Internet Archive

HP announces OpenSwitch

HP today announced the launch of the OpenSwitch community and a new open source network operating system (NOS). HP and key supporters, Accton Technology Corporation, Arista, Broadcom, Intel, and VMware, are delivering a community-based platform that provides developers and users the ability to accelerate innovation, avoid vendor lock-in, and realize investment protection as they rapidly build data center networks customized for unique business applications.

Here's the official OpenSwitch site - and I'll admit, this goes way over my head.

Computers and the web can bring the old and new together

An interesting website that lets you go back in time, to see what the island of Manhattan looked like before it was appropriated by the Dutch and turned into New Amsterdam (now New York, of course). The native forest, streams, pond - they're all gone, obviously, and quite a bit of land was 'added' to the island to accommodate the city's needs (quite fitting, considering its founders).

Have you ever wondered what New York was like before it was a city? Find out here, by navigating through the map of the city in 1609. You can find your block, explore the native landscape of today's famous landmarks, research the flora and fauna block by block, and help our team continue to rediscover 1609.

A few weeks ago, in honour of the 200 year anniversary of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, the Dutch Kadaster and Topografisch Bureau (do I really need to translate that?) launched a fantastic website showing how much The Netherlands has changed over just the past 200 years. The site shows a Google Maps-like interface containing all topographical maps of the country made over the past 200 years, so you can navigate around the country and use the timeline slider to see when changes took place. Compare the Zuiderzee area in 1815 to the same area (now IJsselmeer) today, and it's completely different (we're basically just removing all the water and reclaiming all the land to bring us back to how it was 2000 years ago).

Even at the very local level, you can find really interesting things. If you ever wanted a clear image of the absolutely devastating effect the government policy of "ruilverkaveling" (land swap) and the '70s ideals of the "malleable society" in its most literal form had on the landscape of The Netherlands (and who doesn't, right?), look no further than this 1973 map of my hometown/area. You can clearly see what it used to look like (the messy part), and the straight, ordered, boring, and artificial nothingness they turned it into. A few years later, the last remaining "old" landscape was destroyed, and now it all looks straight and orderly.

This was all done to maximise agricultural production and make it easier for local, provincial and the national government to initiate new construction projects. It also allowed water management engineers to completely redesign our water management, which is kind of important in the western half of the country, since it consists almost entirely out of polders.

I love how computers and the web can bring the old and the new together like this, and visualise so well something you otherwise would never be able to get this clear an image of.

From radio to porn, British spies track web users

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people's online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs.

The mass surveillance operation - code-named KARMA POLICE - was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom's electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

Severed pig's head.

Yes, the FCC might ban your operating system

Over the last few weeks a discussion has flourished over the FCC's Notification of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on modular transmitters and electronic labels for wireless devices. Some folks have felt that the phrasing has been too Chicken-Little-like and that the FCC's proposal doesn’t affect the ability to install free, libre or open source operating system. The FCC in fact says their proposal has no effect on open source operating systems or open source in general. The FCC is undoubtedly wrong.

Be sure to actually read the article.

On ad-blocking

Let's talk ad-blocking.

With the arrival of iOS 9, ad-blocking is coming to mobile in a big way, and it's causing a lot of talk all over the web. It is highlighting the internal struggle some feel about the practice, but also the hypocrisy of some of its staunchest proponents. So far, it seems like the real 'bloodbath' isn't taking place where people thought it would be - namely, publishers - but among personalities.

Apple’s “veto power over new web technologies”

John Gruber, on Apple's incredible power over the web:

As a side note, I think this is more or less what is happening, whether the web community likes it or not, because this largely seems to describe Safari/WebKit's approach to moving forward - and Safari, because of iOS in particular - effectively gives Apple veto power over new web technologies. Apple can't stop Google from adding new features to Chrome/Blink, but Apple can keep any such features from being something web developers can rely upon as being widely available. That implicit veto power is what drove this summer's "Safari is the New IE" drama.

What could possibly go wrong. Meanwhile, John Gruber, on his site's about page:

Web standards are important, and Daring Fireball adheres to them.

OK.

We’re heading straight for AOL 2.0

The biggest internet players count users as their users, not users in general. Interoperability is a detriment to such plays for dominancy. So there are clear financial incentives to move away from a more open and decentralized internet to one that is much more centralized. Facebook would like its users to see Facebook as 'the internet' and Google wouldn't mind it if their users did the same thing and so on. It's their users after all. But users are not to be owned by any one company and the whole power of the internet and the world wide web is that it's peer to peer, in principle all computers connected to it are each others equals, servers one moment, clients the next.

If the current trend persists we're heading straight for AOL 2.0, only now with a slick user interface, a couple more features and more users. I personally had higher hopes for the world wide web when it launched. Wouldn't it be ironic if it turned out that the end-run the WWW did around AOL because it was the WWW was open and inclusive ended up with different players simply re-implementing the AOL we already had and that we got rid of because it was not the full internet.

The writing's been on the wall for a while now.

The mobile web sucks

Nilay Patel, writing for The Verge:

But man, the web browsers on phones are terrible. They are an abomination of bad user experience, poor performance, and overall disdain for the open web that kicked off the modern tech revolution. Mobile Safari on my iPhone 6 Plus is a slow, buggy, crashy affair, starved for the phone's paltry 1GB of memory and unable to rotate from portrait to landscape without suffering an emotional crisis. Chrome on my various Android devices feels entirely outclassed at times, a country mouse lost in the big city, waiting to be mugged by the first remnant ad with a redirect loop and something to prove.

With The Verge itself being the poster child for how slow the mobile (and non-mobile) web can be, this article did leave a bit of a funny taste in my mouth. Luckily, The Verge's parent company - Vox Media - is going to put its money where its mouth is, and focus entirely on performance - with solid promises we can hold them to. Very nice.

US exhausts IPv4 addresses

Ars Says, "Remember how, a decade ago, we told you that the Internet was running out of IPv4 addresses? Well, it took a while, but that day is here now: Asia, Europe, and Latin America have been parceling out scraps for a year or more, and now the ARIN wait list is here for the US, Canada, and numerous North Atlantic and Caribbean islands. Only organizations in Africa can still get IPv4 addresses as needed. The good news is that IPv6 seems to be picking up the slack."

How an artificial language from 1887 is finding new life online

The internet, though, has been a mixed blessing for Esperanto. While providing a place for Esperantists to convene without the hassle of traveling to conventions or local club meetings, some Esperantists believe those meatspace meet ups were what held the community together. The Esperanto Society of New York has 214 members on Facebook, but only eight of them showed up for the meeting. The shift to the web, meanwhile, has been haphazard, consisting mostly of message boards, listservs, and scattered blogs. A website called Lernu! - Esperanto for the imperative "learn!" - is the center of the Esperanto internet, with online classes and an active forum. But it's stuck with a Web 1.0 aesthetic, and the forum is prone to trolls, a byproduct of Esperanto's culture of openness to almost any conversation as long as it's conducted in - or even tangentially related to - Esperanto.

But there's hope that the internet can give the language new life. Wikipedia and its 215,000 pages was a first step, and yesterday, Esperanto debuted on Duolingo, a virtual learning app with 20 million active users - far more people than have ever spoken Esperanto since its invention.

This article is the perfect mix between two of my favourite subjects - technology, and language. A highly recommended read.

Comcast plans to drop Time Warner Cable deal

Comcast Corp. is planning to walk away from its proposed $45.2 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said, after meeting with opposition from U.S. regulators.

Comcast’s board will meet to finalize the decision on Thursday, and an announcement may come as soon as Friday, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Great news for American consumers.

Twitter details new measures to combat abuse

We believe that users must feel safe on Twitter in order to fully express themselves. As our General Counsel Vijaya Gadde explained last week in an opinion piece for the Washington Post, we need to ensure that voices are not silenced because people are afraid to speak up. To that end, we are today announcing our latest product and policy updates that will help us in continuing to develop a platform on which users can safely engage with the world at large.

They're trying, and that's commendable. This must be an incredible engineering problem.

The Fax Machine Lives on in Japan

I actually received a fax today, through the eFax account I've had since the late 90s and has mostly lain dormant during this century, so I found today's NYT article on the fax's enduring importance in Japan quite interesting. The tl;dr: Japanese were early adopters of fax and it's unbelievably intertwined with day-to-day operations of most businesses; the Japanese language and culture favor handwritten notes; people in Japan, demographically, are old and set in their ways.

Google will implement Pointer Events in Blink after all

The Pointer Events API is a low-level input API for mouse, touch and stylus introduced by IE. Pointer Events extends the MouseEvent model while offering a replacement for all uses of Mouse and Touch events. Based on the feedback we've received, and the productive collaboration in the Pointer Events working group, I now believe we should implement this API in Blink.

After this Google u-turn, only Apple refuses to support Pointer Events.

NTP’s fate hinges on ‘father time’

In April, one of the open source code movement's first and biggest success stories, the Network Time Protocol, will reach a decision point. At 30 years old, will NTP continue as the pre-eminent time synchronization system for Macs, Windows, and Linux computers and most servers on networks?

Or will this protocol go into a decline marked by drastically slowed development, fewer bug fixes, and greater security risks for the computers that use it? The question hinges to a surprising degree on the personal finances of a 59-year-old technologist in Talent, Ore., named Harlan Stenn.

Amazing how such an important protocol hinges on just one man.

Pointer Events finalised; Apple, Google refuse to support it

But here's the current reality, one that has been accurate for awhile. Apple has a very, very strong influence over what standards get adopted and what standards do not. Partly it's market share, partly it's developer bias (see, for example, how other vendors eventually felt forced to start supporting the webkit prefix due to vendor prefix abuse).

Apple simply does not play well with other vendors when it comes to standardization. The same sort of things we once criticized Microsoft for doing long ago, we give Apple a pass on today. They're very content to play in their own little sandbox all too often.

All this specifically pertaining to the Touch Events/Pointer Events dichotomy. The latter is superior, but Apple refuses to support it, while the former couldn't be adopted because of patent threats from Apple. So, Pointer Events is now finalised, but Apple will not implement it.

They're not the only ones to blame for yet another childish, nonsensical, anti-consumer spat in web standardisation - Google is just as much to blame. This is what a Google engineer has to say on the matter:

No argument that PE is more elegant. If we had a path to universal input that all supported, we would be great with that, but not all browsers will support PE. If we had Apple on board with PE, we’d still be on board too.

Android is the biggest mobile platform, and Chrome is the most popular desktop browser. Had Google the stones, they'd implement Pointer Events and help paint Apple in a corner. They refuse to do so, thereby contributing just as much to this nonsense as Apple.

All this reeks of specifically wanting to hurt the web just because these companies are competitors elsewhere. Bunch of children.