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Samsung Finally Launches Bixby Voice App For Galaxy S8

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung has finally officially launched voice capabilities for its Bixby smart sidekick in the US, about three months after the artificial intelligence technology first became available on its new Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus phones. The company had delayed the launch and missed its own promised “later this spring” deadline, at least in the US.

Owners of its newest phones will be able to access Bixby Voice after downloading a software update, rolling out at 9 p.m. PT. South Korean users, who’ve had access to Bixby Voice in the Korean language since May 1, will also be able to now access the English language capabilities. The company didn’t say when Bixby Voice will be available in other countries.

Bixby is Samsung’s new digital voice assistant that debuted on its latest smartphones. It has its own dedicated button on the side of the device, letting you communicate with the artificial intelligence like you’d use a walkie-talkie. The only problem is the voice part of the assistantdidn’t actually work when the Galaxy S8 hit the market in April. What did work with Bixby was its “Vision, Home and Reminder” functions that identify objects in photos, help you track your day and remind you about upcoming events on your calendar.

Rather than launching voice capabilities right away, Samsung said it needed more time to get Bixby ready for mainstream consumers. It has been testing it out with over 100,000 Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus users in its early access preview program. Those participants generated more than 4 million commands and helped Samsung refine Bixby’s capabilities.

One benefit includes “increased comprehension on command variations.” You can, for instance, ask what the weather is like by saying “Show me today’s weather,” “What’s the weather like today?” or “What’s the forecast today?” Samsung says it has improved Bixby’s response times, increased hands-free operations and included a new “read aloud feature.” You can ask it to read the latest email you’ve received.

Samsung also has worked to make Bixby interact better with third-party apps. If you’re using Google Maps, you can use Bixby to change the location of your origin or destination.

Bixby is the latest entrant in the crowded field of digital assistants that already includes Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana. Every tech heavyweight is investing in these assistants because they’re heralded as the future of how we’ll interact with our gadgets. The hope is to build a relationship with you now and ultimately get you to buy more of their products later.

Google’s Mobile App Gets New Look, Feel

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Google has announced a re-tooling of its search app on mobile phones to include a personalized feed of links about hobbies, travel, sports and other topics, a move that puts the search company into more direct competition with social networks such as Facebook.

Google, the world’s largest search engine and a unit of Alphabet Inc, said the changes would begin rolling out in the United States on Wednesday and other countries in the coming weeks.

The new offering is called “Google Feed,” a name that may conjure comparisons to Facebook’s “News Feed,” a feature on Facebook used to browse updates from friends, family and other sources.

Google said, however, that it was not trying to duplicate Facebook Inc, the world’s largest social network. Instead, the company said it wanted to create another place to see a stream of relevant search results.

“This feed is really about your interests … It’s not really about what your friends are interested in,” Ben Gomes, a Google vice president for engineering, said in a briefing with reporters.

Typical updates might include a link to a website with tips about an upcoming vacation spot, or a link to a page about cycling or another hobby, the company said.

Facebook and Google are jockeying for attention online and by extension, for advertising revenue based on those eyeballs. The two Silicon Valley companies are expected to take in some 50 percent of overall online ad spending in 2018, according to research firm eMarketer.

There were no immediate plans to include advertising in Google Feed, Gomes said.

Google Feed will suggest links based on a user’s Google search history as well as data from other Google services, such as YouTube, Gmail and Google Calendar, the company said.

In addition to putting Google Feed on mobile apps, the company is looking at attaching it to web browsers in some form, Shashi Thakur, a second Google vice president for engineering, said during the briefing.

NBC To Host Daily News Show On Snapchat

July 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Comcast Corp’s NBC News plans to offer a twice-per-day news show on Snapchat, the company said on Wednesday, part of its push to attract younger viewers who tend to watch TV on mobile devices.

Comcast’s NBCUniversal invested $500 million in Snapchat owner Snap Inc  during its initial public offering as it seeks to boost its digital offering.

Broadcast news outlets like NBC News face an aging audience. The median age of NBC Nightly News, for example, is 64 years old, according to the Nielsen ratings agency. That is much older than the 18-to-34-year-old demographic that advertisers covet.

Last month, NBC News launched a digital video service, called “NBC Left Field” featuring short documentaries to appeal to social media users.

“This is a concerted effort that is crucial to our future,” said Nick Ascheim, head of digital at NBC News.

“Stay Tuned” will focus on issues of the day and will air at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. EDT on weekdays and 1 p.m. EDT on weekends. The show will also air for specific breaking news events.

The launch of the daily news show comes amid increasing investor skepticism about Snap’s ability to grow and compete with Facebook Inc’s Instagram.

Samsung To Recycle Rare Metals From Old Galaxy Note 7s

July 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Electronics giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd announced plans to recover 157 tons worth of rare metals from recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in a bid to minimize the environmental impact of the fire-prone devices.

Samsung said in a statement it planned to reuse components such as camera modules, chips and displays as replacement parts on devices sent in for repairs or sell them. It would also recover metals such as cobalt, copper, gold and silver from components that would not be reused.

The world’s top smartphone maker is trying to move on from the withdrawal of the Note 7 premium devices last year due to safety concerns, a failure which cost the firm $5.4 billion in operating profit.

Sales of the flagship Galaxy S8 launched in April have been healthy, analysts say, suggesting a recovery is underway. The firm had sold 3.06 million Note 7s to consumers before its second and final recall in October, roughly 2 months after launch.

Environmental activists such as Greenpeace have called on Samsung to recycle or recover the rare materials contained in the devices.

The South Korean firm launched a modified version of the Note 7 in its domestic market earlier this month as part of the recycling effort.

Apple Pay Tempts Chinese Consumers With Huge Discounts

July 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

China’s mobile payments market is worth almost $6 trillion, and Apple wants to elbow its way in.

To entice more Chinese to start using Apple Pay, the iPhone maker is offering up to 50 percent discounts off purchases at participating vendors, many of them Western brands. It’s also rewarding users up to 50 times the usual points for designated credit cards, according to Apple’s official Chinese website. The promotion period will run from July 18 to 24.

China is a tough market to break into for Apple Pay, because the Chinese are more familiar with local mobile payment services such as WeChat Pay and Alipay. The two services have a combined market share of 92 percent, and people are so dependent on them that the companies have expanded overseas specifically to cater to Chinese travelers.

Promotions are offered by Apple Pay, but they are subject to varying terms and conditions set out by merchants. While Burger King and Costa Coffee have capped 50 percent discounts at 15 yuan (or $2.22), for example, 7-Eleven set its cap at 10 yuan (approximately $1.48). Starbucks, on the other hand, will take 15 yuan off purchases amounting to 60 yuan (or $8.86) or more.

FCC Tightens Rules Regarding ‘Robocalls’

July 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

The Federal Communications Commission intends to further attack those unwanted “robocalls” and is looking at ways to help consumers block them.

On Thursday, the commission voted unanimously to evaluate a system that would allow phone companies to check if a number calling you is legit. The goal is to deter unscrupulous companies that make these automated calls from “spoofing,” or using a fake phone number to trick you into answering their calls.

A call authentication system could help improve third-party apps that allow consumers to block these calls. It could also open the door to phone companies that may want to offer a service to block unwanted calls.

The FCC has already been considering rules that would allow phone companies to block robocalls from unassigned numbers or from numbers that don’t exist.

Ridding the world of robocalls entirely is tricky since some legitimate communications are made using automated call technology, such as messages from schools, weather alerts, public utilities or political organizations. Phone companies don’t want to block legitimate calls that consumers want to receive.

The agency also voted to consider how to prevent unwanted calls after a number has been reassigned. There is currently no way for legitimate companies to know if customers who have agreed to receive their marketing calls are still using a particular number. The FCC wants to get public comment on how phone companies should report when a phone number has been reassigned and how the data could be used.

Robocalls are a big nuisance to consumers with an estimated 2.5 billion automated calls being made per month.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said robocalls are a top consumer complaint. “Americans are mad as hell” that they still get these calls in spite of efforts by Congress and the FCC to stop them, he said. The FCC said it gets more than 200,000 complaints each year concerning unwanted calls, and the Federal Trade Commission said it received roughly 5.3 million complaints about telemarketing calls in 2016.

Pai said the FCC’s latest efforts to curb these calls could make a huge difference in the volume of robocalls consumers get.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn,agreed. She said the agency must take a “multi-pronged approach, to address this persistent problem.”

The FCC has also been stepping up its enforcement of illegal robocalls. Separately, it voted 2-1 to fine a New Mexico-based company $2.88 million for making unlawful robocalls. Last month, the FCC fined a Florida resident $120 million for allegedly making almost 100 million illegal robocalls in a three-month period.

iPhone 8 May Come With Scaled Down Features

July 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The upcoming iPhone 8 may not debut with a complete set of features that Apple has planned. Problems with the iPhone’s rumored wireless charging and facial recognition software could cause Apple to disable these features when the phone arrives in stores, according to Fast Company.

June was allegedly a tough month for Apple’s iPhone team, according to the report. With Apple’s usual iPhone reveal likely falling sometime in September, the team is reportedly ironing out the wrinkles in time for the phone’s launch. One of Fast Company’s sources reported “a sense of panic in the air.”

The iPhone 8 (which is what we’re calling the phone for now) is said to receive a major redesign that will debut features never before seen on an iPhone. Apple’s inability to ready these features for launch could lead to impatience if buyers experience a serious delay. Samsung’s slow release of the Bixby Voice app on the Galaxy S8 is a clear example.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Apple delayed a feature release, either. Last year’s iPhone 7 Plus‘s Portrait Mode wasn’t enabled until after the phone went on sale. Fast Company reported that if Apple can’t get its new technology working smoothly in time, it may similarly ship the iPhone 8 with the right hardware built-in and activate it later on when the software is ready.

There have been persistent rumors that Apple might delay the iPhone 8 sale date due to issues with the fingerprint sensor.

 

Is Intel Abandoning The IoT Arena

July 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

For ages Intel has been banging on about the Internet of Things and how it will be the saviour of the chip business.

It seemed that Intel, having been too late to take advantage of the mobile boom, wanted to be in place when the Internet of the Things arrived.

However, Intel of late, appears to be withdrawing some of its enthusiasm. It is discontinuing its Galileo, Joule, and Edison lineups of development boards. The chip maker quietly made the announcement and now appears to be letting 130 people go from its IoT teams.

Intel plans to lay off 97 people at its corporate headquarters in Santa Clara and up to 40 more in Ireland as the chipmaker makes cuts to its Internet of Things group.

Intel’s IoT group provided $721 million in revenue in the first quarter of the year, up nearly 11 percent from the prior year. But IoT accounted for less than five percent of Intel’s sales.

Curiously, Intel hasn’t yet scrapped Curie, its platform for wearable devices. But given that the wearable market is at a standstill, it might not be long before Intel exits this market segment too.

But it is looking like Intel is falling back to its default PC/Server chips and has no plan to do anything else.

Courtesy-Fud

Wrixo Offers Wristband With Info For Emergency Situations

July 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

There’s a new low-tech wristband that is capable of sharing your medical information when you unable to.

Unlike smart wearables with built in CPUs, antennas and displays, Wrixo is a simple waterproof wristband that can use a preprinted QR code or built-in NFC chip to access important patient health information — including medical history, prescriptions, and allergies — that you’ve previously stored in an online cloud.

Users can also upload other relevant information like their blood type, insurance and even past records like X-rays, MRIs or lab reports. According to Wrixo, the technology is HIPPA-compliant, although we still have some questions about privacy and security, which are especially sensitive topics for media information.

The product — starting at $19 — uses its QR code to allow doctors to access the information by scanning. Or, the embedded Near Field Communication wireless chip allows emergency responders with NFC-enabled phones to tap the wristband for information. Wrixo’s cloud-storage service for medical information and records comes in both free and premium ($6 per month) tiers.

A tag turns the device into a necklace or keychain. For people with service dogs, there’s a clip to attach it to the dog’s collar or vest.

The wristbands are now available for preorder on the Wrixo website, and Idol Memory has launched an Indiegogo campaign that will give a percentage of the wristband proceeds to Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Right now, there’s no telling how effectively these wristbands will perform under high-intensity emergency situations, but the company is confident the device will do its job successfully.

“It could truly be the difference between life and death,” said George Shih, founder of Wrixo, in a press release. “It is crucial that emergency and medical personnel have immediate access to patient records and information so they can administer the proper treatment in a matter of seconds.”

Intel Add More Life To The IoT

July 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has doubled the lifecycle support for its whole series of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions platforms from seven years to 15 years.

The move is part of a cunning plan to gain the confidence of its partners in the IoT supply chains and step up the development of IoT-related processor platforms and chipsets.

This will push up Intel’s operating costs, but it might just convince supply-chain partners and accelerate development of IoT solutions and applications.

Intel, Qualcomm and Microsoft are all fighting in the IoT market and are making deals or seeking mergers and acquisitions to stay ahead.

Intel’s IoT platform lifecycle support program announcement is expected to effectively boost the willingness of its partners to use Intel IoT solutions gear and expand its global IoT platform penetration rate.

All Intel IoT solutions platforms, including next-generation 14nm Skylake-SP server and processor platforms, existing Skylake-architecture Xeon E3-12xx/15xxv5 series, and the sixth-generation Core, Pentium and Celeron processors will see their lifecycle support extended to the range of seven to 15 years from the existing maximum of seven years.

In addition, processor platforms recording higher shipment records, including N3700 (Braswell), Celeron N3xxx (Braswell) and J1900/N2xxx (Bay Trail), as well as Atom C2xxx (Rangeley), E3800 series (Bay Trail) are all covered by the new lifecycle support program.

IoT solutions products have yet to contribute notable profits to Intel. In the first quarter of 2017, Intel made $721 million in IoT-related revenues, showing an annual growth of 11 percent.

Courtesy-Fud

Nokia And Zeiss Team Up Again For Phone Camera

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Nokia mobile phones of the future, you could pack a stellar camera as a headline feature.

Phone maker HMD on Thursday announced an exclusive partnership with imaging experts Zeiss that will see the two work together to develop cameras for upcoming Nokia phones.

Frustratingly, we don’t yet know when exactly we we’ll see a high-end flagship Nokia phone, but at least we know now that when we do it’s likely to have a camera with Zeiss credentials. The two companies will be collaborating on all aspects of camera tech, meaning lenses, sensors, software — the whole package.

The partnership is “very long term,” according to HMD’s chief marketing officer, Pekka Rantala, although he wouldn’t specify exactly how long he meant by that. As for what we can expect the focus of the partnership to be, it looks like it could encompass anything and everything.

“Video is an area we could see a lot of innovation in,” Rantala told CNET in a briefing. “Definitely AR is one of the big things. And we are here to brainstorm.”

It’s not the first time Nokia and Zeiss have teamed up. They also worked together back in the noughts on the Nokia N series, which preceded the more recent Lumia line. In the Lumia series we saw some experimental technology from the two that resulted in the PureView brand, which was all about lossless images, and a phone that boasted a staggering 41 megapixels.

It’s unlikely we’ll see anything like that again from HMD. “The answer is not to emphasize one number when it comes to megapixels,” said Rantala. Dual cameras, on the other hand, are “a very interesting idea,” he said. “That will give new possibilities for a player like us to possibly explore new experiences.”

For now HMD is concentrating on selling the Nokia 3, 5 and 6 (and of course the 3310), but it’s at least given us some idea of what’s coming next. “We have saved some space below three and above six for some expansion of the portfolio,” said Rantala.

Presuming you can count at least to 10, that’s a pretty self-explanatory hint.

AES Encryption Gets Cracked

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Dutch researchers have discovered a way of cracking AES-256 encryption using reasonably cheap gear and wireless tech.

Fox-IT explains that it, and an other company called Riscure, have created a new method for slurping up security that is enabled through proximity and relies on the monitoring of electromagnetic signals in what is known as a side channel attack.

Researchers put together a piece of kit worth less than $200 and were able to wirelessly extract secret AES-256 encryption keys from a distance of one metre. They said that the attack can be carried out by people on all budgets and with all kinds of means.

“The recording hardware can range from extremely high-end radio equipment, down to €20 USB SDRs. We have found that even the cheap USB dongles can be used to attack software implementations!” they said. “This is not a game exclusively for nation states, but also anyone with pocket money and some free time (PDF).”

Usually, such an attack would require direct access and manipulation, but Fox-IT found that it was possible just to swan past the target with a bag of SDR, amplifiers, filters, and an antenna and catch a winner in record time.

“Using this approach only requires us to spend a few seconds guessing the correct value for each byte in turn (256 options per byte, for 32 bytes — so a total of 8192 guesses),” boasts the firm.

“In contrast, a direct brute-force attack on AES-256 would require 2^256 guesses and would not complete before the end of the universe”

The next challenge is distance. Currently, Fox-IT has met reached a goal of 30cm but says that a full meter is a possibility given the right circumstances.

“Our work here has shown a proof of concept for TEMPEST attacks against symmetric crypto such as AES-256. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first public demonstration of such attacks. The low bandwidth requirements have allowed us to perform the attack with surprisingly cheap equipment (€20 radio, modest amplifiers and filters) at significant distances,” it added.

“In practice this setup is well suited to attacking network encryption appliances. Many of these targets perform bulk encryption (possibly with attacker controlled data) and the ciphertext is often easily captured from elsewhere in the network.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Was The iPhone Originally Suppose To Copy An Android Features?

June 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Steve Jobs wanted the iPhone to be more like Android and have a back button in addition to a home button, however the designers over ruled him.

Brian Merchant’s new book, The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, said that if Jobs’ designers had managed to pull it off, it would have meant that the iPhone would have the same look and feel of the Android products which replaced it as the number one operating system.

Much has been made skipped over by the Apple Press about how super-cool and wonderful the iPhone is because it does not need a back-button and only has a single home button, but apparently this idea went against what Jobs wanted.

The book names Imran Chaudhri, a veteran Apple designer who spent 19 years working on Apple’s Human Interface Team.

Jobs’ original vision was to have two buttons as he correctly felt that users would need a back button for navigation.

However, the designers were less practical and argued that it was all about generating trust and predictability. If you have a back button it means that you do not really trust where the operating system is taking you.

In other words, they wanted Apple users to believe that the phone could not make mistakes. Having a back button implied that you could do that and end up in the wrong place. The back button would be too complex to factor in.

“Part of the problem with other phones was the features were buried in menus, they were too complex. A back button could complicate matters too, he told Jobs

Apparently, Jobs backed down and agreed that the design concept based around “we know what we are doing” was far more important that what users would actually need.

Courtesy-Fud

Young Star Helps Astronomers Solve Stellar Mystery

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Astronomers using the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have precisely measured the rotating fountains of gas flowing out from a massive newborn star, revealing the complex interplay between the star’s magnetism and centrifugal forces.

Astronomers are still puzzled by the way massive stars form in interstellar space, the new study’s researchers said in a statement. When a massive rotating cloud of gas collapses under gravity, stellar fusion becomes possible, and a baby star is born. As angular momentum is conserved while the cloud shrinks, the resulting baby star should be spinning very fast, according to the laws of physics. 

To get a better idea of the conservation of angular (or rotational) momentum, imagine a spinning ice-skater. As ice-skaters spin with their arms outstretched, they spin slowly; when they bring their arms close to their bodies, they spin faster. Physics dictates that this concept should hold true for a shrinking cloud of star-forming gas: As it shrinks, it should spin faster.

But astronomers have found that stars in our galaxy spin much more slowly than the laws of physics predict they should. Therefore, there must be some mechanism that’s dissipating angular momentum from stars soon after they are born, the researchers said.

In the new work, published online June 12 in the journal Nature Astronomy, astronomers observed a massive newborn star called Orion KL Source I in the Orion Nebula and used ALMA to reveal the rotation of its powerful stellar winds. 

“We have clearly imaged the rotation of the outflow,” Tomoya Hirota, an assistant professor at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and SOKENDAI (the Graduate University for Advanced Studies) and lead author on the paper, said in the statement. “In addition, the result gives us important insight into the launching mechanism of the outflow.”

Hirota’s team noticed that the outflow of stellar gases is rotating in the same direction as the star and that it emanates from Source I’s hot gas disk, and not from the star itself. This finding agrees with a theoretical “magnetocentrifugal disk wind model,” the researchers said.

In this model, gas is ejected from the rotating disk and is forced to move outward. Like a spinning lawn sprinkler, propelled by centrifugal forces, the water spirals outward, away from the sprinkler head, siphoning some of the star’s angular momentum. But in the case of this star, the spinning gases leaving the disk are also directed up and down along magnetic-field lines to create the spinning outflows that ALMA has detected. And the researchers believe that these flows are dissipating rotational energy from the baby star, slowing down its rotation, and therefore possibly explaining why stars in our galaxy rotate more slowly than expected.

“In addition to high sensitivity and fidelity, high resolution submillimeter-wave observation is essential to our study, which ALMA made possible for the first time,” Hirota said. “Submillimeter waves are a unique diagnostic tool for the dense innermost region of the outflow, and at that exact place, we detected the rotation.

“ALMA’s resolution will become even higher in the future,” Hirota added. “We would like to observe other objects, to improve our understanding of the launching mechanism of outflows and the formation scenario of massive stars with the assistance of theoretical research.”

Courtesy-Space

Will Tesla Be Next To Join The Already Crowded Music Streaming Business?

June 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Move over, Spotify. Eat it, Apple. Later, Tidal. Tesla wants to join the club.

That’s at least the latest from Recode, which cites music industry sources saying Tesla has held talks with all the major labels about licensing for a proprietary music streaming service.

What isn’t clear is when and if Tesla will rev this effort up, so to speak, or how broad it will be. Will this be just for its cars or for anyone with a phone?

Tesla, in a statement, didn’t address the rumor directly, but instead said its goal is, “to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers.”

“We believe it’s important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose,” the company said.

Sony Music Entertainment, one of the industry’s major record labels, declined to comment. Meanwhile Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Of course, Tesla has a long history of going it alone. The all-electric car company created special software and chargers, despite already existing options. The company even created its own software to manage its manufacturing centers.

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