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Google Offer Phone Trade-in Policy In Time For New Pixel Device

September 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

With the Google Pixel 2 gearing up to launch in about two weeks, you may be ready to retire your current phone in anticipation.

All signs point to Google trying to make the process smoother. The company launched a trade-in program (scroll down on the right-hand side of the page for details) for those who send in their old phone when buying a new Google Pixel(here’s our review of the first Pixel). Even though this comes ahead of the Pixel 2 launch, it’s likely Google will extend this deal to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL (if those turn out to be their final names) when those phones become available for preorder.

For the full list, head to the Google Store.

It’s common for carriers and phone manufacturers to offer trade-in deals when new phones are released, and Google offers a wide range depending on the phone’s current condition. Whether you get $61 or $363 for an iPhone 7 is a big difference, but keep in mind that a phone in good working order is far more valuable than one with a cracked screen.

Still, if you’re serious about trading in your old phone you may want to check additional options like Gazelle or NextWorth for some perspective. You may be able to get a little bit more — for example, Gazelle will give you up to $390 for an iPhone 7, while NextWorth’s prices top out at around $350). Or if your phone is in good enough condition and you have the patience, you may want to try your luck on eBay, where popular phones typically fetch higher prices.

Google doesn’t currently assign a trade-in value for the original Pixel, but that may change when the Pixel 2 is announced. Google did not respond to a request for comment, but stay tuned to CNET when the Pixel 2 becomes official on Oct. 4.

T-Mobile, Sprint Edge Closer To Merger

September 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

 T-Mobile US Inc is has moved closer to agreeing on tentative terms to merge with Sprint Corp, people familiar with the matter said on Friday, a major breakthrough in efforts to merge the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers.

The transaction would significantly consolidate the U.S. telecommunications market and represent the first transformative U.S. merger with significant antitrust risk to be agreed since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump in January.

The progress toward a deal also indicates that T-Mobile and Sprint believe that the U.S. antitrust enforcement environment has become more favorable since the companies abandoned their previous effort to combine in 2014 amid regulatory concerns.

The latest development in the talks between T-Mobile and Sprint comes as the telecommunications sector seeks ways to tackle investments in 5G technology that will greatly enhance wireless data transfer speeds.

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, which controls Sprint, and other Sprint shareholders will own 40 to 50 percent of the combined company, while T-Mobile majority owner Deutsche Telekom and the rest of T-Mobile shareholders will own the majority, the sources said.

SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son met with Trump late last year and said in February that the Japanese firm should benefit from Trump’s promised deregulation.

Once terms are finalized, due diligence by the two companies will follow and a deal is expected by the end of October, though talks may still fall through, the sources said.

Is Valve’s Steam Dominance Killing PC Gaming

September 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Earlier this week I wrote about a recurring problem in games, and what I was going to do as a member of the media to try and fix it. Today I’m going to talk about something I’m doing to fix it as a customer and gamer.

I hadn’t intended to write a follow-up piece, but I hit a bit of a breaking point this week with the one-two punch of PewDiePie dropping the n-word on stream and Bungie removing a white supremacist symbol from its Destiny 2.

Both events are part of a wretched pattern that has been recurring in games for several years now, a pattern where we see some deep-seated prejudices in gaming culture come to the fore in alarming clarity for a moment, everyone points and decries the awfulness, then everyone else gets angry at the people who didn’t like the awful thing. If we’re very lucky, the people who screwed up in the first place publicly apologize, reflect on their mistakes and try to do better the next time. It’s much, much rarer to see anyone indirectly responsible for this pattern take an honest look at their role in it, and we absolutely need them to if this is ever going to get better.

“People talk about racism, sexism, transphobia and the like as if they are diseases, but maybe we should think of these things less like contagions and more like environmental pollutants”

People talk about racism, sexism, transphobia and the like as if they are diseases, like it’s something binary you either have or you don’t. “This is racist. That is not racist.” But maybe we should think of these things less like contagions and more like environmental pollutants. They surround us at all times, but in varying concentrations. They’re like arsenic in your drinking water, or rat feces in your popcorn; we should aspire to have none at all, but that’s a difficult enough task that we “accept” both in small quantities. (Seriously.) When they are present in very small amounts, the damage they do is manageable. But when the concentration is high enough, they can be fatal.

This is a cultural problem, which means all of us play a small role in making it better or worse. Like riding a bike instead of driving a car or using LEDs instead of incandescent lights, our actions don’t move the needle on their own, but can add up to something significant when combined with the actions of enough others. This week’s events left me wanting to do something to make things better, and that’s when I saw a NSFW tweet with some screen caps of the Firewatch Steam forum.

After PewDiePie dropped his racist interjection, Firewatch developer Campo Santo had the popular streamer’s video of the game pulled from YouTube using the service’s copyright claims process. Angry gamers then began review bombing the title on Steam, and poured into the game-specific forums to flood them with abuse. Because that’s how it’s done now. Because we are gamers and every avenue of feedback available to us must be weaponized so that we can have things our way. Because we’re so upset about a developer using a questionable invocation of the DMCA that we would crusade arm-in-arm with overt racists and human garbage rather than let our rage go unvented for even a moment. (See also: People actually concerned with ethics in games journalism who provided willing cover for virulent misogynists and harassers during GamerGate.)

Most of those threads in the Firewatch forum have since been consolidated, with the most exceptionally racist ones being deleted. But it wasn’t Valve who handled the clean up, because Valve offloads moderation of game-specific forums to the developers. Just like translation of its store pages or curation of its catalog, Valve seems to like nothing more to offload the work on others. That approach might be fine for some functions, but the company cannot abdicate responsibility for the community and culture that has come from its own neglect.

“Valve’s dogmatic commitment to removing human judgment from every aspect of the operation is in effect a judgment call of its own”

That’s why I’m terminating my Steam account.

For as much as Valve’s actions have revitalized the PC gaming scene in the last dozen years, its inaction has been steadily deteriorating gaming culture. Our own Rob Fahey has covered Steam’s community woes before, but the company’s dogmatic commitment to removing human judgment from every aspect of the operation is in effect a judgment call of its own, one that presumes everything is acceptable and there are no limits other than legal ones. And on the rare occasion Valve actually deviates from that approach and enforces some standards, it does so reluctantly.

Right now you can find Hatred, Playing History 2 – Slave Trade, and House Party on the storefront, showing that Valve has no problem with the glorification of mass shootings, the trivialization of atrocities, or the gamification of rape. We can give them some points for consistency though, as the availability of Paranautical Activity suggests Valve is unwilling to take a stand even against death threats to its own founder.

This same approach of course applies to the Steam community, which technically has guidelines, but little interest in enforcing them. Hey, there’s a guideline forbidding racism and discrimination, weird. I guess “Nazi Recruitment Group Order#1” (NSFW) with the swastika logo and 76 members has just fallen through the cracks for the last two years. And that user, “F*** Blacks,” with a graphic avatar of a man fellating himself? I’m sure he just changed it and I just happened to visit the site in the split-second that was online before he was banned.

Nope, still there.

Oh, and this one, “Whites Only,” (NSFW) a group “for any fellow White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and anyone who just hates colored people!” (If you must click through, be warned it only gets more racist from there.) Maybe nobody’s noticed them. Oh wait, no, here’s a post in the Steam help forums asking people to help ban the group for being racist. Well maybe Valve hasn’t seen it. Oh, wait. There’s a post from a Valve community mod locking the thread and linking to the support page on how to report abusive behavior.

That’s one of 29 community mods volunteering their time “to help keep discussions clean and on topic, and remove reported user generated content around the Steam Community.” If you talk about actual Valve employees, people who might theoretically be trained and compensated to do the job, there are apparently only 12 that mod the community. Even they aren’t necessarily focused on the task; they include programmers, software engineers, and UI designers that the company simply says “spend some time” helping out on the forums.

“Whatever its motives, Valve is clearly just fine operating an online toilet that harbors the worst dregs of society”

By the way, Steam had 12.9 million users online at the same time today. Steam is a massive chunk of the gaming community and Valve has offloaded moderation responsibilities to the developers and the users to a staggering degree. The company is so dedicated to having other people fix its problems that when I filed my request to terminate the account because I was sick of the toxicity, the first response I got from Steam Support said, “Please make sure you’re using the ‘Report Violation’ feature to report inappropriate behavior or users on Steam.”

Whatever its motives, Valve is clearly just fine operating an online toilet that harbors the worst dregs of society. But if it isn’t willing to staff up a reasonable amount of dedicated community management people, enforce even the minimal guidelines it claims to have, and excise these bad faith actors from its community, then I have no choice but to believe Valve wants them there. And if Valve wants them there, it’s fair to hold the company responsible for all the vileness they spew from the platform it owns and completely controls. Whatever benefit Steam once offered me has been more than offset by the harm it causes to its marginalized users, gaming culture, and society as a whole. I won’t be a part of that community any longer.

So my Steam account is gone, or presumably will be once Steam Support gets around to fulfilling my request. While I would encourage everyone reading this to consider whether Steam is a community they want to associate themselves with, I have to acknowledge this is not a huge sacrifice for me. I’m losing access to dozens of games and a backlog of purchased-but-unplayed titles, but I’m not primarily a PC gamer.

Having acknowledged that, it would seem unreasonable that my “call to action” be for everyone to delete their Steam accounts, or for developers to pull their games from a store that provides an overwhelming majority of their business. Instead, I would simply ask that everyone do what they can to foster viable alternatives. As consumers, we can stop buying new games from Steam if they are available on GOG.com, itch.io, or an alternative storefront. Developers, make it a priority to get your games on as many storefronts as possible, even if they only incrementally boost the bottom line. Because right now the PC gaming industry is entirely too dependent on a company with entirely too little interest in basic human decency, and it’s hurting us all.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Astronomers Ponder The Role Of Physics In Life

September 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Understanding the origin of life is arguably one of the most compelling quests for humanity. This quest has inevitably moved beyond the puzzle of life on Earth to whether there’s life elsewhere in the universe. Is life on Earth a fluke? Or is life as natural as the universal laws of physics?

Jeremy England, a biophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is trying to answer these profound questions. In 2013, he formulated a hypothesis that physics may spontaneously trigger chemicals to organize themselves in ways that seed “life-like” qualities.

Now, new research by England and a colleague suggests that physics may naturally produce self-replicating chemical reactions, one of the first steps toward creating life from inanimate substances.

This might be interpreted as life originating directly from the fundamental laws of nature, thereby removing luck from the equation. But that would be jumping the gun.

Life had to have come from something; there wasn’t always biology. Biology is born from the raw and lifeless chemical components that somehow organized themselves into prebiotic compounds, created the building blocks of life, formed basic microbes and then eventually evolved into the spectacular array of creatures that exist on our planet today.  

“Abiogenesis” is when something nonbiological turns into something biological and England thinks thermodynamics might provide the framework that drives life-like behavior in otherwise lifeless chemicals. However, this research doesn’t bridge life-like qualities of a physical system with the biological processes themselves, England said.

“I would not say I have done anything to investigate the ‘origin of life’ per se,” England told Live Science. “I think what’s interesting to me is the proof of principle – what are the physical requirements for the emergence of life-like behaviors?”

Self-organization in physical systems

When energy is applied to a system, the laws of physics dictate how that energy dissipates. If an external heat source is applied to that system, it will dissipate and reach thermal equilibrium with its surroundings, like a cooling cup of coffee left on a desk. Entropy, or the amount of disorder in the system, will increase as heat dissipates. But some physical systems may be  sufficiently out of equilibrium that they “self-organize” to make best use of an external energy source, triggering interesting self-sustaining chemical reactions that prevent the system from reaching thermodynamic equilibrium and thus maintaining an out-of-equilibrium state, England speculates. (It’s as if that cup of coffee spontaneously produces a chemical reaction that sustains a hotspot in the center of the fluid, preventing the coffee from cooling to an equilibrium state.) He calls this situation “dissipation-driven adaptation” and this mechanism is what drives life-like qualities in England’s otherwise lifeless physical system.

A key life-like behavior is self-replication, or (from a biological viewpoint) reproduction. This is the basis for all life: It starts simple, replicates, becomes more complex and replicates again. It just so happens that self-replication is also a very efficient way of dissipating heat and increasing entropy in that system.

In a study published July 18 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  England and co-author Jordan Horowitz tested their hypothesis. They carried out computer simulations on a closed system (or a system that doesn’t exchange heat or matter with its surroundings) containing a “soup” of 25 chemicals. Although their setup is very simple, a similar type of soup may have pooled on the surface of a primordial and lifeless Earth. If, say, these chemicals are concentrated and heated by an external source – a hydrothermal vent, for example – the pool of chemicals would need to dissipate that heat in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics. Heat must dissipate and the entropy of the system will inevitably increase.

Under certain initial conditions, he found that these chemicals may optimize the energy applied to the system by self-organizing and undergoing intense reactions to self-replicate. The chemicals fine-tuned themselves naturally. These reactions generate heat that obeys the second law of thermodynamics; entropy will always increase in the system and the chemicals would self-organize and exhibit the life-like behavior of self-replication.

“Essentially, the system tries a bunch of things on a small scale, and once one of them starts experiencing positive feedback, it does not take that long for it to take over the character of organization in the system,” England told Live Science.

This is a very simple model of what goes on in biology: chemical energy is burned in cells that are – by their nature – out of equilibrium, driving the metabolic processes that maintain life. But, as England admits, there’s a big difference between finding life-like qualities in a virtual chemical soup and life itself.

Sara Imari Walker, a theoretical physicist and astrobiologist at Arizona State University who was not involved in the current research, agrees.

“There’s a two-way bridge that needs to be crossed to try to bridge biology and physics; one is to understand how you get life-like qualities from simple physical systems and the other is to understand how physics can give rise to life,” Imari Walker told Live Science. “You need to do both to really understand what properties are unique to life and what properties are characteristic of things that you consider to be almost alive […] like a prebiotic system.”

Emergence of life beyond Earth?

Before we can even begin to answer the big question of whether these simple physical systems may influence the emergence of life elsewhere in the universe, it would be better to understand where these systems exist on Earth first.

“If, when you say ‘life,’ you mean stuff that is as stunningly impressive as a bacterium or anything else with polymerases and DNA, my work doesn’t yet tell us anything about how easy or difficult it is to make something that complex, so I shouldn’t speculate about what we’d be likely to find elsewhere than Earth,”  England said. (Polymerases are proteins that assemble DNA and RNA.)

This research doesn’t specifically identify how biology emerges from nonbiological systems, only that in some complex chemical situations, surprising self-organization occurs. These simulations do not consider other life-like qualities – such as adaptation to environment or reaction to stimuli. Also, this thermodynamics test on a closed system does not consider the role of information reproduction in life’s origins, said Michael Lässig, a statistical physicist and quantitative biologist at the University of Cologne in Germany.

“[This] work is indeed a fascinating result on non-equilibrium chemical networks but it is still a long way from a physics explanation of the origins of life, which requires the reproduction of information,” Lässig, who was not involved in the research, told Live Science.

There’s a critical role for information in living systems, added Imari Walker. Just because there appears to be natural self-organization exhibited by a soup of chemicals, it doesn’t necessarily mean living organization.

“I think there’s a lot of intermediate stages that we have to get through to go from simple ordering to having a full-on information processing architecture like a living cell, which requires something like memory and hereditary,” said Imari Walker. “We can clearly get order in physics and non-equilibrium systems, but that doesn’t necessarily make it life.”

To say England’s work could be the “smoking gun” for the origin of life is premature, and there are many other hypotheses as to how life may have emerged from nothing, experts said. But it is a fascinating insight into how physical systems may self-organize in nature. Now that researchers have a general idea about how this thermodynamic system behaves, it would be a nice next step to identify sufficiently out-of-equilibrium physical systems that naturally occur on Earth, England said.

Courtesy-Space

Google Assistant Comes To Bose Premium Headphones

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Last month Bose accidentally leaked shots in a newsletter of what appeared to be a new version of its top noise-canceling headphone, the QuietComfort 35. The tip-off was an extra button on the headphones that tech sleuths speculated had something to do with a possible voice assistant.

Now Bose has officially announced the not-so-secret QuietComfort 35 II or QC35 II and told us that the new “Action” button on the left ear cup allows you to connect to your Google Assistant without “having to grab your phone, unlock it, and find the app.” And that wasn’t the only Bose news of the day: It also introduced the SoundSport Free, a set of totally wireless Apple AirPods competitors.

Aside from that new button on the QC35 II, nothing has changed, Bose says. The price is still $350 (£330, AU$500). The headphone sounds the same as its predecessor, has the same noise canceling and battery performance (up to 20 hours) and the same controls on the right ear cup — audio volume and the multi-function button for incoming calls and accessing Siri.

Google Assistant is available for Android and iOS devices and is similar to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Instead of talking to your phone to access Google Assistant, you just press and hold the Action button on the QC35 II and issue commands. The QC35 II’s advanced microphone system “picks up voices with remarkable accuracy, so commands are understood,” Bose says. And the headphone’s noise cancellation “dramatically reduces sound around you,” making the Google Assistant experience more personal and immersive.

Tomer Amarilio, product manager for Google Assistant, posted a blog about the first headphones that are “optimized for the Assistant” where he details some of Google Assistant’s potential uses with the QC35 II. Presumably, other Assistant-optimized headphones are in the works.

The Bose QC35 II is available now in black and silver. Bose notes that the QC35 II’s Action button will access the Google Assistant only in markets where Google Assistant is available. In other markets, the Action button will control noise settings only.

Google Acquiring Pixel Smartphone Making Unit of HTC

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Alphabet Inc’s Google confirmed that it would pay $1.1 billion for the division at Taiwan’s HTC Corp that develops the U.S. firm’s Pixel smartphones – its second major foray into phone hardware after an earlier costly failure.

The all-cash deal will see Google gain 2,000 HTC employees, roughly equivalent to one fifth of the Taiwanese firm’s total workforce. It will also acquire a non-exclusive license for HTC’s intellectual property and the two firms agreed to look at other areas of collaboration in the future.

While Google is not acquiring any manufacturing assets, the transaction underscores a ramping up of its ambitions for Android smartphones at a time when consumer and media attention is largely focused on rival Apple Inc.

“Google has found it necessary to have its own hardware team to help bring innovations to Android devices, making them competitive versus the iPhone series,” said Mia Huang, an analyst at research firm TrendForce.

The move is part of a broader and still nascent push into hardware that saw Google hire Rick Osterloh, a former Motorola executive, to run its hardware division last year. It also comes ahead of new product launches on Oct. 4 that are expected to include two Pixel phones and a Chromebook.

Pixel smartphones, only launched a year ago, have less than 1 percent market share globally with an estimated 2.8 million shipments, according to research firm IDC.

Google will be aiming not to repeat mistakes made when it purchased Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in 2012. It sold it off to China’s Lenovo Group Ltd for less than $3 billion two years later after Motorola failed to produce appealing products that could compete with iPhones.

This time around, however, the deal price tag is much smaller and the lack of manufacturing facilities also minimizes risk.

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 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

Astronomers Find Titanium Oxide On Aline Planet

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

For the first time ever, titanium oxide has been spotted in an exoplanet’s skies, a new study reports.

Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile detected the substance in the atmosphere of WASP-19b, a huge, scorching-hot planet located 815 light-years from Earth.

The presence of titanium oxide in the atmosphere of WASP-19b can have substantial effects on the atmospheric temperature structure and circulation,” study co-author Ryan MacDonald, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge in England, said in a statement.  

One possible effect is “thermal inversion.” If enough titanium oxide is present, the stuff can keep heat from entering or exiting an atmosphere, causing upper layers to be hotter than lower layers, researchers said. (This phenomenon occurs in Earth’s stratosphere, but the culprit is ozone, not titanium oxide.)

Artist’s illustration showing the exoplanet WASP-19b, whose atmosphere contains titanium oxide. In large enough quantities, titanium oxide can prevent heat from entering or escaping an atmosphere, leading to a “thermal inversion” in which temperatures are higher in the upper atmosphere than lower down.

WASP-19b is a bizarre world about the mass of Jupiter. The alien planet lies incredibly close to its host star, completing one orbit every 19 hours. As a result, WASP-19b’s atmospheric temperatures are thought to hover around 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius).

The research team — led by Elyar Sedaghati of the European Southern Observatory, the German Aerospace Center and the Technical University of Berlin — studied WASP-19b for more than a year using the VLT’s refurbished FORS2 instrument. These observations allowed them to determine that small amounts of titanium oxide, along with water and wisps of sodium, swirl around in the exoplanet’s blistering air.

“Detecting such molecules is, however, no simple feat,” Sedaghati said in the same statement. “Not only do we need data of exceptional quality, but we also need to perform a sophisticated analysis. We used an algorithm that explores many millions of spectra spanning a wide range of chemical compositions, temperatures, and cloud or haze properties in order to draw our conclusions.”

In addition to shedding new light on WASP-19b, the new study — which was published online today (Sept. 13) in the journal Nature — should improve researchers’ modeling of exoplanet atmospheres in general, team members said.

“To be able to examine exoplanets at this level of detail is promising and very exciting,” said co-author Nikku Madhusudhan, also of the University of Cambridge. 

Courtesy-Space

YouTube Introduces Fan Sponsorship Service

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube Gaming fans will now be able to directly donate money to their favorite eligible creators with sponsorships, the company announced.  A monthly $4.99 payment gives fans perks such as custom emoji and access to exclusive live chats. Fans can also purchase digital goods directly from the channels.

In order to be eligible, creators must be over 18 years old and have a Gaming channel which is monetized and enabled for live streaming. The channel must also have over 1,000 subscribers.

Early tests of YouTube Gaming sponsorships proved successful. According to the company, GameAttack, for example, makes most of its channel revenue through sponsorships and Super Chat (in which live stream participants can pay to pin their comments). And Rocket Beans got 1,500 sponsors on the first day.

YouTube on Tuesday also began testing out sponsorships with non-gaming creators on YouTube’s main app.

With the launch of sponsorships and the growth of other revenue-generating features such as YouTube Red and Super Chat, YouTube is ending paid channels, which offered monthly subscriptions for some channels but didn’t see much success. Less than 1 percent of creators use it today, according to the company.

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

With Boron On Mars Prove Life Once Existed

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has discovered boron in Gale Crater — new evidence that the Red Planet may have been able to support life on its surface in the ancient past.

Boron is a very interesting element to astrologists; on Earth, it’s thought to stabilize the sugary molecule ribose. Ribose is a key component of ribonucleic acid (RNA), a molecule that’s present in all living cells and drives metabolic processes. But ribose is notoriously unstable, and to form RNA, it is thought that boron is required to stabilize it. When dissolved in water, boron becomes borate, which, in turn, reacts with ribose, making RNA possible.

In a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers analyzed data gathered by Curiosity’s ChemCam (Chemistry and Camera) instrument, which zaps rocks with a powerful laser to see what minerals they contain. ChemCam detected the chemical fingerprint of boron in calcium-sulfate mineral veins that have been found zigzagging their way through bedrock in Gale Crater, the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) crater that the rover is exploring. These veins were formed by the presence of ancient groundwater, meaning the water contained borate.

The find raises exciting possibilities, the researchers said.

“Because borates may play an important role in making RNA — one of the building blocks of life — finding boron on Mars further opens the possibility that life could have once arisen on the planet,” study lead author Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said in a statement. 

“Borates are one possible bridge from simple organic molecules to RNA,” he added. “Without RNA, you have no life. The presence of boron tells us that, if organics were present on Mars, these chemical reactions could have occurred.”

Scientists have long hypothesized that the earliest “proto-life” on Earth emerged from an “RNA World,” where individual RNA strands containing genetic information had the ability to copy themselves. The replication of information is one of the key requirements for basic lifelike systems. Therefore, the detection of boron on Mars, locked in calcium-sulfate veins that we know were deposited by ancient water, shows that borates were present in water “0 to 60 degrees Celsius (32 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) and with neutral-to-alkaline pH,” the researchers said.

“We detected borates in a crater on Mars that’s 3.8 billion years old, younger than the likely formation of life on Earth,” Gasda added. “Essentially, this tells us that the conditions from which life could have potentially grown may have existed on ancient Mars, independent from Earth.”

Since landing on Mars in 2012, Curiosity has uncovered compelling evidence that the planet used to be a far wetter place than it is now. For example, the rover has found evidence of a lake-and-stream system inside Gale Crater that lasted for long stretches in the distant past. And, by climbing the slopes of Mount Sharp — the 3.4-mile-high (5.5 km) mountain in the crater’s center — Curiosity has been able to examine various layers of sedimentary minerals that formed in the presence of ancient water. 

These studies are helping scientists gain a better understanding of how long these minerals were dissolved in the water, where they were deposited and, ultimately, how they impacted the habitability of the Red Planet. The detection of boron is another strand of evidence supporting the idea that ancient life might have existed on our neighboring planet.

Courtesy-Space

FitBit May Have Been Used In Red Sox’s Signs Theft

September 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

An Apple Watch might not have been the device the Boston Red Sox used to allegedly steal signs from the New York Yankees after all.

The Yankees filed a complaint earlier this month with Major League Baseball saying the Red Sox were stealing pitch signs by using the smartwatch during a four-game series last month in Boston, according to The New York Times. The Yankees provided a video showing a Red Sox staffer looking at his wrist wearable and relaying a message to players, possibly tipping off what pitches were going to be thrown.

The report identified the device as an Apple Watch, but a Boston reporter says it was, in fact, a wearable by rival Fitbit.

“Turns out there was no Apple Watch involved in Red Sox sign stealing. It was a Fitbit product according to a major league source,” the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo said in a tweet Saturday. It wasn’t immediately clear which Fitbit product the Red Sox might have been using.

While there is no rule against stealing signs, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said using electronic means to do so is a violation and the allegations are under investigation. The Red Sox have admitted to having trainers relay information from their replay staff to players using electronic devices, a strategy that was in place for weeks.

The Red Sox organization didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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.

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