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Skype, WhatsApp Calls Allowed Again In Saudi Arabia

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Saudi government has rescinded its ban on calls made through online apps on Thursday but will monitor and censor them, a government spokesman said.

All online voice and video call services – such as Microsoft’s Skype, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger, and Rakuten’s Viber – that satisfy regulatory requirements were set to become accessible overnight.

However, on Thursday morning, Viber appeared to remain blocked inside the kingdom, and WhatsApp worked only when connected to a wireless network.

 Adel Abu Hameed, a spokesman for telecoms regulator CITC, said on Arabiya TV on Wednesday that new regulations were aimed mainly at protecting users’ personal information and blocking content that violated the kingdom’s laws.

Asked if the apps could be monitored by the authorities or companies, he said: “Under no circumstances can the user use an application for video or voice calling without monitoring and censorship by the Communications and Information Technology Commission, whether the application is global or local.”

Is MediaTek Falling Behind

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

According to Digitimes, the outfit is not going be able to release anything using these technologies in 2018, as it has moved to focus on the mid-range smartphone market segment.

MediaTek has shifted its R&D resources to the Helio P series mobile chips designed for mid-range devices, and put the development of its high-end Helio X series on hold.  Alll this could be a warning that Taiwan’s IC design industry growth could be limited.

MediaTek has been a leading Taiwan-based IC designer and usually partners with TSMC to develop advanced-node mobile chips. MediaTek’s development of 7/10nm chips is slowing down, as the fabless chipmaker has decided to go back to basics to overcome its structural challenges, Digitimes claimed.

MediaTek has suffered declines in smartphone chip shipments and market share since 2016. The company’s gross margin for 2016 reached a record low of 35.6 percent, despite record revenues.

MediaTek co-CEO Rick Tsai was quoted in previous reports saying the company will be striving to improve its gross margin by 1-2pp every quarter over the next 2-3 quarters, and expects its gross margin to return to the 37-39 percent level as early as the second half of 2018.

Tsai also noted the Helio P-series smartphone SoCs will be a major product focus of the company, and 12nm will be the main process technology MediaTek’s mobile chips will be made using during the first half of 2018. Nevertheless, Tsai disclosed MediaTek will complete tape-out of 7nm products in the second half of 2018.

Courtesy-Fud

Is nVidia Planning A Geforce 1070 Ti

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

According to the newest leak, Nvidia may be working on a GTX 1070 Ti, which could put a lot of pressure on AMD’s RX Vega lineup.

The alleged GTX 1070 Ti was originally spotted as a part of a specifications list on My Drivers site, caught by PCPer.com, and is listed as the Asus GTX 1070 Ti Strix O8G. While there were no precise details regarding the card, the O8G in the name suggests it packs 8GB of memory.

Further rumors suggest that it could be based on the latest GP104 GPU and pack 2304 CUDA cores, which would put it smack between the GTX 1070, which comes with 1920 CUDA cores, and the GTX 1080 with 2560 CUDA cores. 

Since Nvidia has already launched GTX 1080 with 11Gbps GDDR5X memory, the gap between the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 has become significantly wider.

In any case, this will put a lot of pressure on AMD’s RX Vega lineup and could give NVidia a significant lead in the market. In the end, it will all come down to the price/performance factor, availability and the MSRP, which tends to suffer from a big demand from coin miners.

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon Is Developing It’s Own ‘Smart Glasses’

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is busy developing its first wearable device – a pair of ‘smart glasses’, the Financial Times reported earlier this week.

The device, designed like a regular pair of spectacles, will allow Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa to be summoned anytime at all places, the report said, citing people familiar with the plans.

There would be a bone-conduction audio system in the device to allow the wearer to hear Alexa without inserting headphones into his or her ears, according to the report.

Amazon was not immediately available to comment on the report outside regular business hours.

Earlier this year, Alphabet Inc re-introduced its own wearable glass headset, Google Glass, after discontinuing its production last year.

Did Qualcomm Inadvertently Help Apple

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has published a blog post that praises itself and its Android partners for inventing all the industry firsts that Apple is claiming to have invented in its iPhone X.

These include wireless charging, dual-camera systems, OLED smartphone screens, edge-to-edge displays, and more features that the upcoming iPhone X has.

The blog is a reminder to Apple about how dependent the fruity cargo-cult is on Qualcomm technology.

Inventions from Qualcomm lay the foundation for so many technologies and experiences we value in our smartphones today — on Android and other platforms, Qualcomm said. One great example is Gigabit LTE. The latest Gigabit LTE-enabled Android smartphones can download content from mobile networks 135 times faster than the first Android phones could nine years ago, it continued. “Meanwhile, we’ve been inventing foundational technologies for Gigabit LTE for well over a decade.”

Apple and Qualcomm are currently embroiled in what’s turning into a vicious, global patent licensing dispute and its modems are at the centre of the dispute.

Apple believes it should be allowed to pay Qualcomm what it likes for the technology it invented and it should be allowed to make huge profits while other companies do all the research.

Qualcomm never mentions Apple by name in the blog – the closest the company ever comes is with this line: “Inventions from Qualcomm lay the foundation for so many technologies and experiences we value in our smartphones today – on Android and other platforms.” 

Courtesy-Fud

Salesforce Launches Fund For Artificial Intelligence Start-ups

September 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The venture arm of Salesforce.com Inc is launching a $50 million fund to invest in start-ups employing artificial intelligence, the cloud computing firm told Reuters.

Salesforce, whose software helps businesses sell, market and track customer activity, has been increasing its use of AI since launching its ‘Einstein’ technology a year ago, which uses automation and data-driven features.

“There’s a tremendous surge in companies who are providing unique AI innovations,” said John Somorjai, executive vice president of Salesforce Ventures. “We want more of those companies to do these innovations on Salesforce’s platform.”

Salesforce revenues and income have grown rapidly in recent quarters, and it has boosted spending on research and development in the face of tough competition from rivals such as Oracle Group and Microsoft Corp.

Venture capital investment in AI start-ups is rising quickly. For 2017, global financing for AI start-ups is projected to surpass $10.8 billion – nearly double the $5.6 billion spent in 2016, according to research firm CB Insights.

Since its founding in 2009, Salesforce Ventures has deployed more than $700 million in funding to over 250 start-ups, Somorjai said. With its new fund, Salesforce is hoping to attract more developers to build AI apps that work in tandem with its products.

“What we’re doing with this fund is really doubling down on that commitment to bring more AI-centric solutions to our customers,” Somorjai said.

The company said that it was also expanding the number of AI tasks employed by its ‘Einstein’ technology.

Fake ‘E-coins’ Shut Down By Switzerland

September 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Switzerland’s financial watchdog has shut down what it said was the provider of a fake cryptocurrency and is investigating around a dozen other possible fraud cases, in the latest clamp-down on the risks involving virtual money.

The move by the FINMA watchdog comes on the heels of Chinese authorities’ ordering Beijing-based cryptocurrency exchanges to stop trading and immediately notify users of their closure.

Virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, which are issued and usually controlled by their developers and not backed by a central bank, are hailed by their supporters as a fast and efficient way of managing money.

But regulators and traditional banks are increasingly concerned about the risks of fraud in the burgeoning online cryptocurrency underworld.

JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon last week said Bitcoin, the original and still the biggest cryptocurrency, “is a fraud” and will eventually “blow up”.

 The QUID PRO QUO Association shut down by FINMA had provided so-called E-Coins for more than a year and had amassed funds of at least 4 million Swiss francs ($4.2 million) from several hundred users, FINMA said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This activity is similar to the deposit-taking business of a bank and is illegal unless the company in question holds the relevant financial market license,” FINMA, Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority, said.

E-Coin was not like “real cryptocurrencies”, FINMA said, because it was not stored on distributed networks using blockchain technology but was instead kept locally on QUID PRO QUO’s servers.

Reuters was not immediately able to reach Zurich-based QUID PRO QUO for comment.

Snap Chat Blocks Al Jazeera

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap has stopped allowing news network Al Jazeera to post to Snapchat in Saudi Arabia at the request of the Saudi government, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Snap pulled the Qatari-run news outlet’s Discover Publisher Channel from its app as it violated the country’s law of printed material and publication and anti-cyber crime law.

“We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate,” said a Snap spokeswoman in a statement.

Regional censorship of content has affected almost every global social network and internet company, including Google and Facebook, due to local laws that they may be subject to. Media watchdog Freedom House consistently rates Saudi Arabia as “not free” in its annual Freedom on the Net investigation.

“Popular social media and communication apps are not blocked in the country, although authorities have imposed restrictions on their use,” it said in its 2016 report.

Qatar is currently in an ongoing dispute with Saudi Arabia, Eqypt, Bahrain and the UAE, which have accused the country of supporting terrorism. The Al Jazeera ban only affects Saudi Arabia and the publisher’s Snapchat Story continues to be live in the other countries.

Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Will VW Have All Electric Cars By 2030

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

In a move which will see it never have to face another emissions scandal,  Adolf Hitler’s favorite car company has announced it will be all electric by 2030.

Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller announced sweeping plans to build electric versions of all 300 models in the group’s lineup as the world’s largest automaker accelerates the shift away from combustion engines.

Speaking on the eve of the Frankfurt auto show, the CEO laid out the enormity of the task ahead, vowing to spend 20 billion euros to develop and bring the models to market by 2030 and promising to plow another 50 billion euros into the batteries needed to power the cars.

All 12 of Volkswagen’s 12 brands are behind the push, which has the aim of catching up with the likes of Tesla and transform from a battery-vehicle laggard into a leader.

Mueller said VW will need the equivalent of at least four gigafactories for battery cells by 2025 just to meet its own vehicle production.

At 50 billion euros, the CEO announced one of the largest tenders in the industry’s history for the procurement of batteries.

By 2025, VW aims to have 50 purely battery-powered vehicles and 30 hybrid models in its lineup, with a goal of selling as many as three million purely battery-powered cars by then. The transformation will pick up speed after that to reach the 2030 goal as economies of scale and better infrastructure help bring down prices and accelerate sales.

Courtesy-Fud

Trello Add Native Desktop Project Management App

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Trello subscribers can now access the project management tool directly from their desktop after the launch of native Windows and Mac apps.

The software had previously been browser-based only, meaning that Trello boards could easily get lost amid a multitude of browser tabs.  The company said in a blog post that the desktop app should make the software simpler to use, since Trello has added a navigation sidebar to help keep track of boards in a similar fashion to channels on collaboration tools such as Slack.

Other features include “more granular” keyboard shortcuts and desktop notifications. Those using the latest Mac Book Pro laptops will also be able to open boards and create new cards from the Mac’s Touch Bar.

A desktop presence is an important option for collaboration or productivity tools, said Gartner research director Larry Cannell. “To be successful, workers need to be using them on a day-to-day or minute-by-minute basis,” he said.  “Why should Outlook and a web browser be the only apps open on a desktop? For teams using Trello, this will be a welcomed addition.”

The company also announced Wednesday that Trello boards and cards can now be embedded in separate applications, including Bitbucket, Dropbox Paper and Confluence Cloud.

“By embedding Trello cards and boards inside the apps you use to plan, work, and communicate, teams can stay connected and see who’s doing what (and what needs to get done) without switching apps,” the company said in a blog post.

According to Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research, the addition of features such as the desktop app shows how Trello’s technology has evolved since its acquisition by collaboration software provider Atlassian for $425 million earlier this year.

“The big picture here is how Trello – and the entire Atlassian portfolio for that matter – is evolving,” said Castañón-Martínez.

“The company is enhancing its products with new features that allow users to be more effective with their work; for example, interacting with other users across other Trello boards and across other applications. This enables them to get more work done in one place rather than jumping around between applications.”

He called creation of the desktop app a “natural progression” for Trello.

“It is evolving from an application into a workspace,” he said. “The benefit for the end user will be that it enables them to work with less distractions. Jumping between applications is a productivity-killer.”

Google Disable Offensive Keywords

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s Google announced that it has disabled a “majority” of the offensive keywords that BuzzFeed found could be used by advertisers to target people searching for racist and anti-Semitic topics.

Google, the world’s biggest advertising platform, not only allowed advertisers to target searches such as “Why do Jews ruin everything” but also suggested the user to run ads next to searches such as “the evil jew” and “jewish control of banks”, a campaign by BuzzFeed discovered.

The ads were visible when such keywords were searched for and Google’s ad buying platform tracked the ad views, according to the internet media company’s report based on the campaign.

Google disabled the keyword searches used in the campaign after BuzzFeed’s inquiry, except an exact match for “blacks destroy everything”, the report said.

“We’ve already turned off these suggestions and any ads that made it through, and will work harder to stop this from happening again,” Google’s senior vice president of ads Sridhar Ramaswamy said in an email.

The news comes a day after Facebook Inc said it was temporarily disabling the ability of advertisers to target based on people’s self-reported education and job information after a report that those features allowed targeting based on anti-Semitic topics.

Intel Drops WiGig

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

In  what is becoming a long list of what Intel is giving up on is its WiGig 60GHz 802.11ad  controllers and antennas.

Intel has sent end-of-life notifications for the high-speed wireless parts, and it will stop making and selling them in just a few months.

802.11ad boasts higher performance—up to 4.8 gigabits per second—than 802.11ac, but its use of the 60GHz frequency, rather than the 5GHz or 2.4GHz of mainstream Wi-Fi, means that it’s limited to a very short range. It also requires line of sight between the device and the base station. Penetration through walls is essentially non-existent, so using 802.11ad as a Wi-Fi alternative would require a base station in every room.

This limits 802.11ad’s use as a networking interface, but it does have an alternative use as a cable replacement. A handful of 802.11ad docking stations have come to market, enabling a laptop to connect to a monitor and other peripherals without using wires.

Intel is not abandoning the 60GHz space. There is some interest in using it for VR headsets, and in May the company announced a partnership with HTC to produce an 802.11ad-enabled Vive headset.

This would offer a useful halfway house between fully untethered systems and wired systems. Intel isn’t the only company that’s investigating this use of 60GHz communications. A 60GHz wireless adapter for the HTC Vive is available from TPCast, and the device adds a lot of freedom at the expense of weight and price

Courtesy-Fud

YuMi Robot Conducts Italian Symphony

September 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

YuMi the humanoid robot showed that it was indeed up to the task on Tuesday night as it raised its baton to conduct the Lucca Philharmonic orchestra alongside Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

The two-armed robot, designed by Swiss firm ABB, made its debut at Pisa’s Verdi Theatre to mark the First International Festival of Robotics in the Tuscan city.

“We basically had to find time to understand his movements. When we found the way, everything was pretty easy,” said the orchestra’s resident conductor, Andrea Colombini.

“It is absolutely fantastic. And the technicians were fantastic just to make everything perfect, especially in the length and in the speed of the gesture, which is very important,” he said.

YuMi, whose name is derived from the phrase ‘you and me’, was taught all the movements by Colombini, who held its arms in rehearsals so the computer could memorize the correct gestures. The robot is not able to improvise and any unexpected change in tempo from the musicians would have been ruinous.

The robot conducted three of the 18 pieces performed on Tuesday night, including the famous aria La Donna e’ Mobile, from Verdi’s opera Rigoletto.

Will 7nm SoCs Come To Market Next Year

September 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

The current generation of SoC and the one that comes after will remain at 10nm, since it will take some time to move to 7nm. This is the conclusion we gathered after talking to a number of industry insiders.

Qualcomm is at 10nm with its Snapdragon 835, Samsung has shipped the Exynos 8895 since Q2 2017 while the rest of the competition is slowly working its way into the 10nm SoC universe.

The current iPhone 7 A10 SoC is manufactured in 16nm TSMC manufacturing process while the one that comes in the new iPhone next week is the 10nm. MediaTek has the 16nm X30 SoC out and Huawei already announced that it has the Kirin 970 in 10nm, ready to debut in the P10 phone some five weeks from now.

From what our sources have been telling us, the Galaxy S9 will be powered by a 10nm SoC and it is expected that the Galaxy S8 successor will launch in early Q2 2018.  2018 will be a big year for the 7nm process, as we expect that AMD might make some GPUs in a similar timeframe.

Getting from 10nm to 7nm will enable more transistors per square millimeter, and it will reduce the power consumption of the whole device. This has always been the pinnacle of progress in the mobile industry.  

Just a decade ago, the first-generation iPhone used a 65nm ARM 11 based ARM1176JZF SoC and now some 10 years later the new iPhone will get a 10nm SoC. This is huge progress that enabled a lot of innovation including Gigabit LTE performance, 4K playback, 360 video as well as AR/XR performing decently on the device that sits in your pocket.  

And, of course, the next generation iPhone and the Galaxy S9 and later S10 will get faster, thinner, and better, partially thanks to a second generation 10nm and later 7nm SoCs.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Virtual Reality Poised To Take Off

September 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Virtual reality may be growing at a slower pace than many would like, but its enthusiastic supporters remain staunch in their belief that VR is still going to take off. Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games and a Carnegie Mellon professor, is one such person. His studio’s VR puzzle title I Expect You To Die (IEYTD), which launched last December, just recently passed the $1 million revenue mark. GamesIndustry.biz caught up with Schell following the news to learn more about his VR development experiences and to gain some perspective on where he sees the VR/AR business headed.

“We’ve learned so much. The experience has confirmed our theories that making games specifically designed for the strengths of the medium is absolutely the right thing to do,” he says.

“IEYTD works because we focused on protecting player immersion as much as possible: making sure in-game and out of game player body poses are proprioceptively aligned, ensuring there is a depth of interactive sound effects, and playtesting much more than for a normal game, so that you can respond to everything that players try to do in the game. The best part is that our experience confirmed for us that VR is amazing, and that people want great experiences in it.”

IEYTD is one of a handful of VR success stories, but even “success” at this stage in VR’s infancy when installed bases are so low, doesn’t mean profitability is guaranteed. Schell is not deterred, however.

“We don’t generally share specifics of internal budgets, but it was more than a million — so, not quite profitable yet on a pure cash basis, but when it comes to lessons learned, and some of the other projects this has brought our way, this has been a very profitable project indeed,” he explains.

During GDC 2016, Schell gave a talk outlining his 40 predictions for VR/AR, and one of those was that by 2017 we’d see 8 million high-end VR headsets sold, with Oculus Rift at 3 million, PSVR at 4 million and Vive at 1 million. Clearly, the actual numbers are going to fall way short of these predictions, and a big part of that is a result of price. Even with the price cuts we’ve seen this year so far on the respective headsets, the devices are too expensive for many. It’s only a matter of time before that changes, though, and then Schell sees the market really picking up. He likens it to the early computer era.

“The numbers are slower than I anticipated, and this is partly because prices are higher than I anticipated. But the growth is absolutely happening,” he says. “What will create a tipping point will be a combination of price drops with a hit title, probably a social multiplayer title.

“We are in a time like when home computers first arrived in 1978. At that time, we had the Atari 800 and the Apple II, and they each cost over $1,000, and people said, ‘Yeah, pretty cool, but too expensive — these home computers will never take off.’ A few years later, and we had the Commodore 64 at $299, and it sold ten times the number of units as the Apple II. Price will really be the driving factor. There are already hundreds of great studios making interesting content. When the prices get low enough, we’ll see the growth curve take off.” While a number of Schell’s other predictions will undoubtedly not hold up, there are some that the designer is not afraid to double down on. The social ramifications of VR is one of those.

“My confidence in the power of social VR continues to grow,” he notes. “Games like Rec Room are proving that out, and social VR is now the prime focus for our next wave of VR titles. The sense of physical proximity to a real person while you hear their voice and see their body language is powerful in a way that no other medium can touch.”

Schell is also still a believer in Nintendo doing something in the space. Thus far, publicly at least, the house of Mario has avoided committing to VR/AR, but Schell thinks that Nintendo is working on a standalone device behind closed doors. And if a company with Nintendo’s weight gets behind VR, that can only help make the technology more mainstream and more accessible. That said, it’s not vital for Nintendo to get in the game for VR to succeed.

“With Nintendo’s passion for invention, they must be working on a VR device with a unique Nintendo spin,” Schell muses. “Certainly they can help make VR more mainstream, but they don’t need to. There are already dozens of headset manufacturers, and more on the way, and exciting tech and price breakthroughs are being announced every few weeks.”

While many people have predicted a far larger and more impactful market for augmented reality, especially as companies like Apple and Google get involved, the differences between the related technologies are beginning to blur. Additionally, when it comes to pure gaming use cases, Schell stresses that VR will remain the better tech for hardcore gamers.

“One prediction I am definitely rethinking is my prediction that VR and AR headsets would remain very separate entities. I am coming to believe that as VR headsets start to sport stereo cameras, that having video pass-thru AR experiences on VR headsets will actually become the dominant form of AR, because it will be cheaper and have a wider field of view,” he says.

“When it comes to games, I more and more think that VR is to AR as console is to mobile… That is to say, VR will be more for the hardcore gamers who want deep, immersive experiences, and AR will be more for casual gamers who want lighter, less immersive experiences. AR may have more users in the long run (provided it can find some killer apps), but VR will be where the best gaming experiences are.”

The unfortunate state of actual reality, when you consider global politics, terrorism, climate change and more, could also be a factor in virtual reality’s favor. As Schell says, “In troubled times, people are always looking for places to escape to. The Great Depression was the best thing that ever happened to Hollywood. When people are frustrated with how the news cycle makes them feel, their appetite for fantasy experiences vastly increases.”

As VR does become more popular in the mainstream, Schell thinks the media may start drumming up stories to point fingers at the tech in much the way that news outlets blamed video game violence for real-world crimes. “The media likes to scare us about anything that is new, because we always want to know about the dangers of new things, so it is good business to feed our fears. I can’t say I’m worried about it, but it is certainly inevitable. Horror movies about VR gone wrong will be a hot ticket in the summer of 2019,” he says.

One area of the VR industry that is hard to predict is the arcade or location-based segment. Vive has made a big push with its Viveport Arcade, particularly in China, but VR arcades may not necessarily be a more natural fit than VR in the home, as some have said.

“There is room for VR in arcades; I am sure of this because I helped developed the Aladdin’s Magic Carpet VR experience that ran continuously at DisneyQuest in Walt Disney World for nineteen years! However, VR in arcades has many challenges,” Schell says. “The systems are hard to keep clean, and are often too fragile for that environment. These are solvable problems, but not trival ones. Ultimately, people expect a VR arcade experience that is a radical step up from the home experience, and that is expensive to create, especially because there is an expectation of multiplayer gameplay at VR arcades, because people go to arcades to be in social groups. So, developing VR arcade content is very expensive. Arcades are a great intro to the experience while the tech is new, but as the tech matures, it will be much more at home, uh, at home.”

Getting into VR development is not for the faint of heart. Game makers may have to endure some hard times, but the pay off will ultimately be worth it, Schell believes.

“If you are looking for a short-term win, or to just port the same games you’ve been playing for 20 years to VR, go do something else. But if you are ready to invent the most important medium of this century, and you can afford to be a little patient as the rest of the world catches up with your futuristic visions, this is your time,” Schell says.

Courtesy-GI.biz

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