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Elon Musk Opens Training ‘Gym’ For AI Programmers

May 2, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Techie entrepreneur Elon Musk has rolled out an open-source training “gym” for artificial-intelligence programmers.

It’s an interesting move for a man who in 2014 said artificial intelligence, or A.I., will pose a threat to the human race.

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence,” Musk said about a year and a half ago during an MIT symposium. “If I were to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that… with artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. In all those stories with the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, and he’s sure he can control the demon. It doesn’t work out.”

Today, Musk is moving to help programmers use A.I. and machine learning to build smart robots and smart devices.

“We’re releasing the public beta of OpenAI Gym, a toolkit for developing and comparing reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms,” wrote Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s CTO, and John Schulman, a scientist working with OpenAI, in a blog post . “We originally built OpenAI Gym as a tool to accelerate our own RL research. We hope it will be just as useful for the broader community.”

The OpenAI Gym is meant as a tool for programmers to use to teach their intelligent systems better ways to learn and develop more complex reasoning. In short, it’s meant to make smart systems smarter.

Musk is a co-chair of OpenAI, a $1 billion organization that was unveiled last December as an effort focused on advancing artificial intelligence that will benefit humanity.

While Musk has warned of what he sees as the perils of A.I., it’s also a technology that he needs for his businesses.

The OpenAI Gym is made up of a suite of environments, including simulated robots and Atari games, as well as a site for comparing and reproducing results.

It’s focused on reinforcement learning, a field of machine learning that involves decision-making and motor control.

According to OpenAI, reinforcement learning is an important aspect of building intelligent systems because it encompasses any problem that involves making a sequence of decisions. For instance, it could focus on controlling a robot’s motors so it’s able to run and jump, or enabling a system to make business decisions regarding pricing and inventory management.

Two major challenges for developers working with reinforcement learning are the lack of standard environments and the need for better benchmarks.

Musk’s group is hoping that the OpenAI Gym addresses both of those issues.

 

 

 

 

TiVo To Be Acquired By Rovi

May 2, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Online entertainment company Rovi plans to purchase digital video recording firm TiVo for $1.1 billion in a stock and cash deal, the companies announced on Friday.

TiVo has cloud-based technology for integrating live, recorded, on-demand and Internet television into one user interface, with search, discovery, viewing and recording options from a variety of devices. Its technology has been deployed by operators including Virgin Media and Vodafone Spain.

Rovi announced in March that Sharp’s new Aquos TVs would include its G-Guide electronic programming guide.

The combined company is forecast to have more than $800 million in revenue in the current year. More than 10 million TiVo-served households are expected to be added to the current base of about 18 million homes that use Rovi guides. The new entity will serve nearly 500 service providers worldwide, the companies said.

The deal between Rovi and TiVo, besides creating a large media and entertainment technology company with complementary products and services, will also lead to the setting up of a company with a worldwide portfolio of more than 6,000 issued patents and pending applications worldwide.

The two companies have a strong licensing business and have also sued key players like  Comcast for patent infringement in the past. The companies said they have more than $3 billion in combined IP licensing revenue and past damage awards.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter and the combined company will use the TiVo name. Tom Carson, CEO of Rovi will be the chief executive of the new company.

 

 

Is Motorola Going To Court?

May 2, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Lenovo owned Motorola has been slapped with a $5m class action lawsuit over allegations of shoddy customer service and not honoring warranty policies.

News of the lawsuit comes via Trusted Reviews, which learned this week that the complaint was filed against Motorola on 21 April in Illinois, accusing the company of “unfair, unscrupulous, immoral and oppressive” business practices.

The lawsuit’s main plaintiff, Douglas Lynch, decided to take legal action after a long-drawn out battle over a Moto 360 repair. He contacted Motorola for a replacement after the backplate of his smartwatch cracked, and was informed that a replacement would take four days to reach him.

The replacement failed to arrive, and Lynch was eventually sent a Moto 360 two months later that was a cheaper model than the one he had purchased.

Lynch isn’t alone in having a bad experience with Motorola. Girard Gibbs LLP, one of the law firms handling the case, told Trusted Reviews that Motorola owes “thousands of people” compensation.

This is evident on Reddit, where pissed off Motorola customers have flocked to tell similar stories.

One Redditor said:  ”I have had some of the worst support from them on my Moto G 3rd gen I bought last year.

“I tried to buy an extended warranty plan they supposedly offered, but their website was so jankedy that even after a few escalations over a FEW MONTHS to various higher ups in their support department with no resolution to the problem I finally just gave up and decided to never buy a Motorola phone again.”

Another added: “Wish someone would do the same in the UK as they wouldn’t replace my 6 month old 360 and I ended up having to pay about £120 to get it fixed when it was a hardware problem.”

Esfand Nafisi, an attorney at Girard Gibbs LLP, explained that the actual compensation owed is “likely higher” than the $5m referred to in the original filing, adding: “We want these issues to be resolved for all consumers.”

Motorola said in a statement: “Motorola has a long history of providing exceptional products and services to its customers. We are aware of the lawsuit, and are investigating the claims, which we believe to be without merit.”

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Apple’s Mac Slump Continues, Sales Tumble 12%

April 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Apple revealed that it sold 4 million Macs in the March quarter, a 12% decline from the same period the year before, and a larger contraction than for the personal computer business as a whole.

The year-over-year downturn in Mac sales was the second straight down quarter, and excepting a brutal 22% drop at the end of 2012, the largest since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007.

Analysts at IDC and Gartner earlier this month pegged the continued contraction of the PC industry at 11.5% and 9.6%, respectively. Both also missed the actual Mac number for the quarter in their forecasts for Apple, overestimating by 11% to 13%: IDC had tapped shipments at 4.5 million, while Gartner said it was 4.6 million.

Apple had been on an extended streak of besting the PC average, with sometimes-impressive gains during the four-years-and-counting slump of the overall market. But the March quarter’s results put an end to the years-long run, which the Cupertino, Calif. company often touted.

Neither CEO Tim Cook or CFO Luca Maestri mentioned the end of the streak in Tuesday’s earnings call with Wall Street.

“It was a challenging quarter for personal computer sales across the industry,” said Maestri, stating the obvious.

Cook said that Mac sales “met our sell-in expectations” and added that he remained optimistic about Apple’s computer business, a sentiment a CEO is duty-bound to share. “We’re confident in our Mac business and our ability to continue to innovate and gain share in that area,” Cook said.

But Mac-generated revenue for the quarter was $5.1 billion, 9% lower than the same period in 2015, and the smallest amount recorded for the line in almost three years.

Macs accounted for 10.1% of Apple’s total revenue of $50.1 billion, but the computer group slipped to No. 3 on the company’s list, behind — by a country mile — the iPhone (accounting for 65% of all revenue) and, for the first time, the relatively new Services category, which contributed 11.8% of all incoming dollars.

 

 

 

Intel’s Updated USB Type-C Designed To Replace Headphone Jacks

April 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Intel this week unveiled plans to make an upgraded USB Type-C connector that would enable audio input and output, potentially replacing the long-standard 3.5 millimeter headphone jack used in today’s electronic devices.

Intel, which revealed its plans during a lecture at its Intel Developers Forum (IDF) in Shenzhen, China, also believes USB Type-C would simplify connections of multi-channel audio equipment to various devices.

Unlike the traditional 3.5mm analogue audio jack, a USB Type-C interface could charge a device in addition to transmitting sound and data. For example, it could transfer health and fitness data from a mobile device.

The USB Type-C connectors are reversible, so orientation isn’t an issue when plugging something into a device. The USB 3.1 Gen1 specification offers up to 5Gbps of data throughput; the Gen2 specification offers up to 10Gbps.

USB Type-C cables and connectors would replace the last analog receptacles on computers and mobile devices. Intel’s strategy was first reported by AnandTech.

In Intel’s presentation, it described USB C-Type connectors as being able to support both analog and digital musical content. But the upgraded connector would “promote” a changeover from analog to digital as users would see “improved digital headset features.”

A USB Type-C connector that supports audio feeds would also enable new form-factors, improve user experience and “provide a future path for USB technologies,” Intel said in the presentation.

 

 

 

Samsung’s Gear 360 VR Camera Goes On Sale

April 29, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Samsung’s Gear 360 camera for creating virtual reality content went on sale online today, the company announced.

The Gear 360 will initially be available only in South Korea and Singapore, a company representative said. A U.S. shipping date hasn’t been announced. In Korea, it will cost 399,000 won (US$347).

The camera, a bit larger than a golf ball, is Samsung’s bid to get consumers involved in creating virtual-reality content instead of just consuming it.

“We think 2016 is shaping up to be the year of VR,” said Andrew Dickerson, director of software engineering for Samsung VR, in a keynote presentation at the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco.

The camera will have two 180-degree fisheye lenses back to back and will stitch together the video from each for a 360-degree view. With a total of 30 megapixels of resolution, it will provide 4K video quality. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge smartphones will link directly to the Gear 360 to act as live viewfinders.

VR is a key part of Samsung’s combined hardware, software and services strategy. The Gear 360 will join the Gear VR viewer and the recently announced Milk VR service for authoring and sharing content as part of the company’s plan to expand in this area.

In the next few years, Samsung expects to deliver a “holodeck” experience, said Injong Rhee, executive vice president and head of R&D for software and services. He was referring to the virtual environment used on the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

That experience will be truly immersive and allow users to roam around a physical space. It will make use of capabilities like gesture tracking to allow users to feel they are touching virtual objects, he said. To do this, the company is working to overcome problems including poor image quality, insufficient computing power, the heavy weight and restricted mobility of VR headsets, and the dizziness some users experience, Rhee said.

 

 

 

Can USB-C Replace The 3.5mm Headphone Jack?

April 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has called for the standard 3.5mm headphone jack to be dropped in favor of connections like USB-C.

Intel does not think there is much wrong with the 3.5mm audio jack, but apparently there are more advantages to a digital connection. USB-C would allow would mean higher quality and “cleaner” audio, apparently. USB-C could also allow for headphones to track health data like your body temperature and tell the doctors if your ears are bleeding.

At present, Intel is finalizing the USB Type-C Digital Audio technology and plans to release its specification later in Q2. The company does not reveal a lot about the standard right now, but notes that it is working on updating the USB Audio Device Class 2.0 specifications to support new connector, expand the list of recent audio specifications and features, improve power management and simplify the discovery and configuration model to make the upcoming headsets as easy to use as today’s headsets.

Intel calls like this can be taken with a grain of salt. OEMs are the people who decide this sort of thing, but with Intel’s support maybe more companies might consider it. However digital is not all it is cracked up to be.  In the audio world there is a new trend back to old style vinyl and tube amps are still a thing.

At the moment there is no actual music being produced and those who can actually write good music are dying off, so it probably does not matter what headphone socket you have – there is going to be nothing worth listening to in a few years.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Is Nintendo Making A Mistaking With The NX?

April 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo has confirmed that its next-gen console, the Nintendo NX, will launch in March 2017.

Causing many to screw up their Christmas lists, the company told shareholders during its earnings call on Tuesday: “For our dedicated video game platform business, Nintendo is currently developing a gaming platform codenamed ‘NX’ with a brand-new concept. NX will be launched in March 2017 globally.”

Probably also causing some to cancel a trip to Los Angeles, Nintendo said that the NX will not be demonstrated at the upcoming E3 video games conference in June, despite speculation that Sony plans to show off its so-called PlayStation 4.5 console.

Nintendo’s keynote at the games show will focus instead on the next Legend of Zelda game, which will launch simultaneously on the Wii U and Nintendo NX in 2017. Rumour has it that Smash Bros 4, Splatoon and Super Mario Maker are all set to receive an NX makeover too.

A launch is now less than a year away, but we still don’t know much about the Nintendo NX, which Nintendo confirmed this week is just a codename for the incoming console. However, rumour claims that it will arrive as a hybrid between a home console and a mobile games console to sit alongside the New Nintendo 3DS.

Nintendo president and CEO Tatsumi Kimishima reiterated in December last year that the company is “not building the next version of Wii or Wii U” and that the device will be something “unique and different”.

News of the Nintendo NX’s launch date no doubt came as the firm looked to play down the fact that its profits fell 61 per cent year over year. Worked, didn’t it?

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Twitter Troubles Continue, Misses Revenue Estimates

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Twitter Inc  disappointed investors once again with first-quarter results that revealed stagnant revenue growth as the microblogging service struggles to grab new users amid efforts to improve its complicated interface with several new features.

Twitter’s user base grew modestly to 310 million monthly active users in the quarter ended March 31 from 305 million in the fourth quarter, above analysts’ expectations. But investors were let down by the revenue miss since outlining a turnaround plan.

“It’s obvious Twitter is having trouble,” said Arvind Bhatia, analyst with CRT Capital. “It’s not growing anywhere close to where people expected a while back.”

On a call with analysts, executives said advertisers, especially in Europe, held back spending ahead of major events, including the Olympics and the European Champions League. They also said users were spending more time watching and sharing video, but that advertisers’ budgets had not yet shifted from legacy advertising products such as promoted tweets.

Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said Twitter’s long-term goal was to have “millions of advertisers like our competitors.” Facebook Inc has more than 3 million advertisers.

Twitter has struggled with stagnant user growth as its complex interface makes it less attractive to new users.

As part of its turnaround plan, the company has emphasized its live offerings, including live commentary and video streaming through its Periscope app, to attract new users. But it faces fierce competition from Facebook Inc  which has recently ramped up its live video product, Facebook Live.

Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said that talent recruitment was a top priority for the year, especially on the engineering and product teams. Twitter lost several top executives earlier this year and has since added two new board members and a new chief marketing officer.

The company forecast revenue of $590 million to $610 million for the second quarter. Analysts on average were expecting $677.57 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

First-quarter revenue rose 36 percent from a year earlier to $594.5 million, but widely missed the average analyst estimate of $607.8 million.

 

 

Mac Finally Gets Skype For Business App

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft’s new business communication product is finally making its way to the Mac.

The company announced the first technical preview of Skype for Business for Mac on Tuesday, giving users of Apple computers an easy way to connect to meetings they have scheduled through Microsoft’s professional audio and videoconferencing software.

When users sign into the app, they’ll see their Skype for Business meetings for the current day and the following one, and will be able to easily join in with the other people invited.

Skype for Business is the successor to the company’s venerable Lync product, which is still available for Mac during this transition.

The final release of the Mac version of Skype for Business is slated for the third quarter. Between now and then, Microsoft has two additional beta phases planned for the app. The second beta phase will include instant messaging, presence indicators and access to a user’s contacts.

In the third beta phase, Microsoft will bring along support for telephony and other advanced features supported by other versions of the product. That’s important for businesses that have paid for advanced Skype for Business features like the ability to place phone calls from the application over a traditional phone line.

This beta push is part of Microsoft’s ongoing strategy to extend the reach of its products to a wide variety of platforms, including the Mac.

 

Apple Optimistic About iPhone SE Sales

April 28, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

After experiencing its first-ever drop in iPhone sales, Apple Inc sought to reassure investors by saying its latest and cheapest model was in strong demand after being launched in late March. Some retailers and suppliers in Asia aren’t so sure.

In a Reuters survey of 10 retailers in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, seven – including four Apple Stores – reported solid early demand, but three third-party retailers said sales were weak. Two suppliers of components for Apple phones, including the new iPhone SE, said they were seeing lower orders.

“I’ve been dealing with iPhones for five to six years now. This current quarter for Apple feels weak,” said an executive at a Taiwan-based company whose components are used in iPhones including the SE model, which markets for $399. “Our current shipment situation for Apple is not like the last two years. There are more iPhone models, but the total volume of iPhones is falling.”

Such a mixed outlook from Greater China, its most important market after the United States and generator of a quarter of the company’s revenue, could be a major cause of concern for Apple.

The company’s revenue from the region, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, dropped 26 percent in the March quarter, making it the weakest region in the world.

“iPhone is still popular but sales have dropped because… there’s no new model and the SE is similar to 5C. So it doesn’t sell well,” said Zhu You Peng, a salesman at Apple product reseller Xiongyu in Shenzhen. The 5C was Apple’s last attempt to produce a cheaper phone, back in 2013.

Zhu said it sold around 300 iPhones per month last year but the number has dropped to around 100-200 this year.

That view contrasts with upbeat comments about the phone from Apple’s Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri on Tuesday.

“The situation right now around the world is that we are supply-constrained,” he told Reuters, referring to the iPhone SE. “The demand has been very, very strong.”

The iPhone SEs are sold out in Apple’s own stores in mainland China and customers have to wait about three weeks to get the product delivered by Apple, according to Apple’s websites. The size of the original supplies to the stores is unclear.

 

 

 

Will NASA Go OpenStack At JPL?

April 28, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has built a new private cloud based on Red Hat’s build of the OpenStack framework to fulfill the growing computing requirements of its space missions, such as the Mars rovers.

The move was announced to coincide with the OpenStack Summit, and means that NASA’s JPL has access to enterprise-scale computing resources that will enable researchers to tap into their own private cloud and maximise the organisation’s server and storage capacity to process flight projects and research data.

The new cloud has been built by JPL’s own engineers, but Red Hat said that its experience from long-term participation in the OpenStack Foundation and key upstream contributions to specific platform projects made it well suited as the partner for this collaboration.

The move is not NASA’s first involvement with OpenStack. In fact, the entire OpenStack project grew out of a collaboration between the space agency and hosting firm Rackspace to develop an open source cloud computing platform to help drive the administration’s next generation of projects.

Red Hat said that by using its Red Hat OpenStack Platform to build their private cloud, the JPL’s engineers managed to save significant time and resources by retooling and consolidating in-house hardware rather than procuring entirely new infrastructure.

“This is a testament to the reliability, availability and scalability offered by a fully open cloud infrastructure built on Red Hat OpenStack Platform. We are proud of the partnership with NASA JPL to meet their needs for an agile infrastructure to meet their projected growth, while helping to reduce the data centre footprint,” said Radhesh Balakrishnan, Red Hat’s general manager for OpenStack.

Red Hat recently released the latest version of its platform, Red Hat OpenStack Platform 8, as well as the Red Hat Cloud Suite which combines its OpenStack build with the OpenShift Enterprise platform-as-a-service layer for running container-based applications and services.

Courtesy-TheInq

Microsoft Kicks Off Two-for-one Lumia Phone Sale

April 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft announced the launch of a two-for-one deal for its Windows-based smartphones, tossing in a free Lumia 950 when customers buy a $649 unlocked top-tier Lumia 950 XL.

The give-away will run until May 1, or while supplies last, Microsoft said on its e-store.

Last week, Microsoft told Wall Street that sales of its Lumia devices — virtually the only smartphones powered by Windows 10 Mobile — plummeted 73% in the March quarter compared to the year before, falling from 8.8 million in 2015 to 2.3 million in 2016. Revenue from its phone division fell 47%, to $662 million, in the first three months of this year.

More to the point of the two-for-one sale, on Thursday, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, Amy Hood, said, “Sell-through of our Lumia products was weak, and we exited the quarter with relatively high channel inventory.” Simply put, poor sales left more than the expected number of devices in stores and warehouses.

The buy-one-get-one-free deal may be Microsoft’s way of flushing out the current overstock.

Buyers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will receive a $549 unlocked Lumia 950 when they purchase an unlocked Lumia 950 XL. The latter is Microsoft’s top-of-the-line Windows 10 Mobile smartphone, which went on sale in November 2015.

The offer is limited to two Lumia pairs per customer.

Microsoft’s smartphone business continued to drag down the Redmond, Wash. firm’s overall revenue outlook. While Hood did not pin a dollar amount to Lumia’s impact on the June quarter, Microsoft’s final in its 2016 fiscal year, she acknowledged that, “We expect year-over-year revenue declines to steepen in Q4 as we work through our Lumia channel position.”

 

 

 

Google Teams With Ford, Uber On Self-driving Car Coalition

April 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s Google unit, Ford Motor Co, Volvo Cars and two ride-sharing companies announced on Tuesday that they are forming a coalition to urge federal action on self-driving cars.

The coalition, which also includes Uber Technologies Inc  and Lyft, is “to work with lawmakers, regulators, and the public to realize the safety and societal benefits of self-driving vehicles.”

The group said David Strickland, the former top official of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will serve as the coalition’s counsel and spokesperson.

“The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards, and the coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles,” Strickland said in a statement.

Sweden-based Volvo Cars is owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.

 

 

T-Mobile Revenue Up, Continues Attracting New Customers

April 27, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile US Inc reported a better-than-expected 10.6 percent rise in quarterly revenue and raised its forecast for customer additions in 2016 as popular discounts aided the No.3 U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers attract more business.

T-Mobile has been offering cheaper leasing plans and free music and video streaming to lure customers away from larger rivals Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.

T-Mobile, controlled by Deutsche Telekom, said it added 2.2 million customers on a net basis in the first quarter ended March 31.

That easily topped the average analyst estimate of 1.72 million, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

The company said it expected to add 3.2 million to 3.6 million postpaid customers on a net basis in 2016, compared with its previous forecast of 2.4 million to 3.4 million.

T-Mobile’s 10.6 percent jump in quarterly revenue to $8.6 billion suggested its strategy to boost revenue was working. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $8.43 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In comparison, market leader Verizon’s operating revenue rose just 0.6 percent to $32.17 billion.

AT&T is scheduled to report results later on Tuesday.

T-Mobile reported net income of $479 million, or 56 cents per share, for the first quarter, compared with a loss of $63 million, or 9 cents per share, a year earlier.