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Acer Warms To Takeover Possibility

August 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Acer Inc founder Stan Shih said he would welcome a takeover of the struggling Taiwanese computer manufacturer after a drastic decline in its stock price, while warning any potential buyer would have to pay a heavy amount.

“Welcome,” Shih told reporters in response to a question about whether Acer would be open to a takeover. He added however that any buyer would get an “empty shell” and would pay dearly.

“U.S. and European management teams usually are concerned about money, their CEOs only work for money. But Taiwanese are more concerned about a sense of mission and emotional factors,” he said.

His remarks were first reported by Taiwanese media on Thursday and were confirmed by a company spokesman.

Acer has reported steep on-year sales falls in recent months, including a 33 percent drop in July.

It suffered a T$2.89 billion ($90 million) loss in the first six months of 2015, versus a slight profit in the same period last year. It booked losses for all of 2011, 2012 and 2013 amid cratering PC sales.

Its stock price has fallen by nearly half since early April.

 

 

Qualcomm To Wirelessly Charge BMWs

August 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has launched its new Official Safety Car for season two of the FIA’s Formula E Championship.

For those not in the know, the Formula E Championship is for electric cars, and they are no longer the milk floats that English people get stuck behind in narrow streets.

The new Official Qualcomm Safety Car is the BMW i8 but it will be charged wirelessly with an advanced Qualcomm Halo 7.2kW wireless charging system.

The Qualcomm Halo 7.2kW wireless charging system delivers twice the amount of energy to the BMW i8′s batteries per hour as compared to last year’s 3.6kW system.

This halves the full charge time, enabling the vehicle to fully charge in one hour. Employing Qualcomm Halo DD technology, with magnetic architecture optimization, ensures higher coupling coefficients and drives lower system currents, higher inefficiencies and the ability to support higher power levels.

A Qualcomm spokesman said that an open championship has encouraged teams to develop their own powertrain tech.

This ensures that the racing remains highly competitive, and it supports the goal of Formula E to advance the development of new technologies for electric vehicles and to bring those technologies, vital to sustainable mobility, to the attention of millions of people around the globe, a spokesman said.

Qualcomm’s general manager of wireless charging, Steve Pazol said Qualcomm was excited to continue its support of Formula E in this second season.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Report Reveals Hi-tech Vehicle Systems Are Rarely Used By Owners

August 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Although car makers are spending billions of dollars to install cutting-edge technologies in vehicles, a new report shows many owners don’t use them.

According to J.D. Power’s 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report, 20% of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of 33 of the latest technology features.

The 2015 DrIVE Report measures driver experiences with in-vehicle technology features during the first 90 days of ownership.

The five features owners most commonly report that they “never use” are in-vehicle concierge (43%); mobile routers (38%); automatic parking systems (35%); heads-up display (33%); and built-in apps (32%).

Additionally, there are 14 technology features that 20% or more of owners don’t even  want in their next vehicle. Those features include Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, in-vehicle concierge services and in-vehicle voice texting. When narrowed to just Gen Yers, the number of vehicle owners who don’t want entertainment and connectivity systems increases to 23%.

“In many cases, owners simply prefer to use their smartphone or tablet because it meets their needs; they’re familiar with the device and it’s accurate,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and human-machine interface (HMI) research at J.D. Power. “In-vehicle connectivity technology that’s not used results in millions of dollars of lost value for both consumers and the manufacturers.”

About the technology now offered in new cars, vehicle owners said they simply “did not find it useful,” adding that it “came as part of a package on my current vehicle and I did not want it.”

Vehicle owners who said their dealer did not explain a tech feature also had a higher likelihood of never using it, the survey found.

J.D. Power built its report on responses from more than 4,200 vehicle owners and lessees after 90 days of ownership. The report was conducted between April and June 2015.

 

 

 

IBM Thinks Businesses Should Block TOR

August 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IBM security research has found that people are using the so-called dark net to launch cyber attacks, force ransomware demands on punters and make distributed denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.

The dark net, accessed via Tor, is often tagged as a threat. The IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly 3Q 2015 report identifies a spike in bad traffic and leads with a warning.

The report introduces Tor as the network that takes people to the dark net. We might start calling it the ferryman and the passage across the river Styx, but things are complicated enough.

IBM said that Tor is used by “non-malicious government officials, journalists, law enforcement officials” and bad people alike. It is the latter that should concern us.

“This latest report reveals that more than 150,000 malicious events have originated from Tor in the US alone thus far in 2015,” the report said.

“Tor has also played a role in the growing ransomware attack trend. Attackers have evolved the use of encryption to hold data hostage and demand payment/ransom for the decryption code.”

We have been here before, and ransomware has been a feature of many a security alert this year already. We heard, courtesy of Bitdefender, that ransomware charges start at £320, and are a real pain to deal with. We also heard that it is Android mobile users in the UK who get the worst of the hackers’ grabbing-for-money treatment.

Back at the IBM report, and we find IBM X-Force on the issue. X-Force, which is nothing like X-Men, said that hackers push internet users who are easily fooled by flashy online advertisements into installing the new cyber nightmare. Ransomware, it warns, will separate you from your cash.

“A surprising number of users are fooled by fake/rogue antivirus [AV] messages that are nothing more than animated web ads that look like actual products. The fake AV scam tricks users into installing or updating an AV product they may never have had,” it explains, adding that in some cases people pay the money without thinking.

“Afterward, the fake AV keeps popping up fake malware detection notices until the user pays some amount of money, typically something in the range of what an AV product would cost.”

This establishes the subject as a mark, and the hackers will exploit the opportunity. “Do not assume that if you are infected with encryption-based ransomware you can simply pay the ransom and reliably get your data back,” said IBM.

“The best way to avoid loss is to back up your data. Regardless of whether your backup is local or cloud-based, you must ensure that you have at least one copy that is not directly mapped visibly as a drive on your computer.”

Tor nodes in the US spewed out the most bad traffic in the first half of this year, according to the report, adding up to about 180,000 attacks. The Netherlands is second with around 150,000, and Romania is third with about 80,000.

The bulk of this negative attention lands at technology and communications companies. You might have assumed the financial markets, but you were wrong. IBM said that ICT gets over 300,000 Tor thwacks every six months, manufacturing gets about 245,000, and finance gets about 170,000.

IBM said that the old enemy, SQL injection attacks, is the most common Tor-led threat to come at its customers. Vulnerability scanning attacks are also a problem, and IBM said that the use of the network as a means for distributed DoS attacks should “Come as no surprise”. It doesn’t.

“These attacks combine Tor-commanded botnets with a sheaf of Tor exit nodes. In particular, some of the US-based exit nodes provide huge bandwidth,” explained the report.

“Employing a handful of the exit nodes in a distributed DoS orchestrated by the botnet controller and originating at dozens or hundreds of bot hosts can impose a large burden on the targeted system with a small outlay of attacker resources, and generally effective anonymity.”

There is a lot more. The bottom line is that bad things happen on the dark net and that they come to people and businesses through Tor. IBM said that concerned outfits should just block it and move on, which is along the lines of something that Akamai said recently.

“Corporate networks really have little choice but to block communications to these stealthy networks. The networks contain significant amounts of illegal and malicious activity,” said Akamai.

“Allowing access between corporate networks and stealth networks can open the corporation to the risk of theft or compromise, and to legal liability in some cases and jurisdictions.”

That sounds fine to us, but won’t someone give a thought to those non-malicious government officials out there?

Courtesy-TheInq

Facebook Testing ‘M’, Personal Digital Assistant

August 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is testing a personal digital assistant called “M” within its Messenger service that is capable of answering questions with live human help and performing tasks such as buying gifts online and making restaurant reservations.

M is “powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by people,” David Marcus, vice president of Messaging products, wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday.

Rival services like Apple Inc’s Siri, Google Inc’s Google Now and Microsoft Corp’s Cortana rely entirely on technology to answer questions.

M is a hybrid backed by a team of Facebook employees with customer service backgrounds, called M trainers, who can also make travel arrangements and appointments, Marcus wrote.

Facebook has introduced several functions inside Messenger, which boasts more than 700 million users, to transform it into a standalone platform. Earlier this year, it rolled out games exclusively on Messenger and launched products for businesses to directly connect with consumers.

 

 

Best Buy To Sell Apple Watch In All Stores By September

August 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Best Buy will offer the Apple Watch in all of its 1,050 retail locations by the end of September, responding to strong consumer demand for the wearable.

By Sept. 4, the Apple Watch will be available in 900 Best Buy stores, and it will appear in the retailer’s remaining locations by the end of the month, CEO Hubert Joly said.

Best Buy began selling the wearable in 100 stores as well as online on Aug. 7. The company had planned to expand availability to 200 additional stores by the Christmas shopping season.

However, “early momentum” from the Apple Watch “triggered” Best Buy to expand and accelerate the rollout, Joly said during a conference call to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings.

Joly didn’t say how many Apple Watches the chain has sold so far. Apple hasn’t shared watch sales data either.

During Apple’s third-quarter earnings conference call, CEO Tim Cook said customers would have more ways to purchase the smartwatch because the company expects it to be a popular Christmas gift. A few days later, Best Buy said it would carry the wearable.

Best Buy is the only major retailer to stock the Apple Watch. The device can also be purchased from Apple’s retail and online stores and from a few high-end clothing and department stores.

Joly also discussed plans to expand Best Buy’s relationship with Apple.

The Apple shop-in-a-shop sections of 740 Best Buy stores are getting a makeover, with new fixtures and larger display tables to show Apple hardware, he said. So far, Best Buy has remodeled 350 of those departments and will revamp another 170 by the holiday shopping season.

 

 

 

 

Oracle Shows Off New SPARC Processor

August 27, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Oracle has been sharing a few details about its SPARC processor code-named Sonoma. Sonoma is not a sleeping Italian mama at all but a place where Americans grow wine that Europeans will not touch.

Sonoma is supposed to be a “low-cost SPARC processor for enterprise workloads.” The chip uses the SPARC M7 design, DDR4 memory interfaces, PCIe electronics and InfiniBand interfaces in a single package. Eight SPARC 4th generation cores, hooks into the system RAM and built using a 20nm process with 13 metal layers.

Each package has a shared 8MB L3 cache, shared L2 caches with 512KB per core pair and private L1 32KB caches.

There are two DDR4 memory controllers, each with four DDR4-2133/2400 channels, up to two DIMMs per channel, and up to 1TB of DRAM per socket. Oracle it can manage 77GB/s bandwidth with the wind behind it and if it is going downhill.

Basant Vinaik, Oracle’s senior principal engineer of CPU and I/O verification, told the Hot Chips conference that Sonoma contains a crypto-unit with user-level crypto instructions.

“The cache has been optimized to reduce latency and increase throughput. Sonoma achieves low latency with its integrated memory controller. We use speculative memory read to do this. Software can tune this using threshold registers.”

Courtesy-Fud

Appeals Court Rules FTC Has Authority To Regulate Cyber Security

August 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A U.S. appeals court has ruled that the Federal Trade Commission has authority to regulate corporate cyber security, and may pursue a lawsuit accusing hotel operator Wyndham Worldwide Corp of failing to properly safeguard consumers’ information.

The 3-0 decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on Monday upheld an April 2014 lower court ruling allowing the case to go forward.

The FTC wants to hold Wyndham accountable for three breaches in 2008 and 2009 in which hackers broke into its computer system and stole credit card and other details from more than 619,000 consumers, leading to over $10.6 million in fraudulent charges.

Noting the FTC’s broad authority under a 1914 law to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive trade practices, Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro said Wyndham failed to show that its alleged conduct “falls outside the plain meaning of ‘unfair.’”

Wyndham brands include Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada, Super 8 and Travelodge.

A company spokesman, Michael Valentino, said “safeguarding personal information remains a top priority” for the Parsippany, New Jersey-based company. “We believe the facts will show the FTC’s allegations are unfounded,” he added.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez welcomed the decision.

“It is not only appropriate, but critical, that the FTC has the ability to take action on behalf of consumers when companies fail to take reasonable steps to secure sensitive consumer information,” she said.

Congress has not adopted wide-ranging legislation governing data security, a growing concern after high-profile breaches such as at retailer Target Corp, infidelity website Ashley Madison, and even U.S. government databases.

In a test of its power to fill the void, the FTC sued Wyndham in June 2012, claiming its computers “unreasonably and unnecessarily” exposed consumer data to the risk of theft.

Wyndham accused the FTC of overreaching, but U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark, New Jersey, let the case proceed.

Affirming that ruling, Ambro rejected Wyndham’s argument that it lacked “fair notice” about what the FTC could require.

He also rejected what he called Wyndham’s “alarmist” argument that letting the FTC regulate its conduct could give the agency effective authority to regulate hotel room door locks, or sue supermarkets that fail to sweep up banana peels.

 

 

 

Intelligent Energy Tests Hydrogen Powered iPhone 6

August 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A British company rumored to be working closely with Apple has created a hydrogen fuel cell for an iPhone 6 that allows the smartphone to last a week without recharging.

According to reports, Intelligent Energy has created a working iPhone 6 prototype that looks no different from any other iPhone 6 except for tiny vents in the rear that allow  imperceptible amounts of water vapor to escape.

The prototype contains both a rechargeable battery and its own hydrogen fuel cell, according to a report in the Telegraph.

Hydrogen fuel cells generate energy by combining hydrogen and oxygen; the only emission from the process is water.

Fuel cells supply hydrogen to a negative anode (an electrode through which electrical current flows), releasing electrons. The electrons then flow to a positive cathode (another electrode) to generate electricity. In addition, after releasing electrons, the hydrogen becomes a hydrogen ion moving to positive cathode and bonding with oxygen in the air, forming water.

Hydrogen is the simplest and most common molecule known to exist. Because of that, it is a part of almost every other substance, such as water and hydrocarbons. Hydrogen is also found in biomass, which includes all plants and animals.

Intelligent Energy has produced more than 2,000 patents related to fuel cells, which it has used to create batteries for cars and a portable recharger called the Upp. The Upp is a mini-hydrogen fuel cell that charges any USB-compatible mobile device, including smartphones, tablets, portable gaming consoles or digital cameras.

Like any fuel cell, the one in Intelligent Energy’s iPhone requires recharging with hydrogen gas. Intelligent Energy said that could be done through an adapted headphone socket.

Intelligent Energy is now working on a commercial version of the smartphone fuel cell that would be in the form of a small cartridge that fits into the bottom of a phone. The cartridge would supply power for a week and could be discarded after use.

 

 

 

 

Intel To Invest Heavily In Mirantis For OpenStack

August 26, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has teamed up with OpenStack distribution provider Mirantis to push adoption of the OpenStack cloud computing framework.

The deal, which includes a $100m investment in Mirantis from Intel Capital, will provide technical collaboration between the two companies and look to strengthen the open source cloud project by speeding up the introduction of more enterprise features as well as services and support for customers.

The funding will also bring on board Goldman Sachs as an investor for the first time, the firm said, alongside collaboration from the companies’ engineers in the community on OpenStack high availability, storage, network integration and support for big data.

“Intel is actually providing us with cash, so they’ve bought a co-development subscription from us. Then, in addition, we’ve strengthened our balance sheet by putting more equity financing dollars into the company. So overall the total funds are at $100m,” said Mirantis president and co-founder Alex Freedland.

“With Intel as our partner, we’ll show the world that open design, open development and open licensing is the future of cloud infrastructure software. Mirantis’ goal is to make OpenStack the best way to deliver cloud software, surpassing any proprietary solutions.”

Freedland added that the collaboration means that there’s nothing proprietary in the arrangement that it is flowing directly into open source. No intellectual property is going to Intel.

“All this is community-driven, so everyone will be able to take advantage of it,” he added.

The move is part of the Cloud for All initiative announced by Intel in July.

Intel is becoming increasingly involved in OpenStack. The company said at the OpenStack Summit in May that it is making various contributions, including improving the security of containerised applications in the cloud using the VT-x extensions in Intel processors.

Other big companies are also backing the open source software. Google announced in July that it had joined the OpenStack Foundation as a corporate sponsor in a bid to promote open source and open cloud technologies.

Working closely with other members of the OpenStack community, Google said that the move will bring its expertise in containers and container management to OpenStack while sharing its work with innovative open source projects like Kubernetes.

Courtesy-TheInq

Google Including Tweets In Desktop Search

August 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

An earlier agreement between Google and Twitter that has placed tweets in Google search results on mobile devices since earlier this year has now been expanded to the desktop.

Relevant tweets will appear in desktop results for queries performed in English. The search doesn’t need to include the term “twitter” or twitter hashtags — if there are tweets that Google thinks are relevant, it will surface them anyway.

Last Friday, for instance, a search for “President Obama” returned recent tweets from Obama’s Twitter account near the top of the page, below a few news articles.

The tweets that appear will include photos and links that may have been contained in the tweet.

Google has provided links to tweets in its search results for a long time, but showing the actual tweets could potentially give a boost to Twitter at a time when it’s struggling to add new users.

Google noted the expansion on Friday in an update to its earlier announcement around the mobile rollout.

The company has said it will make the feature available in other languages besides English.

 

 

Are 4K TV’s Finally Taking Off?

August 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Worldwide Ultra HD (4K) LCD TV panel shipment volume grew 60.8 per cent sequentially in the second quarter of 2015, reaching around 9.2 million units despite the fact there is very little content out there.

Beancounters at MIC have added up the numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked out that Korean vendors’ shipment share rose to 61 per cent from 54 per cent. They have seen shipment volume growing 80 per cent sequentially.

Samsung Display had the highest sequential growth at 105 per cent and managed to flog 3.3 million of the beasties. It enlarged its gap with LG Display and became the world’s number one panel vendor for 4K LCD TVs. Most of Samsung’s shipped panels were 55- and 48-inch, together accounting for 70 per cent of total shipments, followed by 40-inch panels at 20 per cent.

MIC senior industry analyst Brian Chen said that the significant growth can be attributed to changes in the company’s pricing strategies for 4K TVs.

Samsung used to position 4K TVs as high-end products and a higher price than other brands. To enhance their shipment volume and market share, Samsung has lowered the prices of 4K TVs, leading to a significant increase in TV sales performance and thus panel shipments, he said.

LG has successfully increased its panel shipment volume with the launch of RGBW M+ 4K panels and has expanded its target market from China to worldwide. LG’s 4K panel shipments in 2015 are expected to grow as a result.

Taiwan’s panel vendors have focused on 50-inch panel shipments, which have made up nearly half of Taiwan’s 4K panel shipments. However they have lost a bit of ground to Korean suppliers.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Is HP’s Forthcoming Split A Good Idea?

August 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

HP Has released its financial results for the third quarter and they make for somewhat grim reading.

The company has seen drops in key parts of the business and an overall drop in GAAP net revenue of eight percent year on year to $25.3bn, compared with $27.6bn in 2014.

The company failed to meet its projected net earnings per share, which it had put at $0.50-$0.52, with an actual figure of $0.47.

The figures reflect a time of deep uncertainty at the company as it moves ever closer to its demerger into HP and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The latter began filing registration documents in July to assert its existence as a separate entity, while the boards of both companies were announced two weeks ago.

Dell CEO Michael Dell slammed the move in an exclusive interview with The INQUIRER, saying he would never do the same to his company.

The big boss at HP remained upbeat, despite the drop in dividend against expectations. “HP delivered results in the third quarter that reflect very strong performance in our Enterprise Group and substantial progress in turning around Enterprise Services,” said Meg Whitman, chairman, president and chief executive of HP.

“I am very pleased that we have continued to deliver the results we said we would, while remaining on track to execute one of the largest and most complex separations ever undertaken.”

To which we have to ask: “Which figures were you looking at, lady?”

Breaking down the figures by business unit, Personal Systems revenue was down 13 percent year on year, while notebook sales fell three percent and desktops 20 percent.

Printing was down nine percent, but with a 17.8 percent operating margin. HP has been looking at initiatives to create loyalty among print users such as ink subscriptions.

The Enterprise Group, soon to be spun off, was up two percent year on year, but Business Critical system revenue dropped by 21 percent, cancelled out by networking revenue which climbed 22 percent.

Enterprise Services revenue dropped 11 percent with a six percent margin, while software dropped six percent with a 20.6 percent margin. Software-as-a-service revenue dropped by four percent.

HP Financial Services was down six percent, despite a two percent decrease in net portfolio assets and a two percent decrease in financing volume.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Sony Going After Drone Market With New Aerosense Device

August 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Sony is making a play for a piece of the growing drone market, unveiling newly developed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from its just-launched drone venture, Aerosense.

In addition to the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) craft hinted at last month, Aerosense on Monday exhibited a quadcopter that makes use of Sony’s lens-type camera, the QX30.

The camera, which resembles a lens for a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera and can link to smartphones, is attached to the belly of the quadcopter, where it can take high-resolution images.

Designed for use in urban areas such as construction zones, the AS-MC01-P quadcopter weighs about 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) and can fly for about 15 to 20 minutes on a battery charge.

It can operate autonomously, flying within a preset zone, and is equipped with GPS, Wi-Fi and an inertial navigation system. It also has a high-speed data transfer module that uses Sony’s TransferJet technology.

In a presentation in Tokyo, Aerosense showed how photography from the camera can be turned into 3D imagery, showing, for instance, the volumes of piles of gravel at a construction site.

The venture’s other craft, the AS-DT01-E winged VTOL drone, has a rotor system that allows it to fly like a helicopter or a plane. The advantage of the winged format is that it can fly at much higher speeds than most non-military drones — up to 170 kilometers per hour (106 miles/hour) compared to high-speed quadcopters that fly at 75 kph (47 mph).

Weighing 7kg (15 pounds), it can carry a 3kg payload (6.6 pounds) and operate for at least two hours on a battery charge.

Aerosense will target enterprise customers when it begins to offer drones for monitoring, surveying and inspection next year.

 

 

 

 

 

Instagram, Pinterest User Growth Soars

August 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Possibly market saturation or because of waning interest, some of the world’s largest social networks are experiencing sluggish growth.

Facebook, for instance, is the largest social network in the world, with more than 1 billion active monthly users. But it didn’t garner significant growth among U.S. Internet users in the past three years, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

Some 72% of online U.S. adults use Facebook today. That is up only 5 points from 67% in 2012, Pew noted.

By comparison, Pinterest more than doubled its user base, going from 15% of online U.S. adults in 2012 to 31% today. Similarly, Instagram also showed strong momentum, growing from 13% three years ago to 28% now.

Other major players, including Twitter and LinkedIn, also saw growth but not at such a strong pace.

Pew reported that 23% of online adults use Twitter, a 7-point increase from the 16% who used it in 2012. As for LinkedIn, a quarter of online adults use the site, up from 20% in 2012, the survey noted.

“Interesting but not surprising,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “I have six kids under 23 and none of them use Facebook regularly. I think Facebook is almost considered an older person’s social tool now… Much of the growth in the younger population is on Instagram, Vine, etc.”

The Pew study also shows that while younger users are using Instagram and Pinterest, they clearly haven’t abandoned Facebook.

According to Pew, 82% of online U.S. adults between the ages of 18 to 29 use Facebook, along with 79% of those between 30 and 49, 64% of those ages 50 to 64 and 48% of those 65 and older.