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Google Signs Deal With CBS For Web TV Service

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

google-web-tv-150x150Alphabet Inc unit Google has inked a deal with CBS Corp to carry the network on its planned web TV service and is in advanced negotiations with 21st Century Fox and Viacom Inc to distribute its channels, three sources told Reuters.

The service, which will be part of Google’s YouTube Platform, is expected to launch in the first quarter and will include all of CBS’ content, including live NFL games, one of the sources said.

Google’s so-called “skinny bundle,” with fewer channels than a typical cable subscription, will cost $30 to $40 a month, the source said. It was unclear which Fox and Viacom networks would be part of the Google service, two of the sources said.

The sources requested anonymity because the discussions are confidential. A spokesperson for YouTube declined to comment.

Google will be launching into an increasingly crowded market. Dish Network Corp and Sony Corp, which in the past year have launched skinny bundles to appeal to younger viewers who do not want to pay for cable.

And both AT&T Inc and Hulu, the online video service owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast Corp and Time Warner Inc, have streaming television offerings that are expected to go live in the next few months.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, said Google was also in advanced talks with Walt Disney Co.

A representative at Disney was not immediately available for comment. CBS, Viacom and Fox declined to comment.

Google has been talking to media companies about its web TV for years, but its plans have just ramped up over the past few months, one of the sources said. Apple Inc had looked at a similar service but has shelved that plan for the time being, sources had previously told Reuters.


Automakers, Google Unhappy With CA Rules Governing Self-driving Cars

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

google-self-driving-car-150x150Alphabet Inc’s Google unit and automakers express their dissatisfaction with California’s proposals to set new, mandatory rules for testing self-driving cars in the state, which industry officials said could hobble their efforts in the home to much of self-driving vehicle testing and development.

Automakers and Google raised a litany of concerns about California’s proposal at a hearing in Sacramento on Wednesday. They expressed opposition to the state proposal to require compliance with guidelines that federal regulators issued last month, but made voluntary.

They questioned why California would require a new autonomous vehicle data recorder and what data they would be required to test, and they objected to a proposal they said would force a 12-month delay between testing a vehicle and deploying it on public roads.

Automakers also questioned whether police should be able to get any self-driving data within 24 hours without seeking a warrant or subpoena.

California regulatory policy is important to automakers and technology companies because of its impact on operations in the state, and because the policies enacted in the most populous U.S. state often influence what other states and other countries do.

The proposed requirement that manufacturers generate a year of driverless testing data before applying for an operating permit drew objections from General Motors Co, Volkswagen AG, Honda Motor Co, Ford Motor Co, and Google.

The state’s approach “could greatly delay the benefits that self-driving vehicles can bring to safety and mobility for individuals,” said David Strickland, who heads the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets that includes Google, Ford, Lyft, Uber Technologies Inc  and Volvo Car Group.

Brian Soublet, deputy director of the California DMV, said Wednesday the department wants concrete suggestions to help improve its proposal. Soublet said the department will be considering potential changes over the next several months but he did not give a timetable for finalizing the rules.

“The goal is making sure that we can get this life-saving technology out on the streets,” Soublet said.

California’s proposal would allow for the absence of a human driver and a steering wheel in advanced self-driving cars. In December, California had proposed to require licensed drivers and controls in self-driving vehicles.

Ron Medford, director of safety for Google’s self-driving car project, said California’s proposal to require manufacturers to obtain local approval is “unworkable.” The rule could prevent manufacturers from testing a vehicle that can travel from one area to another.

Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog urged California to prohibit autonomous vehicles without a human driver until federal regulators enact enforceable standards.

With Polaris In Mind AMD Has New VR Projects On The Horizon

October 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

In a bid to push its Polaris chip, AMD has launched several new VR projects.

On the list of cunning plans is a VR GPU certification, enhancements to its software/hardware platform and setting up a new VR supply chain. If this pans out, it should expand its presence in the VR market, and provide a rather nice channel for its Polaris GPUs.

Also included is a cunning plan to pushing VR Internet cafes in China. AMD has been assisting the development of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive as well as partnering with content providers to create applications for the gaming, entertainment, education, science, medical care and news sectors.

Other projects include AMD’s LiquidVR project which aims to help simplify and optimise VR content creation. It has started promoting its Radeon Pro technology solution to help VR content creators create movie-like VR content.

This is all about Polaris. The VR solution is based around AMD’s Polaris-based Radeon Pro WX 7100 GPU which is priced at $1,000. We will see it  released at the end of 2016.  Well, when we say we will see it, the day that I am allowed to spend $1000 on a GPU is the day I have won the lottery.

AMD  is also marketing its Loom project to help partners create Ultra HD-standard VR movies. The open source project will also be released at the end of the year.


Facebook Continues To Lose Younger Users To Snapchat, Instagram

October 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

facebook-teens-150x150Facebook has been having a hard time attracting  younger users for several years now and it looks like the problem is getting worse.

According to Piper Jaffray Companies, a recent survey of 10,000 U.S. teenagers showed that 52% used Facebook at least once a month this fall, compared to 60% who used it monthly in the spring.

“Factoring out shifts in the population surveyed, core Facebook usage likely declined by three basis points, which indicates Facebook is gradually becoming less relevant versus Instagram and Snapchat,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research note to investors.

The same survey, however, showed that teen use of Facebook-owned Instagram has gone from 70% to 74% in the same time frame — and rose from 75% to 80% for rival Snapchat.

When asked what their favorite social network was this fall, 35% said Snapchat; 24% said Instagram; and 13% said Twitter and Facebook (which tied for third place).

While older users – say anywhere from 35 to 65 years old – have shown to be loyal Facebook users, the site isn’t pulling in enough users 24 and younger to offset losses as older users die off.

“Well, think about it,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “If Facebook just lost 8% of all teens, that’s millions of users…. Over time, they need to keep the funnel of users coming in on the younger side. I think it creates a huge issue down the road. It’s not likely they can add users that are of older generations. They probably have all they will get from anyone 30 and older.”

Facebook certainly has been working to draw in younger users.

In August, Facebook unveiled its Lifestage stand-alone app. Designed for iOS devices, the app enables teen users to share videos with other people in their schools.

Lifestage was born as a rival to Snapchat and basically a video version of an early stage Facebook.

Also, in March, the company bought face-swapping app Masquerade or MSQRD. The app enables users to dress up their photos and selfies with an Iron Man helmet or a panda outfit.

Facebook hoped that by being able to add special effects to their pics, teens and young adults would be pulled onto Facebook — or at least one of the apps. But so far, at least, those efforts don’t appear to be panning out.

DNA Testing As Part Of Job Applicant Screening?

October 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

dna-testing-150x150Currently it is illegal to require DNA testing for employment, but as science advances its understanding of genes that correlate to certain desirable traits — such as leadership and intelligence — business may want this information.

People seeking leadership roles in business, or even those in search of funding for a start-up, may volunteer their DNA test results to demonstrate that they have the right aptitude, leadership capabilities and intelligence for the job.

This may sound far-fetched, but it’s possible based on the direction of the science, according to Gartner analysts David Furlonger and Stephen Smith, who presented their research at the firm’s Symposium IT/xpo here. This research is called “maverick” in Gartner parlance, meaning it has a somewhat low probability and is still years out, but its potential is nonetheless worrisome to the authors.

It isn’t as radical as it seems. Job selection on the basis of certain desirable genetic characteristics is already common in the military and sports. The average athlete in the National Football League, for instance, is 6’2″ in height and nearly 247 pounds, versus the average man at 5’9″ and 182 pounds.

Science has demonstrated a linkage between genes and IQ in twins, and new research has identified genes linked to leadership. One firm, BGI in China, is working to identify human intelligence.

Genetic testing to glean personal insights is also mainstream. People are interested in what genetic testing reveals about their health and ancestry. Science is certain to unlock more information from these genetic tests as time goes on.

If businesses come to believe that some employees are born predisposed to leadership, they may be interested in identifying people early in their careers who have the genes that may help them become the next great CEO, CIO or CFO. But one thing businesses can’t do is to ask for a blood test.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits employers from collecting this information. The law was motivated, in part, by concern that employers will use genetic test information to screen out job applicants who may be at risk for certain types of illnesses. A blood test may be unnecessary.

Businesses, using this understanding about how some characteristics are genetically determined, may develop new interview methodologies and testing to help identify candidates predisposed to the traits they desire, such as leadership.

Now that scientists know some characteristics are genetically driven, “we can move with a little more confidence and start modeling out what we think it might look like in ways that don’t break the law,” Smith said.

Singapore To Put Self-driving Buses On The Road

October 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

self-driving-buses-150x150Singapore has signed an agreement to begin testing self-driving buses, as the city-state pushes ahead with its vision of using autonomous technology to help deal with the challenges posed by its limited land and labor.

Countries around the world are encouraging the development of such technologies, and high-density Singapore is hoping driverless vehicles will prompt its residents to use more shared vehicles and public transport.

“They say big dreams start small, so we are collaborating with NTU (Nanyang Technological University) on an autonomous bus trial, starting with two electric hybrid buses,” Singapore’s transport regulator said in a Facebook post.

The Land Transport Authority hopes eventually to outfit existing buses with sensors and develop a self-driving system that can effectively navigate Singapore’s traffic and climate conditions.

It did not specify when the trial would start.

Earlier this week, Singapore said it would seek information from the industry and research institutes on the potential use of self-driving vehicles for street cleaning and refuse collection.

Self-driving vehicles are also being tested in another western Singapore district, where a driverless car collided with a truck on Tuesday when changing lanes. Developer nuTonomy, which started trials of the world’s first robo-taxis in August, said it was investigating the accident.

Is AMD’s Polaris Getting Tweaked?

October 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-polarisWhile no-one had been expected much from AMD before Vega in the next few months, it appears the outfit is going to ship revised versions of the Polaris 10 and 11 graphics chips.

Word on the street is that they will have a 50-percent improvement in performance per watt, which seems a bit high. These are the beasties you will find in the RX 480 and RX 460 which were already praised for their high performance with low power draw.

It could mean that an embedded Polaris 11 card which had a 75w draw will go to 50w and get a 0.35 Tflop increase in raw performance.

This should bring about a range of mid-generation GPUs with refreshed internals that make them far more capable.
Polaris 10 found in the RX 480 will get 5.8 Teraflops performance need less than 95 watts.

They should be out under RX 4XX branding in a few months but it will mean that the mid-range laptops that have them will have much longer battery life.
While the specs are pretty good, Vega will clean their clock so it is probably better to wait.


Cybercriminals Unleash A New Banking Trojan Program

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

dyre-trojan-150x150Cybercriminals have pushed out a new banking Trojan program on the internet and it has striking similarities to Dyre, a malware threat believed to have been dead for almost a year.

The new Trojan is called TrickBot and first appeared in September, targeting users of banks in Australia. After a closer analysis, researchers from Fidelis Cybersecurity believe that it is a rewrite of the Dyre Trojan that plagued online banking users for more than a year until the gang behind it was dismantled by Russian authorities.

While TrickBot is still a work in progress and doesn’t have all of Dyre’s features, there are enough similarities in their components to suggest that at the very least, one served as inspiration for the other. At the same time, there are also significant differences in how some functions have been implemented in the new Trojan, which also has more C++ code than its predecessor.

This leads the Fidelis researchers to conclude that TrickBot is a reimplementation of Dyre rather than a continuation of the older project.

“It is our assessment with strong confidence that there is a clear link between Dyre and TrickBot but that there is considerable new development that has been invested into TrickBot,” the researchers said in a blog post. “With moderate confidence, we assess that one or more of the original developers of Dyre are involved with TrickBot.”

Dyre, which stole tens of millions of dollars from customers of more than 1,000 banks, financial institutions and other organizations worldwide, disappeared almost overnight in November last year.

It remains to be seen if this new Trojan will reach or even surpass the previous size of the Dyre operation. According to the Fidelis researchers, the TrickBot gang is also trying to rebuild the Cutwail spam botnet which was previously used to distribute Dyre.

Online banking Trojans are designed to inject malicious code into financial websites when displayed locally in browsers on infected computers. The rogue code can hijack transactions in the background or ask users for sensitive information, like payment card details which can then be used for fraud.

Users should run an up-to-date antivirus program and if able, should perform online banking transactions from a separate dedicated computer, an OS running from a live CD or from a virtual machine.

Netflix Enjoying A Boom As Subscribers Grows

October 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

netflix-new-deal-150x150Netflix Inc added over 50 percent more subscribers than expected in the third quarter as original shows such as “Stranger Things” attracted new international viewers and kept U.S. customers despite a price hike.

The company’s performance represented a turnaround from the previous quarter of disappointing subscription growth. Netflix, which has spent heavily to expand outside its home market, also said that it was on track to start harvesting “material global profits” next year, even as it raised spending on original programming.

Netflix added about 3.20 million subscribers internationally in the third quarter, higher than the 2.01 million average analyst estimate.

In the United States, Netflix added 370,000 subscriptions, compared with analysts’ estimate of 309,000, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

“Investors appear laser focused on subscriber growth, and so long as Netflix delivers on that metric, investors will bid its shares up,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. However, Pachter said he thought the continuing cost of developing new shows would undermine plans to deliver material profits in 2017.

Netflix has expanded into more than 130 markets worldwide, including most major countries, except China. It said on Monday it was dropping plans to launch a service in China in the near term, opting instead to license its shows for “modest” revenue.

The company said it still hopes to launch service in China “eventually.”

In the meantime, Netflix plans to keep pouring money into building its stable of original and licensed TV shows and movies. Content spending will rise to $6 billion next year, a $1 billion increase from 2016, the company said.”We will keep investing in growing the content spend, even domestically, for quite a long time,” Chief Executive Reed Hastings said on webcast.

Netflix has been facing a slowdown in subscription growth in the United States as the market matures and a planned U.S. price hike raised concerns it would not hit its targets. It also faces competition from the likes of Hulu and Inc.

But the company, whose other popular original shows include “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards”, said it expects to add 1.45 million subscribers in the United States in the current quarter.

Analysts on average were expecting 1.27 million additions, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.


Tesla And Panasonic Join Forces On Solar Cell Production

October 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

tesla-powerwall-150x150Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors said it would join forces with Japan’s Panasonic Corp to mass produce solar cells and modules in New York.

Under the agreement, which is a non-binding letter of intent, Tesla said it will use the cells and modules in a solar energy system that will work seamlessly with its energy storage products Powerwall and Powerpack.

The Japanese company is already working with the U.S. automaker to supply batteries for the Model 3, its first mass-market car.

Panasonic is expected to begin production at the Buffalo facility in 2017 and Tesla intends to provide a long-term purchase commitment for those cells, Tesla said in a statement, adding the agreement is contingent on shareholders’ approval of its acquisition of SolarCity.

Last week Tesla and SolarCity Corp shareholders agreed to vote on the proposed merger on Nov. 17, and the automaker said it would provide plans for the combined company ahead of the vote.

Facebook Plays Prominently In Voter Registration Surge

October 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net


fb-voter-registration-150x150Social media is more than banal tweets and political rants as Facebook showed by getting hundreds of thousands of people to register to vote this fall.

“Facebook has demonstrated the power of social media to engage more people to register to vote, helping thousands take a big step to casting a ballot this November,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla in a statement. “For many who may be new to the political process, an invitation to register can be a powerful nudge to get involved.”

Facebook dove into the voter registration process this fall. On Sept. 23, Facebook sent reminders to its U.S. users, who were at least 18 years old, about registering to vote. The effort, which ran through Sept. 26, provided a link to voter registration sites at the top of Facebook’s News Feed.

According to Padilla, it caused a “major surge” in online voter registrations in California.

The state reported that on Sept. 23 alone, 123,279 Californians completed registrations or updates of their registration information on the Secretary of State’s online voter registration site. The next day another 43,888 registrations were completed online, and on the 25th, there were 29,256 more registrations or updates.

Padilla said that before the Facebook reminder went up, there was an average of 9,307 completed registrations or registration updates per day in September, and many of those registering were younger voters.

California reported that 23.8% of these registrations and updates were from people between 17 and 25 years old. Another 29.7% were between ages 26 and 35.

Facebook, which has provided users with Election Day reminders for the past eight years, wanted to do more this year to encourage voter registrations.

“Going back to 2008, we’ve been reminding people on Facebook to vote on Election Day and directing them to information on where to vote,” Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s product manager for civic engagement said in an email to Computerworld. “This is the natural next step. We want people to have a voice in the process, and getting registered means that there’s one less hurdle for them.”

Galaxy Note 7 To Take Another $3 Billion Out Of Samsung’s Profit

October 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

galaxy-note-7-150x150The fallout from the Note7 debacle, expected to take a huge bite out of Samsung’s third-quarter profit, will keep hurting its business into next year, the company said.

The fourth-quarter impact on Samsung Electronics’ operating profit will be “in the mid-2 trillion won range,” the company said in a press release early Friday. Using the midpoint of 2.5 trillion South Korean won, that would be about $2.2 billion. The damage will continue in the first quarter of next year, with an impact of about 1 trillion won, Samsung said.

The company announced Tuesday it had permanently stopped production of the Note7. It had launched a recall of the phone just weeks after it went on sale because of fires and explosions that destroyed some of the devices. Then, some replacement units it sent out as part of the recall had the same problem.

Also on Friday, the company said it would make significant changes in its quality assurance processes to enhance product safety for consumers.

Samsung didn’t forecast how the Note7 incident would affect sales in the coming quarters, but said it will “normalize” its mobile business by expanding sales of other high-end phones, such as the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge.

On Wednesday, the company estimated the Note7 problem would cut about 2.6 trillion won out of a third-quarter operating profit of 7.8 trillion won. It also expects to report revenue of about 47 trillion won, down from the 49 trillion won it had forecast earlier.

Will Apple Benefit By Leaps And Bounds Off The Note 7 Disaster?

October 18, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0note7Samsung is going to lose a few customers over its Note 7 fiasco, but not as many as the Apple fanboys have speculated.

The Tame Apple Press has been claiming that almost all the Galaxy Note 7 customers would defect to Apple’s iPhone 7, but a new survey suggests that less than 12 percent  of them are thinking like this, and that number is shrinking by the day.

Branding Brand conducted a second survey of 1,000 Samsung smartphone owners from October 11-12 to compare consumer confidence to its earlier study, conducted on September 23.

It seems that only 40 percent of Note7 users have had enough of Samsung and want to go somewhere else. Given what has happened, this is a rather small figure and of that 40 percent, less than a third are moving to something Applish. This figure is down from an earlier survey which was conducted after the first recall.

As expected most Samsung users  will go with another Android phone (up to 62 percent from 57 percent) and eight percent thought they would buy a Google Pixel. Given that is not really out yet we are not even sure why this option was in the survey. The Pixel is another Android device that means that Apple is going to get only 12 percent of the total Samsung users. More than 88 per cent of Note 7 users will either stay wilt Samsung or Android.

Chris Mason, co-founder and CEO of Branding Brand said:

“As we’ve watched the Galaxy Note7 recall and discontinuation play out, even more people say they will switch their smartphone brand. Consumers want to be confident in their personal safety and will choose a new smartphone accordingly. Only a week after Google’s smartphone launch, many already have their sights set on the Pixel.”


IBM, Partners To Take On Intel With Introduction Of OpenCAPI

October 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

ibm-opencapi-150x150Technology heavyweights IBM Corp, Google and seven others have teamed up to launch an open specification that can boost data center server performance by up to ten times, to take on Intel Corp.

The new standard, called Open Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (OpenCAPI), is an open forum to provide a high bandwidth, low latency open interface design specification.

The open interface will help corporate and cloud data centers to speed up big data, machine learning, analytics and other emerging workloads.

The consortium plans to make the OpenCAPI specification available to the public before the end of the year and expects servers and related products based on the new standard in the second half of 2017, it said in a statement.

Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, is known to protect its server technologies and has chosen to sit out of the new consortium. In the past also, it had stayed away from prominent open standards technology groups such as CCIX and Gen-Z.

“As artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced analytics become the price of doing business in today’s digital era, huge volumes of data are now the norm,” Doug Balog, general manager for IBM Power, told Reuters.

“It’s clear that today’s data centers can no longer rely on one company alone to drive innovation,” Balog said.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co, Mellanox Technologies Ltd, Micron Technology Inc, NVIDIA Corp and Xilinx Inc are also members of the OpenCAPI consortium.


HP To Shed 3,000+ Jobs In Its Near Future

October 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

hp-logo-150x150HP Inc. will eliminate between 3,000 to 4,000 jobs over the next three years as part of a restructuring plan worked out by the company.

The PC and printer firm, which was created about a year ago after Hewlett-Packard was split into two companies, said in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday that it expects about “3,000 to 4,000 employees to exit between fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2019.”

The company’s “printing business is challenged right now but the PC business is hitting on all cylinders,” said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy. “The PC Group is gaining market share, increasing profits and innovating more than I have seen in years,” he added.

The workforce changes will “vary by country, based on local legal requirements and consultations with employee works councils and other employee representatives, as appropriate,” HP said in the filing.

The company said earlier that it would be cutting 3,000 jobs during the company’s 2016 fiscal year ending Oct. 31. It had nearly 50,000 employees as of Nov. 1, according to its website.

The new job cuts are expected to cost HP $200 million in labor costs related to the workforce reduction, out of $350 million to $500 million in total restructuring and other charges. The entire restructuring plan, approved by the HP board earlier this week, has been forecast by the company to generate gross annual run rate savings of about $200 million to $300 million starting in fiscal 2020.

Although its core markets are challenged and the macroeconomic conditions are in flux, the company continues to “see long-term growth opportunities in commercial mobility and services, the disruption of the A3 copier market, and the digitization of graphics and manufacturing through our leading 3D printing solutions,” company president and CEO Dion Weisler said in a statement.

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