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How corporate bickering hobbled better Web audio

For more than three years, Skype has worked to improve online audio through involvement in a project now called Opus. But perversely, Skype's new owner, Microsoft, is undermining Opus just as a Web standards effort is poised to carry it into the mainstream.

Opus is an audio "codec" -- technology to encode and decode media streams for efficient transmission over the Internet or storage on computing equipment. Opus backers besides Microsoft's Skype division include Google, Opera, and Mozilla.

Opus has a lot of potential to improve online audio, something that's increasingly important as more communications … Read more

Google confronts extinction of more than 3,000 languages

More than 3,000 languages are on the verge of extinction and Google is trying to do something about it.

Collaborating with scholars, researchers, and language communities, the Web giant launched the Endangered Languages Project today, backed by a coalition called the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity. Through the project Web site, people can learn about the Earth's endangered languages and see what kind of documentation is being created to preserve them.

The diverse languages range from Navajo, which is spoken by only 120,000 people in the Southwest U.S., to Koro, a previously unknown language that was documented … Read more

Was Apple protest leader Mark Shields an 'accidental activist'?

Apple fans were seething.

In January, they heard actor Mike Daisey describe during a radio broadcast the intolerable working conditions he witnessed at Chinese factories where iPads and iPhones are assembled. Many found their way to an online petition started at Change.org by a man named Mark Shields. The petition demanded Apple improve safety at these facilities, and it would eventually include 256,000 names.

At first, the petition appeared to have simply bubbled up from an outraged public.

Not quite. Apple fan or not, the 36-year-old Shields is a professional advocate and activist. The public-relations firm that has … Read more

Facebook under fire (again) for all-male board

The campaign to get Facebook to appoint a female board member is ramping up. The FACE IT campaign launched earlier this week to draw attention to the fact that the social-networking site had no women on its board of directors and now other groups and individuals are signing on.

Joining the campaign today is the group Ultraviolet, which is a women's group co-founded by Nita Chaudhary who was most recently the outspoken campaign and organizing director for MoveOn.org Political Action. Although Ultraviolet is fairly new on the scene, it already boasts 300,000 members.

"The fact that … Read more

Charity Bribes: Coerce celebs for a good cause

If I could make one celebrity do whatever I wanted, I'd have Kobe Bryant come to my house and feign interest in my problems. But how could I get him over? Letters? Begging? None of it has worked so far will work. Maybe I can appeal to his kind heart?

If Bryant would come spend the afternoon with me, I'd gladly make a donation to a charity he supports.

This is the logic behind the new site Charity Bribes, which lets regular old citizens of the Internet come together and, as a group, extort their favorite famous person. The site's debut proposition: If Larry David joins Twitter, 51 people will give $1,356 dollars to an environmental charity. If he doesn't, the charity gets nothing.

The basic message: "If you really cared about the environment, Larry David, you'd come online and make jokes with us in 140 characters or less."

It appears to be a win-win-win: The charity gets a nice donation, Twitter gets funnier, and Larry David gets more new technology to argue with.Read more

Cryptome.org hacked--and inadvertently spreads infection

Someone compromised the free-speech, antisurveillance repository Cryptome.org and hid malware on the site that infected Web surfers over the weekend, Cryptome.org reported.

A malicious PHP file was added to the site on Wednesday and a new directory was created that had logged nearly 3,000 IP addresses between Wednesday and Sunday, according to a post on the site.

The Cryptome.org post said thousands of HTML files in the site's main directory were found to be contaminated with a malicious script that appeared to download exploits from the Blackhole Toolkit "that may compromise a computer though … Read more

Twitter to block tweets locally, not globally

Twitter said today that it will withhold tweets from a country when there are local restrictions rather than having to block them globally.

"As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression," the company wrote on its blog. "Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content."

Until now, the only way Twitter could … Read more

Google.org $40 million in grants includes antislavery groups

Google.org is spreading some end-of-the-year cheer to about four dozen nonprofits with $40 million in grants, including recipients that are fighting to eradicate slavery.

Many of the grant recipients are typical tech world targets, such as groups that encourage students to study math, science, technology and engineering; that help girls in developing countries get education; and that use innovative technology to help people in different ways.

But this time around Google is adding another target group -- modern-day slaves, such as forced laborers in African mines and sex trafficking in the U.S. -- a situation many people don'… Read more

Post-PC LibreOffice heads for Web, iOS, Android

LibreOffice, the project forked from OpenOffice.org, is moving into the modern era with developers working on versions that run in Web browsers and on iOS and Android devices.

The Document Foundation announced the moves today at the LibreOffice Conference, but the work isn't available yet for ordinary folks to try.

"These are not products available to end users, but advanced development projects which will become products sometimes in late 2012 or early 2013," the foundation said today.

Still, the work shows signs that the project, which never seriously threatened the strength of Microsoft Office, is working … Read more

The 404 889: Where we feel an urge to back you up (podcast)

Our guest on the show today is Jason Scott, computer historian and adjunct archivist at the Internet Archives, a nonprofit founded in 1996 to save a copy of every Web page ever posted. He's also responsible for the Netscape GIF graveyard you see above. Also related: "under construction" GIFs!

We want to hear all about the 500,000 books scanned so far in the Archive warehouse, but we'll also talk to him about the Wayback Machine, a tool that lets you click through snapshots of Web sites along a timeline--check out CNET back in October 1996!

The Archive's book-scanning division is the company's foremost project with donated texts making up a big portion of the collection, but the Web site also preserves live music footage, original audio recordings, and various moving images clipped from history, like this compendium of news footage documenting various news organizations' coverage of the September 11 attacks over the course of seven days.

We have a lot of topics to discuss with Jason, including his personal project to rescue data saved on floppy discs (we'll explain what those are in the show, kids) and his personal vendetta against Wikipedia. But we only have 20 minutes for the interview, so expect to see him back on the show in the future.

The 404 Digest for Episode 889

Is this the end for books? Internet archivist seeks 1 of every book written. Rescuing floppy disks, by Jason Scott. The great failure of Wikipedia, by Jason Scott. Ticketmaster tells you where your Facebook Friends sit. CorporateTwits--Trolling goes corporate How a Tweet Led to a full steak dinner delivered to the airport. Netscape GIF Graveyard Under construction GIF Graveyard

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