Interview with Timothy Lord about Slashdot

in internet on (#1PQ0D)
FossForce has an interesting video interview with Timothy Lord:
The original Slashdot crew was declared redundant in early 2016 by the site's latest owner, Slashdot Media. Timothy Lord was the last of the early Slashdot editors to be let go, and has posted more stories on Slashdot than anyone else, ever, so we turned to him to learn how and why Slashdot helped the FOSS movement grow and eventually infiltrate mainstream IT.
The questions are mainly geared toward FOSS, but he does talk about "news for nerds" and explains the role that discussion sites, such as Slashdot, played in the community.

What form do you think discussion sites of the future will be? Will everyone still be staring at Facebook feeds and Twitter tweets in 20 years? Do human curated story sites (slash-like) have advantages over generic link sharing sites (like reddit, digg)? Or is every site just regurgitating the same generic news year after year and it doesn't really matter what form it takes?

Brazil detains Facebook VP after he failed to give up user data

in legal on (#15P7Q)
Continued legal issues for companies using strong encryption in their products:
Apple isn't the only company in hot water over encryption. Facebook's VP of Latin America, Diego Dzodan, was detained by police this morning in Brazil after the company failed to comply with a court order to hand over Whatsapp user data, CNN reports. The big problem: Whatsapp (which Facebook owns) fully encrypts messages between users, and it has no records of messages sent. Even if it were to get access to a specific device, the encryption is likely too difficult for the company to crack.
Regardless of whether you are a small outfit like Lavabit or an enormous company like Apple, the government has you in their sites if you stand up for user's privacy.

Site Update

in pipedot on (#QXSJ)
A few interesting features of the site where silently introduced over the past year (like notifications), while others have long since been shrouded in mystery (like the stream). We also haven't had a meta update for while, so lets dig into some of the new changes:

Notification System

When someone replies to one of your comments or journals, you will now get a notification instead of a text message. These new notifications show comment replies in-line and can be used for other events that where not covered by the old system.

Numerous Small Pages

A summary page ([username] is now available for every user that shows you a brief overview of their activity. You can now monitor the computers/devices that have an active login cookie to the site on your "Logins" ([username] page. You can now see all feeds on the browse page. Feeds are also now organized into topics. Your published story submissions ([username] now have their own page as well.

RSS Reader

Although the feed page ([username] was added pretty early, many users may not realize that a full feed reader ([username] is now built into the site. You can add your own RSS/Atom feed by URL, or select one of the existing feeds from the list of topics. You can even comment on articles or vote for your favorites.

The Stream

The stream is an attempt at simplifying the "link sharing" process. The traditional method of sharing a story is a rather involved process that may turn off some contributors:
  1. Find an interesting article for a story.
  2. Write up a short synopsis including a link to the article, maybe a quote or two, and possibly even a bit of editorial.
  3. Submit your scoop to the pipe.
  4. Wait as users vote up your submission.
  5. An editor reviews your story, makes any spelling/grammar/etc corrections they notice, and publishes the story to the front page.
However, with the stream, all you need to do is "vote up" an article that you see in your feed reader. Others will then see your article in your user stream ([username] or the main stream.

Upcoming Pipe Changes

Speaking of story submissions and contributions, special thanks goes out to evilviper and zafiro17. Together, they have performed the entire submission process (detailed above) on nearly 500 of their own stories, as well as the laborious task of rewriting hundreds of poorly written (or incomplete) submissions to an acceptable quality level. The amount of effort required for these tasks is not inconsequential.

Suggestions to help relieve the burden of the editors mainly involve changing how the pipe operates:
  • Submissions could automatically be published after a certain number of up-votes in the pipe.
  • Submissions could get instantly published, but then have +/- vote buttons on each story to provide a "moderation" of stories. Stories with low scores could shrink to a smaller size or hide completely (similar to the comment moderation.)
  • The pipe could be populated with automatically created stories generated from popular stream articles.
  • Many browsers (Firefox/Chrome/nearly all mobile browsers) now support custom "share this page" buttons. These "Pipedot" share buttons could be an easy way to automatically create a story submission for interesting articles.
So what do you think? Where can we improve to make this site the best site for nerdy news?

Project Fi - Google's take on mobile phone service

in mobile on (#7M46)
Today, Google unveiled it's long anticipated mobile phone service, called Project Fi. However, Google is not building their own network, but relying on the existing Sprint and T-Mobile networks. Because the service can intelligently switch from one LTE network to the other, depending on signal strength, access is initially limited to Nexus 6 owners. Project Fi phones will need a cellular radio that can work with different network types and support a unique SIM that grants access to multiple networks.

The new service will cost $20 a month for unlimited voice and text, plus $10 a month per GB of data used. Interestingly, any unused fraction of data transfer per month is refunded at the same flat rate. For example, if you only use 200 MB of your $10/month data plan, you get an $8 refund.

Another interesting tidbit is how the service uses Wi-Fi. They claim voice calls can transition seamlessly between Wi-Fi hotspots and cell networks. Google has apparently cataloged over a million access points and will automatically connect you to verified hot spots. Also, all data transferred while using an open Wi-Fi hotspot is automatically encrypted through a built-in VPN-like service.

Pipedot adopting Esperanto

in pipedot on (#66Y8)
I'm a stupid American. Even though many foreigners may not speak English fluently, we force everyone to speak it anyway. In 1887, Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof constructed a neutral language using common root words from many different European languages. This universal language is much easier to learn and shows less favoritism than picking an arbitrary natural language.

Therefore, all new stories and comments will now use Esperanto. The one true international language!

Similar news and inline comment replies

in pipedot on (#61RE)
When submitting a story for a piece of news, which site do you link to? Depending on the popularity of the news, many dozens of organizations may have written an article on the topic. Some articles may lack proper grammar/citations or exist behind a paywall. Some sites may have abusive advertisements or frivolous JavaScript usage. You can exclusively use your favorite source, or link to several of the more popular news sites, or simply rely on the user to search for more information.

To help readers find more information, the site will now include a "Similar" button at the bottom right of the story box. Clicking on the link will show you a list of similar news articles to current topic.

Eagle-eyed viewers may have also noticed a new "Inline Reply" option in their profile settings. After a few weeks of limited roll-out, this option is now enabled by default for logged in users. Of course, you should have JavaScript enabled to use this new feature.

Large Text Support

in pipedot on (#5H27)
The latest set of site updates have reworked font sizes to make it easier to configure larger text rendering.

All font sizes on the site are now specified in relative units (em) and are now now scalable using the "text size" feature of your browser. Due to rounding errors, this change slightly increased many of previous the font sizes.

A user configurable "Large Text" checkbox was also added to your profile settings page, for those that want even larger text.

These text scaling options will not scale other elements of the page, such as images. Use the "Zoom" function of your browser to scale all elements on the page equally.

Google Code Shutting Down

in google on (#4TQX)
Google's project hosting service, Google Code, is the latest Google product to get the axe. Launched in 2006, the site hosted many FLOSS-type software projects and provided free downloads, source code management, an issue tracker, and wiki pages. Although new project creation is already disabled, the site will stay functional until August 2015 in order to give projects time to migrate to alternatives, such as GitHub and GitLab.

With so many high-profile Google services inexplicably closing, one has to wonder if relying on the continued availability of any Google services is a good idea. Of course, closures are not always exclusive to Google. Gitorious and Freecode are recent examples of other project development sites that have recently shut their doors.

Google Updates the Chromebook Pixel

in google on (#4R5M)
story imageGoogle's premium Chromebook Pixel, launched over 2 years ago, has finally been updated with new hardware internals. Although the new model looks nearly identical to the old model, with both models sharing the same physical size and weight, the insides have received a much needed refresh with a much faster processor and more memory. The port configuration is also updated to include 2 of the new USB Type-C connectors instead of the Mini Display Port and the power connector. An "LS" model (for "Ludicrous Speed") will also be available with even more RAM, SSD, and CPU performance.

For those wanting to run more than just a browser on your shiny new i7 with 16 GiB memory, remember you can still install a traditional Linux distro by activating the Developer Mode toggle. Or you can keep Chrome OS as the base and run Linux from a chroot with Crouton.

Apple's New MacBook

in apple on (#4KWB)
story imageToday, as reported by many outlets, Apple announced a new 12" MacBook. The main takeaways are:I am definitely a fan (pun intended) of quiet laptops with no moving parts that can still handle a full desktop OS. This is also one of the first retail devices with the new reversible USB connector that really can't get here fast enough.