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Vehicle-To-Vehicle Networks May Save Lives, Says U.S. Government

August 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The U.S. government wants make vehicles talk to each other over wireless networks, saying that could save more than 1,000 lives every year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is seeking input about a possible federal standard for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology, which would allow cars to automatically exchange information, such as whether they’re close to each other. The agency will accept comments from the public and industry for 60 days from when the advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) is published in the Federal Register.

V2V would let cars do some of the work of driving or even accomplish things humans can’t, such as virtually “seeing” into blind intersections before entering them. It may be one step on the path to self-driving cars.

On Monday, the NHTSA published a research report on V2V and issued an ANPRM in hopes of collecting a lot of feedback before issuing a full NPRM in 2016. In the report, it estimated the safety benefits of just two possible applications of V2V, called Left Turn Assist and Intersection Movement Assist. Together, they could prevent as many as 592,000 crashes and save 1,083 lives per year, the agency said.

Neither system would necessarily take control of a car. Left Turn Assist would warn drivers not to turn left into the path of an oncoming car, and Intersection Movement Assist would warn them not to enter an intersection when there’s a high probability of crashing into other vehicles there. The two technologies could help drivers avoid more than half of those types of crashes, the agency said. Other V2V systems could include blind spot, do not pass, and forward collision warnings, as well as stop light and stop sign warnings.

“V2V technology represents the next great advance in saving lives,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a press release.

In addition to improving safety, V2V might smooth the flow of traffic and improve cars’ fuel economy, the NHTSA said.

V2V would run over wireless networks using the IEEE 802.11p specification, a variant of the standard used for Wi-Fi, on a band of spectrum between 5.85GHz and 5.925GHz. That’s crucial to making the technology work between vehicles from different manufacturers, NHTSA said. V2V doesn’t identify individual vehicles, nor does it collect or share personal information about drivers, and it would have layers of security and privacy technology to protect users, the agency said.

 

 

Sprint Slashes Rates, Introduces New Pricing Plans

August 20, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp unveiled a new pricing plan that gives customers 20 gigabytes of data and up to 10 lines for $100, doubling its data offerings, the latest in a series of cuts and promotions that is re-shaping the wireless industry.

Sprint’s chairman, business tycoon Masayoshi Son, is betting new prices will revive a carrier hampered by an expensive network overhaul and rising competition.

“The message is simple: We are back in the game. We are going to offer most competitive value for American consumers,” Marcelo Claure, Sprint’s newly appointed chief executive told Reuters in an interview.

The company will release new plans for individuals later this week.

The announcement marks the first move for the new CEO, who last week said cutting prices would be his top priority.

The move comes after Verizon slashed prices for its unlimited talk and text plan and T-Mobile expanded its family plan to 6 lines and could signal more price cuts ahead for the industry as a whole.

Sprint is going it alone after scuttling a months-long effort to pursue a merger with No. 4 U.S. cellular provider T-Mobile US Inc.

Last year, an aggressive campaign by T-Mobile to address subscriber frustrations and lower prices sparked a domino effect that caused the U.S. top four carriers to restructure pricing plans and cut rates to lure customers in a nearly saturated market.

But analysts worry the industry’s latest discount spree could increase pressure on already tight margins and rattle dividends.

While top carriers and Verizon  have largely been able to mitigate the impact of T-Mobile’s discounts on their subscriber base, they would likely have to respond to price cuts at Sprint with steep discounts of their own to keep subscribers from migrating, analysts said.

“We will see a trickle down in pricing concessions across the industry. This is the start of a price war many anticipated would be coming,” said Angelo Zino, analyst at S&P Capital IQ.

New pricing plans that charge customers separately for the cost of their devices have somewhat offset price cuts this year, Zino said, but if the discounts continue, they could pose a long-term threat to the dividends.

 

 

Windows ‘Threshold’ To Debut In Coming Weeks

August 19, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft will unveil a preview of “Threshold,” the current code name for Windows 8′s successor, as soon as next month, according to an online report on Monday.

ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, citing unnamed sources, said that Microsoft will deliver a “technical preview” of Threshold late in September or early in October. Previously, Foley had reported that Microsoft would offer a preview of some kind this fall.

Threshold may be officially named “Windows 9″ by Microsoft — the company has said nothing about either the code name or labeled the next iteration of its desktop and tablet OS — although there are arguments for dumping a numerical title because of the possible association with Windows 8, which has widely been pegged as a failure.

“Technical Preview” is a moniker that Microsoft has used in the past for its Office suite. For both Office 2013 and Office 2010, Microsoft used the term to describe an invitation-only sneak peek. Both application suites were later released as public betas prior to their official launch.

Windows, however, has used a different nomenclature. For 2012′s Windows 8, Microsoft called the early looks ”Developer Preview,”"Consumer Preview” and “Release Preview,” all open to everyone. The first was analogous to an alpha, the second to a beta, and the third to a done-but-not-approved release candidate.

Windows 7, however, had used the more traditional “Beta” to describe the first public preview in early 2009. The previous fall, when Microsoft unveiled Windows 7, the firm had seeded an invite-only “pre-alpha” version, also dubbed a Developer Preview, of the OS to programmers and some influential bloggers.

Within hours, the Windows 7 Developer Preview leaked to file-sharing websites. Microsoft may have changed its practices for Windows 8, letting anyone download the first preview, because of the inevitably of leaks.

In an update to her blog of earlier today, Foley added that the “Technical Preview” nameplate notwithstanding, Microsoft would allow anyone to download Threshold/Windows 9 when it becomes available in the next few weeks.

If Microsoft does ship a preview soon and sets its sights on a second-quarter 2015 final release, it will have significantly accelerated the tempo from past practice. With Windows 7 and Windows 8, Microsoft offered its first previews 12 and 13 months, respectively, and the public beta 8 or 9 months, before launching the operating system.

Eight or nine months from September would be May or June 2015; that, however, assumes that the Technical Preview is of beta quality. The name itself hints at something less.

Microsoft appears eager to put Windows 8 behind it. It has stopped beating the drum about the OS and recently announced that it would not issue any additional major updates. Instead, the firm said last week, it will include improvements or new features in small packets using the same Windows Update mechanism that regularly serves security patches.

 

 

 

Applied Materials Profits Up

August 19, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Chip-equipment maker Applied Materials has surprised most of the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street with a better-than-expected third-quarter profit. It appears that contract manufacturers are spending more on technology used to make smartphone and memory chips.

The company also forecast current-quarter adjusted profit largely above analysts’ average estimate. Chief Executive Gary Dickerson said that demand for DRAM chips is expected to grow in the current quarter.

Applied Materials, which also provides equipment to make flat panel displays and solar cells, forecast an adjusted profit of 25-29 cents per share for the fourth quarter. Wall Street was expecting a profit of 26 cents per share.

Applied Materials expects revenue growth of about 10 to 17 percent, implying revenue of $2.19 billion to $2.33 billion for the quarter. Analysts on average were expecting $2.28 billion. Applied Materials’ net income rose to $301 millionin the third quarter ended July 27, from $168 milliona year earlier. Revenue rose 14.7 percent to $2.27 billion.

Revenue in the company’s silicon systems business, which brings in about two-thirds of total sales, rose 16 percent to $1.48 billion.

Courtesy-Fud

Sprint Is Planning Price Cuts And Layoffs

August 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint’s new CEO Marcelo Claure addressed employees for the first time and promised price reductions are coming very soon, according to a report.

Sprint didn’t deny the report of Marcelo’s comments. A spokesman also confirmed Friday that Sprint is “focusing on providing the best value in the market.”

According to the account of Claure’s comments, he told workers, “We’re going to change our plans to make sure every customer in America thinks twice about signing up to a competitor.” The report, which first appeared in LightReading.com, also said that “very disruptive” rate plans are coming this week.

Sprint didn’t dispute Light Reading’s report, but a spokesman said Sprint is not commenting on “any potential pricing plans before they are announced.”

The spokesman, Doug Duvall, said Marcelo held his first all-employee town hall meeting before a standing-room-only crowd. He added: “He shared his passion for his family, work and soccer team and his commitment to leading Sprint. He discussed Sprint’s challenges and pledged to get Sprint ‘back in the game’ by focusing on providing the best value in the market, completing our network build and optimizing Sprint’s cost structure.”

By confirming Sprint wants to offer the “best value in the market,” it’s pretty clear that Sprint, the third-largest U.S. carrier, will soon wage a price war with the T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier that has quickly been gaining on Sprint.

Analysts recently said Sprint’s recent “Framily plan” isn’t competitive in the market, which former CEO Dan Hesse acknowledged in late July before his departure on Monday.

The Sprint Framily plans costs $160 a month for 4GB of data, but comes with overage charges and won’t allow tethering. Meanwhile, T-Mobile has a family plan offered through September that costs $100 a month for four lines and 10GB of data, although each line is limited to 2.5GB.

Hesse had earlier described subscriber plans Sprint was testing that have tiers of data and unlimited data.

According to Light Reading, Claure also told employees that price cuts are needed because Sprint’s network isn’t at the level of performance and reach that it should be. “When you have a great network, you don’t have to compete on price,” he reportedly said. “When your network is behind, unfortunately you have to compete on value and price.”

 

 

FCC Extends Deadline For ‘Net Neutrality’ Comments

August 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. Federal Communications Commission has said it would accept public comments on its proposed new “net neutrality” rules through Sept. 15, giving the American public extra time to voice their opinions and concerns on how they think Internet traffic should be regulated.

The FCC has received more than 1 million comments already on new rules for how Internet services providers should be allowed to manage web traffic on their networks.

The FCC had set a deadline of July 15 for the initial comments and then September 10 for replies to those initial comments. However, the surge in submissions overwhelmed the FCC’s website and the agency had delayed the first deadline by three business days.

“To ensure that members of the public have as much time as was initially anticipated to reply to initial comments in these proceedings, the Bureau today is extending the reply comment deadline by three business days,” the FCC said on Friday, delaying the final deadline for comments to September 15.

 

 

 

Intel Buys Axxia

August 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Intel has picked up the Axxia networking business of LSI for $650m in a cash only deal.

Previous owner Avago bought LSI for $6.6bn earlier this year. During 2014, it has been breaking up and divesting divisions of the company to shore up its core semiconductor business. Earlier this year, Avago sold LSI’s solid-state disk (SSD) drive division to Seagate for $450m.

Intel intends to use the Axxia purchase to boost its wireless network offering into an intelligent flexible network based on common standards, according to a blog post from the Intel Intelligent Systems Group.

“In the same way that Intel helped to transform the data center into a business enabler, Intel can help transform networking by providing new technologies and a portfolio of solutions that allow for new innovative services and efficient scaling of a more flexible, cost effective network infrastructure,” said Rose Schooler, GM of the division.

The purchase marks the continuation of Intel’s diversification of its core processor chip business, which continues to be its cash cow with profits of $2.8bn in the second quarter.

Intel’s vision of the future is for an office without wires that will rely on wireless display connectivity, wireless docking and wireless charging.

This is at odds with the announcement yesterday that the USB C standard for superfast wired transfers has been finalised.

Both firms’ boards of directors have approved the deal, which is expected to become final in the fourth quarter.

For more information about mobility, visit the Intel IT Center.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Are SSD Prices Finally Falling?

August 18, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

OCZ is launching a brand-new series of solid state drives today, targeted squarely at budget-conscious, mainstream consumers and significantly drops the cost of SSDs.

The move which is seen as being forced on the company by Intel’s own price cuts mean a change in OCZ’s strategy. Last month Intel announced the specs and pricing of its next-generation X25-M drives. Intel will sell a 80GB drive to sell for $225 and the 160GB drive to sell for $440.

The move meant that OCZ, whose cheapest high performance drives would now be more expensive than Intel’s X25-M. Now OCZ has released the ARC 100 range and OCZ remains to be one of the only manufacturers that reports steady-state performance for client drives. The biggest difference to Vector 150 and Vertex 460 is in the NAND department as the ARC 100 uses Toshiba’s second generation 19nm NAND.

OCZ is rating the ARC 100 at the same 20GB of writes per day for three years as the Vertex 460, although the ARC 100 is slightly slower in performance and drops bundled cloning software and 3.5″ adapter. OCZ said that the smaller cell size of the NAND, meant that OCZ is able to price the ARC 100 more aggressively. At higher capacities, OCZ is able to hit the $0.50/GB mark and the ARC 100 is price competitive.

The ARC 100 also ships without any sort of accessory bundle, to bring costs down.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Updates Bing To Make Search Phrasing Easier

August 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft has included some new updates to its Bing search engine that lets you phrase queries in a way that feels more natural.

The company said the new functionality makes using Bing more like “having a conversation.”

It lets you ask questions sequentially that build off each other, so you don’t have to keep repeating the topic you’re asking about.

For instance, if you ask Bing, ”Who wrote Dracula”? “Bram Stoker” pops up at the top of the screen. You can then ask, “Where was he born,” and it gives the answer “Dublin, Ireland.”

Microsoft said it answers the questions by combining “conversational understanding” with its database of knowledge about people, places and things.

It comes as Bing’s largest competitor, Google, is working to make its own search engine better at understanding queries in natural language.

Google also has a conversational search mode that works in a similar way, though currently it only works when doing voice searches in Chrome and in Google’s mobile search app.

Bing’s new feature works well, and you can take the questions far. After asking about Bram Stoker “Where was he born,” you can also ask, “When did he die?” Answer: April 20, 1912. Or, “How did he die?” Syphilis. (But, asking simply “how?” did not work as well.)

In Bing, the feature works on the desktop as well as on mobile devices.

Microsoft has worked to make Bing more useful over the years, partly by integrating a wider range of information from outside sources into results. Data from social sites like Twitter and Facebook plays a part in this, as well as data from services like IMDB and Netflix.

Earlier this year Bing expanded its index of the Web to include more information about professionals like doctors, lawyers and real estate.

With nearly 70 percent market share in the U.S., Google is still by far the dominant player in search, according to comScore. Microsoft’s Bing has just under 20 percent share.

But Bing’s new feature could give it a leg up against Google when it comes to search, at least for now.

 

Lenovo Selling More Mobile Phones Than PCs

August 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Lenovo’s growing presence in PCs and smartphones boosted the company’s net profit by 23% in the second quarter.

The company reported Thursday that its net profit reached $214 million, while quarterly revenue increased 18 percent year-over-year to $10.4 billion.

Although better known as a PC maker, Lenovo has been making major gains selling mobile handsets in its home market of China. It is now the country’s largest smartphone vendor with a 12.5% share of the market, according to research firm IDC.

The second quarter was the first time Lenovo smartphones outsold its PCs, with 15.8 million units, the company reported on Thursday.

Lenovo’s handsets still aren’t making as much money as PCs. Almost half its revenue came from selling laptops, while its mobile devices division, which includes tablets, accounted for only 15% of its total revenue in the quarter.

The company’s PC business has in the past been helped by its huge presence in its home market of China. But in the second quarter, Lenovo reported that it was also making gains in PC sales to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

In those markets, the company’s revenue reached $2.8 billion, up from $1.9 billion a year ago.

Lenovo, which currently ranks as the number one PC vendor in the world, is trying to expand in servers and mobile devices. Earlier this year, the company announced it would acquire Google’s Motorola Mobility, and IBM’s x86 server business.

Lenovo is still working with regulators to get approval for those deals.

 

Intel Explores Wearable Devices For Disease Research

August 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Intel Corp plans to utilize wearable gadgets such as smart watches to monitor patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease and collect data that can be shared with researchers.

The chip maker said it is partnering with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, established by the actor and Parkinson’s sufferer in 2000, to conduct a multi-phase research study of the neurodegenerative brain disease. An estimated five million people globally have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the second-most-common neurudegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s.

The initial goal is to determine the feasibility of using wearable devices to monitor patients remotely and store that data in an open system that can be accessed by scientists.

In the next phase of the study, which will likely kick off in the fall, the foundation will set aside funds to explore how patients are responding to medication. Participants will be monitored via an array of wearable devices.

“As more of these devices hit the market, we can collect objective measurements and determine the efficacy of new therapeutics,” Sohini Chowdhury, a senior vice president for research partnerships at the foundation, told Reuters.

Clinical trials have been far too “subjective” in the past, she said. For instance, a patient might inform her doctor that she felt a tremor for several minutes, when it actually lasted a matter of seconds. In the future, Chowdhury hopes patients and their doctors will have more precise measurements via wearable devices about the “frequency and severity” of symptoms.

Chowdhury said the foundation will continue to raise funding to cover the costs of providing wearable devices to patients.

By using such devices, the foundation and other research groups can tap into a broader pool of patients for clinical trials, Chowdhury said. Today, many people with Parkinson’s disease are unable to participate in clinical trials because they do not live near a research facility.

But wearable devices offer a convenient way to track patients from their work or homes, allowing people in the most rural parts of the country to participate.

As it expands beyond the PC arena, Intel hopes to capture a share of the growing market for big data analytics and wearable devices in the health sector. Ron Kasabian, general manager of Intel’s Big Data Solutions group, said the data center and “Internet of Things” business units are exploring the sector.

“We’re exploring how to pull data out of devices in real-time,” he said. “We can mine data to improve research, and better understand the behaviors and progression of the disease.”

 

 

nVidia Refreshes Quadro Line

August 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Nvidia has revamped its Quadro professional graphics line-up with a total of five new cards, two of which are based on the company’s latest Maxwell architecture.

The new cards should start shipping in September. Nvidia has not released any pricing info so far.

Maxwell goes Quadro
The first new card is the Quadro K420, a Kepler-based card with 192 CUDA  cores clocked at 780MHz. It features 1GB of DDR3 memory on a 128-bit bus, clocked at 1.8GHz. The card has a TDP of 41W and it churns out 0.3TFLOPs.

The Quadro K620 is a Maxwell design. It has 384 cores clocked at 1GHz, backed by 2GB of DDR3 clocked at 1.8GHz. The TDP stands at just 45W, but the card delivers 0.8TFLOPs, proving once again that Maxwell offers vastly superior efficiency.

The Quadro K2200 is a bit more serious. This mid-range professional solution packs 640 CUDA cores running at up to 1GHz. It uses 5GHz GDDR5 memory on a 128-bit bus and there’s a lot more of it – 4GB to be precise. The TDP is 68W and the card can pump out 1.3TFLOPs (single precision).

Kepler still powers 100W+ Quadro cards

The Quadro K5200 and K4200 are Kepler cards with a beefier 256-bit memory bus. The Quadro K4200 comes equipped with 1344 CUDA cores clocked at 780MHz. It has 4GB of GDDR5 clocked at 5.4GHz effective. The TDP stands at 105W and the card 2.1TFLOPs.

The K5200 packs 2304 CUDA cores and it can deliver 3.1TFLOPs. It has 8GB of GDDR5 clocked 6GHz effective. However, the GPU clock is somewhat lower at 650MHz. Its TDP is 150W.

It looks like an interesting alternative to the mighty Quadro K6000, which is a $5,000 card with 2880 CUDA cores, or a “full GK110″ implementation as some buffs prefer to call it.

Of course, Nvidia is not the only player in this segment. In fact AMD has made great strides in professional graphics and it is going strong. AMD also used Siggraph to announce four professional cards.

Courtesy-Fud

Google Boosts Gmail Spam Filtering Abilities

August 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google is shoring up Gmail’s ability to detect and block malicious emails from spammers and scammers that exploit similarities among Unicode characters to trick users into clicking on bad links.

Unicode provides a standard for character encoding for all the writing systems in the world, along with technical symbols, punctuation and other text characters.

Because characters among different scripts are often very similar — such as the Latin and Cyrillic scripts’ characters for the lowercase letter “a” — spam and phishing emails often combine them in website links that otherwise look legitimate to the unsuspecting eye.

Scammers set up a site with the URL of a known business — a large bank or retailer — using a mixture of Unicode characters, making the URL look like the one from that business. Then they include a link to that malicious site in spam and phishing emails, hoping people will click on it.

“The Unicode community has identified suspicious combinations of letters that could be misleading, and Gmail will now begin rejecting email with such combinations,” wrote Google official Mark Risher, from the company’s Spam & Abuse Team.

Google will use the Unicode Consortium’s “Highly Restricted” open standard designation because the company believes it strikes a good balance “between legitimate uses of these new domains and those likely to be abused,” Risher wrote.

The Unicode encoding standard provides the basis for “processing, storage and interchange of text data in any language in all modern software and information technology protocols,” according to the Unicode Consortium.

Unicode is aimed at developers who want their software applications to work in any language in the world.

 

 

Fad Game ‘Candy Crush’ Continues To Fade

August 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Social and mobile game company King Digital Entertainment Plc lowered its 2014 forecast after reporting lower-than-expected second-quarter revenue on Tuesday, as gamers continued to abandon its “Candy Crush Saga” game.

King also announced a $150 million special dividend, or 46.9 cents per share, payable to shareholders of record on Sept. 30. Its shares, however, slipped 22 percent in after-hours trading after closing at $18.20 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company, which went public in March, said it has reduced its 2014 forecast and expects gross bookings in the range of $2.25 billion to $2.35 billion from its previous estimate of $2.55 billion to $2.65 billion.

“We have seen a step down in monetization in the latter part of Q2 and so we have adapted the view forward,” Chief Executive Officer Riccardo Zacconi said in an interview.

Investors have worried that unless King delivers a set of consistent and long-lasting hits, apart from “Candy Crush Saga,” it might suffer the same fate as “Farmville” maker Zynga Inc and “Angry Birds” developer Rovio Corp, which are struggling to retain players.

King’s second quarter gross bookings, an indicator of future revenue, was $611 million, up 27 percent from the year-ago period, but less than the last quarter when it reported gross bookings of $641.1 million.

King has yet to see its other titles such as “Farm Heroes Saga” and “Bubble Witch 2 Saga” fully offset user losses of its “Candy Crush Saga” puzzler game that accounted for about 60 percent of second-quarter gross bookings.

“We expect ‘Candy Crush’ will decline, but have a very strong tail and a long tail,” Chief Financial Officer Hope Cochran said in an interview. “We will be launching the ‘Candy Crush’ sister title in Q4, which will give more longevity to that title.”

 

Amazon Unveils Local Register POS Service

August 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc rolled out a $10 credit-card reader and mobile app for brick-and-mortar businesses on Wednesday, marking the latest step by the U.S. online retailer to expand its presence in the physical world.

The move pits Amazon against a slew of rivals, including startup Square, which popularized a payments dongle that allowed small- and mid-sized businesses like food trucks, coffee shops and personal trainers to quickly accept credit and debit cards.

The new point-of-sale system, called Amazon Local Register, would give Amazon crucial data on how U.S. consumers shop offline. More than 90 percent of U.S. retail sales still take place in physical stores, according to U.S. government data.

Amazon hopes to court small businesses in part by charging lower fees than Square and eBay Inc’s PayPal unit. Those who sign up for Amazon’s program before Oct. 31 will be charged 1.75 percent for each card swiped until January 2016.

For those who sign up after October, Amazon will take a 2.5 percent cut of each card swipe, still less than Square’s 2.75 percent flat transaction rate and PayPal’s 2.7 percent.