27 October 2013

Almost A Year Later: Are You Using Twitter’s Vine? [MakeUseOf Poll]


Last week we asked you if you’re using a third-party firewall on your computer. In the day and age of built-in firewalls, you’d think we’d get a clear-cut answer. Not so. Out of 427 votes in total, 2% use a third-party firewall but don’t think it’s actually necessary, 10% don’t use a firewall but think they probably should, 40% don’t use a third-party firewall, and 48% of the voters use a third-party firewall on their computer. Full results and this week’s poll after the jump. Don’t forget to check out last week’s best comment by Keefe K, who gives a...

Read the full article: Almost A Year Later: Are You Using Twitter’s Vine? [MakeUseOf Poll]

Google WiFi Passport

Google found a new way to get people online: a service called WiFi Passport that's currently tested in Jakarta (Indonesia) and allows people to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots for free or at affordable rates.

"WiFi Passport powered by Google is a fast, easy and affordable way to get online when you're out and about in Jakarta. To use it, just get a voucher, sign into your Google account, enter the code then head to the nearest participating hotspot. It's exclusively available for Android users and works across official Android smartphones and tablets running version 2.2 (Froyo) and above."

"After connecting, you'll be online for the next 24 hours so long as you're in a hotspot. You can use up to 3GB of video, music, photos and other content in a single day – or 7GB over seven days and 10GB over 30 days. With hotspots around the city, you can connect with buddies, watch the big matches, or stay in touch with the office all day long."

There's a free voucher that lets you use WiFi passport for 10 days and there are vouchers that cost $1.82 and $4.55 for 20 and 50 days of use. Here's the Android app that lets you add Wi-Fi time.

{ Thanks, Florian K. }

YouTube Drops Support for 1080p Streams in the Regular HTML5 Player

I've mentioned in the previous post about Media Source Extensions and YouTube's HTML5 player. For now, only Chrome, Opera and IE11 for Windows 8 support Media Source Extensions. If you're using Firefox, Safari or an old version of IE, you're out of luck.

Why is this important? YouTube switched to adaptive streams in the Flash player and now does the same thing for the HTML5 player, but this requires Media Source Extensions. The adaptive DASH player uses separate chunked streams for audio and video, so that YouTube can switch the stream to a lower or higher bit rate, depending on the network bandwidth.

A few days ago, YouTube removed the non-DASH streams for 480p and 1080p. This means that you'll no longer be able to watch 1080p videos in YouTube's HTML5 player if you use Firefox or Safari. Here's an example of video that includes the 480p and 1080p options in the Flash player and the DASH HTML5 player, but not the regular HTML5 player.

Firefox screenshot:

Chrome screenshot:

This change affects desktop browsers and mobile browsers, third-party mobile YouTube players, as well as the apps and extensions that download YouTube videos and break YouTube's terms of use. You're not affected if you use the Flash player, the HTML5 player in Chrome, Opera and IE11 or YouTube's mobile apps.

YouTube Shows if Your Browser Supports Media Source Extensions

YouTube has recently updated the HTML5 player's page and now shows if your browser supports Media Source Extensions for H.264 or WebM VP9. I loaded the page in various browsers and Chrome is the only browser that supports both containers and Media Source Extensions. Internet Explorer 11 also supports Media Source Extensions, but you need to install a Google software to play WebM videos in IE.

The W3C draft explains that this "extends HTMLMediaElement to allow JavaScript to generate media streams for playback. Allowing JavaScript to generate streams facilitates a variety of use cases like adaptive streaming and time shifting live streams."

If your browser supports Media Source Extensions, YouTube's HTML5 player can use the adaptive streaming feature that's already available in the Flash player. You can also right-click the player, select "stats for nerds" and see if you can find "DASH: yes" - this means that YouTube uses adaptive streaming, slices videos and only loads the slices when they are needed. Here's a screenshot from IE11 in Windows 8.1:

"IE11 introduces support for MPEG-DASH media streaming through HTML5 Media Source Extensions (MSE). MSE extends the video and audio elements that you can dynamically change for a media stream without using plug-ins. This gives you such things as adaptive media streaming, live streaming, splicing videos, and video editing. This feature is not supported in IE11 on Windows 7," informs Microsoft.

With the introduction of Media Source Extensions and Encrypted Media Extensions, sites like Netflix or Hulu can switch to HTML5 players and no longer rely on plug-ins or separate apps. The downside for users is that it will no longer be easy to download videos from HTML5 players, since the DRM code will generate streams dynamically.