TIME Web

Obama Signals Opposition to ‘Fast Lanes’ in Support of Net Neutrality

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama speaks during an event at Cross Campus, on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014, in Santa Monica, Calif. Evan Vucci—AP

"I think it is what has unleashed the power of the Internet and we don't want to lose that or clog up the pipes"

President Barack Obama reiterated his support for the principle known as net neutrality Thursday, signaling he would be opposed to the proposed Federal Communications plan to create a so-called Internet “fast-lanes.”

Speaking at a town hall at a technology co-working space in Santa Monica, Calif., Obama said a level playing field on the Internet was one of his earliest campaign promises. “On net neutrality, I made a commitment very early on that I am unequivocally committed to net neutrality,” Obama said, earning a round of applause from the tech-minded crowd. “I think it is what has unleashed the power of the Internet and we don’t want to lose that or clog up the pipes.”

“I know that one of the things people are most concerned about is paid prioritization, the notion that somehow some folks can pay a little more money and get better service, more exclusive access to customers through the Internet: that is something I’m opposed to,” Obama said. “I was opposed to it when I ran and I continue to be opposed to it now.”

The FCC proposal would require Internet service providers to maintain a baseline of service, but would allow some companies to pay for preferential service, creating a two-tiered Internet that essentially undermines the premise of net neutrality. The issue has stretched thin a 2008 campaign promise Obama made when he said, “I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality.”

Though Obama pledged that the issue would be front-and-center on his mind when nominating commissioners to the regulating agency, the current controversial proposal had the backing of three commissioners he appointed, including chairman Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the telecom industry.

Thursday’s remarks were the President’s most detailed comment on the issue of net neutrality since the FCC proposal was announced earlier this year. Obama did not specifically weigh in on the proposal, but said he expected the final rule to be consistent with his campaign promise.

“Now the FCC is an independent agency,” Obama said. “They came out with some preliminary rules that I think the netroots and a lot of folks in favor of net neutrality were concerned with. My appointee, Tom Wheeler, knows my position. I can’t—now that he’s there, I can’t just call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I’ve been clear about, what the White House has been clear about, is that we expect that whatever final rules to emerge, to make sure that we’re not creating two or three or four tiers of Internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine.”

TIME Web

The Humble GIF Is Getting a Big Upgrade

The GIF is dead, long live the GIF!

The once-lowly GIF, which has risen to become the dominant format for visual communication on the Web, is getting an upgrade. The photo-sharing website Imgur is introducing a new short-clip format called GIFV that it says is both higher in quality and smaller in size than traditional GIFs.

“The culture is way bigger than any specific file format,” Imgur CEO Alan Schaaf said about GIFs in a press release. “With Project GIFV, we wanted to preserve the experience of the GIF while optimizing it for all the changes that have happened on the Internet since the format was first introduced in 1987.”

GIFs posted to Imgur will now be automatically converted to the MP4 format, which the company is branding as the “GIFV” file extension. The new videos will loop just like regular GIFs, but they’ll have a higher image quality while boasting a smaller file size. The change should help Imgur images load faster on mobile devices. It will also allow the company to raise the file size limit for GIF uploads from 5 MB to 50 MB (here’s a regular 5MB GIF compared to a 5o MB GIF converted to the new GIFV format).

Even web users that don’t frequent Imgur.com will benefit from the change. 1.5 million images are uploaded to Imgur each day, and many of them rapidly spread to blogs, social media platforms and news websites.

TIME Diversions

404 Forever: 10 of the Web’s Best Error Pages

When you've fat-fingered your way to a page that doesn't exist, the tried and true 404 is there to greet you. In no particular order, here are some of the funniest, most addictive and most creative around.

Sad Server

ACM

Man, this web server is a sad, sad sack. It goes on and on and on, at times blaming itself and at times blaming you for expecting too much of it. Buck up!

Link

404 Pac-Man

Blue Fountain Media

I shouldn’t be saying this, but this is the best 404 page on this list. You could click away to some other site now. It kills our time-on-site stats, but I’m just trying to shoot you straight. This error page lets you play Pac-Man inside a giant 404-shaped level. I found it to be more fun than the standard Pac-Man level, even.

Link

Underground Error

BlueDaniel

This one’s definitely elaborate and artsy. Wait for the subway car to show up, then click on one of the open doorways to climb aboard. Once inside, you’re treated to a sleeping passenger and a girl who likes to take photos of stuff. It feels like a scene in a ’90s-era full-motion adventure game.

Link

Screaming Goat

Bluegg

This goat is upset that it’s reached an error page. It shows its frustration by screaming like a human. Then the whole scene repeats itself. You’ll laugh at the scream more than once, assuming you find it funny the first time. Disclosure: I found it funny the first time.

Link

Lloyd Christmas Can’t Believe What He’s Seeing

Codeo

No! No, no, no, no, no!!!

Link

Bubble Pop

Hot Dot

This error page features a tiltable 404 made of luminescent, bubble-like circles. Click on a section of one of the numbers and watch a bunch of the circles go flying, only to repopulate moments later. You can get trapped here for a while if you’re not careful.

Link

Yes, Exactly

Kvartirakrasivo

Can’t read what this error page says? Who cares?! Something’s gone haywire, and the two stick figure construction dudes respond by dancing. With a page title like “Ooopps… 404″ and its jibbly-yup-yup (new term!) music, this is the most wonderfully weird error page on the list.

Link

Newman!

Nouveller

An homage to Jurassic Park‘s famous hacking scene, here’s Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight in real life — arguably most well-known as Newman on Seinfeld) scolding you for touching his keyboard. Hint: type “reboot system” three times to get things moving.

Link

This Could Go On For Days

Tripomatic

This travel site’s 404 page features a soothing, endlessly watchable sunrise-sunset-moonrise loop that delicately blends background hues together, bringing out the stars at night and blue skies during the day.

Link

Can I Leave Now?

visitsteve

Appropriately titled “The Most Awkward 404 Not Found Page on the Internet,” artist Steve Lambert’s error page features an excruciatingly long video of him explaining that you don’t have to hang around the error page if you don’t feel like it. Bonus points if you watch the whole thing. I did.

Link

Honorable Mentions

More Like Homestar Ruiner

Z - Homestar

Though not technically a 404 page, this Homestar Runner cartoon about the site crashing has aged well after all these years. The site does have an actual 404 page, which you can find here.

Link

“We’ve Got Motion!”

And last but certainly not least, the video embedded in this 404 page for Nosh.com’s site is no longer working (irony!), but the original (embedded above) that used to play there is truly outstanding.

Link

TIME legal

Marriott Fined $600K for Jamming Guest’s Personal Wi-Fi Hotspots

Wifi Cloud Tablet
Getty Images

My smartphone is indispensable whenever I travel for work. It’s a great tool for keeping in contact. And thanks to its mobile hotspot feature, it’s become indispensable for filing stories when Wi-Fi is either unavailable or – as is often the case at many major hotels – prohibitively expensive.

But as much as I love my mobile hotspot, it would appear hotel operators feel differently about the technology. This past week, the Marriott International corporation was fined a whopping $600,000 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for using a jamming system to prevent its customers from using their own mobile hotspots. It then charged these frustrated customers as much as $1,000 per day per device for Internet access – a price that borders on extortion.

According to the FCC, Marriott admitted to using a jammer in at least one of its hotels, the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee. Employees there reportedly used a Wi-Fi monitoring system to locate guest-created hotspots and send them de-authentication packets, forcibly disconnecting and disrupting Internet service. Those visiting the hotel’s conference space were especially frequent targets of the scheme, forcing those who needed to connect to agree to the hotel’s exorbitant $250 to $1,000 per device hotel Wi-Fi prices.

“Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center,” stated FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging customers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network. This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether.”

Marriott, for its part, attempted to defend its actions with the laughable notion it was done in the interest of its guests’ safety. “Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft,” the company wrote in a statement. “We believe that the Gaylord Opryland’s actions were lawful.”

While public Wi-Fi hotspots can be home to various threats, creating and connecting to your own password-protected mobile hotspot is absolutely safe. You can turn your iPhone into a mobile hotspot by entering the Settings app, tapping Personal Hotspot and turning the toggle on. You can activate your Android phone as a mobile hotspot by opening its App Tray, selecting Mobile Hotspot and checking the box. Note that you’ll need a compatible cellular data plan to get this to work – those on current AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile plans have hotspot functionality included for free; those with older unlimited data plans are blocked from using it. Also note that using your phone as a hotspot will eat into your data plan allowance. Other carriers, like Sprint, will let you activate your phone as a mobile hotspot for an additional monthly fee.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Web

How to Take Free Courses from Top Universities

Online Courses
Getty Images

You can continue your education with some amazing and free online resources available from top universities. These institutions offer many of their courses in the form of video lectures, audio transcripts and online quizzes. And some universities give you access to the professor and let you interact with other students taking the class.

Want to give these free online courses a try? Here are the online education offerings from the top U.S. universities that we think are worth checking out.

Stanford Free Courses

Stanford University, located in Stanford, California, offers an especially rich bounty of material for its amateur online learners. Classes are offered on multiple platforms, letting you watch videos lectures, participate in discussion forums and chats, complete quizzes and even participate in group projects. A wide range of courses are available, from Cryptography to Game Theory to Writing in the Sciences. There are courses on stock market investing and running your own business, too – stuff that you can actually use to benefit your family. Self-paced courses are also available, including the popular Computer Science 101. You can check out Stanford’s collection of online courses by visiting online.stanford.edu/courses.

Webcast.Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley is one of America’s most esteemed public universities. So, as you might expect, its online course catalog is one of the most serious of the bunch. You’ll find multiple webcasts on biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, history, health, political science, sociology and statistics. You won’t be able to take tests or raise your hand in class, but you can audit every lecture in HD on YouTube. UC Berkeley’s catalog of webcast courses is available for review and viewing at webcast.berkeley.edu.

MIT OpenCourseWare

Looking to live out your Good Will Hunting fantasies? Then check out the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) OpenCourseWare system. There, you’ll find video and audio lectures from the top-ranked engineering school. You’ll also be able to access notes, digital assessments and even free online textbooks. Not every class at MIT offers these materials, but the Course Finder tool will let you easily sort the catalog to find those that do. You can view MIT’s searchable wealth of online course materials and lectures at ocw.mit.edu.

Duke University

North Carolina’s Duke University offers a number of interactive, free online courses through the Coursera platform. Lectures in subjects like English Composition and Genetics are offered, with videos broken up into easily digestible YouTube clips; some courses offer online assessments as well. Online learners get to interact with other students and teachers via online message boards and discussion groups, furthering your understanding of the material. To take a look at Duke’s free online course offerings and register for classes, visit coursera.org/duke. You can find plenty of other universities and classes available on Coursera as well.

Harvard Open Courses

World-famous Harvard University teamed up with nearby MIT to create the edX learning platform, which currently offers 42 of its classes for free online. Many of these classes on edX, like Introduction to Computer Science, are self-guided and ready to start anytime you’re are. Others, like AnatomyX, run on a fixed schedule. Some even offer college credit through the Harvard Extension School for a fee; otherwise, completion earns you a nifty free “Honor Code” certificate. You can browse Harvard’s online course listing at edx.org/school/harvardx. (Don’t forget to check out what other schools are offering on the free platform, as well.)

UCLA Free Lecture Webcasts

The University of California, Los Angeles, like UC Berkeley, offers a wealth of class experiences for free online on YouTube. Courses are organized into playlists, so you can watch lectures from courses like Sustainable Living, Modern Civilization 1750 – Present and Probability for Math Science on your own schedule. You should also keep an eye on the UCLA Extension School, which periodically offers free (albeit brief) online classes complete with discussion boards.

Open Yale Courses

Yale, one of the our nation’s oldest institutions of higher learning, offers a limited-albeit-highbrow selection of courses for free online auditing. You can challenge yourself by taking Philosophy and Science of Human Nature, expand your horizons with Listening to Music, or try to get a better understanding of your 401(k) by taking Financial Markets. Courses are available on Coursera, through YouTube and on iTunes through Apple’s iTunes U free learning platform.

Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon currently offers 21 open and free courses via its Open Learning Initiative (OLI) platform. You can take scientific courses like Biochemistry and Modern Biology if that’s your thing, or plan your vacation to Paris while taking Elementary French I and II. OLI makes it easy to track your progress (with sign-in), while “targeted feedback” and online assignments give you an idea of how well you’re absorbing the material. You can browse what Carnegie Mellon’s OLI has to offer at oli.cmu.edu.

iTunes U

Okay, so maybe this one isn’t an actual college. Still, if your hunger for knowledge knows no bounds, you’ll definitely need to check out Apple’s iTunes U application. Inside, you’ll be connected to thousands of free course offerings from schools all around the globe. iTunes U offers tools to start discussions and ask questions of teachers and students. And since everything is rated on a five-star system, you’ll be able to easily hunt down the best courses in the subjects most interesting to you. You can download iTunes U onto your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch through the Apple App Store.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Web

FTC Mandates Refunds for Online Backorders Over 30 Days

Online Shopping
Getty Images

By now, most everyone has an e-retail horror story.

Mine happened several years ago when I ordered a sale priced flat-screen TV from a major tech website. My credit card was charged immediately when I placed the order, but the television never shipped. It was still back ordered months later, and every time I checked back in with the unhelpful seller, there was no new delivery date in sight. Only after I challenged the charge on my credit card statement did the website finally relent and agree to refund my money and the interest charges that accumulated while waiting.

Thankfully, these kinds of horror stories will soon be a thing of the past. This week, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced new rules regarding the timeliness of fulfilling online orders. In short, if a website cannot put an item in your hands in 30 days, it needs to offer you a refund. The FTC writes (PDF):

The Rule prohibits sellers from soliciting mail, Internet, or telephone order sales unless they have a reasonable basis to expect that they can ship the ordered merchandise within the time stated on the solicitation or, if no time is stated, within 30 days. The Rule further requires a seller to seek the buyer’s consent to the delayed shipment when the seller learns that it cannot ship within the time stated or, if no time is stated, within 30 days. If the buyer does not consent, the seller must promptly refund all money paid for the unshipped merchandise.

The new rule is slated to go into effect on December 8, which is good news for those of us planning on doing our holiday shopping online this year. Similar rules have existed for mail orders since 1975 and for telephone orders since 1993. You can read the full details of the updated Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule by visiting www.ftc.gov.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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Net Neutrality Advocates Make Last FCC Push as Comment Window Closes

Net Neutrality Video Billboard Outside FCC
Namecheap

The Commission's proposed rule for "fast lanes" on the Internet that would cost extra has generated millions of comments since July

Net neutrality advocates mounted a large video billboard outside Federal Communications Commission headquarters Monday, on the last day for public comment on the Commission’s proposed Internet regulations. The laws, if approved, would allows Internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast to create “fast lanes” that users can pay extra to access, thus violating the principle of net neutrality.

The billboard will play user-submitted videos from net neutrality rallies from major U.S. cities, along with users’ webcam appeals on why they believe net neutrality is important, according to Fight for the Future, an Internet advocacy group that worked with domain registrar Namecheap to set up the display.

The FCC’s window for input on the proposed law opened on July 15 and has since generated millions of comments. The FCC has not yet set a date to vote on new rules, and does not face a deadline, according to Bloomberg.

Recent analyses have indicated that most Internet users support net neutrality. A report by the Sunlight Foundation analyzed the public comments collected by the FCC to show that less than 1% of comments clearly opposed net neutrality. Another survey found that two-thirds of Americans are opposed to Internet “fast lanes.”

Meanwhile, net neutrality activism has recently hit its stride with visible success: most recently, a phone campaign to Congress members, public relations campaigns by Internet businesses and politicians, and virtual demonstration by popular websites.

TIME social

Facebook Is Testing Disappearing Status Updates

Wish that the status updates you want to share on Facebook weren’t so permanent? Soon, you may be able to make your posts on the social network vanish without a trace – after a set period of time of your choosing, of course. Similar to popular self-destructing message app SnapChat, your Facebook messages may soon have a limited lifespan of your choosing.

As reported by TheNextWeb, Facebook has begun rolling out these temporary status updates to a select group of users of its iOS smartphone app. Those who have access to the feature can select “expiration” times ranging from one hour to seven days. So if you want to talk about a TV episode, for example, you can have your discussion automatically disappear from your Timeline after it stops being relevant. That means less clutter and more focus on the more important events in your life that you have shared.

There’s always a catch with Facebook, though. The one here is that even though your messages can disappear in as soon as an hour, they’ll remain on the Facebook servers. And any information you share will likely still be mined for advertising data, so there’s that to consider when posting, too. Remember that anything you share on Facebook reveals a little bit more about your lifestyle, buying habits and interests.

If you don’t have access to the feature yet, you’ll have to be patient: Vanishing messages are only available as a “small pilot” program, according to Facebook, and only for iPhone, iPod and iPad app users. Still, if it proves both useful and successful, we could all see the functionality soon. Want to learn more about using Facebook? Check out these 5 biggest Facebook mistakes people make, then read up on social network etiquette. And be sure not to miss Techlicious’ updated guide to Facebook privacy settings.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Software

Apple iCloud Gets Major Price Drop Ahead of iPhone 6 Launch

Apple CEO Tim Cook Announces the Apple iPhone 4s
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an event at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, California on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. David Paul Morris—Bloomberg / Getty Images

The price of cloud storage has fallen once again. This week, Apple announced price reductions across its full range of popular iCloud data storage plans.

Nothing is changing with the most basic Apple iCloud offering – your first 5GB of storage is still free. You can upgrade to 20GB for $0.99 per month (formerly, 10GB cost $20 per year), and if you really need space, you can get 200GB for $3.99 per month. Ginormous 500GB ($9.99/mo) and 1TB ($19.99/mo) plans are also available for more serious business customers.

If you’re considering buying the new Apple iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus when the devices are released on September 19, it’s worth taking a moment now to re-evaluate your cloud backup needs. Apple’s iCloud is the easiest way to map your next phone to your current one and transfer all your favorite photos, but many will find the 5GB free data allotment insufficient to keep a full backup. A larger 20GB account size will cover everything on a new 16GB iPhone 6 and leave a little extra room for storing documents and other items you’d like to be able to access anywhere.

Of course, you don’t need to use iCloud as your backup service provider – in fact, there are good reasons not to. Celebrity photo leaks aside, Apple’s iCloud is still one of the most expensive cloud storage providers available. Competitor Google Drive, for example, offers 15GB of free storage and charges $1.99 per month for 100GB of space. Drive may not be a perfect white glove solution for iPhone backup, but it’s great for larger photos and video files if you want to avoid a monthly charge. Remember, once you start paying for cloud storage, it’s hard to switch back to a free option and still keep all your files.

If you’re interested in learning more about the new iCloud storage plans or upping your own personal allotment, visit apple.com/icloud.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Web

Netflix, Mozilla, Vimeo and Others to Launch Online Protest for Net Neutrality

Erlendsson attends a pro-net neutrality Internet activist rally in the neighborhood where U.S. President Barack Obama attended a fundraiser in Los Angeles
A protester attends a net-neutrality rally in Los Angeles on July 23, 2014 Jonathan Alcorn—Reuters

"We believe in the free and open Internet"

A group of popular websites that rely on speedy Internet service — including Netflix, Vimeo and Reddit — will launch an online protest Wednesday against controversial proposed changes to “net neutrality.”

The coalition of companies, who call themselves Team Internet, will use the spinning “still loading” symbol on banners of protest against the world of frustratingly slow Internet they say could come about if the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) nixes net neutrality. Clicking on the banners will link to more information about net neutrality, the organizers say.

“We believe in the free and open Internet, with no arbitrary fees or slow lanes for sites that can’t pay,” write the organizers on their website. “If [cable companies] win, the Internet dies.”

Since May, the FCC has been weighing changes to its regulations on “net neutrality” — the 2010 rules requiring Internet service providers to treat all web traffic the same. The changes would allow cable companies to grant paying customers faster service, but ban them from slowing down, or throttling, the access of nonpaying companies. The FCC has already lost two court cases brought by cable companies who have challenged the legality of its existing net-neutrality rules.

Opponents to the changes, including much of Silicon Valley, have said that the revisions would in effect create an Internet of haves and have-nots, with paying companies zipping onto users’ screens and nonpaying ones lurching through the system.

“Consumers, not broadband gatekeepers, should pick the winners and losers on the Internet,” read a Netflix statement in the Financial Times. “Strong net neutrality rules are needed to stop Internet service providers from demanding extra fees or slowing delivery of content to consumers who already have paid for Internet access.”

Tim Karr, senior director of strategy at Free Press, one of the organizers of the protest, told the Wall Street Journal that the goal of the protest is to marshal public opposition to the FCC’s proposed changes and encourage people to reach out to the FCC and Congress. The FCC has already received more than 1.2 million comments criticizing the proposed revisions.

Other participants in the protest include Kickstarter, Foursquare, Urban Dictionary, Upworthy, Grooveshark and Mozilla, among others. Any Internet user with a website can post the protest banner or change their social-media avatars to the “spinning wheel of death.”

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