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Would you pay for ad-free YouTube?

Would you pay to avoid watching advertisements on YouTube?

The Google-owned video sharing service based in California has announced it is "fine-tuning" an ad-free experience aimed at competing with streaming services such as Netflix. The announcement was made at the Code/Media conference held this week in San Francisco by YouTube's Director of Content and Business Operations, Robert Kyncl, according to an article in The Guardian.

YouTube already hosts dozens of paid channels on its website, including content from PBS' Sesame Street and National Geographic. The new ad-free experience would likely work like those channels, with users paying an upfront cost then being able to watch whatever videos they choose without ads.

YouTube was launched in 2005 by three former employees of online payment service PayPal. The service began running ads on videos shortly thereafter, much to the consternation of outlets like Gizmodo. Google purchased the video-sharing service in 2006 for $1.65 billion.

Would you pay an upfront fee to get around those annoying YouTube ads? Or are you like me, patiently awaiting the "skip ad" button (or repeatedly tapping the mouse where the button will show up) on videos? Let us know in the comments below.

Here's some Nyan Cat to get you thinking. Ads included.


Felines find homes through cyberspace

 A cat rests on the throne bed in the King Tut-themed cat playroom at the Oregon Humane Society in Portland. 

PORTLAND – Cats these days aren’t associated with deities the way they were in ancient Egypt, but the Internet has gotten them a little closer.

We adore Nora the piano-playing cat. We chuckle as a comical feline named Maru leaps into cardboard boxes. We revel in Grumpy Cat’s permanently sour expression. And with millions watching videos of other kitties getting tongue baths from horses and playing peekaboo with their owners, cats have become online stars.

For feline fans, it’s a sea change. In the affections of Americans, cats often get short shrift compared with dogs. Some see cats as aloof, poor companions and indifferent to attention that dogs enjoy.

But with cats’ celebrity expanding, experts say cyberspace is aiding their plight.

Tell the truth. Have you ever watched an Internet cat video?

North Korea experiencing severe Internet outages

WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea experienced sweeping and progressively worse Internet outages extending into Monday, with one computer expert saying the country’s online access is “totally down.” The White House and the State Department declined to say whether the U.S. government was responsible.

Disqus users should reset passwords

Any commenters that log directly into our Disqus commenting system are advised to change their passwords due to a security vulnerability announced by Disqus.com.


PLEASE NOTE: This applies ONLY to users who use their DISQUS account to comment, NOT users who comment using their spokesman.com login credentials, as illustrated below:

The Spokesman-Review takes the security of our users very seriously, so if in doubt PLEASE reset your passwords. For more information about the vulnerability, please check my last blog post about Heartbleed.

I repeat, if in doubt, change your passwords

If you have any issues or questions about this matter, please email us at webteam@spokesman.com or you can email me directly at dang@spokesman.com.

The Aviator web browser - Google’s Chrome without the Googles

Privacy is a hot-button issue these days. Between Facebook/Twitter/Google tracking your movements across the web and the NSA implanting tracking code in your brain… (Hyperbole, yes. But until all of Snowden's NSA whistle-blower secrets have been divulged, it's best to assume that the Gov't has satellites that shoot high-powered laser beams from space and can conduct brain surgery on you while you're swimming in your backyard pool. I got that tip from my schizophrenic Aunt years ago. Should have listened to her advice.)

Anyway, let's just say that privacy is hard to come by these days. Especially on the web. That's why it warms my heart to hear about WhiteHat Security's new, and free, Aviator browser.

Here's the skinny: It's basically Google Chrome, but without the Google part. What I mean by that is Aviator is built on the same open source Chromium browser (the guts or innards of Google Chrome), but without Google's search engine (it uses DuckDuckGo, behavior tracking and advertising.

But it doesn't just do away with the Googles. By default, the Aviator browser doesn't allow any tracking code from any website, unless you specifically allow it to. It comes built-in with the fantastic Disconnect plugin (which has so much awesome in it that I've decided to write a separate post about it), blocks all third-party cookies, and it runs by default in privacy/incognito mode.

I downloaded it and took a test drive with it, and it feels exactly like Google Chrome. If you like Google Chrome, then this is probably a good option for you because it's still compatible with all of the normal Chrome plugins.

If, like me, you don't like Chrome, it's less appealing. I like my Firefox just fine, but then again, I'm a web developer. For 99% of the rest of the people, I'd probably recommend this.

The Internet proves useful

You can really help an elderly person you know by tracking down recent online obituaries written about one of his or her far-away friends. It explains why that friend hasn't called or written in a while.

It's sad, but at least it's an answer.

Need access to federal websites?

In case you haven't heard, the Federal Government is shut down for the moment. In a completely nonsensical (from a technical perspective) act, a bunch of federal websites have been taken down and replaced with this very welcoming message:

In case you really, really needed to have access to some content from the Library of Congress or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) websites or any number of other acronymically challenged Federal Government websites, you can rest easy. The awesome chaps at archive.org have your back:

Blacked Out Government Websites Available Through Wayback Machine

They have archived quite a few of the sites, and I'm sure there's more available too. (For funsies, while you're there, you should also do an archive.org search of old spokane.net and spokesmanreview.com websites.)

Sure, there’s porn and pictures of cats

But the Internet is also home to a lot of customer reviews of Spokane area restaurants that closed years ago.

Gregoire signs online impersonation law

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Governor Chris Gregoire has signed into a law a bill to help victims of online impersonation pursue lawsuits in civil court.

The bill, signed by the governor Wednesday, passed through both the Washington state House and the Senate unanimously.

Under the law, humiliating, defrauding or threatening others by maliciously impersonating them on social networks or online bulletin boards will be grounds to file a lawsuit.

The measure will not apply to police officers impersonating others online as part of a criminal investigation.

The law will go into effect in June.

Rural Idaho libraries are seeing faster broadband service, bears or no…

Though Idaho achieved the dubious distinction this week of being declared the state with the slowest Internet by the New York Times - a study earlier this year showed Idaho has the nation's slowest residential Internet download speeds, the city with the slowest service anywhere was Pocatello, and some Idahoans apparently are having Internet service problems due to interference by bears - the Idaho Commission for Libraries says there's a bright spot in the gem state: Libraries. The commission is in the midst of a statewide broadband deployment initiative that's sharply increasing the broadband speeds at some of the state's least-connected public libraries. It's funded through grants from the Federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, or BTOP, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gens Johnson, BTOP coordinator for the Idaho libraries commission, said, the "online@your library" project is making high-speed Internet available to more and more Idahoans, regardless of their residential service speeds.

Among the 56 mostly rural libraries that have benefited so far: The public library in tiny Preston, Idaho got 12 new computers and 11 mbps broadband connections; and the Sandpoint library jumped up to 45 mbps broadband and got 22 new computers. Libraries in the program have gone from average upload and download speeds of 1.5 mbps, to 11 mbps for downloads and 8 mbps for uploads. The program also adds wi-fi service to libraries so patrons can get service on their own computers. You can read the Commission for Libraries full statement here.

Tuesday Video: How Green Is Your Internet?

The "so-coal network," a campaign to get Facebook to unfriend coal. was a wake-up call to internet savvy environmentalists using it as an outreach tool like yours truly. It boils down to this: Technology isn't without its environmental impact. The web continues to grow so more people get online each day and with that comes more energy use and a bigger carbon footprint.

How Green Is Your Internet? from Dan Ilic on Vimeo.

first posted this video from Australian filmmakers Dan Ilic and Patrick Clair which outlines the emissions produced to deliver the internet to computers around the world. Of course, there can be a future where we as consumers can choose how our energy is produced or perhaps it can be offset in a different way.

“Varieties of death due to solar and wind could well go through the roof”

Coal: It's the safest energy there is.

This is Onion worthy. Did you hear about Peabody Coal's unconscionable new site, Coalcares.org? It's bad. Real bad. They're offering Dora the Explorer and Justin Bieber-branded inhalers to kids living near coal plants.  There's even a "Kidz Koal Korner" with tcartoon characters called "Puff" and "Ash," and they say clean energy will kill you. Why? They want to make kids think asthma is cool because coal pollution causes asthma. I thought it was a spoof site.  

How climate change could ruin the internet

Perfect. Climate change could keep you from reading Down To Earth. According to a new report from the United Kingdom, climate change could threaten WiFi internet access. Higher temperatures can reduce the signal range, increased rainfall can affect reliability, and more severe storms could lead to more outages. 

Other parts of infrastructure are at risk too- railway lines and roads. But can you live without all that as long as the internet is working, right? Or at least not running slowly? UGH! (Just as long as I can still watch this, we're cool climate change. If not, it's war.)

Denney Sidelines Internet Sales Tax

Even as dozens of Idahoans are testifying to JFAC that Idaho should look to more revenue - including, many have suggested, possibly taxing Internet sales - rather than cutting services to the disabled, House Speaker Lawerence Denney has single-handedly sidelined a bill that was moving along to open the door to future online taxes/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Should Internet sales be taxed to raise revenue for cash-strapped Idaho?

Money-for-sex suspect out of jail on bond

A Spokane Valley man accused of offering young girls money for sex after posing as a young man on Internet is out of jail on $20,000 bond.

Bradley Thomas Oliver, 44, left the Spokane County Jail Wednesday about 5:50 p.m., a few hours after his lawyer told a judge he’d been unjustly arrested and that she was violating the law by imposing bond. 

“There simply is not one shred of evidence that he will commit a violent crime,” lawyer Phillip Wetzel told Superior Court Judge Annette Plese. He said Oliver should have been summonsed to an arraignment but instead was arrested at his work, which likely cost him his job.

Wetzel described Oliver as a Spokane resident since 1988 who owns a home and pays $500 each month in child support. He said Plese would be violating the law if she didn’t allow him to leave jail on his own recognizance.

Deputy Prosecutor Ed Hay had a short response: “We can (downplay) sexual abuse of a minor, your honor, but I’d ask you not to.”

Hay cited Oliver’s previous conviction for soliciting a prostitute. “These are indeed dangerous offenses to the young women involved and we’re concerned about what he might do in the community if he’s released,” the prosecutor said.

A woman who identified herself as the mother of Oliver’s children urged Plese to prohibit him from seeing their children.

Plese said Oliver is prohibited from having unsupervised contact with anyone under 18 - including his own children. Wetzel said he may appeal the $20,000 bond also imposed by Plese.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Oliver in June after three girls said they agreed to meet a teen boy at Target, 13724 E. Sprague Ave., but were instead confronted by Oliver, who offered them each $200 for sex, according to court documents.

The girls, who had arranged the meeting through MySpace.com, declined and called police. Oliver allegedly asked for sex again through text messages.

Past coverage:

Sept. 28: Police: Man posed as teen boy online to lure girls

High Noon: Internet makes you happier

According to this story in the New York Times:

“There are those who believe that too much time spent on the Internet makes people less social and causes them to lose touch with the real world, but a new British study released today found that access to the Internet and the web, and especially to social networks such as Facebook, can improve people’s levels of happiness. The study found that Internet access improves the overall well-being of lower-income users, those with less education and women — particularly those in developing countries — by giving them a sense of freedom and control over their lives.” Mathew Ingram Read More.

Does the Internet make you happier?


The modern party line…

Good morning, Netizens…

Early in my years and perhaps yours we had one of the greatest sources of misinformation and gossip known to man, commonly known as “the party line” telephone. For the most part my experience with the party line consisted of a wall-mounted crank telephone where you had to call the operator with a good crank before you could place a phone call. Unfortunately, you could also listen in to any other members of your party line while they were calling someone else. This made for a particularly good source of information and juicy gossip.

Until recent years I hadn’t seen anything that would rival the old party-line telephones for ease of use and abuse. If you heard the phone ring someone else’s ring (ours was two shorts and a long ring) wait a few minutes and then making certain to cover up the mouthpiece to prevent background noise from letting the other party know you were there, simply pick up the phone and listen in.

The only big difference between then and modern-day telephones was there was no dial; all calls were routed through the operator in town. Everyone knew where the operator’s office was because she lived on the main drag, and that was where you paid your phone bill. She was also, in some cases, a reliable source of self-censored gossip about life back then. If your wife/daughter had a legitimate baby, it’s gender and weight were spread via word-of-mouth as soon as someone called from the hospital. If the baby was born out of wedlock, although it might take a bit longer for word to get around, all it took was a phone call and everyone in your party line quietly spread the word. Many a young woman’s life was put on emotional rocks of life because of the party line.

In this morning’s David Horsey cartoon we take a modern-day look at the latest permutation of the party line carried forward into our generation.

The premise today is if we read it on the Internet, regardless of the veracity of its source, it must be accurate because it came from the Internet. We have made the transition from the old party line to the newfangled gadgets; the only difference is in many cases nobody knows the source of information nor, in some cases, its accuracy, but we are encouraged to spread the word nonetheless, because by God we can.

As much as Jeanie and I have the temerity to have put our names on this Blog, still we both make strenuous efforts to keep what we say is accurate. Not all Blogs, unfortunately, seem to perform this self-censorship. This morning David Horsey seems to have hit the nail squarely on the head.


Cyberbullying Growing Among Women

Experts say anytime you are harassed, humiliated or threatened online it’s cyberbullying, and teens aren’t the only victims. ”I hear about adult women retaliating a lot more and retaliating in really vicious ways, to the point where sites get shut down, people drop off of sites,” said Dr. Cheryl Dellasega, author of Mean Girls Grown Up. She says bullying can be one rude comment, or a string of them. “The topics that women are cyberbullied about are really endless. It could be a romance. It could be your parenting practices,” said Dellasega/Mimi Jung, King5.com. More here. AP illustration. (H/T: Liz)

Question: Have you ever been cyberbullied? And/Or: Do you think females of all ages are meaner and more likely to fight one another today than they were years ago?

Hey Google, Spokane has a trash-eating goat statue

Spokane hasn’t gone to the extremes of some other places competing in the Google Fiber for Communities contest.

Mayor Mary Verner hasn’t jumped in an icy lake, for instance. Nor has she followed Topeka’s lead in changing the city’s name. (Apparently Spogoogle isn’t catchy enough.) But that doesn’t mean city leaders are gimmick-free in their effort to woo Google. Verner showed off this video at Monday’s City Council meeting, during which the council voted unanimously to support the city’s effort to win the contest. Officials are asking residents to send e-mails in support of the project and to become Facebook friends with the city’s Google Fiber Facebook page. It’s also organizing a “flash mob” to meet for a photo in Riverfront Park on Wednesday.

5 Reasons the Internet could die at any moment

Matt Fugazzi, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service office  in Spokane,  works with a bank of computers.

According to humor website CRACKED.com, the Internet could blow at any time. Here’s why:

#5 The Internet is a series of cables and cables can be cut.

#4 Hordes of zombie robots will kill us all.

#3 Someone impersonates the Ferryman.

#2 The Internet is Main Street USA, and Wal-Mart just moved in.

#1 Losing net neutrality (or keeping it)

Full story here.

How would the death of the Internet affect you?

Note to media critics: check your facts

About once a week, some reader is kind enough to forward something from the Internet that shows what an absolutely abysmal job the news media is doing on some topic or another.

Sometimes the complaint involves not telling them that Barack Obama was really born in Africa, or is a closet Muslim, or perhaps from another planet. I can live with that, because a). I’m pretty sure he wasn’t born in Africa but couldn’t prove otherwise to their satisfaction if my life depended on it; b). I take all people at their word on their religion, but wouldn’t care if he was a Muslim; and c). I’m from another planet too, and we aliens stick together.

Other times it involves stories of the military and military heroism, which the e-mail’s anonymous author insists the NEWS MEDIA WILL NEVER TELL YOU.

As someone who covers the military for a paper, and sometimes writes about local veterans who’ve done remarkable things (they’re leery about calling themselves heroes, so I generally don’t) it is mildly annoying to suggest any newspaper would pass up a good story of heroism. They’re much better to write than, say, a story about zoning policy or sewer rates.

The real reason we usually haven’t told the story in the forwarded e-mail is …

More on the porn tax…

From an interview last night with Rep. Mark Miloscia, who’s proposed tacking on an extra 18.5 percent sales tax onto adult videos, cable shows, etc.

“Somebody brought this to me and I said `Wow. Well, why not?’” said Miloscia, D-Federal Way.

His bill is actually a nearly-verbatim copy of a 2004 proposal from Sen. Val Stevens: SB 6741. That bill never even got a hearing.

Unlike a lot of business taxes, Miloscia said he’s not worried about hurting the business climate for porn.

“My constituent, while they care about Microsoft or Boeing, I don’t think the adult entertainment industry is an industry that my constituents would worry about going out of state,” he said. He also said that in a decade in the statehouse, this is the first tax bill he’s ever prime-sponsored.

He gives his own bill “low odds” of passing.

“Tax increases tend to be the issue that people do not support,” he said. To improve its odds, he’s willing to have a statewide vote on the proposal. He said he’s confident that voters would approve.

But even if it passed, one big loophole would remain: Internet pornography.

“The Internet is really tough to tax,” said Miloscia. “The Internet is wild west.”

He spent much of Tuesday fielding calls from reporters about the proposal.

“I didn’t think it was going to get as much attention as it has,” he said.