July 1st, 2015
Warning: This 4cast posting is going to get technical. But hang with us a minute, with a little bit of introductory information, we can probably get through this. In recent years, there has been a tendency for programmers to write “native apps” for a particular piece of hardware, especially a particular smartphone operating system, so they could make the device do complex things online that would not happen smoothly in a web browser built to run on any operating system. So the announcement last week that the major web browsers have come together to develop a new web language that can allow browsers to perform as well as native apps was big news for programmers, and could very well lead to a simpler, more standardized web experience for the rest of us, too.
- The secret alliance that could give the Web a massive speed boost (CNET | Stephen Shankland) “Today, it’s not unusual to run processor-taxing programs as native apps on your tablet, phone or PC – for example, Adobe’s photo-editing software Lightroom. But running a browser-based alternative, such as Pics.io, has its advantages. A programmer, for instance, can write one Web-based app and have it run on any operating system, since you need only the browser. That programmer liberation could help loosen the grip that Apple and Google have on the technology industry today with their iOS and Android operating systems, where native apps rule.”
Articles from Ohio Web Library:
June 24th, 2015
Ancestry Library Edition, which has been part of the Ohio Web Library since July 2011, is one of the most popular statewide library databases, generating over 3 million public library user searches a year (and another 1.3 million from school and college libraries), despite the fact that it is the only Ohio Web Library resource that requires people to go to their library to use it. This on-site requirement stems from Ancestry.com’s business agreement with ProQuest – the Ancestry Library Edition vendor – which did not allow at-home access under any circumstances; that would have reduced Ancestry.com’s sales to individuals. Recent news about a possible sale of Ancestry.com is a good excuse for us to take a look at the history of the company and this business of selling online genealogy information.
- About me (Paul Allen blog) “My biggest claim to fame comes from co-founding Ancestry.com in 1997 (again with Dan Taggart) and launching the MyFamily.com web site in 1998. I was the company CEO for the first year, where we actually achieved positive cash flow as an internet subscription company before raising outside capital. Then we hired my brother Curt Allen, who led the company as we raised $90.5 million in venture capital. We tried to go public in 2000 but missed the window.”
- Permira to buy Ancestry.com for $1.6 billion [October 2012] (New York Times | Mark Scott) “The agreement comes three years after Ancestry.com raised $100 million in an initial public offering. The site, which allows individuals to trace their heritage, has customers in 15 countries, though the majority of its users are based in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. The deal will be a welcome reprieve for the site, which has struggled since becoming a publicly listed company. After hitting a $45 high in 2011, its stock price has tumbled to around $29 on concerns that consumers are reducing their spending because of the economic crisis.”
- Exclusive: Genealogy website Ancestry.com explores sale: sources (Reuters | Liana B. Baker And Greg Roumeliotis) “Permira Advisers LLC, the buyout firm that owns most of privately held Ancestry, has hired investment banks to run an auction for the company, the people said this week. The sources asked not to be identified because the sale process is confidential. Permira declined to comment, while an Ancestry spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. Based in Provo, Utah, Ancestry has a database of more than 15 billion historical records and more than 2.1 million paying subscribers. Subscription fees accounted for 83 percent of its total revenue of $619.6 million last year.”
- HeritageQuest Online now provides data from Ancestry (Eastman’s Own Genealogy Newsletter | Dick Eastman) “HeritageQuest Online (a division of ProQuest) has supplied genealogy information to libraries for years. […] HeritageQuest Online has now announced that the genealogy information within its service is being replaced with information from Ancestry.com. Indeed, I logged onto my local public library’s web site this morning, went to the HeritageQuest Online database, and performed a search for an elusive great-great-grandfather of mine. When a census page appeared on the screen it looked clearer than what I have seen before and it also had an Ancestry logo in the upper-left corner.”
Articles from Ohio Web Library:
June 17th, 2015
Facebook and Google are both involved in ambitious and interesting projects to economically expand Internet access to some of the most remote areas on earth by using the skies above us. Google’s Project Loon would use balloons in the stratosphere to connect cell phones on earth to the global Internet. Facebook’s Internet.org (with several other partners) would use a variety of aerial means, including drones, to do something similar. The technology behind these projects is pretty interesting, and certainly the goals are commendable. But some people are worried that the organizations driving this expansion of connectivity are for-profit Internet companies.
- How Loon works (Project Loon | Google) “Each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area about 40 km in diameter using a wireless communications technology called LTE. To use LTE, Project Loon partners with telecommunications companies to share cellular spectrum so that people will be able to access the Internet everywhere directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices. Balloons relay wireless traffic from cell phones and other devices back to the global Internet using high-speed links.”
- Connecting the world from the sky [pdf] (internet.org/projects | Mark Zuckerberg) “For lower population densities, where people are spread out across a large area, the higher up you go, the more cost effective it becomes to place trunk stations and to deliver the internet. But signal loss will also be higher, so satellite access is only really a way of providing a basic internet experience for remote communities. Likewise, for high population densities, only lower altitude platforms will be truly effective, and connection speeds will be faster and the experience better for a lot of people. Given these challenges, Facebook is working on a range of technologies that will provide different options for connecting people.”
- Facebook’s Internet.org platform is a privacy nightmare (MediaNama | Nikhil Pahwa) “First up, no matter what Facebook says about Internet.org being a means of promoting Internet usage, it isn’t. It’s a fundamental, permanent change in the way the Internet works by splitting it into free vs paid access. It isn’t the same as giving someone Rs 10 of data access or even 100 mb. It is a permanent shift. While the kingmaker issue has been somewhat addressed by opening up the platform, there is only one true king in all of this, which is Facebook.”
- Critics fear tech giant dominance of airborne internet (Al Jazeera | Tarek Bazley) “But critics say Google’s search engine is already a powerful force online and any move that would see it controlling infrastructure as well, would give the company too much power. ‘Drones and balloons, these are awesome but what are they being used for?’ says Aral Balkan, an independent internet developer. ‘Are the underlying power dynamics changing? Or is it again a very small group of people exerting their power and control over a much larger group?’”
Articles from Ohio Web Library:
June 10th, 2015
A number of serious issues have recently come under discussion due to a contest over gaming. The Electronic Freedom Foundation [EFF] has asked the Library of Congress to provide an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA] so that libraries, museums, and game enthusiasts can preserve online games that have been “abandoned” by the publisher. The argument is that preservation of access to these games also preserves important cultural history. But the Entertainment Software Association has pointed out that the workarounds needed to preserve these games are also the same techniques hackers use to pirate games. It remains to be seen who will win this contest.
- The legal battle for gaming’s past (Polygon | Philip Kollar) “Let’s say you own a gaming museum or even just a large personal collection that has historic value. When a publisher shuts down the online servers for one of your games, you may want to hack the console hardware in some way to allow it to continue being played. In this way online-only games or modes wouldn’t be lost forever. But, according to the EFF, this technically isn’t legal, which is why it reached out to ask for a special exemption.”
- ESA oppose DRM law change preserving online games (Rock, Paper, Shotgun | Alice O’Connor) “The EFF proposed an exemption for ‘abandoned games’ as comments to the Copyright Office in February, and the ESA have now responded. The proposed exemption would allow folks to pick at shut-down games, creating workarounds for authentication or starting their own servers without getting in legal trouble. It’d cover publishers closing services for games, like EA routinely do, as well as the hypothetical shutdown of Steamworks, which many games rely on for their multiplayer. […] However, the exemption wouldn’t cover games with persistent virtual worlds like MMOs, or browser games either.”
- Publishers fight to block third-party revival of “abandoned” game servers (Ars Technica | Kyle Orland) “In a 71-page brief [pdf], though, the ESA says that these kinds of workarounds can’t be separated out from the wider piracy-prevention functions that the DMCA protects against. To add third-party server support to a console game, for instance, the ESA argues that a user has to first get around access controls built into the software and the hardware itself to modify the code. ‘Consequently, the proposed exemption would, in effect, eviscerate virtually all forms of access protection used to prevent video game piracy.’”
- EFF seeks DMCA exemption to preserve abandoned games (Torrent Freak | Andy) “Indeed, the testimony of ESA Senior Vice-President and General Counsel Christian Genetski before the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet last year (pdf), outlines the software group’s position clearly. ‘[W]hile addressing copyright infringement is one important objective of Section 1201, it is not its only objective,’ Genetski said. ‘[A] prohibition on the hacking of technological protection measures controlling access to protected works (even if the hacking does not result in any copyright infringement) [is] necessary in order to encourage innovation in the online distribution of copyrighted works.’”
Articles from Ohio Web Library:
June 3rd, 2015
Last Wednesday – while you were no doubt reading the 4cast – Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) presented her 20th annual report on Internet trends at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, outside of Los Angeles. Ms. Meeker started doing these reports in 1995 – the same year OPLIN was officially created – and they have become a highly respected and anticipated discussion of the state of the Internet each year. Now that the Internet has become such an integral part of our lives, these discussions often have as much to say about our society as they do about our technology, and this year was no exception.
- The impact of the on-demand economy, as told through Mary Meeker slides (Re/Code | Ina Fried) “You can get groceries from Instacart, lunch from Munchery and other goods from Instacart, but society has yet to catch up to how quickly labor and the workplace is being transformed. The good news is that the next generation of workers isn’t expecting the kind of stability that earlier generations have taken as the norm. They see the neighborhood coffee shop as their office, have no expectation of standard work hours and are far more willing to take on freelance tasks….”
- Mary Meeker’s Internet report: User growth slowing, but disruption full speed ahead (ZDNet | Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols) “On the plus side, the Internet social networking has made this kind of work much easier to find. It may not be ideal work, but at least, thanks to the Internet, it’s doable. The down side is that the average income from these services are far below the media US household income of $51,900. For example, an eBay seller will see an average gross of $3,000; a Thumbtack contractor will earn $8,000 a year; and even in New York City, a typical Airbnb host will earn only $7,700 a year.”
- Messaging becoming the heart of mobile, Mary Meeker says (CNET | Ben Fox Rubin) “Bolstering her case, Meeker pointed out that Whatsapp now has 800 million active mobile users, Facebook Messenger has 600 million and WeChat has 549 million. Snapchat, she reported, has 100 million daily active users. On top of those giant user bases, messaging apps also make up six of the top 10 most used apps globally. These statistics build on Meeker’s 2014 report, in which she noted how communicating online was changing, with people using messaging and chat apps more frequently to communicate with small groups of close contacts than they were using sites like Facebook to broadcast messages to larger audiences.”
- Mary Meeker’s vertical video future (Forbes | Steven Rosenbaum) “But as Meeker pointed out – video isn’t getting bigger. It’s getting smaller, and vertical, and mobile. Said Meeker: ‘Small Screen Vertical Viewing Became Big Deal…’ in 2014. Vertical viewing now accounts for 29% of total time spend on screens. Vertical viewing is the only category that’s growing other than tiny growth in ‘other’ connected devices like OTT [Over the Top].”
Articles from Ohio Web Library:
May 27th, 2015
On June 12, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intends to reclassify Internet service providers (ISPs) as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, which will give the FCC the authority to keep ISPs from discriminating between customers and providing different Internet access quality for similar types of customer traffic. In other words, the FCC will take a big step toward enforcing “net neutrality.” But Title II was primarily written to regulate the AT&T telephone monopoly, and therefore, it contains some other provisions that may now have the additional effect of strengthening Internet privacy.
- The FCC’s net neutrality decision could mean stronger privacy rules for Internet service providers (The Washington Post | Andrea Peterson) “FCC spokesperson Mark Wigfield confirmed that the agency’s vote will give it more oversight over the privacy practices of Internet service providers. Privacy advocates say this is probably a win for consumers, because for the first time ISPs will have to abide by a specific set of rules designed to protect the privacy of communications. The Communications Act, which governs the FCC, includes ‘one of the strongest federal privacy laws currently on the books,’ according to Laura Moy, senior counsel at New America’s Open Technology Institute.”
- FCC has new privacy requirements for broadband providers (Law360 | Michael Pryor) “The protections, found in Section 222 of Title II of the Communications Act, govern data known as Customer Proprietary Network Information (“CPNI”). This section will be among the Title II provisions of the Communications Act that the chairman intends to apply to broadband providers once broadband is reclassified as a telecommunications service. These privacy rules likely supplant the privacy protections currently enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC does not have jurisdiction over providers of telecommunications services (also known as common carriers).”
- ISPs really don’t want to follow new customer data privacy rules (Ars Technica | Jon Brodkin) “CPNI rules for phone service prevent companies from using customer information to market new services without the customer’s permission. They also require companies to report to customers and to law enforcement when customer information is disclosed without customer permission. Phone providers ‘may use, disclose or permit access to your customer information in these circumstances: (1) as required by law; (2) with your approval; and (3) in providing the service from which the customer information is derived,’ the FCC says.”
- FCC issues guidance on broadband privacy (Broadcasting & Cable | John Eggerton) “The bureau said that it would be looking for ‘good faith’ efforts to comply with privacy protections, and that seeking bureau input would tend to show such ‘good faith.’ The FCC’s reclassification of ISPs under Title II common carrier is scheduled to take effect June 12 absent a court stay, and will give the FCC oversight of broadband customer proprietary network information (CPNI) once the purview of the Federal Trade Commission. But while the FCC said it would not forbear from applying Title II privacy regs under Sec. 222, it said it would not simply transfer the phone rules to ISPs, but instead likely launch a rulemaking to come up with new rules.”
Articles from Ohio Web Library:
May 20th, 2015
Last week, Facebook launched Instant Articles, putting entire news stories from nine news organizations inside Facebook’s mobile app where people can read them rather than going to a website. Facebook says one of the main reasons for this arrangement is speed: articles delivered through Facebook’s mobile app supposedly load as much as ten times faster than the same article from a website. But some writers who offer commentary on the implications of technology changes think they see something other than just more speed going on here.
- Is Facebook a partner or a competitor for media companies? Yes. (Fortune | Matthew Ingram) “What Facebook wants is to deepen and strengthen its hold on users. In that sense, news content is just a means to an end. And the risk is that if it stops being an effective means to that end, then Facebook will lose interest in promoting it. But in the meantime, Facebook will have solidified its status as the default place where millions or possibly even billions of people go to get their news.”
- First Click: The inevitability of Facebook instant articles (The Verge | Thomas Ricker) “For the Facebook user, the benefit is clear: get the stories they’re already clicking on faster. For publishers though, it’s fraught with risk as they relinquish the distribution platform in order to meet readers where they are. It’s a return to Aol’s walled garden only with Zuck as its topiarist.”
- The walled gardens of the Web are growing (ReadWrite | David Nield) “With 1.4 billion users and growing, Facebook has a much better chance [than AOL] of becoming the Web for the majority of people who use it. That may do wonders for page loading times and tilt-to-pan photos, but it means we’re all playing by Mark Zuckerberg’s rules, both publishers and readers alike. That’s not a privilege that Facebook, Google or anyone else should have.”
- 6 reasons the media insiders panicking about Facebook Instant Articles are wrong (Vox | Timothy B. Lee) “The big worry of Instant Article skeptics is that users will get used to the fast loading of Instant Articles, and that this will have two negative effects. First, as the experience of reading news on Facebook improves, more people will do it, further expanding Facebook’s market share and — therefore — its power. And second, users will become more reluctant to click on links to outside articles and wait several seconds for the article to load. This argument doesn’t take the welfare of Facebook users seriously. The several-second delay between the time a user clicks on a link and the time she’s able to read an article is a real problem.”
Articles from Ohio Web Library:
May 13th, 2015
There’s a new Universal Serial Bus showing up on some high-end laptops, called USB-C. The new Apple MacBook, for example, has only one hole in its side (other than the headphone jack), and it’s a USB-C port. USB technology has been around for a long time, in various versions (3.1 is the newest), and USB is the most useful and popular port on today’s computers. USB-C now seems poised to become the one port that will do just about anything on any device, and that’s something to keep in mind as you shop for new computing devices for your library.
- What is USB-C? An explainer (PCMag | Joel Santo Domingo) “Yes, the USB-C connector looks like a micro USB connector at first glance, but it’s slightly thicker to accommodate its best feature: like Lightning and MagSafe, the USB-C connector has no up or down orientation: as long as the connector is lined up right, you won’t have to flip the connector to plug it in! The cables also have the same connector on both ends, so you won’t ever have to figure out which end to plug in, unlike the older USB cables we’ve been using for the past 20 years.”
- 6 things to know about the USB-C port in the new MacBook (PCWorld | Agam Shah) “But the faster USB 3.1 port is significant because it will also be used to recharge the MacBook, as well as to connect to a wider variety of peripherals such as monitors, external storage drives, printers, and cameras. The MacBook is one of just a few devices to carry the new USB port. USB 3.1 can technically transfer data between the host computers and peripherals at maximum speeds of up to 10Gbps (gigabits per second), which is two times faster than the current USB 3.0.”
- USB Type-C explained: What it is and why you’ll want it (How-To Geek | Chris Hoffman) “The USB PD specification is also closely intertwined with USB Type-C. Currently, smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices often use a USB connection to charge. A USB 2.0 connection provides up to 2.5 watts of power — that’ll charge your phone, but that’s about it. A laptop might require up to 60 watts, for example. The USB Power Delivery specification ups this power delivery to 100 watts. It’s bi-directional, so a device can either send or receive power. And this power can be transferred at the same time the device is transmitting data across the connection.”
- USB-C vs. USB 3.1: What’s the difference? (ExtremeTech | Joel Hruska) “The ability to provide 100W of power, as opposed to 10W, however, means that nearly every manufacturers could ditch clunky power bricks. There would still be concern about ensuring that connect points were sufficiently reinforced, but provided such concerns can be accounted for, the vast majority of laptops could switch over to the new standard. Hard drives and other external peripherals could all be powered by single wires, as could USB hubs for multiple devices. The higher bandwidth is nice, and a major selling point, but the flippable connector and the power provisioning will likely make more difference in the day-to-day reality of life.”
Articles from Ohio Web Library:
May 6th, 2015
As more and more specialized electronic devices automatically connect to Wi-Fi wherever they can find a node, comprising the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), the people who install and maintain wireless access points in libraries will encounter more and more concerns. For one thing, designing a wireless network for the IoT requires a shift in thinking, from providing big bandwidth for a few devices that patrons are using to “read” the Internet, to providing small bandwidth for a multitude of devices that they happen to be wearing in the library. But an even larger concern may be network security, since many of these devices have been designed with little or no thought given to protections against hacking and viruses.
- Internet of Crappy Things (Kaspersky blog | Alex Drozhzin) “In general, the problem is that those who develop home appliances and make them connected face realities of a brand new world they know nothing about. They ultimately find themselves in a situation similar to that of an experienced basketball player sitting through a chess match with a real grand master. Things get even worse when it comes to the users of connected devices. They don’t bother with security at all. For an average user, a connected microwave is still just a microwave. A user would never imagine it is a fully-equipped connected computer which has means of influencing the physical world.”
- Prepping WLANs for the Internet Of Things (Network Computing | Marcia Savage) “IoT security is a top concern, [director of product marketing at Aerohive Networks Abby] Strong said. Oftentimes the devices have custom operating systems, so antivirus can’t simply be installed on them. ‘There are few best practices for how to handle IoT systems,’ she said. ‘And absolutely no standardization. The industry doesn’t even know what the risks are yet.’”
- Are we creating an insecure Internet of Things (IoT)? Security challenges and concerns (Toptal | Nermin Hajdarbegovic) “[Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Edith] Ramirez went on to say that developers of IoT devices have not spent time thinking about how to secure their devices and services from cyberattacks. ‘The small size and limited processing power of many connected devices could inhibit encryption and other robust security measures,’ said Ramirez. ‘Moreover, some connected devices are low-cost and essentially disposable. If a vulnerability is discovered on that type of device, it may be difficult to update the software or apply a patch – or even to get news of a fix to consumers.’”
- ‘Internet of Things’ gets watchdog: Report calls for extra security to prevent hacking of smart gadgets in homes (Daily Mail | Victoria Woollaston) “Last year, the FTC studied 12 mobile fitness apps and found they shared data with 76 separate entities. Ms Ramirez continued: ‘If I’m wearing a fitness band that tracks how many calories I consume I wouldn’t want to share that data with an insurance company.’ The FTC report made no specific legislative recommendation for IoT but said ‘there appeared to be widespread agreement that companies developing IoT products should implement reasonable security.’”
Articles from Ohio Web Library:
April 29th, 2015
Computers-on-a-stick are not this year’s favorite cheap toy that you can win at the county fair, but real things made by some serious companies (Intel and Google most recently) that may, or may not, be the next big thing in computing. The basic concept is simple: Build a computer that will fit in your pocket with a protruding plug you can stick into the HDMI port of a standard display. Actually building a computer that small that people will actually want to use is the tricky bit, but some pundits claim these little devices will be big in education and business. It’s possible they might make their way into libraries, too, either in patrons’ pockets, or as something you just hand a patron when they ask to use a computer.
- 3 things you need to know about Google Inc.’s tiny new Chromebit computers (The Motley Fool | Daniel B. Kline) “‘By simply plugging this device into any display, you can turn it into a computer,’ Google engineer Katie Roberts-Hoffman wrote in a blog post. ‘It’s the perfect upgrade for an existing desktop and will be really useful for schools and businesses.’ The idea of a computer that slips into your pocket is not completely unique — Intel showed one at the Consumer Electronics show this year — but Google’s has the potential to establish the category as viable.”
- Intel compute stick review (Digital Trends | Matt Smith) “So-called Stick PCs running Android have been around as long as media streamers, but their inability to handle Windows severely limits their appeal. Now computers of the same size have become powerful enough to handle a full install of Windows 8.1. […] While a number of small manufacturers rushed to market first, Intel was the inspiration for the surge.”
- Intel and Google sticks unlikely to revolutionize computing (Seeking Alpha | Daniel James) “Users expecting a high-powered USB stick PC will be disappointed. Intel has suggested the stick be used for ‘light productivity, social networking, Web browsing, and streaming media or games.’ Also, it could provide a low-cost solution for business computing. However, there doesn’t seem to be a specific niche that the product is filling. The fact that it still needs a screen and a range of peripherals to operate means that it takes up roughly as much space as a small notebook. If you add up the price of all these components, it isn’t actually much cheaper than a small notebook.”
- Your quick guide to stick computers and what they’re good for (ReadWrite | Brian P. Rubin) “The good news is that there will probably be even more options before too long, since we’re only at the beginning of the stick computer movement—if it does turn out to be a movement, that is. It’s still entirely possible that these HDMI dongles will fail to catch on, and we’ll toss stick computers away in the same dustbin as the world’s discarded netbooks.”
Articles from Ohio Web Library: