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NASA’s Maven Finally Reaches Mars Orbit

September 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

After 10 months and 442 million miles, NASA’s Maven spacecraft has finally arrived at Mars and entered into its orbit.

The first spacecraft dedicated to exploring Mars’ upper atmosphere, scientists hope Maven (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) will give them clues as to why Mars didn’t hold onto its water and become a lush planet like Earth.

If all goes as planned, Maven won’t be the only spacecraft to enter into Mars’ orbit this week.

Another orbiter, this one launched by the Indian Space Research Organization, is expected to reach Mars and enter its orbit on Wednesday.

As engineers and scientists at NASA’s mission control center waited anxiously for news to come back from its newest Mars-bound spacecraft, Maven took itself out of its traveling trajectory and began a planned burn that lasted a little more than 30 minutes to insert itself into orbit around Mars. It officially entered the Mars orbit at 10:24 p.m. ET on Sunday.

“Here’s a spacecraft hurtling toward Mars and we had no control over it,” said John Grunsfeld, an astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “It’s amazing we have the opportunity to build a spacecraft like Maven to learn about Mars. And it worked like clockwork.”

Grunsfeld took questions about the Maven mission in an interview on NASA TV just minutes after it was announced that the spacecraft had successfully entered the Martian orbit.

A NASA spokeswoman, giving commentary during the orbit integration, said the spacecraft, which launched on Nov. 18, 2013, had worked well throughout its long journey.

“Everything looks fantastic,” she said. “Maven has functioned perfectly since launch and we expect her to continue doing so today.”

Moments later, engineers received data from the spacecraft, confirming that it had entered orbit around Mars and had turned off its engines. Cheers and applause erupted in mission control.

 

 

 

IEEE Pushing For Standards For Internet of Things

September 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The IEEE is untertaking a rather ambitious effort to put in place a overarching architecture for the Internet of Things, spanning a multitude of industries and technologies.

IEEE P2413, which the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers officially started work on in July, would form a framework for interoperability among connected devices and related applications in home automation, industrial systems, telematics and all other sectors that are expected to use IoT in the coming years. While leaving room for differences across those industries, the standard would allow for sharing of data across IoT systems, according to Oleg Logvinov, chair of the IEEE P2413 Working Group.

“The activities in the Internet of Things today are disjointed,” Logvinov said Thursday at the IEEE Standards Association IoT Workshop in Mountain View, California.

IDC analyst Michael Palma, who also spoke at the workshop, counted seven industry groups plus the IEEE that are working in this area. They include enterprise-level bodies such as the Industrial Internet Consortium and more consumer-focused efforts such as AllJoyn.

“What they need is the Rosetta Stone to make everything talk and work together,” Palma said.

IEEE is a powerful international body that’s set the standards for, among other things, Ethernet and wireless LANs. But the P2413 Working Group, which first met in July, doesn’t want to replace existing IoT groups. Rather it aims to create a standard architecture so IoT systems for all industries can work together.

“They need a place where they can come together and move forward as a scalable, unified platform,” Logvinov said. “That type of unification can be enabled only by a global, international standard.”

 

 

nVidia Finally Goes 20nm

September 23, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

For much of the year we were under the impression that the second generation Maxwell will end up as a 20nm chip.

First-generation Maxwell ended up being branded as Geforce GTX 750 and GTX 750 TI and the second generation Maxwell launched a few days ago as the GTX 980 and Geforce GTX 970, with both cards based on the 28nm GM204 GPU.

This is actually quite good news as it turns out that Nvidia managed to optimize power and performance of the chip and make it one of the most efficient chips manufactured in 28nm.

Nvidia 20nm chips coming in 2015

Still, people keep asking about the transition to 20nm and it turns out that the first 20nm chip from Nvidia in 20nm will be a mobile SoC.

The first Nvidia 20nm chip will be a mobile part, most likely Erista a successor of Parker (Tegra K1).

Our sources didn’t mention the exact codename, but it turns out that Nvidia wants to launch a mobile chip first and then it plans to expand into 20nm with graphics.

Unfortunately we don’t have any specifics to report.

AMD 20nm SoC in 2015

AMD is doing the same thing as its first 20nm chip, codenamed Nolan, is an entry level APU targeting tablet and detachable markets.

There is a strong possibility that Apple and Qualcomm simply bought a lot of 20nm capacity for their mobile modem chips and what was left was simply too expensive to make economic sense for big GPUs.
20nm will drive the voltage down while it will allow higher clocks, more transistors per square millimeter and it will overall enable better chips.

Just remember Nvidia world’s first quad-core Tegra 3 in 40nm was rather hot and making a quad core in 28nm enabled higher performance and significantly better battery life. The same was true of other mobile chips of the era.

We expect similar leap from going down to 20nm in 2015 and Erista might be the first chip to make it to 20nm. A Maxwell derived architecture 20nm will deliver even more efficiency. Needless to say AMD plans to launch 20nm GPUs next year as well.

It looks like Nvidia’s 16nm FinFET Parker processor, based on the Denver CPU architecture and Maxwell graphics won’t appear before 2016.

Courtesy-Fud

Will Mark Hurd Call The Shots At Oracle?

September 23, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Analysts have started to wonder which of the two heads that Larry Ellison left in charge of Oracle will be calling the shots — Safra Catz or Mark Hurd.

Wall Street thinks that dealmaker and finance guru Safra Catz will be in charge even though she, and not Hurd who would be the real boss. Of course Ellison will remain around for a while, so it is a little moot, neither Catz or Hurd got to the top by crossing Ellison. But Ellison could actually go, particularly if his mysterious exit was because he was sick and this has made some analysts wonder who will be in charge.

Of 12 analysts who replied to an anonymous poll, five said Catz would likely run Oracle, while only one voted for Hurd, 57. Four said both would continue to run the company, one said neither, and one plumped for dark-horse internal candidate Thomas Kurian.

Catz has more status because the 52-year old former Wall Street banker orchestrated Oracle’s multibillion dollar acquisitions and has been Ellison’s de facto deputy for the last few years. Hurd, who only joined Oracle in 2010 after leaving HP under the cloud of a business ethics breach, has a larger public presence but is still seen as a newcomer.

Only one analyst said Hurd was the more likely to lead the company, chiefly because he is the one with experience of being the CEO of a large technology company. In fact some of the Oracle board does not trust him because of the experience that HP had with him.

Coutresy-Fud

HTC To Make the Next Google Nexus Tablet

September 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google Inc has chosen HTC Corp to develop and deliver its upcoming 9-inch Nexus tablet, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Google had been mulling HTC as a potential Nexus tablet partner since last year and HTC engineers have been flying to the Googleplex in Mountain View in recent months to work on the project, the report said.

Google’s decision to pick HTC reflects its long-term strategy of building a broad base of partners from device to device to prevent any one manufacturer from gaining a monopoly, the report said.

That may also be one of the reasons why Google chose HTC over bigger rivals Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, maker of the Nexus 10 tablet.

Google and HTC declined to comment on the report.

 

 

Facebook To Promote Posts Tied To Trendy Or Popular Topics

September 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook users begin to see more posts higher in their feeds tied to popular events or topics of conversation, with less popular posts getting pushed further down.

The change comes courtesy of an update to Facebook’s news feed algorithm announced Thursday, focused on giving users “more timely stories.” It affects posts both from users’ friends and from pages to which they’re connected.

Facebook wants more of its users to engage on the site when they might be watching the same sports game or TV show — something that already happens on Twitter — and then brush their posts under the carpet when the event is over or the topic fizzles out.

Facebook routinely tweaks its news feed algorithm, but this update has the potential to advance the company’s efforts in the area of news delivery. It’s a departure from the site’s roots as a means for solely keeping in touch with family and friends.

The update is built around two changes. First, posts that are related to trending topics will appear higher and faster in the feed, Facebook said. When a friend or a Page to which you’re connected posts about something that’s currently a hot topic of conversation on the site, the post is more likely to appear higher in the feed.

Facebook users can already get a sense of what’s popular on the site by looking at the “trending” topics section in the right-hand column, which Facebook rolled out earlier this year. On Thursday, some of the topics listed included Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, pop singer Gwen Stefani and the video game Final Fantasy XV.

Posts that aren’t as relevant to what’s hot, in other words, will get less priority.

Secondly, Facebook said it would be considering not just the number of likes that posts receive in determining their placement, but when people choose to like, comment and share. If a lot of people are interacting with a post right after it was posted, but the activity drops off a few hours later, “this suggests the post was most interesting at the time it was posted,” Facebook said. As a result, that post would get promoted higher early on and less later.

 

 

Yelp Settles FTC With FTC Over Child Privacy Violation Charges

September 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yelp has agreed to pay $450,000 to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to settle charges that the firm accepted registrations to its services from children under 13 through its apps.

The FTC had earlier on Tuesday lodged a complaint against the service that connects people with local businesses, stating that it had violated a number of rules, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

Before 2009, users could only register through the website, where Yelp had a screening mechanism to prohibit users under the age of 13 from registering. However, in 2009, Yelp introduced a registration feature in its app, allowing users to register for new accounts through the application but failed to implement a working age-screen mechanism in the feature, according to the FTC complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

As a result, both the iOS and Android versions of the app accepted registrations and collected information from users who entered dates of birth indicating that they were underaged, the complaint added. This went on until April 2013.

Yelp said in a blog post earlier this week that it had reached a settlement with the FTC regarding the bug in the mobile registration process that failed to disallow registrations from individuals under 13. Birth dates on Yelp are optional in the first place, so users are always free to register without one, it noted.

The FTC charged Yelp with violating the COPPA Rule by failing to provide notice to parents of its information practices, and to obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children.

Under the proposed settlement, Yelp has to destroy the personal information of children under 13 who registered with the service within 30 days of the entry of the order, in most cases.

Yelp said that only about 0.02% of users who actually completed the registration process during the time period provided an underage birth date, “and we have good reason to believe that many of them were actually adults.”

The company had an average of about 138 million monthly unique visitors in the second quarter of this year.

 

 

Can Dell Make A Profitable Low Cost ARM Server?

September 19, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Michael Dell, founder of Dell, has said the company may use ARM for its mainstream servers. Speaking at the Dell Solutions Summit in Brussels, Dell said: “If ARM works, really works, and costs less, we will use ARM.”

This is a bit of a poke in the eye for the company’s relationship with Intel. The company has just released the 13th generation of its PowerEdge server suite, based on Intel’s newest Xeon chip, the E5 2600 v3. Dell said that as ARM moved to 64-bit architecture; it became more interesting to him. But at the moment Intel is absolutely the best and that’s what customers want.”

Dell said the company has a long-standing partnership with companies such as Intel because the capital required to build the next generation of semiconductors is significant.

“We are co-dependent on each other. If you look at Intel’s revenue reports, you will find that Dell represents 15% of Intel’s ‘other’ revenue,” he said. “If you look at the enterprise customers, their infrastructures have a long tail of legacy IT, which have to be tested and certified, so they are not exactly jumping on the ARM bandwagon.”

Courtesy-Fud

Toshiba Decides To Boot The PC Brand

September 19, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Toshiba is cutting its PC workforce by about 900 people and sales bases by more than half as part of its restructuring of its struggling consumer PC operations. The big idea is to focus on business clients rather than consumers who are still hanging on to their old machines.

Toshiba will withdraw from certain consumer markets but it would not specify which ones. It said it will cut its sales bases around the world from 32 to 13 during its 2014 fiscal year, which ends March 31. The outfit did not say which consumer models will survive the downsizing. Toshiba makes laptops such as the Portege, Kira and Satellite brands, including the first laptop with a 4K display, the P50T-BST2N01.

Toshiba will emphasise its profitable enterprise PC business and expand its offerings including workstations and tablets.

Under the outfit’s cunning plan business-to-business sales will have to grow to more than 50 percent of all sales in the company’s 2016 fiscal year. The company hopes to use its PC know-how in its IoT (Internet of Things) products and services in cloud, healthcare and home appliances.

Toshiba expects the PC restructuring will reduce fixed costs by more than $186 million. Toshiba’s share of PC shipments in the US grew to 6.1 percent in the April-June quarter, up from 5.4 percent a year earlier.

The company reported that PC sales had “improved significantly” in the April-June quarter, with brisk demand in Japan.

Courtesy-Fud

Ericsson Exiting Modem Business

September 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Ericsson, the world’s largest mobile network equipment manufacturer, is shutting down its modem business, shutting a loss-making unit with the departure of about 1,000 staff.

The decision comes amid falling prices of modems, rising demands on research and development and a shrinking market as more smartphone makers buy modems and processors, which Ericsson does not make, together.

The Swedish company had said it would evaluate the future of the business within 18 to 24 months of taking it on in 2013 when joint venture partner STMicroelectronics pulled out.

Ericsson’s chief executive said on Thursday the rapidly changing market meant the company had concluded it would be too expensive for the business to succeed.

“In addition, we believe we can use this money in a better way,” Hans Vestberg told Reuters.

The Swedish company said the decision to end the development of modems would mean it could shift resources to developing radio networks.

Ericsson had targeted a top three market position for its modems business, which employs around 1,600 people, alongside U.S. firms Qualcomm and Intel.

The move to stop developing new modems would mean around 1,000 staff leaving Ericsson, Vestberg said.

Some of the other employees would find work at a new research and development unit within Ericsson’s core radio networks business that will be set up in Sweden’s Lund and employ 500 in total.

Some would also continue working with the M7450 modem which was launched in August, Vestberg said, although it was hard to say for how long Ericsson would go on making it as that would depend on the success of the smartphones in which it sits.

In total, Ericsson employed slightly more than 115,000 at the end of the second quarter.

Ericsson said it expected the move to lead to significant cost savings, without specifying. In the three quarters since the modems business was integrated in Ericsson, it had racked up 1.7 billion Swedish crowns (238 million) in operating losses.

 

 

IBM Launches Watson Analytics

September 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

In an effort to expand its Watson analysis technology, IBM is trying out a new service that can answer questions business managers might have about their data.

IBM has launched a beta of Watson Analytics, an interactive Q&A service designed to answer questions and highlight trends within sets of enterprise data.

The service “is about putting powerful analytics in the hands of every business user,” said Eric Sall, IBM vice president of marketing for business analytics.

Traditional business intelligence tools remain too difficult to use for business managers, Sall said. “It is hard to get the data. It is hard to analyze the data if you’re not a specialist, and it is hard to use the tools,” he said. Watson Analytics attempts to streamline the process.

Natural language systems are becoming increasingly prevalent as a form of human-computer interface. Apple’s Siri, Google’s GoogleNow and Microsoft’s Cortana all act as virtualized personal assistants, able to answer a range of simple questions on behalf of their users.

Watson Analytics operates in a similar manner, in that it can offer responses to questions posed by the user in their chosen language, rather than forcing the user to develop a SQL query, master a complex statistical package or write data-parsing code to better understand some large set of data.

The effort is the latest move in IBM’s $1 billion initiative to commercialize Watson technologies.

IBM Research developed Watson to compete with human contestants on the “Jeopardy” game show in 2011, using natural language processing and analytics, as well as many sources of structured and unstructured data, to formulate responses to the show’s questions.

In the years since, the company has been working to commercialize the Watson technology by identifying industries that could benefit from this form of cognitive computing, such as health care, law enforcement and finance.

Earlier this year, IBM launched the Watson Discovery Advisor, which is customized for scientific researchers who need to deeply probe one specific body of scientific knowledge, such as chemistry or cellular biology.

Another service, the company’s Watson Engagement Advisor, uses the artificial intelligence technology to aid in customer support.

 

 

Ohio Wooing Amazon For Billion Dollar Data Center

September 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

State and local officials in Ohio are attempting to woo Amazon.com Inc with tax breaks and other perks to convince the No. 1 U.S. online retailer to build a $1.1 billion data center in central Ohio and create 120 jobs, according to public records.

The records offer a rare look at the typically tight-lipped company’s growth plans for its popular cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, founded in 2006. There are 10 AWS data centers, called regions within the company, around the world, including four in the United States, AWS said.

“We are constantly evaluating a long list of additional target countries and U.S. locations,” AWS said in a statement.

In late August, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority extended an estimated $81 million in tax breaks to an Amazon subsidiary called Vadata Inc, according to state filings.

In exchange for the tax deal, Amazon has committed to invest at least $1.1 billion over the next three years to build a data center. It will also create 120 jobs with an average salary of $80,208 by the end of 2018, according to the filing.

Separately, city officials in Dublin, Ohio, are also looking to transfer 68.7 acres of city-owned land to the company from 2015 until 2024 – worth $6.75 million – among other perks, according to city documents posted online.

The Columbus Dispatch newspaper reported that Dublin city officials are expected to vote on whether to proceed with the Amazon offer on Sept. 22.

 

 

 

Is Adobe’s Subscription Plan Working?

September 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Adobe has posted a 46 per cent year-on-year drop in net profits, placing its strategy of shifting customers to cloud subscriptions into doubt. For two years, the company has tried to stop punters making one-off purchases of software and move them on to Creative Cloud subscriptions.

It worked well initially but it seems that the results are not that good with Adobe blaming higher operating expenses and weaker profit margins for the sharp dip in profits.

Revenue from Adobe’s digital media business, which includes Creative Cloud, fell by more than 2 per cent in the third quarter. It is not because customers did not like the idea. Adobe added around half a million subscribers. The company says it has 2.8 million Creative Cloud customers, up from 2.3 million in the previous quarter.

What appears to have happened is that Adobe has success converting enterprise customers to Creative Cloud, small businesses and individuals are more reluctant to sign up for rolling subscriptions, and are sticking with older versions of products such as Photoshop and InDesign.

Adobe recently introduced lower-cost subscription packages for photographers, which include Photoshop and Lightroom for a quarter of the original price.

Courtesy-Fud

IBM New Training Program Results In Pay Cut For Enrolled Employees

September 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

IBM has started a new training program that will cut the pay of participating employees by 10%.

According to an IBM internal memo dated Sept 12th. The memo sent to affected employees begins by telling the worker that an assessment has revealed “that some managers and employees have not kept pace with acquiring the skills and expertise needed to address changing client needs, technology and market requirements.”

It then tells the recipient that “you have been identified as one of these employees,” and says that from mid-October through the end of March, “you will dedicate up to one day per week,” or up to 23 working days total, “to focus on learning and development.”

But IBM is coupling this training with a six month salary reduction. The key statement in the memo is this: “While you spend part of your workweek on learning and development activities, you will receive 90% of your current base salary.”

Salary will be restored to the full rate effective April 1, 2015.

Asked about program, IBM spokeswoman Trink Guarino said the firm “is implementing a skills development program for a small number of U.S. strategic outsourcing employees. Under this program, these employees will spend one day a week developing skills in key growth areas such as cloud, analytics, mobile and social.”

There was negative reaction from some IBM employees.

One IBM IT professional, who asked not to be identified, said he was “shocked” to be added to the list, particularly since his work has been consistently praised by managers.

By reducing pay “by a significant amount,” IBM is acting “in the hopes that the employees won’t be able to sustain that pay and decide to quit, exempting IBM from letting them go and have to pay severance,” the employee said.

One source familiar with the program said the percentage of employees impacted is small, in the single digits.

While employees may see the pay cut as unfair, the salary reduction is viewed by management as a form of employee “co-investment” in training, and as a better alternative to laying off and hiring employees with the latest skills. It’s not that these employees lack skills, but they don’t necessarily have the ones that are needed today, the source said.

 

 

 

 

Google Targeting New Mexico To Test Internet Delivery Drones

September 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is gearing up to test Internet delivery by drone high above New Mexico, according to a government filing.

The company has asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to use two blocks of frequencies for the tests, which are scheduled to last about six months and begin in October. They will be conducted above an area of more than 1,400 square kilometers in the center of New Mexico to the east of Albuquerque.

“Google recently acquired Titan Aerospace, a firm that specializes in developing solar and electric unmanned aerial systems for high altitude, long endurance flights,” Google said in its application. “These systems may eventually be used to provide Internet connections in remote areas or help monitor environmental damage, such as oil spills or deforestation.”

Google said its application for temporary permission to make the transmissions was needed “for demonstration and testing of [REDACTED] in a carefully controlled environment.”

The FCC allows companies to redact certain portions of their applications when they might provide too much information to competitors.

In the application, Google said it wants to use two blocks of frequencies, one between 910MHz and 927MHz and one between 2.4GHz and 2.414GHz. Both are so-called “industrial, scientific and medical” (ISM) bands typically used for unlicensed operations.

The application has not yet been approved.

It’s the latest in a series of moves by the company to trial Internet delivery from the skies.

The company unveiled its ambitious Project Loon last year, which uses a series of high-altitude balloons that float in winds at about 20 kilometers (65,000 feet) above the Earth. The first experiments with Loon involved using a transmission system based on WiFi, but earlier this year the company began experimenting with LTE cellular transmissions in a test site in Nevada.

Google acquired Titan Aerospace in April this year for an undisclosed price.