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Microsoft Launches Pix, iPhone Camera App

July 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

There’s a new iPhone camera application available that claims to take better pictures than the one Apple ships with its phones, and it’s built by Microsoft.

The company’s research arm on Wednesday launched Pix, which enhances the photos that users take in a variety of ways. The app is  designed to make photos look better and even improves on Apple’s Live Photos ability to capture scenes that have moving elements in them.

It’s part of Microsoft’s continued push to build applications for platforms beyond those that it directly controls, especially iOS and Android. The free app was built by members of Microsoft Research and released for free on the iOS App Store.

Pix is particularly well-suited to take photos of people and is built to make adjustments to a photo on the fly as the scene changes. That way, the exposure of an image should always be tuned to the right conditions. It recognizes faces and uses Microsoft’s Hyperlapse technology to stabilize video made with the app, too.

When users press the shutter button, the app will take a burst of photos and then pick out the best ones for final use. That burst is also used to power Pix’s Live Image feature, which creates a short moving picture when there’s motion in a burst.

That’s an improvement on Apple’s Live Photos feature, which captures video before and after every photo is taken. Microsoft touts its feature as a way to get the best parts of Apple’s moving picture functionality without requiring as much storage space and stabilizing the result.

 

SMS Messaging For Two-factor Authentication Could Be Short-lived

July 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

SMS messaging for two-factor authentication days may be numbered. A federal agency is discouraging its use.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is recommending changes be made. The latest draft of its Digital Authentication Guideline, updated on Monday, warns that SMS messages can be intercepted or redirected, making them vulnerable to hacking.

Many companies, including Twitter, Facebook and Google, as well as banks, already use the phone-based text messaging to add an extra layer of security to user accounts.

It works like this: To access the accounts, the user not only needs the password, but also a secret code sent by the company by text message. Ideally, these one-time passcodes are sent to a designated phone number to ensure no one else will read them.

But even so, hackers have still found ways to trick the system. In the past, they’ve used malware to infect smartphones, and secretly redirect the SMS messages to another device.

It’s unclear how the tech industry might react to the federal agency’s proposal. But cybersecurity vendors are already coming up with ways to better secure user accounts and devices through fingerprint recognition, hardware tokens and other methods.

Surgical Robots Are Poised For Big Growth In Operating Rooms

July 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Although many physicians see need for improvement, surgical robots are poised for big gains in operating rooms worldwide.

Within five years, one in three U.S. surgeries – more than double current levels – is expected to be performed with robotic systems, with surgeons sitting at computer consoles guiding mechanical arms. Companies developing new robots also plan to expand their use in India, China and other emerging markets.

Robotic surgery has been long dominated by pioneer Intuitive Surgical Inc, which has more than 3,600 of its da Vinci machines in hospitals worldwide and said last week the number of procedures that used them jumped by 16 percent in the second quarter compared to a year earlier.

The anticipated future growth – and perceived weaknesses of the current generation of robots – is attracting deep-pocketed rivals, including Medtronic Inc and a startup backed by Johnson & Johnson and Google. Developers of the next wave aim to make the robots less expensive, more nimble and capable of performing more types of procedures, company executives and surgeons told Reuters.

Although surgical robots run an average of $1.5 million and entail ongoing maintenance expenses, insurers pay no more for surgeries that utilize the systems than for other types of minimally-invasive procedures, such as laparoscopy.

Still, most top U.S. hospitals for cancer treatment, urology, gynecology and gastroenterology have made the investment. The robots are featured prominently in hospital marketing campaigns aimed at attracting patients, and new doctors are routinely trained in their use.

Surgical robots are used in hernia repair, bariatric surgery, hysterectomies and the vast majority of prostate removals in the United States, according to Intuitive Surgical data.

Doctors say they reduce fatigue and give them greater precision.

 

Western Digital Goes 64 Layer 3D NAND

July 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Western Digital has announced its latest range of 3D NAND chips, known as BiCS3, offering 64 vertical storage layers on a single three-bits-per-cell chip, making it the smallest in the industry.

Pilot production at the company’s Yokkaichi facility in Japan, which it shares with Toshiba, has already begun with what the company described as “meaningful commercial volumes” in the first half of 2017, although some limited consumer products are promised for the tail end of this year.

“The launch of the next generation 3D NAND technology based on our industry-leading 64-layer architecture reinforces our leadership in NAND flash technology,” said Dr Siva Sivaram, executive vice president for memory technology at Western Digital.

“BiCS3 will feature the use of three-bits-per-cell technology along with advances in high aspect ratio semiconductor processing to deliver higher capacity, superior performance and reliability at an attractive cost.

“Together with BiCS2, our 3D NAND portfolio has broadened significantly, enhancing our ability to address a full spectrum of customer applications in retail, mobile and data centre.”

BiCS3 has been developed alongside partner-firm Toshiba, from which we should expect a similar announcement any day now as the firms tend to take it in turns being first to the wires when new shared tech breaks.

It’s also worth noting that this is a significant flash announcement made under the WD umbrella, the first since it took control of SanDisk following a bidding war in which SanDisk put itself up for sale.

It’s not clear at the moment what the future holds for the SanDisk name, but ultimately this would have been a SanDisk announcement, so we’re very curious to see what the roadmap looks like.

BiCS3 will be available initially in a 256GB capacity rolling out to up to half a terabit on a single chip. BiCS3 for the retail market will arrive towards the end of 2016 with OEM sampling this quarter.

BiCS3 will run alongside the current BiCS2 range of 3D NAND products, which will remain available for the foreseeable future.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Intel and Kaspersky Join Forces To Thwart Ransomware

July 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel Security, Kaspersky Lab and Europol have teamed up to launch a new initiative designed to educate people about the threat of ransomware and offer keys that can unlock devices without having to pay the fraudsters.

The No More Ransom portal, which also has the backing of the Dutch National Police, has been put together in response to the rising threat from ransomware which had almost one million victims in Europe last year.

The portal will contain material designed to educate users about the threat of ransomware and where it comes from, but it is the access to some 160,000 keys that is most notable. These cover numerous ransomware strains, most notably the Shade trojan that emerged in 2014. This is a particularly nasty ransomware spread via websites and infected email attachments.

However, the command and control servers for Shade that stored the decryption keys were seized by law enforcement, and the keys were given to Kaspersky and Intel Security.

These have now been entered into the No More Ransom portal so that victims can access their data without paying the criminals.

Jornt van der Wiel, security researcher with Kaspersky’s global research and analysis team, explained that the portal will help people to take a stand against the rise of ransomware.

“The biggest problem with crypto-ransomware today is that when users have precious data locked down they readily pay criminals to get it back. That boosts the underground economy, and we are facing an increase in the number of new players and the number of attacks as a result,” he said.

“We can only change the situation if we coordinate our efforts to fight against ransomware. The appearance of decryption tools is just the first step on this road.”

Raj Samani, EMEA chief technology officer at Intel Security, echoed this sentiment. “This collaboration goes beyond intelligence sharing, consumer education and takedowns to actually help repair the damage inflicted on victims,” he said.

“By restoring access to their systems, we empower users by showing them they can take action and avoid rewarding criminals with a ransom payment.”

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Intel Developing Remote EyeSight Augmented Reality Smart Glasses

July 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

All signs indicated that Intel is developing a pair of augmented reality (AR) smart glasses, and we may see them at the company’s developer show next month.

The Intel Remote EyeSight, a set of head-worn AR smart glasses, is built around the idea of remote collaboration. The company will offer details at a technical session during next month’s Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

Further information about the AR smart glasses wasn’t immediately available, but they seem like a cross between Microsoft’s HoloLens and Google Glass.

The technical session page describes the AR smart glasses as a product that uses Intel’s Collaboration Suite for WebRTC video capabilities to “transform Intel’s enterprise collaboration experiences with secure, cost-effective, hands-free and augmented reality technologies.”

An Intel spokeswoman declined to comment on Remote EyeSight, but said AR and virtual reality (VR) will be a big focus at IDF.

The smart glasses give a fascinating clue into Intel’s AR strategy. Augmented reality blends real and virtual worlds, and can be used to build 3D objects, chat on Skype, or even play 3D games with the real world as a background.

Intel’s Remote EyeSight could enable interactive remote communication on smart glasses, kind of like having Skype on a wearable. That could promote freedom of movement and communication, and blend in real and virtual world scenes into video chats. In the enterprise, it could be used in areas like repair, medicine, and education.

Bulky headsets like Microsoft HoloLens restrict movement, a problem Intel’s smart glasses could alleviate if they are the right size. But like Google Glass, they may not be welcome in areas like bars and restaurants, so they could be limited to use in specific areas.

Intel also has good CPU technology for AR and VR but lacks good graphics technology, which is important for visual computing.

It’s also unclear how Intel will lay out its AR and VR vision at IDF. The company’s PC, server and internet of things groups have different ideas on how AR and VR fit into their operations, and it remains to be seen if they can unite to provide a common vision.

 

 

 

Will Moore’s Law Be Obsolete 2021?

July 28, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Transistors will stop shrinking in just five years according to the  2015 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors.

After 2021, the report forecasts, it will no longer be economically desirable for companies to continue to shrink the dimensions of transistors in microprocessors. Instead, chip manufacturers will turn to other means of boosting density.

In fact this is the last ITRS roadmap and the end to a more-than-20-year-old coordinated planning effort that began in the United States and was then expanded to include the rest of the world.

However the Semiconductor Industry Association, which represents IBM and Intel said that people are just not interested any more and it will have to do its own work, in collaboration with another industry group, the Semiconductor Research Corporation, to identify research priorities for government. Other ITRS participants will continue on with a new roadmapping effort under a new name, which will be conducted as part of an IEEE initiative called Rebooting Computing.

Analysts say that the difficulty and expense associated with maintaining Moore’s Law research has since resulted in significant consolidation. In 2001 there were 19 companies that were developing and manufacturing logic chips with leading-edge transistors. Now there is just Intel, TSMC, Samsung, and GlobalFoundries.

They can communicate directly to their equipment and materials suppliers and don’t want to sit down and tell their rivals what they are up to.

Semiconductor companies that no longer make leading-edge chips in house rely on the foundries that make their chips to provide advanced technologies. What’s more, he says, chip buyers and designers are increasingly dictating the requirements for future chip generations.

This final ITRS report is titled ITRS 2.0. The name reflects the idea that improvements in computing are no longer driven from the bottom up, by tinier switches and denser or faster memories. Instead, it takes a more top-down approach, focusing on the applications that now drive chip design, such as data centers, the Internet of Things, and mobile gadgets.

The new IEEE roadmap—the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems—will also take this approach, but it will add computer architecture to the mix, allowing for “a comprehensive, end-to-end view of the computing ecosystem, including devices, components, systems, architecture, and software,” according to a recent press release.

Transistor miniaturization was still a part of the long-term forecast as recently as 2014, when the lastITRS report was released. That report predicted that the physical gate length of transistors—an indicator of how far current must travel in the device—and other key logic chip dimensions would continue to shrink until at least 2028. But 3D concepts have gained momentum. The memory industry has already turned to 3D architectures to ease miniaturisation pressure and boost the capacity of NAND Flash. Monolithic 3D integration, which would build layers of devices one on top of another, connecting them with a dense forest of wires.

Moore’s Law just predicted how many transistors can fit in a given area of IC. Company still could make transistors smaller well into the 2020s, but it’s more economic to go 3-D.

Before 3-D integration is adopted, the ITRS predicts that leading-edge chip companies will move away from the FinFET transistor structure. According to the roadmap, chipmakers will leave that in favor of a lateral, gate-all-around device that has a horizontal channel like the FinFET but is surrounded by a gate that extends underneath. After that, transistors will become vertical, with their channels taking the form of pillars or nanowires. The traditional silicon channel will also be replaced by channels made with alternate materials, namely silicon germanium, germanium, and compounds drawn from columns III and V of the periodic table.

The doubling of transistor densities hasn’t been linked to improvements in computing performance for ages anyway. In the good old days shrinking transistors meant faster speeds, but by the 90s the extra metal layers that were added to wire up increasing numbers of transistors were adding significant delays and performance was improved by redesigned chip microarchitectures. In 2000 the main issue was heat because  transistor densities were so high that their heat limited clock speeds. Companies began packing multiple cores on chips to keep things moving.

Courtesy-Fud

 

 

Will AMD Go CPU/GPU In Datacenters?

July 28, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

AMD is drawing up a cunning plan to build a “super-chip” with a CPU and a GPU in a single box to put the fear of god into Nvidia and Intel in the data centre.

According to PC World the move will put AMD back into the server business, which is pretty much dead in the water at the moment.

Apparently when Zen arrives it wants to merge the CPU with a high-performance GPU to create a mega-chip for high-performance tasks.

AMD CEO Lisa Su said the tech will involve fusing Vega and Zen into one big chip for enterprise servers and supercomputing.

She said the move will come “in time”. “It’s an area where combining the two technologies makes a lot of sense.”

AMD has had a crack at this before. It has already combined full-featured CPUs and GPUs on made-to-order chips for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The 5-billion transistor Xbox One chip uses an eight-core AMD CPU code-named Jaguar and a Radeon graphics processor. But this is the first time that it has been talked about as a way of getting itself back into serverland.

Ironically it is possible thanks to the fact that GPUs are being used as co-processors in some of the world’s fastest computers. Google has slipped them into data centers for deep learning tasks. But this is world where Nvidia rules.

The only way for AMD to beat Nvidia and Intel in that space is to fuse the GPU and CPU into a single speedy box. Chances are it would push into the market on price and efficiency based on the concept that companies would only have to buy one chip.

Courtesy-Fud

 

U.K. Regulators Give Amazon Permission To Explore Drone Deliveries

July 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc announced that it has entered into a partnership with the British government to hasten the process for allowing small drones to makes deliveries.

The world’s biggest online retailer, which has laid out plans to start using drones for deliveries by 2017, said a cross-government team supported by the UK Civil Aviation Authority had provided it with the permissions necessary to explore the process.

Amazon unveiled a video last year showcasing how an unmanned drone could deliver packages, narrated by former Top Gear TV host Jeremy Clarkson.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said last month the use of drones for deliveries will require separate regulation from their general use.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc said last month it was six to nine months from beginning to use drones to check warehouse inventories in the United States.

 

 

Intel’s Knights Landing Thwarting nVidia Plans

July 27, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Bad news for Nvidia as supercomputer maker Cray said that that Intel’s Knights Landing giving Nvidia a run for its money.

Cray’s boss Peter Ungaro whose outfit makes supercomputers based around both Knights Landing and Nvidia gear has hinted that Intel gear is gaining traction.

The second generation Xeon Phi product, codenamed Knights Landing, comes as a stand-alone processor and another one which will be released as a co-processor later on. All this stands in the way of Nvidia’s cunning plans in the market.

Ungaro, the company has a “substantial amount of business” that relies on both Intel’s Knights Landing Xeon Phi part as well as Nvidia Tesla P100. He says he has significant orders for both.
But, he added that orders for systems based on Knights Landing actually exceed the orders for systems that use the Tesla P100. In other words, Knights Landing is already cleaning Tesla’s clock.

Motley Fool thinks that at the moment the market is big enough for both of them Nvidia has reported that its datacentre related sales were up 63 per cent year-over-year. But we can expect Intel to start getting more Chipzillish as it start’s bumping into Nvidia’s sales teams.

It might also start getting interesting when ARM chips start making an impact.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Huawei Posts 40% Increase In Sales Revenue

July 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, one of the world’s largest telecoms equipment makers, on Monday posted a 40 percent increase in first-half sales revenue and announced it would “maintain current momentum” this year.

Sales revenue reached 245.5 billion yuan ($36.8 billion) in the first six months of 2016, the company said in a statement. Operating margin fell to 12 percent from 18 percent in the previous half-year, it said.

The Shenzhen-based private company, which competes with Sweden’s Ericsson  for the top spot in the global market for telecoms equipment, did not elaborate in its brief statement.

“We are confident that Huawei will maintain its current momentum, and round out the full year in a positive financial position backed by sound ongoing operations,” Chief Financial Officer Sabrina Meng said in the statement.

“We achieved steady growth across all three of our business groups, thanks to a well-balanced global presence,” Meng said, referring to the company’s telecom, consumer device and enterprise business segments.

The company earlier this year set a revenue target of $75 billion for 2016.

Last year, Huawei reported a 30 percent rise in first-half revenue.

 

 

Microsoft’s Office 365 Subscription Slows Signficantly

July 26, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft said that consumer subscriptions to Office 365 topped 23 million, signaling that the segment’s once quite large year-over-year growth had slowed significantly.

The Redmond, Wash. company regularly talks up the latest subscription numbers for the consumer-grade Office 365 plans — the $100 a year Home and the $70 Personal — and did so again this week during an earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

“We also see momentum amongst consumers, with now more than 23 million Office 365 subscribers,” CEO Satya Nadella said Tuesday.

But analysis of Microsoft’s consumer Office 365 numbers showed that the rate of growth — or as Nadella put it, “momentum” — has slowed.

For the June quarter, the 23.1 million cited by Microsoft in its filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) represented a 52% increase over the same period the year prior. Although most companies would give their eye teeth — or maybe a few executives — to boast of a rate of increase that size, it was the smallest since Microsoft began providing subscription data in early 2013.

A year before, the June 2015 quarter sported a consumer Office 365 subscription growth rate of 171% over the same three-month span in 2014.

The subscription increase also was small in absolute terms: Microsoft added approximately 900,000 to the rolls during the June quarter, down from 2.8 million the year before and also less than the 1.6 million accumulated in 2016′s March quarter.

The 900,000 additional subscribers added in the June quarter were the smallest number in more than two years.

While Microsoft did not directly address the slowing of growth in the consumer Office 365 market, it did attribute a similar trend among corporate subscriptions to the difficulty of maintaining huge year-over-year percentage gains as the raw numbers of subscriptions increased.

 

 

 

 

 

Are Movie Theaters Moving To Virtual Reality?

July 26, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Samsung’s Gear VR headset has been installed in a what is believed to be the first Virtual Reality popup cinema.

The VIVID VR Cinema has been constructed in Toronto, Canada, where a total of three different films were being shown — The Visitor, where a young couple prepares for the woman’s greatest fear to arrive; Imago, a title about a former dancer in a coma who’s aware of her surroundings; and Sonar, a movie about a drone that discovers a signal on an asteroid.

The cinema is small – only 30 seats. Each has a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a Gear VR with a Galaxy S7 clipped to the back. Tickets cost $20 for the 40-minutes to watch the three films.

The movies have been carefully crafted to let their viewers to choose different narratives to focus on so even the plot is interactive.

It is expected that more of this type of entertainment will arrive when more content is available. It might be a couple of decades before the first Hollywood blockbuster though.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Tech Firms Form OTrP To Support IoT Security

July 26, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A bunch of tech firms including ARM and Symantec have joined forces to create a security protocol designed to protect Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The group, which also includes Intercede and Solacia, has created The Open Trust Protocol (OTrP) that is now available for download for prototyping and testing from the IETF website.

The OTrP is designed to bring system-level root trust to devices, using secure architecture and trusted code management, akin to how apps on smartphones and tablets that contain sensitive information are kept separate from the main OS.

This will allow IoT manufacturers to incorporate the technology into devices, ensuring that they are protected without having to give full access to a device OS.

Marc Canel, vice president of security systems at ARM, explained that the OTrP will put security and trust at the core of the IoT.

“In an internet-connected world it is imperative to establish trust between all devices and service providers,” he said.

“Operators need to trust devices their systems interact with and OTrP achieves this in a simple way. It brings e-commerce trust architectures together with a high-level protocol that can be easily integrated with any existing platform.”

Brian Witten, senior director of IoT security at Symantec, echoed this sentiment. “The IoT and smart mobile technologies are moving into a range of diverse applications and it is important to create an open protocol to ease and accelerate adoption of hardware-backed security that is designed to protect onboard encryption keys,” he said.

The next stage is for the OTrP to be further developed by a standards-defining organisation after feedback from the wider technology community, so that it can become a fully interoperable standard suitable for mass adoption.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Facebook Solar-powered Drone Takes Flight

July 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc announced that it has completed a successful test flight of a solar-powered drone that it hopes will help it extend internet connectivity to every corner of the planet.

Aquila, Facebook’s lightweight, high-altitude aircraft, flew at a few thousand feet for 96 minutes in Yuma, Arizona, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post on his Facebook page. The company ultimately hopes to have a fleet of Aquilas that can fly for at least three months at a time at 60,000 feet (18,290 meters) and communicate with each other to deliver internet access.

Google parent Alphabet Inc has also poured money into delivering internet access to under served areas through Project Loon, which aims to use a network of high-altitude balloons to made the internet available to remote parts of the world.

Yael Maguire, Facebook’s engineering director and head of its Connectivity Lab, said in an interview that the company initially hoped Aquila would fly for 30 minutes.

“We’re thrilled about what happened with our first flight,” Maguire said. “There are still a lot of technical challenges that need to be addressed for us to achieve the whole mission.” He said he hoped the system might be brought into service “in the near future.”

Zuckerberg laid out the company’s biggest challenges in flying a fleet of Aquilas, including making the plane lighter so it can fly for longer periods, getting it to fly at 60,000 feet and creating communications networks that allow it to rapidly transfer data and accurately beam down lasers to provide internet connections.

Maguire said Aquila will go through several more test flights and hopes it will soon break the world record for the longest solar-powered unmanned aircraft flight, which currently stands at two weeks.

Facebook, which has more than 1.6 billion users, has invested billions of dollars in getting more people online, both through an initiative called internet.org – which offers a pared-down version of the internet to poor areas – and by building drones.