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Facebook Goes TechPrep To Increase Diversity

October 26, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is adding to its benevolence jar with a thing called TechPrep that it expects will help the poor and disadvantaged to embrace and master technology.

The cynics among us would link this to Facebook and the drive for more members, because members mean money, but fortunately they are out of the office.

This has been a good week for Facebook in terms of positive things, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg being crowned the industry’s biggest LGBT Ally, an award that he welcomed.

TechPrep is part of this inclusive side of Facebook, and fittingly it has been introduced by Maxine Williams, global director of diversity at the firm. TechPrep is pitched at technological learners, parents and guardians who need better computer skills, and Facebook is working with the McKinsey Institute on the initiative.

“At Facebook, we’re working on a number of initiatives to widen the pipeline and build an inclusive culture. After looking closely at the data, we realised that one challenge is a lack of exposure to computer science and careers in technology, as well as a lack of resources for parents, guardians and others who want to learn more,” she said.

“In the US, this lack of access is prevalent in a number of under-represented groups, including black and Hispanic communities. Today, we’re excited to introduce TechPrep, a resource hub where under-represented people and their parents and guardians can learn more about computer science and programming and find resources to get them started.”

Facebook will curate training packages to suit needs. The firm also referred to research which found that computer science education can empower people, and that parts of the community are easily disillusioned by training and teaching.

“77 percent of parents say they do not know how to help their child pursue computer science. This increases to approximately 83 percent for lower income and non-college graduate parents or guardians,” added Williams.

“Yet being encouraged to pursue computer science by a parent or guardian is a primary motivator for women, blacks and Hispanics. Lower awareness of computer science in blacks and Hispanics is driven by less access to people in computer science and computer science programs, and is a major driver of black and Hispanic drop-off when pursuing programming as a career path.”

Facebook is already in the process of boosting its in-house diversity, as are many of its peers. The technology industry is currently white man heavy, and this is not a good thing.



Instagram Dethrones Twitter As Second Biggest Social Network

September 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Instagram celebrated a milestone this week, logging more than 400 million monthly users, solidly blowing past rival Twitter.

Instagram, a five-year-old site for posting and photos and video online, has solidly surpassed rival Twitter to claim the No. 2 spot in the social networking world – behind parent company Facebook.

“Given that Facebook owns Instagram, that certainly makes them the king of the social networking mountain,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “Instagram is aimed squarely at mobile devices, and that makes it very easy for users to shoot and post very quickly. It also has the patina of ‘cool’ with hip users — mainly arising from young users adopting it as their own.”

Instagram is gaining momentum. In December of last year, the company said it reached the 300 million monthly user mark. Less than a year later, the site has added another 100 million active users.

Despite the surge in monthly users, Instagram is still far behind Facebook, the world’s largest social network with more than 1 billion worldwide users.

However, the numbers put Instagram beyond Twitter, which in June reported316 million active monthly users. Instagram is also well ahead of Google+, which reportedly has about 300 million active monthly users.

“While milestones like this are important, what really excites us is the way that visual communication makes the world feel a little bit smaller to every one of us,” Instagram wrote in a blog post. “Our community has evolved to be even more global, with more than 75% living outside of the U.S. To all the new Instagrammers: welcome!”

Among the last 100 million to join, more than half live in Europe and Asia, the company noted. The countries that added the most Instagram users include Brazil, Japan and Indonesia.



Can Self-Driving Cars Be Hit With DoS Attacks?

September 11, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

A security researcher was investigating the safety measures implemented by the suppliers of autonomous driving tech. What he found ain’t pretty. There is hope, however.

We’ve given this topic a bit of breathing room before we decided to weigh in with the Fudzilla two cents as well. It’s funny how the Internet jumps from topic to topic, mostly focusing on the scandalous aspects of the story, that generate the all-important flood of clicks, before moving on to the next big thing. Well, it’s not a bad idea to pause, take a deep breath and look at the issue from several angles.

The story is definitely an interesting one: The technology that’s behind the amazing development of the autonomous driving vehicles isn’t safe. It isn’t hardened to withstand attacks from malicious people. The key word in our mind, though, is “yet”.

As Mr. Jonathan Petit, the Principal Scientist at Security Innovation discovered, it’s actually incredibly easy and very cheap to confuse an autonomous vehicle to the point of it just stopping in its tracks. All you need is an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi board, a simple laser, all of it together costing barely more than $50, and you can bring a self driving car to a screeching halt.

As it turns out, the LIDAR systems (those humps you see on self driving cars’ roofs) aren’t very reliable. They will take almost any laser echo and interpret it as objects in their surroundings. So all you have to do to confuse one is to record actual echo from vehicles, pedestrians, or any other type of obstacle, and play it back at the autonomous car.

A few journalists are almost spelling doom for the entire industry based on this. But we say, hold your horses girls and boys. This is a nascent technology. It works amazingly well in a huge range of scenarios. Fortification of the technology will surely come, and sooner than most expect.

While LIDARs are a key component of the self driving equation, they are by no means the only one. First of all, the developers of the systems can and surely will introduce cross-referencing of various sensor systems into the software. If a LIDAR says there’s a car in front of you, but radar and the 3D cameras say there is none, the software can just ignore the input from the LIDAR. And LIDAR itself can be made more resilient by addition of signal encription, frequency changes and a host of other techniques.

The conclusion is underwhelming in some respects and very promising in others. One, there is no big scandal here, so move along. Two, there is no big scandal here, so we can expect to be driven in safety and comfort in only a few years. I for one can’t wait.


Facebook Continues Impressive Growth Rate In Africa

September 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook has nearly 20 million users in major African markets Nigeria and Kenya, statistics released by the social network revealed on Thursday, with the majority using mobile devices to access their profiles.

Facebook opened its first African office in Johannesburg in June as the continent’s growing population and relatively low levels of internet access present a large untapped market for the social network to earn advertising revenue.

The numbers, the first Facebook has published for Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and Kenya, East Africa’s most developed, show the two nations as important entry points on a continent of nearly one billion people.

Nigeria had 15 million monthly active users as of June 30 this year, all of them using mobiles to like, share and upload content on the social network. In Kenya, 95 percent of the 4.5 million monthly active users did so via mobiles.

“Mobile is not a trend; it’s the fastest adoption of disruptive technology in history of communication,” said Nunu Ntshingila, Facebook’s head of Africa, in a statement.

South Africa has 12 million monthly active Facebook users, the data showed, and Facebook says with its strong advertising partnerships in Africa it would use the new office in Johannesburg to expand its business across the continent.

Facebook said its active user population in Africa grew 20 percent to 120 million in June from 100 million in September last year. A large portion of these users were in North Africa.



Samsung To Bring 6GB Of DRAM To Smartphones

September 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung announced that it’s mass-producing the first 12Gbit LPDDR4 DRAM chip, which will introduce 6GB DRAM for mobile devices.

Based on its 20-nanometer-class process technology, Samsung said the new LPDDR4 module is the largest capacity and highest speed available for a DRAM chip.

Compared to the 20nm-based 8Gbit LPDDR4, the 12Gbit version is more than 30% faster, boasting a top speed of 4,266Mbps. It’s also twice as fast as DDR4 DRAM for PCs, while consuming 20% less power, Samsung said. PC DDR4 DRAM has a maximum speed per pin of 2,133Mbps.

Samsung said it is also producing 50% more of the new 12Gbit LPDDR4 over its previous 8Gb LPDDR4, which the company believes will fuel demand for higher memory capacity in “flagship mobile devices.”

The 12Gbit LPDDR4 chip will be the basis for 3GB and 6GB mobile DRAM in a single package using just two chips and four chips respectively. Previously, 8Gbit DRAM chip technology allowed for a maximum of 4GB in a single module.

“In next-generation flagship devices, 6GB of LPDDR4 mobile DRAM will allow consumers to enjoy seamless multitasking and maximum performance within the latest operating system environments,” Samsung said in a news release. “Also, based on the new 12Gb LPDDR4, the 6GB package can easily fit into the same space used for 3GB LPDDR4 packages currently available, therefore meeting the need for greater design compatibility and manufacturing productivity in advanced mobile devices.”

Samsung also expects that application areas will expand beyond smartphones and tablets to include ultra-slim PCs, digital appliances and automotive devices, in the coming years.

“We intend to closely collaborate with our global customers to move beyond premium smartphones and tablets in creating new digital markets that embrace the full potential of cutting-edge technologies like next-generation mobile DRAM,” Joo Sun Choi, Samsung’s executive vice president of memory sales and marketing, said in a statement.



Rovio Seeks Resurgence, Growth In Asia With ‘Angry Birds 2′

August 21, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Gaming

Finnish mobile gaming company Rovio Entertainment, popular for its high-flying “Angry Birds,” is hoping to rebound from a tough 2014 and to expand in Asia by tailoring its games to draw local consumers.

After reporting a 73 percent drop in its 2014 earnings due to a decline in the licensing of the “Angry Birds” brand, and cutting about 110 jobs, Rovio is focusing on going local, the company’s chief commercial officer Alex Lambeek told Reuters this week.

“(We have the) building capability to scale into parts of the world where we haven’t been strong in the past and a big part of that is actually working with partners, not trying to do everything ourselves,” said Lambeek, who joined the company from Fox International Channels in April.

“Angry Birds,” which was released in 2009 as a mobile game and fast became a hit, allowed players to fling an array of birds at pigs using a virtual slingshot.

“Angry Birds 2,” released last month, adds more characters, high-definition scenes, options to pick which bird to fling and the ability to compete with friends.

China accounts for a third of the nearly 40 million downloads of “Angry Birds 2″ since July 30, making it the top market. That is in line with the first “Angry Birds,” which Rovio said has seen nearly one billion Chinese downloads, out of what the company says is a total of 3 billion game downloads since 2009.

For Birds 2, Rovio partnered with Chinese mobile gaming company Kunlun Inc to make changes within the prompts and language used to target the way Chinese players are used to gaming, Lambeek said.

Chinese customers “want to be spoken to and listened to in their own language with their own specific humor,” he said.

Rovio hopes the new game renews interest in the brand ahead of May 2016′s “The Angry Birds Movie.”




Will Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 620 Be A Success?

August 11, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has announced its Snapdragon 620, a successor to the reasonably successful Snapdragon 615.

The new chip is Qualcomm’s first to feature a brand new quad core cluster of four Cortex A72 1.8 GHz cores and four more A53 based 1.2GHz cores.

The new Qualcomm chip supports dual channel LPDDR3 memory at 933MHz and the as yet unidentified next generation of Adreno graphics which will probably be branded as 5xx series. Qualcomm promises to support the latest graphics APIs, hardware tessellation and geometry shading.

The new SoC, which targets the mainstream phones, comes with support for Cat 7 speeds of up to 300 Mbps down/100 Mbps up via 2×20 MHz carrier aggregation in the downlink and uplink on LTE FDD and LTE TDD. The SoC supports LTE Broadcast, LTE multimode dual SIM and VoLTE with HD Voice and SRVCC and comes with Qualcomm VIVE 1-stream 802.11ac, Qualcomm IZat location services, USB 2.0 and Bluetooth Smart 4.1.

The chip supports Quad HD 2560×1600 screen, and Miracast for up to 1080p wireless displays, 4K@30fps capture, 1080p@120fps capture with Hardware HEVC (H.265) encode and decode. Those with dual ISPs can support up to 21MP ZSL @ 24fps and 930MP/sec throughput, local tone mapping and enhanced AF.

The higher end Snapdragon 820 comes with four Hydra based cores and 14nm manufacturing node. We are not sure what function the mainstream Snapdragon 620 processor will have for Qualcomm.

If you look more carefully at Snapdragon 620 you will notice that this chip is a declocked version of Snapdragon 810, but it comes with Cortex A72 instead of Cortex A57.  This promises to bring the performance close to Snapdragon 810 to the mainstream market phones in early 2016.

Snapdragon 820 is expected to be the performance leader in Qualcomm land and we expect to learn a bit more about the chip this week.



Will Qualcomm Unveil The Snapdragon 820 SoC Next Week?

August 7, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm is set to unveil its new Snapdragon 820 SoC on August 11 in LA and more details are being leaked than you would see at a Welsh leak recipe contest.

It appears that the new Snapdragon 820 will have the catchy title MSM8996 and it promises some significant performance improvements in key areas. We already know that it will not be catching fire, but it also has a 40 per cent GPU performance increase with its A530 GPU.

The device is also claimed to have a 30 per cent power improvement with 64b of shared virtual memory with the CPU.

Another big area of improvement is the Hydra CPU, which claims a 35 percent improvement compared to the Snapdragon 810.

The Snapdragon 820 will support 4k60 entertainment and high-speed data connectivity.

There are rumours that there will be a QFE3100 Envelope Tracking system this will not speed up mail in the criminally slow Italian Post Office, but should create a lower power and a thermal footprint. A dedicated low power sensor is integrated for always on use.

Another major upgrade compared to the older SoC is a switch from 20nm to 14nm FinFET manufacturing process. We are still expecting the Xiaomi Mi5 to be the first one to use it.



AT&T Announces A Single Nationwide Wireless And TV Package

August 5, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Wireless video to smartphones and tablets moved closer to reality with AT&T’s announcement of a single nationwide package of pay TV and wireless services on a single bill.

For $200 a month and starting Aug. 10, AT&T said it will offer a combination of high definition and DVR (digital video recorder) services for up to four TVs as well as unlimited talk and text for four wireless lines and 10 GB of shareable wireless data. The carrier said the package represents a savings of $600 over the first year.

Of course, customers don’t have to use their smartphones or tablets to receive video content wirelessly, but AT&T predicted they will with the new All in One plan.

“We’re going to deliver more TV and entertainment choices to more screens—when and where customers want it,” noted Brad Bentley, chief marketing officer for AT&T Entertainment and Internet Services.

Demand for wireless video has been pushing the expansion of network switches, wireless routers and faster 4G LTE networks nationwide at a growth rate that will continue to explode.

The announcement came just two weeks after AT&T bought DirecTV, expanding its existing U-verse pay TV service to reach 55 million Americans, making it the largest pay TV provider in the world. AT&T also has 132 million wireless subscribers and connections in the U.S. and Mexico.

New DirecTV subscribers will be able to gain immediate access to video programs on compatible mobile devices via an app as soon as they leave one of 2,000 AT&T retail stores selling the service. They will have wireless access even before the TV service is installed at their homes or other locations.

While the new combined billing plan is apparently targeted mainly toward consumers, it will inevitably affect businesses that support workers who use their personal devices for work in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environment.



Wall Street Appears To Back FinFET

June 16, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Leading Wall Street analyst JPMorgan has decided that FinFET technology is going to do wonders to the top chip capital equipment companies bottom lines.

In a statement the bean counters claim that chips have been through a long evolution process that will only continue into the future.

The report said that FinFET technology design chips are the breakthrough that could be monumental for the leaders in the field and those producing them.

Some believe the FinFET transistor structure promises to rejuvenate the chip industry by rescuing it from the short-channel effects that limit device scalability faced by current planar transistor structure, the report said.

The JPMorgan analysts said that with the ability to achieve higher performance designs at lower power, there will be a long string of FinFET-related equipment investments in the coming years.

FinFETs are estimated to be up to 37 per cent faster while using less than half the dynamic power or cut static leakage current by as much as 90 per cent.

It also thinks that any shareholder wanting to make a bob or two should invest in the three companies that are making them.

Despite reporting solid first-quarter earnings that were above consensus, and giving guidance that was in line with expectations, the stock has continued to underperform.

The difference between whether a firm is making FinFETs or not could be the best way of telling if a firm is going to do well.

JPMorgan analysts see continued FinFET capacity expansion and transition to 3D NAND, with DRAM spending remaining strong next year.



Are Notebook Sales On The Rise?

June 12, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The PC maker Quanta Computer’s has reported a surprise hike in the sales of notebooks. According to the company its notebook shipments reached 3.4 million units in May, up 6.25 per cent on month from 3.2 million units in April. Quanta’s notebook shipments are estimated to grow 10 per cent sequentially to reach 10.89 million units in the second quarter. The outfit said that it will ship 4.29 million notebooks in June. Things might get even better in July when Windows 10 is scheduled to be released. The Tame Apple press is doing its best to play down the release, claiming that it is uncertain if the new operating system is able to attract consumers to purchase new PC devices. Part of this is because Redmond is allowing consumers to freely upgrade their existing PCs to Windows 10, making purchasing a new PC no longer important. Quanta is dependent on notebooks for 70 per cent of its revenues. The rest of its 14.1 per cent on-month revenue growth in May was mainly contributed by Apple Watch orders which could lead to tears if this market dries up. Courtesy-Fud

Acer Shifts Focus To IoT

June 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Acer is still churning out PCs, but the Taiwanese vendor is far more bullish about the Internet of Things (IoT), a market the company doesn’t want to miss out on.

Acer held a news conference not for a new consumer product, but to promote an upcoming miniature PC that will be sold to developers.

The PC, called the aBeing One, will arrive in the third quarter, and is aimed at developers working in the IoT area. It’s designed to connect to smart home and wearable products, and act as a hub that can analyze incoming data from the devices.

The PC vendor has spoken to many IoT companies looking for an affordable hardware system they can develop on, said Robert Wang, a general manager with Acer.

“Fast-moving IoT developers keep running into this issue,” he said after Acer’s news conference. “Now they can buy from us.”

It’s a big change for the vendor, given that it once focused on selling consumer notebooks. However, with PC sales sagging and competition rife in the mobile devices area, the company has been shifting toward enterprise products.

That emphasis was apparent at this week’s Computex show in Taipei. Acer notebooks and tablets were still on display, but equal billing was given to itscloud computing business, which is starting to power IoT devices, not only from Acer, but also its clients.

In addition, Acer is hoping to pave the way for more third-party IoT devices. It has partnered with Canonical to install a version of Ubuntu on its aBeing product, so that the hardware can serve Ubuntu developers working on smart connected gadgets.



AT&T To Offer Exclusive Content For Connected Cars

May 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T Inc is preparing to bring connected car users exclusive content such as videos and games that can be streamed onto personal mobile devices later this year, AT&T’s senior vice president of emerging devices Chris Penrose said.

“It’s no different than being able to hook onto a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere and get access to content you already subscribe to and get unique content that you could only get in the back of the vehicle,” Penrose said.

AT&T has signed up eight automaker partners, including General Motors Co, Audi AG and Ford Motor Co, to hook up cars with Internet access. The goal is to offer free or paid content exclusively for connected car users and sell more data, Penrose said in a recent interview.

AT&T is talking to its auto industry partners and content companies to bring new content like “special” shows or gaming levels on phones and tablets in connected cars, Penrose said. This would be in addition to subscription services such as Hulu and Netflix that users can already stream on mobile devices.

Most Americans already own a mobile phone, and the $1.7 trillion U.S. wireless industry is turning to connected cars and devices for growth. Besides being the essential pipes that deliver data, telecom players such as AT&T are looking to extract revenue from content.

GM has begun testing new content on its OnStar in-vehicle service best known for connecting drivers to live operators for directions or emergency help.

The subscription-based service, which also sells data to drivers, has special offers and some exclusive content on apps such as Famigo, an educational app for kids, and TumblebooksTV, a children’s digital books app. It also has retail partnerships with Dunkin’ Donuts and travel booking site for location-based deals.

AT&T is exploring business models that include revenue share for data, content and advertising with automakers, content and retail partners, Penrose said without sharing specific details.

AT&T is working with automakers to design a landing page or a portal for users to log in to access content, get vehicle service updates and buy data, he said.



Is Qualcomm Making A Deca-Core Snapdragon?

May 15, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

It appears that MediaTek’s move to bring out an octa-core processor has disturbed the mighty Qualcomm.

When the MT6797 SoC came out, there was much mirth amongst MediaTek’s rivals but it turns out that Qualcomm has followed suit after all.

Qualcomm’s version is called the Snapdragon 818, which will probably be a deca-core CPU. Word on the street is that the chip will depend on four low-1.2GHz Cortex-A53 power cores, two middle-range 1.6GHz Cortex-A53 cores, plus four high-power cores of the 2.0GHz Cortex A72 type. It will supports LPDDR4 RAM and will run the Adreno 532 GPU.

This should mean that it can run LTE Cat-10 when that hits the shops. The chip will use 20nm process technology.

If the rumors are correct then it means that the 818 SoC will be slower than MedaTek’s new chip.

Qualcomm is yet to confirm the existence of this piece of silicone, so it is all just rumors. However if it is true, it does mean that MedaTek’s effort was a lot more important than many of its rivals admitted.


Google Says Most Searches Now Come From Mobile

May 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google now gets more search queries from mobile devices than it does from PCs.

The company noted this milestone in mobile computing in a blog post.

“Billions of times per day, consumers turn to Google for I want-to-know, I want-to-go, I want-to-do, and I want-to-buy moments,” wrote Jerry Dischler, Google’s vice president of product management. “And at these times, consumers are increasingly picking up their smartphones for answers. In fact, more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the U.S. and Japan.”

That, he added, presents what he calls a “tremendous opportunity” for businesses to reach people through this new touchpoint.

The news about mobile search overshadowing desktop searches means we’ve officially entered a “mobile-first” world, according to Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research.

“Instead of using our PCs at home and augmenting them with mobile, we are mobile first, so no matter where we are or what we are doing we can find the information we need right then and there,” he added. “The phrases “I’ll take care of that when I get back to the office,” or “I’ll take care of that when I get home,” have been eradicated from our vocabulary.”

This week’s announcement puts Google’s recent mobile search changes into context.

Early last month, Google announced it was changing the algorithm it uses for mobile searches to give websites designed to be mobile friendly better positioning in search results.

Websites that aren’t designed to run well and look good on mobile devices simply won’t get good placement in search results — neither on mobile devices nor on desktops.

“The fact that Google is prioritizing mobile sites means Google’s ads need to be oriented around mobile,” said Kerravala. “I think it is changing what Google does with ads, meaning ads are going to need to become more localized.