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Twitter Re-designs Home Page, Hopes To Attract New Users

April 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter, hoping to attract new users, is turning its home page into a portal for news and content around dozens of topics.

Twitter.com has been redesigned to make content posted to the site more accessible to people who do not have accounts with the service. Those people can visit the site, and as of Wednesday they will find 18 tabs leading to streams of content on various topics, whether it be country singers, general news, or travel guides.

There’s also dozens of other curated streams of content accessible from links on the home page, with the content organized around more granular topics like U.S. federal agencies, art museums and wedding guides.

Previously, visitors to Twitter.com who did not have accounts were greeted with a sign-up page.

The changes come as Twitter faces continuing pressure to grow the number of people who use its site, and find new ways to make money off people who see its tweets and interact with them. Twitter ended the last quarter of 2014 with 288 million users who log in monthly — a 20 percent increase from the previous year, but the smallest annual growth rate Twitter ever reported.

One of Twitter’s biggest problems is that many people still don’t understand what it’s for.

With the redesigned home page, the company is trying to address this, by highlighting the site’s value as a source of real-time information and news. The tweets Twitter has selected for its new streams, the company says, come from some of the most popular accounts posting on those topics.

People without accounts still can’t do much to interact with the content. To reply to, re-tweet or “favorite” one of the tweets, the visitor is prompted to create an account. But with the redesign, Twitter hopes it might give the uninitiated enough bait to sign up.

And even without a flood of new sign-ups, Twitter’s new home page is likely to get more tweets in front of more people. That could give rise to new advertising methods around those tweets.

The new home page is available first in the U.S. on the desktop, Twitter said on Wednesday, though it will be arriving “to more places over time.”

 

 

 

Huawei Unveils P8 And P8 Max Smartphones

April 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Huawei unveiled its flagship P8 and P8 Max mobile phones, devices that stack up against the latest models from Samsung and Apple in technical specifications if not marketing budget.

The P8, which runs Google’s Android operating system, has a 5.2 inch display screen — slightly larger than the Samsung Galaxy S6, unveiled last month, and the iPhone 6 — and an eight-core 64-bit processor.

Made from a single piece of metal, the phone is thinner than its rivals, with a width of 6.4 millimeters, Huawei said at a packed global launch event in London.

Like Apple, the Chinese company also launched a super-size version, the P8 Max, which comes with a 6.8 inch screen.

Huawei, a major player in the telecoms network equipment market, ranked fourth in global smartphone sales last year, shipping 68 million units, giving it a 5.5 percent share, according to research group Gartner.

The market is dominated by Samsung and Apple, which Gartner said had combined sales of nearly 500 million units.

Industry analyst Ben Wood said the P8 ticked all the boxes on design and performance, but it had a mountain to climb to position Huawei as a premium brand.

Seeking to differentiate itself from rivals, Huawei showed it could innovate, with features such as “knuckle sense”, which can differentiate between a knuckle and a finger to select and share content.

It also optimized the devices’ cameras to take “selfies”, including an ability to adjust skin tones, a move consumer device marketing president Shao Yang said would particularly increase its appeal to fashion-conscious young women.

“Huawei didn’t do very well in the past in the female market; this is the big potential market for the P-Series,” he said in an interview after the launch.

Huawei, and fellow Chinese companies Lenovo and Xiaomi, are leading the challenge to the two big players, particularly in their home market.

 

 

Midiatek Developing Two SoC’s for Tablets

April 17, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

MediaTek is working on two new tablet SoCs and one of them is rumored to be a $5 design.

The MT8735 looks like a tablet version of Mediatek’s smartphone SoCs based on ARM’s Cortex-A53 core. The chip can also handle LTE (FDD and TDD), along with 3G and dual-band WiFi. This means it should end up in affordable data-enabled tablets. There’s no word on the clocks or GPU.

The MT8163 is supposed to be the company’s entry-level tablet part. Priced at around $5, the chip does not appear to feature a modem – it only has WiFi and Bluetooth on board. GPS is still there, but that’s about it.

Once again, details are sketchy so we don’t know much about performance. However, this is an entry-level part, so we don’t expect miracles. It will have to slug it out with Alwinner’s $5 tablet SoC, which was announced a couple of months ago

According to a slide published by Mobile Dad, the MT8753 will be available later this month, but we have no timeframe for the MT8163.

But there’s nothing to see here as far as Torvalds is concerned. It’s just another day in the office. And all this in “Back To The Future II” year, as well.

Meanwhile under the bonnet, the community are already slaving away on Linux 4.1 which is expected to be a far more extensive release, with 100 code changes already committed within hours of Torvalds announcement of 4.0.

But there is already some discord in the ranks, with concerns that some of the changes to 4.1 will be damaging to the x86 compatibility of the kernel. But let’s let them sort that out amongst themselves.

After all, an anti-troll dispute resolution code was recently added to the Linux kernel in an effort to stop some of the more outspoken trolling that takes place, not least from Torvalds himself, according to some members of the community.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Was Earth Hit By A Mercury Size Object?

April 17, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

A key ingredient of the early Earth may have been a chunk of rock much like Mercury, scientists say.

This finding could help explain how Earth’s magnetic field has lasted for billions of years, researchers added.

Scientists think Earth formed at about the same time as the sun and the rest of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago from a giant, rotating cloud of gas and dust. Earth and the other rocky planets coalesced from smaller asteroid-sized bodies that accreted or stuck together to form ever-larger chunks of rock.

The meteorites that crash into Earth are usually thought to represent the building blocks that the planet grew from. However, Earth’s crust and mantle puzzlingly have a higher proportion of the element samarium to the element neodymium than seen in most meteorites.

New experiments now suggest that the addition of a sulfur-rich Mercury-like body to the early Earth could explain this anomaly. This research could also help solve another mystery — how the Earth’s magnetic field has lasted for billions of years.

“A Mercury-like body added to Earth during accretion would solve two important problems — that is, kill two birds with one stone,” study co-author Bernard Wood, a geochemist at the University of Oxford in England, told Space.com.

Cooking up the Earth’s core

The researchers performed experiments with samples of material under conditions mimicking those at which Earth formed — temperatures between 2,550 and 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,400 and 1,640 degrees Celsius) and pressures of 1.5 gigapascals. For comparison, 1 gigapascal is nearly 10 times greater than the pressure at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.

The samples of material the scientists tested contained traces of elements such as samarium, neodymium, and uranium. These elements are normally chemically attracted to silicate rock, which makes up most of the Earth’s crust and mantle. They do not usually dissolve in iron sulfide, which makes up a significant fraction of Earth’s outer core.

The scientists found that if the early Earth incorporated a rocky body like Mercury, which is high in sulfur, this could make samarium and neodymium dissolve better in iron sulfide. This in turn would make samarium and neodymium more likely to sink down toward Earth’s core.

However, samarium is more attracted to silicate rock than neodymium is. This would have made samarium a bit less likely to sink downward, which could explain why there is a greater proportion of samarium to neodymium in Earth’s crust and mantle.

These experiments could also help solve a mystery concerning Earth’s magnetic field.

Prior research suggests that Earth has possessed a magnetic field for at least 3.5 billion years. Earth’s magnetic field results from churning metal in the planet’s outer core, but it was uncertain how Earth’s core could have remained molten for so long.

The new experiments revealed that if the early Earth engulfed a sulfur-rich Mercury-like body, uranium could have dissolved better in iron sulfide. This in turn would help uranium sink toward Earth’s core. Uranium is a radioactive element that generates heat, which could have kept Earth’s core molten.

Wood and study lead author Anke Wohlers at the University of Oxford detailed their findings in the April 15 edition of the journal Nature.

Courtesy-Space

RadioShack Moving Forward With Plans To Sell Customer Data

April 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

RadioShack plans to keep moving forward with its plan to sell its customer data, despite opposition from a number of states.

The company has asked a bankruptcy court for approval for a second auction of its assets, which includes the consumer data.

The state of Texas, which is leading the action by the states, opposed the sale of personally identifiable information (PII), citing the online and in-store privacy policies of the bankrupt consumer electronics retailer.

The state claimed that it found from a RadioShack deposition that the personal information of 117 million customers could be involved. But it learned later from testimony in court that the number of customer files offered for sale might be reduced to around 67 million.

In the first round of the sale, RadioShack sold about 1,700 stores to hedge fund Standard General, which entered into an agreement to set up 1,435 of these as co-branded stores with wireless operator Sprint. Some other assets were also sold in the auction.

The sale of customer data, including PII, was withdrawn from the previous auction, though RadioShack did not rule out that it could be put up for sale at a later date.

The case could have privacy implications for the tech industry as it could set a precedent, for example, for large Internet companies holding consumer data, if they happen to go bankrupt.

Texas has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware for a case management order to ensure that in any motion for sale of the PII, RadioShack should be required to provide information on the kind of personal data that is up for sale and the number of customers that will be affected.

On Monday, Texas asked the court that its motion be heard ahead of RadioShack’s motion for approval to auction more assets.

The court had ordered in March the appointment of a consumer privacy ombudsman in connection with the potential sale of the consumer data including PII. RadioShack said in a filing Friday that it intends to continue working with the ombudsman and the states with regard to any potential sale of PII, but did not provide details.

 

 

 

 

 

Jawbone, Amex Team Up On NFC Enabled Fitness Band

April 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Fitness-band maker Jawbone and charge card company American Express plan to give cardholders the ability to purchase goods using a future fitness band equipped with NFC, according to a report.

Neither company would confirm the new product, said to be announced this week, according to the Wall Street Journal. The report said AmEx payments won’t be possible with the coming Jawbone UP3, but will appear on a future product.

Apple Watch, which last Friday went on pre-order, will also support NFC payments. Apple recently said it has more than 700,000 U.S. stores supporting its technology. In addition to American Express, Apple Watch supports MasterCard and Visa.

The use of NFC in wrist-wearable devices for use with in-store payments is expected to grow. In January, a Fitbit representative at the International CES trade show said the company plans to remain open to including mobile payment capabilities in its fitness bands.

However, adding NFC could drive up costs for wearable devices while creating a sense of application bloat. One smartwatch maker, Guess Watch, a subsidiary of Timex, has not included NFC in its Guess Connect smartwatch, which is coming in the fall for about $350. “We don’t think [payment capability] is what a fashion-focused consumer wants,” said Rob Pomponio, senior vice president for creative services at Guess Watches in an interview at CES in January.

What will matter to consumers about mobile payments on a smartwatch or fitness band will be whether the device can be widely used in stores. While Apple Watch can presumably work in payment terminals at 700,000 stores, that is just a fraction of the 12 million payment terminals in the U.S.

 

 

Altera Shareholders Not Too Happy With Intel’s Merger Offer

April 16, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Several key Altera shareholders have forced the company back to the negotiating table to discuss the merger with Intel.

Talks with Intel broke down over the price, which Alteria management felt was too low. Cadian
Capital Management and TIG Advisors, have told Alteria to stop mucking about and talk turkey with Chipzilla.

In letters to Altera’s management, shareholders have raised concerns about the company’s ability to create value on its own that matches Intel’s offer, Bloomberg reported.

The company has agreed to resume takeover talks with Intel.

Some other large investors also have also sent letters, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

Intel’s offered $50 per share range while Altera’s shares are currently worth $43.86 and valued at $13.2 billion. The stock has surged nearly 27 percent since merger talks was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in March.

Cadian was Altera’s 10th-largest shareholder, with a 2.77 percent stake. TIG owns about 1.5 percent of Altera’s outstanding shares, one of the people told Bloomberg.  It looks like what will  be Intel’s biggest buy out is back on again.

Courtesy-Fud

Sprint Offering In Home Technology Set-up Service

April 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Dealing with a highly competitive market, U.S. wireless carrier Sprint is offering to deliver and set up phones, tablets and other connected devices for free at homes, offices and other locations chosen by the customer.

The offer is limited to eligible upgrade customers, but starting in September, new customers in selected markets will be able to choose the new Direct 2 You option, when buying online or through call centers.

Launching in the Kansas City metropolitan area on Monday, the program will be expanded across the country using about 5,000 branded cars and employing 5,000 staff by year end. A rollout in Miami and Chicago is scheduled for April 20.

Deliveries, however, will be confined to specific zones in the cities.

The bid by the carrier to bring “in-store experience” to homes and offices includes delivery of the phone and setting up the device by a Sprint-trained expert. The representative will transfer content from the earlier phone, and provide a tutorial and offer tips on the use of the new device.

The operator’s representative will also use the visit to give a quote for the existing phone under the Sprint Buyback offer.

Sprint said it developed the service based on customer research and insights that indicated “the need for a revolutionary service like this one.” Customers will be alerted to the offer to upgrade their phone by text or email.

Sprint’s move comes as the company planned to set up 1,435 co-branded stores at RadioShack stores. The company said its aim is to help consumers get phones in the most convenient way. “If it’s a personalized delivery — we can do that now. If it’s about a great in-store service, we can provide that as well,” according to a company FAQ.

 

 

Will Moore’s Law Become More Important In The Next Twenty Years?

April 15, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Moore’s Law will be more relevant in the 20 years to come than it was in the past 50 as the Internet of Things (IoT) creeps into our lives, Intel has predicted.

The chip maker is marking the upcoming 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law on 19 April by asserting that the best is yet to come, and that the law will become more relevant in the next two decades as everyday objects become smaller, smarter and connected.

Moore’s Law has long been touted as responsible for most of the advances in the digital age, from personal computers to supercomputers, despite Intel admitting in the past that it wasn’t enough.

Named after Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel and Fairchild Semiconductor, Moore’s Law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit will double approximately every two years.

Moore wrote a paper in 1965 describing a doubling every year in the number of components per integrated circuit. He revised the forecast in 1975, doubling the time to two years, and his prediction has proved accurate.

The law now is used in the semiconductor industry to guide long-term planning and to set targets for research and development.

Many digital electronic devices and manufacturing developments are strongly linked to Moore’s Law, whether it’s microprocessor prices, memory capacity or sensors, all improving at roughly the same rate.

More recently, Intel announced the development of 3D NAND memory, which the company said was guided by Moore’s Law.

Intel senior fellow Mark Bohr said on a recent press call that, while Moore’s Law has been going strong for 50 years, he doesn’t see it slowing down, adding that Moore himself didn’t realise it would hold true for 50 years. Rivals such as AMD have also had their doubts.

“[Moore] thought it would push electronics into new spaces but didn’t realise how profound this would be, for example, the coming of the internet,” said Bohr.

“If you’re 20-something [the law] might seem somewhat remote and irrelevant to you, but it will be more relevant in the next 20 years than it was in the past 50, and may even dwarf this importance.

“We can see about 10 years ahead, so our research group has identified some promising options [for 7nm and 5nm] not yet fully developed, but we think we can continue Moore’s Law for at least another 10 years.”

Intel believes that upcoming tech will be so commonplace that it won’t even be a ‘thing’ anymore. It will “disappear” into all the places we inhabit and into clothing, into ingestible devices that improve our health, for example, and “it will just become part of our surroundings” without us even noticing it.

“We are moving to the last squares in the chess board, shrinking tech and making it more power efficient meaning it can go into everything around us,” said Bohr.

The Intel fellow describes the law as a positive move forward, but he also believes that we need to have a hard think about where we want to place it once products become smart as they can become targets for digital attacks.

“Once you put intelligence in every object round you, the digital becomes physical. [For example] if your toaster becomes connected and gets a virus it’s an issue, but not so important as if your car does,” he said.

“We have to think how we secure these endpoints and make sure security and privacy are considered upfront and built into everything we deploy.”

Bohr explained that continuing Moore’s Law isn’t just a matter of making chips smaller, as the technology industry has continually to innovate device structures to ensure that it continues.

“Moore’s Law is exponential and you haven’t seen anything yet. The best is yet to come. I’m glad to hand off to the next generation entering the workforce; to create new exciting experiences, products and services to affect the lives of billions of people on the planet,” added Bohr.

“Moore’s Law is the North Star guiding Intel. It is the driving force for the people working at Intel to continue the path of Gordon’s vision, and will help enable emerging generations of inventors, entrepreneurs and leaders to re-imagine the future.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Intel Gives More Detail On Knights Landing

April 15, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has been publishing more information about its Knight’s Landing Xeon Phi (co)processors.

Intel has given WCCF Tech an Intel produced PDF which was released to provide supplementary info for the 2015 Intel Developer Forum (IDF).

The document outlines some spectacularly beefy processors Intel is going to produce as part of its professional Xeon Phi range.

The document, which is short on car chases and scantily clad women tells the story of a 72 Silvermont core Intel Xeon Phi coprocessor.

The coprocessor supports 6 channels of DDR4 2400 up to 384GB and can have up to 16GB of HBM on board. It supports 36 PCIe Gen 3 lanes. Intel’s testing put the Knights Landing processors and coprocessors are up to three times faster in single threaded performance and up to three times more power efficient.

Knights Landing chips are supposed to be the future of Intel’s enterprise architecture for high performance parallel computing. Much of its success will depend properly written software.

Intel thinks that its Xeon Phi coprocessors can compete against the GPU-based parallel processing solutions from the likes of Nvidia and AMD.

Courtesy-Fud

Nokia Looking To Acquire Alcatel-Lucent

April 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Nokia Oyj is holding talks on acquiring smaller telecom equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent, a deal that would combine the industry’s two weakest players but could pose challenges in cutting costs and overcoming political opposition.

In a joint announcement, the Finnish and French companies said they were in “advanced discussions” on a “full combination, which would take the form of a public exchange offer by Nokia for Alcatel-Lucent.” The two, which have been seen as a possible combination for the last several years, cautioned that the discussions could still fall apart.

Shares in Alcatel, a group worth about 11 billion euros based on Monday’s closing share price, rose 12.6 percent on Tuesday morning. Shares in Nokia, worth about 29 billion euros, dropped 6.6 percent.

The pair are a good fit in terms of products and geographies, and bulking up would help them cut costs as they try to catch up with leaders Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei. Nokia would expand its presence in the key United States market where Alcatel-Lucent is a major supplier to operators AT&T and Verizon.

But the track record of mergers in the industry is spotty, in part because of the difficulties of cutting costs in a R&D intensive business where companies cannot simply drop products that global telecom operators rely on.

The last round, which gave birth to Alcatel-Lucent and combined Nokia’s networks business with Siemens about a decade ago, saw both firms destroy value and lose market share as rivals went on the attack while they were busy integrating the businesses.

The French government may also step in to protect jobs in what is seen as a critical sector for the national economy.

A person at the Economy Ministry said the government wanted more information about the rationale behind the deal and whether it could create a European champion, as well as the impact on French employees.

 

 

Letv Plans To Bring Mobile Phones, Streaming TV To US

April 15, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Chinese company Letv plans to offer its smartphones and smart TVs to the United States later this year and to launch a video streaming service for Chinese-speaking Americans, according to statements made by the company on Tuesday.

Letv said it set up a U.S. headquarters in Redwood City, California, part of the Silicon Valley tech hub, and has opened an office in Los Angeles.

The company plans to hire hundreds of staff for the two locations in the coming months, JD Howard, vice president and general manager of Letv’s international mobile business, said in an interview. It is looking to partner with U.S. content providers and technology companies, he said.

“Our ambition is to make a serious disruption in the smartphone industry,” Howard said. “We need to take the key advantages we have built in China and translate them to other markets.”

For the new streaming service, Letv aims to create an offering similar to what consumers watch in China, the company said. Letv has an online library of Chinese content that includes more than 100,000 television episodes and 5,000 films.

The service will likely offer a mix of ad-supported, subscription and pay-per-view content as Letv does in China, Howard said.

 

Will The James Webb Telescope Live Up To The Hype?

April 15, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

A telescope will soon allow astronomers to probe the atmosphere of Earthlike exoplanets for signs of life. To prepare, astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger and her team are modeling the atmospheric fingerprints for hundreds of potential alien worlds. Here’s how:

The James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2018, will usher a new era in our search for life beyond Earth. With its 6.5-meter mirror, the long-awaited successor to Hubble will be large enough to detect potential biosignatures in the atmosphere of Earthlike planets orbiting nearby stars.

And we may soon find a treasure-trove of such worlds. The forthcoming exoplanet hunter TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), set to launch in 2017, will scout the entire sky for planetary systems close to ours. (The current Kepler mission focuses on more distant stars, between 600 and 3,000 light-years from Earth.) [The Search for Another Earth (Video)]

While TESS will allow for the brief detection of new planets, the larger James Webb will follow up on select candidates and provide clues about their atmospheric composition. But the work will be difficult and require a lot of telescope time.

“We’re expecting to find thousands of new planets with TESS, so we’ll need to select our best targets for follow-up study with the Webb telescope,” says Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer at Cornell University and co-investigator on the TESS team.

To prepare, Kaltenegger and her team at Cornell’s Institute for Pale Blue Dots are building a database of atmospheric fingerprints for hundreds of potential alien worlds. The models will then be used as “ID cards” to guide the study of exoplanet atmospheres with the Webb and other future large telescopes.

Kaltenegger described her approach in a talk for the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Director Seminar Series last December.

“For the first time in human history, we have the technology to find and characterize other worlds,” she says. “And there’s a lot to learn.”

Detecting life from space

In its 1990 flyby of Earth, the Galileo spacecraft took a spectrum of sunlight filtered through our planet’s atmosphere. In a 1993paper in the journal Nature, astronomer Carl Sagan analyzed that data and found a large amount of oxygen together with methane — a telltale sign of life on Earth. These observations established a control experiment for the search of extraterrestrial life by modern spacecraft.

“The spectrum of a planet is like a chemical fingerprint,” Kaltenegger says. “This gives us the key to explore alien worlds light years away.”

Current telescopes have picked up the spectra of giant, Jupiter-like exoplanets. But the telescopes are not large enough to do so for smaller, Earth-like worlds. The James Webb telescope will be our first shot at studying the atmospheres of these potentially habitable worlds.

Some forthcoming ground-based telescopes — including the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), planned for completion in 2020, and the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), scheduled for first light in 2024 — may also be able to contribute to that task. [The Largest Telescopes on Earth: How They Compare]

And with the expected discovery by TESS of thousands of nearby exoplanets, the James Webb and other large telescopes will have plenty of potential targets to study. Another forthcoming planet hunter, the Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO), a planned European Space Agency mission scheduled for launch around 2022-2024, will contribute even more candidates.

However, observation time for follow-up studies will be costly and limited.

“It will take hundreds of hours of observation to see atmospheric signatures with the Webb telescope,” Kaltenegger says. “So we’ll have to pick our targets carefully.”

Getting a head start

To guide that process, Kaltenegger and her team are putting together a database of atmospheric fingerprints of potential alien worlds. “The models are tools that can teach us how to observe and help us prioritize targets,” she says.

To start, they have modeled the chemical fingerprint of Earth over geological time. Our planet’s atmosphere has evolved over time, with different life forms producing and consuming various gases. These models may give astronomers some insight into a planet’s evolutionary stage.

Other models take into consideration the effects of a host of factors on the chemical signatures — including water, clouds, atmospheric thickness, geological cycles, brightness of the parent star, and even the presence of different extremophiles.

“It’s important to do this wide range of modeling right now,” Kaltenegger said, “so we’re not too startled if we detect something unexpected. A wide parameter space can allow us to figure out if we might have a combination of these environments.”

She added: “It can also help us refine our modeling as fast as possible, and decide if more measurements are needed while the telescope is still in space. It’s basically a stepping-stone, so we don’t have to wait until we get our first measurements to understand what we are seeing. Still, we’ll likely find things we never thought about in the first place.”

A new research center

The spectral database is one of the main projects undertaken at the Institute for Pale Blue Dots, a new interdisciplinary research center founded in 2014 by Kaltenegger. The official inauguration will be held on May 9, 2015.

“The crux of the institute is the characterization of rocky, Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of nearby stars,” Kaltenergger said. “It’s a very interdisciplinary effort with people from astronomy, geology, atmospheric modeling, and hopefully biology.”

She added: “One of the goal is to better understand what makes a planet a life-friendly habitat, and how we can detect that from light years away. We’re on the verge of discovering other pale blue dots. And with Sagan’s legacy, Cornell University is a really great home for an institute like that.”

Courtesy-Space

Activist Investors Calls For Breakup of Qualcomm

April 14, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Activist investor Jana Partners is urging Qualcomm Inc to consider spinning off its chip unit from its patent-licensing business to boost the chipmaker’s sagging stock price, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a quarterly letter that will be sent to Jana investors on Monday.

Jana, one of Qualcomm’s largest shareholders, is also calling on the company to cut costs, accelerate stock buybacks and make changes to its executive pay structure, financial reporting and board of directors, the newspaper said.

Qualcomm said last month it would buy back up to $15 billion of shares and raise its quarterly dividend. The company also said it would continue to return at least 75 percent of its free cash flow to shareholders annually.

In the letter, Jana said the buyback is a positive step but Qualcomm needs to do more to capitalize on its strong position in the chip market. It said Qualcomm’s chip business is essentially worthless at the company’s present market value, the Journal reported.

While the majority of Qualcomm’s revenue comes from selling so-called baseband chips that enable phones to communicate with carrier networks, most of its profit comes from licensing patents for its widespread CDMA cellphone technology.

Earlier this year, Qualcomm’s longtime customer Samsung Electronics Co opted to use an internally developed processor for its new Galaxy S6 smartphone rather than Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon mobile chip.

Jana executives and Qualcomm’s management have held private discussions since late last year, the Journal said, citing a person familiar with the conversations. In the letter, Jana described the talks as constructive.

 

 

 

U.S. Government Bans Intel From Selling Xeon Chips To China

April 14, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

U.S. government agencies have banned Intel from selling microprocessors for China’s supercomputers, over concerns about their use in nuclear tests.

In February, four supercomputing institutions in China were placed on a U.S. government list that effectively prohibits them from receiving certain U.S. exports.

The four institutions, which include China’s National University of Defense Technology, have been involved in building Tianhe-2, the world’s fastest supercomputer, and Tianhe-1A.

The two supercomputers have been allegedly used for ”nuclear explosive activities,” according to a notice posted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Back in August, the U.S. Department of Commerce notified Intel that it would need an export license to ship its Xeon and Xeon Phi parts, the company said on Friday. These chips were to be used in supercomputing projects with Intel customer Inspur, a Chinese server and supercomputing provider.

“Intel complied with the notification and applied for the license which was denied. We are in compliance with the U.S. law,” the company added.

The four Chinese institutions had been placed on the list by a government committee made up of representatives from the U.S. departments of Commerce, Defense, State and others. Inspur was not among the entities named.

The U.S. government had found the four Chinese institutions to be “acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States,” the Department of Commerce’s notice said.

On Friday, the National Supercomputing Center of Guangzhou, which was named on the list and operates the Tianhe-2, declined to comment.

“We are not very clear on this situation,” said an employee at the center.

Intel has been selling its Xeon chips to Chinese supercomputers for years, so the ban represents a blow to its business. China increasingly wants to build more supercomputers that are faster, and Intel has been a major partner.

But the country has also been developing its own homegrown processors, and the U.S. ban could accelerate those efforts.