With so many online tax services, it's hard to know which one to trust to file your federal or state taxes. For those who want a familiar name, H&R Block has been preparing federal and state taxes for clients for decades, so it didn't start from scratch when it launched an online tax service, H&R Block At Home. As with Block's traditional service, it offers different levels of service for different needs. H&R Block At Home Basic costs just under $20, so it's near the low end of fee-based online … Read more
Google has reached a licensing agreement with MPEG LA over patents that cover video compression, clearing the way for wider adoption of the Web giant's VP8 video codec and its streaming-video platform WebM.
The deal grants Google the right to sublicense the VP8 as well as the techniques in the forthcoming VP9 codec, which is already under development. MPEG LA also agreed to abandon its efforts to form a VP8 patent pool, which would have allowed it to cross-license its video patents.
Financial terms of the arrangement were not revealed.
"This is a significant milestone in Google's … Read more
Silicon Valley firms aren't going to get the immigration changes they want, at least not right away.
Straightforward fixes to a legal framework that just about everyone agrees is broken -- the fixes would let foreign engineers and scientists remain in the United States post-graduation -- have run aground on the usual shoals of special interest politicking and partisan bickering.
Technology companies were hoping for prompt action on a pair of bills introduced this year that would ease a shortage of skilled workers, in part by expanding the H-1B visa program. It's a bipartisan idea backed by Microsoft, … Read more
A U.K. court has decided that three torrent sites should be blocked by the country's largest Internet service providers for alleged piracy.
The U.K.'s High Court today ordered U.K. ISPs to block Kickass Torrents, H33T, and Fenopy after the country's British Phonographic Industry (BPI) claimed that the sites were infringing copyrights on a "significant scale." The BBC was first to report on the story.
Today's ruling comes just months after the BPI asked U.K. ISPs, including BT, Sky Broadband, and others, to block the three sites. The ISPs made clear … Read more
Mozilla, which bowed to the market power of the H.264 video compression technology last year, now has built support for the patent-encumbered standard into the Nightly version of Firefox on Windows 7.
Mozilla can't actually ship H.264 in its open-source product because of the patent licensing requirements, so it decided instead to adapt Firefox to draw on H.264 support built into newer operating systems. The first step is done -- if not fully tested and debugged -- on Windows 7, according to a Mozilla blog post today.
Mozilla had thrown its weight behind VP8, a royalty-free … Read more
Acer has announced its new H6 series of budget friendly yet sleekly designed monitors. The 21.5-inch H226HQL and the 23-inch H236HL monitors are the first models released in the line, and sport 1080p HD IPS panel displays.
The monitors are designed with what Acer is calling a "zero frame" construction. The displays have a small frame measuring 0.08 inch to make for a less distracting border around the screen. Both monitors have HDMI, DVI, and VGA ports.
The series appears to have only basic features and specifications, but the lower-than-average price and 1080p IPS displays for … Read more
Google, which controls both ends of the Internet connection for a significant fraction of online activity, has a lot of power over the Internet. A little image-format tweak to one of its Web sites shows just how much.
Few others have expressed much enthusiasm for its WebP image format, an offshoot of the WebM project to promote a royalty-free video codec. Google asserts that its smaller file sizes would unburden networks and help Web pages load faster, but as Mozilla likes to point out when grappling with such matters, adding a new format to the Web means adding a requirement … Read more
An array of companies have finished work on video compression technology called HEVC or H.265 that promises better video to start with and that paves the way for higher-end extensions next year, they announced today.
The High Efficiency Video Codec supports 4K "UltraHD" video -- and perhaps 8K as well if the video industry can convince buyers that so many pixels are worthwhile. Perhaps more important, given how many people watch video online these days, it doubles video quality for a given network data capacity.
HEVC has the potential to spread very widely indeed. It's the … Read more
After a fractious false start last year, Web standards makers will reconvene in Orlando, Fla., this March to try to settle a debate about the best video technology for browser-based chatting.
The Web-based chat standard, which holds the potential to bring Skype-like audio and video communication services to the Web, is called WebRTC. The debate about it centers on how best to compress video: the widely used industry-standard H.264 codec, or Google's royalty-free, open-source VP8 codec?
The discussion took some surprising twists and turns late last year -- including Google's last-minute action to postpone discussion because of … Read more
Total Video Player is a free media player that can play most of the video and audio files most people need to be able to play, as well as CDs and DVDs. It's compact and doesn't require extra codecs, though if there's a type of file you need to play and TVP doesn't play it, you're better off with one of the open source players that can play any file type. What TVP has to offer over those others is simplicity: It's easy to set up and use, though it's not stripped-down or … Read more