Subject: General Tech | January 30, 2016 - 07:05 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: web browser, web, shockwave flash, shockwave director, oracle, Java
After decades of semi-ubiquitous usage, Oracle has announced plans to stop providing the Java plug-in for web browsers. It will still be available in the upcoming Java 9 platform, but classified as a deprecated feature.
Java, Shockwave Director, and Shockwave Flash filled in a huge gap in Web standards during the late 90s and early 2000s. Plug-ins were about the only way to access files, per-pixel 2D animation functions, and even access to 3D graphics hardware. Web browsers can do almost all of that now, albeit file input and output is limited to individual files, because you don't want every website to be able to read and write files (and site-specific data lockers with APIs like IndexedDB and Web Storage) on the user's hard drive without the user's explicit control.
As such, browsers are trying to kill off native plug-ins. This could be a problem for games like Battlefield 3 and 4, which (Update Jan 30th @ 7:51pm: Used to... it's apparently been a while. Thanks wileecyte in the comments.) require plug-ins to launch the native application, but the browser vendors have been expressing their desires for quite some time. Even companies that are heavily invested in plug-ins for their products, like Oracle, are finally giving up.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 1, 2014 - 03:17 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Kickstarter, Firefox OS, web, chromecast
When Google released the Chromecast, it was a surprisingly clean solution for streaming video (my apologies if solutions existed before it). Just plug it into HDMI and connect to it with a PC or a mobile device to use the TV as monitor for content, and it is cheap. I figured that the open source community would like one of their own, but I did not think it was going to be done. Now there is a Kickstarter up, with FirefoxOS.
I constantly struggle with whether to discuss crowdfunding because, on the one hand, you never know if something will tank. On the other hand, is it really any less sketchy than pre-release information for computer hardware or video games (especially pre-release news for video games)?
In this case, I found out that it was promoted by Mozilla on their Hacks blog. It is based on a Rockchip 3066 SoC with 1GB RAM, 4GB of storage and 2.4 GHz Wireless-N. As stated earlier, it runs FirefoxOS which means that apps are websites. The SoC has a Mali-400 GPU that is capable of OpenGL ES 2.0, so it might even be able to support WebGL if the software and drivers are certified. Don't expect jaw-dropping 3D graphics, though. The GPU is rated at about 9 GFLOPs. For comparison, the Tegra K1 has a peak compute throughput of about 365 GFLOPs; alternatively, it is fairly close to later-model Intel GMA graphics (not Intel HD Graphics... GMA). Still, it might allow for some interesting 2D (or simplistic 3D) games.
Just a day-or-so in, it is already at over 150% funding.
Yesterday morning the Internet juggernaut that is Google announced that its public DNS service has far surpassed their expectations for the experimental service. In fact, the company has taken the 'beta service' training wheels off of what they believe to be "the largest public DNS service in the world," and their statement that they are now handling 70 billion requests a day means the claim may not be far from the truth.
Interestingly, 70% of the service's users come from outside of the US, and Google has announced that they are beefing up their overseas presence to service them with new access points in Australia, India, Japan, and Nigeria. Further, they are expanding their offerings in Asia in addition to maintaining the current servers in North America, South America, and Europe.
The company is continuing to provide their DNS service for free, and they ended their announcementby stating "Google Public DNS’s goal is simple: making the web—really, the whole Internet!—faster for our users."
For those curious, DNS is the technology that allows users to punch in easy to remember text URLs and have their computers connect to the proper servers via numerical IP addresses (which are definitely not as easy to remember). It has been likened to the Internet equivalent of a phone book, and that description is an apt one as DNS servers maintain a running list of IP addresses and the accompanying URL (universal resource locator) so that humans can input a text URL and connect to servers using an IP address. DNSSEC makes things a bit more complicated as it adds further layers of security, but on a basic level the description fits.
DNS benchmark "namebench" results
There are several free offerings besides the DNS services provided by your ISP, and open source tools like Name Bench can help you track down which DNS service is the fastest for you. Users connect to DNS servers using an IP address on one of several levels (in software, at the computer level, or at the router level, et al), and for the majority of people your modem and/or router will obtain the default DNS automatically from your ISP along with your IP.
The default DNS is not your only option, however. Further, many routers can support up to three DNS IP addresses, and by connecting to multiple (separate) services you can achieve a bit of redundancy and maybe even a bit of speed. A fast DNS server can result in much faster web page load times, especially for sites that you don't normally go to (and thus are not cached).
In the case of the Google Public DNS, they operate on the following IP addresses.
(The latter two are IPv6 addresses, and were announced on World IPv6 Day.)
If you have not looked into alternative DNS services, I encourage you to do so as they can often be faster and more reliable than the default ISP provided servers (though that is not always the case). It does not take much time to test and is an easy configuration tweak that can save you a bit of time in getting to each web page (like PC Perspective!). Have you tried out Google or other alternative DNS services, and did you see any improvements?