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Chromebook Outpacing Mac Notebook In U.S. Sales

May 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

More personal computers powered by Google’s Chrome OS shipped in the U.S. during the first quarter than those built on Apple’s OS X in the same period, IDC  has confirmed.

“Chrome PCs overall, including Chrome desktop units like the Chromebox, out-shipped all Apple personal computers, desktop plus notebook, in the U.S. for Q1,” said Jay Chou, one of several IDC analysts who track device shipments, in an email reply to questions.

Chromebooks, the inexpensive notebooks that run Chrome OS, also out-shipped Apple’s MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro notebooks in the U.S. The first-quarter battle wasn’t even close, according to the notebook-only shipment numbers Chou provided.

Apple shipped an estimated 1.17 million Mac notebooks in the U.S. during the first three months of 2016; IDC said 1.6 million Chrome OS notebooks shipped in the same span.

In other words, 37% more Chromebooks shipped than Mac notebooks.

Last week, Tom Warren of The Verge reported that Chrome OS hardware had out-shipped OS X-equipped Macs after speaking with one of Chou’s colleagues. Subsequently, numerous other outlets, including blogs and mainstream media websites, picked up Warren’s report.

IDC’s shipment data for Chrome OS and OS X systems were estimates generated using information from vendors and Asian component suppliers. Google, which developed Chrome OS, does not reveal shipment numbers: Most Chromebooks originate from third-party OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), including Acer, Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo. And although Apple disclosed global Mac sales in its April 26 earnings call with Wall Street, it did not break down that figure by geographic region.

That IDC’s numbers were estimates only was clear when comparing the research firm’s forecast to Apple’s stated sales for the first quarter. Prior to April 26 — when Apple said it had sold 4.03 million Macs worldwide – IDC had projected global Mac shipments at 4.47 million, or about 10% too high.

 

 

 

Microsoft To Make Switching Between IE11 And Edge Browsers Easier

May 24, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft announced that it will introduce changes in this summer’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update to simplify switching from Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) to Edge, and back.

The changes will be aimed at enterprises, the only customer group Microsoft recommends running IE11 in the new operating system.

“We recognize that some enterprise customers have line-of-business applications built specifically for older web technologies, which require Internet Explorer 11,” the company said in a blog post.

Previously, Microsoft included “Enterprise Mode” in Windows 10, a feature that lets an IT staff limit IE11′s operation to specific legacy websites or web apps.

Starting with the Anniversary Update — Microsoft’s name for the one major upgrade it will deliver for 10 this year — the “interstitial” page, one that pops up between running Edge and IE11 when Enterprise Mode kicks in, will vanish.

Currently, a switch from Edge to IE11 opens a page that states, “This website needs Internet Explorer 11″ before IE11 fires up. With the Anniversary Update, the interstitial will no longer appear: IE11 will simply open atop Edge when the user steers to a site or app on the Enterprise Mode whitelist.

The same no-interstitial-page behavior will take place when a worker running IE11 types in an URL that is not on the list: Edge will open without a pause.

Microsoft will also introduce a new group policy for IE11 that will limit the browser’s use to only those sites on the whitelist, barring users from running IE11 for the bulk of their browsing. “Enabling this setting automatically opens all sites that are not included in the Enterprise Mode Site List in Microsoft Edge,” Microsoft said.

IE and Edge have a rapidly-shrinking share of the browser market, but the former will remain important to businesses with older apps and customized internal sites, which unless rewritten will require the older browser. Together, IE and Edge were run by 41.3% of the world’s users in April, a new low that dropped Microsoft into second place behind Google’s Chrome browser.

 

 

 

Google’s Tensor Processing Unit Improves Machine Learning

May 23, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Google has taken a giant step forward with the speed of its machine learning systems by developing its own custom chip that it’s been using for over a year.

The company was rumored to have been designing its own chip, based partly on job ads it posted in recent years. But until today it had kept the effort largely under wraps.

It calls the chip a Tensor Processing Unit, or TPU, named after the TensorFlow software it uses for its machine learning programs. In a blog post, Google engineer Norm Jouppi refers to it as an accelerator chip, which means it speeds up a specific task.

At its I/O conference Wednesday, CEO Sundar Pichai said the TPU provides an order of magnitude better performance per watt than existing chips for machine learning tasks. It’s not going to replace CPUs and GPUs but it can speed up machine learning processes without consuming a lot more more energy.

As machine learning becomes more widely used in all types of applications, from voice recognition to language translation and and data analytics, having a chip that speeds those workloads is essential to maintaining the pace of advancements.

The TPU is in production use across Google’s cloud, including powering the RankBrain search result sorting system and Google’s voice recognition services. When developers pay to use the Google Voice Recognition Service, they’re using its TPUs.

Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president for technical infrastructure, said during a press conference at I/O that the TPU can augment machine learning processes but that there are still functions that require CPUs and GPUs.

Google started developing the TPU about two years ago, he said.

Right now, Google has thousands of the chips in use. They’re able to fit in the same slots used for hard drives in Google’s data center racks, which means the company can easily deploy more of them if it needs to.

 

 

 

 

 

Google Unveils A.I. Challenger To Amazon’s Alexa

May 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Alphabet’s Google Inc  introduced us to its answer to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant along with new messaging and virtual reality products at its annual I/O developer conference on Wednesday, doubling down on artificial intelligence and machine learning as the keys to its future.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai introduced Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant, along with the tabletop speaker appliance Google Home.

He also unveiled Allo, a new messaging service that will compete with Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger products and feature a chatbot powered by the Google Assistant. Allo, like WhatsApp, will also have end-to-end encryption when it is rolled out this summer.

Amazon’s Echo, a surprise hit that has other tech giants racing to match it, uses a virtual assistant called Alexa, a cloud-based system that controls the Echo speaker and responds to voice-controlled commands by users.

Like Alexa, Google Assistant can search the internet and adjust your schedule. However, Pichai said Google Assistant can use images and other information to provide more intuitive results.

“You can be in front of this structure in Chicago and ask Google who designed this and it will understand in this context that the name of that designer is Anish Kapoor,” said Pichai, pointing toward a photo of Chicago’s Cloud Gate sculpture.

For Google Home, the Google Assistant merges with Chromecast and smart home devices to control televisions, thermostats and other products. Google did not offer a specific release date or pricing for Google Home, saying only that it will be available later this year.

 

 

Is There A ‘For Sale’ Sign In Pandora Music’s Future?

May 18, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Corvex Management LP disclosed that it owns 9.9 percent of Pandora Media Inc and urged the internet music streaming company to consider being sold instead of pursuing a “costly and uncertain business plan.”

Corvex, a hedge fund run by Keith Meister, a protégé of billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn, said it had met with the company’s management and had withdrawn a plan to replace some of its board members. However, it now believes Pandora should hire an investment bank to help the company explore its strategic options including a sale.

“We believe there is likely to be significant strategic interest in the company at a substantial premium to the company’s recent stock price,” Corvex said, adding that large internet companies, handset makers and media companies could be potential buyers.

Pandora’s shares are down more than 25 percent in 2016 and more than 45 percent year-over-year. Corvex owns about 22.7 million shares in the company, making the hedge fund Pandora’s largest shareholder.

Pandora said in response that it is in constant dialogue with shareholders and committed to achieving long-term value for them.

“Pandora has a profitable core business, combined with a strong balance sheet. We are confidently investing to fully capture the massive opportunity ahead of us,” the company said in a statement.

Oakland, California-based Pandora has faced tough competition from music-streaming rivals such as Spotify, Apple Inc , Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com and has failed to turn an annual profit as a public company.

Analysts have said Pandora, which had a market capitalization of $2.29 billion on Monday, could be an acquisition target for larger media or internet companies looking to beef up their online music offerings.

Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren, a former musician who spearheaded Pandora’s music algorithm technology, returned to the company March 28 to become CEO, squashing some investors’ hopes the company could be sold.

Westergren told Reuters on April 15, “If you want to sell a company, you don’t do that by spending half a billion on acquisitions and hiring a new CEO.”

 

 

Amazon To Launch Private Label Products Soon

May 17, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc is gearing up to launch several new lines of its private-label brands in the coming weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The new brands with names like Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime and Mama Bear will include nuts, spices, tea, coffee, baby food and vitamins, as well as household items such as diapers and laundry detergents, the newspaper reported.

Amazon will only offer these labels to its Prime subscribers, the Journal reported, adding the first of the brands could begin appearing at the end of May or early June.

“We don’t comment on rumors or speculations,” a company spokeswoman said in an email.

Last week, Amazon launched Amazon Video Direct for users to post videos and earn royalties with them, setting it up directly against Alphabet Inc’s YouTube.

 

 

The Weather Channel To Launch New Mobile App

May 16, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The Weather Channel is gearing up to roll out a mobile phone app for its recently launched online local news service Local Now in a bid to expand its viewership, Chief Executive Dave Shull told Reuters in an interview.

The independent TV network, which brings weather coverage from blizzards to tornadoes to millions of American homes, rolled out in January an online service “Local Now” that offers local news, weather, traffic and sports updates. The service is currently only available on Dish Network Corp’s online streaming service Sling TV.

“News should be personalized for you, hyper-local, and on-demand just like your favorite shows on Netflix or Hulu,” Shull said on Thursday. “You shouldn’t have to wait for the local news to come on at 11 p.m.”

The Local Now app, expected to launch in June, lets users access the service on iOS and Android phones by entering account information from their cable or satellite-TV subscription with some operators, such as Time Warner Cable Inc, Shull said. It offers a free trial for a week.

The launch comes as streaming services such as Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video gain popularity and viewers shun traditional pay-TV offerings.

Streaming or over-the-top services bring slim bundles of channels from sports to kids entertainment to viewers, but often lack rich local news content as streaming rights have to be painstakingly negotiated with hundreds of stations.

The challenge for local news stations is to satisfy mobile demand without undermining viewership for traditional broadcasts, which generate hefty fees from cable operators who pay to carry their content.

By identifying a viewer’s location, ad-free Local Now creates a real-time, short-form newscast using live data from Weather Channel traffic and weather cameras and news from a handful of content partners, such as the Associated Press. The newscasts, which do not feature a news anchor, use automated pre-recorded words strung together to deliver news.

By leveraging existing Weather Channel infrastructure and using cost-efficient technology, Local Now can offer local news coverage to distributors at a “fraction of the cost” charged by local news stations, Shull said.

 

 

 

Is Apple Infringing Again?

May 16, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple has found itself in the middle of another accusation that it may not invented some of the technology it made a fortune from.
VoIP-Pal (VPLM) claims that Jobs’ Mob owes it $2.8 billion because of the way its iMessage and FaceTime services work.

“Apple employs VPLM’s innovative technology and products, features, and designs, and has widely distributed infringing products that have undermined VPLM’s marketing efforts,” the complaint reads.

iMessage apparently deals with the classification of a user and the manner in which the call is routed.

VoIP-Pal originally initiated its lawsuit against Apple back in February in a US District Court in Las Vegas, Nevada, but delayed the lawsuit until May, since it wants to reach an “amicable resolution” with Apple. “

Clearly that did not happen. The Tame Apple Press has called the company a Patent Troll because it does not generate income. VoIP-Pal said that Digifonica, which was acquired by the former back in 2013, started design on its system in 2004.

This is not the sort of thing that Apple needs right now. It is sales for the iPhone are dropping down the loo and unlikely to pick up at all this year. Apple has piles of cash it is sitting on, but it would rather not spend it on paying off people for technology it claims to have invented.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Microsoft To End Its Sunrise Calendar App On August 31st

May 13, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The Sunrise Calendar app will be no more as of on Aug. 31, the team behind it announced in a blog post. In the next few days, the app will no longer be available from the iOS App Store and Google Play Store.

Users will have a few months to keep using it without support, before the company switches off the service at the end of August. This is happening because Microsoft acquired the company behind Sunrise last year and put its team to work on improving Outlook instead.

According to the blog post, working on Outlook means the Sunrise team doesn’t have time to support the app they created. They’ve been integrating popular features from Sunrise into different versions of Outlook, including a recently released Calendar Apps feature on iOS and Android that lets users bring information from outside services into their Outlook calendar.

Sunrise users who want many of the features offered in the app can follow the Sunrise team over to Outlook, but its current capabilities aren’t a perfect match for the app that’s being shut down.

The Sunrise team says that they’re hard at work bringing loved features from the app over to Microsoft’s.

For Microsoft watchers, none of this comes as a surprise. The company said last year that it planned to shut down Sunrise.

It’s a reminder that software delivered as a service can be shut down at any time, more easily than an app you’ve installed on your own computer.

 

Viking Horde Malware Invades Android Devices

May 13, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

A new strain of malware dubbed ‘Viking Horde’ has potentially infected hundreds of thousands of Android devices by masquerading as popular apps in Google Play.

Viking Horde was uncovered by the security team at Check Point and reported to Google on 5 May. The malware is viewed as particularly dangerous because it can target rooted and non-rooted devices.

However, rooted devices are the most at risk, as this allows the malware to download additional components that make it almost impossible to remove.

“On rooted devices, Viking Horde delivers additional malware payloads that can execute any code remotely,” the security firm said. “It also takes advantage of root access privileges to make itself difficult or even impossible to remove manually.”

Once a user has installed an app containing the Viking Horde malware, the infected device joins a botnet, or network controlled by the attacker, without the owner knowing. The bots are used by the hacker for advertising clicks to generate income.

“The malware’s primary objective is to hijack a device and then use it to simulate clicks on advertisements in websites to accumulate profit,” Check Point said.

Users’ personal information is also at risk given that the app has access to all parts of a device that it infects, while some user reviews claim that the app also sends premium text messages, which could be used for DDoS attacks, spamming and delivering malware.

“SCAM!!! COSTS ME £4.50 THE GAME WAS ASKING FOR ROOT ACCESS which was suspicious then asks for sms permissions then sent a message that costs £4.50 then deletes it to cover it up,” said one user review on Google Play.

The malware has been found inside five apps in the Google Play store: Viking Jump, Parrot Copter, WiFi Plus, Memory Booster and Simple 2048. Viking Jump, the most popular of the apps with between 50,000 and 100,000 downloads, can still be found in the app store, although the others have been removed.

Check Point said that most of those who downloaded Viking Horde-infected apps are in Russia, Spain, Lebanon, Mexico and the US.

Viking Horde isn’t the only threat plaguing Android users at present. It was revealed last week that users of Snapdragon-powered smartphones are at risk from a “undetectable” Qualcomm software flaw that leaves text messages and call histories open to hackers.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Mozilla Resurrects Firefox Feature-esting Program

May 12, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla introduced Test Pilot — restoring a 2015 project with a name from 2009 — to collect feedback on proposed new features for its flagship Firefox browser.

Test Pilot, which Mozilla dabbled with six years ago, was then aimed at gathering data on how people were using the web in general, Firefox in particular. In its original format, Test Pilot used a Firefox add-on to collect browsing and usage data, and provide tools to answer feedback questions.

Mozilla’s goal this time around the Test Pilot block is different.

“Test Pilot is a way for you to try out experimental features and let us know what you think,” Nick Nguyen, vice president of Firefox, wrote in a post to a company blog.

In fact, while Test Pilot is the project’s name, it’s actually based on a 2015 concept that Mozilla called “Idea Town.” Mozilla renamed Idea Town as Test Pilot in January.

Idea Town was billed as a way for Firefox users to try out new features, and for developers to evaluate user reaction before deciding whether to stick the proposed tools into the browser.

The first three features run through Test Pilot were a visual-heavy new tab page, dubbed “Activity Stream,” that displayed thumbnails of both frequently-visited sites and selected past pages from the browser’s history and bookmark lists; “Tab Center,” which shoved tabs into a vertical stack on the left rather than show them along the top; and “Universal Search,” which combined Firefox’s current dual search fields.

Other browsers adopted a single search field long ago; Firefox was the last of the top five to stick with the old-school split search.

Desktop Firefox users, whether running the browser in Windows, OS X or Linux, can participate in Test Pilot by downloading the add-on. A Firefox Account — typically used for synchronizing the browser across multiple devices and platforms — is required.

Nguyen warned users to expect problems with the features put through the Test Pilot mill. “As you’re experimenting with new features, you might experience some bugs or lose some of the polish from the general Firefox release, so Test Pilot allows you to easily enable or disable features at any time,” he said.

 

 

 

The FTC Focusing On Google’s Search Engine Dominance Again

May 12, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission officials are asking questions again about the possibility that Alphabet Inc’s Google has abused its dominance in the Internet search market, Politico reported, citing sources familiar with the discussions.

The FTC’s senior antitrust officials have discussed the matter in recent months with representatives of a major U.S. company, which objects to Google’s practices, Politico reported.

The inquiry appears to be in the early, information-gathering stage, the news website reported.

The regulators ended their earlier investigation in January 2013, saying that the company had not manipulated its Web search results to hurt rivals.

Google declined to comment. The FTC could not be immediately reached for comment.

 

 

Do Smartphones Cause Cancer?

May 11, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

It is looking incredibly unlikely that mobile phone use is giving anyone cancer.  A long term study into the incidence of brain cancer in the Australian population between 1982 to 2013 shows no marked increase.

The study, summarized on the Conversation site looked at the prevalence of mobile phones among the population against brain cancer rates, using data from national cancer registration.

The results showed a very slight increase in brain cancer rates among males, but a stable level among females. There were significant increases in over-70s, but this problem started before 1982.

The figures should have even been higher as Computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and related techniques, introduced in Australia in the late 1970s can spot brain tumors which could have otherwise remained undiagnosed.

The data matches up with other studies conducted in other countries, but in Australia all diagnosed cases of cancer have to be legally registered and this creates consistent data.

The argument that mobile phones cause cancer has been running ever since the phones first arrived. In fact the radiation levels on phones has dropped significantly over the years, just to be safe rather than sorry. However it looks like phones have had little impact on cancer statistics – at least in Australia.

Courtesy-Fud

 

The U.S. International Trade Commission Investigating 7 Smartphone Makers

May 10, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The U.S. International Trade Commission has launched an investigation into seven smartphone makers on charges of patent infringement, which could lead to a ban on the sale of certain phones imported and sold by these vendors in the country.

The commission said it is looking into devices from a group of mainly Asian companies, including Lenovo and its Motorola subsidiary, Samsung Electronics, ZTE, Sony, LG Electronics, HTC and BlackBerry.

The complaint was filed against these companies by Creative Technology of Singapore and its U.S. subsidiary Creative Labs of Milpitas, California, on March 24.

Known for its Sound Blaster sound cards for PC audio, Creative has charged these companies with infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,928,433 entitled “Automatic Hierarchical Categorization of Music by Metadata,” which claims various methods for accessing different types of data, such as music or video files, on a portable media player.

Apple is said to be one of the licensees of the patent, and in 2006, Apple paid Creative $100 million for a nonexclusive license, according to Creative’s complaint. Creative had earlier that year asked the ITC to block the sale of Apple’s iPod devices for allegedly infringing the same patent.

Among the alleged infringing products named in the complaint are Samsung’s Galaxy S6 smartphone and other Samsung phones containing either the Google Play Music app (version 5.9.l854R.l904527), or the Samsung Music app (version 6.0.1508051449), which were installed on the phones prior to import.

The products at issue in the investigation are smartphones, “with the capability of playing stored media files selected by a user from a hierarchical display,” the ITC said in a statement Thursday.

If it finds infringement after investigation, the ITC can place a ban on the sale of products by these vendors, under a limited exclusion order requested by the complainant. The ITC cautioned that the launch of an investigation did not imply a decision on the merits of the case. It will set a target date for completion of the investigation within 45 days of its institution.

 

 

Google And Honeywell Resolve Nest Patent Dispute

May 9, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google and Honeywell have signed a patent cross-license agreement that takes care of a long-standing patent dispute over thermostats made by Nest Labs, the home automation startup the Internet giant acquired.

The proceedings in the case have been pending in court for about four years, awaiting the results of a reexamination of the patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to court records.

The companies said Thursday they believe that the patent accord “promotes product innovation and consumer choice in the market for smart home products.” The financial and other details of the deal between the two companies were not disclosed.

Honeywell, which sold its own line of thermostats, sued Nest and retailer Best Buy in 2012, claiming that the Nest Learning Thermostat infringed seven of its patents. Key functional features at the core of the Nest thermostat are not the result of innovation by the startup, “but are the result of years of research and development that culminated in valid and enforceable patents owned by Honeywell,” according to the complaint against Nest.

Google closed its acquisition of Nest for $3.2 billion in cash in February 2014. The home devices company was transferred to Google’s parent Alphabet under a reorganization in October last year.

In its response to Honeywell’s complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, Nest pointed out to an observation by the court in another intellectual property suit that “whenever Honeywell learned that a competitor was selling or planned to sell a round thermostat, it responded with threats of expensive litigation, and it managed to eliminate the competing design either by settlements or by buying the competitor outright.”

Nest claimed that Honeywell’s patents were invalid. In 2012, District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ordered a stay on the proceedings at the request of all parties after the patent office agreed to reexamine five of the seven patents at issue in the court. In March this year, a judge extended the stay pending the reexamination.