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Essential Phone Preorders Finally Get A Shipping Date

August 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

That new Essential Phone that consumers have been anxiously awaiting? Essential has promised preorders will start shipping within a week.

The announcement, sent via email to customers who’ve pre-ordered the device, promises the device will ship within seven days after payment is received.

It’s been a rocky road for the Essential PH-1, as it’s officially known, with the company missing its original shipping target. Essential announced on May 30 it would ship within 30 days, but by July, there was still no phone in sight. The company updated customers in late July promising it would arrive “in a few weeks.”

But while it’s a crowded market for phones, this isn’t just any old Android device. The Essential PH-1 is the brainchild of Andy Rubin, former Google executive and father of the Android software that now runs on 2 billion active devices around the world.

 The phone certainly has high-end looks to match its Android cred — thin bezels wrapping around a 5.7-inch display as well as magnetic modules, like a 360-degree camera, that snap on to the device.

At $700 (which translates to £550 or AU$940, though Essential is currently only shipping to addresses in the United States), the Essential PH-1 has a price tag to match its high-end looks, setting you back roughly the same amount as the iPhone 7 or the Samsung Galaxy S8.

And now, with a release just around the corner, we’ll be able to see how it stacks up against its heavyweight rivals.

Amazon Extends Brick-and-Mortar Push With ‘Instant Pickup’

August 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc is introducing U.S. pickup points where shoppers can retrieve items immediately after ordering them, shortening delivery times from hours to minutes in its latest move into brick-and-mortar retail.

The world’s largest online retailer has launched ‘Instant Pickup’ points around five college campuses, such as the University of California at Berkeley, it said on Tuesday. Amazon has plans to add the program to more sites by the end of the year.

Shoppers on Amazon’s mobile app can select from several hundred fast-selling items at each location, from snacks and drinks to phone chargers. Amazon employees in a back room then load orders into lockers within two minutes, and customers receive bar codes to access them.

The e-commerce company, which said in June it would buy Whole Foods Market Inc for $13.7 billion, has come to realize that certain transactions like buying fresh produce are hard to shift online. It’s Instant Pickup program targets another laggard: impulse buys.

“I want to buy a can of coke because I’m thirsty,” said Ripley MacDonald, Amazon’s director of student programs. “There’s no chance I’m going to order that on Amazon.com and wait however long it’s going to take for that to ship to me.”

“I can provide that kind of service here,” he said of the new program.

Amazon’s ability to shorten delivery times has been a sore point for brick-and-mortar retailers, who have struggled to grow sales as customers have turned to convenient online options. Until Instant Pickup, Amazon shoppers could expect their orders within an hour at best via the company’s Prime Now program, or within 15 minutes for grocery orders via AmazonFresh Pickup.

BMW Intel Self-driving Car Alliance Adds Fiat Chrysler

August 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Fiat Chrysler plans on joining an alliance spearheaded by BMW to develop self-driving cars, intensifying a race by carmakers and technology companies to develop “robotaxis” which can be called up via smartphone and paid for by the minute.

The market for such self-driving cabs could be worth $2 trillion by 2030, according to consultants McKinsey, as younger customers abandon car ownership in favor of a pay-per-use mobility service.

Fiat Chrysler (FCA) said it plans to put autonomous car technology into production by 2021, matching a time frame shared by rival companies who are also developing self-driving cars.

BMW and its partners Intel and Mobileye said FCA would bring engineering and other expertise to the deal, paving the way to creating an industry-wide autonomous car platform which other carmakers could adopt.

Automakers are seeking alliances to share the high costs of developing autonomous cars, which according to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan will make up about 10 to 15 percent of vehicles in Europe by 2030.

FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne cited the “synergies and economies of scale” possible in joining the alliance.

Marchionne has long argued that automakers must merge in order to survive the prohibitively high costs of making more technologically advanced vehicles.

In April, he said FCA was looking for new partners in self-driving development because “banking all of our solutions on one possible outcome is going to be disastrous”.

FCA is also part of a separate alliance with Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit Waymo to develop self-driving cars based on Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans.

Autonomous cars will allow carmakers to disrupt the taxi market which is run by fleet operators and ride-hailing firms. Without having to pay drivers, ride-hailing could become more cost effective and compete against other forms of transport including buses.

Auto suppliers Delphi Automotive and Continental have also joined the BMW-Intel alliance. The consortium said it was on track to put 40 self-driving test vehicles on the road by the end of 2017, and would learn from the 100 test vehicles to be deployed by Mobileye in the United States later this year.

LinkedIn Loses Battle To Block Access To User’s Profile Data

August 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A U.S. federal judge has ruled that Microsoft Corp’s LinkedIn unit will not be allowed to prevent a startup from accessing public profile data, in a test of how much control a social media site can wield over information its users have deemed to be public.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco granted a preliminary injunction request brought by hiQ Labs, and ordered LinkedIn to remove within 24 hours any technology preventing hiQ from accessing public profiles.

The case is considered to have implications beyond LinkedIn and hiQ Labs and could dictate just how much control companies have over publicly available data that is hosted on their services.

“To the extent LinkedIn has already put in place technology to prevent hiQ from accessing these public profiles, it is ordered to remove any such barriers,” Chen’s order reads.

HiQ Labs uses the LinkedIn data to build algorithms capable of predicting employee behaviors, such as when they might quit.

LinkedIn plans to challenge the decision, company spokeswoman Nicole Leverich said.

“We’re disappointed in the court’s ruling,” Leverich said. “This case is not over. We will continue to fight to protect our members’ ability to control the information they make available on LinkedIn.”

HiQ Labs called the decision an important victory for companies that rely on publicly available data for their businesses.

“HiQ believes that public data must remain public, and innovation on the internet should not be stifled by legal bullying or the anti-competitive hoarding of public data by a small group of powerful companies,” the company said in a statement Monday evening.

That sentiment was echoed by Falon Fatemi, chief executive of Node, a San Francisco startup that uses publicly available data and artificial intelligence to help companies identify potential customers.

The dispute between the two tech companies has been going on since May when LinkedIn issued a letter to hiQ Labs instructing the startup to stop scraping data from its service.

HiQ Labs responded by filing a lawsuit against LinkedIn in June, alleging that the Microsoft-owned social network was in violation of antitrust laws.

Angry Bird’s Rovio Returns To Profit, Possible IPO

August 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Finnish mobile games and animation studio Rovio Entertainment Ltd announced that its sales in the first half of the year nearly doubled following the success of “The Angry Birds Movie.”

First-half revenue rose to 152.6 million euros ($179.7 million) from 78.5 million a year earlier, while adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization increased to 41.8 million euros from 11.0 million a year ago.

Following years of falling earnings, job cuts and restructuring, Rovio returned to profit in 2016 as the 3D Hollywood movie release revived the Angry Birds brand and gave a boost to game sales.

First-half revenue from games increased by 76 percent to 117.9 million euros. Rovio’s main titles include “Angry Birds 2,” “Angry Birds Friends” and the new multiplayer game “Battle Bay.”

This year’s growth is also due to movie revenues that had not shown in Rovio’s numbers previously.

The company is now planning a sequel to the Angry Birds movie with Columbia Pictures, scheduled for release in 2019.

Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg reported earlier this week that Rovio was planning a possible initial public offering.

Rovio, which had earlier said a listing could be possible in the future, declined to comment.

Researchers Create Battery-Free Mobile Phone

August 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Researchers have emerged from their smoke-filled labs with a prototype of a battery-free mobile phone.

The phone is the work of a group of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and works by harvesting tiny amounts of power from radio signals, known as radio frequency or ‘RF’ waves.

Team member Vamsi Talla told Reuters that ambient RF waves are all around us so, as an example, your FM station broadcasts radio waves,TV stations, mobile phone towers. They all are transmitting RF waves.

The phone is a first prototype and its operation is basic – at first glance it looks little more than a circuit board with a few parts attached and the caller must wear headphones and press a button to switch between talking and listening.

But the boffins say there are plans to develop further prototypes, featuring a low-power screen for texting and even a basic camera. They also plan a version of the battery-free phone that uses a tiny solar cell to provide power.

The researchers plan to release a product in eight to nine months’ time, thought they would not give further details. One team member however, was prepared to give a glimpse of how their work will impact the future of cellphone technology.

“In the future every smartphone will come with a battery-free mode where you can at least make a voice call when your battery’s dead.”

Meanwhile Researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Surrey in Britain, are developing supercapacitors, which they believe will eventually allow devices to charge in a period of a few minutes.

Courtesy-Fud

Bitcoin Keeps Soaring, Surpasses $4000 Threshold

August 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Bitcoin has passed another major milestone, easily reaching beyond the $4,000 threshold on Sunday. The cryptocurrency, which has only been in existence for seven years, reached a high of $4,224 (equivalent to £3,244 or AU$5,343) shortly after 9 a.m. UTC on Sunday.

It’s been a swift rise for bitcoin, which only passed the $3,000 marker for the first time at the start of the month. The rise also comes fresh off the heels of the so-called “hard fork” in bitcoin which saw a new virtual currency called Bitcoin Cash split off from bitcoin proper on August 1.

The split was designed to deal with the growing popularity of bitcoin, which was struggling to support an increasing number of transactions using existing blockchain technology, though the move left many wondering whether market values would fall.

But bitcoin seems to have defied expectations, pushing through the $4,000 barrier with ease, though there’s no certainty on where values are headed — particularly as we push closer toward the day when every bitcoin is mined.

Still, this is for sure: Purchasing 1 bitcoin for 8 cents back in 2010 would have netted you a 52,800-fold return today.

IBM Improves Deep Learning

August 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Big Blue Boffins claim to have developed technology that dramatically cuts the time it takes to crunch massive amounts of data and then come up with useful insights.

If it is all true then it could mean that deep learning, the technique used by IBM, is a subset of artificial intelligence (AI) that mimics how the human brain works could be set to take off.

IBM wanted to reduce the time it takes for deep learning systems to digest data from days to hours.

The improvements could help radiologists get faster, more accurate reads of anomalies and masses on medical images,.

Hillery Hunter, an IBM Fellow and director of systems acceleration and memory at IBM Research, said that, until now, deep learning has largely run on single server because of the complexity of moving huge amounts of data between different computers.

The problem is in keeping data synchronized between lots of different servers and processors

In its announcement IBM says it has come up with software that can divide those tasks among 64 servers running up to 256 processors total, and still reap huge benefits in speed. The company is making that technology available to customers using IBM Power System servers and to other techies who want to test it.

IBM used 64 of its own Power 8 servers—each of which links IBM Power microprocessors with Nvidia graphical processors with a fast NVLink interconnection to facilitate fast data flow between the two types of chips..

It developed clustering technology that manages the multiple processors in a given server as well as to the processors in the other 63 servers. If that traffic management is done incorrectly, some processors sit idle, waiting for something to do.

Each processor has its own data set that it knows, also needs data from the other processors to get the bigger picture. If the processors get out of sync they can’t learn anything, explained Hunter.

Courtesy-Fud

Will The U.S. ITC Really Investigate Apple

August 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The International Trade Commission has announced that it will launch an investigation into Apple following allegations from Qualcomm that its devices violate six of its patents.

The move, arguably procedural, means that the ITC will formally investigate Qualcomm’s complaint, rather than dismiss it outright.

“The US International Trade Commission has voted to institute an investigation of certain mobile electronic devices and radio frequency and processing components thereof,” the ITC said.

“The products at issue in the investigation are mobile electronic devices – such as the iPhone 7, and specific components for such

Qualcomm’s complaint alleges that iPhones, which are made in China, should not be allowed to be brought into the United States if they infringe on its patents, and if the chipmaker has its way, the ITC would ban imports and sales of Apple’s handsets.

At the heart of the matter is Apple’s use of cellular baseband processors made by Intel, with Qualcomm arguing that iPhones Intel’s 4G wireless chips are effectively using six Qualcomm patents “unfairly” and “unlawfully”.

Unsurprisingly, Qualcomm said it is “pleased” with the ITC’s decision to investigate Apple.

“Qualcomm is pleased with the ITC’s decision to investigate Apple’s unfair trade practices and the unauthorized importation of products using Qualcomm’s patents,” said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm.

“We look forward to the ITC’s expeditious investigation of Apple’s ongoing infringement of our intellectual property and the accelerated relief that the Commission can provide.'”

Apple, when asked for comment, pointed to this prior statement from June: “Qualcomm’s illegal business practices are harming Apple and the entire industry.

“They supply us with a single connectivity component, but for years have been demanding a percentage of the total cost of our products – effectively taxing Apple’s innovation.”

Last month, Intel filed its own statement with the ITC, claiming that Qualcomm’s request for the regulatory agency to intervene was “a transparent effort to stave off lawful competition from Qualcomm’s only remaining rival.”

Courtesy-TheInq

SoundCloud Receives Funding, Lives To See Another Day

August 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

SoundCloud, the world’s most popular streaming music app, but one that has been plagued by money-losing strategies, said it received new funding on Friday, insulating it from potentially running out of cash this year.

The company, which laid off 40 percent of its staff in July, said in a blog post that the financing was raised from media-focused investment bank Raine Group of New York and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek.

It did not disclose the amount or its terms. Raine and Temasek were not immediately available for comment.

One source familiar with the investment said it amounted to around $170 million (144 million euros), as reported on Thursday by online news site Axios, which had obtained the deal’s term sheet.

The company said that as part of the new investment, digital media veterans Kerry Trainor and Michael Weissman, respectively the former chief executive and chief operating officer of online video service Vimeo, would take the same roles at SoundCloud.

The arrival of the former leaders of Vimeo – one of the biggest online video rivals to Google’s YouTube and Facebook- raises the prospect SoundCloud may evolve beyond audio streaming in a more music video-oriented direction.

SoundCloud founder and former CEO Alexander Ljung has agreed to step aside to become chairman of the board, it said. Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Eric Wahlross will remain at the company as chief product officer.

In July, SoundCloud fired 173 employees and closed its London and San Francisco offices to focus on Berlin and New York. A spokeswoman for SoundCloud said last month it remained fully funded into the fourth quarter while declining to comment on what lay beyond.

“The investment will ensure a strong, independent future for SoundCloud, funding deeper development and marketing of its core tools used by millions of audio creators – musicians, DJs, producers, labels, managers and podcasters,” SoundCloud said.

Slack Enables Enteprise Mobility Management, Strengthens Security Features

August 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Slack has enabled integration with the most prevalent enterprise mobility management (EMM) platforms in order to offer security and policy management features to its four-year old, cloud-based messaging application.

The messaging platform provider worked with AppConfig, an open standards group, which allowed Slack to integrate through a set of APIs with 21 EMM vendors.

Slack said it also worked more closely with three EMM providers – VMware Airwatch, MobileIron, and Blackberry Good – “to ensure a smooth experience for our joint customers.

“EMM is a critical addition to Slack’s enterprise-grade security feature set, which also includes data encryption in transit and at rest,” Slack said.

Prior to the announcement, Slack already came with its own encryption capability. It can now offer the same crypto security based on the EMM providers’ technology.

EMM is a comprehensive, hardware-agnostic method of remotely managing mobile devices, including their configuration and the enterprise content generated on them, through mobile device management and mobile application management. EMM is all-encompassing; it can control access to corporate apps, internal websites and even the data silos associated with them.

EMM integration affords Slack SCIM provisioning (an open API for managing user identities), SAML-based single sign-on capabilities, two-factor authentication and remote device wiping capabilities.

A new feature, “Profiles in Slack,” enables admins to put faces to names and provide background information about the people on each corporate team using the messaging platform.

The feature allows first and last names, as well as where an employee is located, their job description and their business group.

If a company already uses an identity provider or internal directory, it can now sync that information with Profiles in Slack using the SCIM API, which helps admins consolidate identity management while building out a directory that’s easily accessible by a business team in Slack.

Slack claims to have 6.8 million weekly active users, and more than 1.5 million paid users.

Facebook Introduces New Watch Tab

August 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Original video content has found a new home at Facebook.

The social network giant has introduced Watch, a new video platform for programming produced exclusively for Facebook users. The new feature, which will be available on mobile, desktop and Facebook’s TV apps, is a continuation of the video push Facebook launched last year.

“On Facebook, videos are discovered through friends and bring communities together,” Daniel Danker, Facebook director of product, wrote in a blog post. “As more and more people enjoy this experience, we’ve learned that people like the serendipity of discovering videos in News Feed, but they also want a dedicated place they can go to watch videos.”

Video has been crucial for Facebook as the social network tries to get people to spend more time on its site. In 2016, the company added a video tab to the Facebook app, where people can find new video content.

The company has also made a big push in Facebook Live, a feature that lets people broadcast themselves live over the internet and directly onto the social network. CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees the format as the future of his company and has said we’re entering a “golden age for live video.”

The Watch feature will be personalized, suggesting new shows — both live and recorded — based on what your friends and communities are watching. Categories will include “Most Talked About,” “What’s Making People Laugh” and “What Friends Are Watching.” A Watchlist will help users keep track of programs.

Some of the programming Facebook plans to present includes Nas Daily, in which the rapper makes videos with his fans; Gabby Bernstein, a motivational speaker answering fans questions in real time; and a cooking show called Tastemade’s Kitchen Little that follows kids’ efforts to instruct chefs in the art of cooking. One Major League Baseball game will also be broadcast live on the platform each week.

The feature will initially be available to a limited number of users in the US, with a broader expansion promised “soon.”

China Claims ‘Unbreakable’ Code With Quantum Satellite Transmission

August 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

China has transmitted an “unbreakable” code from a satellite to the Earth, heralding the first time space-to-ground quantum key distribution technology has been realized, state media said on Thursday.

China launched the world’s first quantum satellite last August, to help establish “hack proof” communications, a development the Pentagon has called a “notable advance”.

The official Xinhua news agency said the latest experiment was published in the journal Nature on Thursday, where reviewers called it a “milestone”.

The satellite sent quantum keys to ground stations in China between 645 km (400 miles) and 1,200 km (745 miles) away at a transmission rate up to 20 orders of magnitude more efficient than an optical fiber, Xinhua cited Pan Jianwei, lead scientist on the experiment from the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences, as saying.

“That, for instance, can meet the demand of making an absolute safe phone call or transmitting a large amount of bank data,” Pan said.

Any attempt to eavesdrop on the quantum channel would introduce detectable disturbances to the system, Pan said.

“Once intercepted or measured, the quantum state of the key will change, and the information being intercepted will self-destruct,” Xinhua said.

The news agency said there were “enormous prospects” for applying this new generation of communications in defense and finance.

China still lags behind the United States and Russia in space technology, although President Xi Jinping has prioritized advancing its space program, citing national security and defense.

China insists its space program is for peaceful purposes, but the U.S. Defense Department has highlighted its increasing space capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed at preventing adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.

Microsoft’s Surface Tablets Not So Reliable, Says Consumer Reports

August 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The breakage rate for Microsoft Corp’s Surface devices significantly outpaces that of other manufacturers’ laptops and tablets, Consumer Reports said, adding that it was removing its “recommended” designation for Surface products.

The non-profit publication surveyed 90,000 tablet and laptop owners and found that an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices would be presented with “problems by the end of the second year of ownership,” according to a study published on Thursday.

“If you are very concerned about how long your products are going to last, it might be better for you to go with a brand that has a higher predicted reliability,” Jerry Beilinson, electronics editor at the consumer goods testing publication, said in an interview.

Microsoft disputed the study, saying the company’s return and support rates differ significantly from the Consumer Reports study.

“We don’t believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners’ true experiences or capture the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation,” the company said in a statement.

According to the Consumer Reports survey responses, the Microsoft devices were found to freeze, unexpectedly shut down or have issues with their touchscreens, Beilinson said.

Altogether, the reliability issues made Microsoft a statistical outlier compared with other brands. Apple Inc had the most reliable devices, Beilinson said.

Microsoft entered the hardware market with its first Surface tablet in 2012. Since then, the company has released a series of new Surface tablets and laptops, including the well-reviewed Surface Pro, which launched in May.

The Surface devices serve as a face for the company and exemplify how Microsoft’s manufacturing partners can build hardware around the Windows 10 operating system. However, Surface is a small part of Microsoft’s overall revenue, and Surface revenue has declined year-over-year for the past two quarters.

Are VPNs The Absolute Privacy Measure

August 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

So between the newly-announced Data Protection Bill and the expected destruction of net neutrality, you’re probably feeling a bit vulnerable right now.

You’ve got nothing to hide as such, you’re just someone who appreciates the boundaries of what ‘the man’ knows about you. You accept it’ll break Cortana, but you know… that’s just a bonus.

All the conventional wisdom seems to be to get a hosted VPN. The idea is that it will divert all your traffic to somewhere anonymous… somewhere far away… and encrypt it.

But, just as we are now realising that the “wife anniversary present mode” in browsers is really not that effective, perhaps we need to start taking a closer look at VPNs too. And there are two reasons.

Firstly, when we agree to a VPN we’re putting our trust in the hands of that VPN provider. And there are a lot. Some, for example, offer fantastic deals on “lifetime access”.

But are they really doing what they say? The short answer is, in a lot of cases, no. RestorePrivacy took a look and found that quite often data that was supposed to be carried anonymously simply wasn’t, and in many cases, where you pick a country that you’d like your IP to show in, quite often you’ll find, under the hood, you’re connected to a completely different one.

HideMyAss, one of the more popular services, openly admits that some of its country specific servers have been “virtualised”. Others, like ExpressVPN, were claiming to connect to countries all across Asia, which were in fact, actually all in Singapore.

PureVPN meanwhile, actually hosts its Azerbaijan server in Edinburgh, says the study.

It’s not just about honesty. It’s about the safety of your data. If you are running your data through one country’s servers because of its stance, and in fact, you’re using another, you could be completely violating the wrong set of laws.

Take the PureVPN example – the consequences of using the Pirate Bay in the UK rather than Azerbaijan are more serious, if you were found out, of course.

All of which makes choosing a VPN something of a risky business. Firstly, let’s make it clear – no free ones. They’re bound to be shonky. You get what you pay for. We’re not in the business of recommending anyone in this article, but we’d say that often if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

But wait. There’s a second issue. We talk about how VPNs stop you leaving footprints. Well, they don’t. They just make it a damn sight harder.

Take, for example, you want to look at some nudey-pics on your phone. You turn on Incognito Mode. You switch your VPN to a country that will keep it nice and anonymous. But there’s a Telltale Heart and it could give you away.

Your phone’s apps are churning out (mostly M2M) background data all the time from your IP address to servers all over the world.

When you turn that VPN on, that heartbeat disappears, and pops up somewhere else in the world and continues. And then when you’ve erm… finished… you might turn off the VPN and suddenly that trail follows you back.

A determined adversary could easily join the dots from that “heartbeat” of background data that you aren’t even aware you are sending. It might be encrypted – but then it might be in the country you thought it was. And it might… not.

Yes, there’s a lot of “what ifs” to the scenario. There’s a lot of “they’d have to really, really want to”. But yeah. They could. If they could get you before VPNs, they can get you now, especially this new breed of too-good-to-be-true ones. 

We’re not saying VPNs are bad. But remember, they’re not foolproof. The data may be anonymized, but your unique heartbeat simply moves. You’re never completely off-grid.

It’s not about to affect our privacy tomorrow, but there’s a danger that VPNs are seen as a holy grail. They’re not. They’re not even close. So let’s not get complacent.

Courtesy-TheInq

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