News

Netflix CEO Q&A: Picking a fight with the Internet service providers

netflixReed Hastings recently stood before new employees packed into the company’s campus movie theater, pulled a gray hair from his head and held it up for all to see. A single fiber optic strand, as thin as that hair, could carry massive amounts of data — the equivalent of all of Netflix’s global video traffic at any given time, he marveled.

The co-founder of Netflix has been thinking much more about broadband providers these days, with his company spearheading a lobbying effort to get federal regulators to monitor how Internet service providers charge Web firms like his to move data around the Internet.

It’s a risky effort. Netflix, which gobbles up one-third of bandwidth during peak hours, doesn't think companies like theirs should pay extra to place its servers closer to the networks of Comcast and Verizon.

The issue reveals Netflix at an important turning point. It won kudos with television critics, nominated for 31 Emmys on Thursday. But it’s making enemies out of the companies it relies on most — the cable and telecom firms providing all those lightning-fast Internet connections as thin as his hair.

The following is an edited transcript of a recent interview in the “Hawaii Five-O” conference room at the company’s headquarters. Hastings had just returned from watching the U.S. play against Germany in an early World Cup 2014 match.

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Bell Labs pushes 10Gbps over copper telephone lines

Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Labs claims to have "set a new broadband speed record of 10Gbps using traditional copper telephone lines" in a research project that could ultimately bring gigabit speed to broadband networks that combine fiber with copper.

Those 10Gbps speeds can only be achieved over 30 meters; at 70 meters, top speeds drop to 1Gbps, according to today's announcement. Alcatel-Lucent says that 1Gbps upload and download speeds may be possible in the real world over networks that bring fiber to the curbside and rely on copper for the final few meters. Such a setup would be similar to AT&T's U-verse fiber-to-the-node service, although U-verse places the fiber about 600 to 900 meters away from homes and currently tops out at 45Mbps.

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paint.net 4.0

paintnetThanks to everyone who helped out with the extensive alpha and beta releases with all the bug reports, crash log submissions, and general feedback. It has all been a tremendous help in creating the best paint.net release ever! It’s been a long time coming, but I think it’s worth it.

There are a few ways to get the new version:

  1. The preferred way: If you’re using Paint.NET v3.5.x, go to the Utilities menu and click on “Check for Updates.” If you’re using a pre-release version of 4.0 (beta or release candidate), go to the Settings dialog, then to the Updates section, and then click “Check Now.”
  2. You can also download it directly from the website, http://www.getpaint.net/ . There is no need to uninstall the old version: that will be taken care of automatically.

Without further ado, here is the final list of changes, features, improvements, and fixes:

  • System Requirements
    • Windows 7 SP1 or newer is now required.
    • .NET Framework 4.5 is now required, and will be installed if needed.
    • A dual-core (or more!) processor is highly recommended.
    • Hardware acceleration (GPU) via Direct2D is now supported.
      • Please disable this in the Settings dialog if you experience visual artifacts.
  • Performance
    • A brand new, asynchronous, fully multithreaded rendering engine allows performance to scale very well with respect to the number of CPU cores whether you have 2, 4, 6, or even 16 of them.
    • The responsiveness of the user interface has been greatly improved, especially when working with large images.
    • Memory usage is lower.
    • Improved battery life impact due to fixing the way the floating windows manage their transparency.
    • Startup performance when many plugins are installed is improved, thanks to the Multicore JIT feature introduced in .NET 4.5.
  • Selections
    • Selections are now antialiased, which greatly improves the quality around the edges of selected content. You can turn this on and off at any time from the toolbar.
    • Everything related to selections now has much higher performance and greatly reduced CPU usage, especially if hardware acceleration (GPU) is enabled.
    • The selection outline is now rendered using the “dancing ants” animation, which greatly improves the contrast between it and the image itself.
  • General
    • The functionality previously provided by the Utilities, Window, and Help menus has been simplified, consolidated, and moved to the top-right corner of the main window.
    • The image thumbnail list has been moved up 1 row so that it no longer intrudes into the current Tool’s toolbar space. This means it will no longer “jump around” when you switch between tools. This also means that it is aligned to the top of the monitor when the main window is maximized, making it easier to click on images (Fitt’s law).
    • The image thumbnail list can now be reordered with drag-and-drop.
    • A brand new Settings dialog makes it much easier to configure all the tool and toolbar defaults, among other things.
    • The zoom slider and units selector have been moved from the toolbar to the bottom right corner of the window (into the status bar).
    • Each image now shows up as its own taskbar item. This can be disabled in the Settings dialog with “Show image previews in the Windows taskbar.”
    • Layers can now be reordered with drag-and-drop.
    • Ctrl+Click on the Move Layer Up/Down buttons will now move a layer to the top/bottom, respectively.
    • Improved quality of Image->Resize.
    • Edit –> Copy Merged will copy all layers to the clipboard without having to use Image->Flatten first.
    • Copying to the clipboard now includes the “PNG” format, which allows transparency to survive from many popular applications (e.g. Office)
    • You can now use the middle mouse button to scroll/pan the image at any time (same functionality as holding down the spacebar along with clicking and dragging the mouse).
    • Shift+Backspace will now fill the selection with the secondary color (Backspace, the shortcut key for Edit -> Fill Selection, still fills with primary color as usual).
    • paint.net now shows up in Windows’ “Default Programs” control panel so you can configure its file type associations without reinstalling.
    • EXIF rotation metadata is now applied when opening images (e.g. JPG taken with a rotated camera).
    • Eleven (11) new languages, bringing the total to 21: Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Portuguese (Portugal), Russian, and Spanish.
    • Crash logs are now stored in %LOCALAPPDATA%\paint.net\CrashLogs (e.g. C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\paint.net\CrashLogs) instead of on the desktop.
  • Effects
    • New effect: Photo -> Vignette.
    • Improved the quality of the Photo -> Red Eye Removal effect.
    • Improved UI for Layers -> Rotate/Zoom.
    • Effect plugins now show up with a jigsaw puzzle icon next to them in the menus. You can hover over the effect to see information about it, including the author and location of its DLL.
    • Errors while loading effect plugins are now displayed in the Settings dialog.
  • Tools
    • Most Tools now support “fine-grained history.” You may adjust the properties of what you’ve drawn (e.g. colors, toolbar settings) before committing to the layer (use the “Finish” button or press Enter), and each change is tracked in the history.
    • Tools may now draw directly with a blending mode, configurable from the toolbar. All of the layer blending modes are supported, as well as “Overwrite.”
    • Drawing tools (Pencil, Paintbrush, Eraser, Clone Stamp, Recolor) now have much smoother mouse input handling via GetMouseMovePointsEx.
    • Brush tools (Paintbrush, Eraser, Clone Stamp, Recolor) now have soft brushes support via a “Hardness” setting in the toolbar.
    • The Move tools (Move Selected Pixels, Move Selection) have a much better UI for scaling, moving, and (especially) rotation.
    • The Move tools now support moving the rotation anchor, which changes the center of rotation.
    • The new Shapes tool replaces the Rectangle, Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse, and Freeform shape tools. 27 shapes are currently available. You may move, resize, and rotate a shape, as well as reconfigure any other properties from the toolbar (color, outline size, etc.) before committing it to the layer.
    • Color Picker has a configurable sampling radius, and can sample from either the current layer or the whole image.
    • Gradient tool now supports a new Spiral gradient type and allows configuration of the repeat mode (none, repeat, wrapped).
    • Gradient tool has improved rendering quality via dithering and antialiasing. You can control both of these with the standard antialiasing toggle in the toolbar.
    • Magic Wand and Paint Bucket now allow live adjustment of Tolerance and the Origin (click location) after clicking (press Enter to commit/finish).
    • Magic Wand and Paint Bucket can now sample from either the current layer or the whole image.
    • Paint Bucket tool now supports anti-aliasing.
    • Recolor tool can now use the color of the pixel where you click as the color to be replaced. Or, as usual, it can use the secondary color.
    • Text tool now supports multiple rendering modes: Smooth, Sharp (Modern), and Sharp (Classic). These correspond to DirectWrite rendering modes of Outline, ClearType Natural Symmetric, and GDI Classic, respectively.
    • Text tool now supports colored fonts on Windows 8.1.

Enjoy!

Google, Dropbox, and others team up to cut patent trolls off at the source

googleDespite its high profile in the tech world, patent trolling — in which companies sue for damages over patents they don't intend to use — has been difficult to address. Reform efforts in Congress stalled earlier this year, when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) failed to broker an agreement that would have raised the bar for sending patent infringement warnings and increased the risks for bringing a frivolous lawsuit. In the wake of this defeat, Google, DropBox, Canon, and others are forging a truce that they hope will stop trolls from building a patent arsenal.

The License on Transfer (LOT) Network is a coalition of seven companies that, according to the site, hold 50,000 issued US patents and 300,000 total patent assets between them. It's intended specifically to combat patent assertion entities, the nebulous companies that buy large numbers of patents and use them to reach settlements. Even if the patent doesn't exactly fit the case, settling is often cheaper than fighting a suit, and unlike companies that manufacture their own products, they can't be countersued in defense. The LOT Network can't help with patents these businesses already own, but they could defuse new ones. Any time a member sells one of its patents to a non-member, all other member companies are granted a license to use it. If a member is outright acquired by a patent assertion entity — as opposed to another hardware or software company — other members will be granted a perpetual license to its entire portfolio.

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Microsoft takes on global cybercrime epidemic in tenth malware disruption

microsoftPlaying offense against cybercriminals is what drives me and everyone here at the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit. Today, Microsoft has upped the ante against global cybercrime, taking legal action to clean up malware and help ensure customers stay safer online. In a civil case filed on June 19, Microsoft named two foreign nationals, Mohamed Benabdellah and Naser Al Mutairi, and a U.S. company, Vitalwerks Internet Solutions, LLC (doing business as No-IP.com), for their roles in creating, controlling, and assisting in infecting millions of computers with malicious software—harming Microsoft, its customers and the public at large.

We’re taking No-IP to task as the owner of infrastructure frequently exploited by cybercriminals to infect innocent victims with the Bladabindi (NJrat) and Jenxcus (NJw0rm) family of malware. In the past, we’ve predominately seen botnets originating in Eastern Europe; however, the authors, owners and distributors of this malware are Kuwaiti and Algerian nationals. The social media-savvy cybercriminals have promoted their wares across the Internet, offering step-by-step instructions to completely control millions of unsuspecting victims’ computers to conduct illicit crimes—demonstrating that cybercrime is indeed a global epidemic.

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No-IP’s Formal Statement on Microsoft Takedown

We want to update all our loyal customers about the service outages that many of you are experiencing today. It is not a technical issue. This morning, Microsoft served a federal court order and seized 22 of our most commonly used domains because they claimed that some of the subdomains have been abused by creators of malware. We were very surprised by this. We have a long history of proactively working with other companies when cases of alleged malicious activity have been reported to us. Unfortunately, Microsoft never contacted us or asked us to block any subdomains, even though we have an open line of communication with Microsoft corporate executives.

We have been in contact with Microsoft today. They claim that their intent is to only filter out the known bad hostnames in each seized domain, while continuing to allow the good hostnames to resolve. However, this is not happening. Apparently, the Microsoft infrastructure is not able to handle the billions of queries from our customers. Millions of innocent users are experiencing outages to their services because of Microsoft’s attempt to remediate hostnames associated with a few bad actors.

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Blender 2.71 adds new Cycles Rendering features, improves Animation and Modelling

The Blender Foundation has released Blender 2.71, an update to its cross-platform, open-source 3D graphics tool. Version 2.71, also available in 64-bit and portable form on Windows, includes new features and continues to build on the recently revamped user interface.

Areas that enjoy significant changes include the Cycles renderer, Animation, Modelling, Sculpting-Painting, Game Engine and Freestyle NPR Rendering tool.

Cycles gains support for rendering volume textures, fire and smoke, deformation motion blur, baking textures from cycles materials, additional texture interpolation modes and a new dedicated UV layer node.

The Animation tools adds new interpolation types containing “easing equation” presets, while auto-snapping becomes independent from the display type and locking time to other windows is once again possible. It also adds lasso selection support and the ability to set preview range based on selected strips.

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Avast 2014 R4 promises improved security, new anti-spam library

Avast Software has released the fourth update to its Avast 2014 range of products with the unveiling of build number 9.0.2021 for Avast Free Antivirus 2014, Avast Internet Security 2014 and Avast Premier Security 2014.

As with the previous few updates, R4 contains no new features, but does include several important security enhancements among other tweaks and optimizations that once again make it essential for existing users.

Avast promises tighter security through improved process security, which is guarded by Avast’s self-defense component. Avast R4 also handles conditions for the Guest account better, increasing sensitivity to any incorrect user inputs that might compromise system security and tuning the import settings tool to prevent it from allowing users to bypass any protections.

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