com) 110

McGruber writes with NBC's report that Washington, DC's Metrorail system has been completely shut down for at least 29 hours, so crews can check 600 underground jumper cables: A problem with those jumper cables caused a fire at the McPherson Square station early Monday and was also the cause of a fatal smoke incident in January, 2015, that killed one person and injured others. The safety checks could have been delayed until the weekend or conducted at night over about six days, officials said. But if the system were kept open, a public announcement about the risk would have to be made. That would have put passengers, and Metro, in the awkward position of publicly acknowledging that it was operating despite being aware of a potentially deadly safety problem. Metro also would have been liable in the case of any crashes or calamities. The shutdown prompted the Washington Post to publish an editorial titled It's official: Metro is a national embarrassment."
Security

One Solution to MITRE's Overworked CVE System: Build a New One (helpnetsecurity.com) 47

An anonymous reader writes: For the last 17 years, the American not-for-profit MITRE Corporation has been editing and maintaining the list of Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs). According to a number of researchers, MITRE has lately been doing a lousy job when it comes to assigning these numbers, forcing researchers to do without them or to delay public disclosure of vulnerabilities indefinitely. The problem is getting worse by the day, and the situation has spurred Kurt Seifried, a "Red Hat Product Security Cloud guy" and a CVE Editorial Board member, to create a complementary system for numbering vulnerabilities.
Graphics

Microsoft Losing Ground On Windows Store and UWP For Gaming 209

Vigile writes: Microsoft has big plans to try and merge the experiences of the Xbox One and Windows for gaming but the push back from the community and from major developers and personalities is mounting. Earlier this week PC Perspective posted a story that detailed the controversy around DX12 performance analysis without an exclusive full screen mode, changes to multi-GPU configurations and even compatibility issues with variable refresh that crop up from games from the Windows Store. Microsoft's only official response so far as been that it is listening to feedback and plans to address it with upcoming changes. Now today, Epic's Tim Sweeney has posted an editorial at The Guardian with an even more dramatic tone, saying that UWP (Unified Windows Platform) "can, should, must and will, die..." Clearly the stakes are being placed in the ground and even damage control from Phil Spencer on Twitter isn't likely to hold back angry PC users.
Bitcoin

It's Time To Kill the $100 Bill, Says Larry Summers 558

HughPickens.com writes: The NYT has an interesting editorial on why getting rid of big bills will make it harder for criminals to do business and make it easier for law enforcement to detect illicit activity. That's why officials in Europe and elsewhere are proposing to end the printing of high-denomination bills. According to a recent paper from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, a stack of 500-euro notes worth $1 million weighs just five pounds and can be carried in a small bag, whereas a pile of $20 bills worth $1 million would weigh 110 pounds and would be much more difficult to move around. Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and former adviser to President Obama, has argued that the United States should get rid of the $100 bill. "The fact that in certain circles the 500 euro note is known as the "Bin Laden" confirms the arguments against it," says Sanders. "Technology is obviating whatever need there may ever have been for high denomination notes in legal commerce."

Critics who oppose such changes say the big bills make it easier for people to keep their savings in cash, especially in countries with negative interest rates. Some people also prefer not to conduct transactions electronically because they fear security breaches. According to Sanders the idea of removing existing notes is a step too far but a moratorium on printing new high denomination notes would make the world a better place. "The United States stopped distributing $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 bills in 1969," concludes the NYT editorial. "There are now so many ways to pay for things, and eliminating big bills should create few problems."

Slashdot Top Deals