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Wireless Performance Still Not So Great In Big Cities Of LA, NYC

March 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The two biggest cities in the U.S. — New York City and Los Angeles –still fall below many smaller U.S. cities in overall wireless performance, according to millions of field tests performed by RootMetrics in the second half of 2016.

The New York metro area, with 18 million people, ranked just 66th in the latest round of tests of the nation’s largest 125 metro areas. Meanwhile, L.A., with 12.1 million people, ranked 49th. In testing done by RootMetrics in the first half of last year, New York finished 59th, L.A., 99th.

L.A. improved in two of six measurements: call and data performance. New York’s drop was largely driven by a “steep decline” in network speed and data performance, RootMetrics said.

The reasons for New York’s decline — and declines in other cities — depend on multiple factors. “These metro rankings are relative; the most common reason for a ranking drop is not that performance is declining in a particular city, rather than performance is improving faster in other cities,” said Annette Hamilton, director at RootMetrics.

RootMetrics evaluates the nation’s four largest carriers using actual phones the carriers sell in tests conducted outdoors and inside buildings. Sometimes a carrier will temporarily take down service in a cell tower while improvements are made; also, a recent increase in the number of users and the rich video content they download could burden a cell tower’s capacity and affect performance. As some cities improve in overall performance, they can displace other top-ranked cities.

“While mobile performance is generally strong across most areas of the country, our data shows that not all metro areas are created equal when it comes to network performance,” RootMetrics said in a report.

Besides New York, other large metro areas dropped in several categories from the first half of 2016. Boston, the 10th largest in population, fell from 17th to 97th, finishing in the bottom on network reliability and call performance. Miami, fourth in population, dropped from 84th to 89th, due to a decline in network reliability and call performance.

Both Atlanta and Chicago declined from their top five finishes in early 2016. Chicago finished 8th overall in the latest tests, and dropped to 65th in text performance. Atlanta dropped from third to 23rd, with declines in all six categories that RootMetrics measures: overall performance, network reliability, network speed, data performance, call performance and text performance.

Hamilton said while Atlanta placed 23rd, it had a “stellar reputation for speed and data performance” with Verizon showing the fastest median download speed of 37.7Mbps. Further, while Boston came in 97th, three of the four wireless carrier there clocked median download speeds above 20Mbps, which she described as “more than fast enough to easily complete typical mobile tasks.”

In 2017, she added, “We expect to see metro rankings shift again as carriers continue to deploy new capabilities to meet mobile demands.”

Houston, the seventh-largest metro area, improved — moving from 51st to 18th. RootMetrics reported that all four carriers showed “superb” rates of getting connected and staying connected to the network during data reliability testing and saw a big leap in call performance.

The top five metro areas by overall performance were Indianapolis; Richmond, Va. ; Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; and Minneapolis. The bottom five of the 125 measured were Hudson Valley, N.Y., in 121st place, descending to Springfield, Mass.; Santa Rosa, Calif.; Worcester, Mass.; and Omaha.

Apple’s New Video App Clips Challenges Facebook, Snapchat

March 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

With the release of a new video app called Clips, Apple Inc continues its move towards fully engaging in the messaging world, where its huge base of iPhone users could help it compete with Snap Inc’s Snapchat and Facebook Inc’s Messenger.

Clips, which will hit Apple’s App Store in April, lets customers take videos and add animated captions and titles, complete with colorful emoji symbols. The app also makes it possible to stitch together multiple video clips and add speech bubbles and filters.

The functions closely resemble those that drive Snap’s wildly popular Stories feature. With Stories, Snap users string together photos and videos, embellish them and then post them to their feeds.

Apple’s new Clips lets users post their video to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and more. But if users post them to Apple’s own Messages app, Apple will recommend whom to share it with based on which friends are in the videos and whom the user frequently contacts – the kind of predictive social features Facebook excels at.

Apple has a huge number of users for Messages, the flagship app for short notes that is built into the iPhone’s iOS 10 software. Apple does not say how many people use the app, but it does say that there more than 1 billion iOS devices on the market and that 79 percent of them run iOS 10.

Apple also says that Messages is the most commonly used app on iOS devices, giving the company potentially up to 800 million users for its latest messaging platform. Snap, by contrast, has 161 million daily active users. While Apple’s Clips competitor will technically be a separate app from Messages, it will be tied closely to it for the ability share Clips videos with other Apple users.

Facebook has more than 1 billion users for both Messenger, which was split off from the main Facebook service in 2014, and for WhatsApp, which it acquired for $19 billion the same year.

Apple has been steadily matching the features of Facebook’s Messenger. But Apple is also walking a fine line with other messaging players, cooperating with them often as it competes with them. For example, it has opened up the iPhone’s dialer app, long closed off to developers, so that iPhone users could place and receive Skype and WhatsApp calls through the device’s native interface.

Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp have been scrambling to get into the game, too. Google has more than a half dozen messaging apps, including Allo, its latest. Microsoft has tried to integrate chat into its Skype app, and Microsoft-owned LinkedIn is a popular tool for business notes.

But tech giants obsess over messaging because it is where users are headed, according to analyst firm Gartner. Between 2015 and 2016, the percentage of U.S. and UK smartphone owners who used social media apps dropped from 85 percent to 83 percent while messaging apps jumped from 68 percent to 71 percent, a trend Gartner expects will continue.

Advertising Coalition Agree To Online Ads Standards

March 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A broad coalition of advertising trade groups, ad buyers and sellers from Western Europe and the United States are pushing the industry to stop using annoying online marketing formats that have given rise to use of ad-blockers.

The types of ads the coalition has identified as falling below standard include pop-up advertisements, auto-play video ads with sound, flashing animated ads and full-screen ads that mask underlying content from readers or viewers.

The explosion of ad-blocking tools has launched a prolonged debate within the advertising industry over whether to rein in abusive ad practices or simply freeze out consumers who use ad blocker and still expect access to premium content.

The Coalition for Better Ads said on Wednesday it was publishing the voluntary standards after a study in which more than 25,000 web surfers and mobile phone users rated ads.

They identified six types of desktop web ads and 12 types of mobile ads as falling beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability and called on advertisers to avoid them.

Matti Littunen, research analyst at Enders Analysis focusing on digital media, said the ad formats identified by the coalition “have already been discouraged for years by these bodies and yet are still commonplace.”

The coalition is made up of major advertising associations from Britain, France, Germany and the United States, online ad platforms Google and Facebook, advertisers such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever and news publishers including News Corp, Washington Post and Thomson Reuters, the corporate parent of Reuters News.

“This is an opportunity, with the breadth of our participation, to actually not only capture what the consumer doesn’t want but also to really educate and take action to make that a reality in the online experience,” said Chuck Curran, a lawyer for the coalition, on a call with reporters.

“It’s that measurement of the point where the consumer is not just dissatisfied with the ad experience but actually more likely to use ad blockers and this is what we capture with the better ads standards.”

Ad-blocking, which has surged steadily since 2013, covered 615 million computer or mobile devices in 2016, up 30 percent from a year ago, according to estimates from Dublin-based PageFair, a firm that helps advertisers find ways to overcome blockers. That’s 11 percent of the world’s online populatio

Samsung Reveals More Details About Personal Digital Assistant ‘Bixby’

March 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Samsung has revealed that Bixby, an intelligent voice assistant, will run on the Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone scheduled to be announced March 29 in New York.

Bixby will be activated using a special physical button on the side of the phone, differentiating it from some other assistants that rely on a trigger word, like “Alexa” or “Siri.” Samsung also said Bixby will eventually work on millions of Samsung-made devices, potentially including TVs and washing machines.

The S8 will come with a subset of preinstalled apps that are Bixby-enabled, according to Injong Rhee, executive vice president of software and services for Samsung Electronics. Over time, this set of apps will expand; Samsung will release a software toolkit to allow third-party developers to Bixby enable their apps and services.

“Bixby will be our first step on a journey to completely open up new ways of interacting with your phone,” Rhee said.

Gartner analyst Werner Goertz said Bixby is a late-comer to the digital assistant game, arriving two years after Amazon’s Alexa and behind Google Assistant, which already have rich databases of voice inquiries and searches to add context to queries.

Alexa is well known for working with Echo room units. However, just last week, Amazon announced that Alexa works in its Amazon app on iOS devices.

Bixby is going to be playing catch up,” Goertz said. “Samsung faces a complete greenfield with its knowledge base.”

Even Alexa is in its “very early stages” in terms of how well a user can get an answer to a complicated question. “Everybody has a good time trying to trick these digital assistants, but if you bring in Bixby it’s going to be even easier to trip up Bixby.”

The functions of converting speech to text with digital assistants “works relatively well unless you trip it up with accents and background noise,” he said. The more critical issue is the knowledge base needed to find accurate information.

Still, Samsung argued that Bixby will offer a “deeper experience.” The company said that the feature in a Bixby-enabled app will support almost every task the app is capable of performing, including touch commands. By comparison, most agents currently only support a few selected tasks, which can confuse users about what works by voice command in an app.

Samsung also said Bixby will know the current context and state of an app to allow users to carry out work in progress. Users will be able to weave touch with voice interactions, depending on what they like.

And Bixby will also be smart enough to understand commands with incomplete information to the best of its knowledge, then ask for more information. “This makes the interface much more natural and easier to use,” Rhee added.

Even though Samsung is getting a late start with Bixby, Goertz said it stands to gain traction quickly, partly because Samsung is so large.

 

 

BlackBerry’s Secusmart To Roll Out Updated SecSuite Smartphone Product

March 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Secusmart, a BlackBerry subsidiary, plans to introduce a version of its SecuSuite security software that will be compatible with Samsung Electronics’ Knox platform later this year.

That means that organizations looking for smartphones offering government-grade security will be able to buy the Samsung Galaxy S7 or, soon, the S8 rather than the now-discontinued BlackBerry OS smartphones.

In addition to encrypting communications and data stored on the device, the new SecuSuite also secures voice calls using the SNS standard set by Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). Organizational app traffic is passed through an IPsec VPN, while data from personal apps can go straight to the internet. Encrypted voice calls go through a different gateway, not the VPN.

When it goes on sale, likely around July, an S7 running SecuSuite for Samsung Knox will cost around €1900, said BlackBerry Secusmart managing director Christoph Erdmann. That’s the same price as the existing BlackBerry 10 version, and includes the phone, a microSD smartcard to secure the encryption keys, and the first year of service.

Secusmart is demonstrating the new system on its stand at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany this week.

This is not Secusmart’s first collaboration with Samsung: Two years ago at Cebit, in conjunction with IBM, the companies unveiled an ultrasecure (and ultra-expensive) version of the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 tablet, called the Secutablet. It cost $2,300.

Users of SecuSuite for Samsung Knox will see the icons of applications managed by their employer tagged with a small padlock. When these applications are launched, they will ask for a PIN to authorize use of the encryption keys in the microSD card. Without these, neither the app nor its associated data can be accessed.

Other applications, including popular messaging platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp, can be installed in accordance with the employer’s security policies: Some organizations, like the German government, will allow only limited whitelists, while others may allow full access to the Google Play Store.

The controls are imposed by the organization’s MDM (mobile device management) and MAM (mobile applications management) servers, typically BES 12 and EASE respectively.

Even if a user inadvertently downloads and installs one of the malicious apps that occasionally sneaks into the Google Play Store, data in the work-related apps is still securely protected, said Erdmann.

“Every good OS has to have a way to stop processes reading other processes’ memory,” he said, adding that the Android OS is one of the ones that does.

So far, only a couple of Android manufacturers offer devices with secure boot systems: Samsung, and TCL, the company that now manufactures BlackBerry-brand Android phones under license.

“There’s great potential” for running SecuSuite on non-Knox Android phones, Erdmann said, but it won’t happen right away.

Experian And Finicity Join Forces, Aims To Speed Up Lending Process

March 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Credit bureau Experian Plc has joined forces with technology firm Finicity to launch a new product geared toward speeding up the consumer lending process in the United States making it more digital.

By using Finicity’s technology, which aggregates data on accounts from thousands of banks and financial institutions, Experian’s new service will give lenders real-time access to information on a customer’s assets, income and ability to pay, the companies said.

This means consumers will be able to apply for mortgages without having to provide reams of paper-based verification documents during the underwriting process, the companies said. Instead they will only need to authorize lenders to view their account data, the companies said.

They said the new service, set to launch on Monday, could reduce the underwriting process from as many as 70 days to up to 10 days.

The launch reflects the growing pressure faced by banks and other brick-and-mortar lenders to offer better digital services to their customers. Banks have been facing more competition from a new cohort of online lenders which are able to offer loans online in days or minutes by automating much of the process.

Some banks have responded by either partnering with digital lenders or launching their own online lending services. JPMorgan Chase & Co said in February that it was gradually introducing a digital mortgage platform where customers can apply online and track applications by mobile phone, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc launched online consumer lending platform Marcus last year.

Experian and Finicity said their product will also help consumers with little or no credit history by enabling lenders to access alternative data which can be used to demonstrate whether they would be able to repay a loan. This includes information such as their rent payments and utility and phone bills.

It comes as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau conducts an inquiry into ways to expand access to credit for consumers with little or no credit history through the use of alternative data. The regulator is seeking public feedback on the benefits and risks of using such alternative data sources.

Imagination Shows Off PowerVR Furian Architecture

March 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Imagination Technologies has lifted the kimono on its next-generation PowerVR Furian architecture, which it is billing as an entirely new GPU architecture designed for the evolved graphics and compute needs of next-generation consumer devices.

The company said that applications such as VR/AR and convertibles require higher graphics resolutions and frame rates, and emerging applications such as ADAS and machine intelligence require increased compute efficiency.

Devices designed for these applications are often designed in sub-14nm process technologies. Furian, embedded products will be able to deliver high-resolution, immersive graphics content and data computation for sustained time periods within mobile power budgets, the company said.

Furian’s architecture improvements are designed for enhanced power efficiency, widening the industry-leading performance per mW gap over competing solutions, with the benchmark already set by the PowerVR Rogue architecture.

The goal is to provide the industry’s most complete and efficient range of GPU IP cores across a wide range of performance operating points.

Sam Rosen, managing director and VP, video, OTT and AR/VR, ABI Research said: “Emerging applications such as AR/VR and machine learning put intense new requirements on the GPU. GPU systems must do more than in typical rendering scenarios, including a great deal of general purpose computation.”

He said that it was important to have a GPU microarchitecture that is adept at mixing graphics and compute workloads at different stages inside a single frame of rendering.

Mark Dickinson, EVP PowerVR business unit, Imagination said that Furian was created to address a new class of emerging applications, with a focus on efficient scalability that will extend to multiple generations of PowerVR IP cores.

“We’re excited to start rolling out the first 8XT IP cores based on Furian. These cores will further cement the leadership of PowerVR at the high end of mobile performance.”

Furian is designed to address the increasing compute requirements across multiple applications and market segments with efficient use of compute APIs including OpenCL 2.0, Vulkan 1.0 and OpenVX 1.1.

Furian adds a bi-directional GPU/CPU coherent interface for efficient sharing of data; and a transition to user mode queues from kernel mode queues which reduces latency and CPU utilization for compute operations.

Significantly, Furian features a new 32-wide ALU cluster design for increased performance density and efficiency. A new instruction set architecture (ISA) in the primary and secondary ALU pipelines enables improved utilization of resources and thus efficiency, and multi-threading optimizations allow efficient and very flexible access to on-chip local compute memory.

Furian manages a 35 per cent GFLOPS density improvement for improved compute and gaming performance efficiency and an 80 per cent fillrate density improvement for improved UI and casual gaming performance efficiency. This means a 70-90 per cent gaming density improvement.

Imagination has already licensed the first Furian IP cores to multiple partners with initial RTL delivered. The first GPU core variants based on Furian will be announced in mid-2017.

Courtesy-Fud

EU Gives Social Media Companies A Month To Make User Agreements Compliant

March 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook, Twitter and Google have been given a month to update their user agreements in the European Union or face “enforcement action.”

European consumer authorities put the social media services on notice last November that their terms of service did not comply with EU law, asked them to make changes and to address the problem of scams that misled users of the services.

The authorities and the European Commission met with the companies on Thursday to discuss their proposed changes, and gave them a month to make their final proposals, the European Commission said Friday. If those proposals don’t satisfy the authorities, then they could take enforcement action, the Commission said.

The European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, said it was unacceptable that European consumers had to take their disputes with the companies to courts in California, and that they were deprived of their rights under EU law to withdraw from online purchases.

She called on the social media companies to take more responsibility for dealing with scams and fraud conducted via their platforms.

For the social media companies to bring their terms of service into compliance with EU law, the regulators say they must allow consumers to raise disputes in the courts of their country of residence, and not force them to waive their mandatory rights. These rights include being able to withdraw from online purchases. The companies should not be able to grant themselves the right to remove content or change contract terms without notice.

The regulators identified a number of fraudulent practices that exploit the social media companies’ networks, including scams taking payment from consumers, sale of counterfeit products, or “subscription traps” in which consumers believe they are registering for a free trial but end up agreeing to make ongoing payments.

They want the social media companies to remove such scams from their websites on demand, and to provide national consumer protection authorities with a single point of contact to highlight such illegal content and arrange for it to be taken down.

Windows On ARM Ready To Debut

March 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

After months of rumors, Windows is finally fully functional on ARM based chips and the Wintel alliance is in tatters.

Microsoft officials told Bloomberg that the company is committed to use ARM chips in machines running its cloud services.

Microsoft will use the ARM chips in a cloud server design that its officials will detail at the US Open Compute Project Summit today. Microsoft has been working with both Qualcomm and Cavium on the version of Windows Server for ARM.

Microsoft joined the Open Compute Project (OCP) in 2014, and is a founding member of and contributor to the organisation’s Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) project.

The OCP publishes open hardware designs intended to be used to build cheaper datacentres. The OCP has released specs for motherboards, chipsets, cabling, and common sockets, connectors, and open networking and switches.

Vole’s cloud server specification is a a 12U shared server chassis capable of housing 24 1U servers. Microsoft is also releasing its Chassis Manager under the open-source Apache license.

Project Olympus is the codename for Vole’s next-generation cloud hardware design that it contributed last autumn Fall to the OCP.

Vole is also expected to use ARM processors in its Olympus systems which will be headed to its data systems by Christmas.

The winner appears to be Qualcomm which says it is working on a variety of cloud workloads to run on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform powered by Qualcomm Centriq 2400 server solutions.

Qualcomm said it had been working with Vole for several years on ARM-based server enablement and has onsite engineering at Microsoft to collaboratively optimise a version of Windows Server, for Microsoft’s internal use in its data centres, on Qualcomm Centriq 2400-based systems.

There’s no word from Microsoft when it will begin offering Windows Server on ARM to external customers or partners, but that is only a matter of time. With less power the need for Intel’s use in the server room becomes less important and if ARM designs become more established because of Microsoft’s blessing, it is unlikely that anyone will want Intelthere.

Courtesy-Fud

ZapGo Offers Safer Alternative To Lithium-ion Batteries

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

New non-flammable, quick-charging batteries unveiled by private startup ZapGo Ltd. could begin showing up in popular smartphones in the next two years.

ZapGo’s carbon-ion batteries promise to be a safe replacement for the billions of lithium-ion batteries already used in smartphones, electric scooters, vehicles and industrial devices. Lithium-ion batteries in several products, including the Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone, have been banned on many airline flights because they can overheat, catch fire and explode.

ZapGo, based in Oxford UK, showed off its Zap&Go Carbon-Ion cell at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

The company has been successfully testing the battery technology to power autonomous shuttles used to transport passengers at Heathrow Airport, said ZapGo CEO Stephen Voller in an interview on Wednesday.

In addition, ZapGo showed at CES smaller versions of its batteries used to power an 18-volt handheld drill, a Razor E300 scooter and a cordless cleaner.

Voller said the first iterations of its carbon-ion battery cells will be ready to be used in the iPhone 10 or the Samsung Galaxy S10, expected in about two years. He said various smartphone makers he would not name have shown interest in using carbon-ion instead of lithium-ion, primarily for safety reasons.

“There’s no fire risk at all” with carbon-ion, Voller said. “There’s nothing flammable. Our mantra is [we’re] safer and faster-charging because the batteries are not lithium-based and have nothing inside that will burn.”

Lithium-ion batteries rely on an organic electrolyte that easily catches fire when there’s an electrical short of some kind, he explained. ZapGo instead uses nano-carbon materials, including graphene, as well an ionic electrolyte in its cells.

New FCC Chairman Pledges Faster Response On New Technologies

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

U.S. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has pledged his agency will implement quicker response times regarding new technology proposals, a move that might influence the direction of 5G development around the world.

Pai was appointed by President Donald Trump in January. In his first major policy address on Wednesday, Pai directed Federal Communications Commission staff to follow a little-known section of U.S. communications law that says the agency should decide within a year whether a new technology or service is in the public interest.

“Going forward, if a petition or application is filed with the FCC proposing a new technology or service, we’ll supply an answer within a year,” Pai said in his speech at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

With carriers and equipment vendors racing to test and deploy new 5G mobile technologies over the next few years, regulators are under pressure to act quickly. Europe, China, the U.S., Japan and South Korea each want to lead the next generation of mobile, and the regulators in these leading countries often follow each others’ leads, said analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. A commitment to quick decisions can only help the U.S. in that race, he said.

The FCC has already opened nearly 11GHz of spectrum in high-frequency millimeter-wave bands for use in 5G mobile services, and has signed off on a number of 5G trials, Pai said. He thinks faster FCC decision-making could help to make even higher frequencies above 95GHz available for new uses. He favors opening up those bands to experimentation by letting companies try out new ideas.

Spectrum above 95GHz may be useful for high-speed backhaul connections in places where it’s expensive to lay fiber, or as an emergency backup in case fiber gets cut by natural disasters like earthquakes, said Michael Marcus, an independent spectrum technology and policy consultant and former FCC official. Some companies that want to use it have waited years for the FCC to review their applications, he said. Marcus hopes that Pai’s pledge is the start of a major shift at the agency. But the impact remains to be seen.

“It’s too early to say it’s a sea change,” analyst Entner said. “Like everything in Washington, there are intentions and then there is the reality of what actually happens.”

In the speech, Pai also called for efforts to bring broadband to underserved communities, through both federal programs like the Universal Service Fund and streamlined regulation of private carriers. He tied that goal, one he’s frequently promoted since joining the agency he now leads in 2012, to Trump’s call for investment in national infrastructure like roads and bridges.

“If Congress moves forward with a major infrastructure package, broadband should be included,” Pai said.

Chrome Making Updates To Make Tabs More Power Efficient

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google’s latest upgrade to the Chrome browser spearheads what will be a series of changes over the next few years to reduce the browser’s power consumption by limiting activity in background tabs.

“Starting in version 57, Chrome will throttle individual background tabs by limiting the timer fire rate for background tabs using excessive power,” Alexander Timin, a software engineer on the Chrome team, said in a Tuesday post to a company blog.

Chrome 57 debuted on Thursday, March 9. Some users, however, may not have yet received the upgrade.

Throttling background tabs isn’t new: All browsers do it to some extent, primarily by instructing them to check for a refresh to the pertinent page or app just once each second rather than more-or-less continuously.

With Chrome 57, Google got even more aggressive. According to Timin, the browser will further delay those timers to limit the average processor load to just 1% of a single-core CPU. Tabs that play audio — such as one aimed at spotify.com — and those that must maintain real-time connections, including those for video conferencing, will not be affected.

Timin claimed that the new throttling generated “25% fewer busy background tabs,” although he did not express that in a battery-savings format that, if not more precise, would be clearer to users.

Google has also outlined a longer-term program whose goal is to “suspend background tabs completely.” By the end of June, for example, the Mountain View, Calif. company wants to suspend all tasks in mobile Chrome’s background tabs; at some point next year, desktop Chrome should by default fully pause a background tab after N minutes, but still give web developers the option to keep their apps active when they’re not the front-most tab.

Although browsers once fought it out on speed, as performance equalized makers looked for other ways to trumpet their wares. Power usage, because of notebooks and smartphones as primary surfing tools, became a more important metric. Increasingly, browser developers have expended resources on reducing power consumption, applying tricks ranging from putting background tabs into cryosleep to barring Adobe’s Flash Player from running without explicit approval.

Microsoft, for instance, has been insistent that Edge, the native browser in Windows 10, is more power efficient than Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox. After one such boast last year, Google shot back with counter claim.

 

Nest GoesTwo-Factor Authentication

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Palo Alto-based startup Nest Labs, which introduced its first Nest Learning Thermostat in 2011 along with a range of other home automation devices, prior to being acquired by Google, has just announced that it is introducing two-factor authentication for additional security to prevent customer security footage from getting stolen by thieves.

Two-factor can be enabled through “Account Security” menu option

Two-factor authentication is a login method where a person is only granted access after presenting several separate pieces of evidence to an authentication system. Most applications and websites do this by asking the user for a login password, followed by a verification code sent via email or text message. Nest will now allow users to open the Nest app on their connected home devices, navigate to Account Security, and enable a new option to activate “2-step verification”.

According to Nest Founder and Chief Product Officer Matt Rogers, the process “takes a minute or two for our customers, but for hackers working from computers all over the world, things get a whole lot harder”. He said: “We all know data security is a moving target, Technology keeps advancing, but so do the people who want to break into your email, your credit card or any other account they can get their hands on. But your home is your safe haven, where private information should stay private.”

Back in January 2016, a group of researchers at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy discovered that some users’ Nest thermostats leaked zip codes onto the internet. This was based on the coordinates of the company’s weather stations, a  bug that has since been patched. Another group of researchers at the University of Central Florida found that they could gain control of Nest’s Linux operating system while the devices were booting up by installing a custom software package through the USB port. While this second method is more of a jailbreak rather than a firmware security bug, the researchers noted that data sent over the air is encrypted, while data stored on the device is not. They used an ARP tool to trick other devices on the same Wi-Fi network into talking with the compromised Nest using the custom software package.

The security researchers admit that two-factor authentication is one of the best protection mechanisms available for home users who may be more vulnerable to having an unpatched Nest device connected to their network, while enterprise users shouldn’t need to worry about the ARP spoof as most corporate networks have deployed detection software for their IoT networks.

Courtesy-Fud

McDonald’s Finally To Begin Testing Mobile Ordering App

March 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

McDonald’s Corp this month will finally start testing its long-awaited U.S. mobile ordering app with the goal of avoiding the kinds of service issues that have impacted digital debuts by companies such as Starbucks Corp.

Digital ordering has been challenging for many restaurant chains and their customers. Domino’s Pizza Inc, now the industry leader, took years to perfect it. Starbucks’ technology took far less time, but in January the chain said mobile orders poured in faster than they could be processed, creating backlogs that drove away time-crunched walk-in customers.

McDonald’s sees mobile as a way to win back customers after four straight years of traffic declines, but the project is not without risks.

“We can’t impact the speed or the quality of our food,” Jim Sappington, McDonald’s executive vice president of operations, digital and technology, told Reuters in an interview at a temporary warehouse space in Chicago’s West Loop where the company has built a new high tech restaurant. It features a redesigned kitchen to speed order flow and show off its technology initiatives.

If its famous french fries are served cold or if mobile customers have to wait for orders, “you get a question of ‘Why did I use the app?’,” Sappington said. “Our focus is to make the overall experience clearly better.”

McDonald’s said that automating more orders should cut transaction times, reduce errors and free up workers to do things like deliver food to tables or cars in spots designated for mobile orders.

“It’s better to be right than to be first to market,”

McDonald’s Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook said recently.

To that end, Sappington plans multiple pilot tests to work out any kinks and streamline the integration with the company’s existing technology systems before rolling out the finished app in nearly all 14,000 U.S. restaurants and some 6,000 others in Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia and China, by the end of this year.

Does Spreadtrum’s Chip Really Have Intel Inside?

March 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

China-based mobile chip vendor Spreadtrum has announced a new chip dubbed the SC9861G-IA, targeted at the “global mid-level and premium smartphone market”.

The chip is based around Intel’s Atom-based Airmont processor cores and it was made by Chipzilla using its 14-nanometer chip manufacturing technology.

Spreadtrum said the chip will go into mass production in the second quarter of 2017 which means we should see it in the shops in the second half of 2017.

One thing should be noted is that Intel is not involved in the branding at all. Spreadtrum is pitching it as being made by the Intel Custom Foundry (ICF) but other than that its name is off it.

Spreadtrum claims the Airmont CPU core inside the SC9861G-IA runs at 2GHz and it is unlikely to beat the Snapdragon 652 in per-core performance. Running on x86 make it less useful as a rival to ARM based chips. Intel’s mobile chips were not as bad as was claimed by the armies of Android fans, but it was not as robust, which is one of the reasons we suspect Intel pulled the plug on it.

There can be only one reason why a smartphone maker would opt for this chip and that is that it is considerably cheaper than the rivals.

Courtesy-Fud

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