300,000 in Less Than a Year for YouTube TV

Cord Cutters flock to YouTube TV!

YouTube TVYouTube TV reportedly has 300,000 paying subscribers less than a year in

9to5Google – By: Abner Li – “Since its full launch in April, YouTube has been actively expanding its cord-cutting live television service with new cities, apps, and features. A new report today claims that YouTube TV has amassed just over 300,000 paying subscribers.

CNBC acquired the figure from a source as part of a broader piece detailing live TV services. The report also notes that Hulu with Live TV — which launched a month later with more channels, on-demand library, and features a number of upgrade options — has about 450,000 subscribers.

The latter figures come as Hulu earlier this month announced that the Live TV service, along with its Netflix streaming library competitor, has about 17 million users. We do not have a similar figure from YouTube, with Red rumored to only have 1.5 million subscribers as of November 2016.

Both online offerings pale in comparison to services offered by traditional satellite television providers. AT&T’s DirecTV Now has 1 million paying users as of last month, while Dish’s Sling TV is estimated to have more than 2 million.

YouTube TV costs $35 per month and offers 52 channels, including the big four broadcast networks and an assortment of other cable channels. The subscription includes six user accounts featuring unlimited DVR, with apps for the web, iOS, Android, streaming boxes, and smart TVs. As of last month, it is available in 84 markets across the country.”

Would You Believe a Half-Terabyte MicroSD Card!

Integral MicroSDWow! Half a terabyte in a tiny micro-SD card!

Integral Memory’s new 512GB microSD card is the biggest microSD card yet

The Verge – By: Chaim Gartenberg – “There’s a new king of the microSD card: Integral Memory’s 512GB microSD card, which packs a record breaking full half-terabyte of storage into the diminutive card format. You definitely should try not to lose it.

The previous record holder — SanDisk’s now paltry 400GB card — is still a bit faster at 100MB/s, whereas Integral Memory’s new 512GB behemoth tops out at a maximum speed of 80MB/s. The new 512GB microSD card is also classified as an SDXC UHS-I U1 card (i.e., it has a minimum write speed of 10MB/s) and meets the V10 standard for video transfer rates, so it’s designed to capture full HD video off cameras.

No price was given, but it’s almost guaranteed to be expensive when in launches sometime in February.”

Android Oreo 8.1 Now Displays Connection Speed Info

Oreo 8.1Know before you connect which WiFi connection is faster.

Android 8.1 can now display Wi-Fi speeds before connecting

Techcrunch – By: Brian Heater – “Oreo was a bit of a lackluster update on first launch, but the mobile operating system is getting some nice new tricks with 8.1’s updates. The new Speed Labels feature is one of the more compelling of the bunch, offering estimated network signals prior to logging on.

Starting this week, users with 8.1 installed will see one of four qualifiers next to open Wi-Fi networks: Very Fast, Fast, OK and Slow. Pretty straightforward, that. Fast is fine for most videos, according to Google, with Very Fast required for much higher quality. OK should suffice for reading sites and streaming music, while Slow is basically okay for Wi-Fi calling and texts.

It’s not exactly a speed test rating, but it should make the job of deciding between networks a bit easier. The feature was announced in December and is finally starting to roll out to 8.1 users this week. Of course, that version of Android is still in relatively limited supply at the moment, with support on Google’s own phones, including the Pixel and Pixel 2, Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X.

Speeds won’t show up for protected networks, and admins who are sensitive about that sort of thing also can opt-out from having their speed displayed in Android.”

Duck Duck Go Adds Tracker Blocking Feature

DuckDuckGoThe privacy-aware search engine, Duck Duck Go, makes some big announcements!

DuckDuckGo adds tracker blocking to help curb the wider surveillance web

Techcrunch – By: Natasha Lomas – “Some major product news from veteran anti-tracking search engine DuckDuckGo: Today it’s launched revamped mobile apps and browser extensions that bake in a tracker blocker for third party sites, and include a suite of other privacy features intended to help users keep surfing privately as they navigate around the web.

The apps and browser extensions are available globally for Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox and Safari as of now. (DDG tells us Opera is also on its radar but there’s no launch date yet.)

‘Our vision has been to set the standard of trust online,’ says CEO and founder Gabe Weinberg, discussing the new products. ‘[To date] we’ve been really focused on the search engine because it’s really complicated to compete with Google in their core market. But now that we feel we can handle that we are making progress on this broader vision of protecting people across the Internet.

‘What we’re really trying to do is move beyond a search box… What we realized from talking to people, especially over the last two years, is that privacy risks have gone completely mainstream.

DDG’s aim is to create a ‘use anywhere’ privacy tool that combines access to its private search engine with tracker blocking and a bundle of other ‘privacy essentials’ — such as an encryption protection feature that automatically sends a user to an encrypted version of a website (if there is one), instead of accepting a default non-encrypted version.

Also new: DDG is serving up a privacy rating for each website visited. This grade is based on how many hidden trackers a site is deploying; whether it’s encrypting your connection; and also considering the site’s own privacy policy (for the latter activity DDG is partnering with terms of service rating initiative, ToS;DR, but also notes that ‘most privacy policies still remain unstudied’ so says it’s going to be helping that organization rate and label ‘as many websites as possible’ too).

‘The unfortunate reality is that hardly any sites really deserve an ‘A’ on privacy,’ says Weinberg on this. ‘We can get most sites up to a ‘B’ if we can… block all the trackers and get encryption. Then the gulf between the ‘B’ and the ‘A’ is actually their privacy policies.

‘Unfortunately… even if things are blocked and encrypted then the site itself can still collect data as a first party and sell it. And so to really get an ‘A’ rating the privacy policy needs to be vetted.’

For tracker blocking, he says DDG is using some technology from EasyList and Disconnect but also ‘running through our own tests to try to add to that, as well as make it so that less websites break when you use it’. (To be clear, it’s not doing any ad-blocking; it’s just blocking third party trackers.)

Weinberg claims the tracker blocker is ‘very effective now’, leaning on the open source community’s expertise, but says DDG also wants to build on the tool and add more privacy and blocking technologies over time — suggesting, for example, a feature that could thwart hidden cryptocurrency miners, which can get embedded on websites, as something else he’d like to add in future.

Asked how DDG’s approach stacks up compared to Mozilla-backed private search browser Cliqz, which last year acquired the Ghostery anti-tracker tool so is playing in a pretty similar space, Weinberg argues the rival product isn’t ‘really integrated’. ‘They’re more going after a pure browser situation whereas what we’re saying is, anywhere you are, on any device or major browser, we can augment it to help protect your privacy there in a seamless way,’ he says.

‘In general, I think that privacy is mainstream and people want simple, seamless solutions and they just don’t exist — until now,’ he continues, adding: ‘We expect most of our search engine users to accept and use the extension and the app because it really extends their privacy protection.

‘And beyond our user base, I think this is something that all consumers could benefit from — so we’re hoping that it gets downloaded widely.’

DuckDuckGo has been profitable since 2014, according to Weinberg. (It makes money not by tracking and profiling its users, as Google does, but by serving ads based on the search terms being used at the point of each search, and also from affiliate revenue.) Hence now feeling flush enough with cash to work on expanding beyond the core private search offering.

Last year DDG’s search engine served up just under 6BN private searches — with usage up around 50 per cent on 2016 levels. (Given it doesn’t track individual users it can’t really break out firm user metrics but Weinberg says third party estimates peg users at around 25M at this point.)

On the growth point, DDG says that over a third (36%) of all searches ever entered in its ten-year lifespan were conducted in 2017 alone. So the usage spike it got in 2013, after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about government mass surveillance programs, has evidently turned into some sustained momentum.

tl;dr, privacy isn’t just a passing fad. Because mass surveillance isn’t just a government activity. The commercial web is lousy with trackers and data brokers too — and Weinberg argues web users are increasingly waking up to how they are being stalked around the Internet.

‘In the last couple of years mainstream people have really opened up to the idea that the Internet’s pretty creepy out there — and it’s in large part due to Google and Facebook,’ he says. ‘And in particular that they’re amassing unprecedented amounts of personal information on each person.’

The pair’s use of online tracking for online profiling to power their respective hypertargeted advertising platforms is ‘at best, annoying’, argues Weinberg, ‘and at worst causing major political upheavals, like the Russian ad interference’ (such as in the US election and the UK’s brexit referendum, to name just two examples on that front).

He cites figures that trackers used by Google are now on 76% of the top million websites and Facebook’s trackers are on 24% of pages — saying it drops off ‘pretty quickly after that’, with Twitter on just 12%.

Literally any site you visit you’re likely to have Facebook, Google watching you there.

‘I think people are aware now that hidden trackers are around, and slurping up their personal information. What they don’t realize, though, is how pervasive Google and Facebook trackers are,’ he suggests.

‘Literally any site you visit you’re likely to have Facebook, Google watching you there. That’s the piece that I think people are starting to wake up to now.’

The other problem that he argues is exacerbated by mass surveillance ad-targeting online business models is filter bubbles — aka the strategy of platforms using people’s own biases as a tactic to keep them clicking by reductively feeding them more of the same stuff.

And, again, concern about the societal impact of filter bubbles has increasingly become a mainstream discussion point in recent months and years.

Weinberg explains that the tracker blocker aspect of DDG’s new products group trackers into networks to try to make it easier for people to understand which companies are responsible for tracking you. So instead of just saying something generic — like it’s ‘blocking 25 trackers’, as a typical anti-tracker tool might — users of DDG’s tool will be told which tracker networks are being blocked and ‘what their purpose is’.

‘When people realize the harms… of filter bubble and pervasive ads those emotionally resonant with people and they’d like to get rid of them. And this is the easiest way to do that,’ he adds.

In the European Union, an updated online privacy framework, GDPR, will apply from May. This regulation makes explicit mention of online profiling, including a right for people to object to this kind of activity — and some privacy experts suggest it could cause big upheavals for adtech and online profiling.

But asked for his take on GDPR’s implications for profiling, Weinberg isn’t confident it will be much of a barrier to the web’s two main commercial surveillance entities: Facebook and Google.

‘I’m a big fan of the regulation and I’m hopeful that a lot of these kind of more hidden data brokers that don’t have consumer relationships are really going to get caught out with it because they can’t get consent,’ he says. ‘But unfortunately, the way I see it is — Facebook and Google — I don’t think they seem like they’re going to be as affected by the regulation.

‘Because while consent will be required in much more vigorous ways, I think that they’re going to push that through their products. And then people will end up consenting.’

‘I think you need a different consumer backlash as well — either people literally leaving the services. Or, in this case, in between: Blocking all their hidden trackers across the web. And not waiting for them to take any major action to curb their surveillance,’ he adds.”

Google Breaks YouTube on FireTV… Again!

YouTube IssuesThe crazy feud continues!

Google briefly broke Amazon’s workaround for YouTube on Fire TV

The Verge – By Chris Welch – “Google and Amazon aren’t getting any closer to ending their bitter feud. In fact, today the user-hostile fight between them is only getting worse. YouTube briefly appeared to have blocked the Silk web browser on Fire TV from displaying the TV-optimized interface normally shown on large screens. As a result, trying to navigate YouTube and watch videos became a usability nightmare on Amazon’s popular streaming products.

We confirmed the TV interface wasn’t working around 5:00PM ET; by around 6PM, the TV interface had returned. Amazon declined to comment; Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the TV interface was unavailable, YouTube on the Fire TV was basically a desktop computer experience. To control it, you had to browse around with the Fire TV remote (not exactly simple), play a video, then click to maximize it to fill the screen. Firefox for Fire TV was blocked from showing the TV-optimized view, as well.

This temporary change follows Google’s decision to remove YouTube from Fire TV altogether late last month, which was the company’s most aggressive move yet in its ongoing spat with Amazon. Google has criticized Amazon for refusing to sell its products or build Chromecast support into Prime Video on Android. Amazon began to address those complaints on December 14th by claiming it would restore sales of the Chromecast. Over a month later, Google’s streaming gadgets remain unavailable. (The Apple TV, which had also been kicked off Amazon.com for years, is shipping as promised.) Amazon has given no indication that it intends to sell Google Home, a rival to its own Echo smart speaker.

A faint glimmer of hope that tensions might cool between the two came in December when Google said it was holding ‘productive’ talks with Amazon about keeping YouTube around and not taking out this feud on their mutual customers.

Enough already.”

Dr. Bill.TV #426 – Video – “The Trying a Webcam Again Edition!”

Kodak bitcoin miner on display at CES 2018, GSotW: iCast2, Intel security issue update: addressing reboot issues, Google: our brilliant Spectre fix dodges performance hit, so you should all use it! Think Media’s review of Marantz Turret camera, light and microphone.

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TechPodcasts Network

International Association of Internet Broadcasters

Blubrry Network

Dr. Bill Bailey.NET


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Dr. Bill.TV #426 – Audio – “The Trying a Webcam Again Edition!”

Kodak bitcoin miner on display at CES 2018, GSotW: iCast2, Intel security issue update: addressing reboot issues, Google: our brilliant Spectre fix dodges performance hit, so you should all use it! Think Media’s review of Marantz Turret camera, light and microphone.

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Google’s Meltdown/Spectre Patch

Google: Our brilliant Spectre fix dodges performance hit, so you should all use it

ZDNet – By: Liam Tung – “Google’s ‘moonshot’ fix for the hardest-to-solve of the three Meltdown and Spectre CPU attacks seems to have paid off.

That fix, called Retpoline, addresses Variant 2 of the two Spectre CPU attacks called ‘branch target injection’. Variant 2 is considered by Microsoft and Google to be the trickiest speculative execution vulnerability to fix as it’s the only one that does cause a significant hit on CPU performance.

It is also the scariest threat to virtualized environments in the cloud for its potential to be used to hop between different instances on the same CPU.

The other way of fixing Variant 2 is via a blend of OS/kernel fixes and silicon microcode from Intel and AMD, but Google contends its software-based Retpoline answer is superior and should be adopted universally.

Google last week said Retpoline generally had ‘negligible impact on performance’ and has now outlined the specific impact for Google Cloud Platform services.

Ben Treynor Sloss, the VP of Google’s 24×7, said for several months it looked like the only option to fix Variant 2 would be to disable the performance-enhancing speculative execution CPU feature, which in turn would result in slower cloud applications.

Google had already patched Variant 1, also a Spectre attack, and Variant 3 aka Meltdown by September, with Variant 2 standing out until December. These first two fixes had ‘no perceptible impact’ on GCP or services like Gmail, Search and Drive, but the fix for Variant 2 did.

Intel initially denied reports that its Meltdown and Spectre fixes would cause a major hit on CPU performance, but yesterday admitted ‘impact on performance varies widely, based on the specific workload, platform configuration and mitigation technique’.

Sloss says during tests at Google, disabling the vulnerable CPU enhancements — that is, speculative execution — did result in ‘considerable slowdowns’.

‘Not only did we see considerable slowdowns for many applications, we also noticed inconsistent performance, since the speed of one application could be impacted by the behavior of other applications running on the same core. Rolling out these mitigations would have negatively impacted many customers,’ he wrote.

Microsoft’s analysis of the patches’ impact on PC, server and cloud performance came to a similar conclusion.

‘In general, our experience is that Variant 1 and Variant 3 mitigations have minimal performance impact, while Variant 2 remediation, including OS and microcode, has a performance impact,’ wrote Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group.

Paul Turner, Retpoline’s creator, has provided a detailed write-up on the fix. The term is a portmanteau of ‘return’ and ‘trampoline’.

‘Retpoline sequences are a software construct which allow indirect branches to be isolated from speculative execution. This may be applied to protect sensitive binaries (such as operating system or hypervisor implementations) from branch target injection attacks against their indirect branches,’ explains Turner.

Retpoline is a stable fix too, according to Sloss, who says that since wrapping up all Meltdown and Spectre bugs for Google Cloud Platform in December, it hasn’t receive a single support ticket related to the updates.

‘This confirmed our internal assessment that in real-world use, the performance-optimized updates Google deployed do not have a material effect on workloads,’ he wrote.

‘We believe that Retpoline-based protection is the best-performing solution for Variant 2 on current hardware. Retpoline fully protects against Variant 2 without impacting customer performance on all our platforms. In sharing our research publicly, we hope that this can be universally deployed to improve the cloud experience industry-wide.'”

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