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Is Mozilla Dropping Smartphones For IoT?

February 9, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

The Mozilla Foundation has confirmed details of its shift in strategy for Firefox OS which will see it abandon future phone development in favour of using the software as (yet another) IoT platform.

In an announcement to the developer community by John Bernard, director of collaboration for Connected Devices at Mozilla, and George Roter, head of core contributors, it was confirmed that Firefox OS for smartphones will be canned at version 2.6.

“The circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up, and the conditions were not there for Mozilla to win on commercial smartphones,” they said in a statement.

Meh. Could have told you that one two years ago.

In addition, the Firefox OS Marketplace will no longer accept submissions for Android, desktop and tablet apps. Apps for Firefox OS itself will remain accepted until sometime in 2017.

At the moment, the new emphasis on connected devices is in the internal testing phase with three products ‘past the first gate’ and more in the pipeline. It is expected that this process will be opened to outsiders before the end of the second quarter.

The foxfooding (think dogfooding, or insider programme) will continue, turning its focus to connected products, and by the end of March, Mozilla intends to identify how the existing Sony Z3 Compact devices used for testing so far will figure going forwards.

The statement continued “Obviously, these decisions are substantial. The main reason they are being made is to ensure we are focusing our energies and resources on bringing the power of the web to IoT. And let’s remember why we’re doing this: we’re entering this exciting, fragmented space to ensure users have choice through interoperable, open solutions, and for us to act as their advocates for data privacy and security.”

This seems to suggest that Mozilla wants to help the fragmentation issue by fragmenting it further. This is the ongoing problem with connected devices – everyone wants to be the one to end the fragmentation with their solution.

One of the solutions through the internal tests early doors is the Firefox Smart TV platform, an already fragmented market that should still be licking its wounds from the Matchstick debacle.

Roter adds, “Our push into the Connected Devices space will absolutely necessitate strong community support for our initiatives to be successful – and that means hacking on and testing new product innovations coming through the pipeline.”



Will Toshiba Totally Focus On NAND?

January 27, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Toshiba is getting out the processor business so that it can concentrate on making memory as it tries to recover from its $1.3 billion accounting scandal.

The Japanese press has suggested that Toshiba has  interest in part of its chip making business from the Development Bank of Japan. The state-owned bank has already invested in Seiko’s semiconductor operations.

Toshiba is keeping its  NAND flash memory operations and will chuck some of the money it has not got into improving production.

What will be sold is its LSI and discrete chips, which are widely used in cars, home appliances and industrial machinery.  In fact it is one of the few companies trying to get out of the automotive industry.  Some of this is because Tosh has not made much money out of it. This division lost $2.78 billion in the year ended March 2015.

Following the accounting scandal, Toshiba has been focusing on nuclear and other energy operations, as well as its storage business, which centers on NAND flash memory chips.



Lenovo To Introduce Project Tango Mobile Phone This Summer

January 11, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Lenovo will start selling a sub-$500 mobile phone that uses Google’s Project Tango 3D mapping technology starting this summer, the company announced at CES.

Project Tango is an ongoing effort by Google to allow a mobile device like a smartphone to measure spaces and provide information to a user that can be useful for navigating indoor locations. Lenovo also envisions adding augmented reality apps that can be used in games or in shopping for furniture and sizing up how the furniture fits in a room. The apps rely on the physical space around a smartphone user as detected by the 3D Project Tango technology.

The phone’s display will be smaller than 6.5-in. and the body very thin, although Lenovo hasn’t yet come up with a name, Jeff Meredith, Lenovo vice president of development, said during a press conference. It will use a Snapdragon processor and run Android, no surprise given the phone’s connection to Google.

Adding Project Tango to a smartphone is a “fundamental shift,” Meredith said. “This has significant capability of changing how we interact with smartphones.”

The device will feature three cameras in addition to the two traditional cameras used on modern smartphones. The three are a depth sensor, a fisheye camera for wide angle views and an RGB (red, green, blue) camera for acquiring very accurate color images.

Google Project Tango’s head of development, Johnny Lee, used a special 7-in. tablet developed by Google to show off how Tango will work. He measured the length and width of a small stage where he stood, calculated the size of a box onstage and played a virtual game of Jenga.

Lee was also able to show how he could fit a virtual couch and a refrigerator into the space on the stage, as depicted on the tablet screen.

Lenovo didn’t offer many details about the phone and showed photos that only offered a glimpse of what it will look like.




IPv6 Turns 20, Did You Notice?

January 6, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

IPv6 is 20 years old and the milestone has been celebrated with 10 percent adoption across the world for the first time.

The idea that IPv6 remains so far behind its saturated incumbent, IPv4, is horrifying given that three continents ran out of IPv4 addresses in 2015. Unfortunately, because the product isn’t ‘end of life’ most internet providers have been working on a ‘not broken, don’t fix it’ basis.

But 2016 looks to be the year when IPv6 makes its great leap to the mainstream, in Britain at least. BT, the UK’s biggest broadband provider, has already committed to switch on IPv6 support by the end of the year, and most premises will be IPv6-capable by April. Most companies use the same lines, but it will be up to each individual supplier to switch over. Plusnet, a part of BT, is a likely second.

IPv6 has a number of advantages over IPv4, most notably that it is virtually infinite, meaning that the capacity problems that the expanded network is facing shouldn’t come back to haunt us again. It will also pave the way for ever faster, more secure networks.

Some private corporate networks have already made the switch. Before Christmas we reported that the UK Ministry of Defence was already using the protocol, leaving thousands of unused IPv4 addresses lying idle in its wake.

IPv6 is also incredibly adaptable for the Internet of Things. Version 4.2 of the Bluetooth protocol includes IPv6 connectivity as standard, making it a lot easier for tiny nodes to make up a larger internet-connected grid.

Google’s latest figures suggest that more than 10 percent of users are running IPv6 connections at the weekend, while the number drops to eight percent on weekdays. This suggests that the majority of movement towards IPv6 is happening in the residential broadband market.

That said, it is imperative that businesses begin to make the leap. As Infoblox IPv6 evangelist Tom Coffeen told us last year, it could start to affect the speed at which you are able to trade.

“If someone surfs onto your site and its only available in IPv4, but they are using IPv6, there has to be some translation, which puts your site at a disadvantage. If I’ve not made my site available in IPv6, I’m no longer in control over where that translation occurs.”

In other words, if you don’t catch up, you will soon get left behind. It was ever thus.



Is Samsung Trying To Make The Snapdragon Exclusive?

December 21, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung has reportedly bagged exclusivity on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chip until April, adding further weight to the rumors that it will feature inside the Galaxy S7.

A report from China said that Samsung has signed a deal with Qualcomm that will give it exclusive rights to the firm’s next-gen chip until April next year.

If true, this means that, for the first three months of 2016, no other manufacturer will be able to launch a device sporting the next-gen SoC, while Samsung is widely expected to launch the Snapdragon 820-equipped Galaxy S7 at Mobile World Congress at the end of February.

Samsung hasn’t yet responded to our request for comment, but these latest rumors follow reports that the firm has been optimizing Qualcomm’s latest chip ahead of the upcoming launch to ensure it doesn’t suffer the same overheating problems as the Snapdragon 810 before it.

Qualcomm has been quick to debunk talk of potential overheating, though, saying in a statement: “The rumors circulating in the media regarding Snapdragon 820 performance are false. The Snapdragon 820 improves on all IP blocks and is fabricated in the second generation of the 14nm process technology.

“It is meeting all of our specifications, but more importantly, it is satisfying the thermal and performance specifications from our OEMs.”

Alongside the Snapdragon-packing Galaxy S7, Samsung is also reportedly planning to launch a version that features its own Exynos 8890 processor.

We don’t yet know what is likely to feature inside Samsung’s next smartphone, but a report in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week claimed that the Galaxy S7 will launch with a pressure-sensitive display, offering similar functionality to the 3D Touch technology that debuted on the iPhone 6S earlier this year.

The same report also said that the smartphone looks set to arrive with a USB Type-C port, retina scanning functionality and a microSD slot, unlike the Galaxy S6.



Is Toshiba Going To Split?

December 1, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Troubled Japanese outfit Toshiba is considering splitting off part of its chip business in a bid to help it raise the cash it lost on its accounting scandal.

Toshiba needs a restructuring after revealing a number of unprofitable businesses which were hidden by some creative accounting. It agreed in October to sell its image sensor business to Sony. However it has been placed on a Tokyo Stock Exchange watch list and the outfit faces difficulty raising funds through the sale of shares or bonds.

Chief executive Masashi Muromachi told a news conference he was considering flogging every asset possible. NAND flash memory chips was a core business and would not be sold, which effectively leaves system LSI and discrete chips as options to split off.

The semiconductor business requires continuous investment to maintain its competitiveness against rivals such as Samsung Electronics and the thought is that when the bank manager is not returning your calls it is best to cut back on it. Some of Toshiba’s chips end up under the bonnet of the smartphones designed by the fruity cargo cult Apple.

Tosh already announced that it was flogging of its Malaysian chip assembly unit to US-based Amkor Technology as part of its strategy to consolidate chip operations. At the time it hinted of a big restructuring, but not an actual sell off its chipmaking empire.



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.