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googleCAPTCHAs are an unfortunate side effect of the internet. They're those irritating collection of numbers and letters morphed into some Surrealist dreck that leaves us guessing, and guessing, and guessing. Google wants to improve all of that with updates to reCAPTCHA, a one-click solution for telling websites that you are, in fact, a human being.

Wouldn't abandoning those Dali-like distortions defeat the purpose of protecting websites from bots? Not really, Google says, because the old CAPTCHA system wasn't working that great anyways:

While the new reCAPTCHA API may sound simple, there is a high degree of sophistication behind that modest checkbox. CAPTCHAs have long relied on the inability of robots to solve distorted text. However, our research recently showed that today's Artificial Intelligence technology can solve even the most difficult variant of distorted text at 99.8% accuracy. Thus distorted text, on its own, is no longer a dependable test.

adblock plusSeeing a threat to their ecosystem, French publishers follow their German colleagues and prepare to sue startup Eyeo GmbH, the creator of anti-advertising software AdBlock Plus. But they cannot ignore that, by using ABP, millions of users actively protest against the worst forms of advertising. 

On grounds that it represents a major economic threat to their business, two groups of French publishers are considering a lawsuit against AdBlockPlus creator Eyeo GmbH.(Les Echos, broke the news in this story, in French).
Plaintiffs are said to be the GESTE and the French Internet Advertising Bureau. The first is known for its aggressive stance against Google via its contribution to the Open Internet Project. (To be clear, GESTE said they were at a “legal consulting stage”, no formal complaint has been filed yet.) By his actions, the second plaintiff, the French branch of the Internet Advertising Bureau is in fact acknowledging its failure to tame the excesses of the digital advertising market.

Regardless of its validity, the legal action misses a critical point. By downloading the plug-in AdBlock Plus (ABP) on a massive scale, users do vote with their mice against the growing invasiveness of digital advertising. Therefore, suing Eyeo, the company that maintains ABP, is like using Aspirin to fight cancer. A different approach is required but very few seem ready to face that fact.

windowsMicrosoft first started supporting the MKV file format natively on the company’s Xbox One console earlier this year, and now the company is bringing those changes to Windows. Starting today, Windows 8.1 will now natively support the Matroska Multimedia Container (MKV) file format with the built-in video app. The open standard container format has long been used to provide pirated copies of movies and TV shows through BitTorrent or other file sharing sites, but Microsoft’s move to provide native support lends the file format some much-needed legitimacy.

> While it’s likely most content providers will continue to provide streaming video instead of DRM-free download options, native MKV support in Windows adds another option to share video or audio files without having to download third-party players like VLC. Microsoft has also pledged to support MKV in the upcoming release of Windows 10, alongside support for Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) files. Microsoft’s MKV implementation in Windows 8.1 is still limited by the operating system's codec and subtitle support, but the company may choose to improve both of these drawbacks in Windows 10.

Source: TheVerge

firefoxSince 2004, Google has been paying Mozilla a ton of money each year—estimated at around $100 million—for the privilege of being the default search engine used in the Firefox browser. This contribution represented the lion's share of Mozilla's income, something in the ballpark of 85 percent.

That deal, last renewed for a three-year period in 2011, has come to an end, and this time it won't be renewed. Mozilla announced today that the free browser vendor is switching to a range of different search providers. In the US, Firefox will now default to using Yahoo (which continues to be powered by Microsoft's Bing engine); in Russia it will use Yandex, and in China, Baidu.

Authorities are advising all users of the Tor network to check their computers for malware after it emerged that a Russian hacker has been using the network to spread a powerful virus.

Tor, which began as a secret project from the US Naval Research Laboratory, works by piling up layers of encryption over data, nested like the layers of an onion, which gave the network its original name, The Onion Router (TOR).

Tor encrypts data, including the destination IP address, multiple times and sends it through a virtual circuit made up of successive, randomly selected relays. Each relay decrypts a layer of encryption to reveal only the next relay in the circuit.

microsoftMicrosoft Corp. (MSFT) co-founder Paul Allen one-upped his good friend co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates with an even bigger donation to fight the Zaire Ebolavirus (ZEBOV) which has engulfed a trio of nations in western Africa in a deadly, fast-growing epidemic.

Gates and his wife have pledged to give away all their money to charity before they die. His Microsoft-derived fortune current makes him the world's second richest man with a net worth of $81.4B USD. In September he announced that he would be giving $50M USD to fight Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.  The announcement prompted Gates' close friend and protege, Facebook, Inc. (FB) CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, to pledge $25M USD to the cause last week.  (Zuckerberg -- "only" the 21st richest man on the planet with $33.1B USD -- has also promised to donate all of his and his wife's fortune to charity before they die.)

firefoxEager to infuse the Web with the communications interactivity of mobile apps, Mozilla on Thursday announced a video chat service called Hello.

The technology, built into the beta version of Firefox, lets people set up free video or audio calls with others using Firefox. Mozilla will gradually enable the feature in coming weeks.

There was a day when video chat was hard to do. Skype arrived just as Internet connectivity and video compression technology made it more feasible. Video calls once were a fixture for world's fair predictions of a sci-fi future. Now it's downright commonplace.

So what sets Firefox Hello apart? It's busting loose from the silos that can isolate users of today's video chat technology.

With Apple FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Skype and many other services, you have to set up an account. With Firefox Hello, the first person just sends a website link. The second person clicks it, and presto, they're chatting.

appleQuickType, Apple’s new predictive keyboard featured on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices running iOS 8, is reportedly plagued with a potentially dangerous oversight where the software would suggest parts of your passwords that you previously used on websites, as first reported by French-language blog iGen.fr [Google Translate].

A new thread on Apple’s Support Communities website includes a note by one user who reported the keyboard offering “OrangeJuice” as a suggestion each time he would type in “AppleUser” because QuickType remembered the “OrangeJuice!2” password he previously used to log in to Outlook Web App.