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Handhelds

Video Which do You Prefer: Mobile Web Apps or Mobile Websites? (Video) 90

On December 28, 2015, Larry Seltzer wrote an article for Ars Technica provocatively titled (by Ars editors), The App-ocalypse: Can Web standards make mobile apps obsolete? A link to this article was posted on Slashdot, where it provoked a spirited discussion. In this video conversation, we talked to Larry about mobile aps vs. Web standards. Not surprisingly, he had some interesting things to say.
The Internet

Video We Asked Doc Searls: Do Ad Blockers Cause Cancer? (Video) 116

A whimsical headline, but not much more of a shark-jumper than some of the talk we've heard lately from ad agencies, online publishers, and others who earn their living from online advertising. Doc Searls recently wrote a piece on his personal blog titled Beyond ad blocking — the biggest boycott in human history. Naturally, we wanted to ask Doc to expand a bit on what he's been writing about ad blocking and advertising in general. So we had a fine conversation about online advertising -- ending with a challenge to the advertising industry, which Doc says should be looking for ways to produce better, more effective, and less annoying ways to sell to us online.
Media

Video Cable Companies Hate Cord-Cutting, but It's Not Going Away (Video) 160

On May 29, Steven J. Vaughan Nichols (known far and wide as SJVN) wrote an article for ZDNet headlined, Now more than ever, the Internet belongs to cord-cutters. A few days before that, he wrote another one headlined, Mary Meeker's Internet report: User growth slowing, but disruption full speed ahead. And last December he wrote one titled, Reports show it's becoming a cord cutter's world. SJVN obviously sees a trend here. So do a lot of other people, including cable TV and local TV executives who are biting their nails and asking themselves, "Whatever shall we do?" So far, says SJVN, the answers they've come up with are not encouraging.

NOTE from Roblimo: We're trying something different with this video, namely keeping it down to about 4 minutes but running a text transcript that covers our 20+ minute conversation with SJVN. Is this is a good idea? Please let us know.
Security

Video 'Never Miss Another Delivery' - if You Have a TrackPIN (Video) 85

The company is called TrackPIN, as is the product. Its creator, Mark Hall, showed it off at CES. Timothy pointed his camcorder at Mark as he explained how his product would let you get package deliveries safely when you aren't home by giving the UPS or FedEx (or other) delivery person access to your garage, as well as letting in selected people like your maid, your plumber, and possibly an aquarium cleaner. Each one can have a private, one-time PIN number that will actuate your garage door opener through the (~$250) TrackPIN keypad and tell your smartphone or other net-connected device that your garage was just opened, and by whom. You might even call this, "One small step for package delivery; a giant leap forward for the Internet of Things." Except those of us who don't have garages (not to mention electric garage door openers) may want to skip today's video; the TrackPIN isn't meant for the likes of us. (Alternate Video Link)
The Internet

The 'Radio Network of Things' Can Cut Electric Bills (Video) 172

We all love 'The Internet of Things.' Now imagine appliances, such as your refrigerator and hot water heater, getting radio messages from the power grid telling them when they should turn on and off to get the best electricity prices. Now kick that up to the electric company level, and give them a radio network that tells them which electric provider to get electricity from at what time to get the best (wholesale) price. This is what e-Radio is doing. They make this claim: "Using pre-existing and near ubiquitous radio signals can save billions of dollars, reduce environmental impact, add remote addressability and reap additional significant societal benefits."

Timothy noticed these people at CES. They were one of the least flashy and least "consumer-y" exhibitors. But saving electricity by using it efficiently, while not glamorous, is at least as important as a $6000 Android phone. Note that the guy e-Radio had at CES speaking to Timothy was Scott Cuthbertson, their Chief Financial Officer. It's a technology-driven company, from Founder and CEO Jackson Wang on down, but in the end, saving money is what they sell. (Alternate Video Link)
Christmas Cheer

Video Goodbye, Alek's Internet-Controlled Christmas Lights for Celiac Research 21

Alek Komarnitsky, Colorado (and the Internet's) own Clark Griswold, has decided to retire as his own props master, programmer, best boy, and effects specialist. After 10 years of increasingly elaborate set-ups, Alek's decided to go out with a bang, with his largest-yet rooftop display of open-source powered, remotely controllable, internet-connected Christmas lights. (This year, he even matches the fictional Griswold's 25,000 lights, but truth tops fiction, with live webcams, animated props, and more.) We talked with Alek last year, too; but now he's got a full decade's worth of reminiscing about his jest-made-real hobby as That Guy With the Lights, and some advice for anyone who'd like to take on a project like this.

Alek has managed to stay on good terms with his neighbors, despite the car and foot traffic that his display has drawn, and kept himself from serious harm despite a complex of minor, overlapping risks including ladders, squirrels, a fair amount of electricity and (the most dangerous, he says) wind. The lights are what the world sees, but the video capture and distribution to the vast online audience is an equal part of the work. Alek has learned a lot along the way about automation, logistics, wireless networking, and the importance of load balancing. It's always possible the lights will return in some form, or that someone will take up the mantle as Blinkenlights master, but this tail end of 2014 (and the first day of 2015) is your last good chance to tune in and help toggle some of those lights. (The display operates from 1700-2200 Mountain time.) Alternate Video Link Update: 12/22 22:50 GMT by T : Note: Alek talks about the last year here.
The Internet

Video LibraryBox is an Open Source Server That Runs on Low-Cost Hardware (Video) 47

The world is full of wireless servers -- or at least some of it is. There are still many places, including parts of the United States, where you can have all the laptops, smart phones, and other wireless-capable devices you want, but there's no server that caters to them. Enter LibraryBox. It's open source and it runs on a variety of low-cost, low-power hardware. The project's website calls it "portable private digital distribution."

A lot of people obviously like this project and wish it well. LibraryBox ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2013, hoping for $3000, and raised $33,119. But today's interviewee, Jason Griffey, can explain his project better than we can, so please watch the video (or read the transcript) if you want to learn more about LibraryBox -- including the story behind the project's name. (Alternate Video Link)
United States

Net Neutrality Comments Surge Past 1.7M, an All-Time Record For the FCC 81

An anonymous reader writes Following Wednesday's Internet Slowdown campaign, the Federal Communications Commission says it has now received a total of 1,750,435 comments on net neutrality, surpassing the approximately 1.4 million complaints it saw after the exposure of Janet Jackson's breast during Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. Wednesday saw citizens submit more than 700,000 new comments to the FCC, and place more than 300,000 calls to the agency.
The Internet

Video Ushahidi Helps Track Everything From Election Violence to Oil Spills (Video) 18

Wikipedia says, "Ushahidi, Inc. is a non-profit software company that develops free and open-source software (LGPL) for information collection, visualization, and interactive mapping. Ushahidi (Swahili for 'testimony' or 'witness') created a website in the aftermath of Kenya's disputed 2007 presidential election (see 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis) that collected eyewitness reports of violence reported by email and text message and placed them on a Google Maps map." Ushahidi has also been used to map some of the BP oil spill damage in Louisiana and many other events both positive and negative around the globe. This is a mature project, headquarted in Kenya, that recently spun out the BRCK, a "go anywhere, do anything, self-powered, mobile WiFi device," which looks like it would be useful in bringing Internet connectivity to places where the electricity supply is unreliable. || According to Ushahidi, today's interviewee, Rob Baker, "is responsible for overseeing company deliverables and is a lead on communications strategies. Previously, with a 10-year background in software development and with his field experience for aid programs, Rob was a lead for Ushahidi deployments around the world, primarily working in East Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. He’s spoken at the United Nations, World Bank, government, hackathons, and at technical conferences." (Alternate Video Link)
Programming

Video Will Google's Dart Language Replace Javascript? (Video) 180

Seth Ladd, Google Web engineer and Chrome Developer Advocate, is today's interviewee. He's talking about Dart, which Wikipedia says is 'an open-source Web programming language developed by Google.' The Wikipedia article goes on to say Dart was unveiled at the GOTO conference in Aarhus, October 10–12, 2011, and that the goal of Dart is 'ultimately to replace JavaScript as the lingua franca of web development on the open web platform.' A bold aim, indeed. Last month (June, 2014), InfoWorld ran an article by Paul Krill headlined, Google's Go language on the rise, but Dart is stalling. Seth Ladd, unlike Paul Krill, is obviously rah-rah about Dart -- which is as it should be, since that's his job -- and seems to think it has a growing community and a strong place in the future of Web programming. For more about Dart, scroll down to watch Tim Lord's video interview with Seth -- or read the transcript, if you prefer. (Alternate Video Link)
Displays

Video All Web Developers Should Have Access to a Device Lab (Video) 60

This interview with Googler Pete LePage took place at Google I/O 2014, where Pete and coworker Matt Gaunt set up a Device Lab with 46 different devices on their display wall. The point wasn't to show off Google's coolness as much as it was to let developers see how their websites displayed on as wide a range of mobile devices as possible. This is reminiscent of the last century's Any Browser campaign, which was set up to encourage developers to make sites that worked right in any browser instead of having a WWW full of sites "best viewed in Exploroscape" that displayed poorly in other browsers.

Today, the trick is to make a site that is fully functional across a wide range of devices with different size screens that a user might decide to view in landscape mode one day and portrait mode the next. Google is happy to share their MiniMobileDeviceLab with you to help set up multi-unit displays. Pete also suggests checking out PageSpeed Insights and Web Fundamentals even if you're a skilled and experienced Web designer, because those two Google sites are chock full of information on how to make sure your site works right on most devices and in most popular browsers. (Alternate Video Link)
The Internet

Video A Primer on Data Backup for Small- to Medium-Sized Companies (Video) 76

This is a conversation with Jeff Whitehead and Lou Montulli, respectively Vice President of Technical Operations/CTO and Chief Scientist for Zetta.net, a company that specializes in online backup and disaster recovery service. Also, while this interview was arranged without his help, in the interest of full disclosure we'd like to tell you that Zetta's CEO is Ali Jenab, who used to be CEO of Slashdot's parent company. But this discussion isn't about Ali or Zetta.net, but about data backup, and what methods are best and most cost-effective for companies ranging from home-based businesses up to enterprise operations with thousands of employees. Among other things, we discussed the importance of multiple-site storage for important data, a factor that was drilled in to us yesterday by an article titled Another Iron Mountain Fire Points Up Shortcomings of Physical Storage by long-time tech journalist Sharon Fisher. And never forget: You don't know how effective your backup and data storage arrangements are until you try to retrieve your data -- and if you don't try to retrieve data until you need it, and things don't work, you are in big trouble. (Don't see the video? Here's a link.)
Christmas Cheer

Video Alek Komarnitsky's Huge Christmas Light Display Still Going Strong (Video) 29

Alek Komarnitsky isn't the only one obsessed with Christmas lights. He's quick to point out that the display he assembles and improves each year at his Colorado home (in a "never-ending cycle") isn't the most elaborate in the country by a long shot, even among householders. But most of those other displays, no matter how complex, don't have the feature that's made Alek's an internet draw for many years running: visitors to the site not only get to see a live web-cam view of the system, but can flip the lights on and off themselves, making it a globally accessible interactive system. It's all based on home-grown scripts running on Linux (Alek says it's about as elegant as "duct tape and wire"), running old-school X10 controllers, and — surprisingly to me — the lights are mostly still conventional incandescents, rather than LED. This year, I finally caught up with Alek before Christmas; watch the video below to see our conversation. And even though Alek neither solicits nor wants money from people who like his Christmas display for himself, he does it partly as a benefit for Celiac Disease Research, and anything you give to this worthy cause is appreciated. Update: 12/23 21:21 GMT by T : NOTE: tune in starting around 4 PM Mountain time, and you'll get to see the system lit up.
Social Networks

Video Facebook May Dislike the Social Fixer Extension, but Many Users Love It (Video) 176

If you have the Social Fixer extension installed on your Web browser, you can post Facebook comments with line breaks you control with your "Enter" key, and insert your comments with "Tab + Enter." If you want to, that is. If you want to change the color of the blue "Facebook bar" at the top of your screen to puce, go right ahead. Want to have your newsfeed show the most recent stories at the top, rather than "Trending Articles" and "Trending Videos," or hide the "ticker feed" of friends' activities? Go right ahead. Social Fixer gives you the power to do all this, and more. Best of all, everything happens in your own browser. Social Fixer makes no changes to Facebook's servers and is not dependent on Facebook's APIs. Still, Facebook doesn't like some Social Fixer features, and says creator Matt Kruze must remove them if he doesn't want to be banned from Facebook. They've already removed his Social Fixer page from Facebook, so they apparently mean business. The Social Fixer website says it's "a free browser extension that improves the Facebook site by eliminating annoyances and adding lots of great enhancements and functionality." We don't know why Facebook would be against a browser extension (available for most popular browsers other than Explorer) that improves their users' site experience. Maybe someone from Facebook will contact us and let us know. Meanwhile, enjoy our video interview with Matt Kruze (or the transcript if you would rather read than watch and listen). One last note in the interest of full disclosure: Both Timothy Lord (timothy) and Robin Miller (Roblimo) use and like Social Fixer and believe that If you try it, chances are that you'll like it, too.
The Internet

Video The Internet Society is Unhappy with U.S. Govt's Internet Spying Tactics 107

On September 9, The Internet Society issued a position paper in which it said the group "...is alarmed by continuing reports alleging systematic United States government efforts to circumvent Internet security mechanisms," and went on to say, "The Internet Society President and CEO, Lynn St. Amour, said, 'If true, these reports describe government programmes that undermine the technical foundations of the Internet and are a fundamental threat to the Internet’s economic, innovative, and social potential. Any systematic, state-level attack on Internet security and privacy is a rejection of the global, collaborative fabric that has enabled the Internet's growth to extend beyond the interests of any one country.'" Those are tough words from an international organization that usually spends its time bringing the Internet to people in out-of-the-way villages and sponsoring the Internet Engineering Task Force. You can join the Internet Society for as little as $0 per year, and possibly help beat back some of the U.S. government eavesdropping and encryption circumvention efforts. And if you can make it to San Francisco on October 2, you can attend a (free) Internet Society discussion. Meanwhile, today's Slashdot interviewee is Paul Brigner, the Internet Society Regional Bureau Director for North America, who talks about the Internet Society in general, as well as the group's reaction to the U.S. government's online surveillance.

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