Articles

DC5m United States IT in english 286 articles, created at 2016-12-07 20:08

 

 1 /286 
2.1

Apple blames iPhone battery fires on 'external factors' (5.26/6)

Careful, it's hot.
Apple says it's not to blame for a spate of iPhones catching fire.
Watchdog group the Shanghai Consumer Council reported last week that eight iPhone 6 devices had spontaneously combusted. But Apple says that "external factors" were to blame for these "thermal events", according to the BBC.

iPhone 6S battery borkage issue is more widespread than Apple initially thought
theinquirer.net
Apple says iPhones safe despite China fires
bbc.co.uk
Apple blames external damage for flaming China iPhones
phys.org
Apple says iPhone 6 battery fires in China likely caused by external factors
feeds.reuters.com
We’re not to blame for iPhone problems in China, says Apple
digitaltrends.com

 

 2 /286 
9.1

Trump summons Silicon Valley chiefs to roundtable (3.14/6)

President-elect Donald Trump has summoned Silicon Valley tech leaders including the CEOs of Oracle and Cisco to a roundtable meeting in New York, according to an official within his transition team.
The meeting, which the New York Times reports is scheduled to take place next Wednesday, will be the first time that the heads of major tech firms have met the incoming president since he won the election last month. Oracle chief Safra Catz and Cisco boss Chuck Robbins confirmed their attendance to the Times , but other company leaders did not respond.
The tech industry at large was vehemently opposed to Trump's candidacy, and more than 140 industry players signed an open letter in July denouncing him as "a disaster for innovation". So strong was the opposition that several figures in Silicon Valley have even backed plans for California to secede from the United States altogether.
Trump, for his part, has largely responded in kind. He has made dramatic threats, such as investigating Amazon for its "huge antitrust problem" and forcing Apple to move its manufacturing stateside.
While the exact details are unknown, it is likely that next week's meeting will involve Trump attempting to get the tech industry in line with his presidential goals - namely increased US investment and job creation.
“I think he’d be wrong not to meet with them,” said Creative Intellect UK analyst Bola Rotibi. “My interest would be in how he balances his rhetoric with reality,” she said, pointing out that Trump cannot deal with the tech industry in isolation.
“Whatever he does for the tech industry he has to do for all industry,” she said. “He can’t make one rule for Apple and Microsoft and one rule for everyone else.”
Spearheading these efforts will be Trump's top tech policy wonk, Peter Thiel. The PayPal co-founder and prominent Silicon Valley investor was one of the only figures in the tech industry to openly back Trump's campaign, and he has been given a prime spot in the new administration.
Japanese firm SoftBank, which bought ARM earlier this year, has already committed to creating 50,000 US jobs through $50 billion in investment, although experts have suggested that this may have been the company's plan regardless of who won the election.
Picture: Bigstock

Twitter CEO feelings on Trump tweets: "Complicated"
rssfeeds.usatoday.com
Donald Trump to meet with Silicon Valley tech leaders – Silicon Valley
siliconvalley.com
Donald Trump Summons Tech Leaders to a Round-Table Meeting
nytimes.com
Google’s green achievement attacked by group closely linked to Donald Trump – Silicon Valley
siliconvalley.com

 

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1.4

Twitter founder feels 'complicated' about Donald Trump's tweeting (3.13/6)

For the first time, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has described his “complicated” feelings about the US president-elect Donald Trump’s use of the social media service.
Speaking at the Code Commerce conference in California, Dorsey demurred when asked if he felt responsible for Trump’s election. “America is responsible for Donald Trump being president,” he said, before conceding that, more than any other candidate, Trump excelled in his use of Twitter.
“He’s known how to use it for quite some time. I think it’s an important time for the company and service. And having the president-elect on our service, using it as a direct line of communication, allows everyone to see what’s on his mind in the moment. I think that’s interesting. I think it’s fascinating. I haven’t seen that before.
“We’re definitely entering a new world where everything is on the surface and we can all see it in real time and we can have conversations about it. Where does that go? I’m not really sure. But it’s definitely been fascinating to learn from.”
Asked how he felt about Trump’s use of the service, Dorsey said: “Complicated”.
“I feel very proud of the role of the service and what it stands for and everything that we’ve done, and that continues to accelerate every single day. Especially as it’s had such a spotlight on it through his usage and through the election.”
More than any other social network, Twitter has taken a stand against the surge of far-right activity that followed Donald Trump’s victory. A few days after the election, the company announced a host of new safety features , including a crackdown on hate speech and a renewed focus on training its moderators to better react to threats of violence and hateful conduct.
“The amount of abuse, bullying, and harassment seen across the internet has risen sharply over the past few years,” Twitter said at the time. “In the worst cases, this type of conduct threatens human dignity, which we should all stand together to protect.”
That same day, Twitter banned a host of notable “alt-right” users , members of the far-right subculture who push a meme-filled variant of traditional white supremacist views. Banned accounts included that of Richard B Spencer, a white nationalist Trump supporter who hosted a conference last month where supporters gave Nazi salutes.
While Twitter has received praise from some for taking action, the move has also raised difficult questions for the company: what would it do if the president-elect tweeted views that his supporters have been banned from the network for expressing?

Twitter CEO feelings on Trump tweets: "Complicated"
rssfeeds.usatoday.com
Jack Dorsey says Twitter is not responsible for Trump's election, but it's 'complicated'
cnbc.com
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey finds Trump’s incessant tweeting “fascinating”
digitaltrends.com

 

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3.4

Apple Music has hit 20 million paid subscribers (3.12/6)

Paid subscribers to Apple Music have soared to 20 million but the U. S. technology giant has a long way to go before it can catch the industry leader.
Apple Music added three million users to the 17 million it reported in September, Apple revealed in interviews with the BBC and Billboard.
In comparison, Spotify has 40 million paid subscribers, as of its last official statement in September. But the streaming service also has a free tier which puts its total user base at 100 million.
Apple Music launched 18 months ago and since then has been growing steadily. It has been aggressive in securing exclusive deals with artists, a move that it has come under fire for. Apple Music boss Eddie Cue told the BBC that it had hosted 70 exclusives over the last year, such as rapper Drake's "Views" album.
But the industry has hit back at the tactic. Universal Music Group has stepped back from offering exclusive deals to streaming services and earlier this year, rapper Kanye West went on an expletive-filled rant suggesting that the battles between Apple and other streaming players is ruining the music business.
Cue said that exclusives will continue in the future.
They work really well for everybody concerned – they're great for the label, they work for the artist and for us," Cue told Billboard in an interview.
Services such as Apple Music have become increasingly important for the company as it looks to grow new areas of the business amid a recent slowdown in iPhone sales. Revenue from services which includes Apple Music and Apple Pay, rose 24 percent year-on-year in the company's recent fiscal fourth quarter.
Despite still trailing Spotify in terms of size, Cue said there is still a lot of room to grow.
"We can't forget that, as an industry, we still have very few music subscribers. There are billions of people listening to music and we haven't even hit 100 million subscribers. There's a lot of growth opportunity," Cue said in the Billboard interview.

Apple Music reaches the 20 million subscriber mark
feedproxy.google.com
Apple Music attracts 20 million subscribers in 18 months
bbc.co.uk
Apple Music now has 20 million paying subscribers, half that of Spotify
digitaltrends.com

 

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1.6

US Supreme Court leaves gap in Samsung-Apple patent ruling (3.10/6)

The U. S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of Samsung Electronics and its backers in the industry in a design patent dispute with Apple, when in a 8-0 decision it said that “the term ‘article of manufacture’ is broad enough to embrace both a product sold to a consumer and a component of that product, whether sold separately or not.”
But the top court has left a lot unsaid, including by not providing guidance to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on how the damages Samsung has to pay Apple for the infringement of smartphone design patents will have to be calculated. That could also delay for a long time the resolution of the patent dispute between Apple and Samsung, which has already dragged on for a number of years.
As a result of the Supreme Court decision, Apple’s damage award does not have to be based on sales of the entire phone but could instead be focused on the value of the particular components claimed in the design patent, said Mark P. McKenna, law professor at University of Notre Dame.
“Unfortunately, the Court did not give lower courts any guidance as to how to determine whether the ‘article of manufacture’ in any given case is the product sold to consumers or a component. Presumably it has something to do with the nature of the design patent claim, but the Court did not make that clear,” McKenna, who had co-filed a ‘friend-of-the-court’ brief urging the Supreme Court to hear the Apple v. Samsung case, said in an emailed statement.
On that point of guidance, the Supreme Court has said that “absent adequate briefing by the parties, this Court declines to resolve whether the relevant article of manufacture for each design patent at issue here is the smartphone or a particular smartphone component.” Doing so is not necessary to resolve the question presented, and the Federal Circuit may address any remaining issues on remand by the Supreme Court, it added.
The Supreme Court refused to give any opinion “as to (1) how a judge or jury might go about deciding whether the profits apply to the product as a whole or instead to an individual component or (2) whether – in this case – the profits should be applied to the entire Samsung Galaxy smartphones or only to the individual components,” wrote Dennis Crouch, law professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, in a post on patent blog Patently-O.
“Although the case offers hope for Samsung and others adjudged of infringing design patents, it offers no clarity as to the rule of law,” Crouch added.
Samsung had questioned before the top court a decision that required it to pay damages of $399 million for infringement of three design patents , which protect the way an article looks, while utility patents address the way an article is used and works. The company claimed that the infringed patents, relating to the face and rounded bezel design of the iPhone, and the icon layout on the home screen, are only minor features of the product.
But Apple had in its favor an old statute that makes an infringer liable to a patent holder to the extent of his total profit, but not less than $250, if he unlawfully makes, sells or exposes for sale any “article of manufacture” after applying the patented design or any colorable imitation thereof without license of the owner.
The Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for the company “and for all those who promote creativity, innovation and fair competition in the marketplace,” Samsung said in a statement Tuesday. A number of tech companies, trade groups and legal experts have supported Samsung on this issue, as they hold that an adverse outcome could have implications on innovation.
“The lower court’s interpretation of design patents, which allowed someone to sue based on an ornamental feature and reap the entire profits of someone else’s product, would have had a chilling effect on investment and the development of products - especially in the tech sector,” said Ed Black, president and CEO of technology industry group Computer & Communications Industry Association, in a statement.

Supreme Court Sides With Samsung in Apple Lawsuit Video
abcnews.go.com
Supreme Court leaves gap in Samsung-Apple patent ruling
computerworld.com
Samsung wins Supreme Court case in patent battle with Apple
computerweekly.com

 

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1.1

Sony PlayStation 4 Tops 50 Million Consoles Sold Following Record Sales During Black Friday Week (2.12/6)

We have been hearing a lot about how well the Xbox One line has been selling , most recently with Microsoft bragging about four consecutive monthly sales victories over the PlayStation 4. Is interesting in the PS4 dwindling? Pshaw! Lest anyone thing the PS4 is old news, Sony today announced that its cumulative sales of its PS4 and recently introduced PlayStation 4 Pro just surpassed 50 million units. The last official update we heard from Sony was back at the end of May when it announced that PS4 sales had topped 40 million units worldwide. That achievement made the PS4 the fastest selling PlayStation console of all time, even besting the pace of the record setting PlayStation 2. In the six month period since then, Sony has sold 10 million more PS4 consoles. "We’re truly delighted that the PS4 community continues to flourish since launch three years ago," said Andrew House, President and Global CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment. "With tremendous support from our fans and partners across the globe, this year we were able to deliver an unprecedented lineup of hardware such as the new slimmer PS4, PS4 Pro and PlayStation VR. "Sony released its upgraded PS4 Pro console on November 10 , two weeks ahead of the start of the holiday shopping season that kicks off with Black Friday. That proved to be savvy timing on Sony's part—interest in the new console combined with price cuts on the original version led to the best ever Black Friday week of sales in the history of the PlayStation. Software sales remain strong as well. As of December 4, Sony says third party developers and SIE Worldwide Studios have sold a combined 369.6 million copies. It should take all that long to top 400 million with a holiday lineup that includes Resident Evil 7, Final Fantasy XV, The Last Guardian, and more.

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top 50 million units worldwide
feeds.reuters.com
PlayStation 4 achieves major milestone with over 50 million consoles sold
digitaltrends.com

 

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1.0

SCOTUS Trims Restitution for Apple in Samsung Copyright Case (2.10/6)

Attorneys for Samsung have likened the case to making an automaker turn over the full profits for a car, for infringing on cup holder design.
The Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled on Dec. 6 that Samsung does not have to give up $399 million in profits for copying aspects of Apple's iPhone design into its Android phones.
The court ruled Dec. 6 that the South Korean IT products giant does not have to return all the profits from its phones that were found to infringe upon Apple's copyrighted design of the iPhone. Thus it is not liable for at least $399 million of the $930 million patent-infringement award Apple wants as restitution.
Thus, Apple may be able to recover damages from Samsung based on the profits the South Korean company made only from the feature or features that were infringed upon--not the entire smartphone. This indicates Samsung may still be liable for the remaining $531 million the plaintiff is asking the court to mandate.
The case will continue in courts at a later date predicated on that premise.
Case Defines Difference Between Design and Utility IP
The case defines into sharp resolution the legal differences in separating the design and utility intellectual property of a device.
The Supreme Court's decision brings damages law for design patents into accord with the damages law for utility patents, intellectual property attorney Case Collard of Dorsey & Whitney told eWEEK in a media advisory.
"No longer can a patent holder get all of the profits from the sales of a product infringing a design patent. Instead, they may recover the profits attributable to the infringing feature," Collard said. "Design patents are an often overlooked tool to protect IP. While they are still very valuable, this decision reduces slightly the advantages of a design patent by limiting the amount of damages that can be recovered. "
In 2012, after three years of legal back-and-forth, in a number of countries, a U. S. court ordered Samsung to pay $930 million to Apple for infringing on patents related to smartphone design, including the use and layout of icons on the Home screen. That amount was lowered from an earlier award of $1.05 billion.
Samsung challenged a $399 million portion of the $930 million, arguing that it amounts to the total profits it earned on the 11 smartphones found to infringe on Apple designs.
Three Samsung Phones Found to Have Infringed on iPhone Design
More specifically, design patents protect the way a thing looks, while utility patents protect the way it works; three Samsung phones were found to have infringed on the look of the iPhone. Samsung argued that it's unfair to make it hand over its entire profits on a superficial aspect of its devices, and that such a ruling would ultimately hurt innovation.
Attorneys for Samsung have likened the case to making an automaker turn over the full profits for a car, for infringing on cup holder design, while others have argued that the cup-holder analogy isn't accurate.
In a "friends of the court" filing on behalf of Apple, industrial design professionals note that Article 289 in the U. S. Patent Code "authorizes a patent owner to recover an infringer's total profit from an infringing article of manufacture. "
They continued: "In determining the relevant 'article of manufacture,' the jury should consider the scope of the claimed design [and] the extent to which the design determines the appearance of the product as a whole. "
They then offered the example of a car company intentionally copying the design patent for a Volkswagen Beetle, and how, were a "reasonable observer" to buy the car believing it to be a Beetle, "Volkswagen would be entitled only to the profits that the counterfeiter earned on the car's outer body shell, not on the car itself. "
Reporting by Michelle Maisto was used in the composition of this story.

Supreme Court Sides With Samsung in Apple Lawsuit Video
abcnews.go.com
Samsung wins Supreme Court case in patent battle with Apple
computerweekly.com

 

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6.2

Report: Fitbit closing in on Pebble deal (2.08/6)

Fitbit is reportedly closing in on a deal to acquire the software assets of ailing smartwatch company Pebble.
According to Bloomberg , the deal is worth $40 million, and involves assets such as the Pebble operating system and watch apps, as well as software engineers and testers. The rest of the company will be sold off separately.
Meanwhile, Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky will join the tech incubator Y Combinator, says the report.
Earlier this year, Pebble cut about 25% of its workforce, with Migicovsky citing a conservative fundraising environment in Silicon Valley for the smartwatch company's struggles.
Once a darling in the early days of the smartwatch market, Pebble has faced increased competition from companies including Fitbit, Apple and Samsung. However, most smartwatch makers are taking a hit as consumer interest appears to be dwindling.
Research firm IDC says basic wearables including fitness compromised 85% of the wearables market during the third quarter. Apple and its Apple Watch posted the biggest decline during the quarter, with shipments plunging 71%.
However, in a statement to Reuters, Apple CEO Tim Cook said sales of the Apple Watch have been "off the charts. "
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

35% off Fitbit Alta Fitness Tracker - Deal Alert
computerworld.com
Pebble Time 2 and Pebble Core may be cancelled in Fitbit buyout
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Pebble confirms it’s shutting down, devs and software going to Fitbit
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3.7

Pandora’s Spotify competitor launches next year (2.06/6)

Pandora’s Spotify competitor is on its way. Announced this week at press event in New York, Pandora Premium, as the service is called, offers on-demand listening of millions of songs, streamed ad-free, and supports offline access to music. But the company is aiming to make personalization its biggest differentiator from rivals including Apple Music, Spotify and others.
The new service will leverage users’ listening history and likes to make suggestions of new artists, albums and songs you may like to hear, and it will even use this understanding of your interests when you’re searching for music or browsing through the service’s library, to order its results.
Pandora may have an advantage when it comes to its ability to personalize the service to its users, compared with its newer competitors. While features like Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” playlist and Apple Music’s “For You” suggestions, have gained their own followings, many of Pandora some 78 million monthly users have used the service for years. That gives the service a lot more data to work with when it comes to making suggestions and customizing its service to the individual users.
Pandora Premium is also introducing a smart playlists feature that will automatically suggest similar songs to those you’ve added to your playlist. And as you give a “thumbs up” to songs on the service, these will be added to a playlist of their own.
Some of the features arriving in the new service have been borrowed from Rdio, the now-shuttered streaming service Pandora bought over a year ago. One example is “AutoPlay,” which will create a radio station based on the album or playlist you were listening to, so the music continues even when you’ve reached the end of either the playlist or album.
The new service was previously announced by Pandora, when the company unveiled its mid-tier, ad-free Pandora Plus service this fall. At the time, however, Pandora said its premium service would arrive later in the year.
But now the company says Pandora Premium should arrive in the first quarter of next year. Pandora hasn’t confirmed the pricing yet, but most expect it to be in the range of $10 per month, like all others on the market today.

Pandora Premium wants to take on Spotify when it launches in early 2017
techradar.com
Pandora has finally unveiled its Spotify competitor, set for early 2017 launch
digitaltrends.com

 

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1.4

Google now lets you search for things using Twitter and emoji (2.04/6)

GOOGLE IS combining Twitter and emoji to create a new way to search for things in your local area.
Under the hashtag #knownearby you can now tweet one of around 200 emoji to @Google and it will reply within a few minutes with a link to appropriate search results.
For example, in the time it takes you to type the word "hamburger" into the search bar, click on a result and find it on a map, walk there and order, you can open Twitter, find the emoji in your keyboard, and tweet it to them and lo, you will get the information you are looking for. What could be more useful than that?
Of course, the idea is still in its infancy. We tried the pill emoji for a chemist and got
Similar results came from the pizza emoji. Burger, yes. Pizza, no. But a £ symbol? Bosh.
Inevitably, being Google, there’s also Easter Eggs galore. Let’s try a poo, INQ ’s favourite emoji….
Ho ho. And an aubergine (or eggplant as our friends in the US insist on calling it) yields.
Ultimately, it’s pointless. It's a bit of fun. It’s a typically Google way of drawing attention to its ability to pick out local search results. But as a serious search tool, it’s slow, clunky and there’s a lot of guesswork when it comes to what emojis it actually knows.
But given that you can already code with emoji (if you really want) then there's an air of inevitability about it all. After all, emojis are words too now. µ

Google shrinks size of Android Play Store downloads by up to 90 per cent
theinquirer.net
Microsoft touts EU-approved LinkedIn deal as good news for Brexit voters
theinquirer.net
You can now tweet emoji @Google to search stuff
feedproxy.google.com

 

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6.2

Best iPad apps 2016: Download these essential apps now (2.04/6)

If you've got yourself a shiny new iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 4, you'll want to start downloading the best iPad apps straight away. And if you already have an iPad Air or older iPad, you might want to update it with some new apps.
It's the apps that really set iOS apart from other platforms - there are more and higher quality apps available on the App Store for the iPad than any other tablet. So which ones are worth your cash? And which are the best free apps?
Luckily for you we've tested thousands of the best iPad apps so that you don't have to. So read on for our list of the best iPad apps - the definitive list of what applications you need to download for your iPad now.
If you are looking for games, then head over to Best iPad games - where we showcase the greatest games around for your iOS device. Or if you're rocking an iPhone 6S head over to our best iPhone apps list.
Whether you need a few minutes of peace or help to fall asleep after hours of stress, Flowing offers meditative splashy reflection. Choose from six scenes, plonk headphones on and then just sit and listen to gorgeous 3D audio recordings of streams, waterfalls and rivers.
Should you feel the need, noodle about with the parallax photo - although that’s frankly the least interesting bit of the app.
There is room for screen interaction though - the slider button gives you access to a mixer, to trigger ambient soundtracks by composer David Bawiec, and add birdsong and rain; while the Flowing icon houses guided meditations by Lua Lisa.
There’s also a timer, so you can fall asleep to a gently meandering brook without it then burbling away all night. In all, even if you don’t make use of every feature, Flowing is an effective, polished relaxation aid.
Another example of a book designed for kids that adults will sneak a peek at when no-one's watching, Namoo teaches about the wonders of plant life. Eschewing the kind of realistic photography or illustration you typically see in such virtual tomes, Namoo is wildly stylised, using an arresting low-poly art style for its interactive 3D simulations.
Each of these is married with succinct text, giving your brain something to chew on as you ping the components of a plant's cells (which emit pleasingly playful - if obviously not terribly realistic - sounds and musical notes) or explore the life cycle of an apple.
On the desktop, Scrivener is widely acclaimed as the writer's tool of choice. The feature-rich app provides all kinds of ways to write, even incorporating research documents directly into projects. Everything's always within reach, and your work can constantly be rethought, reorganised, and reworked.
On iPad, Scrivener is, astonishingly, almost identical to its desktop cousin. Bar some simplification regarding view and export options, it's essentially the same app. You get a powerful 'binder' sidebar for organizing notes and documents, while the main view area enables you to write and structure text, or to work with index cards on a cork board.
There's even an internal 'Split View', for simultaneously smashing out a screenplay while peering at research. With Dropbox sync to access existing projects, Scrivener is a no-brainer for existing users; and for newcomers, it's the most capable rich text/scriptwriting app on iPad.
Calling Editorial a text editor does it a disservice. That's not to say Editorial isn't any good as a text editor, because it very much is. You get top-notch Markdown editing, with an inline preview, and also a TaskPaper mode for plain text to-do lists.
But what really sets Editorial apart is the sheer wealth of customisation options. You get themes and custom snippets, but also workflows, which can automate hugely complex tasks. You get the sense some of these arrived from the frustrations at how slow it is to perform certain actions on an iPad; but a few hours with Editorial and you'll wish the app was available for your Mac or PC too.
Although Apple introduced iCloud Keychain in iOS 7, designed to securely store passwords and payment information, 1Password is a more powerful system. It can also hold identities, secure notes, network information and app licence details. Your stored data can then be accessed on more than just Apple's platforms. The core app is free, but you'll need to pay $14.99 to get access to all its features.
The iPad has given new life to comics, providing the perfect digital home for them with its big, sharp, colourful screen and Madefire Comics makes the most of it by stocking motion comics. As the name suggests these include movement rather than just static panels and often feature music and sound effects too, bringing you into the story like never before. With big names and an ever growing library Madefire is essential for comic fans.
Even the most expensive iPads in Apple's line-up don't have a massive amount of storage, and space is rapidly eaten up if you keep videos on the device. Air Video HD acts as an alternative: stream movies from a PC or Mac, auto-encoding on-the-fly as necessary. There's also full support for offline viewing, soft subtitles and AirPlay to an Apple TV.
We could all use a bit of brain training from time to time and Elevate is a great way to do it. It aims to improve your writing, reading, speaking, listening and maths skills through a variety of daily challenges, which keep your brain active and test you in entertaining ways. A beautiful interface makes it a joy to use and the core app is free, but extra features can be added with a subscription.
ABC iview brings together the national broadcaster's best programming for on demand consumption. A pioneer in Australia's streaming services, iview offers hundreds of hours of viewing for Aussies of all ages, as well as live streaming of the 24 hour news channel and ABC1, plus custom shows created especially for the digital platform.
Word processing is something the iPad fares remarkably well at — if you have the right app. Byword is a no-nonsense distraction-free editor that just lets you get on with writing. There's Markdown support, helped along by a custom keyboard row, and also a live word/character count. For anyone publishing to the web, a single $7.99 IAP provides integration with the likes of WordPress and Tumblr.
Comic Life provides a creative way to tell a story or present some of your favourite photographs. The many templates provide a starting point and theme, and you can then import photos, add captions, and design special effects. Comics can be sent to friends in a variety of formats, or to your Mac or PC to carry on working in the desktop version of the app.
Journalling is one of those things that people always think will fall out of fashion, but it never quite does. Day One has plenty of advantages over a paper-based diary, though; wrapped up in a beautiful interface is the means to add images, weather data and music info, along with formatted text. Individual entries can be 'published' to share with people, and of course everything you create is fully searchable.
Panic's Coda is a hugely popular Mac app for coding websites, and the iPad app is no slouch either. Coda provides a touch-optimised means of editing files, which can either be done live on the remote server or by downloading them locally first. Syntax highlighting, clips and a built-in Terminal make this a great app for any web designer on the go.
Drum machines are always a lot of fun, but many of those available for iOS are rather throwaway, their options exhausted within minutes. DM1 is pretty much the exact opposite, packed with a huge number of drum kits, a step sequencer, a song composer and a mixer. Inter-App audio, Audiobus and MIDI support also ensure what you create doesn't end up in a percussion-rich silo.
Dropbox is a great service for syncing documents across multiple devices. The iPad client works like the iPhone one (hardly surprising, since this is a universal app), enabling you to preview many file types and store those marked as favourites locally.
If you love our sunburnt country, you'll know that the best way to explore the wonders Australia has to offer is generally off the beaten track. Wikicamps is a user-generated database of Australia's best camping areas, with useful information (like mobile coverage) all rated by fellow travellers. If you want to hit the great outdoors, make sure you download this app and take it with you.
Like Dropbox, Evernote (a free online service for saving ideas – text documents, images and web clips – that you can then access from multiple devices) works the same way on the iPad as it does on the iPhone. It benefits from the iPad's larger screen, which enables you to see and navigate your stored snippets more easily, but it's handy knowing you'll be able to access all your notes on any other device, or any future device you might buy, like the iPhone 7.
Apple's own Calendar app is fiddly and irritating, and so the existence of Fantastical is very welcome. In a single screen, you get a week view, a month calendar and a scrolling list of events. There's also support for reminders, and all data syncs with iCloud, making Fantastical compatible with Calendar (formerly iCal) for OS X. The best bit, though, is Fantastical's natural-language input, where you can type an event and watch it build as you add details, such as times and locations.
Initially, Flipboard looked like a gimmick, trying desperately to make online content resemble a magazine. But now it can integrate Flickr and other networks, beautifully laying out their articles, Flipboard's muscled into the 'essential' category – and it's still free.
Airbnb makes travel affordable and social, as rather than staying in a hotel you can stay in someone's house. Options range from crashing on someone's sofa to renting a private island, or if you have a spare room you could even rent your own space out. The iPad app is one of the best ways to browse it too, letting you search and book using an attractive image-heavy interface.
Apple's GarageBand turns your iPad into a recording studio. It includes a range of smart instruments, MIDI editing and song arrangement so you can make music anywhere. It's not free any more, but you get access to all of its instruments and sounds for one fairly low fee.
GoodReader is the iPad's best PDF reader. You can annotate documents, extract text, and now also rearrange, split and combine documents. The app previews various other files as well, can create and extract ZIP archives, and is capable of connecting to a wide range of online services. Alongside Dropbox, it makes a great surrogate Finder/Preview combination — a must-have for iPad power users.
Going head-to-head with Kindle, iBooks is a decent ebook reader, backed by the iBookstore. As you'd expect from Apple, the interface is polished and usable, with handy cross-device bookmark syncing, highlighting, and various display options. It's also a capable PDF reader, for your digital magazine collection.
Although the iPad enables a certain amount of basic multi-tasking, anyone who constantly juggles a number of instant messaging services will soon be tired of leaping between apps. IM+ is a good solution, enabling you to run a number of IM services in a single app, and there's also a built-in web browser for checking out links.
You're not going to make the next Hollywood hit on your iPad, but iMovie 's more than capable of dealing with home movies. The interface resembles its desktop cousin and is easy to get to grips with. Clips can be browsed, arranged and cut, and you can then add titles, transitions and music. For the added professional touch, there are 'trailer templates' to base your movie on, rather than starting from scratch.
After a stint on the iPhone, Kickstarter has now arrived on Apple's slates and it's the perfect fit for it, giving you a big window into thousands of projects which you can back with a tap. Browse by categories and sub-categories, select how to sort projects or just search for a specific one. Just be careful. Last time we launched the app we emerged six hours later and hundreds of pounds poorer. We eagerly await delivery of our smart socks.
There's something fascinating about animation, and iStopMotion is a powerful and usable app for unleashing your inner Aardman, enabling you to create frame-by-frame stories. There's also time-lapse functionality built-in, and the means to use the free iStopMotion Remote Camera with an iPhone on the same network.
If you're still convinced the iPad is only a device for staring brain-dead at TV shows and not a practical tool for education, check out iTunes U. The app enables you to access many thousands of free lectures and courses taught by universities and colleges, thereby learning far more than what bizarre schemes current soap characters are hatching.
Graphic design can get pretty complex, with the best designers spending years honing their skills. For the rest of us who can't seem to manage putting text and photos in the same space without it looking terrible, there's Canva. An incredibly simple and intuitive app, Canva offers a wide array of templates for almost any situation, with low-cost stock photography available as an in-app purchase.
Amazon's Kindle iPad app for reading myriad books available at the Kindle Store is a little workmanlike, and doesn't match the coherence of iBooks (you buy titles in Safari and 'sync' purchases via Kindle). However, Kindle's fine for reading, and you get options to optimise your experience (including the ability to kill the naff page-turn animation and amend the page background to a pleasant sepia tone).
Korg Gadget bills itself as the "ultimate mobile synth collection on your iPad" and it's hard to argue. You get 15 varied synths in all, ranging from drum machines through to ear-splitting electro monsters, and an intuitive piano roll for laying down notes. A scene/loop arranger enables you to craft entire compositions in the app, which can then be shared via the Soundcloud-powered GadgetCloud or sent to Dropbox. This is a more expensive app than most, but if you're a keen electronic-music-oriented songwriter with an iPad, it's hard to find a product that's better value.
The idea behind Launch Center Pro is to take certain complex actions and turn them into tappable items — a kind of speed-dial for tasks such as adding items to Clear, opening a URL in 1Password, or opening a specific view in Google Maps. Although the list of supported apps isn't huge, it's full of popular productivity apps; and should you use any of them on a regular basis, Launch Center Pro will be a massive time-saver and is well worth the outlay.
It was a very long time in coming, and there were fears Microsoft would make a half-hearted effort to get Word on to the iPad. In the end, we actually got a surprisingly powerful, touch-optimised, high-quality word processor and layout app. The subset of tools you get from the PC version is more than sufficient, and for free you can use the app as a viewer. For editing, you'll need an Office 365 subscription (from $12.99 monthly), and this will also give you access to Excel and Powerpoint , along with office apps on other platforms.
One for film buffs, Movies figures out where you are and tells you what's showing in your local cinemas – or you can pick a film and it'll tell you where and when it's on. The app is functionally identical on iPad and iPhone, but again the extra screen space improves the experience.
There are loads of note-taking apps for the iPad, but Notability hits that sweet spot of being usable and feature-rich. The basic notepad view is responsive, but also enables you to zoom and add fine details. Elsewhere, you can type, import documents, and record audio. Notes can be searched and, crucially, backed up to various cloud-based web services.
We mention Microsoft's iPad efforts elsewhere, but if you don't fancy paying for a subscription and yet need some spreadsheet-editing joy on your iPad, Numbers is an excellent alternative. Specially optimised for Apple's tablet, Numbers makes great use of custom keyboards, smart zooming, and forms that enable you to rapidly enter data. Presentation app Keynote and page-layout app Pages are also worth a look.
There's a certain train of thought that apps shouldn't ape real-world items, but we dismiss such talk. They just shouldn't ape real-world items badly! Paper by FiftyThree gets this right, with beautiful sketchbooks in which you can scribble, then share across the web. Books and the pen tool are free, and other tools are available via In-App Purchase.
PCalc Lite 's existence means the lack of a built-in iPad calculator doesn't bother us (in fact, we'd love to replace the iPhone Calculator app with PCalc Lite as well). This app is usable and feature-rich – and if you end up wanting more, in-app purchases enable you to bolt on extras from the full PCalc.
If you haven't binge watched Jessica Jones yet, you should probably download the Netflix app for your iPad, subscribe to the streaming service and fix that. The top dog when it comes to video streaming services around the world, Netflix is made for watching on any screen, but is particularly good on an iPad.
Pocket and Instapaper have long battled it out for 'article scraper' king, but Pocket trumps its rival in appealing to iPad-owning cheapskates. Instapaper requires a purchase for iPad goodness, but Pocket is free. It's also very fast, offers tagging, includes a great original article/plain-text toggle, and has a vaguely Flipboard-like visual grid-based index.
We've elsewhere mentioned Comics, but Sequential has a slightly different take on the medium. It's an altogether more upmarket affair, aimed at graphic novels and collections of sequential art that are supposed to be taken seriously. Therefore, this isn't so much everything but the kitchen sink, but a repository for a carefully curated selection of some of the best comics ever created.
We tend to quickly shift children from finger-painting to using much finer tools, but the iPad shows there's plenty of power in your digits — if you're using the right app. Autodesk SketchBook provides all the tools you need for digital sketching, from basic doodles through to intricate and painterly masterpieces; and if you're wanting to share your technique, you can even time-lapse record to save drawing sessions to your camera roll. The core app is free, but it will cost you $5.99 to unlock the pro features.
Augmented reality is still in its early days, but Sky Guide shows off the potential of merging the virtual with the real. Using your iPad, you can search the heavens in real-time, the app providing live details of constellations and satellites within your field of view. Away from the outdoors, Sky Guide doubles as a kind of reference book, offering further insight into distant stars, and the means to view the sky at different points in history.
In theory, we should be cheerleading for FaceTime, what with it being built into iOS devices, but it's still an Apple-only system. Skype , however, is enjoyed by myriad users who haven't been bitten by the Apple bug, and it works very nicely on the iPad, including over 3G.
Skyscanner 's website is pretty good, but the iPad app's another great example of how an app's focus can really help you speed through a task. You use the app to search over a thousand airlines, and it provides straightforward competitive journey lists and comparison graphs. If you're planning a flight, it's an indispensable download.
Apple's Photos app has editing capabilities, but they're not terribly exciting — especially when compared to Snapseed. Here, you select from a number of effect types and proceed to pinch and swipe your way to a transformed image. It's a fun tool, but there's plenty of control for anyone determined to get their photos just so.
Soulver is more or less the love child of a spreadsheet and the kind of calculations you do on the back of an envelope. You write figures in context, and Souvler extracts the maths bits and tots up totals; each line's results can be used as a token in subsequent lines, enabling live updating of complex calculations. Drafts can be saved, exported to HTML, and also synced via Dropbox or iCloud.
TED describes itself as "riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world". The app pretty much does as you'd expect – you get quick access to dozens of inspiring videos. However, it goes the extra mile in enabling you to save any talk for offline viewing, and also for providing hints on what to watch next if you've enjoyed a particular talk.
Need to make a newsletter, invitation, or report? Then you need Adobe Slate. The app lets you combine text and images into a visual story that flows like the best digital magazines. It's simple to use, letting you effortlessly create a professional story and it's easy to share too, giving you a link which allows your readers to open it on phones, tablets and computers.
Apple's iDevices have always been a little limited when it comes to video file formats. Infuse Pro makes all those concerns go away. With support for playback of pretty much any video file format, Infuse Pro really stands out in its ability to decode Dolby audio in-app, unlike many other video playback apps. With its sleek interface and automatic metadata collation, it's an essential purchase for anyone wanting to avoid iTunes.
Output your iPad's audio to an amp or a set of portable speakers, fire up TuneIn Radio , select a station and you've a set-up to beat any DAB radio. Along with inevitable social sharing, the app also provides an alarm, AirPlay support, pause and rewind, and a 'shake to switch station' feature - handy if the current DJ's annoying and you feel the need to vent.
The Wikipedia website works fine in Safari for iPad, but dedicated apps make navigating the site simpler and faster. Wikipanion is an excellent free app, with a sleek iOS 7-style design, an efficient two-pane landscape view, and excellent bookmarking and history access.
While Netflix and Stan arguably have much more polished apps, Presto stands out for its impressive lineup of unique premium programming. For a start, it's the only place you'll be able to stream HBO content, while its partnership with both Channel 7 and Foxtel means it has a wide, varied selection of locally produced content.
When the YouTube app presumably became a victim of the ongoing and increasingly tedious Apple/Google spat, there were concerns Google wouldn't respond. Those turned out to be unfounded, because here's yet another bespoke, nicely designed Google-created app for iOS. The interface is specifically tuned for the iPad, and AirPlay enables you to fire videos at an Apple TV.
Australia's Streaming Video on Demand market has exploded in 2015, with Aussie service Stan going head to head with the might of Netflix. The Stan app is polished, responsive and has an abundance of excellent content to watch, with a monthly subscription fee of $10 which can be purchased via in-app purchase.
Mind-mapping is one of those things that's usually associated with dull business things, much like huge whiteboards and the kind of lengthy meetings that make you hope the ground will swallow you up. But really they're perfect whenever you want to get thoughts out of your head and then organise them.
On paper, this process can be quite messy, and so MindNode is a boon. You can quickly and easily add and edit nodes, your iPad automatically positioning them neatly. Photos, stickers and notes can add further context, and your finished document can be shared publicly or privately using a number of services.
When you're told you can control the forces of nature with your fingertips that probably puts you more in mind of a game than a book. And, in a sense, Earth Primer does gamify learning about our planet. You get a series of engaging and interactive explanatory pages, and a free-for-all sandbox that cleverly only unlocks its full riches when you've read the rest of the book.
Although ultimately designed for children, it's a treat for all ages, likely to plaster a grin across the face of anyone from 9 to 90 when a volcano erupts from their fingertips.
For most guitarists, sound is the most important thing of all. It's all very well having a massive rig of pedals and amps, but only if what you get out of it blows away anyone who's listening. For our money, BIAS FX is definitely the best-sounding guitar amp and effects processor on the iPad, with a rich and engaging collection of gear.
Fortunately, given the price-tag, BIAS FX doesn't skimp on set-up opportunities either. A splitter enables complex dual-signal paths; and sharing functionality enables you to upload your creations and check out what others have done with the app.
We love our iPads, but during the day tend to spend our time glued to glowing laptop and desktop displays. There's always the sense the iPad could be doing something. With Status Board that something is acting as a status display for you or your business. You drag and drop customisable panels, including clocks, weather forecasts, calendar details and website feeds, thereby giving you constant glanceable updates for important info.
A one-off IAP ($14.99) unlocks further options that are mostly perhaps more suited to business environments (graphs, tables, HTML, photos, countdowns and text); and in either case support for HD displays enables you to present your status board really large, should you feel the need.
With visible pixels essentially eradicated from modern mobile device screens, it's amusing to see pixel art stubbornly refusing to go away. Chunky pixels are, though, a very pleasing aesthetic, perhaps in part because you know effort and thought has gone into the placement of every single dot. For our money, Pixaki is the only app worth considering for iPad-related pixel art.
It's simple and elegant, with straightforward tools, an extremely responsive canvas, global and document-specific palettes, and multiple brush sizes. Extra points, too, for the opacity slider's handle being a Pac-Man ghost.
We're big fans of the Foldify apps, which enable people to fashion and customise little 3D characters on an iPad, before printing them out and making them for real. This mix of digital painting, sharing (models can be browsed, uploaded and rated) and crafting a physical object is exciting in a world where people spend so much time glued to virtual content on screens.
But it's Foldify Dinosaurs that makes this list because, well, dinosaurs. Who wouldn't be thrilled at the prospect of making a magenta T-Rex with a natty moustache? Should that person exist, we don't want to meet them.
The internet is the world's greatest cookbook these days, although with so many sites dedicated to recipes, it can be hard to find the exact one you want for any given meal. That's what makes Basil so great – it allows you to collect recipes from anywhere on the internet, and easily import them to the app for offline viewing.
Despite the fact that it's a ridiculous bubble, real estate values in this country is still growing. If you want to buy a house, or looking for a new place to rent, or just want to see what you could get if you sold your three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Sydney, the Domain app will give you everything you need with a user-friendly touch interface.
There are quite a few scanners available for iOS, but Scanbot is the one you should keep on your iPad, primarily because it does a whole lot more than just scanning. That's not to say it doesn't do that bit well, because it does; scans are crisp, clear, optionally automatically cropped and straightened, and shareable to a wide range of services.
But pay the IAP and you gain access to smart file-naming, the means to add new pages to existing scans, and text recognition. This not only enables searches of filed scans, but also the automated extraction of key information- phone numbers; URLs; email addresses- into a smartly conceived actions menu.
Illustration tools are typically complex. Sit someone in front of Adobe Photoshop and they'll figure out enough of it in fairly short order. Adobe Illustrator? No chance. Assembly attempts to get around such roadblocks by turning graphic design into the modern-day touchscreen equivalent of working with felt shapes — albeit very powerful felt shapes that can shift beneath your fingers.
At the foot of the screen are loads of design elements, and you drag them to the canvas. Using menus and gestures, shapes can be resized, coloured, duplicated and transformed. Given enough time and imagination, you can create abstract masterpieces, cartoonish geometric robots, and beautiful flowing landscapes. It's intuitive enough for anyone, but we suspect pro designers will enjoy Assembly too, perhaps even using it for sketching out ideas. And when you're done, you can output your creations to PNG or SVG.
There's a miniature revolution taking place in digital comics. Echoing the music industry some years ago, more publishers are cottoning on to readers very much liking DRM-free content. With that in mind, you now need a decent iPad reader for your PDFs and CBRs, rather than whatever iffy reading experience is welded to a storefront.
Chunky is the best comic-reader on iPad. The interface is simple but customisable. If you want rid of transitions, they're gone. Tinted pages can be brightened. And smart upscaling makes low-res comics look good. Paying the one-off 'pro' IAP enables you to connect to Mac or Windows shared folders or FTP. Downloading comics then takes seconds, and the app will happily bring over folders full of images and convert them on-the-fly into readable digital publications.
You're probably dead inside if you sit down with Metamorphabet and it doesn't raise a smile — doubly so if you use it alongside a tiny human. The app takes you through all the letters of the alphabet, which contort and animate into all kinds of shapes. It suitably starts with A, which when prodded grows antlers, transforms into an arch, and then goes for an amble. It's adorable.
The app's surreal, playful nature never lets up, and any doubts you might have regarding certain scenes — such as floaty clouds representing 'daydream' in a manner that doesn't really work — evaporate when you see tiny fingers and thumbs carefully pawing at the iPad's glass while young eyes remain utterly transfixed.
It's been a long time coming, but finally Tweetbot gets a full-fledged modern-day update for iPad. And it's a good one, too. While the official Twitter app's turned into a 'blown-up iPhone app' monstrosity on Apple's tablet, Tweetbot makes use of the extra space by way of a handy extra column in which you can stash mentions, lists, and various other bits and bobs.
Elsewhere, this latest release might lack a few toys Twitter selfishly keeps for itself, but it wins out in terms of multitasking support, granular mute settings, superb usability, and an interesting Activity view if you're the kind of Twitter user desperate to know who's retweeting all your tiny missives.
This music app is inspired by layered composition techniques used in some classical music. You tap out notes on a piano roll, and can then have up to four playheads simultaneously interpret your notes, each using unique speeds, directions and transpositions. For the amateur, Fugue Machine is intuitive and mesmerising, not least because of how easy it is to create something that sounds gorgeous.
For pros, it's a must-have, not least due to MIDI output support for driving external software. It took us mere seconds to have Fugue Machine working with Animoog's voices, and the result ruined our productivity for an entire morning. (Unless you count composing beautiful music when you should be doing something else as 'being productive'. In which case, we salute you.)
While the likes of iMovie have gone a long way in making video editing a simple task on the iPad, the fact remains that it's still a lot of work. Replay goes ahead and takes the bulk of that work and does it for you, giving you creative films that can be done in minutes.
Pulling photos and videos from your cameras roll, and applying filters, cuts and effects to the final product, Replay is an amazing free app, although you'll need to spring $12.99 as an in-app purchase to get all the available themes. If you want to make memories from your photos and videos though, this is one of the quickest and easiest ways to do it, and is worth every cent.
Even though the iPad is an immensely powerful mobile device, there's no getting away from it sometimes being fiddly for performing complex tasks; this is all the more frustrating if said tasks are something you must do regularly. Fortunately, Workflow is here to help.
It includes over 200 actions that work with built-in and third-party apps, enabling you to fashion complex automation that's subsequently activated at the touch of a button. To help you get started, the gallery houses dozens of pre-built workflows, and for added flexibility, you can access those you create or install from inside the app, via the Today widget, or by way of a custom Home screen app-like shortcut.
Typography is something that doesn't come naturally to everyone. And so while there are excellent apps for adding text to images, you might want more help, rather than spending hours fine-tuning a bunch of misbehaving letters. That's where Retype comes in. You load a photo or a piece of built-in stock art, and type some text. Then it's just a case of selecting a style.
The type's design updates whenever you edit your text, and variations can be accessed by repeatedly prodding the relevant style's button. Basic but smart filter, blur, opacity and fade commands should cement Retype's place on your iPad.
So you want to learn to code for iOS? Then you're going to need to understand Swift, Apple's programming language. Fortunately, Swifty exists to help you on your coding journey. Simple, accessible and with over 200 interactive tutorials to help you learn the language behind the apps you use, Swifty is a great starting point for anyone getting started in iOS development.
Small business owners know that one of the worst parts of running a business is having to deal with the paperwork at the end of the day. Aussie app Invoice2Go takes the pain out of the process, allowing businesses to send invoices immediately without needing to open up Excel, as well as tracking payments, chasing down overdue Invoices and keeping tabs of business performance over time. You'll need to pay a yearly subscription to get the full benefit of the app, but for the convenience and benefit, you won't regret the cost.

Apple and Square announce new payments partnership
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The top iPhone and iPad apps on App Store
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7.1

The best Nexus 5X deals for Christmas 2016 (1.06/6)

The latter stages of the year are the best times to look for smartphone deals, as we're used to seeing retailers online and on the high street slash their prices.
The Nexus 5X is last year's smartphone from Google - and a little help from LG which built the device. Fans of the Nexus 5 will find a lot to love here, as the Nexus 5X comes with a beefed up processor, USB-C port and a massively improved camera. It also features a gorgeous 5.2-inch screen and only weighs 136g, making it easy to carry around. Even though the Nexus 5X is showing its age a little, it's still a great smartphone, and now that Google has released the more expensive Google Pixel range of phones, it's now even more affordable.
On this page you'll find a comparison tool right at the top so that you can compare and filter all the UK's best Nexus 5X deals to find your perfect contract. Underneath that we've rounded up what we think are the best Nexus 5X deals from all of the major networks to point you in the right direction.

The best HTC 10 deals for Christmas 2016
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The best LG G5 deals for Christmas 2016
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 13 /286 
7.9

Frantic rescue after quake kills dozens in Indonesia's Aceh (1.05/6)

Maj. Gen. Tatang Sulaiman, chief of the army in Aceh province, said 52 people have died in Pidie Jaya, the district closest to the epicenter. Another two people died in neighboring Bireuen district.
The rescue effort involving hundreds of villagers, soldiers and police is concentrated on Meureudu, a severely affected town in Pidie Jaya district. Excavators were trying to remove debris from shop houses and other buildings where people were believed buried.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference that the death toll could increase.
He said more than 300 people were injured and about a quarter of them seriously. More than 280 buildings have been damaged or destroyed, mostly in Pidie Jaya, including 16 mosques and nearly 170 dwellings and shop houses. Roads also cracked and power poles toppled over.
Aiyub Abbas, the chief of Pidie Jaya district, which is located 18 kilometers (11 miles) southwest of the epicenter, said there is urgent need for excavation equipment to move heavy debris and emergency supplies. TV footage showed rescue personnel taking bodies in black bags away from the rubble.
The U. S. Geological Survey said the shallow 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck at 5:03 a.m. (2203 GMT Tuesday) was centered about 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Reuleut, a town in northern Aceh, at a depth of 17 kilometers (11 miles). It did not generate a tsunami.
For Acehnese, the quake was a terrifying reminder of their region's vulnerability to natural disasters. More than 100,000 died in Aceh after the Dec. 26, 2004, earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami.
"It was very bad, the tremors felt even stronger than 2004 earthquake," said Musman Aziz, a Meureudu resident. "I was so scared the tsunami was coming. "
In the capital Jakarta, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said he has ordered all government agencies to take part in the rescue efforts.
Seaside resident Fitri Abidin in Pidie Jaya said she fled with her husband and wailing children to a nearby hill after the quake jolted the family awake early in the morning. They stayed there for several hours until authorities reassured them there was no tsunami risk.
"It terrified me. I was having difficulty breathing or walking," said Abidin.
She said her husband grabbed hold of her and carried her out of the house.
The family's house didn't collapse but the homes of some neighbors did and Abidin is afraid three friends were buried in building collapses.
In Pidie Jaya's neighboring district of Bireuen, a teacher at an Islamic building school died after being hit by falling debris, said health worker Achmad Taufiq.
Residents of the nearby town of Lhokseumawe ran out of their houses in panic during the quake and many people fled to higher ground.
The world's largest archipelago, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. The 2004 quake and tsunami killed a total of 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Aceh.
A boy sits on the rubble of a building that collapsed after an earthquake as he takes shelter from the sun in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. A strong undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia's Aceh province early on Wednesday, killing a number of people and causing dozens of buildings to collapse. (AP Photo/Heri Juanda)
Hospital workers and family members carry a woman injured in an earthquake at a hospital in Pidie, Aceh province, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. A strong undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia's Aceh province early on Wednesday, killing a number of people and causing dozens of buildings to collapse. (AP Photo/Heri Juanda)
Women are reflected in a motorbike's mirror as they access the damaged building after an earthquake in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. A strong undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia's Aceh province early on Wednesday, killing a number of people and causing dozens of buildings to collapse. (AP Photo/Heri Juanda)
Earthquake victims receive medical treatment at a makeshift a hospital in Pidie, Aceh province, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. A strong undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia's Aceh province early on Wednesday, killing a number of people and causing dozens of buildings to collapse. (AP Photo/Heri Juanda)
Explore further: Strong quake kills girl, ruins homes in Indonesia

The Latest: Death Toll in Quake Rises to 25 in 1 District
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Earthquake Rocks Indonesia's Aceh Province; at Least 27 Dead
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0.0

TalkTalk's wi-fi hack advice is 'astonishing' (1.03/6)

TalkTalk's handling of a wi-fi password breach is being criticised by several cyber-security experts.
The BBC has presented the company with evidence that many of its customers' router credentials have been hacked, putting them at risk of data theft.
The UK broadband provider confirmed that the sample of stolen router IDs it had been shown was real.
But it is still advising users that there is "no need" to change their routers' settings.
A cyber-security advisor to Europol said he was astounded by the decision.
"If TalkTalk has evidence that significant numbers of passwords are out in the wild, then at the very least they should be advising their customers to change their passwords," said Prof Alan Woodward.
"To say they see no need to do so is, frankly, astonishing. "
A spokeswoman for TalkTalk said that customers could change their settings "if they wish" but added that she believed there was "no risk to their personal information".
She referred the BBC to another security expert. But when questioned, he also said the company should change its advice.
The risk to TalkTalk's subscribers was first flagged over the weekend by a cyber-security researchers at Pen Test Partners.
They had been investigating the spread of a variant of the Mirai worm, which was causing several makes of routers to stop working properly.
During tests of a TalkTalk model, the researchers discovered that the vulnerability exploited by the worm was also being abused to carry out a separate attack that forced the router to reveal its wi-fi password.
But TalkTalk played down the discovery, saying it had "not seen anything to confirm" that users' router credentials had been stolen.
It said it was also making "good progress" to protect its routers.
The BBC was subsequently contacted by someone who said he had access to a database of 57,000 router IDs that had been scraped before any fix had been rolled out.
He did not reveal his identity, but agreed to share a sample of the credentials that had been harvested.
The list contained details of about 100 routers including:
The source said he wanted to highlight the problem because other more malevolent actors might have carried out a similar operation.
The BBC passed the details on to TalkTalk.
"The list that you sent me, I can confirm that they are TalkTalk router IDs," said its spokeswoman Isobel Bradshaw.
"But we haven't seen anything to suggest that there are 57,000 of them out there. "
Hackers could not use the credentials to carry out a mass attack from afar - but they could use the IDs to identify high value targets to travel to, or they could simply drive through the streets hunting for a match.
Prof Alan Woodward said once a hacker was outside a vulnerable property, they could:
Ms Bradshaw referred the BBC to Steve Armstrong, a cyber-security instructor that she said would support it on the matter.
He said the risk to an individual user was relatively low.
"If you look at the average home user and what is on their home network, that would be exposed to an attacker,... then there is not a great deal.
"The risk is probably no higher than using a [coffee shop's] open wi-fi network. "
But he added that he still felt TalkTalk was giving the wrong advice.
"Part of my pushback to them is that they should be telling people, 'You need to change your password,'" he said.
"At the moment, you trust your home infrastructure, and as a result of this vulnerability, that may not be [secure]. "
Others have been more critical of TalkTalk's handling of the matter.
"It does a disservice to the complicated debate around security and privacy to give out advice of this fashion," said Don Smith, technology director at Dell SecureWorks.
Pen Test Partners' Ken Munro said: "TalkTalk appear to be flying fast and loose with customer data security, yet again. "
The company was fined £400,000 last month by the Information Commissioner's Office for a previous breach that led to the theft of nearly 157,000 customers' personal details.
TalkTalk has about four million customers in total.
TalkTalk's approach contrasts with that of Eir, an Irish internet provider whose routers have also come under attack.
It told the BBC on Tuesday that it had detected "unauthorised access" to two Zyxel-branded routers used by 2,000 of its customers.
"We do not have any indication at this time that customer data has been lost or accessed," said a spokeswoman.
"Our strong advice to customers is to reset their modem and, once this is done, to change both the modem administration password as well as the wi-fi password. "

Don't let free Wi-Fi wreck the holidays
cnet.com

 

 15 /286 
0.0

GameCube games might bring some Sunshine to the Nintendo Switch (1.03/6)

We’ve barely gotten over the last round of Nintendo Switch rumors, but a new batch has just arrived, hot off the presses.
Multiple sources have said to Eurogamer that the console’s virtual console will include support for GameCube games, with Super Smash Bros Melee, Super Mario Sunshine, and Luigi’s Mansion 'confirmed' as working, and Animal Crossing apparently next on the list.
However the news opens the doors to other classic games such as Resident Evil 4, Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, and Mario Party 4 potentially appearing on the service.
Nintendo’s virtual console has been around since the Wii, and allows players to download and play older games from Nintendo Consoles that have since been discontinued.
In the past the most recent Nintendo console supported was the Nintendo 64, making the GameCube’s appearance a first for the service.
According to Eurogamer, porting duties are being handled by Nintendo European Research and Development (NERD), which is the team that also produced the excellent NES Mini and provided an excellent emulated experience.
With NERD behind the wheel, we're quietly confident that this might end up being a great way to revisit some old classics.

Nintendo Switch release date, news and features
techradar.com
Report: Nintendo Switch to support GameCube through Virtual Console
digitaltrends.com

 

 16 /286 
0.0

A Comparison of G.hn, HomePlug AV2 and Wi-Fi Mesh (1.03/6)

Over the last decade or so, we have seen a rapid increase in the number of devices connecting to the home network. The popularity of IoT has meant that even devices that are not mobile require communication over the Internet, but, their placement might be far away from the primary router in the house. Given this situation, it is essential to find a reliable way to extend the reach of the home network. There have been many attempts to come up with a standardized way to do it, but consumers have been forced to use range extenders, powerline networking kits and the like to increase the reach of their home networks.
Given the multitude of available options to extend the reach of home networks, what underlying technology should consumers look for? Today's article provides a comprehensive overview of the available options as well as a quantitative comparison in one particular residential scenario - a 1800 sq. ft. single-level California house built in the 1970s.
A discussion of the various ways to extend home networks must always be prefaced with a simple suggestion - if it is at all possible to wire up the major rooms in the house with Cat 6 cables, the reader should definitely go for it. Wi-Fi access can then be made available in remote locations with the use of access points that piggy-back on the Cat 6 backbone. This article tackles situations where wiring up the residence with Cat 6 cables is not a practical option.
Most residences have some sort of wired infrastructure going around - everyone has electrical wiring that is bound to be in every room. Some have telephone wires already present, while others have a coax cable network. In order to expand the reach of home networks, there are ways to use all of the above media. In addition to wired backhauls based on these, Wi-Fi itself can be used for this 'last feet' data transfer. Encompassing all these is the concept of hybrid networking - i.e., a way to get communication over different media to work together seamlessly in order to extend the network reach.
The industry recognized the need for hybrid networking around 5 years back and set up the IEEE P1905 working group. The approach, mainly spearheaded by Qualcomm Atheros, involved usage of HomePlug powerline chipsets as well as MoCA (multimedia-over-coax) chipsets in Wi-Fi routers to ensure a seamless connected digital home. However, the added price for the functionality led to the vendors largely giving this endeavor a miss. As of 2016, there are no known hybrid networking packages in the market. That said, there are many vendors who have range extenders that use a powerline backhaul (such as the TP-LINK AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender AV1200 Powerline Edition ). Even though these products fulfill the basic requirement of extending the home network, they are not marketed as a unified solution with a primary router.
Netgear does have the Nighthawk DST (Dead Spot Terminator) kit hat combines a Nighthawk R7000 with a Broadcom-based HomePlug AV2-compliant PLC chipset. However, it is more of a limited release with the kit being sold only through Best Buy.
ITU's G.hn (G.9960) specification for home networks has been of interest due to its ability to operate over different media (telephone wiring, coax cables, and power lines). The technology had only been on paper for a long time, but, in early 2015, we saw some powerline networking products based on G.hn appear in the retail market. Marvell Semiconductors is a big proponent of G.hn. The current G.hn powerline adapters in the market are all based on their chipsets. Recognizing the need for hybrid networking, ARRIS has made an attempt to integrate proven 802.11ac Wi-Fi solutions with Marvell's G.hn platform. The resulting product portfolio has enabled consumers to seamlessly extend the reach of their home networks. Marketed under the RipCurrent moniker, these products include a primary Wi-Fi router and optional powerline extenders as well as a Wi-Fi range extender with a powerline backhaul. They target homes that end up with Wi-Fi dead spots when a single router is deployed.
Mesh Wi-Fi has emerged as one of the interesting approaches to residential Wi-Fi over the last 12 - 18 months. Even though it is being marketed as something revolutionary, the concepts have been around for a long time. In fact, Wi-Fi range extenders operate on almost the same principles, but, mesh Wi-Fi systems adopt a few strategies to make users think that they have a magical solution:
The basic operation models for wireless range extenders and mesh Wi-Fi router units are similar. Some mesh systems such as the Netgear Orbi use a separate channel for the backhaul (communication between the member units). This ensures that there is no airtime wasted when there are active wireless clients.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems can either adopt a 'spokes' model, with a primary router and the satellites talking directly to it, or, a 'real mesh' model where a node can have one or more hops to reach the primary router. The effectiveness of either approach is dependent on the location of the primary router relative to the dead spots in the house, as well as the number of member nodes.
Most mesh Wi-Fi systems currently in the market are based on Qulacomm's Wi-Fi Self-Organizing-Networks (SON) solution. A detailed perusal of the technology makes it evident that it is the brains behind the marketing cloak of mesh Wi-Fi systems from Netgear, Google, Luma and eero.
Readers now have a broad understanding of the various options available to extend the reach of home networks. In the next section, we will take a look at the various kits that were evaluated and the approach under which each of them falls. The evaluation methodology is also spelt out in detail. A couple of sections looking at the performance numbers is followed by some concluding remarks.

Don't let free Wi-Fi wreck the holidays
cnet.com

 

 17 /286 
5.9

Drake, 'The Martian' and 'Game of Thrones' top Apple's 2016 charts (1.03/6)

Drake performs at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on October 2, 2016.
Greetings pop pickers, and welcome to Apple's smash hit chart of the year!
The various charts are available as playlists on iTunes .

You won’t be surprised by Apple's best apps and games of 2016
techradar.com

 

 18 /286 
0.3

Threat of Pebble Core and Time 2 cancelation looms over impending Fitbit buyout (1.03/6)

Pebble, the brand which introduced the concept of the modern smartwatch to many people, may be purchased by Fitbit, a brand synonymous with fitness trackers. While Pebble has completed several highly successful Kickstarter campaigns, and raised outside investment, it has been struggling financially, which opens the door for Fitbit to grab itself a bargain.
Rumors first spread of the acquisition at the beginning of December, and although no official statements have been made, they continue to spread and in more detail. The deal is apparently close to completion, and concentrates on Fitbit acquiring Pebble’s intellectual property, its software engineers, and testing crew. Hardware isn’t expected to be part of the sale, and may be sold off separately.
More: Pebble 2 with heart rate monitor review
Both companies know plenty about wearable technology. Fitbit has recently launched a smartwatch of its own, the love-it-or-hate-it Blaze. Pebble doesn’t just make hardware. Its watches run PebbleOS, an operating system which is compatible with both iOS and Android, and has a packed app store featuring a massive choice of watch faces, apps and games.
This preference isn’t good news for Pebble fans, and even worse news for backers of Pebble’s most recent Kickstarter campaign, due to the rumored cancelation of the Pebble Time 2 and Pebble Core. This comes from an anonymous source speaking to Bloomberg , where it’s also stated refunds will be handed out to backers of the project. Pebble fans have taken to the company’s Facebook page asking for the truth behind these rumors. The firm has stayed silent, but in a recent post says the next Kickstarter update (number 17, due in the next few days) will “answer all questions.”
How much will Fitbit spend on Pebble? According to the Financial Times , Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky had a figure of $200 million in mind for Pebble, but Fitbit has other ideas. Speaking to four anonymous sources said to be familiar with the negotiations, Fitbit will pay considerably less than this, and although the exact amount isn’t stated by the FT, sources told TechCrunch it may be in the region of $40 million, a figure also quoted by Bloomberg. This would “barely cover their debts,” said the FT’s anonymous source. How close is a deal? The talks are described as being in the advanced stages, but have not reached a conclusion, which means they could still fall through.
Fitbit has apparently extended job offers to 40 percent of Pebble’s existing staff, and primarily for those who work in software engineering, and none that work on hardware were offered new roles. Accepting a role with Fitbit will mean working at its San Francisco offices, while Pebble’s Palo Alto, California headquarters will be closed. CEO Eric Migicovsky isn’t expected to be among Fitbit’s new staff, and is rumored to join startup incubator Y Combinator as an advisor, according to Bloomberg.
Pebble laid off 25 percent of its staff back in March, signaling times were hard, but Fitbit hasn’t had the best of years either. In January, its stock price fell by a 35 percent in a week.
At the time of writing there have been no official statements from either company, and the above is based on information from anonymous sources.
Article originally published on 12-01-2016. Article updated on 07-12-2016 by Andy Boxall: Added in further rumors about the sale, including the chance the Pebble Time 2 and Pebble Core will be canceled

Pebble Time 2 and Pebble Core may be cancelled in Fitbit buyout
feedproxy.google.com

 

 19 /286 
0.0

Looking for a nearby place to eat or shop? Just tweet Google an emoji (1.03/6)

Be it baked into Google Home or built around the company's digital assistant , Google loves to cram its web-searching ability into just about any platform it can.
Its next destination? Twitter. However, not only does the Big G now let users search nearby establishments on the 140-character network - it can do it in a single emoji.
By mentioning Google in a tweet (@Google, natch) alongside a emoji, the search powerhouse now links you to results for locations in your area that best match that emoji's intent.
For example, tweeting a shoe can bring up local shoestores while a ramen symbol brings up nearby ramen stands, should you be hungry and already browsing your news feed.
We speak emoji. Let’s talk. 🙌 #KnowNearby pic.twitter.com/HjIMs3KPKe December 6, 2016
While novel, the system isn't exact robust. Only a fraction of the 700+ emojis turn back a result. Google is also using the hashtag #KnowNearby to keep users focused, since the system needs to logically match emojis to local businesses.
Despite its limitations, Google's latest skill teases what the company's technology can bring to third-party platforms like Twitter. If nothing else, it's a fun little trick using everyone's favorite smileys.
Oh, and since we know what you're wondering - tweeting the poop emoji at Google turns up results for nearby flower shops, along with a caption saying you may "need a breath of fresh air. "

You can now tweet emoji @Google to search stuff
feedproxy.google.com

 

 20 /286 
2.4

10 best sites and services to sell used tech (1.02/6)

At the end of each year, many of us attempt to turn the technology we no longer need into cash. You could be cleaning out the drawers or closets to which you banished old gadgets. Perhaps you treated yourself to a Surface Studio or MacBook Pro and need some extra money to pay for that pricey new computer.
Whatever your reason, selling used tech is much easier today than in the past. You used to have to make multiple decisions just to create a new eBay listing. Now the process of listing an item for sale, or getting a quote, often takes only a few minutes, and many more options exist than ever before.
Here's a guide to 10 of the best websites and mobile apps we've found for selling used tech, listed in no particular order.
Launched in October 2016, Facebook Marketplace is an outgrowth of the buying and selling that happens in Facebook Groups. More than 450 million people use groups on Facebook for buying or selling every month, according to the social network.
The idea behind Marketplace is to enable commerce between individuals within the same local communities, while removing some of the uncertainty of sites such as Craigslist. After all, if you can see a seller or buyer profile on Facebook, you're more likely to be comfortable doing business with that person. Payments are made through Facebook or any other method sellers and buyers agree on.
The service isn't perfect, though. Marketplace is currently a part of the Facebook smartphone app. It's also only available in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. You can't rate buyers or sellers, and it doesn't work with Pages, only personal accounts.
Amazon (mostly) makes it easy to sell your stuff .
When you visit a product page for an item you want to sell, you may see the words "Have one to sell? " along with a "Sell on Amazon" button. You can hit that button, and with only a few more clicks, you can list your product.
I've sold lots of tech on Amazon, and overall, I recommend it for the ease of use and transparency in fees you pay. However, I have a few caveats. For starters, you may not find the product you want to sell in Amazon's database. My first-generation, 42mm silver stainless steel Apple Watch with black sport band, for instance, was not listed when I first tried to sell it.
As of early November, Amazon extended its auto-returns policy to third-party sellers. Returns requested within Amazon's designated return period are now automatically authorized. In theory that reduces the time sellers spend processing returns, but it also means they can't easily withhold refunds or charge restocking fees if a product is returned damaged. In such situations, sellers must appeal to Amazon.
The new return policy for third-party sellers hasn't caused a drastic increase in returns, Amazon told CNBC.com. However, one seller quoted in the article said automated returns "are really going to send shockwaves" through the third-party seller community.
Online auction site eBay has been a popular place to sell used tech for years, thanks largely to its active user base of 165 million members, as estimated by Statista. In recent years, eBay made it easier to list items for sale. You can start by searching for your item, and eBay recommends an auction format based on previous sales.
In some cases, the site even gives you a price guarantee if you use its recommendations. With my 2014 MacBook Air, for instance, eBay recommended a 7-day auction with a starting price of $372 and a price guarantee of $519. However, you need to pick through a lot of fine print related to eBay's price guarantee for laptops, cell phones and other gadgets.
To list items for sale, you also have to upload photos, add descriptions and decide on shipping options. eBay estimates shipping costs for you, or you can add your own fees if you know the package size and weight.
Unfortunately, eBay's fees can add up quickly. For example, if I received $519 for my MacBook Air, the seller's fees would total $53.40 (the least expensive option). And that doesn't include PayPal's cut, if the buyer used that payment option. eBay's fee calculator can provide a good idea of the costs you'll pay. Steep fees aside, eBay's massive user base often makes it a quick way to sell unwanted tech.
Swappa is worth a look if you want to sell a used mobile device. Sellers pay no fees, though they do have to pay all applicable PayPal fees if a device sells. (All sales on Swappa go through PayPal.) Sellers also need to roll shipping costs into the asking price. Buyers pay Swappa a fee based on the sale price, and those fees range from $5 to $35.
It's easy to create a new listing on Swappa. First you write a headline and description, and then answer a few questions, set a price — based on what Swappa suggests or setting your own amount — and post a few photos. Swappa then provides a bar chart to show price fluctuations for your device over time, which is helpful when trying to set a fair price. For my MacBook Air, Swappa suggested $645.
Swappa lets you sell a variety of mobile devices, including smartwatches and VR headsets, as well as smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks and Mac laptops. It does not, however, accept listings for Windows laptops.
Gazelle takes much of the hard work out of selling unwanted cell phones, tablets and Macs. You tell the site what you have to sell, it gives you a price, and then you ship it off to Gazelle for free. The site will even send you a box. It pays via PayPal, Amazon Gift Card or by check.
This summer, Gazelle began to offer self-service kiosks where you can drop off items for instant cash, though the price you receive is "a bit lower" than what you'd get otherwise, according to the company. Kiosks can also be hard to come by; I couldn't find any when I searched in San Francisco.
What you get in ease of use with Gazelle, you might give up in cash. For example, my 2014 MacBook Air, in flawless condition, netted me an offer of only $305.
NextWorth gives you fast quotes for a variety of digital devices, including video game consoles, portable speakers, action cameras, and wearables from Fitbit and Samsung. You can sell laptops from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba, along with Mac notebooks. The service pays via PayPal or check. It also pays for shipping. But in my tests, offers were low; my MacBook Air got me an offer of only $280 on NextWorth.
Close5 is a website and mobile app designed to help people in the same neighborhood or city sell items, similar to Facebook Marketplace. Using the app, it's very easy to create new listings. You just take one or more photos, write a brief description and set a price. That's it.
Close5 is owned by eBay, and it doesn't take a cut from the buyer or seller. (Close5 may add optional premium features in the future.) Buyers and sellers communicate using the app and then meet offline to close transactions. People can use the payment methods of their choice, though Close5's site says most sellers prefer cash.
Another contender is OfferUp , an online service and app that recently received funding from PayPal cofounder Max Levchin. Like eBay, OfferUp's scope is broad, with categories that include antiques, auto parts, and cars and trucks, as well as computers. The site emphasizes local transactions, and its listings are either auction-style or fixed-price. OfferUp currently does not charge buy or sell fees.
Buyers and sellers create profiles. OfferUp then validates users' identities via a provided state-issued ID and Facebook profile. And in some markets, buyers can pay for items using the OfferUp app.
Another option for local sales: letgo , an online service and app with a Pinterest-like interface. One thing that sets letgo apart from OfferUp, Close5 and others is its ability to create "Hollywood-style ads" for your items. The company currently does not charge buy or sell fees.
I've had both good and bad experiences on Craigslist. For example, I recently sold my Mini Cooper on the site. I was honest about the expensive repairs the car needed, including a new transmission, and I listed the car accordingly at a low price. Within one hour of picking up the vehicle, the buyer posted it for sale again on Craigslist — at a much higher price and without any mention of its significant mechanical issues. (Read "Is it safe to sell your iPhone on Craigslist? " for another Craigslist horror story.)
However, Craigslist also has many good attributes for buyers and sellers. It's free to use, for instance, and the site offers a huge potential marketplace, depending on the size of your local community, of course. But you should be cautious about the types of payment you accept and read Craigslist's "avoiding scams" page before getting started.

10 hottest tech skills for 2017
itnews.com

 

 21 /286 
5.6

The 10 best mirrorless cameras 2016 (1.02/6)

Once upon a time, keen photographers bought a DSLR – it was the established order of things. But the mirror mechanism of a DSLR is complex and noisy and adds to the weight of the camera, and that's where the mirrorless camera, or compact system camera comes in. They keep the big sensors and interchangeable lenses of DSLR cameras but ditch the mirror to produce a smaller, lighter and simpler camera.
In fact, there are still pros and cons to both designs. If you want to find out more, read this: Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras: 10 key differences.
Some mirrorless cameras have a compact, rectangular body, some are styled like DSLRs with a 'pentaprism' on the top – though this houses an electronic viewfinder rather than the optical viewfinder you get with a DSLR.
Be aware, too, that cheaper mirrorless cameras don't come with viewfinders at all – instead, you compose the photo on the rear screen, just as you do with a compact camera or a smartphone. (If you're still not sure what kind of camera you need, read our easy to follow guide: What camera should I buy? )
No two photographers are exactly the same – we're all looking for slightly different things, so we've ranked the 10 best compact system cameras you can buy right now based not just on specs, handling and performance, but size, simplicity and value for money too.
A stunning camera perfect for enthusiast photographers
Fuji's update to the X-T1 may look similar at first glance, but there have been some big improvements and perhaps the biggest of all is the autofocus. A huge leap forward compared with the system found in the X-T1, AF tracking of moving subjects is very snappy, while the level of sophistication and customisation is impressive. Add in 8 frames per second burst shooting, a clever double-hinged rear display, bright EVF, Fuji's excellent 24.3MP X Trans III CMOS sensor and plenty of body mounted controls and you're left with one of the best cameras available today.
The brilliant E-M10 II ticks boxes you probably didn't even know about
We loved the original E-M10 for its size, versatility and value for money, but the E-M10 II adds features that take it to another level. The old camera's 3-axis image stabilization system has been uprated to the 5-axis system in Olympus's more advanced OM-D cameras, the viewfinder resolution has been practically doubled and the continuous shooting speed, already impressive at 8fps, creeps up to 8.5fps. Some will criticise the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor format (roughly half the area of APS-C) but the effect on image quality is minor and it means that the lenses are as compact and lightweight as the camera itself. It's small, but it's no toy – the E-M10 II is a properly powerful camera.
Sony's highest resolution full-framer is going down a storm
Despite being small enough to fit in unnoticed amongst other CSCs, the Alpha 7 series of cameras have a full-frame sensor. That means the sensor is the same size as a piece of 35mm film, which is good news for image quality and depth of field control. The A7R II has proved especially popular because it has a pixel count of 42.2 million, so it generates huge images that have bags of detail, and noise is controlled well. What's more, it can also shoot high quality 4K footage and there are lots of professional-level video features available. In addition, there's an excellent stabilisation system and Wi-Fi/ NFC technology built-in.
The X-T10 makes access to Fuji's terrific X-mount system affordable
If the X-T2 is a little beyond your budget, then take a look at the X-T10. Sharing many of the same features as the outgoing X-T1, we love the compact DSLR-style body, great handling, superb Fuji image quality and film simulation modes. It may lack the weather-sealing found on the X-T1 and also sports a smaller (but still very good) viewfinder, but that doesn't detract from what is a brilliant mirrorless camera. The 16-50mm kit lens is good, but if you can stretch to the 18-55mm, it's worth the extra investment. That's not forgetting Fuji's growing range of premium lenses, both prime and zoom.
Big features squeezed into a small body
While not quite perfect, the G80’s (G85 in the US) feature set and performance make it one of the most compelling mid-range mirrorless propositions around. Autofocus is very good, whether you’re using it for static or moving subjects, and processing speeds are fast, while the image stabilisation system is very effective whether you’re recording stills or movies. Image quality is generally very good, with the removal of the low-pass filter making a positive difference overall, and this is matched by strong 4K video quality, with plenty of video-related options. Together with a great EVF and LCD partnership, plenty of options over customisation and a broad range of compatible lenses, the G80 is a smash on a number of levels.
Classic styling houses a stack of features aimed at the enthusiast photographer
The joint flagship camera in the Fuji range alongside the X-T2, the X-Pro2 is designed for photographers who prefer to shoot with compact primes. Using the same 24.3MP sensor as the X-T2, the AF isn't quite as advanced, it's still very capable. Unique to mirrorless cameras though is the X-Pro2's Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder, offering both the option of an EVF and optical viewfinder, as well an Electronic Rangefinder feature that overlays a small version of the electronic finder in the corner of the optical one. One of the more expensive options out there, but you'll be rewarded with a great shooting experience and pin-sharp images.
Forget any worries about slow focusing with this little beaut
You don't have to go full-frame to get the benefit of Sony's great camera technology and this APS-C format model makes a great choice for enthusiasts looking for an alternative to big, heavy SLR. One of the challenges for CSC manufacturers has been to make their autofocus systems as good as the ones in SLRs. The A6300's comes very close, especially in bright light; it's able to track moving subjects around the frame and as they move towards or away from the camera. There's also an excellent electronic viewfinder that makes it easy to see when the subject is sharp and correctly exposed. Image quality is very high and there's built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity to allow to share images via a connected smartphone.
Sleek retro styling partnered with a host of creative features
While the design follows that of the original film Pen-F camera from the 1960s, that's pretty much where any similarities stop, with this modern-day Pen-F featuring Olympus's latest 20MP Micro Four Thirds sensor. Unlike previous Pen models we've seen which rely solely on the rear screen for composition unless you want to invest in an optional attachable electronic viewfinder, the Pen-F incorporates a high-quality OLED EVF integrated into the body with a resolution of 2.36m dots. There's also an advanced 5-axis image stabilisation system built in to combat camera shake, while no Olympus CSC could be complete without a selection of Art Filters - the Pen-F has 28 to choose from. Offering plenty of customisation and a host of clever features, there's also built-in Wi-Fi connectivity to boot.
A stripped-down GX8, but its all the better for it
With the GX80 (known at the GX85 in the US), Panasonic's taken the well-liked GX8 and streamlined some of the features to end-up with an appealing alternative that's more competitively priced. Despite sacrificing the clever tilting EVF, resolution is actually improved on the fixed EVF on the GX80, and while it also forgoes the 20.3MP Micro Four Thirds sensor and replaced by the older 16MP chip, the AA filter has been removed for sharper images. The GX80 also comes with 4K video capture, with the ability to capture 8MP stills from recorded footage - it's like a ultra-fast 30fps burst mode). Handling could be a bit more polished, but AF is fast and accurate, compact body and lens combination, very effective in-body anti-shake control and 4K video make this a very well-rounded camera.
A more affordable way to go full-frame with a mirrorless system camera
With 24 million pixels the A7 may not be able to able to capture quite the same amount of detail as its high resolution sibling, the A7R II, but as it has the same sized sensor you get the same level of control over depth of field. That means you can make your sharp subject stand out from a blurred background, while the level of detail is excellent. This second-generation model benefits from a number of improvements, including 5-axis image stabilisation, an all-magnesium body and a wide selection of supported video formats.

The 10 Biggest Security Stories Of 2016 - Page: 1
crn.com

 

 22 /286 
2.8

Remember Pearl Harbor? Maybe.... (1.02/6)

Today, on the 75 anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, we will hear many stories of this defining moment for the course of World War II. Pearl Harbor may have dramatically changed the course of history, but it has left a particularly important impact on those who were alive when it happened. Such memories of historic events often seem untouchable. But, how accurate are they really? Of course by the time Pearl Harbor happened, World War II had already changed the world forever with a series of atrocities that were never to be forgotten. Perhaps suitably, with Germany being at the forefront of much of the damage, the German language has a word to describe someone who lived through such historic events; “Zeitzeuge,” which translates to “time witness” (or “contemporary witness”). Zeitzeugen are the ones who live to tell the tale to future generations, to describe their experiences in vivid detail, remembering the fine grain of human history as it unfolded. A great deal of importance is often given to these elders. These time witnesses often have what are known as “flashbulb memories.” Flashbulb memories are incredibly detailed and vivid recollections of moments of our lives, usually moments that carry strong personal or historical importance. Some flashbulb memories are formed the first time we hear about an atrocity. These memories feel like they are forever etched into the crevasses of our brains. But as I talk about in my research and in my new book, , these memories often feel more accurate than they actually are. Perhaps one of the most famous flashbulb memories about Pearl Harbor was recalled by the cognitive psychologist Ulric Niesser in 1982 ( ): Sounds fine, right? Wrong. According to Niesser there is one critical problem—“This memory has been so clear for so long that I never confronted its inherent absurdity until last year: no one broadcasts baseball games in December!” His memory was wrong, perhaps even absurd. Other psychologists, , however found it much less weird, and wrote a commentary about his memory in 1986, suggesting that although the memory was wrong, it wasn’t totally off kilter: “Neisser’s flashbulb memory is quite accurate rather than totally inaccurate,” they wrote. “Neisser apparently was listening to a broadcast of a game between two football teams which had the same names as two rather famous baseball teams.” Anyone could make this kind of mistake, they claim. While Cowan and Thompson tried to trivialize his error, Niesser responded to this by saying how much of a baseball fan he was, and that mistaking a football game with a baseball game was actually a big deal for such a big fan. He offered instead an alternative explanation: You see, flashbulb memories have come heavily under attack for quite some time. Many people have vivid and detailed memories of important life moments, but it seems that these memories are not so different from other types of memories—they too can be prone to errors. They can instead be. These false memories can have all the critical components of true memories. In them we can feel things, see things, smell things in them—even if what we remember never happened that way at all. They can be incredibly compelling. Why? Mostly because our brains are great at weaving creative pieces of historical fiction. As researchers , who looked into the accuracy of flashbulb memories of 9/11, stated in a recent study: “Even traumatic memories and those implicated in a community’s collective identity may be inconsistent over time.” We unintentionally add pieces of stories we hear from others, and forget and replace pieces in our memories. It means that even our most vivid memories of historic events can be dramatically wrong.

Decrypting the Japanese Cipher Couldn't Prevent Pearl Harbor
livescience.com

 

 23 /286 
1.9

40 firms to trial IBM Watson cognitive computing for cyber security (1.02/6)

IBM has announced that 40 companies around the world have signed up for its IBM Watson for Cyber Security Beta Program.
The companies will test the ability of IBM’s cognitive computing technology to help in the battle against cyber crime. The trial will include representatives of the banking, healthcare, insurance, education and other key industry sectors.
Watson for Cyber Security uses technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing, which is being trained to understand the language of security.
IBM claims the combined technologies will help security analysts make better, faster decisions from vast amounts of data, including unstructured data that has been “dark” to security defences until now.
Today’s increasingly challenging security environment has created the need for more intelligence to identify and prioritise threats, which is, in turn, increasing the workload of security analysts with more alerts and anomalies to process than ever, said IBM.
A recent study from the IBM Institute for Business Value shows that nearly 60% of security professionals believe emerging cognitive technologies will play a critical role in turning the tide in the war on cyber crime.
“Customers are in the early stages of implementing cognitive security technologies,” said Sandy Bird, chief technology officer at IBM Security.
“Our research suggests this adoption will increase threefold over the next three years, as tools like Watson for Cyber Security mature and become pervasive in security operations centres. Currently, only 7% of security professionals claim to be using cognitive solutions.”
Companies taking part in the beta tests will use Watson in their current security environments to bring additional context to their cyber security data.
IBM said Watson will help organisations to determine whether or not a current security “offence” is associated with a known malware or cyber crime campaign.
If it is, Watson can provide background on the malware employed, vulnerabilities exploited and scope of the threat, among other insights, said IBM.
Watson is also expected to help improve organisations’ ability to identify suspicious behaviour by providing additional context to user activity.
Working with these beta customers, IBM is continuing to enhance Watson’s understanding of the cyber security data and refine how Watson can seamlessly integrate into day-to-day security operations.
Rebekah Brown, threat intelligence lead at Rapid7, said it is encouraging to see new, innovative methods for analysing and detecting cyber attacks.
“This is likely to result in the identification of attack trends and patterns that would not be easily identifiable through individual intelligence analysis alone,” she said.
But Brown cautioned against relying exclusively on automation and machine operations to combat a thinking, changing adversary.
“While machine-learning algorithms are effective at identifying and predicting attack patterns based on what has previously been observed, it is always possible that an attacker will take actions that are not predictable or that do not fit with previous behaviour patterns,” she said.
Because people do not always act in rational ways or in ways we think they should, automated analysis tools should not be viewed as a complete replacement for human analysis, said Brown.
“These tools can support and enable analysts, and should focus on detecting and responding to known patterns so that human analysts can be prepared to detect and respond to the inevitable changes attackers make in targeting, tempo and behaviours,” she said.

IBM Watson turns its attention to fighting hackers
theinquirer.net

 

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5.0

Google to use only renewable energy by next year (1.02/6)

Google has stated that it will be running its entire global operations, both data centres and offices, from wholly renewable power by next year. Google has announced that it will be running its entire global operations, from data centres to offices, entirely on renewable energy sources from next year, following the launch of a new wind-powered data centre in the Netherlands.
The environmental cost of computing is not easily dismissed: while processors get more efficient every year, data centres draw a considerable amount of power to serve their users - power used not only for the computers themselves but to deal with cooling the rooms in which they operate. The shift to cloud computing models, where users have lower-power devices like Chromebooks and smartphones and the heavy lifting is done remotely, has done little to resolve this, and it's estimated that data centres alone account for around three percent of global energy usage and rising.
To address this, advertising giant Google has announced an initiative to run its entire global operations solely from renewable energy. ' I’m thrilled to announce that in 2017 Google will reach 100% renewable energy for our global operations — including both our data centres and offices, ' explained Google's senior vice president for technical infrastructure Urs Hölzle in the company's announcement . ' To reach this goal we’ll be directly buying enough wind and solar electricity annually to account for every unit of electricity our operations consume, globally. And we're focusing on creating new energy from renewable sources, so we only buy from projects that are funded by our purchases. '
The move to renewable power is something that Google has been working towards for a considerable time, but it's only recently that it has become feasible to do away with fossil-fuel and other traditional power generation systems: the company explained it has seen the cost of wind and solar power generation drop by 60 and 80 percent respectively over the last six years. Naturally, though, Google isn't relying on wind and solar power alone; instead, it's using the usual model of sourcing as much electricity directly from renewable sources as possible then buying 'renewable energy credits' to match whatever it draws from traditional generation.
As proof the model works, Google also announced the opening of a new data centre in Eemshaven which, his company has claimed, is entirely powered from a nearby wind farm in Delfzijl. In total, the company has claimed to be responsible for committing to 2.6GW of renewable energy, making it the largest corporate purchaser globally.

Google data centres to be 100% renewable-powered by 2017
bbc.co.uk

 

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6.2

The PlayStation Store has launched a month long festive sale (1.02/6)

While many retailers are starting sales based around the twelve days of Christmas, PlayStation has decided to step things up by launching a month-long sale on its online store.
Starting December 6, US PlayStation owners will be able to save up to 75% on a selection of PlayStation 4 , PlayStation 3 and PS Vita games as well as movies. PlayStation Plus members could save even more, with up to 80% off.
The same games and movies won’t be on offer the entire way through the sale, however, as PlayStation has decided to stagger the offers across four separate weeks.
Week one will run from now until December 12 with the games on offer including the Assassin’s Creed series, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
There are also some movies on sale, and though there are fewer of them and their discounts are notably less attractive, there are a few titles such as the Hobbit Trilogy Extended Edition and the festive Nightmare Before Christmas that are worth picking up.
To see the full list of titles on offer, there’s a post on the PlayStation blog listing all of them. It’ll be updated on Tuesday December 13 when week two of the sale begins.

November 2016 was the best month ever for App Store sales
feedproxy.google.com

 

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1.0

T-Mobile’s Digits calling service is designed to make phone numbers device agnostic (1.02/6)

T-Mobile’s pitch is simple, “We’re dragging the phone number into the internet age.” The actual functionality is a bit trickier, which is why the carrier looked to do a little bit of analyst handholding and a consumer Twitter Q&A (at 10:30AM PT today) ahead of launch.
The underlying idea is to tie user identity to a single phone number, available across devices, in much the same way that email (or, for that matter, Google Voice and to a lesser extent Apple’s Messages) works. So, you can place calls and send texts through the same number on multiple smartphones, PCs, cellular connected smartwatches and even feature phones – and, lord help you, all of them will ring at the same time when a message comes through.
With Digits, users can also tie multiple phone number/accounts to a single device, so users can, say, have a personal and work number on a single device. The feature, which arrives today in a limited customer beta, will work natively on select Samsung devices. For other devices, it can either be accessed via browser (Chrome and Firefox) or through an Android or iOS app (in the beta at least, you’re going to want to shut off Messages on Apple devices).
The fact that this is a T-Mobile designed solution means that it’s primarily focused on voice, so calls get bumped up over other functionality. “Digits prioritizes calls from your phone over other data so calls are more reliable with crystal clear HD voice quality and full mobility,” according to T-Mobile. “That’s because Digits is your real wireless number with real wireless calling – not a best-efforts data connection like you get with over-the-top (OTT) Internet calling services.”
That “carrier-grade quality” bit is the primary way the service is looking to set itself apart from Google Voice and various VoIP-style options. Perhaps most interesting here is the fact that the service will usable on handsets tied to different networks. So Digits customers will be able to access the service Verizon, AT&T and Sprint phones.
The app launches today in beta. There’s still a lot of info yet to be announced including pricing, though the company says that it will be “attainable,” which likely means, at the very least, that it’ll cost less than your standard data plan. And for T-Mobile signing up means, among other things, that you’ve got your foot in the door with the Uncarrier.

T-Mobile announces Digits, a single phone number for all of your devices
digitaltrends.com

 

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2.0

Sony to Bring You More Games in 2017 Following Pokemon Go Success (1.02/6)

Sony Corp. will release as many as six smartphone games in the financial year starting April in the hope of replicating the success of console rival Nintendo Co’s Pokemon GO with its own gaming franchises.
The upcoming titles will free up some of Sony’s popular gaming franchises, such as Everybody’s Golf, from PlayStation consoles to Apple Inc’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile platforms.
They will be available initially in Japan and eventually in Asian countries, Sony said on Wednesday.
source: Reuters

Sony to release as many as six mobile phone games next year
feeds.reuters.com

 

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1.6

Scientists develop robotic hand for people with quadriplegia (1.02/6)

BERLIN (AP) - Scientists have developed a mind-controlled robotic hand that allows people with certain types of spinal injuries to perform everyday tasks such as using a fork or drinking from a cup.
The low-cost device was tested in Spain on six people with quadriplegia affecting their ability to grasp or manipulate objects.
By wearing a cap that measures electric brain activity and eye movement the users were able to send signals to a tablet computer that controlled the glove-like device attached to their hand.
Participants in the small-scale study were able to perform daily activities better with the robotic hand than without, according to results published Tuesday in the journal Science Robotics.
The principle of using brain-controlled robotic aids to assist people with quadriplegia isn’t new. But many existing systems require implants, which can cause health problems, or use wet gel to transmit signals from the scalp to the electrodes. The gel needs to be washed out of the user’s hair afterward, making it impractical in daily life.
“The participants, who had previously expressed difficulty in performing everyday tasks without assistance, rated the system as reliable and practical, and did not indicate any discomfort during or after use,” the researchers said.
It took participants just 10 minutes to learn how to use the system before they were able to carry out tasks such as picking up potato chips or signing a document.
According to Surjo R. Soekadar, a neuroscientist at the University Hospital Tuebingen in Germany and lead author of the study, participants represented typical people with high spinal cord injuries, meaning they were able to move their shoulders but not their fingers.
There were some limitations to the system, though. Users had to have sufficient function in their shoulder and arm to reach out with the robotic hand. And mounting the system required another person’s help.
Jan Schwab, an expert on spinal cord injury at Berlin’s Charite hospital who wasn’t involved in the research, called it an interesting pilot study that needs to be followed up with further clinical tests.
“Bigger studies will be very important to find out which patients respond well, less well or not at all,” Schwab said.
Soekadar said the system could be brought to market within two years at a cost of between 5,000 and 10,000 euros ($5,370 to $10,740), depending on functionality.
The device could also be used to help re-train the brain of stroke patients undergoing rehabilitation, he said.
____
Follow Frank Jordans on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/wirereporter

Scientists develop robotic hand for people with quadriplegia – Silicon Valley
siliconvalley.com

 

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1.9

Car company offering red light-reading vehicles in Las Vegas (1.02/6)

It's a simple display for the driver—a dashboard traffic signal icon and a timer next to the digital vehicle speed and area speed limit displays already common in newer cars.
The technology behind it is more complex. It uses 4G LTE cellular communication between the vehicle and a centralized traffic management control network— dubbed vehicle-to-infrastructure or "V2I. " Audi offers it through a subscription service not unlike commercial satellite radio. The company calls it "traffic light information. "
Company executive Pom Malhotra terms it "time to green. "
"You don't have to constantly stare at the traffic light. You have that information right in front of you," Malhotra told reporters who test-drove the system Tuesday in vehicles on and around Las Vegas Strip.
Can't see the light because there's a tour bus ahead? No problem. The icon says you have 37 seconds.
"A lot of behavior in the car changes," Malhotra said. "You have time to relax your hands and shoulders... time to hand a milk bottle to your child in the back seat ... while knowing you're not taking attention away from the road. "
Audi and Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada officials said Tuesday that Las Vegas was picked for the first-in-the-nation debut because it has a single centralized traffic management center covering all jurisdictions in Clark County, a region nearly the size of New Jersey.
Malhotra said Audi hopes to expand the system soon to other big U. S. cities, including places like Los Angeles, which have patchwork traffic management systems run by varying jurisdictions in a sprawling urban landscape.
The Las Vegas-area program, dubbed the Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation, or FAST, collects data and synchronizes 1,300 traffic signals in a region home to more than 2 million people and host to more than 40 million tourists a year. It also has 508 cameras and freeway flow detectors, and controls 106 message signs and freeway on-ramp meters.
Tina Quigley, transportation commission general manager, said other car companies will be able to tap into the Las Vegas data, which she said should improve mobility and safety—particularly in the congested Las Vegas Strip tourist corridor and around McCarran International Airport.
About 150 Audi owners are using the system in Las Vegas, Malhotra said.
The car company official called the debut of the commercial service "a small step forward in V2I," but a key demonstration of the kind of technology that will enable vehicle-to-vehicle communication and driverless cars.
Using cellular communication for smart car systems differs from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-traffic signal programs using dedicated short-range communication.
DSRC has been tested since 2012 at the University of Michigan, said Debra Bezzina, senior program manager for the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment. The university Transportation Research Institute program is backed by several federal traffic safety, research, trucking and transit agencies, and pilot programs are slated for Wyoming, New York and Tampa, Florida.
Bezzina said properly equipped vehicles with DSRC are able to detect traffic signal phase signals at intersections.
"If the light has turned yellow, it can tell the driver, 'You're not going to make the light,'" Bezzina said.
Audi spokesman Mark Dahncke said his company expects other car companies will develop similar cellular-enabled technology, or could piggyback with its program contractor, Traffic Technology Services.
"We are blazing a trail that does not lock anyone else out," Dahncke said.
Explore further: Audi announces traffic light information system city rollouts

Car Company Offering Red Light-Reading Vehicles in Las Vegas
abcnews.go.com

 

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1.9

Earth heading for 25-hour day as orbit slows (1.02/6)

Over the past 27 centuries, the average day has lengthened at a rate of almost two milliseconds (ms) per century.
However, it will take about 6.7 million years to gain just one minute extra per day and we will have to wait about 200 million years for the extra hour.
Study lead co-author Leslie Morrison said: "It's a very slow process. "
Researchers at Durham University and the UK's Nautical Almanac Office gathered evidence from historical accounts of eclipses and celestial events from 720BC to 2015.
Mr Morrison, a retired astronomer with Royal Greenwich Observatory, said the earth's orbit is not slowing as rapidly as first expected.
It was previously estimated it will take 5.2 million years to add one minute to every day.
"These estimates are approximate, because the geophysical forces operating on the Earth's rotation will not necessarily be constant over such a long period of time," Mr Morrison said.
The team of experts used gravitational theories about the movement of Earth around the Sun, and the Moon around Earth, to compute the timing of eclipses of the Moon and Sun over time, as viewed from our planet.
They then calculated from where on Earth these would have been visible, and compared this to observations of eclipses recorded by ancient Babylonians, Chinese, Greeks, Arabs and medieval Europeans.
Mr Morrison said: "For example, the Babylonian tablets, which are written in cuneiform script, are stored at the British Museum and have been decoded by experts there and elsewhere. "
The team found discrepancies between where the eclipses should have been observable, and where on Earth they were actually seen.
The Earth's rotation can be influenced by factors including its altering shape due to shrinking polar ice caps since the last Ice Age, electro-magnetic interactions between the mantle and core, and changes in the sea level.

Earth's days getting longer
phys.org

 

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1.4

CEOs of AT&T, Time Warner to sell merger to skeptical Senate (1.02/6)

They can expect a skeptical audience.
The CEOs, Randall Stephenson of AT&T and Jeffrey Bewkes of Time Warner, are due to appear Wednesday before a Senate antitrust panel whose Republican chairman and senior Democrat have said the proposed $85.4 billion merger of the communications giants would potentially raise significant antitrust issues.
Other critics range from industry analysts and public-interest groups to President-elect Donald Trump, who promised on the campaign trail that he'd kill the deal because it concentrates too much "power in the hands of too few. "
Stephenson, however, said Tuesday he is confident the deal will be approved despite Trump's public opposition.
The deal, which must win approval from federal regulators, would be one of the biggest media mergers to date. It would tie up the second-largest U. S. telecommunications company with a media and entertainment conglomerate whose stable includes CNN, HBO, the "Harry Potter" franchise and pro basketball. It's a big-time bet on synergy between a company that distributes information and entertainment to consumers and one that produces it.
The Justice Department, and possibly also the Federal Communications Commission in the incoming Trump administration will give the merger close scrutiny. Even assuming the deal is approved, some experts believe the regulators might saddle the combined company with so many conditions that the deal would no longer make sense.
The Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust doesn't have authority to rule on the merger, but members are likely to use their platform to ask questions such as whether the companies would not share Time Warner content with other cable companies or online video providers.
Time Warner makes TV shows and movies, while AT&T gets that video to customers' computers, phones and TVs. The concern is that AT&T might try to make its broadband service stand out by tying it to Time Warner's programs and films, hurting consumers.
Because of Time Warner's shows and movies—including "Game of Thrones" and the "Harry Potter" films—and AT&T's ability to gather information about its tens of millions of customers, AT&T thinks it could do a better job tailoring ads and video to user preferences. It could then create more attractive subscription packages suited for phones, where people are increasingly watching video.
But many consumers already consider ads that know everything about them creepy or invasive, and digital-rights groups complain that any preferential deal AT&T could offer with, say, HBO would hurt competition.
Billionaire sports and media mogul Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, is expected to join the CEOs at Wednesday's hearing. He has said the merger would enhance competition and also is expected to testify in favor.
Explore further: A merged AT&T-Time Warner may not do consumers much good

CEOs of AT&T, Time Warner to Sell Merger to Skeptical Senate
abcnews.go.com

 

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3.2

Spread by trade and climate, bugs butcher America's forests (1.02/6)

The bug is one in an expanding army of insects draining the life out of forests from New England to the West Coast. Aided by global trade, warming climate and drought-weakened trees, the invaders have become one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in the United States.
Scientists say they already are driving some tree species toward extinction and are causing billions of dollars a year in damage—and the situation is expected to worsen.
"They are one of the few things that can actually eliminate a forest tree species in pretty short order—within years," said Harvard University ecologist David Orwig as he walked past dead hemlocks scattered across the university's 5.8-square-mile research forest in Petersham.
This scourge is projected to put 63 percent of the country's forest at risk through 2027 and carries a cost of several billion dollars annually in dead tree removal, declining property values and timber industry losses, according to a peer-reviewed study this year in Ecological Applications.
That examination, by more than a dozen experts, found that hundreds of pests have invaded the nation's forests, and that the emerald ash borer alone has the potential to cause $12.7 billion in damage by 2020.
Insect pests, some native and others from as far away as Asia, can undermine forest ecosystems. For example, scientists say, several species of hemlock and almost 20 species of ash could nearly go extinct in the coming decades. Such destruction would do away with a critical sponge to capture greenhouse gas emissions, shelter for birds and insects and food sources for bears and other animals. Dead forests also can increase the danger of catastrophic wildfires.
Today's connected world enables foreign invaders to cross oceans in packing materials or on garden plants, and then reach American forests. Once here, they have rapidly expanded their ranges.
While all 50 states have been attacked by pests, experts say forests in the Northeast, California, Colorado and parts of the Midwest, North Carolina and Florida are especially at risk. Forests in some states, like New York, are close to major trade routes, while others, like in Florida, house trees especially susceptible to pests. Others, like New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine, are experiencing record warming.
"The primary driver of the invasive pest problem is globalization, which includes increased trade and travel," Andrew Liebhold, a Forest Service research entomologist in West Virginia. "But there are cases where climate change can play an important role. As climates warm, species are able to survive and thrive in more northerly areas. "
The emerald ash borer, first found in 2002 in Michigan, is now in 30 states and has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees. The gypsy moth, discovered in 1869 in Boston, is now found in 20 states and has reached the northern Great Lakes, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Native bark beetles have taken advantage of warming conditions and a long western drought to rapidly range from Mexico into Canada. An outbreak in Colorado spread across 3.4 million acres of forest from 1996 to 2013, according to the Forest Service, and in California 100 million-plus trees have died in the Sierra Nevada since 2010.
Though small, bugs can easily overwhelm big trees with sheer numbers.
"They drain the resin that otherwise defends the tree," said Matt Ayres, a Dartmouth College ecologist who worked on the Ecological Applications study. "Then, the tree is toast. "
Forest pests in the era of climate change are especially concerning for timberland owners, said Jasen Stock, executive director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association.
"We're dealing with pests we've never been around before, never had to manage around before," Stock said. "It's something we're going to be dealing with forever. "
Urban forests, too, are at risk from outbreaks. In Worcester, Massachusetts, a city of about 180,000, an Asian longhorned beetle infestation in 2008 resulted in the removal of 31,000 trees.
"You would leave for work with a tree-lined street, and you come back and there was not a tree in sight," recalled Ruth Seward, executive director of the nonprofit Worchester Tree Initiative. Most trees have since been replaced.
Though trees can die off quickly, the impact of pests on a forest ecosystem can take decades to play out. Dead hemlocks, for example, are giving way to black birch and other hardwoods. Gone are favorite nesting spots for two types of warblers, as well as the bark that red squirrels love to eat, Harvard's Orwig said. The birds won't die off, he said, but their ranges will be restricted.
"It's a great example of how one species can make a difference in the forest," Orwig said.
As pests proliferate, scientists seek to contain them.
Among the methods are bio controls, in which bugs that feed upon pests in their native lands are introduced here. Of the 30 states with emerald ash borer outbreaks, the USDA says 24 have released wasp species to combat them. Some scientists worry about introducing another pest; others complain they aren't effective because they can't eat enough of the fast-breeding pests to make a difference.
"With all bio controls, the hope is to create balance—balance between predator and prey," said Ken Gooch, forest health program director for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Genetic modifications also offer promise.
On a research farm in Syracuse, New York, are rows of 10-foot chestnut trees tweaked with a wheat gene to make them resistant to chestnut blight, a fungus that came from Japan more than a century ago and killed millions of trees. Genetic engineering could likewise be applied to fight insects, said William Powell, a State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry professor directing the chestnut research.
An alternative strategy, also a slow one, is to plant trees 50 or 100 miles away from their normal range so they can escape pests, or adapt to a more favorable climate, said Steven Strauss, a professor of forest biotechnology at Oregon State University.
"Mother Nature knows best," he said. "It's assisted migration. "
To stop the next pest from entering the country, researchers like Gary M. Lovett, of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York, propose measures such as switching from solid wood shipping material that can harbor insects and restricting shrub and tree imports.
Nonetheless, Lovett said new pests are inevitable. "We have this burgeoning global trade ," he said, "so we will get a lot more of these. "
In this Jan. 5, 2009 file photo, a tree removal worker with a chainsaw watches as a log is removed by an oversized claw in a parking lot on the campus of Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Mass. A 2008 infestation of the Asian longhorned beetle in the city resulted in removal of tens of thousands of trees. Scientists said invasive pests are driving some tree species toward extinction and causing billions of dollars a year in damage. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
In this July 5, 2005 file photo, a Mountain Pine beetle or bark beetle is seen on the tip of forester Cal Wettstein's knife during the examination of trees in the White River National Forest near Vail, Colo. The outbreak of bark beetles in Colorado spread across 3.4 million acres of forest from 1996 to 2013, according to the Forest Service. The scourge of insect pests is expected to put almost two-thirds of America's forests at risk over the next decade. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)
In this Oct. 26, 2011 file photo, an emerald ash borer larvae is removed from an ash tree in Saugerties, N. Y. The emerald ash borer, first found in 2002 in Michigan, is now in 30 states and has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees. Forests from New England to the West Coast are jeopardized by invasive pests that defoliate and kill trees. Scientists said the pests are driving some tree species toward extinction and causing billions of dollars a year in damage. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)
In this Oct. 26, 2011 file photo, the markings left from emerald ash borer larvae on an ash tree are pointed out in Saugerties, N. Y. The emerald ash borer, first found in 2002 in Michigan, is now in 30 states and has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees. Forests from New England to the West Coast are jeopardized by invasive pests that defoliate and kill trees. Scientists said the pests are driving some tree species toward extinction and causing billions of dollars a year in damage. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)
In this Jan. 2009 photo provided by Massachusetts DCR, trees infested with the Asian longhorned beetle and slated for removal are seen along Granville Avenue in Worcester, Mass. The infestation resulted in removal of some 31,000 trees in the city of about 180,000 people. (Eric Reynolds/Massachusetts DCR via AP)
This 2013 photo provided by USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service shows the same scene along Granville Avenue in Worcester, Mass., with infested trees removed. The Asian longhorned beetle infestation resulted in the removal of some 31,000 trees in the city of 180,000 people. (Kathryn Aroian/USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service via AP)
In this Oct. 6, 2016 still image from video, Ph. D. candidate Andy Newhouse looks over young American chestnut trees, some of them genetically modified, growing in a rooftop nursery at the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, N. Y. Some of these young trees have been genetically tweaked to be resistant to chestnut blight, a fungal disease that began decimating the once-prolific trees about a century ago. (AP Photo/Michael Hill)
Explore further: The high costs of imported pests

Spread by Trade and Climate, Bugs Butcher America's Forests
abcnews.go.com

 

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1.3

C by GE smart lamp can take commands from Alexa and give them, too (1.02/6)

Here’s a switch. There are plenty of smart lights that can be controlled by Amazon Alexa voice commands, but now GE Lighting is about to integrate Alexa Voice Service (AVS) components into its C by GE LED smart table lamp so you can talk to it to control both the lamp and all your other Alexa-enabled smart home devices and appliances. You’ll also be able to ask the lamp about the news and weather, and even have it tell you a joke.
The C by GE smart lamp is the first lighting product with Alexa built in to be announced. Alexa already has more than 5,000 locally enabled, cloud-based skills. The library of Alexa skills is building fast, so there will soon be a seemingly unlimited selection of actions at your command. With Alexa-enabled smart appliances, you could sit and read by the lamp light while cooking a meal or change your mind and use the lamp to place an order and have your dinner delivered.
More: Leaving home? These smart light bulbs repel robberies by mimicking your patterns
GE Lighting’s C by GE brand is focusing on building its own line of connected home devices for convenience, control, and security. GE sees the Alexa-integrated lamp as a “first step in unleashing the ultimate living experience.” GE is developing applications in-house, working with outside firms such as Amazon, and inviting homeowners to share their ideas.
The circular LED C by GE table lamp has a contemporary geometric form designed in part by Richard Clarkson, who designed The Cloud, a ceiling fixture that responds to motion with lightning and thunder.
Pre-orders for the as-yet-unnamed C by GE Alexa-enabled table lamp will be available starting in early 2017 on the C by GE website. Shipping is scheduled for the second quarter of 2017. To learn more about the table lamp with Alexa inside and to sign up for ordering notification, you can go to this site.

GE puts Amazon Alexa inside a funky table lamp
feedproxy.google.com

 

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0.3

The Latest: Survivor Says Quake Terrifying, Fled to Hill (1.02/6)

The Latest on a magnitude-6.5 earthquake in Indonesia's Aceh province (all times local):
12:10 p.m.
A woman in the worst-hit district near the epicenter of Indonesia's earthquake says she fled with her husband and children to a nearby hill after the quake jolted the family awake early Wednesday. They stayed there for several hours until authorities reassured them there was no tsunami risk.
Seaside resident Fitri Abidin in Pidie Jaya district says: "It terrified me. I was having difficulty breathing or walking. "
She says her husband grabbed hold of her and carried her out of the house as their children were crying.
She says: "We ran to a nearby hill, because our house is near a beach. We were afraid a tsunami can come at any time. "
The family's house didn't collapse but the homes of some neighbors did. Abidin is traumatized because she believes three friends were buried in building collapses.
———
10:50 a.m.
The chief of the district nearest the epicenter of a shallow 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck Indonesia's Aceh province early Wednesday says 25 people have been killed in that district alone.
Pidie Jaya district chief Aiyub Abbas also says hundreds of people in the district have been injured and dozens of buildings collapsed.
Abbas says there is an urgent need for excavation equipment to move heavy debris and emergency supplies.
————
10:40 a.m.
A strong undersea earthquake that rocked Indonesia's Aceh province early Wednesday has killed at least 20 people and collapsed buildings.
Indonesia's TVOne station, citing the acting governor of Aceh, Soedarmo, says 20 people have died.
A frantic rescue effort is underway for survivors in districts nearest the epicenter.
The U. S. Geological Survey says the shallow 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck at 5:03 a.m. Wednesday was centered about 10 kilometers (6 miles) north off Reuleut, a town in northern Aceh, at a depth of 17 kilometers (11 miles).
There was no risk of a tsunami, according to Indonesian authorities.

The Latest: Death Toll in Quake Rises to 25 in 1 District
abcnews.go.com

 

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0.0

Google's upcoming drone delivery service derailed by an unlikely foe (1.02/6)

Alphabet , Google’s parent company, has an ambitious plan for a marketplace where customers could order anything from coffee to toilet paper and have it within minutes. The drone-delivery service was slated for a 2017 launch after getting the go-ahead from the FAA to begin testing the unmanned aerial vehicles in the United States.
Back in September , Alphabet delivered its first burrito, from Chipotle, to a student at Virginia Tech. Since, Alphabet began performing tests with Starbucks and a handful of others — like Whole Foods Market and Domino’s Pizza — as part of its ‘Wing Marketplace.’ Starbucks pulled out of negotiations shortly after, citing disagreements over access to customer data, according to Bloomberg .
A new report from The Wall Street Journal shows the moonshot from Alphabet’s ‘X’ division, could experience more turbulence in the coming months. According to an unnamed former X employee, the hold-up for a wider launch appears to be the technology itself. The former employee said the goal was to complete 1,000 flights without incident, but the company could never make it past 300.
Among the problems faced by the autonomous flyer, dubbed ‘hummingbird,’ were repeated power failures, multiple crashes, wandering off, or trying to land in trees.
X though, is Alphabet’s moonshot division, so problems are part of the status quo. As the former employee put it, though, Alphabet is “a software company — not an airplane company.”
Silicon Valley Stumbles in World Beyond Software on The Wall Street Journal
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Despite its drones ‘trying to land in trees,’ Google insists it’s committed to delivery project
digitaltrends.com

 

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4.8

European Commission clears Microsoft LinkedIn deal (1.02/6)

The European Commission will allow Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn to go ahead, according to the tech giant, although it hasn't yet been confirmed by the Commission itself.
Microsoft released a statement explaining that it has now received "all of the regulatory approvals needed to complete the acquisition. "
For Microsoft to get the go-ahead to complete its acquisition of LinkedIn, the deal needed to pass through regulatory bodies in the United States, Canada, Brazil and South Africa to ensure it wasn't unfair on rival companies.
"As part of our discussions with the European Commission, we formalized several commitments regarding Microsoft’s support for third-party professional social networking services," Microsoft's president and chief legal officer Brad Smith said.
Last week, Microsoft revealed it would let other companies inject information into emails using Outlook, alongside other Microsoft-developed programs such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel via its Office Add-in programme, rather than just limiting it to LinkedIn data.
Other steps it'll take to ensure the purchase doesn't step on anyone's toes includes allowing other companies to promote their applications in the Office Store, ensuring IT administrators can customise their Office implementation by choosing whether to display selected LinkedIn details in the Office UI and if the company decides to build a LinkedIn tile for Windows-based computers, manufacturers of Windows PCs can opt out of including it in the default set-up.
"We also won’t use Windows itself to prompt users to install a LinkedIn application, although it can remain available in the Windows Store and be promoted in other ways," Smith said.
Microsoft promised the deal would close by the end of the year when it announced its intentions to buy the business social network six months ago. However, it came across a number of hurdles thrown at it from the European Commission, including that it would not allow other companies to be competitive.

Microsoft touts EU-approved LinkedIn deal as good news for Brexit voters
theinquirer.net

 

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0.9

iPhone 7 surpasses iPhone SE to become the UK's best-selling smartphone (1.00/6)

BEAN COUNTERS at analyst firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe have revealed that the iPhone 7 is the best-selling smartphone in the UK.
While Apple has faced a backlash over the iPhone 7 's lack of headphone jack, it seems us benevolent Brits couldn't care less.
"In Great Britain, as in the US, iPhone 7 was the top-selling device, pushing the previous top device ( iPhone SE ) to third, while iPhone 6S remained the second best-selling device," aid Dominic Sunnebo, business unit director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe, noting that the headphone jack-less iPhone was also the best-selling smartphone in the US.
While Apple's worldwide share of the smartphone market is expected to dip 11 per cent to just 14.3 per cent by the end of 2016, these bumper iPhone sales have given the firm a 44 per cent slice of the UK smartphone market for the three months ending October. This is an increase from the 39.5 per cent that iOS claimed this time last year.
Android, naturally, remains the most popular OS of choice, claiming 53.1 per cent of sales during the three-month period. Kantar hasn’t revealed which Android devices Brits have been flocking to buy but noted that the Galaxy S7 was the third best-selling smartphone in the US.
Naturally, things aren't looking quite so rosy for Microsoft, with the firm's share of the market diving from 8.2 per cent in October 2015 to just 2.9 per cent in 2016.
It's looking worse on a global scale, with IDC revealing earlier this month that Windows Phone will end the year with just 0.4 per cent of the global market, with Microsoft expected to have shipped a total of 6.1 million devices over the past 12 months.
It could be worse - they could be BlackBerry. While the firm's homegrown OS managed to cling on to 0.3 per cent of UK smartphone sales this time last year, Kantar's latest figures show that BlackBerry OS claimed zero per cent in October 2016.
However, with the firm's latest smartphones now running Google's Android OS, this is unlikely an accurate picture of how many handsets the firm has flogged. Maybe. µ

iPhones are reportedly spontaneously combusting in China
theinquirer.net

 

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2.4

| Best PlayStation 4 games 2016/2017: The ultimate list of PS4 games (0.04/6)

We didn't think things could get much better than 2015's PS4 games line-up, with the likes of Grand Theft Auto V, Batman: Arkham Knight, FIFA 16, Fallout 4, Star Wars Battlefront, Just Cause 3, Rainbow Six Siege and many, many more making their way onto our consoles.
Also see: Best Games Deals
We were wrong, of course, because 2016 has been amazing. We've already seen amazing games like Tom Clancy's The Division, Dark Souls III, Uncharted 4, Doom and Overwatch arrive this year, and that was just the start. 2017 promises even more to come - check out our most anticipated games to find out what's on the way.
We've played each and every game in this round-up, and have reviewed all of them to help you decide whether they're your cup of tea. We've got everything from solo adventure games to huge online open worlds, as well as fighting games, shooting games, racing games and more. If you want to find out about the best games beyond your PS4, check out our guides to the best Xbox One games and 2016's finest PC games.
Read on to find out which games the Game Pro team here at Tech Advisor are loving right now, and be sure to share your favourite games in the comments section below. You can follow us on Twitter at @GameProUK for all of the latest games reviews, news and rumours.

: The best PC videogames | We take a look at the best PC games from 2016/2017
pcadvisor.co.uk
| Best Xbox games: The ultimate list of Xbox One games this year
pcadvisor.co.uk

 

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3.0

New study shows plants can learn from experience (0.01/6)

Despite her passionate presentation, trouble was brewing. Something was not right in the room. A woman beside me in the audience kept shifting her weight. A man to my left had crossed his arms and released several voluble sighs.
Why? Because Gagliano was using phrases such as "plant cognitive ecology", "learning and communication". And because she was, and is, opening up areas of knowledge that some might feel threaten the sovereignty of humans over nature.
That day in Canberra three years ago, Gagliano's time frames were questioned. The frequency of her experiments were interrogated. Her apparatus was cross-examined. Yet, despite resistance, I believe her work is ground-breaking and opens up debate about plant subjectivity and ethics.
Sensitive plants
In a famous 2013 New Yorker article by Michael Pollan, The Intelligent Plant , Gagliano was introduced to readers as someone whose experiments are extending the concept of cognition to the plant world.
The problem she is addressing is that if plants have brain-like functions and make sentient-like decisions, our existing perception of nature and ourselves must change.
These implications need further analysis. But, first: the experiments. What Gagliano did with her Mimosa pudica plants – also called "sensitive" plants – was to custom-build an apparatus whereby the plants could be suddenly dropped a foot or so on a regular basis.
Initially, on dropping, the plant retracted and curled its leaves, but after repeats, it stopped reacting. Not only did it appear to "learn" a behaviour (without a brain, mind you) but it also remembered.
Gagliano repeated the experiment at intervals and found that even after a break of a month or more, the Mimosa would still not retract its leaves after being dropped.
How does this work? According to Gagliano:
"Plants may lack brains and neural tissues but they do possess a sophisticated calcium-based signaling network in their cells similar to animals' memory processes. "
Gagliano has published her findings and edited various scholarly books on plant research, ethical implications and changed perceptions. She has collaborated with environmental lawyer Alessandro Pelizzon and others on the language problems of writing about plant life.
There is no vocabulary that can be used to talk about brain-like plant structures beyond mere vascular and survival processes, nor about decision-making, sentience, intelligence, learning and memory in the plant world.
There is much more work to be done by artists and humanists to develop these vocabularies together. Scholars such as Michael Marder , Dalia Nassar , Natasha Myers and myself are working in this field where there may be a realm of sophisticated activity in plant life that humans have not yet even fully comprehended.
A forthcoming book titled The Language of Plants is edited by Gagliano and colleagues, and deals with this complex and provocative problem, following on from her book The Green Thread .
Pavlov's plants
Gagliano and her colleagues have just published a paper in Nature Scientific Reports that could rock our sense of human "self".
This is a major coup for the plant scientist, who has suffered rejection from journals, for moving plant physiology into the domain of philosophy, for extending animal studies concepts of sentience to plants and more. Does this caution by journal editors reflect a fearfulness about our human place in the world?
The new paper explains her recent experiments where she sought to show plants can "learn" via classical conditioning, similar to the classic Pavlov's dogs experiment.
Instead of food as the reward (the unconditioned simulus) and a bell as a neutral cue (the conditioned stimulus), she used light as the reward and air flow as the cue.
Gagliano and her colleagues used the air flow caused by a fan to predict the location and time of light. They found that the plants conditioned by the fan would grow towards the source of the air flow even when the light was not present, but only if they were "trained" to do so. This is like Pavlov ringing the bell and the dogs salivating, even if there was no food around.
Gagliano's peas, Pisum sativum , also behaved according to a simulated circadian rhythm (temperature and light/dark control) and a sense of time of day, which is known to modulate behavioural processes such as learning in animals.
This experiment appears to show associative learning in plants. Gagliano has shown that plants don't just respond to light and food in order to survive. They also choose and predict.
These findings will get people asking some tough questions. Do plants, like animals, have consciousness? If plants learn, choose and associate, what does this mean for our ethical relationship with them? Can humans learn from the adaptive capacities of plants?
To respond to light, fans and temperature in this way suggests that plants have far more sophisticated abilities than previously thought. The philosophical and ethical implications of this information are confounding.
It provokes further questions about the plant world that we have historically seen as inert and lacking in agency. With no brain, how can plants have cognition? Yet they exhibit functions we typically only associate with a brain.
Where does all this lead us? Well, into troubled waters, so grab your boat and paddle. We are in for a rough philosophical ride.
Explore further: Smart plants learn new habits

Study shows children learning Cherokee are part of ongoing language renewal
phys.org

 

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0.0

ExoMars orbiter images Phobos (0.01/6)

The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos, made its first scientific calibration measurements during two orbits between 20 and 28 November.
Example data from the first orbit were published last week, focusing on Mars itself. During the second orbit, the instruments made a number of measurements of Phobos, a 27×22×18 km moon that orbits Mars at a distance of only 6000 km.
The camera imaged the moon on 26 November from a distance of 7700 km, during the closest part of the spacecraft's orbit around Mars. TGO's elliptical orbit currently takes it to within 230–310 km of the surface at its closest point and around 98 000 km at its furthest every 4.2 days.
A colour composite has been created from several individual images taken through several filters. The camera's filters are optimised to reveal differences in mineralogical composition, seen as 'bluer' or 'redder' colours in the processed image.
An anaglyph created from a stereo pair of images captured is also presented, and can be viewed using red–blue 3D glasses.
"Although higher-resolution images of Phobos have been returned by other missions, such as ESA's Mars Express and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, this provided a good test of what can be done with our data in a very short time," says Nick Thomas, principal investigator of the CaSSIS camera team at the University of Bern.
"The images have given us a lot of useful information about the colour calibration of the camera and its internal timing. "
Two other instruments also made calibration measurements of Phobos, and the teams are analysing their data.
"We're very happy with the results of both test science orbits and will be using these calibration data to improve our measurements once we begin the main science mission later next year," adds Håkan Svedhem, ESA's TGO Project Scientist.
The focus of the mission now returns to preparations for aerobraking required to bring the spacecraft towards its near-circular science orbit by the end of 2017. More details on the upcoming operations will be provided soon.
TGO's main scientific goal is to make a detailed inventory of rare gases that make up less than 1% of the atmosphere's volume, including methane, water vapour, nitrogen dioxide and acetylene.
Of high interest is methane, which on Earth is produced primarily by biological activity, and to a smaller extent by geological processes such as some hydrothermal reactions.
The spacecraft will also seek out water or ice just below the surface, and will provide colour and stereo context images of surface features, including those that may be related to possible trace gas sources.
TGO will also act as a data relay for present and future landers and rovers on Mars, including the second ExoMars mission that will feature a rover and surface science platform, and which is scheduled for launch in 2020.
Explore further: ESA's new Mars orbiter prepares for first science

Cassini transmits first images from new orbit
phys.org

 

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5.0

How Amazon's line-less grocery service would really work (0.01/6)

SAN FRANCISCO — The Amazon Go grocery store, now in the testing stage in Seattle, has captured the public's attention. At a time of year when many people are standing in long lines to do their holiday shopping, the idea of being able to walk into a store, pick things up, walk out and have everything automatically charged to a credit card sounds like a dream come true.
But how, exactly, is Amazon making this happen?
The video the Seattle company released online Monday said nothing about the underlying technology beyond some buzz-words: computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion.
But a patent filed by the company in 2014 and published in 2015 may shed some light on the process, and it looks like it's all about cameras and microphones.
Lots and lots of cameras and microphones. The tech is similar to what's used to allow self-driving cars to navigate the world.
According to the patent, each customer entering the store would be tagged as they entered. In Amazon's video, they tag their smartphone, which contains the Amazon Go app, as they walk in.
That then allows the store's surveillance system to identify the customer so that it can track them as they move throughout the space. Cameras pick up images of when they stop in front of shelves, what items they picked up and whether the item stayed in their hand or went back to the shelf.
As the patent puts it, "when the user's hand is removed from the inventory location, one or more images may be captured of the user's hand as it exits the inventory location. Those images may be compared to determine whether a user has picked an item from the inventory location or placed an item in the inventory location. "
The cameras would even know the customer's skin tone, to determine if it was indeed the hand of the person the system thinks it is.
As in, "image analysis may be performed on the first image to determine a skin tone color of the user's hand and pixels including that color, or a range of colors similar to the identified skin tone color, may be identified to represent the user's hand. "
That could potentially be used to distinguish between two people each reaching for things on adjacent shelves, as skin tone is very individual.
This is all hugely, even astoundingly, computing intensive. But it's also exactly what Amazon has become very good at with its Alexa voice-control system. That system sends sound files of spoken commands up to Amazon's cloud computing network, where they are identified, turned into digital commands, answered and then sent back down to the Echo device.
In fact, some of that expertise may be explicit in the Amazon Go system, as microphones are also used in the stores to determine where users are by the noises that they make. It even tracks them by noticing the time difference between the audio signals received by each microphone in the store, a kind of reverse echolocation.
The system also uses infrared, pressure and load sensors on the shelves that note when items have been picked up and whether they are put back. These sensors also feed into the store's continuous sense of where everything, and everyone, in it are at any moment.
While the concept is brilliant, whether or not it works in real life will come down to how much it costs to implement.
“The challenge is whether you can make it cost-effective. Has Amazon come up with the secret sauce?” said Forrester analyst Brendan Witcher.
Many in the industry had thought something like this would happen through the use of tiny RFID, or radio-frequency ID, tags. These send out a constant “I am here!” message, allowing the system to track whatever they’re attached to.
“They’ve come down in price, they’re now only about five cents each. But it’s still pretty labor intensive to RFID tag everything,” said Witcher.
It's been suggested for years. In fact, IBM released an ad about a store where you just picked things up and walked out back in 2006, he said.
But looking at the patent, it seems as if Amazon’s found a less expensive, more technologically intensive, way to make that work.
The power of information
Knowing who a customer is from the moment they walk through the door, and then tracking everything they do once inside, could be hugely useful to a company, said David Hewitt, an analyst with the consulting firm SapientRazorfish.
“Think about turning on a digital display that markets to the person who’s in the aisle right then. I know it’s a little Big Brother, but all this data is welcome if it makes the shopping process better,” he said.
Amazon could also license the technology to other supermarkets. That would be a win-win for Amazon, because it would be selling not only the technology but also the cloud computing power of its AWS cloud services.
In the end, whether this is economically viable may not matter as much to Amazon as it would to another company, said Witcher.
Investors have been happy to let Amazon lose money quarter after quarter as long as it seems to be moving forward in its technological abilities.
“The market’s given them free rein to fail. They’re allowed to try interesting — and expensive, things,” he said.
And even if the technology is too pricey to actually implement, Amazon will have done what it does best: “Learn and then apply that new knowledge to whatever makes the most sense,” Witcher said.

Can Amazon fix the grocery game?
rssfeeds.usatoday.com

 

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1.3

Automated Assistants Will Soon Make a Bid for Your Finances

SAN FRANCISCO — In the classic science fiction series that began with “ Ender’s Game,” the character Jane begins by using her artificial intelligence to prepare taxes for the hero Ender, but soon takes over management of his entire financial life.
When it comes to otherworldly science fiction personalities, Jane is a rather prosaic figure, but Ethan Bloch had her in mind when he began his start-up Digit .
Mr. Bloch’s company currently creates free automated savings accounts — and has helped customers put aside over $250 million — but his vision is to add capabilities until Digit becomes a full-service financial assistant like Jane.
“Everyone needs a Jane,” Mr. Bloch said.
There is now a lot of competition to create an automated financial assistant for the masses.
Credit Karma and Mint , two popular financial applications with many millions more users than Digit, are about to roll out suites of new features that will make them feel more like robotic financial advisers , tapping customers on the shoulder when they could make better financial decisions.
One feature that both Credit Karma and Mint will offer is more automated tax preparation of the sort that Jane provided for Ender (though with much less robotic charm and thoroughness).
A number of newer start-ups have recently begun with similar ambitions and even more advanced capabilities than existing players. The new app Albert from Albert Corporation, which announced $2.5 million in seed funding last month, provides a personalized savings account as Digit does, but it can also look at existing car insurance policies and credit cards and ferret out better deals. Banks are racing to keep up with their own digital capabilities.
The start-ups and the banks are still far from delivering on the promise of a digital assistant that actually takes care of your financial problems for you. Credit Karma and Mint still require you to enter many of your own details. But all the players in the field are working with machine learning and artificial intelligence that will increasingly provide proactive analysis and advice rather than forcing someone to constantly check in.
Many venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are betting that in the continuing transformation of finance by technology, the financial assistant category will be one of the most lucrative.
“There is lots of opportunity here,” said Charles Birnbaum, an investor at the venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners, who recently put money into Albert. “This is an opportunity that Mint and the banks should have done for people already — made it really easy to have a good sense for what you should be doing with your money.”
The new personal financial advisers are taking a different tack compared with big-name financial technology start-ups like Lending Club and Square, which provide actual financial services: arranging loans and processing payments. Credit Karma and its competitors are betting that there is more value in being the neutral intermediary that helps customers find financial services and keep track of their various accounts.
Advocates of this business model compare the opportunity to the one that Google and Facebook spotted in media, where they serve as so-called platforms for other media companies rather than being media companies themselves. This approach allowed them to become the primary point of contact with the customer, a very profitable and powerful place to sit.
“By being Switzerland, and being neutral, in the same way that Google and Facebook are, we are finding the best products,” said Nikhyl Singhal, a former Google executive who joined Credit Karma as the chief product officer last year. “We don’t have the conflict where we are trying to sell our own product.”
Credit Karma in particular has been demonstrating how lucrative this can be by charging lenders and credit card companies for every customer it passes along. While the company does not say how much it charges, industry insiders say that Credit Karma generally makes $100 to $700 for every customer who signs up for a credit card, a significant chunk of the revenue that the credit card company will make in the first year. Credit Karma said it pulled in around $350 million of revenue last year.
The business model creates the potential for conflicts of interest if an intermediary like Credit Karma sends customers to a credit card company or lender that pays the biggest referral fee rather than the one that offers the best deal for the customer. But the companies are all adamant that they will succeed only if they are known for doing what is best for the customer.
Credit Karma now has 60 million account holders, 20 million of whom check in every month — about 10 times as many as its biggest rival, Mint, and nearly as many as some of the nation’s largest banks.
Founded in San Francisco in 2007, Credit Karma has been known for the niche service of providing customers with free access to credit scores , and advice on how to improve them.
Recently, though, the company has been using its large pile of cash from venture capitalists to buy and build new features for customers, including one function that searches for unclaimed property for all of its customers and another that can identify and dispute credit report errors through the site.
This week, the company is announcing its acquisition of a tax software company, OnePriceTaxes, that has been integrated into Credit Karma to allow free state and federal tax filings for every customer on the site.
Ken Lin, the founder and chief executive of the site, said that once Credit Karma had access to a customer’s tax filings it would have a much more detailed picture of that person’s finances and could turn that into new layers of financial advice — by identifying, for instance, ways to invest money with more tax efficiency.
For many, the best-known financial website is still Mint, which gained renown by allowing customers to track all their varied financial accounts in one place. It too makes money by pointing customers to outside financial products that pay Mint for each referral.
But Mr. Lin and others in the industry said that Mint, which is now owned by Intuit , struggled to maintain its early growth because it required too much work from its customers, who have to categorize their transactions and do not get much in return.
Al Ko, who became Mint’s general manager last year, acknowledges that most Americans are not willing to do the work to keep track of their finances in Mint. As a result, he has led a rebuilding of Mint so that it will do more of the work for customers, and make active recommendations rather than just serve as a place to keep track of a budget.
The first big step in Mint’s expansion is the announcement this week of a dashboard that will monitor bills and remind customers when they are coming due, with increasingly urgent notifications as the date nears. Mint is also making it possible for customers to make payments directly through it, rather than a credit card site.
Mr. Ko said that 6 percent of Mint customers failed to make even the minimum payment on their credit cards each month, a lapse that can lead to big fees and damaged credit scores.
Mint and another Intuit division, TurboTax, are also being integrated so that tax forms from banks and credit cards will be automatically fed into customers’ tax filings.
“I envision Mint being as ubiquitous as Facebook,” Mr. Ko said. “This thing that helps me make better decisions and never forgets.”
The banks, of course, are not happy to see companies like Mint come between them and their customers. Bank of America recently announced that it was working on its own artificial-intelligence-powered financial assistant, Erica, but it will not be out until next year.
Other new start-ups that offer some financial services want to expand to become the primary financial dashboard for customers. The so-called robo-advisers, like Betterment and Personal Capital , already have more details about their customers than Credit Karma or Mint, and are building out competing features. But these companies have been slow to grow at the pace of Credit Karma.
Digit, the company inspired by Jane, has been rapidly picking up customers, and venture capital money. Now it needs to begin adding features to come closer to the original vision out of science fiction.
“Ender was a guy who saved the human race but didn’t have time to do his own taxes,” Mr. Bloch said. “If you want people to have financial health, you need to do it for them.”

 

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3.9

Should Microsoft give up on browser war?

According to analytics vendor Net Applications, Microsoft lost 40 million Internet Explorer users in October and over 300 million in 2016. Despite Windows 10 getting users back to Internet Explorer and Edge, a usage drop at this page will put Microsoft at risk of losing its leading spot as the most-used browser. Microsoft’s problem is Google, and to a lesser degree, Firefox.
For a while, users defected from Firefox after the company failed to keep the browser from being bug-free and crashing frequently. Things changed when the company adopted a transparent versioning system that clearly delineated software updates. Now on version 50, Firefox’s memory container prevents add-ons from crashing the browser. There are rarely any memory leaks, problems with flash, or instabilities when java is running. The focus on maintaining a stable browser is working. Since August, Firefox’s market share rose steadily. It now has a market share in the double-digits.
Google Chrome’s sharp growth since the start of the year is dramatic. The browser started the year with a market share at around 35 per cent and now has a market share above 50 per cent. Google’s investment in Android generated a stronger awareness for the Chrome browser on mobile. Users naturally installed the browser on the computer, using such browser apps as Google Maps, Search, Gmail, Docs, Photos, and Calendar. These apps sync with the browser on the mobile device.
Firefox also has synchronization options. After creating a Firefox account, users may sync bookmarks, history, tabs, passwords, add-ons, and preferences across all devices.
This is the source of Microsoft’s browser problem: Microsoft does not have a big market share in mobile devices. Though the hardware specifications for Windows Phone 10 are excellent, users are not buying into the WP10 architecture. That limits the synchronizing of browser data to PCs and Surface tablets.
In Canada, some financial institutions do not fully support the Edge browser. The banks suggest using Chrome or Firefox for full compatibility. When Microsoft’s browser does not have full support from major businesses, that will hurt adoption over time. It leaves no choice for users but to migrate to Firefox and Chrome.
Microsoft’s Edge and Internet Explorer browsers face serious pressures as users shift permanently to those other browsers. The software giant’s strategy may require de-emphasizing on winning browser market share. Instead, it should focus on its cloud solutions. So long as Office 365 and OneDrive works on Google Chrome and Firefox, Microsoft may continue making money through cloud software subscription sales.
Microsoft still needs to maintain IE and Edge, especially as new viruses emerge. That way, Windows 10 users do not get an infection. As an added level of protection, the operating system includes Windows Defender, formally known as Microsoft Securities Essentials. Power users may want to install Malwarebytes Anti-Malware as a secondary tool for detecting malware in any of the browsers.

 

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0.4

Major urinary proteins do not allow kin recognition in male mice

Until now, researchers have assumed that MUP genes in wild populations of mice were highly variable, and that MUP proteins provide a unique individual signature or 'barcode' that mediates individual and kin recognition. Studies to confirm this critical assumption have nevertheless been lacking. Researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna now analysed the MUP genes in the respective cluster as well as the proteins. Their findings directly challenge the MUP barcode hypothesis.
Barcode hypothesis so far lacked critical tests
"We are interested in the genetic bases of chemical communication and kin recognition. We have been focusing on MUPs because they have are often claimed to provide the genetic basis of kin recognition and inbreeding avoidance, explains Dustin Penn from Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology at Vetmeduni Vienna.
The barcode hypothesis presumes that MUP genes and proteins are highly variable in wild populations, and that individuals produce their own unique and stable combination of MUP proteins. Penn's team and proteomic specialists at Vetmeduni Vienna now provide evidence that directly challenge this hypothesis for the first time.
Kin recognition must be controlled by other mechanisms
The team started by analysing the MUP gene cluster of wild house mice by direct DNA sequencing. Rather than finding highly variable sequences, they discovered that individuals show no variation at MUP genes whatsoever. Moreover, they found unusually low genetic variation through the entire MUP cluster. "We initially wondered how natural selection could maintain high levels of variation of MUP genes, but now we have to explain the remarkable lack of variation. Because of the high sequence similarity or homology of different MUP genes , we were sceptical that they could simultaneously show high variability among individuals," says Penn.
The team additionally discovered that conventional gel-based techniques do not separate different MUP proteins, which posed a difficult technical challenge for measuring the regulation of different proteins. Proteins had to be analysed with new, state-of-the-art mass spectroscopy instead. Using this gel-free method they found that individuals show almost no variation in the number of MUP proteins expressed.
MUP expression depends upon social context
The assumption that MUPs provide a stable individual barcode was also refuted by Penn and his collaborators. The new proteomic methods made it possible to identify the different MUPs expressed in individual urine samples over time. "Our results show that mice change the MUPs they produce depending upon a social context. The number of MUPs in the urine of male house mice is surprisingly dynamic. Future experiments are now needed to determine genetic basis for kin recognition and why males differentially regulate MUPs depending upon the social and reproductive contexts," says Penn.
Explore further: Female mice can identify inbred males by their scent
More information:
Michaela Thoß et al. Diversity of major urinary proteins (MUPs) in wild house mice, Scientific Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1038/srep38378
Viktoria M. Enk et al. Regulation of highly homologous major urinary proteins in house mice quantified with label-free proteomic methods, Mol. BioSyst. (2016). DOI: 10.1039/C6MB00278A

 

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0.0

He Slimed Me!

I recently photographed a banana slug for a I was writing about banana slug slime for the Santa Cruz (California) Hilltromper, a website for nature lovers in the area. “Okay, now turn your head to the left… down a little… actually can you crawl up this rock a bit more for me? I’d really like to see some more of that slime,” I said, shoving my iPhone in this poor slug’s face. After I finished the photoshoot, a passerby asked me what I had been photographing. When I told her, she said “They’re so yellow! They must not taste very good.” I thought she was referring to the idea that. But having grown up in Northern California where these large slugs are beloved creatures, I couldn’t recall anything directly connecting their yellow color to self-defense. As part of my photography session, I had picked up the slug, and my hands were covered in gooey slime. I found myself wondering if the banana slug’s sliminess could make it hard to eat. To answer my question, I talked to Christopher Viney, a professor of engineering at University of California, Merced who has studied the consistency of slippery materials like banana slug slime and giraffe saliva. It turns out that a protein called a mucin is key to banana slug self-defense. Mucins are a primary ingredient of the mucus that makes up banana slug slime. Mucin proteins form chains and have sugar molecules decorating their sides, like a wire brush, according to Viney. Banana slugs excrete mucins as dry granules to make their slime. These granules expand when they meet up with nearby water, increasing their volume hundreds of times, Viney says. That’s like adding water to a grain of rice and seeing it expand to the volume of a tablespoon. The mucins unfold in an organized pattern when they meet up with water. The sugar molecules network to form repeating patterns, like the patterns in a crystal These patterns help link the mucus together, giving it an overall slimy feeling, according to Viney. Banana slugs produce a lot of mucus in self-defense, causing their predators’ mouths to be filled with goop and a slippery slug. Banana slug slime is also an anesthetic, meaning it will make a predator’s tongue or throat go numb. Tongues aren’t the only things that are susceptible, says Viney. “If you don't wear gloves when you pick up banana slugs, you will find that your fingertips start feeling numb after a short while,” he says. This numbing effect is unique to banana slug mucus, but mucins are unlikely to be involved. In addition to self-defense, these slugs use mucins for a , including locomotion. Mucin patterns help slugs interact with rough surfaces. Mucins reorganize to coat sand or rocks, allowing slugs to cruise through the forest. Interestingly, mucins play a similar role in giraffe saliva, which Viney thinks protects giraffes’ long tongues from pointy acacia tree thorns while these creatures munch on leaves. He found that. Under a microscope, a grain of sand looks rough and spiky compared to pointy thorns, which look much more smooth and blunt, Viney says. The mucins in banana slug slime have to form small networks to coat the tiny spikes of sand. The giraffe saliva mucins, however, organize into bigger patterns to maximize lubrication over the much larger—but still pokey—thorns, according to Viney. Mucin patterns protect humans too. Our lungs contain mucus that catches rogue dust particles and pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. In healthy individuals, these contaminants get stuck in the mucus and specialized cells sweep the mucus away, allowing us to breathe easily. When people have conditions like asthma or cystic fibrosis the mucins don’t organize into the correct patterns, changing the mucus consistency. If the mucus is too watery or too sticky, then our cells can’t clear it and the contaminated mucus pools in our lungs, according to Viney. He originally started researching banana slug slime to model cystic fibrosis patient mucus. He wanted to learn what properties determined the stickiness of the mucus. Banana slug slime doesn’t totally protect slugs from getting eaten. Many predators still find banana slugs to be a tasty snack. Animals like raccoons will roll banana slugs around in the dirt to try to avoid being slimed. Humans also eat banana slugs. A quick Google search will lead you to a variety of recipes that detail how to make your own. They even have step-by-step pictures. These recipes all agree on one point: make sure you remove the slime.

 

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3.2

Nicki Minaj's mobile game is about the music, not just the Kardashian-style fame perks

Available Wednesday, Nicki Minaj: The Empire is the latest fame simulation game from Glu Mobile, the makers of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood , Britney Spears: American Dream, and Katy Perry: Pop. (Sense a trend?) You can download the free-to-play game now for both iOS and Android.
The game starts with you getting to perform “ Super Bass ” alongside Nicki Minaj in a stadium concert. If it sounds like a dream come true, that’s because it is—story mode in Nicki Minaj: The Empire starts out with a dream sequence, which only makes the proceeding storyline somewhat tedious.
After meeting Nicki Minaj, you have to write and record a single, put up with the antics of your rap nemesis, and get people to “like” your song. There’s a lot of this manufactured storyline you have to go through before you get to wear the cool clothes, decorate your mansion and throw house parties, and perform at all the big venues.
The point here, I guess, is that fame does not come easily, but considering this is a mobile game that stemmed out of fascination for Kim Kardashian, maybe the fame perks could come a little sooner. For once, can players just start out being super-rich and famous? You know, kind of like the young Kardashians?
The best part of the game, and what sets it apart from Kim K.’s version, is the integration of the music. Although Glu has released games for other pop stars like Britney Spears and Katy Perry, it’s the Nicki Minaj installment that has put music at the forefront. On a basic level, the game’s soundtrack consists of Minaj’s most recognizable songs in instrumental form, which fans will certainly appreciate.
Most impressively, Nicki Minaj: The Empire incorporates a song-sharing social network called the Beatbook. Think of it as the game’s version of Soundcloud for emerging rappers: You get to pick a professional-sounding beat and record your own rhymes.
You can also browse through other people’s songs and give them a thumbs-up. At first, I was afraid that listening to user-uploaded raps would be a cringe-worthy exercise, but even during my beta test the most-liked list had a few that were actually pretty good.
For players who have real-life hip-hop aspirations, Nicki Minaj will be listening to what’s uploaded on the Beatbook and pick her favorite raps every week. Right now the most-liked track on Beatbook is by Minaj, of course—her exclusive song for the game called “Ain’t Gone Do It.”
Nicki Minaj: The Empire also has a bunch of chatrooms, so you can get your “friends” to “like” your songs and climb up the music charts. However, I find these social features in mobile games to be rather forced, but I guess that’s just part of the fame game—you have to learn to be a little fake.

 

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1.5

NuPower 60W USB-C Power Adapter review: Simultaneously charge your MacBook and iPhone with one adapter

By Glenn Fleishman
Senior Contributor,
Macworld | Dec 7, 2016 6:00 AM
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The NuPower 60W USB-C Power Aadapter just released by NewerTech is the first I’ve seen that offers more than just providing power to a laptop equipped with charging via USB-C. It combines a USB-C port that can feed up to 60 watts and a Type-A port that offers up to 2.4 amps at 5 volts for mobile devices.
This combination eliminates the need for a dock or adapters when your primary need is to charge the laptop and a mobile device simultaneously, as with a 12-inch MacBook or a newer MacBook Pro. The NuPower also includes a six-foot AC cord, which is a $19 add-on to Apple’s included adapters.
The advantage of the USB-C (Type-C) format that Apple has adopted for its 12-inch MacBook and all new MacBook Pro models is versatility: the same port can handle all kinds of data protocols as well as provide power to recharge high-capacity laptop batteries. But Apple hasn’t capitalized on the power side of this much, which makes room for third-party adapters, like the NuPower.
At 60W, the power adapter can power a 12-inch MacBook, which requires 29W, and have charge leftover for up to 12W via its Type-A connector. A new 13-inch MacBook Pro requires 61W to charge at full speed, and 60W reduces that ever so slightly. NewerTech says if a Type-A device is also plugged in, it gets priority, but even at a full 12W draw, as with a newer iPad, that should allow a MacBook Pro to keep up. The 15-inch MacBook Pro requires 87W, which will work with the NuPower adapter as well, but it’s not as good a fit.
In testing, the adapter worked just as expected with two full-power draws (a 2015 12-inch MacBook and a 9.7-inch iPad Pro). The main body of the adapter is compact, has a nice finish, and has rounded edges. The AC cord is removable. NewerTech includes an 18-inch USB-C charging-only cable as a more compact alternative to the six-foot cable Apple provides with its USB-C laptops.
From a price perspective, the adapter is a bargain at $49. Apple’s replacement 29W adapter for the 12-inch MacBook models costs $49, and it’s another $19 to get a six-foot AC extension. A 61W adapter for the 13-inch MacBook Pro costs $69.
Because the charger is standards based, it also works with any non-Apple USB-C devices that supports basic charging up to 3A at 5W, and several higher-wattage USB Power Delivery flavors: 6A at 5V (30W), 5A at 9V (45W), 4A at 15V (60W), and 3A at 20V (60W).
Unfortunately, this doesn’t include either model of iPad Pro connected via the Lighting to USB-C cable Apple offers. While those cables work with Apple’s adapters, they’re not supported with third-party USB-C power adapters, including the NuPower in my testing.
With two ports, higher overall wattage, and a six-foot AC cable included, plus a backup USB-C charging cable, the NuPower 60W USB-C Power Adapter is an ideal replacement or travel adapter for a 12-inch MacBook, and a reasonable choice for a 13-inch MacBook Pro.
This story, "NuPower 60W USB-C Power Adapter review: Simultaneously charge your MacBook and iPhone with one adapter" was originally published by
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2.3

Daatrics answers the call from over-anxious new parents

News today that Daatrics , a company that specializes in wearable devices, is reinventing the way baby monitors work. For its part, Daatrics, which was founded in 2014, is a London-based design house that has spent a couple of years, generously funded by its investors, playing around with different wearable opportunities.
Its first product, Neebo, is an infant-care system including an egg-shaped wearable, a mobile app and a charging station. The idea of the product is to give new parents an unheard of amount of data and statistics about their baby.
I realize of course that there are parents who approach this issue very differently, and for them Neebo may well be an ideal option. Neebo monitors a baby's heart rate, oxygen saturation, thermal state and sound and, as well as the monitoring functionality, has a smart alert system.
Daatrics founder and CEO Andrey Khayrullaev says that he was inspired to start Daatrics when he became a father 2 1/2 years ago. "As a new parent, I searched extensively for an infant monitor that could offer accurate, medical-grade information and added peace of mind. Along the way, I encountered a lot of false readings from antiquated monitors, so I knew there had to be a better way," he said. "Neebo's comprehensive monitoring system provides the most accurate data on the market and reassurance that many parents value greatly. We're pleased to be able to provide this advanced technology to help new parents better manage their babies' health and well-being. "
Neebo is now available for U. S. preorder and is priced at $199 with expected shipping date of Q2 2017. While many people will be nervous about the "preorder" and "expected shipping date" aspects of this news, Neebo looks like a logical wearable offering for those parents who are so inclined. It's not for me (especially given the fact that my boys are now teenagers!), but for some people Neebo will offer another level of comfort.

 

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U. S., Japan Extend Peace Offerings in "Blackened Canteen" Ceremony

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 2016 —
American and Japanese representatives extended an offering of peace at the USS Arizona Memorial here yesterday, gently pouring bourbon whiskey from a World War II-era canteen into the hallowed waters below.
The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen" tradition, Dr. Hiroya Sugano, center, pours bourbon whiskey into the waters at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with a member of the Japanese military, left, and the U. S. Air Force, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Blackened Canteen
The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen" tradition, Dr. Hiroya Sugano, center, pours bourbon whiskey into the waters at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with a member of the Japanese military, left, and the U. S. Air Force, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
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The annual "Blackened Canteen" ceremony centers on a single artifact -- a canteen recovered after a June 1945 mid-air collision of two American bombers over Shizuoka, Japan -- and the actions of a Japanese farmer who sought to promote peace and reconciliation after the bombing raid that killed 2,000 people in his city.
A choir sang in the background. Prayers were said for the dead, and participants gently tossed flowers into the water to honor the victims of the events in Japan, and the more than 2,400 killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The USS Arizona Memorial is built over the battleship’s final resting place in Pearl Harbor. 1,177 sailors and Marines were killed aboard the ship.
"The Blackened Canteen ceremony began 71 years ago, now joins two nations with the hope of a world that will join together to seek peace on Earth," the executive director of the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Ken DeHoff, said.
The museum cohosted the event with the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, as part of events for the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.
"The blackened canteen has become a symbol of the horrors of war. For these past years, it represents the humanitarianism that resides in the hearts of the Japanese people," DeHoff said.
The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen,” Dr. Hiroya Sugano, holds the World War II-era canteen recovered from a crash site of two American bombers in Japan during a ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
Blackened Canteen
The caretaker of the "Blackened Canteen,” Dr. Hiroya Sugano, holds the World War II-era canteen recovered from a crash site of two American bombers in Japan during a ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 6, 2016. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando
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'Exemplary Virtue
The metal canteen bears an indentation believed to be of the hand of the American airman who was gripping it when his plane collided with another B-29 bomber during a bombing mission over the Japanese city of Shizuoka on June 19, 1945. Both aircrews were killed, explained Jacqueline Ashwell, the superintendent of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
"War is tragic and it can bring out the worst in mankind, and yet there can be glimmers of hope that out of death and destruction can emerge exemplary virtue," she said.
A farmer, Fukumatsu Itoh, buried the crewmembers alongside the citizens who were killed in the air raid. He recovered the canteen and built the Sengen Hill monuments at the crash site to promote peace between the United States and Japan, Ashwell explained.
Bridge for Friendship and Peace
After Itoh's death, Dr. Hiroya Sugano, who lived through the raid as a child, continued the traditions for peace and reconciliation. This year marks the 25th year he has traveled to Hawaii for the Pearl Harbor commemorations.
"I'm certain that this memorial service will be a bridge between Japan and U. S. friendship and contribute toward peace," Sugano said.
Other participants included Japanese Consul General Yasushi Misawa; World War II American pilots Jack DeTour and Jerry Yellin; and World War II Japanese pilot Shiro Wakita .
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter @FerdinandoDoD)

 

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Researcher shows method for controlled growth of porous crystalline materials

But MOFs have a much greater potential and it is what Paolo Falcaro from TU Graz's Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry (PTC) wants to unlock. "MOFs are prepared by self-organisation. We don't have to do anything other than mix the components, and the crystals will grow by themselves. However, crystals grow with random orientation and position, and thus their pores. Now, we can control this growth, and new properties of MOFs will be explored for multifunctional use in microelectronics, optics, sensors and biotechnology. "
In the current issue of Nature Materials , a research activity lead by Paolo Falcaro and Masahide Takahashi (Osaka Prefecture University - Japan) together with Australian colleagues at the University of Adelaide, Monash University and The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) describes a method of growing MOFs on a comparatively large surface area of one square centimetre rapidly achieving an unprecedented controlled orientation and alignment of the crystals.
Directionally dependent properties
The big advantage of precisely oriented crystals in MOFs makes every materials scientist excited. Functional materials can be infiltrated in the pores of the crystals to generate anisotropic materials; in other words, materials with directionally dependent properties. In the journal Nature Materials , the research team shows how the controlled synthesis of a MOF film behaves in the presence of fluorescent dye. Just by rotating the film, the fluorescent signal is turned "on" or "off" and an optically active switch has been created.
Paolo Falcaro: "This has many conceivable applications and we're going to try many of them with a variety of different functionalities. One and the same material can show different properties through different orientations and alignments. Intentional growth of MOFs on this scale opens up a whole range of promising applications which we're going to explore step by step. "
Protecting enzymes
A major aim of Paolo Falcaro and his team at TU Graz is the development of MOFs for biotechnological applications: "We are trying to encapsulate enzymes, proteins and even DNA in MOFs and to immunise their activity against fluctuations in temperature. The crystalline structure surrounding the "guest" in the pore has a protective effect, like a tough jacket. We want to check out the possibilities more accurately," explains Falcaro.
Explore further: 'Seeding' the next generation of smart materials
More information:
Paolo Falcaro et al. Centimetre-scale micropore alignment in oriented polycrystalline metal–organic framework films via heteroepitaxial growth, Nature Materials (2016). DOI: 10.1038/nmat4815

 

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The smart city security nightmare: How cities can stay awake

One of the elephants in the room at the 2016 Smart Cities Summit in Boston was cybersecurity. It threatens to derail the most optimistic plans for making cities more efficient and more responsive.

 

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0.4

Five amazing ways plants have created new technologies

But why use modified spinach instead of the nanotubes on their own? It's all down to the fact that plants draw up large amounts of water through their roots and up to their leaves without using much energy. So in this case, the spinach is being used as an automatic water-sampling system for the explosive detecting nanotubes.
This impressive ability is one of many reasons why plants are often used not just as food and clothing but as part of complex technologies. Here are some more amazing ways we can use vegetation.
Decontamination
Plants' ability to process water can also be used for something called "phytoremediation". Soil contaminants dissolved in the water taken up by plants are carried to the leaves and accumulate in there as the water evaporates. The plants can then be harvested and removed, taking the contaminants with them. This is being used to detoxify soils of arsenic and lead. Valuable contaminants, such as cadmium or nickel, can even be recovered in a process called "phytomining".
In a recent twist, certain plants have been genetically modified to combine their capacity for processing large volumes of water with the characteristics of types of bacteria that can break down the explosives TNT and RDX. This means we can produce modified plants that can both detect and defuse explosives.
Explosives
But plants are not just used for peaceful purposes. In 1846, Christian Schönbein was carrying out an experiment in his kitchen (against his wife's express wishes). He spilled a mixture of concentrated acids and grabbed the nearest thing to hand to mop them up and only later realised that he had used his wife's apron. It looked fine after he had hurriedly washed it, and he hung it over the stove to dry. The crisis was averted, at least until the apron exploded.
Schönbein had unwittingly converted the cotton of the apron into nitrocellulose, or guncotton, a more powerful explosive than TNT. The cellulose that forms the basis of guncotton is the main structural constituent of plants and by mass is the most common biological molecule on Earth. Cellulose is easy to obtain and nitrocellulose is more powerful than gunpowder and so guncotton replaced gunpowder for many purposes in the 19th century.
In the novel From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne propelled his explorers into space using a huge gun fired using nitrocellulose. In reality, Verne's space travellers would have been turned to puree by the acceleration. But he wasn't completely wide of the mark, as nitrocellulose is still used in solid fuel rocket propellants today – especially for military applications, because it doesn't create smoke that would give away the launcher's position as it combusts.
Plastic bandages
Nitrocellulose and other nitrated plant polysaccharides were also among the first "plastics". Their uses included the film used in early cinema, which was based on nitrocellulose and could ignite or even explode if the projector got too hot. These unstable substances have largely been replaced with safer plastics, but a liquid containing dissolved nitrocellulose is still used in medicine. It is painted over cuts and seals them with a fine film of nitrocellulose.
Plants produce numerous biopolymers and, as we search for more environmentally friendly and sustainable replacements for oil-based plastics, it is time for these naturally based alternatives to make a return .
Vegetarian meat
Obviously plants form the basis of most of our food, but scientists have recently created a burger that looks, smells, tastes and even cooks like meat even though it is entirely made from plant materials Doing this has meant solving a number of distinct challenges. For example, to behave like beef during cooking, the new burger has to contain vegetable fats that are solid at room temperature but melt when heated. The fat used in this case came from coconuts.
Plants don't have the proteins haemoglobin and myoglobin that give red meat its colour and iron content. But some contain a very similar substance called leghemoglobin which, like haemoglobin and myoglobin, absorbs oxygen. This comes from plant species such as peas and beans which have root nodules containing bacteria that turn nitrogen from the air into fertiliser for the plant.
Oxygen attacks this nitrogen-converting system so aggressively that some of its components can lose 99% of their capacitiy in less than six minutes. And so leghemoglobin is used to protect it by soaking up oxygen in the nodules. The nitrogen-fixing nodules are literally blood red inside because leghemolglobin is the same colour as haemoglobin.
Despite this, the leghemoglobin used to give the plant burger its appearance and iron content is actually not obtained from plants because this is too inefficient. Instead it is produced by modified yeast grown in vats of blood-coloured liquid in scenes reminiscent of the TV series True Blood.
Explore further: Nanobionic spinach plants can detect explosives

 

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Cosmic dust found in city rooftop gutters

Up till now, researchers looking for space dust have usually had to travel to the Antarctic—it was thought the tiny particles, believed to be left over remnants of the formation of the solar system , would be too difficult to find in places where there is a proliferation of other dust types, particularly in areas where people live. John Larson, an amateur space scientist with Project Stardust, came to researchers at Imperial College suggesting that maybe space dust could be found on rooftops. Despite a high degree of skepticism regarding the prospects, the team traveled to Oslo, Berlin and Paris and obtained 300 kilograms of dirt samples from rain gutters on rooftops. Back in the lab, they used magnets to pull possible cosmic dust grains from within the muck. They report that they found and identified approximately 500 samples.
The team also report that the dust grains they found were larger than those typically found in Antarctica—they measured approximately 0.3 millimeters as opposed to the customary average of 0.01 millimeters. They also noted the grains had fewer feather-like crystals than those found in Antarctica. They suggest the differences are likely due to age—those from Antarctica are typically much older, which would mean the planets would have been aligned slightly differently when they fell to Earth. That differences indicate dust particles falling through the atmosphere would have been traveling much faster in more recent times due to a difference in trajectory—up to 12 kilometers per second—the fastest ever recorded for space dust. Those differences, the researchers note, may illuminate the movement of the planets relative to one another over time, helping to understand the history of the solar system.
Explore further: Rosetta collects and examines space dust samples from comet 67P
More information:
M. J. Genge et al. An urban collection of modern-day large micrometeorites: Evidence for variations in the extraterrestrial dust flux through the Quaternary, Geology (2016). DOI: 10.1130/G38352.1
Abstract We report the discovery of significant numbers (500) of large micrometeorites (>100 μm) from rooftops in urban areas. The identification of particles as micrometeorites is achieved on the basis of their compositions, mineralogies, and textures. All particles are silicate-dominated (S type) cosmic spherules with subspherical shapes that form by melting during atmospheric entry and consist of quench crystals of magnesian olivine, relict crystals of forsterite, and iron-bearing olivine within glass. Four particles also contain Ni-rich metal-sulfide beads. Bulk compositions are chondritic apart from depletions in the volatile, moderately volatile, and siderophile elements, as observed in micrometeorites from other sources. The reported particles are likely to have fallen on Earth in the past 6 yr and thus represent the youngest large micrometeorites collected to date. The relative abundance ratio of barred olivine to cryptocrystalline spherule types in the urban particles of 1.45 is shown to be higher than a Quaternary average of ~0.9, suggesting variations in the extraterrestrial dust flux over the past 800 k.y. Changes in the entry velocities of dust caused by quasi-periodic gravitational perturbation during transport to Earth are suggested to be responsible. Variations in cosmic spherule abundance within the geologic column are thus unavoidable and can be a consequence of dust transport as well as major dust production events.

 

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1.1

Sick mother was inspiration behind supersmart phone

Chan, who is a telecommunications engineer, began to wonder if there was a type of phone that could make communication easier and also make the lives of its users safer. Since he couldn't find anything on the market, he began to work on developing a new product himself. In summer 2015, he contacted SINTEF to find out whether they might be interested in conducting a user study of the concept.
"Chan's proposal immediately captured our interest, because it was a great welfare technology system", says researcher Hanne Opsahl Austad of SINTEF ICT.
A phone case with physical buttons
The project received funding via the Norwegian Regional Research Fund system, and one year after the EziSmart project was launched, Project Manager Austad has a new system that has been tested by numerous users, most of them elderly, but also blind people and Parkinson's sufferers.
Austad shows me the EziSmart, which in practical terms is a phone case fitted with physical buttons. The plan is for the case to be suitable for a variety of Android smartphones, but at the moment it is only available for the Samsung S6, A3 and S4.
The buttons are ergonomically designed in the shape of small saucers, which makes them easier to use, even for people who may have trembling hands or trouble with fine motor skills .
"One person in the user group has Parkinson's, and finds it really easy to type messages on the EziSmart", says Austad.
People who have minor problems with fine motor skills also enjoyed using the case. Austad explained that one of the users, who had been using a standard smartphone, was extremely happy to switch to the EziSmart, because he no longer gets locked out of his mobile banking after mistyping the password.
Reidun Gully (70) has been testing the EziSmart for two months now. She is part of the user group, and has invited Project Manager Austad and the inventor Chan to her home in Roa.
"Before I started using this, I had an ordinary mobile phone. As an older person, when you start using a smartphone, you already feel quite clumsy. Being able to use a physical keyboard felt more familiar and simpler", says Gully, sitting on her sofa, typing a text message to a friend.
Gully is a physiotherapist, and has worked with stroke victims and people with neurological illnesses, so she knows how difficult it is for these people to use smartphones. A touchscreen keyboard is not suitable for everyone.
GPS application finds you
Gully also really likes the extended GPS function, one of the applications Chan has developed for the EziSmart. She explains that if she is out for a walk, her husband can send a text message and will then receive an automatic reply containing a link showing him where she is on a map. She can also easily send her position herself via a message, or trigger an SOS alarm that both sends her position and phones pre-selected contacts with the speaker activated.
"I really enjoy walking in rugged terrain, and these functions give me extra safety and freedom", says Gully.
ICE (In Case of Emergency) is another application that Chan has developed. Users can easily enter important information into the ICE app, such as insurance information and which medicines they're taking. You can take a photo of the medicines, which will then be entered. SOS and ICE are both easily accessible with the large buttons.
"We have also found that all the users in the project have derived great enjoyment from the benefits offered by smartphones, and have started to use many applications like the camera, weather forecast, map, newspapers, etc. ", says Austad.
Austad has also looked at the current selection of smartphones specially designed for the elderly. "The problem is that these phones tend to lag behind the technology. Because they are products designed for a small group, they generally have poor technical specifications and have less money spent on them than standard phones. This applies to features like the camera and screen, and we've found that these are functions that are important to our test users", she says.
Suitable for blind people
Austad talks about her experience with the EziSmart being used by one of the people in the user group that is blind.
"She likes the keyboard, and combines it with a text-to-speech app to hear what she has written. She particularly likes the option of navigating through the text with the keyboard: 'I sit and smile every time I use this function', Austad quotes her as saying.
Chan contacted the Norwegian Association of the Blind's Visual Impairment and Skills Development Centre at Hurdal for their opinion, and they thought that the EziSmart could being many benefits to blind and visually impaired people. Chan has plans to develop more features that would be particularly suited to this user group.
"Many people with mild disabilities have been left behind by technology. In a commercial world, this group is not interesting enough, so there has been no investment in developing products for them. That triggered something in me", says Chan.
"It's about giving people the chance to use the same platforms as everyone else. A smartphone makes it easier for people to communicate with the outside world and enhances their quality of life", adds Austad.
Explore further: Smart help for phone users

 

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Expert discusses NASA's study of paradoxical EM propulsion drive

Q. What is the EM Drive propulsion system and what makes it so unique?
A. An EM Drive uses electromagnetic waves (e.g., radar) to produce thrust, which is obviously something that is needed for a rocket engine. The drive consists of a truncated conical copper shell with a plastic (polyethylene) disc covering the narrow end of the truncated cone. An electromagnetic wave is induced inside the copper shell in the same manner as a microwave oven. The propulsion system is unique because the device uses no traditional fuels or propellants. Instead, in the simplest of terms, the electromagnetic waves bounce around inside the cone in a way that some say causes propulsion. In the NASA tests, a thrust of 1.2 millinewtons per kilowatt was reported for an EM Drive activated in a vacuum, which is a very, very small – but noticeable – movement. By not relying on traditional fuels, the EM Drive would make spacecrafts lighter, and eliminate the need for massive amounts of fuel currently required to launch a spacecraft to far-off destinations.
Q. What's behind all the skepticism about the EM Drive, and what's your take on all of this?
A. Although the EM Drive appeared to create thrust in these tests, there was no mass or particles of any kind expelled during the process. This is a violation of Newton's third law of motion, which says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Action and reaction is a direct result of the conservation of momentum. The violation of such a basic law as the conservation of momentum would invalidate much of the basis for all of physics as we know it. Hence, many scientists and engineers feel the thrust measurements reported for the EM Drive are due to experimental error. Adding to this is the fact that those who believe the results are valid do not yet have an experimentally or a theoretically plausible proven physical explanation. I personally believe that there is a mundane explanation for the results. For example, electric currents are heating components within the Drive that expand during the experiments, causing motion that would appear as a force. It is very difficult to remove such effects, although the authors of the journal article tried to remove not only these thermal effects but also many other possible sources for experimental errors. It is extremely difficult to know for sure that all of the possible sources for errors have been removed. The only sure method is to have a hypothesis (or theory) that can be tested independently.
Q. The fact that NASA's research has passed peer review is being heralded as a major step. What exactly does the peer approval mean in the context of ongoing research?
A. Peer review is important, since it means that other experts have reviewed the work, and the results are professional and important enough to distribute to others in the community. It does not mean, however, that the reviewers consider the results valid. A reviewer of the journal paper that I spoke with before the paper was submitted does not believe the results point to any new physics. But that person felt the results are puzzling enough to publish.
Q. If the EM Drive really does work, does this mean Newton was wrong and there are mysterious other aspects of physics that we still don't understand?
A. If the results are valid, it definitely points to new physics. Newton's laws have already been shown not to apply at high relative speeds (where special relativity applies), in large gravitational fields, and with very small scale molecules. But Newton is still mostly right. There are certainly many aspects of physics that we do not understand. Some aspects are so mysterious that we don't even know where to begin!
Q. Everyone seems to be excited about the EM Drive being tested in space as the next step. What advantages are there to testing the device in space versus here on Earth?
A. If the EM drive is tested in space, then the acceleration could be directly measured, which would eliminate all of the confusion associated with force measurements. Space would provide an ideal vacuum, so the device would not have to be placed in a vacuum chamber, and it would provide a weightless environment, eliminating any need for a support (current tests rely on a balance arm so any resulting forces can be measured). But space missions are expensive – at a cost of $10,000 to launch one pound of material into orbit. It may be better to first try to experimentally find the cause for the thrust measurement, and only when the cost on the ground begins to approach the cost for an orbital mission should an experiment in space be performed.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share about the EM Drive to help us understand?
A. No, but over my professional life I have seen several of these exciting experimental or theoretical results reported in peer-reviewed literature. So far only the reality of black holes has come through. So, based on my experience, the probability of this holding up under further analysis and testing appears slim. But it's not zero.
Explore further: Was physics really violated by EM drive in 'leaked' NASA paper?
More information:
Harold White et al. Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum, Journal of Propulsion and Power (2016). DOI: 10.2514/1. B36120

 

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Merkel ally threatens Facebook with fines over online hate speech

Speaking at a party conference of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) in Essen, western Germany, Volker Kauder suggested politicians were running out of patience with efforts by social media providers to crack down on hate speech.
"I expect from big companies like Facebook that they adhere to laws. If they are not respected than we must think about new possibilities, fines for example," he said.
Facebook declined immediate comment on his remarks.
Germany is seen as a forerunner when it comes to forcing Facebook to step up efforts to police online hate speech, which has risen here following an influx of almost one million migrants, mainly from the Middle East, last year.
Politicians are also worried about how hate speech and fake news could sway public opinion ahead of elections next year in which Merkel will be running for a fourth term and facing an increasingly popular far right.
Kauder rejected an argument by Facebook - which has around 1.6 billion monthly users - that it is hard to quickly remove content due to the volume of data it has to deal with.
"They say there is too much. But a big auto manufacturer that produces millions of cars can't say: 'I produce so many cars that I can't guarantee they are all secure.' No, that is not on. I expect and demand from Facebook that laws are upheld. "
Last year, Justice Minister Heiko Maas set up a task force made up of representatives from Facebook, Google's YouTube and Twitter as well as nonprofit groups to discuss ways to combat the rise in online hate speech.
The platform providers signed up to a voluntary code of conduct to take action to remove hate posts within 24 hours.
Results of a survey published in September by a group that monitors hate speech found Facebook removed about 46 percent of illegal content reported by users within 24 hours, significantly more than YouTube and Twitter which deleted just 10 percent and about 1 percent respectively.
Maas has repeatedly warned that he will propose legislation if the social media networks do not remove at least 70 percent of hate speech by March next year.
Kauder said Maas, a member of the Social Democrats, Merkel's junior coalition partner, was being too easy on social media.
"We have a roundtable and now we must wait ... but after the Christmas break is the end of the roundtables. We've sat at roundtables long enough. Now we want to see actions. "
(Reporting by Paul Carrel; Writing by Caroline Copley; editing by Mark Heinrich)

 

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Blocks of ice demonstrate levitated and directed motion

While attempting to prepare an experiment to study the adhesion properties of ice, Stéphane Dorbolo, a FNRS senior researcher in physics hosted by the Université de Liège in Belgium, dropped a petri dish-shaped block of ice onto the smooth, concrete floor. Its unusual motion, acquiring seemingly random rotation as it moved across the floor, prompted Dorbolo to investigate further, where his eventual results about ice levitation are published in this week's journal Physics of Fluids , by AIP publishing.
"The story was completely different because of this accident," said Dorbolo. "The question was, why does it move? Because actually, it's very common procedure: you have an ice block and then it melts. But it doesn't happen, for example, on a plastic plate. It only happens on very flat stone, or on a metal plate. That was the start. "
The contact area is much smaller on a skating rink, between a skate blade edge and ice , but it's for the same reason that ice-skate blade edges must be smooth and typically metallic, in hockey and figure skating, where smooth motion is pivotal.
The key area of interest in this investigation was the melting interface, where the surface supporting an ice disk – be it smooth and non-porous stone, metal or even a pool of water – supplies relative heat and rapidly melts the ice.
Dorbolo and his team previously studied the dynamics of such an ice disk melting while resting on the liquid surface of water. These motions of the ice are governed by different interactions than if the ice rested on a solid surface, but the investigations proved as a simpler, initial step and gave insight into the dynamics of how the newly melted water flows from the ice.
"The main idea was to study the ice disk melting on a plate, but we started by studying the ice disk on a bath," said Dorbolo. "Actually, when we came back to the melting of the ice disk on a plate we discovered a completely different mechanism. "
The effect resembles the Leidenfrost effect, the focus of numerous YouTube videos featuring water droplets "walking" and "dancing" as they float over smooth surfaces hot enough to rapidly boil the underside of the droplets. The rapid boiling produces a levitating cushion of vapor (steam) between the droplet and heating surface, increasing the droplet mobility.
"It means you must have a thermal reservoir, like the stone or metallic plate, to melt the ice fast enough," Dorbolo said. "So the melting flow rate is important. If it's not sufficient, you don't have this lubricating film between the disk and the plate and it cannot move. That's why we said that it was similar the Leidenfrost effect. "
Dorbolo carefully pointed out that the levitating liquid cushion of their ice disks was not exactly analogous to the floating effect felt by the Leidenfrost droplets, though their interest in controlling the motion was one held common to many droplet experiments.
The solid-liquid-solid configuration of this phenomena, as opposed to that of solid-gas-liquid in the case of the droplets, led the team to focus on water outflow from the continuously melting ice to investigate control of the disk motion.
"You have a disk and it must melt fast enough to have this lubrication film between the disk and the plate, and then because of this lubrication, the ice disk is very mobile. So if you don't control the melting, you will see the ice block move," Dorbolo said
If you do control the melting, or more specifically the flow of the melted ice near the disk, the team showed that the final spinning and sliding motion of the ice disks could be sustained and directed.
This control was achieved, essentially, in the form of a small hole Dorbolo's team made in the surface of the metal plate, near the floating ice. The hole lead to an exit pipe, acting as a reservoir through which the water continuously escaped after melting on the thermalized metal. To further contain the water flow, the team also used careful placement of petroleum jelly on the plate.
They tracked the motion of a given petri dish-formed ice-disk using a black ellipse frozen on top the ice, imaged by a camera during the experiment. The contrast and asymmetrical shape allowed for precise monitoring of both linear and rotational motion of the disks which Dorbolo's group then analyzed in relation to other data, such as temperature and flow rates.
Their findings offer insight into the precise mechanisms of the motion and what factors drive motions – such as the thickness of the water layer or the direction of the circular flow around the disk edge. The scientists also highlight how the liquid effects compare to the analogous vapor effects on droplets in the more widely studied Leidenfrost effect.
Although the project diverges from Dorbolo's primary research goal, he acknowledges many possible ways the study could be further pursued, whether by changing the shape of the ice or the plate surface structure to effect flow dynamics. He also confidently said, "People will have ideas. "
Explore further: Combining nanotextured surfaces with the Leidenfrost effect for extreme water repellency
More information:
S. Dorbolo et al. Spontaneous rotation of an ice disk while melting on a solid plate, Physics of Fluids (2016). DOI: 10.1063/1.4967399

 

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3.6

Mimecast Offers API Extension To Bolster Recurring Revenue For MSP Partners - Page: 1

Email and data security services company Mimecast launched a new extension to the Mimecast API aimed at managed service provider partners, closing out what Chief Operating Officer Ed Jennings called a year full of “dramatic growth.”
“A lot of that growth has come through MSPs, so we built this API so that they can leverage that growth as well,” Jennings said.
“We know that they need to be able to sign up and manage hundreds of thousands of users in an easy, simplified pane of glass. So our API gives them full access for soup-to-nuts management,” he explained.
An MSP can set up the API with Mimecast within 24 hours and quickly manage everything from on-boarding customers to solution upgrades.
Jennings said that with Mimecast’s 100 percent recurring revenue business, partners can find new, robust revenue streams, even with existing customers.
“There’s a range of services that we offer," he said, adding that Mimecast also boasts a high customer service renewal rate.

 

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Upgrade your family

See more stories from CNET Magazine.
If your folks insist that the home tech setup they've had since 2003 works just fine and have no desire to upgrade, going home can feel like stepping into a time warp. But there's an easy way to make everything better. These affordable, under-the-radar upgrades make great gifts, and they'll make your holidays at home infinitely easier.
You can't do anything about your family's lousy broadband package, but you might be able to improve the range of their router, even if it is a bit old. Your parents may have been putting up with Wi-Fi that works fine downstairs but neglects the top floor. Or maybe their home is filled with thick, old walls or twisty, signal-unfriendly corridors.
If that's the case, hook them up with a D-Link DAP-1320 Wireless N300 Range Extender (available from $23, which converts to about £18 or AU$30) or something similar. By placing it at the edge of your network's Wi-Fi range, it'll carry the signal further into the house. And to install it, you only need to plug it into the wall. Voila! Your favorite armchair is no longer a Wi-Fi black hole.
The deceptively simple Amazon Echo Dot.
Interested in smart music players but don't want to shell out for an Echo Dot? Here's an even more affordable option. Whether it's a closetful of CDs or a crate of unraveling cassette tapes, most family homes have at least one stash of music on a long-obsolete format. And most families have at least one member determined to clear out the stash.
Belkin's smart switches can stop these upgrades from racking up your energy bills.
Plug this smart gadget into a main socket, and then connect it to anything in the house you suspect of power-guzzling -- whether that's a computer, a TV or a stereo system. Mom can then track how much it's costing her per month and adjust her lectures as needed. And if she suspects you're using too much electricity, she can remotely turn it off. Best hope the power doesn't go to her head.

 

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Fossils of early tetrapods unearthed in Scotland

Planet Earth has experienced several mass extinctions, five of which are considered to be the greatest because of the huge loss of plant and animal life. Over the course of one such extinction event , called the Late Devonian mass extinction, approximately 75 percent of all animal species on the planet were believed to have gone extinct. In the years that followed, some of those species that did survive, such as groups of early tetrapods. eventually evolved into what would become the ancestors of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles. Unfortunately, the fossil record for creatures of this period is very thin—few specimens have been found, and those that have are fragments rather than complete skeletons. This time period is particularly important in the timeline of evolutionary history because it is when creatures first began climbing out of the sea to move about on land.
The fossils found by the research team include two specimens that appear to represent amphibian ancestors while another three are believed to be from bird, mammal and reptile ancestors. Among the finds are other fossil bits that have yet to be identified. All of the fossils came from relatively small creatures—the largest skull was approximately 80 millimeters in length. The team describes the creatures as lizard-like and report that they lived approximately 355 million years ago. They suggest the fossils represent a critical step in the evolution of animal life from a period when creatures were evolving new features that made it possible to live on land—such as limbs and lungs.
Prior to this find, researchers have uncovered just two fossil finds from the gap—one from a site in Canada and another in the U. S. In the past, researchers have theorized that there was a dearth of creatures that had bones to leave behind, possibly due to low atmospheric oxygen levels. The new finding strengthens theories suggesting that the lack of fossils from the gap years is due to researchers simply not finding them.
Explore further: Biggest map of dinosaur tree yet suggests they emerged 20 million years earlier than thought
More information:
Jennifer A. Clack et al. Phylogenetic and environmental context of a Tournaisian tetrapod fauna, Nature Ecology & Evolution (2016). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-016-0002
Abstract The end-Devonian to mid-Mississippian time interval has long been known for its depauperate palaeontological record, especially for tetrapods. This interval encapsulates the time of increasing terrestriality among tetrapods, but only two Tournaisian localities previously produced tetrapod fossils. Here we describe five new Tournaisian tetrapods (Perittodus apsconditus, Koilops herma, Ossirarus kierani, Diploradus austiumensis and Aytonerpeton microps) from two localities in their environmental context. A phylogenetic analysis retrieved three taxa as stem tetrapods, interspersed among Devonian and Carboniferous forms, and two as stem amphibians, suggesting a deep split among crown tetrapods. We also illustrate new tetrapod specimens from these and additional localities in the Scottish Borders region. The new taxa and specimens suggest that tetrapod diversification was well established by the Tournaisian. Sedimentary evidence indicates that the tetrapod fossils are usually associated with sandy siltstones overlying wetland palaeosols. Tetrapods were probably living on vegetated surfaces that were subsequently flooded. We show that atmospheric oxygen levels were stable across the Devonian/Carboniferous boundary, and did not inhibit the evolution of terrestriality. This wealth of tetrapods from Tournaisian localities highlights the potential for discoveries elsewhere.

 

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0.3

Using magnets instead of antibiotics as a new treatment method for blood infection

Blood poisoning is still fatal in more than 50% of cases, but can be cured if treated at an early stage. The highest priority is therefore to act quickly. For this reason, doctors usually administer antibiotics even in the event of a suspicion of blood poisoning , without first ascertaining whether it is actually a bacterial sepsis, which in turn greatly increases the risk of resistance to antibiotics developing. It is therefore important to identify and develop a fast and effective therapy, if possible without the need to use antibiotics.
An antibody for everything
Empa researcher Inge Herrmann and her team are developing a solution in collaboration with modelling expert Marco Lattuada from the Adolphe Merkle Institute and doctors from the Harvard Medical School. The idea for the treatment is the magnetic purification of blood. The principle is, at least in theory, quite straightforward. Iron particles are coated with an antibody that detects and binds the harmful bacteria in the blood. As soon as the iron particles are attached to the bacteria, they are removed from the blood magnetically.
However, there is (still) a small catch: So far, it has only been possible to coat the iron particles with antibodies that recognise one type of bacteria – but many different types of bacteria may be involved, depending on the species causing the blood poisoning. Using blood analysis, doctors must therefore first determine which bacteria is causing the poisoning before the appropriate antibodies can be used. "This blood analysis is time-consuming and time plays a vital role in the treatment of blood poisoning," explains Herrmann. This is also the reason for magnetic dialysis rarely having been used to date.
But a team at the Harvard Medical School led by Gerald Pier has now developed an antibody that can bind almost all the bacteria that can trigger blood poisoning - so if there is a suspicion of sepsis, the magnetic treatment could be started immediately, regardless of which pathogen is in the blood. This "allrounder" antibody to succeed in isolating pathogenic bacteria - similar to using dialysis.
How harmful are the iron particles?
The method is not yet sufficiently mature to be used on patients. In a next step, Herrmann wants to carry out tests with various other germs and find out whether the Harvard antibody can actually bind additional bacteria to itself. The nature of the iron particles is also not to be underestimated. It may be the case that some particles remain in the blood after the magnetic extraction has been carried out. The requirements for these carriers are thus clear: they must not harm the human body. But Herrmann's team already has a solution ready in this regard. The tiny iron particles are assembled into larger clusters and are thus more responsive to the magnet. In addition, the researchers have been able to demonstrate, in an in vitro simulation, that the iron particles are broken down completely after only five days.
Further experiments still to come
In the future, it should therefore no longer be strictly necessary to administer antibiotics as soon as there is a suspicion of sepsis. Blood will be taken from the patient for analysis, and the patient connected to a dialysis machine to cleanse the blood, no matter what bacteria are in it. As soon as the doctors have the detailed blood values, an antibiotic therapy tailored to the pathogen can be introduced, if necessary.
This idea is currently just a future ambition, as there are still numerous issues that need to be clarified. Firstly, it is imperative that this method is used in the initial stage of sepsis, when the damage has not yet spread from the blood to the organs or bodily functions, and there is also the issue of how well this treatment will work in unstable patients or patients with pre-existing conditions. But Herrmann and her team are optimistic - and also a step closer to achieving a new and more gentle treatment for sepsis.
Explore further: Personalised prescription tool could help to combat antibiotic resistance
More information:
M. Lattuada et al. Theranostic body fluid cleansing: rationally designed magnetic particles enable capturing and detection of bacterial pathogens, J. Mater. Chem. B (2016). DOI: 10.1039/c6tb01272h

 

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Experiences leave behind epigenetic traces in our genetic material

This perspective was helpful in providing a focus for research in the ensuing decades, which brought about extraordinary discoveries. As a result, many aspects of the form and function of living creatures can now be explained. But already in the 1950s, different observations called into question the seemingly exclusive control of the genes. For example, maize kernels can have different colours even if their DNA sequence is identical.
Plants remember aridity
Further investigations brought to light the fact that when individuals with identical genetic material have a different outward appearance, this can be traced back to different degrees of activity on the part of the genes. Whether a particular section of DNA is active or not – i.e., whether it is read – depends to a decisive degree on how densely packed the DNA is.
This packing density is influenced by several so-called epigenetic mechanisms. They form a complex machinery that can affix or detach tiny chemical attachments to the DNA. Here, the rule applies that the tighter packed the DNA, the more difficult it is to read – and this means that a particular gene will be more inactive.
Living creatures can adjust to a volatile environment by steering their epigenetic mechanisms. In this manner, for example, the epigenetic machinery can ensure that plants can deal better with a hot or arid climate if it at some point they already had to live through a similar situation. So in this sense, the epigenetic markings in the genetic material form a kind of 'stress memory' of the plants. This much is today a matter of consensus among biologists.
Doubts on heredity over generations
Several studies, however, suggest that the descendants of stressed plants are also better prepared against the dangers already faced by their ancestors. "However, these studies are a matter of controversial debate," says Ueli Grossniklaus, the director of the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of Zurich. Like many other epigeneticists who are involved in deciphering these mechanisms, he believes that, "since the evidence is patchy, we can't yet say to what degree acquired characteristics can be transmitted in stable form over several generations. " So it still remains to be proven whether epigenetics actually brings organisms long-lasting advantages and thus plays a role in evolution. It's an attractive idea, thinks Grossniklaus, but it's still to be demonstrated.
It's not just in plants that results on the heredity of epigenetic markings are causing a stir – the same is true in mice. In order to investigate the possible long-term effects of severe childhood trauma, for example, the research group led by Isabelle Mansuy, a professor of neuro-epigenetics at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, has been taking mouse offspring away from their mothers for three hours each day, just a few days after being born.
Male mice pass on trauma
When they reach adulthood, the mice subjected to a difficult infancy displayed behavioural disorders and the corresponding chemical traces in their genetic material. For example, when compared with control mice who were always allowed to remain with their mothers, the traumatised mice spent significantly more time in the brightly lit section of their cage than in the dark section.
The behaviour of these mice has allowed the researchers to deduce that the traumatised animals showed symptoms of depression and yet, at the same time, less fear. "They seem to seek danger, such as we often observe in US war veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress," says Mansuy.
Astonishingly, Mansuy's research team has observed the same behavioural abnormalities in the offspring of these traumatised male mice – even where the young mice were never separated from their non-traumatised mothers. Obviously, the sperm contains an epigenetic signal that is also able to codetermine the gene activity of their offspring.
Cancelling out epigenetic memories
This is precisely what causes the greatest unease among many experts. They argue that the genetic material is subjected to epigenetic reprogramming to such a high degree during the maturation of the sperm, and afterwards in the fertilised ovum, that this erases most of the epigenetic markings acquired during the mouse's life.
"I agree", says Mansuy, "but it is also proven that some markings survive this reprogramming. " There are also other epigenetic mechanisms. In addition to the hereditary material from DNA, sperm also contains a complex collection of small and micro-RNA molecules that can intervene in the epigenetic mechanism, thereby playing an important role in the intergenerational regulation of gene activity.
Mansuy believes that her experiments, along with those carried out by others, have served to prove at least in principle the existence of epigenetic inheritance mechanisms. She also reckons that epigenetics may in part explain why there is a familial predisposition to many complex illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and mental illness, even though these inheritance patterns cannot be explained by classical genetics.
In comparison with other genetic mutations, epimutations occur roughly a thousand times more often, as Detlef Weigel's group at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology showed in their 2011 investigation of 30 generations of thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana).
Furthermore, epimutations are fundamentally reversible. Perhaps this is why epigenetic traces in our genetic material are transmitted to the next generation, and sometimes also to the generation after that, but then usually disappear again. It is probably just this transitory and uncertain characteristic that nurtures the current disputes – and will probably continue to nurture them until biology has finally understood in full the complex epigenetic machinery of inheritance.
Explore further: Not only trauma but also the reversal of trauma is inherited

 

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Girl Tweeting From Aleppo Draws Enormous Sympathy, but Doubts Follow

She is a 7-year-old with dimples, pink hair ribbons, a missing front tooth and halting English who first captured global attention three months ago with Twitter messages about bombs, death and despair in eastern Aleppo, the rebel-held section of the embattled Syrian city.
The girl, Bana al-Abed, has since attracted more than 220,000 followers on Twitter , where her account says it is managed by her mother, Fatemah, who also posts messages there. Bana’s Twitter followers include the best-selling author J. K. Rowling , who was so taken with her story of survival that she sent her Harry Potter e-books. Western news organizations, including The New York Times , published articles and columns extolling Bana’s pluckiness in the face of fear.
So when Bana’s Twitter account, @AlabedBana, was inexplicably deactivated this past weekend as Syrian military forces advanced into eastern Aleppo, many worried that she had been killed — only to learn on Tuesday that the account had reappeared.
Images of suffering Syrian children have occasionally punctured the world’s conscience even as it has grown accustomed to the violence of the country’s nearly six-year-old conflict. Like Alan Kurdi , a 2-year-old Syrian whose drowned body was discovered on a beach in Turkey, and Omran Daqneesh , dazed and bloodied after his home in Aleppo was bombed, Bana has touched a nerve.
But in an era of internet hoaxes, fabrications and the increased use of fake news around the world to further political agendas, Bana’s Twitter account has also raised some questions of veracity and authenticity.
Her messages are sophisticated for a 7-year-old, for example, particularly for one whose native language is not English.
Others have disarming grammatical errors that invite sympathy:
Some people have questioned whether the videos in which Bana speaks were rehearsed or altered.
The inaccessibility of much of the Syria conflict to journalists, who often have no way of confirming the provenance of information directly, has amplified those concerns.
According to Bana’s mother, who describes herself as a 26-year-old teacher of English and who has spoken with The New York Times via Skype and WhatsApp, the Twitter postings originated in eastern Aleppo, where Fatemah said she lives with Bana and her two younger children, Mohamed, 5, and Noor, 3.
All appear in photographs and videos posted by the @AlabedBana account. But Bana is the only one who spends significant time on camera or who speaks to the audience in English. She appears in many of the clips to be reading from a card or to have memorized lines.
Fatemah, who says she taught Bana to speak English, appears to be digitally astute in photographing and recording her daughter. However, a handful of videos on Bana’s account seem to have been filmed by local citizen journalists with better quality cameras.
Antigovernment activists and doctors working in eastern Aleppo have corroborated, through Skype and What App, that Bana and her mother are who they say they are. But Bana’s Twitter account has also drawn an inordinate number of trolls and voices sympathetic to the Syrian government and its Russian backers, who assail Bana as a fraud.
Some have called Bana’s father a violent jihadist affiliated with Qaeda-linked fighters ensconced in eastern Aleppo. Others have called Bana and her mother fictions created by the United States as a propaganda tool to malign the Syrian and Russian governments.
There is some precedent for such cynicism, and a notable example also had a Syrian connection. In 2011, a woman who described herself as a lesbian blogger using the pseudonym Amina Arraf wrote about political persecution in Damascus, the capital, and suddenly disappeared.
The “gay girl in Damascus,” as the blogger came to be known, turned out to be a 40-year-old American man from Georgia.
Twitter has designated Bana’s account as “verified” — meaning that the company has established the authenticity of the account holder. Besides talking with Bana’s mother, The New York Times has been able to verify, through comparisons with satellite maps, that at least some videos posted from Bana’s Twitter account were filmed in Al Shaar, a neighborhood in eastern Aleppo.
But it is unclear whether all of her Twitter posts — which could be put online from anywhere, by anyone with Bana’s password — originated in eastern Aleppo. Nor is it clear how many posts Bana composed herself.
Bana’s mother did not immediately respond to requests via What’s App for clarification on these questions.
International aid advocates have expressed mixed feelings about Bana’s fame — gratification that she has increased global sympathy for child victims in Syria, but concern that her own story, as presented on Twitter, may not be entirely accurate.
“Whether it’s Bana, or Alan Kurdi, or Omran Daqneesh, they bring attention to an issue in a way that helps people visualize a little more clearly the situation of children,” said Sonia Khush, the Syria director of Save the Children.
“In the case of this girl, I don’t know whether it’s true or fake in this age of social media,” she said. “But her living as a child in Aleppo is consistent with what we hear. The fear, the sounds of different airplanes and drones. They’re terrified and have trouble sleeping at night.”
Juliette S. Touma, a Unicef spokeswoman for the Middle East and North Africa, acknowledged that there was, in Bana’s case, “no way to verify where the tweets are coming from, or whether they’re coming from the girl or somewhere else.”
At the same time, Ms. Touma said, “there is something symbolic about the tweets that are coming out from Bana, or that account, in the sense that it highlights the story of children who are caught up in the crossfire — it’s not just one girl, it’s many boys and girls.”
Despite the questions surrounding Bana’s account, news organizations have embraced it as a window into the Syria conflict. When the account went dark over the weekend, some outlets reported its absence with breathless urgency.
“Her Twitter account was deleted and nobody knows why,” CNN said .
“Bana al-Abad, the 7-year-old girl whose tweets from rebel-held eastern Aleppo in Syria captivated people around the world, appears to be in mortal danger,” CBS News reported .
Such reports underscore how much of a phenomenon Bana’s social media presence has become.
Some experts on news media ethics said that, despite the appeal of such a heartbreaking narrative — and with a young girl at its center, no less — news outlets had to approach the account with skepticism, andthat some have fallen short.
“It’s always a question of whether a 7-year-old is being used as a propaganda tool, and if so, by whom,” said Jane E. Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota. “Sometimes we fall in love with a concept and basically ignore things that would undermine that concept, and ignore things that should be red flags.”
She added, “For me, my antenna always goes up when the story is this compelling.”
Kathleen Bartzen Culver, the director for the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said some news outlets, including morning network news shows in the United States, seemed to have “suspended skepticism.”
“There are times when I will read or watch something when I will think, ‘I just don’t think we have our critical thinking hats on at the moment,’ ” she said.
But she said that those questioning or denigrating Bana’s account on Twitter should be challenged, as well.
“We can’t just question this source,” she said. “We also have to question the person accusing the source of being part of the propaganda scheme.”

 

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Probe offers more accurate detection of key biomarker for cancer and inflammatory disease

Hypochlorous acid HOCl is one of the reactive molecules that the immune system dispatches to attack invading pathogens or potentially harmful irritants. The oxidant is also generated as a result of tissue damage that causes – or even exacerbates – inflammatory diseases such as lung and liver disease, heart attacks, atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative disorder.
But this important biomarker is also notoriously difficult to detect and characterize. Photoluminescent techniques, which cause the molecules to emit light upon absorbing electromagnet radiation, have fallen short in providing the kind of sensitivity and accuracy needed in living tissues for diagnostics and medical research.
"This has been a huge challenge due to hypochlorous acid's high reactivity with biological molecules and the presence of various antioxidants such as glutathione and cysteine in cells," says Yonglei Wang, a researcher at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.
Wang and Run Zhang, a researcher at University of Queensland, have developed and tested a new iridium (III) complex-based chemosensor which they argue offers the most powerful tool yet for in situ probing of HOCl in living cells.
In tests with zebrafish and mice, Wang says the probe exhibits high sensitivity and selectivity in detecting HOCl generations or derivatives from living cells and liver injury.
The scientists will publish their work in January in Biosensors and Bioelectronics .
The new chemosensor is composed of three parts: a ferrocene (Fc) coolant, an iridium (III) complex and an HOCl-responsive hydrazine linker. Compared with other molecular luminescence probes, the Ir-Fc probe offers several advantages, including high photo stability, which enables real-time monitoring of target molecules. Among other benefits, it also provides long luminescence lifetime that allows mapping of HOCl in vivo, without interference from background noise.
Wang says that the chemosensor offers "remarkably enhanced" luminescence, in which the intensity of the light emission increases relevant to the concentration of HOCl. The benefit is greater accuracy and specificity when examining residual HOCl content in biological samples.
"HOCl is associated with various inflammatory diseases, and even cancers," he says. "This offers a powerful tool to interrogate the mechanism of HOCl production and action in those diseases, potentially benefiting future biomedical research and clinical diagnosis of HOCl-associated diseases. "
Explore further: Molecule has potential to stop cancer at the source
More information:
A unique iridium(III) complex-based chemosensor for multi-signal detection and multi-channel imaging of hypochlorous acid in liver injury; Feiyue Zhanga, Xiaowen Liangb, Wenzhu Zhanga, Yong-Lei Wangc, Haolu Wangb, Yousuf H. Mohammedb, Bo Songa, Run Zhangd, Jingli Yuana; Biosensors and Bioelectronics ; Volume 87, 15 January 2017, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bios.2016.09.067

 

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1.4

Molecular switches researched in detail

Bonded to the proteins, the energy molecule GTP is crucial for turning off many protein switches. If an enzyme cleaves a phosphate group from GTP, the protein switch is turned off. This so-called GTP hydrolysis takes place within seconds and is activated by a specific amino acid, namely the arginine finger. If that process fails, the patient might develop a disease such as cholera. The researchers have now for the first time succeeded in describing in detail how the arginine finger works, using a combination of methods from the fields of biology, theoretical physics and experimental physics.
Microscope with subatomic resolution
One method established at the RUB Department of Biophysics enables the researchers to monitor enzymatic processes at a high temporal and spatial resolution in their natural state. The method in question is a special type of spectroscopy, namely time-resolved Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy or FTIR. However, the data thus measured do not provide any information about the precise location in the enzyme where a process is taking place. Researchers can extract this information using quantum-mechanical computer simulations of structural models. "By combining theory and experiment, we thus gain a microscope with subatomic resolution," explains Klaus Gerwert.
Using this approach, the researchers found out in detail how GTP hydrolysis is accelerated: rapid turning-off results in the arginine finger changing position, as if at the snapping of fingers.
Switch defects might lead to cancer
This result has a great significance, as the enzymatic process of GTP hydrolysis as molecular switch occurs frequently. The mechanisms of different switch processes in the body differ merely in details. GTP hydrolysis is, for example, also a switch for the Ras protein, the defects of which result in uncontrolled cellular growth in tumours. "By cross-referencing the results of our analyses of various switch processes, we continue to bring new details of GTP hydrolysis to light," says Carsten Kötting.
The researchers used spectroscopy to visualise the state of the arginine finger bonded to the GTP molecule at high-precision, namely at one hundredth of the atomic diameter. The arginine finger snap has a considerable impact on the geometry and charge distribution of the bonding partner. "Our long-term aim is for our basic research to contribute to the development of drugs for the treatment of cancer and severe genetic diseases," concludes Daniel Mann, member of the team.
Explore further: Protein reactions identified with subatomic resolution—why some switch proteins are slower than others
More information:
Daniel Mann et al. Mechanism of the intrinsic arginine finger in heterotrimeric G proteins, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2016). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1612394113

 

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2.3

New evidence for a warmer and wetter early Mars

Although water is known to have once flowed on Mars, the nature and timeline of how and when it did so is a major open question within planetary science.
The findings follow an analysis of a region of relatively smooth terrain, called inter-crater plains, just north of the Hellas Basin. With a diameter of 2300 km, the Hellas Basin is one of the largest identified impact craters both on Mars and within the Solar System, and is thought to have formed some 4 billion years ago.
"These plains on the northern rim of Hellas are usually interpreted as being volcanic, as we see with similar surfaces on the Moon," said Francesco Salese of IRSPS, Università "Gabriele D'Annunzio", Italy, and lead author on the new paper. "However, our work indicates otherwise. Instead, we found thick, widespread swathes of sedimentary rock. "
Sedimentary and volcanic (igneous) rocks form in different ways – volcanic, as the name suggests, needs active volcanism driven by a planet's internal activity, while sedimentary rock usually requires water. Igneous rock is created as volcanic deposits of molten rock cool and solidify, while sedimentary builds up as new deposits of sediment form layers that compact and harden over geologically long timescales.
"To create the kind of sedimentary plains we found at Hellas, we believe that a generally aqueous environment was present in the region some 3.8 billion years ago," said Salese. "Importantly, it must have lasted for a long period of time – on the order of hundreds of millions of years. "
A volatile adolescence?
There are a couple of key models for early Mars – both involve the presence of liquid water, but in vastly different ways.
Some studies suggest that Mars' earliest days (the Noachian period, over 3.7 billion years ago) had a steadily warm climate, which enabled vast pools and streams of water to exist across the planet's surface. This watery world then lost both its magnetic field and atmosphere and cooled down, transforming into the dry, arid world we see today.
Alternatively, rather than hosting a warm climate and water-laden surface for eons, Mars may instead have only experienced short, periodic bursts of warmth and wetness that lasted for less than 10 000 years each, facilitated by a sputtering cycle of volcanism that intermittently surged and subsided across the years.
Both scenarios could form some of the water-dependent chemistries and rock morphologies we see across Mars' surface, and have significant consequences for Mars in both a geological sense – how the planet formed and evolved, whether its past has anything in common with Earth's, and the composition and structure of its surface – and in terms of potential habitability.
"Understanding if Mars had a warmer and wetter climate for a long period of time is a key question in our search for past life on the Red Planet," said co-author Nicolas Mangold of CNRS-INSU, Nantes University, France.
"If we can understand how the martian climate evolved, we'll have a better understanding of whether life could have ever flourished, and where to look for it if it did. We can also learn much about rocky planets in general, which is especially exciting in this era of exoplanet science, and about our own planet – the same processes we think to have been important on a young Mars, such as sedimentary processes, volcanism, and impacts, have also been crucial on Earth. "
From formation to erosion
Salese and colleagues used imaging and spectro-imaging data from Mars Express and MRO to create a detailed geological map of the area around northern Hellas, taking advantage of so-called "erosional windows" – geological formations that act as natural "drill holes" down into the plains, revealing deeper material (examples include impact craters, grabens, and outcrops).
These data showed the plains to be composed of an over 500-metre-thick band of flat, layered, light-coloured rock. The rock showed several characteristics typical of sedimentary deposition: box-work, which is a type of box-like mineral structure formed by erosion; cross-bedding, identified as layers of rock intersecting at different tilts and inclines; and planar stratification, which manifests as distinct, near-horizontal layers of rock that line up atop one another. These were in addition to large amounts of clays known as smectites.
Clays are exciting chemicals, as they indicate that a wet and thus potentially habitable environment once existed at that location. Clays can also trap organic material and potentially preserve signs of life.
"These characteristics suggest that the rock didn't form from lava flow deposits but rather from sedimentary processes, which implies that the region once experienced warm and wet conditions for a relatively long time," said Salese. "When the layered rock was deposited – during the Noachian period, around 3.8 billion years ago – its surroundings must have been soaked in water, with intense liquid circulation. We think it likely formed in a lake (lacustrine) or stream (alluvial) environment, or a combination of both. "
The rock then underwent an intense period of volcanic erosion during the Hesperian period (3.7 to 3.3 billion years ago) and was covered by volcanic flows, creating the morphology we see today. The scientists estimate a minimum erosion rate for this time period of one metre per million years – one hundred times higher than the erosion rates estimated on Mars in the past 3 billion years.
"This is further evidence of a prolonged period of active geological processes on the surface of early Mars," added Mangold. "We can also extrapolate our finding to the rest of Mars and be confident we understand the evolution of the planet as a whole – we believe that the global climate conditions of Noachian Mars were sufficient to support significant liquid water. "
Cosmic collaboration
This study used data from Mars Express and MRO, which allowed the scientists to explore the region's appearance, topography, morphology, mineralogy, and age. More specifically, Mars Express imaging data allowed Salese and colleagues to study the plains' geology on a regional scale, providing context for the local-scale observations from MRO.
The presence of rock morphologies or minerals that imply a wet history point towards possible habitability at that location in the past – something that is important in selecting landing sites and areas of interest for future robotic and potential human missions to Mars.
"This work again demonstrates the importance of successful cooperation between different missions, and collaboration between ESA and NASA," said Dmitri Titov, ESA Project Scientist for Mars Express. "No mission would be able to unveil the history of Mars alone. By using multiple spacecraft and different observation techniques, it's possible to characterise all kinds of different geological processes on Mars in all their complexity, and gain a more complete view of Mars' early days. "
This finding is part of a series of efforts to understand Mars' history and the planet as a whole, performed using Mars Express and other spacecraft – from studying Mars' early climate by probing the evolution of large lakes that once existed across the planet's surface, to observing Mars' present-day weather (including mystery clouds and aurorae), and characterising the pockets of magnetism locked up within its crust.
Explore further: Image: Mawrth Vallis Martian mosaic
More information:
Francesco Salese et al. A sedimentary origin for intercrater plains north of the Hellas basin: Implications for climate conditions and erosion rates on early Mars, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets (2016). DOI: 10.1002/2016JE005039

 

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2.0

Fires on Cape Barren Island, Australia

Cape Barren Island is one of a trail of islands between southeastern Australia and Tasmania, located in the Bass Strait.
This image was created from data obtained by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite on Dec. 5 at 11:25 p.m. EST (Dec. 6, 2016, at 0425 UTC). Active fire locations that MODIS detected are outlined in red. A plume of smoke spreads east then southeast.
Explore further: Image: Blue Cut Fire, California

 

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1.9

Regional Australia is crying out for equitable access to broadband

A recent report from SGS Economics and Planning highlights a widening gap between the economic workhorses of Sydney and Melbourne and regional Australia.
All of the key sectors experiencing growth depend upon the networked economy. The emerging economic environment is leveraging the rapid rise in real-time connectivity between people, businesses, devices and systems.
The result is the digitisation of many transactions and growing importance of data. The Productivity Commission's draft report on data use and availability highlights the need for clear thinking to make this transformation fair for all stakeholders.
When the telephone network was rolled out, this was enshrined in the Universal Service Obligation ( USO ), a framework to provide a basic level of connectivity.
A key question is whether the USO principle of connectivity is sufficient for the emerging Australian networked economy. The answer is very clearly "yes". But urgent attention is required to deliver fair, equitable and cost-effective access to broadband and internet connectivity to enable economic development in the cities and the regions.
To be digitally inclusive, Australia needs to overcome the digital divide. There is a significant divergence in the nature and availability of communication and internet services for regional Australia.
nbn co's broadband index clearly highlights the widening gap between metropolitan areas and regional areas not serviced by an NBN plan.
The reaction from regional Australia has been very clear. A new Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition between the Australian Customer Action Network ( ACCAN ), the National Farmers' Federation , the Country Women's Association of NSW, the Isolated Children's Parents' Association and AgForce Queensland is advocating for better access in five key areas.
This sentiment is supported by Internet Australia's submission to the Productivity Commission. The group, which includes the Melbourne Networked Society Institute , argues for important changes to ensure connectivity.
So, what is being advocated?
Universal service obligation
Australians need a new USO provision that incorporates both voice and data connectivity to ensure internet access is guaranteed to all citizens.
This will address digital cohesion and ensure everyone can participate in the growing networked economy. nbn co should be allowed to provide retail services to customers where there is only one commercial provider to encourage competition and access.
Service guarantees and reliability
As broadband deployment and uptake increase, service offerings need to provide better and more transparent guarantees to customers. The network should have better reliability measures and offer services with certain quality of customer experience.
Countries such as the UK already provide a reporting framework to make ISPs accountable for their performance. This includes the speed of connection customers can expect to receive during peak hours.
Such requirements support competition by focusing service providers on differentiation while lifting performance. This creates incentives for investing in resources to address emerging issues such as the effect of backhaul networks on broadband performance.
Mobile network access
Mobile network technology is critical for the economic activities of regional Australia. Ensuring that network coverage is expanded to everyone also promotes social cohesion.
Regional Australia needs network coverage to take advantage of emerging opportunities from technologies such as the internet of things. This will enable significant productivity gains in industry sectors such as mining and resources, agriculture and food processing, as well as professional services.
A government commitment to mobile network coverage is a key step to guarantee such investments and make it attractive for network operators to build the network.
Fair and equitable broadband access
nbn co's SkyMuster satellite services (the second satellite will be available in 2017) and its fixed wireless services will face significant demand, which presents issues for fair and equitable access. This will create difficulties in matching the needs of different stakeholders across regional Australia.
On the one hand, new services such as internet access on ( Qantas and Virgin ) flights could potentially add congestion to satellite services, depending on the access and allocation of resources.
Alternatively, new business opportunities enabled by the internet of things and the digital economy might demand low-latency connectivity, which a satellite service cannot provide in regional Australia.
Therefore, to realise the potential gains, nbn co needs to support investment in development and adoption of new broadband technologies that can provide greater bandwidth, or lower latency, services cost-effectively to regional Australia.
Digital capacity building
Through the government's digital transformation agenda, it is imperative to ensure regional Australia is empowered through programs focused on digital capacity building.
This should include skills development, assistance to access new technologies and support for businesses and consumers. As the data becomes a key economic enabler, data skills and platforms for regional Australia will also become a major priority.
While the case for lifting the economic and social participation of regional Australia in the emerging networked economy is very strong, will the policy framework evolve to make it a priority? The bush is crying out for equitable access to broadband.
Explore further: CenturyLink buys Level 3 in big telecom tie-up

 

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0.8

Fighting contaminated land with help from the humble fruit fly

The breakthrough could pave the way for millions of hectares of land contaminated by munitions to be cleaned up.
The study, published in New Phytologist , shows how a gene found in the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, can be expressed in Arabidopsis, a member of the cabbage family, to improve TNT removal from contaminated soil .
When scientists engineered the plants to express the glutathione transferase (DmGSTE6) gene found in fruit flies , they found that plants expressing the gene were more resistant to TNT and were better able to remove it from contaminated soil than wild-type plants without the gene.
The fruit fly has an enzyme which attaches itself to the TNT molecule and is able to modify it and make it less toxic, not only to the plant itself, but the environment .
Professor Neil Bruce from the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP) in the University of York's Department of Biology said: "What is important about this transformation is that it converts TNT into a product that could be more amenable to being broken down in the environment.
"At the moment there are sites going back to the Second World War which are still contaminated with TNT.
"The next stage would be to demonstrate that the TNT molecules are more biodegradable, but also to put these genes into plant species that could be used in the environment to clean up these sites. "
Dr Liz Rylott, who co-lead the research at CNAP added: "Areas of land contaminated with explosives are a threat to human health and the environment.
"We know that TNT does not readily break down in the environment, but by using specially developed plants we could be able to tackle this problem. "
The team from York has previously worked on a new transgenic grass species that can neutralize and eradicate RDX, an organic compound, which along with TNT, forms the base for many common military explosives.
Dr Bruce added: "The next stage would be to put the fly gene into the grasses, like we have done with the other RDX degrading genes.
"RDX and TNT are often combined in munitions so we need to have systems to cope with both pollutants. This is a global issue that is not going to go away. "
The research involved collaboration from Stockholm University and was funded by the US Department of Defense and a PhD studentship for co-author Kyriakos Tzafestas was kindly funded by the Burgess family.
Explore further: New grasses neutralize toxic pollution from bombs, explosives, and munitions
More information:
Kyriakos Tzafestas et al. Expression of a Drosophila glutathione transferase in Arabidopsis confers the ability to detoxify the environmental pollutant, and explosive, 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene, New Phytologist (2016). DOI: 10.1111/nph.14326

 

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5.9

The security gift guide

Even more than most IT professionals, security professionals are asked for advice on a regular basis. We are supposed to know not just about computers in general, but how people can protect themselves both online and in the real world. Whether it is getting a printer working, or if it is safe to shop online, we are expected to have the answers.
At the same time, shopping for gifts can be problematic. You’re never sure what people have. Some people provide gift lists, which are great. But in the absence of a specific request, you might as well give people something useful that might make things easier for you. This guide can be useful even if you are not a security professional. Also remember that security is not just about stopping hackers, but about providing confidentiality, integrity, and availability in all forms.
While laptop computers and other mobile devices with batteries have their own uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), there are other critical devices in a home that could use a UPS. For example, home routers would be useless during a power outage. A UPS might allow a home network to work, so that those mobile devices can still access the internet. This assumes that the ISP signal is not disrupted, but having a source of potential power is always welcome even if it is to just recharge the mobile devices. An added benefit of a UPS is that it also serves as surge protectors. If you are looking for a cheaper present, you can get a simple surge protector, which will not provide backup power, but will stop damage incurred from possible power spikes.
There will eventually be some incident where data is lost. Whether it is a virus, hard drive crash, lost laptop or USB drive, etc., data will be lost. For this reason, buying someone an external hard drive will provide your friends with a backup media. Frequently, the hard drives might come with software that automatically performs the backup when the hard drive is plugged in. Alternatively, you can provide your friends a subscription to a data backup service, like Carbonite or iDrive, but that requires more access than you will likely have.
Security professionals love to post pictures of computers left unattended at events. I don’t usually criticize people who do this, as it is impractical to have to pack up all of your things to run to the restroom. That being said, the risk can be significantly reduced by the use of a cheap cable lock that you can hook around a table leg and lock into a standard slot that is common to all laptops.
As many people use laptops in public areas, privacy filters are especially valuable for preventing nosy strangers from seeing what is on the computer. It is especially important for people who travel frequently for work.
While new cellphones have long lasting batteries, over time the batteries do not hold a charge as well. Even if it is a new phone, people who play games with their phones will drain batteries quickly. It some cases, being stuck without a charged phone can be a major inconvenience. For that reason, you can get people portable battery chargers that can be invaluable, yet are very inexpensive. They are small and can be easily carried.
Laptops and other mobile devices are lost much more than people realize. While the lost data can potentially be recovered, the compromise of the data can be devastating. For these reasons, software applications that allow you to not only determine the possible location of your laptop is critical, the abilities to lock the system, and remotely delete the data are critical. Such software can stop a bad incident from becoming devastating.
There are similar applications for cellphones and other mobile devices. Apple provides the Find My iPhone app for most of their product line. Both free and paid apps are available for Droid devices.
Despite the fact that viruses and other malware are widespread, many people choose not to renew anti-malware subscriptions that come with their computer. If you find out any friends do not have a current anti-malware subscription, a renewal or new product would be great for them.
A clear, concise understanding of the root of security problems will help people understand why many security problems exist and help encourage them to take the basic security precautions that will stop most of the problems. A good book that provides such fundamentals will be invaluable. I am admittedly biased on this matter, but Advanced Persistent Security is such a book. While it is intended for IT professionals, the first sections are appropriate for anyone who wants an understanding of security concerns and why the state of cybersecurity is what it is.
If you like the person, sitting down with them and explaining basic security issues will be priceless. Make sure that they have automatic updates enabled on their software. Make sure they have anti-malware software installed. Make sure they know about phishing concerns. Make sure they have good passwords. People can’t exercise common sense, if they are not provided with common knowledge. Give them that common knowledge.
If you have someone whom you are not fond of, but need to give them a gift, you can give them a piece of tape to cover the camera on computers and other devices. While any piece of tape will do, you can buy tape made specifically for that purpose to make it look like a real gift. This is a serious problem that should be addressed.
As IT professionals, we are asked to serve our friends and families whenever they have a problem. I personally don’t mind doing it, and most of the other professionals I know don’t mind doing it either. However, let’s exercise some forethought and help our friends and family in advance. It also helps make our holiday shopping much simpler.

 

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1.5

EPA Begins Evaluating 10 Common Chemicals for Toxicity

The EPA has started flexing its newfound powers to control chemicals in the U. S. Last week the agency the first 10 compounds it will evaluate for safety under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The legislation, last June, strengthens the agency’s authority to regulate new and existing chemicals. Its list, which includes substances such as asbestos, is just the beginning of its revamped efforts. In the coming years, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to review thousands of chemicals for their potential risk to human health and ecosystems. It could restrict or ban any of them—something the EPA has had little power to do before. “These 10 chemicals are not new, they’ve been in use for decades,” explains Richard Denison, a lead senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “But under the old law, there was no mandate for EPA to review those chemicals—that’s part of why this reform was so important.” TSCA is the U. S.’s main chemical regulatory. It covers substances that industries and businesses use and well as chemicals found in consumer products. Congress passed the TSCA in 1976, the EPA authority to assess new chemicals and restrict or ban them if “present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.” The weakness, however, was that chemicals existing before the 1976 law—about of them—were grandfathered in. “They were presumed to be safe,” Denison says. “Only if EPA could muster the information to make a very strong case for regulating those chemicals, could they be touched.” The EPA did not have much power in reviewing new chemicals either. If the agency needed critical information, it could only ask companies for data they already had—the EPA could not require additional testing unless it had strong evidence the compound presented a potential risk. That allowance created a catch-22, because risk was hard for the EPA to prove without the necessary data. “The burden was on the EPA,” Denison notes. “And the agency was forced to let chemicals on the market in the absence of information.” Other parts of the law also made it hard for the EPA to exercise real oversight—for instance, the EPA had to consider the cost of regulating when evaluating a substance, rather than just considering health. In over 40 years under the original TSCA law the agency only a tiny portion of thousands of chemicals used in the U. S., and it restricted only five existing and four new ones. The reformed law this dynamic. It the EPA to review all new and existing chemicals on the market. For new ones, the EPA must then make a finding on whether or not it is a risk to humans or the environment before it enters the market. If the EPA does not have enough information to definitively decide, it will hold up that chemical until it gets the data it needs. The agency has more power to require testing now as well. And under the reformed law, the EPA has a completely health-based safety standard for its evaluations, rather than one that takes into account costs of regulation. Over the next three years, the agency will collect information on the uses of the first 10 chemicals, people’s exposure, hazard, persistence in the environment and other factors. “EPA needs to have a very comprehensive picture of these chemicals,” Denison says. It will then decide whether any among the 10 pose an “ ” to the environment or human health. For those that do, the EPA has two years to create regulations that mitigate the risk. The list includes the following chemicals: The EPA list is not a huge surprise to experts in the industry—it falls in line with the intentions of the reform. Each substance ranks high for hazard and exposure, and some are persistent in the environment. “The EPA has taken a lot of care to select these chemicals that many people would agree are a no-brainer for action,” says Lynn Goldman, dean of The George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. Asbestos, probably the most infamous chemical on the list, is a known human carcinogen and is still in the U. S. in some building construction materials and auto parts. (Despite common belief, most uses of asbestos are —although its use has declined.) A few compounds on the list, such as , are designated as probable human carcinogens. (Trichloroethylene is used as a refrigerant, solvent and a dry cleaning fluid, and is present in drinking water, indoor environments, soil and other sources.) The other chemicals on the list are categorized either as possible human carcinogens, having reproductive toxicity or acute aquatic toxicity. A full description of exposure sources and hazards appears on the EPA. Goldman has worked in the field for decades—she was assistant administrator for toxic substances at the EPA during the Clinton administration and worked in environmental health for the California Department of Public Health—and she says that she’s been aware of many of the chemicals on the EPA list for years. “Over the years a lot of evidence accumulated in terms of them being probable or known carcinogens,” she says. Of course, there are other chemicals noton this initial list that the public or advocacy groups would have liked to see included, but that’s not too surprising either. “If Congress had asked the EPA to review 20 or even 50 in the first group, they could have easily done that,” Goldman notes. Denison agrees: “Trying to select 10 is a challenge,” he says, “There are many more that warrant such scrutiny.” Experts are hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will not try to block or slow down the implementation of the reformed TSCA law—given his anti-EPA and antienvironmental rhetoric—because Congress passed the bill with near-unanimous bipartisan support as well as industry backing. There is “some room for optimism,” Denison says. Just a day after the EPA released its list, a bipartisan group of nine senators wrote a to Trump’s transition team, imploring the incoming administration to “vigorously implement the new law.”

 

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2.0

I built a bot, and now I want more bots

I have finally managed to replicate myself in digital form. My online alter ego suffers from a profoundly limited vocabulary and poor reading comprehension—but it’s still a start.
Credit for this feat of minor self-replication goes to an introductory course in building chatbots that can engage in basic conversations with strangers. That came at the Future. Today summit , a conference happening this week in New York. I may be nowhere near outsourcing my correspondence to a stack of algorithms, but at least I have a slightly better understanding of how these things work—and how I might want to put them to work for me.
I had the unfair advantage of getting somebody else to do the hardest work upfront: John Keefe , a data journalist with WNYC radio, set up a bot engine using such web tools as Twilio ’s ( TWLO ) messaging service, the Botkit open-source library, and Wit.ai’s natural-language tools.
My part of this Build-A-Bot workshop was simpler: Create a Google ( GOOG , GOOGL ) spreadsheet and then fill it out with both terms that might appear in questions along with the text my bot would answer them with. Then I had to link it to Keefe’s bot-testing page.
In keeping with my tradition of being Kryptonite to tech demos, I screwed that up. Keefe’s page ignored more than the first handful of queries I’d included in this spreadsheet and didn’t respond to the commands that were supposed to refresh its grasp of my database.
I asked Keefe for help. “Hmm, it is definitely not happy,” he commented before taking a closer look at my questions and answers. The problem turned out to be a typo—I’d entered a curly bracket instead of a parenthesis when enclosing a “regular expression” list of synonyms.
That was my first lesson in bot programming: punctuation matters. The second: Keeping the search terms brief made for a more responsive bot. I didn’t need to include “What’s Rob’s Twitter handle?” as a possible query when “Twitter?” would allow the bot to field far more questions about my Twitter presence.
I fixed that and now have a bot capable of entry-level Q&A interaction with you and any other random person—well, for as long as Keefe keeps that page up.
My beginner’s bot is nowhere as smart as the ones you can deploy on Facebook ( FB ), which benefit from powerful artificial-intelligence capabilities to parse the input of humans who may disregard spelling and grammar. It also doesn’t allow for spoken input and is illiterate in emoji, stickers and GIFs.
But setting up a Facebook Messenger bot is not an exercise for laypeople. It’s reserved for developers at companies and organizations with public Facebook pages. I have a Facebook page and I wouldn’t mind having a bot to answer basic questions from readers. But until I get a lot more adept with code , I’m stuck with providing an automated response to people who send messages to my page.
The team-messaging app Slack abounds with bots, but creating those also amounts to a coding project .
You can apparently create a Twitter ( TWTR ) bot with less work by combining simple web tools with a Google spreadsheet , but I have yet to try that. Don’t I spend enough time on that service already?
Not for the first time, an online tool that could be useful to those of us lumped under the faceless, amorphous term “users” is largely reserved for developers instead—even though many of us could use this feature in our own lives.
A little time spent plugging questions and answers into this Google spreadsheet got me thinking about other potential applications of having a bot for a mouthpiece. Beyond answering reader questions on Facebook, the same technology could save me vast amounts of time answering PR pitches about next month’s CES gadget gathering.
Having a bot speak on your behalf in a web chat or phone call with a giant corporation would be another obvious application, something ACLU policy analyst Jay Stanley endorsed in a later Future. Today talk.

 

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Gene "bookmarking" regulates the fate of stem cells

When cells divide, DNA is neatly wrapped up into chromosomes, and the normal expression of genes into proteins stops until the new cells are formed. However, some proteins that regulate gene expression stay attached to the chromosomes and "bookmark" specific genes for the next generation of cells. These proteins are called "transcription factors", and are important in embryonic stem cells because they determine what types of cells they can grow – or differentiate – into. EPFL scientists have now discovered that a transcription factor that is heavily involved in maintaining embryonic stem cells and controls their differentiation into stem cells of the brain and spinal cord also bookmarks genes during cell division. The study, published in Genes & Development , has significant implications for our understanding of stem cell biology and differentiation.
Gene "bookmarking"
Transcription factors are proteins that regulate genes. They do this by binding to a specific DNA sequence, from where they can control the rate of its transcription from DNA to messenger RNA, which then is translated into proteins.
Stem cells in the body grow into different cell types. This happens as the stem cell divides into two cells, then four, and so forth. During this cell division most transcription factors are excluded from the chromosomes. However, some remain attached and "bookmark" specific genes for the new cells. While the biological function of bookmarking is still unclear, it may be involved in maintaining the phenotype of normal and cancer cells during cell division.
In addition, gene bookmarking is still largely unexplored in most types of stem cells types, and we don't know whether it plays a role in determining what type of cell a stem cell will grow into.
A new bookmarking transcription factor
The lab of David Suter at EPFL found that a much-studied transcription factor called Sox2 also bookmarks genes during stem cell division. Sox2 is known to be involved in maintaining embryonic stem cells, neural stem cells —which become the cells of the brain and spinal cord—and even cancer stem cells.
Sox2 is also one of the four reprogramming factors that make induced pluripotent stem cells —non-embryonic stem cells taken from other parts of the adult body. Because of this, Sox2 is heavily involved in research on these cells, an emerging and very promising field of regenerative medicine.
Combining different microscopy techniques, the scientists observed that Sox2 attaches on chromosomes during cell division. They also used a method called ChIP-sequencing, which can analyze protein interactions with DNA across the entire genome. The technique revealed that Sox2 binds to various chromosomes of embryonic stem cells during division, bookmarking a small set of genes for the next generation of cells.
Naturally, the researchers wanted to know how important this is in determining what kind of cell the embryonic stem cell will become. For this, they used genetic techniques to remove Sox2 entirely from cell division, and specifically at the point where cell division ends and the new cells are produced. They found that the absence of Sox2 during cell division severely limited the embryonic stem cells in terms of what types of cells they could differentiate into – referred to as "cell fate". The loss of Sox2 also rendered them unable to differentiate into stem cells of the brain and spinal cord, although they could still be reprogrammed efficiently to become induced pluripotent stem cells.
"We already knew that a minority of transcription factors remain bound to chromosomes during cell division," says David Suter. "It was also thought for a long time that chromosome binding during cell division might influence cell fate decisions. "
This study demonstrates not only that Sox2 is also involved in gene bookmarking during cell division, but that this bookmarking in general regulates cell fate decisions of stem cells. This discovery opens new windows in our understanding of stem cell biology and opens new possibilities for their use in biotechnology and medicine. "Our findings have implications that go beyond the particular case of Sox2 bookmarking in embryonic stem cells ," says Suter, who remains cautious but visibly excited about the breakthrough.
Explore further: Japanese scientists explore pluripotency
More information:
Cédric Deluz et al. A role for mitotic bookmarking of SOX2 in pluripotency and differentiation, Genes & Development (2016). DOI: 10.1101/gad.289256.116

 

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1.8

how an 'ethnocracy' like Australia works

Anyone watching the reaction of ethnic communities to the triple whammy of the Section 18C "review" , the "Muslim terrorist grandchildren" accusations and the African youth crime wave claims would notice that it's only in the Turnbull tower that such a post-truth might survive its utterance. No-one else to his right or left would feel comfortable with such a grand pronouncement, albeit for opposing reasons.
So, how is it that, in the blink of an eye, such a cavalcade of anti-multiculturalist initiatives can erupt? Recent research looking at other countries suggests an explanation – however discomforting it may be.
Australia as a Commonwealth was founded as an "ethnocracy" in 1901. It was designed to ensure nationals of British descent would be able to create a society populated by individuals as much like themselves as possible. And it has yet to fully transition to a more egalitarian pluralist contemporary democracy.
What is an ethnocracy?
Ethnocracy describes societies where democracy exists for the dominant ethnic groups, but is less available to cultural and religious minorities.
Recent studies of contemporary ethnocracies include Jerusalem , Belfast and Ceuta , the Spanish enclave in Morocco.
In each of these culturally and/or religiously diverse cases we find democratic structures, widely available suffrage and a free-ish – if nevertheless self-interested – media.
We also find one ethnic or religious grouping dominates the elite structures. The courts, media and social institutions are mostly managed by the elites, which they use to defend their interests and worldviews.
These elites are cultural. And their institutions serve to shape and sustain their cultural interests. They do this through exclusion as much as condemnation of transgressions.
When they feel their prerogatives are threatened by too egalitarian a reading of the rules of the game, they invariably act to reinforce their dominance. This remains the heart today of what was once called the "culture wars".
Is Australia an ethnocracy?
Australia displays many of the hallmarks of such an ethnocracy – albeit one cloaked in the rhetoric of multiculturalism.
Federal cabinet and the ruling parties' leadership are almost totally of long-standing Australian or Western European background. Despite 25% of Australia's population having non-Anglo-European forebears, there is little or no sign of these antecedents producing descendants who have moved into key politico-cultural management roles. For example:
How it shapes refugee debates
Australia adopted its first refugee policy in 1977 , in the midst of dealing with its first-ever major refugee waves from non-European societies.
When the refugee policy was created, the (now much-maligned) Fraser government and the immigration minister, Michael MacKellar, were dealing with both the end of White Australia and the beginning of the global era of refugee people movement.
From the outset, the refugees of the mid-1970s were framed by the racial debates of the time. Their cultural background was almost unknown in Australia. As the rougher edges of the traumatised refugee communities began to appear – often associated with crime, drugs and violence – Australian public discourse about refugees was shaped by public attitudes to race and religion.
Repeatedly, the cultures of the refugees, which have proved to be wonderfully adaptive to the twists and turns of Australian modernity in the past 40 years, have been publicly tarred on the basis of transgressions by minorities among them.
Such antagonism occurs in many other situations where ethnocracies find their power or interests under threat. Whole communities and neighbourhoods are characterised as though they contain nothing but angry and violent young men bent on destruction and eager for corrupt opportunities.
But, for example, many of Sydney's most successful criminals and corrupt officials have nothing to do with either of the two communities most often branded as threats to good order, and live nowhere near them.
Class factors also seem to be at work. The issues raised in condemnation usually exclude the white-collar crimes associated with residents of more salubrious, Euro-Australian neighbourhoods.
If we think about Australia as an ethnocracy, where advocates of democratic pluralism push back against proponents of a singular Anglo moral hierarchy, then the convulsions shaking the multicultural policy space become more explicable.
Australian ethnocracy has many champions; the latest to out himself is Dick Smith. Smith has a long history of opposition to immigration and support for nationalist rhetoric, culminating in his endorsement of One Nation.
Both the government MP responsible for multicultural affairs, Zed Seselja , and the chair of the Australian Multicultural Council, Sev Ozdowski , are ardent advocates of cutting the protections against bigotry under Section 18C.
Carrying a torch for multiculturalism is no guarantee of anything to do with defending the rights of slandered minorities. Instead, it reveals something about the way multiculturalism under the current government has become a shield for advancing ethnocracy's prerogatives.
Explore further: Largest ever research into philanthropy reveals Australians' generosity

 

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3.7

Alibaba, China Mobile announce development partnership

Chinese internet and telecoms companies are rushing to keep up as activity shifts to mobile phones and tablets. China has 710 million internet users, more than 90 percent of whom use wireless devices to go online, according to government data.
Alibaba Group and China Mobile Ltd. said they will work on information infrastructure, cloud computing, smart devices and other technologies. They said they already are collaborating on e-commerce and mobile payment.
Explore further: China's online population exceeds 700 million: govt

 

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0.1

Minority youth face stiffer juvenile court sanctions in areas with high minority population, study finds

The study, "A Multilevel Test of the Racial Threat Hypothesis in One State's Juvenile Court," led by Patrick Lowery, Ph. D., an assistant professor of criminal justice in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, was published Nov. 28 in the journal Crime & Delinquency.
Among the key findings, Lowery said, is that black juvenile defendants from counties with large black populations faced more punitive sanctions, and that areas with high levels of disadvantage and teenage populations were marked by elevated levels of incarceration.
What exactly is the racial threat hypothesis? And what led you to want to test it?
The racial threat hypothesis argues that there is a relationship between increases in the size of minority populations and methods of social control used by the majority group in order to maintain social, political and economic control. As minority groups increase in areas, there is greater contact and competition for a variety of resources, such as jobs or housing. The greater the sense of minority groups increased power in society, perceived or real, the more likely that members of the dominant group are to express prejudice towards minority groups or to take a variety of actions, such as using methods of social control. Particular to social control aspect of racial threat, this research looked at formal social control for juvenile offenders, but past research has looked at racial threat and policing, adult criminal justice expenditures, support for voter suppression legislation such as felon disenfranchisement laws or punitive criminal justice policies, and support for "fringe" political candidates.
Can you tell me a bit about the methodology that you used?
Data was collected from the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice over a five-year period. All of these juveniles in the sample had been formally adjudicated, a term in the juvenile justice system which simply means "sentenced," in the juvenile court and were eligible to be exposed to the adult criminal court. These sentences included receiving either a term of secure confinement, an alternative, community based sanction, or a term of probation. From there, there was an examination of a variety of characteristics relevant to the juvenile, such as age, race, gender, offense type, prior offenses and the presence of minority and female judges on the case. There were also characteristics of the community taken into account, such as how populated it was, the black population and population change over the study period, how disadvantaged or advantaged the community was, white-to-black income differences and the violent crime rate. From there, it was just a matter of seeing how all of these things influenced, together or separately, the decision handed down to a juvenile.
What were your major conclusions?
One major aspect that was found is that race alone was not a significant predictor of receiving a harsh sentence, although the interaction of race and some other community characteristics did influence severe sanctions.
For example, the most punitively sanctioned juveniles were black juveniles who lived in areas of concentrated disadvantage. Based on the data, if you were a black defendant living in an area of concentrated disadvantage, you were almost certainly going to receive the harshest sanction regardless of the offense committed. With that said, other aspects were important in explaining sentencing of these juveniles. These things included living in an area of concentrated disadvantage, living in an area with a high teenage population, living in an area with a larger minority presence or in an area where the minority population has risen quickly.
Another important finding from this research suggests that minority bench diversity mattered, as areas with minority judges serving on the bench were often more lenient towards all types of offenders and sentenced defendants more equitably across a variety of different characteristics. There was also an interesting nonfinding, in that the violent crime rate of an area actually played no role in explaining the sentencing decisions. One would think intuitively if violent crime is on the increase in areas that the courts would react more seriously, but that was just not the case in this data.
As far as conclusions go, I can say that there is a price paid in the juvenile court by young, black males from poor areas or areas where the black population is high or increasing. Of course, concentrated disadvantage affected all youth in this research, but significantly the most affected by concentrated disadvantage was black youth. As Justice Hugo Black once famously stated, "The trial a man receives should not depend on how much money that he has. " I can also say that bench diversity seems to matter somewhat when it comes to providing juvenile justice more equitably.
Do you think your findings in South Carolina have implications for other communities across the country?
To a certain extent, yes. There is a lot of work that lends support to the racial threat hypothesis, but South Carolina is somewhat unique in that it is quite literally a very black and white state, where the black and white population combined make up about 98 percent of the state population. It is also very heavily black compared to a lot of other states. So I think some of the conclusions drawn from this research would at the very least suggest this type of research should be conducted in areas that resemble South Carolina and there may be a degree of generalizability. But, what about those states or areas or areas with lower black populations and higher percentages of other minority groups? In other words, state that do not look like South Carolina. With regards to that question, I'm not entirely certain they can be generalized to those communities.
In light of your findings, are there any reforms or solutions that you would recommend?
I think decision makers here should be a bit more cognizant of the ways that socioeconomic status, race, and the combination of those two things are entangled, especially as it relates to the perception of blameworthiness. Cultural competence courses for officials may also serve as a good solution, in order to help identify and change racial biases. This is not to suggest that there is active, malicious racial bias, but rather that there may be a degree of being unaware of how cultural beliefs influence and shape their perceptions and beliefs on the subject of race. From there, strategies can be developed to eliminate stereotypical behavior and make juvenile justice more equitable.
How does this study fit into your larger body of scholarship?
My major areas of study are race, poverty, inequalities, juvenile justice , as well as sociological and criminological theories. I think this study spans the gamut of all of my research interests. I hope to continue on this route of scholarship and continue to answer important research questions as it relates to these aforementioned topics.
Explore further: Study identifies racial bias in US court sentencing decisions
More information:
P. G. Lowery et al. A Multilevel Test of the Racial Threat Hypothesis in One States Juvenile Court, Crime & Delinquency (2016). DOI: 10.1177/0011128716678192

 

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0.8

Dark matter may be smoother than expected

Hendrik Hildebrandt from the Argelander-Institut für Astronomie in Bonn, Germany and Massimo Viola from the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands led a team of astronomers from institutions around the world who processed images from the Kilo Degree Survey (KiDS), which was made with ESO's VLT Survey Telescope (VST) in Chile. For their analysis, they used images from the survey that covered five patches of the sky covering a total area of around 2200 times the size of the full Moon, and containing around 15 million galaxies.
By exploiting the exquisite image quality available to the VST at the Paranal site, and using innovative computer software, the team were able to carry out one of the most precise measurements ever made of an effect known as cosmic shear. This is a subtle variant of weak gravitational lensing, in which the light emitted from distant galaxies is slightly warped by the gravitational effect of large amounts of matter, such as galaxy clusters.
In cosmic shear, it is not galaxy clusters but large-scale structures in the Universe that warp the light, which produces an even smaller effect. Very wide and deep surveys, such as KiDS, are needed to ensure that the very weak cosmic shear signal is strong enough to be measured and can be used by astronomers to map the distribution of gravitating matter. This study takes in the largest total area of the sky to ever be mapped with this technique so far.
Intriguingly, the results of their analysis appear to be inconsistent with deductions from the results of the European Space Agency's Planck satellite, the leading space mission probing the fundamental properties of the Universe. In particular, the KiDS team's measurement of how clumpy matter is throughout the Universe—a key cosmological parameter—is significantly lower than the value derived from the Planck data.
Massimo Viola explains: "This latest result indicates that dark matter in the cosmic web, which accounts for about one-quarter of the content of the Universe, is less clumpy than we previously believed. "
Dark matter remains elusive to detection, its presence only inferred from its gravitational effects. Studies like these are the best current way to determine the shape, scale and distribution of this invisible material.
The surprise result of this study also has implications for our wider understanding of the Universe, and how it has evolved during its almost 14-billion-year history. Such an apparent disagreement with previously established results from Planck means that astronomers may now have to reformulate their understanding of some fundamental aspects of the development of the Universe.
Hendrik Hildebrandt comments: "Our findings will help to refine our theoretical models of how the Universe has grown from its inception up to the present day. "
The KiDS analysis of data from the VST is an important step but future telescopes are expected to take even wider and deeper surveys of the sky.
The co-leader of the study, Catherine Heymans of the University of Edinburgh in the UK adds: "Unravelling what has happened since the Big Bang is a complex challenge, but by continuing to study the distant skies, we can build a picture of how our modern Universe has evolved. "
"We see an intriguing discrepancy with Planck cosmology at the moment. Future missions such as the Euclid satellite and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will allow us to repeat these measurements and better understand what the Universe is really telling us," concludes Konrad Kuijken (Leiden Observatory, the Netherlands), who is principal investigator of the KiDS survey.
This research was presented in the paper entitled "KiDS-450: Cosmological parameter constraints from tomographic weak gravitational lensing", by H. Hildebrandt et al., to appear in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society .
Explore further: Huge new survey to shine light on dark matter
More information:
Research paper: www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1642/eso1642a.pdf

 

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0.7

Record tunneling magnetoresistance for one of the world's smallest perpendicular magnetic tunnel junctions

STT-MRAM has the potential to become the first embedded non-volatile memory technology on advanced logic nodes for advanced applications and is also considered an alternative to conventional dynamic random access memory (DRAM). The core element of an STT-MRAM is a magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) in which a thin dielectric layer is sandwiched between a magnetic reference layer and a magnetic free layer, where writing of the memory cell is performed by switching the magnetization of the free layer. STT-MRAMs exhibit non-volatility, high-speed, low-voltage switching and nearly unlimited read/write endurance. However, significant challenges towards commercialization remain, primarily in scaling the processes for higher densities and in increasing the device switching current.
In addressing these challenges, imec scientists have demonstrated for the first time an electrical functional p-MTJ device as small as 8nm. Despite the small dimensions, the device exhibits a high TMR of 100 percent, a coercivity (Hc) of 1500Oe and a spin torque efficiency -the ratio of the thermal stability and switching current- as high as three. The p-MTJ stack, featuring a free layer and reference layer of CoFeB-based multilayer stacks, was developed on 300mm silicon wafers and the fabrication process is compatible with the thermal budget of standard CMOS back-end-of-line (BEOL) technology.
Moreover, imec integrated arrays of p-MTJ devices into a 1T1MTJ structure to build STT-MRAM Megabit arrays with pitches down to 100nm, proving that the technology meets the dimensional requirements for the 10nm logic node and beyond.
"STT-MRAM is a promising memory concept for future technology nodes, but its scalability towards high densities has always been challenging," stated Gouri Sankar Kar, distinguished member of technical staff coordinating RRAM, DRAM-MIMCAP, STT-MRAM activities at imec. "Our demonstration of a high-performance p-MTJ device as small as 8nm, combined with a manufacturable solution for a highly scalable STT-MRAM array will open up continued innovations for embedded non-volatile memory applications in the 10nm logic node. "
Explore further: A new-structure magnetic memory device developed

 

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3.1

How Lean IT impacts business outcomes

In the years since Lean first revolutionized the manufacturing sector, the basic principles have also shown benefits in other industries and other departments, most notably within technology. But new research emphasizes the major impact Lean can have not just in your IT departments, but across your entire organization.
The ultimate goal and guiding principle of Lean is creating perfect value for customers through a perfect value creation process with zero waste. In the day-to-day implementations of Lean, that translates to creating more value with fewer resources and inefficiencies.
Organizations that have implemented Lean are seeing this principle become a reality, according to the Lean Business Report 2016 research from visual product delivery solutions company LeanKit , which surveyed 3,000 executives, consultants and team members between September and November 2015.
Of the respondents, 92 percent say implementing Lean has led to moderate to significant improvements in project success. But it's not just at an individual project level where benefits are evident. When asked to list the top benefits of Lean, 51 percent of respondents say Lean has simplified management of team and process complexity, 51 percent say more efficient business processes are the biggest benefit they've seen while 50 percent cite better management of changing priorities.
And while 48 percent of respondents say Lean initiatives started in IT, within that percentage, 17 percent say its spread to other departments. And in almost a third of responding organizations, 29 percent, Lean started as an executive-driven initiative, according to the research.
"This is about change at an organizational level, which is definitely something CIOs have to think about as it applies to the broader management perspective. CIOs and other executives have to be shifting the conversation upward from the team level, because there's a ceiling to how much you can accomplish if you're only doing this at a team level," says Jon Terry, co-CEO, LeanKit.
Becoming a Lean organization, which 43 percent of respondents say they are, involves a bit of sacrificing short-term results and a commitment to changing everything from hiring practices to compensation and bonus structure to management styles and practice, Terry says. That kind of major shift requires C-level leadership to implement.
"To scale Lean above the individual project level, you have to have major cultural shifts. This is not just a permissions thing, where the C-suite says, 'Sure, go ahead and hire a coach and get some training and certifications and we'll be Lean,' it involves trusting your employees to focus on the work and the flow; to say, as a coach and mentor, 'What challenges are you facing? What are the obstacles? Where are the roadblocks?' and then getting those out of the way instead of just being a supervisor," Terry says.
It also involves changing things at the HR level, and even extends to areas like compensation and hiring practices, he says.
"If you're moving towards a Lean organization that's based on developing and maintaining stable teams of people who build trust, who work together from project to project. That requires changing your org chart. Then, you have to think about removing individual goals and replacing those with team performance goals, which changes compensation as well as what kinds of behavioral and skill competencies you're looking for when hiring - everything has to change," Terry says.
The common thread that's driving all this change is adapatability, says Dave West, product owner at Scrum.org. Organizations must become more nimble, agile and adaptable if they're to remain competitive in ever-changing market conditions and fluctuating customer needs and demands, he says.
"Ultimately, the intention of any movements like Lean, agile and scrum is to enable more responsive, flatter organizations that have a better ability to compete in a complex and dynamic market. We're all producing products and services into something of an unknown; you take a product to market, but it turns out a different demographic loves it, or it's used in a different way. Then, you have to come back, take that data and rework everything from marketing, sales, distribution," West says.
But while such a huge organizational change might seem daunting, the benefits of making the shift to a more Lean organization are well worth it, Terry says. From better management of process complexity to increased team morale, it's evident that the benefits of Lean go far beyond the work itself. Lean helps teams lift the burdens of inefficiency, empowering them to do their best work, according to the research.

 

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1.2

PewDiePie quit plan prompts YouTube reply

YouTube has denied making changes to its algorithms, after its most popular star said he would delete his channel.
Video gamer Felix Kjellberg, known as PewDiePie, suggested changes to YouTube's algorithms had affected the discoverability of creators' content.
On Tuesday, a Forbes report named the Swedish gamer who now lives in the UK as the highest-earning YouTuber.
YouTube told the BBC it had not made any changes to its "suggested videos" algorithms.
However, other video-makers have reported the same problem, with new videos being viewed fewer times than old content.
The "suggested videos" feed appears when a video is being watched, and recommends more content to watch.
Mr Kjellberg said the feed usually accounted for more than 30% of his video traffic, but in recent weeks it had suddenly fallen to under 1%, signalling an undisclosed algorithm change.
Other criticisms aimed at YouTube included suggestions that:
Film-makers have argued that YouTube has made it more difficult for fans to keep track of their latest uploads, and for new viewers to discover their content, since the platform was acquired by Google.
In a video uploaded on Friday, video gamer Mr Kjellberg said he would delete his channel when it reached 50 million subscribers as a result of his frustration with the platform.
His channel, currently the most-followed on the video-sharing site, is about 200,000 subscribers short of that target.
However, when asked by the BBC, YouTube denied that it had made any changes to its algorithms in recent months.
It added that it had found no evidence that people were being unsubscribed from channels they followed.
A spokeswoman said: "Some creators have expressed concerns around a drop in their subscriber numbers.
"We've done an extensive review and found there have been no decreases in creators' subscriber numbers beyond what normally happens when viewers either unsubscribe from a creator's channel or when YouTube removes spammed subscribers. "
Mr Kjellberg is currently producing new episodes of his YouTube-financed series Scare PewDiePie, and on Tuesday topped Forbes' list of highest-paid YouTube stars for the second year in a row.
His PewDiePie gaming channel is likely to reach 50 million subscribers in a matter of days.
Mr Kjellberg suggested at that stage he would "start fresh" with a new channel, although some have taken his claim as light-hearted.
Source: Forbes

 

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4.0

'Agents of SHIELD: Slingshot' is a Marvel-ous online spin-off

Natalia Cordova-Buckley is Elena "Yo-Yo" Rodriguez AKA Slingshot.
Each episode will be between 3 and 6 minutes long and will appear on ABC.go.com , Marvel.com and ABC's mobile app. The series launches on 13 December.
Yo-Yo Rodriguez first appeared in comics in 2008, created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev.

 

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1.5

Study finds ideology as important an inspiration to American jihadists as affiliation with Islamic state group

The report, "Not Just the Caliphate: Non-Islamic State-Related Jihadist Terrorism in America," found that of the 178 people charged in America with jihadist-inspired terrorist offenses, 79 were unrelated to the Islamic State group and were primarily committed to al-Shabaab, Al Qaida and the Taliban. The study is the most comprehensive and up-to-date of its kind.
"While IS is undoubtedly the most popular group among American jihadists, it is by no means the only game in town," said Sarah Gilkes, author of the paper who conducted the research while a fellow at the GW Program on Extremism. "No matter which group they are inspired by, they all espouse a form of Salafi-jihadist ideology. "
Using legal documents, media reports and interviews with journalists and people affiliated with those who were charged, Ms. Gilkes found that the overwhelming majority of individuals in the U. S. with non-Islamic State-related charges, 82 percent, are U. S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Additional demographic information on the subset includes:
The report recommends that law enforcement and policymakers create counter-messaging campaigns and policies that address the appeal of the global jihadist movement in order to more successfully counter violent extremism in the U. S.
"Most aspiring militants at the grassroots level in the West care little about the divisions between the Islamic State and al Qaida, they just want to fight jihad" said Lorenzo Vidino, director of the GW Program on Extremism. "What attracts them is a common ideology, a blend that takes from all jihadists groups and ideologues without much distinction. "
The research suggests that Americans who radicalize may care little about the philosophy or tactical differences among jihadists' organizations and their affiliation is often based on circumstance, opportunity and serendipity. Because of this, focusing on a single terrorist group may risk misunderstanding the full threat posed by the global jihadist movement.
Explore further: Study finds female american jihadists share many of the same roles as their male counterparts
More information:
"Not Just the Caliphate: Non-Islamic State-Related Jihadist Terrorism in America," cchs.gwu.edu/sites/cchs.gwu.edu/files/downloads/Not%20Just%20The%20Caliphate_0.pdf

 

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1.4

It's Not Cold Fusion,... But It's Something

A surprising opportunity to explore something new in chemistry and physics has emerged. In March 1989, electrochemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, at the University of Utah, announced that they had "established a sustained nuclear fusion reaction" at room temperature. By nearly all accounts, the event was a fiasco. The fundamental reason was that the products of their experiments looked nothing like deuterium-deuterium (D+D) fusion. In the following weeks, Caltech chemist Nathan Lewis sharply criticized Fleischmann and Pons in a symposium, a press release, a one-man press conference at the American Physical Society meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, and during his oral presentation at the APS meeting. Despite Lewis' prominence in the media spotlight, he never published a peer-reviewed critique of the peer-reviewed Fleischmann-Pons papers, and for good reason. Lewis' critique of the Fleischmann-Pons experiment was based on wrong guesses and assumptions. Richard Petrasso, a physicist at MIT, took Fleischmann and Pons to task for their claimed gamma-ray peak. Petrasso and the MIT team, after accusing Fleischmann and Pons of fraud in the , later published a sound and well-deserved peer-reviewed critique of what had become multiple versions of the claimed peak. From this dubious beginning, to the surprise of many people, a new field of nuclear research has emerged: It offers unexplored opportunities for the scientific community. Data show that changes to atomic nuclei, including observed shifts in the abundance of isotopes, can occur without high-energy accelerators or nuclear reactors. For a century, this has been considered impossible. In hindsight, glimpses of the new phenomena were visible 27 years ago. In October 1989, a workshop co-sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute took place at the National Science Foundation headquarters, in Washington, D. C. Among the 50 scientists in attendance was the preeminent physicist Edward Teller. After hearing from scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Naval Research Laboratory who had observed isotopic shifts in room-temperature experiments, Teller concluded that nuclear effects were taking place. He even had a hunch about a possible mechanism, involving some sort of charge-neutral particle. By October, tritium production and low-levels of neutrons in such experiments had been reported from a few reputable laboratories, including Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in India. Moreover, BARC researchers observed that the tritium production and neutron emissions were temporally correlated. Outside reviewers selected by the Department of Energy and tasked with examining the worldwide claims included this data in a draft of their report. Before the document was finalized, however, they removed the tables containing that data. In the early 1990s, several researchers in the field strongly favored neutron-based explanations for the phenomena. By the mid-1990s, a vocal contingent of scientists attempting to confirm Fleischmann and Pons' claims promoted the room-temperature fusion idea. Other scientists in the field, however, observed evidence—isotopic shifts and heavy-element transmutations—that pointed not to fusion but to some sort of neutron-induced reaction. In 1997, theorist Lewis Larsen looked at some of this data and noticed a similarity to elemental abundances he had learned about while a student in Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar's astrophysics class at the University of Chicago. Larsen suspected that a neutronization process was occurring in low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR). Physicist Allan Widom joined Larsen's team in 2004, and in 2006 they published a theory in the The Widom-Larsen theory has nothing to do with fusion; the key steps are based on weak interactions and are consistent with existing physics. The theory explains how nuclear reactions can occur at or near room temperature through the creation of ultra-low-momentum neutrons and subsequent neutron-capture processes. Such neutrons, according to the theory, have a very large DeBroglie wavelength and therefore have a huge capture cross-section, explaining why so few neutrons are detected. Many-body collective quantum and electromagnetic effects are fundamental to Widom and Larsen's explanation for the energy required to create neutrons in LENR cells. Crucially, such reaction-rate calculations are based not on few-body interactions but on many-body interactions. After 2006, the scientists who remained wedded to their belief in the idea of room-temperature fusion rejected the Widom-Larsen theory. A few of these fusion believers began making unsupported claims of commercially viable energy technologies. Hidden in the confusion are many scientific reports, some of them published in respectable peer-reviewed journals, showing a wide variety of experimental evidence, including transmutations of elements. Reports also show that LENRs can produce local surface temperatures of 4,000-5,000 K and boil metals (palladium, nickel and tungsten) in small numbers of scattered microscopic sites on the surfaces of laboratory devices. For nearly three decades, researchers in the field have not observed the emission of dangerous radiation. Heavy shielding has not been necessary. The Widom-Larsen theory offers a plausible explanation—localized conversion of gamma radiation to infrared radiation. The implication is that immense technological opportunities may exist if a practical source of energy can be developed from these laboratory curiosities. Perhaps most surprising is that, in the formative years of atomic science in the early 20th century, some scientists reported inexplicable experimental evidence of elemental transmutations. In the 1910s and 1920s, this research was reported in popular newspapers and magazines, and papers were published in the top scientific journals of the day, including , and. The experiments, using relatively simple, low-energy benchtop apparatus, did not use radioactive sources so the results defied prevailing theory. Several researchers independently detected the production of the gases helium-4, neon, argon, and an as-yet-unidentified element of mass-3, which we now identify as tritium. Two of these researchers were Nobel laureates. In 1966, physicist George Gamow wrote, "Let us hope that in a decade or two or, at least, just before the beginning of the 21st century, the present meager years of theoretical physics will come to an end in a burst of entirely new revolutionary ideas similar to those which heralded the beginning of the 20th century. " LENR may very well be such an opportunity to explore new science.

 

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Coworking tips to increase your productivity and privacy

The coworking and open-workspace revolutions are upon us.
Many modern offices have already switched to open-plan concepts, and dedicated coworking spaces continue to become more and more popular. The general idea is to move office workers from their fixed cubicles to more open environments, to encourage interaction and collaboration. And coworking spaces let employees work from their locations of choice.
Today, the sight of workers moving around throughout the day with their laptops is common, and they often huddle with different groups. But how can employees remain both productive and secure in such environments? Here are some basics for anyone who's new to an open office or cowork space.
VyprVPN VPN service is available for all of the leading desktop and smartphone platforms,
Some coworking environments use open Wi-Fi networks, which can be security risks, because they expose the sites you visit to people with wireless sniffing software. Some URL requests are transmitted in plain text, even on SSL-enabled websites, and the issue is made worse when improperly coded websites piggyback sensitive data in URLs.
Even at coworking locations that use encrypted Wi-Fi, network access policies may let administrators monitor or log all network traffic. Such policies can breach corporate IT regulations, so you should check in on the Wi-Fi rules before catching up on work at a coworking location.
The simplest solution: a VPN service that encrypts all of your traffic. The average IT department can easily set up a VPN. People who work alone or at a startup may want to opt for a commercial VPN service instead. Thankfully, scores of companies offer speedy and highly affordable VPN services, including VyprVPN and NordVPN.
You can scan and upload multi-page documents to the cloud with a smartphone using CamScanner Premium.
One advantage of today's open or coworking environments is the capability to work at different locations within an office. However, the option is less attractive if you have to lug around stacks of paper printouts whenever you move. And that makes a digital workflow essential. Hardware scanners can help you digitize print materials, but smartphone apps such as CamScanner are often more convenient.
Optical character recognition (OCR) software, including ABBYY FineReader , can make it simple to convert scanned documents into text, while PDF software such as Nitro Pro 11 can manage PDF workflows and convert PDF files to Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats.
Modern collaboration tools can also be extremely useful in coworking environments. For example, digital notetaking apps such as Evernote and OneNote can help you keep and maintain digital notes.
Accidents are more likely to happen when you frequently move around or switch places with your laptop in tow. For minimal work disruption and to prevent data loss, you should ensure the latest files are always available by synchronizing with a cloud storage service.
It's also a good idea to avoid storing files on your desktop, because it is not usually synchronized — unless you create an appropriate sync rule to cover it. Be sure to keep important data such as browser bookmarks and encrypted password files in sync, too.
Fewer walls and cubicles can mean a more distractions and random conversations.
Personal time tracking can play a crucial role in maintaining productivity. Many functional time trackers exist today, though Toggl is one of the most intuitive and easiest to use. Another option, the RescueTime app, runs in the background and tracks time spent on applications and websites, and it puts together detailed reports on how much time you spend replying to emails or browsing social media websites, among other things.
RescueTime can help determine if you spending too much time on Facebook.
Working in an open office or at a coworking space takes some getting used to. However, the concept can be rewarding for workers who like to collaborate, enjoy the freedom to move around and appreciate more dynamic environments. If you fall into one of these groups, the above tips should help you work more efficiently and securely.

 

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3.0

Playing cyber defense is not enough to win

While the San Francisco 49ers are leading the NFL in defense, the New Orleans Saints currently hold the number one slot for total offense. In the overall league rankings, though, neither of those two teams rank in the top 10.
What's the takeaway? Winning isn't strictly about strong offense or impenetrable defense. NFL league leaders advance to the top because they know how to balance the two; they know how to play the game.
To address the growing number of attacks on the US government and private sector systems, President-elect Donald Trump's cybersecurity plan aims to, "Develop the offensive cyber capabilities we need to deter attacks by both state and non-state actors and, if necessary, to respond appropriately. "
The proposition begs the question of whether the security industry needs to consider whether preemptive, offensive cyber attacks are the wave of the future.
Jeff Bardin, CIO of Treadstone 71, said that counterstriking is being done to some degree, though quietly. "In cybersecurity, if the team is only focused on defense, they will never be able to score. They can't win the game," said Bardin.
Those using offensive attacks do so quietly because, "The cyber laws are not clearly defined," Bardin said. "The government makes counterstrikes because they are defending the country under the laws of warfare, but they won't defend against civilian infrastructure. "
Private citizens have the right to defend themselves and their homes against criminals, but "If a person tries to break into your 'cyber house', the law hasn't been clearly defined," said Bardin.
If, however, offensive attacks are viewed through a cyber/property perspective, rather than a legal perspective or even a capabilities perspective, it is reasonable to believe that offensive hacks fall within the confines of the wider idea of self defense.
In their 2011 research paper , "Mitigative Counterstriking: Self-defense and Deterrence in Cyberspace," arguing for the use of active defense, Professor Jay P. Keban and Carol M. Hayes, University of Illinois wrote, "Passive defense methods are not used consistently enough to have a perfect deterrent effect, and are all but useless against attacks utilizing zero-day exploits. "
The problem with commercial offensive cyber attacks is that no private enterprise wants to talk about (or admit to using) the strategy for fear of legal liability issues. Keban and Hayes argued, "Mitigative counterstriking is also legally justifiable under several areas of domestic and international law, and can be made consistent with other areas of law by amending the law or by reinterpreting it. "
Jeff Bardin, CIO of Treadstone 71
Dave Aitel, CEO and owner, Immunity, agreed that while the law is pretty clear in most cases, there has traditionally been some flexibility with interpreting it. "We’ve been using prosecutorial discretion to make it not such a big deal for when big companies break the law for what we think are pretty good reasons," Aitel said.
When Google played a little tit for tat with the Chinese, they weren't prosecuted. "On its face, what Google did was illegal," said Aitel. It's entirely possible but far less plausible that Google is not alone in its decision to retaliate against a known attacker.
Perhaps it is time for the larger industry to have an open and honest conversation about the proper and necessary role of offensive security and to consider broader interpretations of the law?
In a recent blog post , Aitel proposed, "We want to have a chilling effect on cyber economic espionage while providing the beginnings of the ability to deal with wide ranging international systemic threats such as the Mirai worm, leveraging the deep bench of penetration testing talent and resources available in the private sector to do this without impacting our intelligence community missions. "
Aitel's proposition, if it comes to fruition, could create an arm of law enforcement that would build a reliable partnership between the government and the private sector. Short of that happening, though, should enterprises be engaging in offensive attacks?
"I do believe we should do it. I think people are doing it, and a lot of people are putting structure around that," said Bardin. Because security in the commercial sector is largely about passive defense, those teams that rank top in defense aren't leading in the league overall.
"It's not working," said Bardin, "this passive defensive model of sit, wait stop, limit data. Most people don't properly build their infrastructure, most developers don't build security in. "
From his experiences in law enforcement, serving as a CSO, and working as a security consultant, Larry Johnson, CSO, Cybersponse said, "Offensive is the last resort. "
One concern with counter striking is that there is nothing definitive, said Johnson, so they could end up in a game of whac-a-mole. "Yes, you could wipe them out, but they could pop up somewhere else. Nothing is ever 100 percent offensive. "
What's more important is being able to gather intelligence, which is best done by involving law enforcement. "You could really end up starting a cyberstorm, so I recommend always involving law enforcement, particularly because of de-conflication," said Johnson.
Conflict resolution demands concession, and in most cases diplomacy wins over many other tactics. "Law enforcement will work with the company and shortly thereafter they can go offensive, but I'd never go offensive without law enforcement," Johnson said.
Because security functions in nearly equal parts proactive and active mode, the best way to minimize potential damage is by limiting the human error through security awareness .
When those processes and procedures are in place, and they have an incident response plan, they can test them which will lead to important conversations. "They can talk about offensive attacks to disrupt attacks in process so that you know you are in compliance and that you have the right to do this or that," Johnson said.
The bigger challenge to winning the game is not in offense or defense as much as it is in planning. Johnson said, "If you plan for it and everyone has looked at it and signed off, you don't have to worry, but a lot of companies don't plan for it. "
Because there seems to be some ambiguity in interpreting the law, aggressively responding might not be the most prudent path. Dana Simberkoff, chief compliance and risk officer at AvePoint, said that outside of attacking their attackers, there are lots of things enterprises can do to be proactive.
"Understand the data that you hold, the more valuable, the more likely you are to be attacked," Simberkoff said. Companies that collect more data than they need and keep it forever in the hopes that it will someday be useful are putting their data at greater risk.
"It's counterintuitive to best security practices. Even Snowden was not particularly creative. That should have been able to have been prevented," said Simberkoff. The mistakes aren't necessarily in the technical part of defense, but in the human errors.
"I've worked with privacy and security teams that definitely believe that responding in an aggressive way is the approach they should take, but I still feel like most vulnerabilities can be addressed by education and good policies and procedures," Simberkoff said.
That's why the teams that are topping the ratings charts in the NFL aren't the ones who are ranking first in either offense or defense. They are the ones that are holistically playing a better game.

 

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2.9

Radiation that knocks electrons out and down, one after another

Exposing a small cluster of neon atoms to a very short and intense burst of extreme ultraviolet light initiates a novel mechanism that produces a large number of electrons and ions.
A team of researchers led by physical chemist Kiyoshi Ueda of Tohoku University used a free electron laser (FEL) at Japan's SPring-8 Compact SASE Source test accelerator to investigate how electrons are 'knocked out' of neon atom clusters. Intense extreme ultraviolet FEL pulses were directed at the clusters and the resultant energy distribution of electrons knocked out of the clusters was measured using a 'velocity map imaging spectrometer'.
Electrons inside a material absorb energy when the material is exposed to light. Normally, this energy is used to 'knock electrons out' of the material. This can only happen, however, if the energy of the light particle, or 'photon', absorbed by the electron is higher than the amount of energy needed by the material, or its 'work function', to eject the electron. In 1921, Albert Einstein won a Nobel Prize for describing this 'photoelectric effect'.
The team tested what would happen when they set the photon energy of the FEL light below the work function of clusters of neon atoms. Instead of being knocked out, when an electron tightly bound to a neon atom absorbs the lower energy photon, it becomes loosely bound, causing the atom to become 'excited'. Since the FEL pulse is so intense, many electrons become loosely bound in the clusters at the same time; meaning many atoms become excited. Electrons are then knocked out of the clusters even though the photon energy is below their work function.
The team discovered that loosely bound electrons are knocked out of the clusters in a novel 'cascading' process.
The process begins when an atom with a loosely bound electron interacts with a nearby atom that also has a loosely bound electron. The first transfers energy to its neighbour, which 'knocks down' its own loosely bound electron hovering in a 'high-energy' orbit into a 'low-energy' orbit closer to the atom's core. At the same time, the energy transferred to the neighbouring atom knocks a loosely bound electron out of it. The first atom, which is now 'less excited', then interacts with another neighbouring excited atom, also giving it energy and thus 'de-exciting' itself even further while knocking an electron out of another neighbour. This cascading process occurs in many pairs of excited atoms, resulting in the emission of a large number of low-energy electrons.
"The cascades of knocking electrons out and down produce more electrons and more ions, damaging the sample more. I am convinced these cascades might play a crucial role in future radiation therapy," says Lorenz Cederbaum of Germany's Heidelberg University, one of the study's co-authors.
The release of low-energy electrons exposed to intense light can damage DNA. This concept is used in cancer radiation therapy. The findings could have implications for the use of radiation therapy in the future.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Nature Communications .
Explore further: New tabletop technique probes outermost electrons of atoms deep inside solids
More information:
K. Nagaya et al. Interatomic Coulombic decay cascades in multiply excited neon clusters, Nature Communications (2016). DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS13477

 

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1.0

Sahara desert from the space station's EarthKAM

EarthKAM is the only program providing students with such direct control of an instrument on a spacecraft orbiting Earth, teaching them about environmental science, geography and space communications.
The project was initiated by Dr. Sally Ride, America's first woman in space, in 1995 and called KidSat; the camera flew on five space shuttle flights before moving to the space station on Expedition 1 in 2001.
Explore further: Students see world from station crew's point of view

 

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3.6

How to get creative with your digital transformation strategy

Digital transformation can mean many things and encompass many areas of technology, it will look entirely different from one company to the next. However, there is one common theme -- it requires that creativity and innovation be tailored specifically around your business' needs.
But many companies suffer from, what Chakib Bouhdary, digital transformation officer at SAP calls, "corporate cholesterol. " In other words, businesses are often entrenched in "rigid processes, risk avoidance and a mindset of 'it's working, why change?'," which can limit an organization's ability to quickly adapt.
Businesses that haven't started building a strategy are quickly running out of time. IDC predicts that by 2018 , two-thirds of the CEO's at companies on Forbes' list of The Global 2000 will include a digital strategy in their business plan and at least 20 percent of all workers will use some form of automated technology. With big technological changes like augmented reality, virtual reality and machine learning looming on the horizon, businesses need to build a digital strategy immediately.
For the most part, there have been several good reasons to avoid digital transformation. For example, there are legitimate concerns around security, compliance, cost and scale when implementing any new technology. But IDC predicts that within the next three to five years, there will be a significant increase in businesses embracing wide-scale digital transformation plans.
"Digital is a business transformation agent. If you don't innovate around digital you run the risk of becoming extinct," says Raman Sapra, vice president and Global Head of Dell Digital Business Services at Dell Services. "Once they have defined what they want to focus on, they can then build and execute a comprehensive strategy," he adds.
SAP's Bouhdary suggests you focus around "design thinking," which he says starts with building a culture of innovation throughout the organization. He says most companies have the foundation to implement new technology, the real roadblock comes with finding creative ways to problem solve. New technology invites disruption, and disruption can't fit into concrete, established and operational ways of thinking. Businesses need to adopt fast, quick and innovative ways to source and implement the right technology.
Because a creative digital transformation approach is one that requires quick and intuitive thinking, your strategy will need to address more than hardware and software. Creative approaches include business objectives, the company's "digital IQ," budget limitations and sometimes it can even include hiring, says Bouhdary.
He says to start by defining your "digital destiny" (i.e., how you want to align your new business models with your old ones and establish which ones are out of date). That way, you can easily identify which new business models work best for your digital approach. For some companies, he says part of finding the best business models will involve investing in your company's "digital IQ. " That might mean budgeting for qualified talent to build a department focused on emerging technology or training for your current IT workers.
"SAP's digital transformation started in 2010 when we realized that our traditional business model was not sufficient to drive value for our stakeholders, deliver agile innovation to our customers, grow our market share and profit, stay relevant for our ecosystem, and keep our workforce engaged," says Bouhdary.
SAP chose a starting point to focus on -- customer needs -- and after evaluating what their customers wanted they determined that a cloud-based model could deliver "more agile and lower-cost architecture. " Bouhdary says they also decided they would need to offer a modern, consumer-grade interface so that it would be easier to adopt new technology faster moving forward. Now the company has shifted from one business model that focused mainly on products to four business models that are constantly running alongside one another.
As technology upheaves traditional business, it's also increasing the complexity of staying competitive. Bouhdary says that businesses are now focused on how to "drive revenue growth, enhance customer experience, increase productivity and manage risk," instead of just one or two major objectives. And it's only going to get more complex in the coming years as technology continues to advance -- but those same advances will also likely bring new business solutions.
Gartner predicts that in 2017, some of the biggest technology trends in the enterprise will be advanced machine learning, augmented reality and intelligent apps. While these technologies are complex, Bouhdary says they will also help simplify some of the complexities by driving innovation.
"It is time for fresh thinking to manage complexity and reimagine everything -- processes to deliver innovative products and services, manage assets, manage risk real-time, and optimize profitability at a transactional level," he says.
In the future, augmented reality and machine learning might help automate certain tasks or simplify them for workers, making it easier to adopt new technology. But it will take a creative eye to figure out how to leverage these new technologies in a way that helps your business thrive.
Sapra says that Dell Digital Business Services understands how overwhelming it can be for businesses to tackle digital transformation, which is why they help businesses plan for digital transformation with a proprietary 5-R methodology. They consider a business' objectives to create long-term plans that include IT strategy, enterprise architecture, change management plans, business processes and risk management requirements.
"Many organizations have to first understand what is truly possible with digital before they can determine what the best path forward is for them," says Sapra.
To take it even one step further, Dell introduced the Digital Experience Studio, located in its Plano, Texas, headquarters. There businesses can visit to experience real-world applications of different technologies in the enterprise. There are hands on demonstrations of business technology they may want to deploy and they can try it out in a risk-free situation.
"In our center, customers can experience all aspects of digital transformation starting from hands-on concept design and realization, real time journey maps and associated touchpoints, Internet of Things and usability testing and mobility, as well as digital marketing and social media listening and analytics," he says.
It's all about building a creative approach to digital transformation that doesn't seem as overwhelming. Sapra says that businesses need to "adopt a start-up mentality" when approaching technology -- "fail fast and reward failure. " You can't let the fear of failure hold back progress, instead, embrace digital transformation and learn from every mistake.
"Most companies are optimized to execute and solve a stated problem. Creativity is about finding the problem worth solving. An absence of a scalable creative framework encourages incremental innovation in lieu of disruptive innovation. As companies strive for disruptive innovation, they must find ways to inject and scale creativity across their organizations," says Bouhdary.

 

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1.8

Researchers baffled by nationalist surge

Waves of nationalist sentiment are reshaping the politics of Western democracies in unexpected ways — last month in the US presidential election, and pushing the United Kingdom to vote in June. And nationalist parties are rising in popularity across Europe. Many economists see this political shift as a consequence of globalization and technological innovation over the past quarter of a century, which have eliminated many jobs in the West. And political scientists are tracing the influence of cultural tensions arising from immigration and from ethnic, racial and sexual diversity. But researchers are struggling to understand why these disparate forces have combined to drive. “We have to start worrying about the stability of our democracies,” says Yascha Mounk, a political scientist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He notes that the long-running World Values Survey shows that people are increasingly disaffected with their governments — and more willing to support authoritarian leaders. But this has played out in different ways across the West. Austria rejected the extreme-right Freedom Party presidential candidate Norbert Hofer in favour of Alexander Van der Bellen, a former Green Party leader, on 4 December. The same day, anti-establishment forces prevailed in Italy, where Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he would resign after voters rejected his proposed constitutional reforms. In France, Marine Le Pen has worked to cleanse the far-right National Front of its anti-Semitic roots and build a broader working-class base. Those efforts could make the party, a minor player in French politics since the 1970s, a force during the presidential elections next year. The bulk of the party’s new support is coming from deindustrialized areas in northern France, says Douglas Webber, a political scientist at the global business school INSEAD’s French campus in Fontainebleau. “A lot of the industrial workers arguably have made the transition from the extreme left to the extreme right,” he says. In the United States, the regions hardest hit by globalization have become more politically extreme, according to a working paper published in September by David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and his colleagues. They found that these areas elected more hard-line candidates of both stripes to Congress between 2002 and 2010 — Republicans in majority-white communities and Democrats in ethnically and racially mixed areas. A separate, as-yet unpublished analysis by the team suggests that the trend towards extreme candidates favoured Republicans in presidential elections from 2000 to 2016 — perhaps enough to win Trump the White House this year. “It was just a matter of time before someone sought to tap into the rich electoral potential inside of a group of people as sizeable as the white working class,” says Justin Gest, a political scientist at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. His polling this year suggests that 65% of white US voters would support a hypothetical new protectionist and xenophobic political party. Gest adds that Trump prevailed in part because he gave voters somebody to blame for their economic woes. Some academics have explored potential parallels between the roots of the current global political shift and the rise of populism during the Great Depression, including in Nazi Germany. But Helmut Anheier, president of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, cautions that the economic struggles of middle-class citizens across the West today are very different, particularly in mainland Europe. The Nazis took advantage of the extreme economic hardship that followed the First World War and a global depression, but today’s populist movements are with strong social programmes. “What brings about a right-wing movement when there are no good reasons for it?”Anheier asks. In the United States, some have suggested that racism motivated a significant number of Trump voters. But that is too simplistic an explanation, says Theda Skocpol, a sociologist at Harvard University. “Trump dominated the news for more than a year, and did so with provocative statements that were meant to exacerbate every tension in the US,” she says. Trump also prevailed in part because the structure of the US electoral college gives outsized influence to Republican-leaning rural areas over Democratic urban centres. And some of his predominantly white supporters voted for President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in past elections. Le Pen has called Trump’s win “a sign of hope” for her own campaign, but Webber is sceptical. The latest polls suggest that Le Pen would pick up less than one-third of the vote in a run-off with former prime minister François Fillon, who is running under the banner of the centre-right Republican party, and France’s economy is fairly stable. “I’m not as pessimistic as some,” Webber says. The rise of nationalism in France has been going on for longer, and seems to have progressed more slowly, than similar surges in many other countries, he says. Mounk says the broader trend towards nationalism caught political scientists off-guard because they are often too focused on finding new ways to answer mundane questions. Academics must redouble their efforts to understand the nationalist wave and help policymakers to address it, he adds. “In times of freedom and prosperity, it was nice for us to sit around and pretend to be
scientists,” Mounk says. “But right now, if you are twiddling your thumbs with your statistical models instead of thinking about how we can save liberal democracy, you are doing something immoral.”

 

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1.2

Negative media portrayals drive perception of immigration policy, study finds

"We find that media have a central place in shaping the public's views of immigrants and immigration," said Cecilia Menjívar, a KU Foundation Distinguished Professor of Sociology. "Laws are critical, but media messages create conditions for policies to be created and passed and for them to be implemented. So the two work hand in hand. "
Menjívar's recent article in the journal American Behavioral Scientist examined how media coverage and the political debate on immigration from 1999 to 2012 influenced the identities and lives of Latino immigrant workers living in Phoenix, Arizona. She conducted interviews with immigrants from Central America and Mexico and did textual analysis of newspaper articles.
"Media messages were often powerful reminders to immigrants that they do not belong and that they are unwanted—or partially belong and only wanted for the labor they contribute," Menjívar said. "News outlets are where attitudes are shaped and through which politicians' actions are conveyed to their constituencies, as well as, in turn, what politicians may react to. "
She found that in response to this negative media coverage, many immigrants responded by seeking to highlight their images as hard workers and sought to distance themselves from images of immigrants as criminals, and both the political context and media coverage tended to shape how immigrants viewed themselves, other immigrants and their positions in U. S. society.
Menjívar said this relates to some of her other research recently published in the American Journal of Sociology that examined potential collateral effects that can occur when a certain section of a society has to overemphasize characteristics it possesses to make itself seem deserving in a society.
"By highlighting characteristics that make them deserving, they can inadvertently create images of the nondeserving," she said. "But this is precisely the power of the law—it makes people act to create these conditions. "
These attitudes can be detrimental to immigrants who aren't able to find a stable job because they often are seen as less deserving, Menjívar said.
Perhaps the most publicized sound bite of the U. S. presidential election was in the primary. It revolved around Donald Trump's comments on U. S. border security when he accused Mexico of "not sending their best" to the United States, and he mentioned immigrants "bringing drugs," "bringing crime," and that "they're rapists," while he said "some, I assume, are good people. "
Menjívar said the significance of the comments was that they played off the stereotype of immigrants as criminals and most of the media only repeated that sound bite over and over. Trump did receive much criticism for the remark as well.
"The more a message is repeated—in this case in the news media—it becomes a 'fact' even if it is not true. And most sensationalist one-liners are not accurate," she said. "But because most people can't do the research themselves, their only source of information are these messages, told over and over again. "
Examining the point of the view of Latino immigrants and how they react and possibly face effects of comments and media coverage of a similar tenor likely will be more important in coming months and years as a Trump administration likely pursues immigration reform and the media will cover it as a major issue, Menjívar said.
Menjívar and Victor Agadjanian, also a KU Foundation Professor of Sociology, lead the KU Center for Migration Research. The center promotes and coordinates KU research on causes, types and consequences of human migration at the state, regional, national and global levels.
With a team of students, including two undergraduates, working through the center, she is researching the links between media coverage, public attitudes and policy by comparing decades of newspaper coverage in different states. The results of this study will further illuminate the links between news coverage and immigration policies, Menjívar said.
Explore further: Report sheds light on long-term effects of immigration enforcement
More information:
C. Menjivar. Immigrant Criminalization in Law and the Media: Effects on Latino Immigrant Workers Identities in Arizona, American Behavioral Scientist (2016). DOI: 10.1177/0002764216632836

 

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2.6

NASA announces first geostationary vegetation, atmospheric carbon mission

The primary goals of the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCARB), led by Berrien Moore of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, are to monitor plant health and vegetation stress throughout the Americas, and to probe, in unprecedented detail, the natural sources, sinks and exchange processes that control carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane in the atmosphere.
The investigator-led mission will launch on a commercial communications satellite to make observations over the Americas from an orbit of approximately 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) above the equator. The mission was competitively selected from 15 proposals submitted to the agency's second Earth Venture - Mission announcement of opportunity for small orbital investigations of the Earth system.
"The GeoCARB mission breaks new ground for NASA's Earth science and applications programs," said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "GeoCARB will provide important new measurements related to Earth's global natural carbon cycle, and will allow monitoring of vegetation health throughout North, Central and South America. "
GeoCARB will measure daily the total concentration of carbon dioxide , methane and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere with a horizontal ground resolution of 3 to 6 miles (5 to 10 kilometers). GeoCARB also will measure solar-induced fluorescence, a signal related directly to changes in vegetation photosynthesis and plant stress.
Total NASA funding for the mission over the next five years will be $166 million, which includes initial development, launch of the mission as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite, and data analysis.
The University of Oklahoma-led GeoCARB team will build an advanced payload that will be launched on a commercial communications satellite, employing otherwise unused launch and spacecraft capacity to advance science and provide societal benefit. By demonstrating GeoCARB can be flown as a hosted payload on a commercial satellite, the mission will strengthen NASA's partnerships with the commercial satellite industry and provide a model that can be adopted by NASA's international partners to expand these observations to other parts of the world.
Mission partners include the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, California; SES Government Solutions Company in Reston, Virginia; the Colorado State University in Fort Collins; and NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
GeoCARB is the second space-based investigation in the Earth Venture - Mission series of rapidly developed, cost-constrained projects for NASA's Earth Science Division. The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), selected in 2012, is the first mission in the series and is scheduled to launch from Florida on Monday, Dec. 12.
The Earth Venture missions are part of NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) program. The Venture Class small, targeted science investigations complement NASA's larger research missions. A National Academies 2007 report, Earth Science and Applications from Space Decadal Survey, recommended NASA undertake these regularly solicited, quick-turnaround projects.
The Earth Venture program selects new investigations, at regular intervals, to accommodate new scientific priorities using cutting-edge instrumentation carried on airborne platforms, small space missions, or as secondary instruments or hosted payloads on larger platforms. NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, manages the ESSP program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate.
NASA collects data from space, air, land and sea to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. The agency develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.
Explore further: NASA selects launch services for global surface water survey mission
More information:
For information about NASA's Earth science programs, visit www.nasa.gov/earth

 

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3.1

Honeywell picks Atlanta for software hub, division HQ

ATLANTA (AP) - Honeywell says it has picked of a mid-rise office building in Midtown Atlanta for a new software hub and the headquarters of its home and building technologies business.
In a news release received by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (http://on-ajc.com/2hhSXj6), Honeywell said it has leased two floors of 715 Peachtree Street, a building near the Fox Theatre that’s undergoing a significant overhaul by an ownership team.
Honeywell is a maker of thermostats, fire systems, smart building software, aerospace systems, wireless communications and products for energy exploration.
The company said it will invest $19 million in the new operations center.
The company said the building was selected in part thanks to its location near Georgia Tech and access to transit and Midtown’s amenities.
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This story has corrected grammar in 1st paragraph
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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

 

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0.0

Lightening soldiers' loads by lifting PV cells onto flexible surfaces

When soldiers or supply convoys are forced to move slowly on repeated trips, they can become "targets of choice" for enemy combatants. Because of this, the Energy Department and Department of Defense are looking for ways to ease such heavy burdens, and a team of researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is exploring novel approaches for making renewable power sources lighter.
Photovoltaic (PV) cells are the military's choice to power remote bases, but the ones it uses are not only large and inflexible, they aren't very efficient. Last summer, NREL embarked on a $1.5 million, three-year research and development contract with the Office of Naval Research to explore making lightweight solar cells. In this work, the journey has been marked by fundamental science—and creative thinking.
"What if we could grow solar cells on the same heavy substrate we use in the standard high-efficiency, low-cost polycrystalline processes? " asked Matthew Reese, an NREL staff scientist in PV research. Afterwards, researchers could transfer the high-efficiency cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide cells to lighter-weight packaging—trimming the weight of the cells.
Thin-film solar cells, grown on substrates such as stainless steel, titanium foils, and polyimide, produce flexible products that are ideal for solar blankets and tarps. As such, the thin films are more portable—but they also typically lack the higher efficiency of cells grown on thick-glass substrates. Reese's challenge has been to combine the best of both.
The solution: a novel "lift-off" of a high-efficiency cell that could then be repackaged on thin film.
The seed of this idea began around four years ago, when Reese was working with NREL's Teresa Barnes on a research project funded by the Energy Department's Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency (F-PACE). F-PACE supports PV cell efficiency, and the NREL team was making lightweight CdTe solar cells on flexible glass.
"When you grow a CdTe cell, you need to grow it for highest efficiency on a transparent substrate," Reese said. In turn, "the order in which you grow the layers of a cell is critical. For CdTe, the substrate has to be transparent, and that limits choices" because CdTe requires high temperatures. Plastics, therefore, won't work.
Although growing CdTe cells on glass, which can withstand high temperatures, was promising, this approach had a drawback. Even flexible glass can shatter, making it unreliable for certain military applications. But researchers felt that retreating to low-efficiency, flexible cells wasn't an option. The military is interested in high specific power, which means it wants as many watts as it can get out of the minimum amount of weight. To hit that goal, many researchers think of using III-V multijunction solar cells, the most-efficient PV materials. "But those cells are too expensive," Reese said. "Even the military can't afford that option. "
The navy sees a need
When work finished about a year ago on the F-PACE efficiency project, Reese and his colleagues continued to think about ways to combine high-efficiency PV with robust packaging that was lightweight. After gaining support from NREL through a Fiscal Year 2016 Laboratory Directed Research and Development project headed by scientist Miguel Contreras, the team wrote a follow-up white paper. The project drew interest from the Office of Naval Research—but the Navy wasn't looking for a packaging makeover. Project leaders wanted an approach with the highest efficiency, and therefore, with high specific power.
"We thought for a little bit, and then it occurred to me. We'd done this diagnostic test by delaminating CdTe cells," Reese said, referring to a way of lifting a cell off a substrate to remove it. "Maybe we really could have the best of both worlds. " Researchers could do all of the standard higher-temperature processing on the rigid glass substrate, which they know how to process—then they could delaminate the high-efficiency cells and put them in any package. "We could de-couple growth constraints from a package of choice. You could select whatever you wanted as the ideal package at the end," Reese said. This concept was approved, and the project for the Navy began in August.
To launch the exploration, Reese got creative. "I like arts and crafts," he joked.
While there are a variety of ways—excluding razor blades—to remove cells that are a few micrometers thick, Reese and his team chose a method that uses liquid nitrogen. Once that step was completed, they used a "handle" that attaches to the cell, allowing them to put the cell on a flexible substrate. The team managed to demonstrate clean separation on small areas as part of the initial tests. That showed promise, but there's more work to be done.
Reese and his team are optimistic—the idea of transferring these low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells to the types of flexible backings that could withstand field exposure is encouraging.
"There are a series of different ways we can try to do this," he said. "We are investigating several approaches in parallel. We want to understand what needs to be controlled. What are the knobs we can turn to separate large area samples cleanly at a specific interface? How do we control fracturing in polycrystalline systems? What are the inherent limits to its flexibility? "
If successful, the flexible, lightweight, high-efficiency, and reliable solar power will not only reduce the weight that a soldier needs to shoulder—it could also maximize military operational effectiveness in unmanned aerial vehicles and reduce the number of manned supply convoys. In other words, if this works, the NREL team could ultimately help the military ease burdens and save lives.
Explore further: New way to make low-cost solar cell technology

 

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4.3

Study explores companies' expansion strategies

A new study from The University of Texas at Dallas examines why and how multinational enterprises decide to internationalize.
Dr. Toyah Miller, associate professor of organizations, strategy and international management in the Naveen Jindal School of Management, is an author of the paper, recently published in the Journal of International Business Studies.
She said internationalization can enable firms to gain new competencies, boost sales and increase efficiencies. Going abroad also challenges firms to learn, overcome liabilities of foreignness and manage the complexity of international operations.
"We can think of internationalization in several different ways," Miller said. "Some firms pursue a global strategy. They're thinking about where they want to go abroad, but they're doing so country by country, and there's no regional strategy to it, yet others may select a region to exploit efficiencies. "
The research looks at firms and how they are influenced to have a regional strategy.
"They might choose Southeast Asia and concentrate their plants, manufacturing and sales into countries there," she said. "They can start to deepen regional networks, learn about Southeast Asian culture and develop capabilities that are fungible regionally. Then, they can get a lot of return on their investment when they are able to capitalize on learning and capabilities in multiple countries.
"On the other hand, if you have a global strategy, you might go into one country and then go into another country with a completely different culture, and you're not able to capitalize on what you're learning," she said.
The study focuses on regions' institutional complexity – its institutional diversity and number of countries – and how it affects the internationalization of multinational enterprises. Using data from 698 Japanese multinational enterprises operating in 49 countries and nine regions, the researchers investigated the effects of the two components on firms' decisions to locate their foreign direct investments into a country.
The study found that moderate levels of institutional diversity in a region attract the highest amount of internationalization.
"They want to be able to learn from a different context, but they just want a moderate amount of diversity, because they also want to be able to use this knowledge in other countries," Miller said. "They don't want it to be so different that their capabilities are not transferrable to countries within that region. "
Researchers also determined larger numbers of countries within the region reduce multinational enterprise internationalization. One reason is that the number of countries affects how complex it is to negotiate with lawmakers, which compounds the risk.
Miller said firms should consider their ability to make use of their learning regionally and also take advantage of the differences among countries in a region.
"Firms started out just looking at markets, asking 'Where can I sell?' or 'Where can I get the cheapest cost of resources?'" Miller said. "Now, as firm operations are entering a greater number of countries, regional strategies are more important to them. Taking advantage of a strategic look at which countries and which regions they consider will be beneficial for firms in this next stage of progression in the sophistication of their strategies. "
Explore further: How Chinese firms benefit from the diversity of foreign direct investment
More information:
Jean-Luc Arregle et al. How does regional institutional complexity affect MNE internationalization?, Journal of International Business Studies (2016). DOI: 10.1057/jibs.2016.20

 

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1.3

These are the characteristics of people most likely to cut corners at work

Surveying more than 1,000 Australians and Americans, we found approximately one in four employees regularly cut corners. Men are slightly more likely to cut corners than women.
Cutting corners at work
Cutting corners is a workplace behaviour characterised by skipping or avoiding steps important to a task, in order to complete the task sooner. Corner-cutting is generally considered an undesirable behaviour, with research linking it to a range of negative outcomes such as low job performance , safety violations and serious injuries.
Although corner-cutting comes with a set of risks, it also comes with a clear possible benefit – cutting corners can possibly lead to greater productivity. Consistent with this, studies have shown that corner-cutting is more likely in jobs characterised by high demands and few resources. It is also more likely in organisations that prioritise efficiency over risks.
However, even in such organisations, corner-cutting is openly discouraged. Mistakes caused by employees cutting corners are typically met with harsh consequences.
To investigate whether corner-cutters can be identified, we surveyed employees from a range of industries including health care, education, hospitality, retail and construction. We looked at several demographic variables and personality traits to determine who is more or less likely to cut corners at work. We focused on both common personality traits (e.g., extraversion, conscientiousness) as well as "darker" personality traits (e.g., Machiavellianism, narcissism).
We didn't just stop at a questionnaire. We also exposed employees to a hypothetical scenario where they could choose to cut corners or not. We conducted two variations of the study across Australia and the US.
The personality traits of corner-cutters
Across both studies, we found that both common and darker personality traits were associated with corner-cutting. Most significantly, corner-cutters were likely to be low in conscientiousness, low in honesty and high in psychopathy (i.e., impulsive, callous social attitudes). Corner-cutters also scored high in Machiavellianism (i.e., manipulation, self-interest) and narcissism (i.e., grandiosity, pride).
Age and gender were also factors in corner-cutting, such that employees who cut corners at work tended to be younger and male.
But there are also various contexts that play into the decision to cut corners. While a third of employees cut corners when it would likely save them time, they were less likely to do so if they could be reprimanded (only one in six employees cut corners in this situation), or if there was the potential for a poor-quality outcome (only one in four cut corners then).
These results paint a seemingly negative picture of workplace corner-cutters as individuals who are generally self-interested and low in conscientiousness. However, it is plausible that employees sometimes cut corners with noble intentions. For example, the related concept of "workarounds" refers to the more accepted behaviour of "clever methods for getting done what the system does not let you do easily".
To explore this possibility, we investigated whether corner-cutters were more proactive than those who tend not to cut corners. Our results strongly suggested that this was generally not the case.
Proactive employees were not more likely to achieve their goals by cutting corners at work, even when their goal was to save time. In fact, we found that proactive individuals were slightly less likely to cut corners at work than non-proactive individuals.
We also found little relation between corner-cutting and career success. There was no relationship between corner-cutting and income. However, it was associated with higher income for those who scored high in psychopathy.
This indicates that while corner-cutting generally does not relate to career success, it can result in career benefits for impulsive, self-focused individuals. These individuals are likely to cut corners as a strategy to be more productive, despite possible costs to the organisation or co-workers.
Implications for managers
Overall, we found that corner-cutting is not a desirable workplace behaviour. Those most likely to cut corners are likely to be poor performers aiming to meet minimimal standards in contrast to good performers looking to excel. The possible exception is individuals high in psychopathy looking for short-cuts to get ahead.
Clearly, it makes sense to minimise the number of employees with corner-cutting tendencies. This is particularly true for jobs in which mistakes caused by cutting corners can lead to serious injury (e.g., jobs in mining, construction). At the very least, we suggest employers take into account certain characteristics of applicants (e.g., conscientiousness, psychopathy) when selecting for such positions.
Explore further: Pork opine: Study finds pigs can be optimists or pessimists, depending on personality and mood

 

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2.5

E-ZPass lane at I-95 toll plaza near Newark closing for fix

NEWARK, Del. (AP) - The E-ZPass lane at the Interstate 95 toll plaza near Newark will close for several hours while crews replace a malfunctioning device.
The News Journal reports (http://delonline.us/2gSOnLk ) that the lane will close Wednesday between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. while the device that counts the axles of passing vehicles is replaced.
Delaware Department of Transportation spokesman Bob King says the device is critical for the plaza’s operations since toll prices are based upon the number of axles on a vehicle. He says it has been giving unusual readings.
Any driver who wants to dispute a toll charge can visit the Delaware E-ZPass website
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Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com

 

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0.0

One day you could play VR using only your brain

When William Gibson wrote Neuromancer, the idea that the human brain could be plugged into a virtual world and control it was firmly science fiction. Now, however, it’s looking closer to reality after researchers at the University of Washington have discovered that it’s possible to interact with virtual realities using direct brain stimulation alone.
The researchers published their findings online at Frontiers and Robotics Online, describing how their five test subjects were able to play a simple two dimensional computer game using only their brains with no need for the usual sensory cues of sight, hearing, or touch cues needed at all.
The subjects had to try and navigate 21 fairly simple mazes without being able to see them. Their only movement options were forward or down, and to let them know which direction they were supposed to move, the researchers used a technique known as transcranial magnetic stimulation.
It sounds painful, but the process simply involves placing a copper coil near the subject’s skull and using it to non-invasively stimulate a specific area of the brain causing a user to see a flash of light which would signal the correct direction.
All five subjects were able to correctly determine the direction they should take 92 percent of the time with the assistance of the brain stimulation. Without it, they only managed to go in the right direction 15% of the time which indicates that their experiment was very successful despite the fact that walking into the light should really be something we're programmed to avoid at this point.
The researchers are excited about their findings because it indicates that the human brain can effectively use information it’s never visually or aurally encountered in order to complete simple tasks. The researchers also found that the subjects’ navigation skills improved over time, suggesting their ability to detect the mental stimuli improved over time.
As if the results of the test aren’t sci-fi enough, the lead author of the paper, Darby Losey, said their intention is to essentially “give humans a sixth sense.” According to Losey, while most neural engineering research focuses on decoding information from the brain she and her team are doing something different by encoding information into the brain instead.
The most significant possible application for this kind of technology is that it could help visually impaired people navigate the real world. Unfortunately, the equipment is just too bulky in its current form to carry around. Co-author of the paper Andrea Stocco says it could one day be possible to replace the hardware with something more suitable for real world navigation, though.
In the meantime, members of the research team have co-founded a startup company called Neubay with the aim of commercialising their ideas and technology to improve virtual reality gaming. Their first step will be to use their research to enable richer sensory inputs which should result in more realistic virtual reality worlds than those we already have.

 

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2.0

Ransomware blamed for attack that caused Lincolnshire NHS Trust shutdown

RANSOMWARE is to blame for an attack which saw an NHS Trust in Lincolnshire that forced to cancel operations for four days in October.
In a statement, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust said that a ransomware variant called Globe2 was to blame for the incident.
"The cyber attack experienced by Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust in October 2016 was a variant of ransomware called Globe2," Pam Clipson, director of strategy and planning at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, told the INQUIRER .
Clipson went on to explain how the Trust sought to tackle the outbreak and revealed that almost 3,000 appointments were cancelled as a result of the attack.
"Our teams took immediate action upon detection of the attack, minimising its impact. The Trust took the decision to halt routine appointments in order to ensure patient safety while we eradicated the issue.
Related: 6 of the biggest ransomware threats of 2016
"Any potentially encrypted servers were checked and cleansed both prior to switching off and before returning to ‘live' status. The majority of our systems were up and running again within 48 hours. A total of just over 2,800 patient appointments were cancelled as a result of the disruption.
"We liaised with an external cyber security company and the police to ensure our response to the incident was as rigorous as possible.
"As the police regional cyber crime unit's investigation is still in progress, it could be prejudicial to publish any further detail about the case, including the exact details of how the perpetrator gained access. "
Reports in the press had suggested that the source of the outbreak was an infected USB stick, but Clipson denied this.
"We can confirm that recent publicly reported information alleging that access was gained through a USB stick or due to remote working have no grounding in fact.
"We can assure our patients and other stakeholders that we acted swiftly to enhance our existing cyber security but in order to maintain security and support the police investigation, we are unable to share specific information at this time on the exact steps we have taken. " µ

 

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2.4

Worst Fears About Fake News Become Real in Nation's Capital

NEW ANALYSIS: Enraged by fake news story, a man fires a rifle three time into a pizza restaurant in the U. S. capital, bringing urgency to efforts to find ways to rein in false rumor stories circulating on the internet.
WASHINGTON—It was an event that many of us in the news business have feared would happen. A deranged gunman, fueled by passion based on a series of fake news stories, came to nation's capital with an assault rifle, entered a place of business and fired.
The gunman, Edgar Maddison Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina, was quickly arrested after shooting into the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria three times. He told police after he was arrested that he came to Washington to investigate reports of a child sex-trafficking ring being run out of the pizzeria by Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta.
The fake news about Comet Ping Pong had been circulating on social media since before the election, with increasingly shrill stories seemingly attributed to reliable media sources. The stories got so far out of control that one site, Reddit, banned any discussion of what had become known as "pizzagate" from its forums. But that wasn't the only incident based on this fake news story.
A little way up the street, another pizza shop, Terasol, was experiencing a similar flood of activity based on the same series of fake news stories. Like the owners of Comet Ping Pong, the owner of Terasol was receiving dozens of death threats directed at his family, his employees and him.
Again, they were all based on the conspiracy theory that Clinton and Podesta were running a human trafficking operation out of the shop. But with Terasol, the fake news led to assaults on one of the restaurant's employees, who was seriously injured.
At this point, the DC police and the FBI are investigating the people who were sufficiently riled up to begin attacking innocent people in Washington, but other than the arrest of Welsh, who is being held in jail without bond, there has been little other official action.
It's important to note there are plenty of people, irrationally agitated about one issue or another, say, who come to Washington in an attempt to make a point, attack the White House or perhaps fly an aircraft and land on the National Mall. But the motivation by fake news is something new. Now, social media is playing directly into the hands of those who benefit in some way from the dissension.
As it turns out, a lot of fake news is distributed intentionally because it brings some benefit to the originator. That benefit may be the financial results from clickbait, it may be a way to influence an election, or it may be an effort to find out even better methods of causing social disruption.
"One of the challenges is that it can take seconds or minutes to create fake news, but months to disprove it," explained Jason Hong, an associate professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, and a member of the university's CyLab, a multidisciplinary research group at CMU. Wong researches human–computer interaction at CMU.

 

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2.4

Development of new techniques makes it possible to date Australian Aboriginal rock art

The approach involved extracting calcium oxalate from a mineral crust growing on the surface of rock art from sites in western Arnhem Land, according to paper co-author research scientist Dr Vladimir Levchenko, an authority on radiocarbon dating using accelerator mass spectrometry.
Levchenko, who supervised the radiocarbon dating, collaborated with lead author of the paper, Ms Tristen Jones, a PhD candidate at the Australian National University (ANU) and co-authors from ANU.
Generally speaking, radiocarbon dating cannot readily be used to date Australian indigenous rock art directly, because it is characterised by the use of ochre, an inorganic mineral pigment that contains no carbon.
The paper authors explain that carbon found in the mineral crusts on the rock surface was most probably was formed by microorganisms.
"These microorganisms are photosynthetic bacteria, like cyanobacteria or algae, which can utilise carbon from the air normally, and are active through wet periods," said Levchenko.
One of the peer review authors who reviewed the paper prior to publication predicted it could become a benchmark for studies of this type as it addressed a complete lack of chromometric data for rock art in Australia and elsewhere.
Another reviewer called it the most significant rock art and dating paper to have been produced in Australia for over 25 years.
The approach has produced an upper and lower limit of dates for a regional art style known as Northern Running Figures (NRF) or Mountford figures, believed to have been produced in Australia during the early to mid-Holocene (10,000 – 6,000 years ago).
The archaeologists suggested the maximum age is likely to be far older.
The limited distribution of the NRF style and its unclear relationship to earlier and later art styles has posed challenges for rock art researchers.
"With the ages we acquired using carbon-14 on our Antares and Star accelerators, we showed effectively that the age ranges hypothesised for the NRF art style are generally correct," said Levchenko.
Jones et al report that the minimum age of the NRF rock art style (based on the oldest sample) is reported to be 9034 – 9402 BP (before present), which also produces a minimum age for other art styles that occur in the 'Middle Period' sequence.
Jones said "the results are exciting as although they generally support the chronology and assumed antiquity for the NRF art style, they provide minimum ages which suggest that the art style is actually a few thousand years older than what was anticipated. They also demonstrate that the art style was painted over a considerably long period. Most excitingly the results also provide the chronometric data to support a Pleistocene antiquity for the earliest known figurative art styles, such as Dynamic Figures, in Arnhem Land. "
"The figure depicted in the painting cannot be younger than the growth upon it," explained Levchenko.
Although there have been similar approaches in other studies they used only single samples, in our analysis we reported on nine samples from paintings from two Arnhem Land archaeological sites," said Levchenko.
They have overcome problems with an approach first proposed and tested by archaeologist Dr David Watchman in Australia in the 1990s, who tried to do the radiocarbon dating using the bulk of the crust.
"They didn't have the sensitivity of our instruments at that time and they were criticised because the undistinguished bulk could produce wrong ages," said Levchenko.
The authors expect determining the radiocarbon ages using only the calcium oxalate minerals, greatly improves the accuracy.
"Indigenous Australian rock art is very interesting, it is believed to be among the most ancient in the world but it is one of the least dated," said Levchenko.
The research had the full support of the local Manilakarr Clan estate in western Arnhem Land and is the result of a long term collaboration with Ms Jones and other ANU collaborators with the Njanjma Rangers and the Djabulukgu Association. Senior Traditional Owner for the Manilakarr Clan estate Mr. Alfred Nayingull was a co-author on the paper.
Explore further: Nuclear techniques reveal longevity of kidney stones
More information:
Tristen Jones et al. Radiocarbon age constraints for a Pleistocene–Holocene transition rock art style: The Northern Running Figures of the East Alligator River region, western Arnhem Land, Australia, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.11.016

 

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0.2

Unique strain of lactic acid bacteria in Buryat milk is found

According to the World Health Organization definition, probiotics are beneficial bacteria active against pathogenic microorganisms and providing normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract microbiota, as well as other supporting organism functions. Probiotic microorganisms could be added as an ingredient to food products, drugs and food additives. Certain strains of lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria are widely used as probiotics.
Lactic acid bacteria, isolated from natural fermented milk products have particularly attracted the attention of microbiologists. The benefit of these bacteria for human health has been known for millennia. E. Metchnikoff also pointed out their revitalizing effect and characterized them as a tool for a struggle with premature senility. A peculiarity of lactococci is their ability to synthesize biologically active peptides or protein complexes, known as bacteriocins. One of the most famous bacteriocins is nisin, an antibiotic authorized for use as a food preservative under the E234 code. One of the most important properties of nisin is its activity against gram-positive bacteria , most of which are pathogenic for humans.
However, nisin, along with other bacteriocins, effectively works only with respect to gram-positive bacteria. Moreover, pathogens have developed resistance to nisin. Researchers have isolated a strain, Lactococcuslactis subsp. lactis 194, from Buryat milk. This strain possesses a wide range of antimicrobial action. It's active not only against gram-positive, but also gram-negative bacteria, underlying bothpathogens and myxomycetes. Researchers have determined that the ability of lactococci to synthesize antimycotics (antifungal agents) is unique to lactic acid bacteria of this genus. The research results have been published in the Journal of Microbial & Biochemical Technology.
Researcher Lydia Stoyanova says, "A comparative ecological study of lactococcus strains, isolated from different ecological-geographical zones, has observed their certain adaptation to external factors of the environment. Buryatia and the Lake Baikal region is a unique ecological area, which influences flora and fauna of our country. "
Studies of antibiotic complexes have determined that Lactococcuslactis subsp. lactis 194 strain forms a blend of biologically active agents of different structural classes. Stoyanova says, "One of these components is a nisin-like peptide whose structure and biological properties are similar to that ones of an expensive drug, Nisaplin. Among the others, one could name a bacteriocin efficiently working against gram-negative bacteria , and an alkylaromatic ketone with antifungal effect. They are unique and absent in the BNPD computer database of biologically active agents. "
Explore further: Magic mold: Food preservative kills cancer cells, superbugs
More information:
Murat Zh Nuryshev et al, New Probiotic Culture of Lactococcus lactis ssp. lactis: Effective Opportunities and Prospects, Journal of Microbial & Biochemical Technology (2016). DOI: 10.4172/1948-5948.1000299

 

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1.0

Forensic evidence largely not supported by sound science – now what?

Shows like "CSI," "Forensic Files" and "NCIS" cause viewers to be more accepting of forensic evidence. As it's risen to ubiquitous celebrity status, forensic science has become shrouded in a cloak of infallibility and certainty in the public's imagination. It seems to provide definitive answers. Forensics feels scientific and impartial as a courtroom weighs a defendent's possible guilt – looking for proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
But the faith the public and the criminal justice system place in forensic science far outpaces the amount of trust it deserves.
For decades , there have been concerns about how the legal system uses forensic science. A groundbreaking 2009 report from the National Academy of Sciences finally drew the curtain back to reveal that the wizardry of forensics was more art than science. The report assessed forensic science's methods and developed recommendations to increase validity and reliability among many of its disciplines.
These became the catalyst that finally forced the federal government to devote serious resources and dollars to an effort to more firmly ground forensic disciplines in science. After that, governmental agencies, forensic science committees and even the Department of Defense responded to the call. Research to this end now receives approximately US$13.4 million per year, but the money may not be enough to prevent bad science from finding its way into courtrooms.
This fall, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology ( PCAST ) released its own report on forensic science. It's a more pronounced acknowledgment that the discipline has serious problems that require urgent attention. Some scientific and legal groups are outraged by or doubtful of its conclusions; others have praised them.
As someone who has taught forensic evidence for a decade and dedicated my legal career to working on cases involving forensic science (both good and bad), I read the report as a call to address foundational issues within forensic disciplines and add oversight to the way forensic science is ultimately employed by the end user: the criminal justice system.
Is any forensic science valid?
The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recognized ongoing efforts to improve forensic science in the wake of the 2009 NAS report. Those efforts focused on policy, best practices and research around forensic science, but, as with any huge undertaking, there were gaps. As PCAST noted, forensic science has a validity problem that is in desperate need of attention.
PCAST focused on what's colloquially termed "pattern identification evidence" – it requires an examiner to visually compare a crime scene sample to a known sample. PCAST's big question: Are DNA analysis, bite marks, latent fingerprints, firearms identification and footwear analysis supported by reproducible research, and thus, reliable evidence?
They were looking for two types of validity. According to PCAST, foundational validity means the forensic discipline is based on research and studies that are "repeatable, reproducible, and accurate," and therefore reliable. The next step is applied validity, meaning the method is "reliably applied in practice. " In other words, for a forensic discipline to produce valid evidence for use in court, there must be (1) reproducible studies on its accuracy and (2) a method used by examiners that is reproducible and accurate.
Among the forensic science they assessed, PCAST found single-sourced DNA analysis to be the only discipline that was valid, both foundationally and as applied. They found DNA mixture evidence – when DNA from more than one person is in a sample, for instance from the victim and the perpetrator, multiple perpetrators or due to contamination – to be only foundationally valid. Same with fingerprint analysis.
Firearms identification had just the potential for foundational validity, but the research that could support it hasn't been done yet. Footwear analysis lacked studies even showing potential for foundational validity. And bite mark analysis has a low chance of achieving any validity; the PCAST report advised "against devoting significant resources" to it.
All these types of evidence are widely used in thousands of trials each year. Many additional cases never even go to trial because this supposedly definitive evidence seems damning and compels defendants to plead guilty. But the lack of reliable science supporting these disciplines undermines the evidence which, in turn, undermines criminal convictions.
Risks of lacking validity
When forensic methods are not validated but nevertheless perceived as reliable, wrongful convictions happen.
For example, the field of forensic odontology presumes that everyone has a unique bite mark. But there's no scientific basis for this assumption. A 2010 study of bite marks from known biters showed that skin deformations distort bite marks so severely that current methods of analysis could not accurately include or exclude a person based on the pattern left by their teeth.
In 1986, Bennie Starks was convicted of rape and other crimes after forensic odontology experts testified he was the source of a bite mark on the victim. In 2006, DNA test results showed Starks could not have been the perpetrator. Starks spent 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit because of faulty evidence from an unreliable discipline. More recently, the Texas Forensic Science Commission recommended a flat-out ban on bite mark evidence.
Like in Starks' case, questionable forensic evidence plays a significant role in at least half of overturned convictions , according to the Innocence Project. Once a verdict comes in, it becomes a Sisyphean task to undo it – even if newly discovered evidence undermines the original conviction. It's next to impossible for people once convicted to get their cases reconsidered.
At the moment, only two states ( Texas and California ) permit a defendant to appeal a conviction if the scientific evidence or the expert who testified is later discredited. More laws like these are needed, but it's politically a hard sell to grant more rights and avenues of appeal to convicts. So even if the science is undermined or completely discredited, a prisoner is often at the mercy of a court as it decides whether to grant or deny an appeal.
What should be admissible?
The PCAST report recommended judges consider both the foundational and applied validity of the forensic discipline that produced any evidence before admitting expert testimony. This includes ensuring experts testify to the limitations of the analysis and evidence. For example, the justice system traditionally considers fingerprint evidence as an "identification" – for instance, the thumbprint recovered from the crime scene was made by the defendant's thumb. No one ever testifies that there are little scientific data establishing that fingerprints are unique to individuals. The same holds true for other types of pattern identification evidence such as firearms, toolmarks and tire treads.
The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) was critical of the PCAST report. It countered that there actually is scientific data validating these forensic fields, but members of PCAST did not adequately consult subject-matter experts. The NADA also worried that if courts required stronger scientific validity before allowing evidence into court, it would hamstring the entire investigative process.
The NADA concluded that judges should continue to be the ones who decide what makes evidence reliable and thus admissible. It asserted that the stringent requirements to become expert witnesses, along with the ability to cross-examine them in court, are enough to guarantee reliable and admissible evidence.
But should the admissibility of scientific processes – which ought to be grounded in their proven ability to produce reliable evidence – be determined by people who lack scientific backgrounds? I would argue no.
Pattern identification evidence shouldn't be excluded from cases wholesale, but forensic evidence needs to be placed into context. When the human eye is the primary instrument of analysis, the court, the attorneys and the jury should be fully aware that certainty is unattainable, human error is possible, and subjectivity is inherent.
Reliance upon the adversary system to prevent wrongful convictions and weed out junk science requires a leap of faith that ultimately undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system. Counting on cross-examination as an effective substitute for scientific rigor and research can't be the answer (although it has been for more than a century).
The PCAST report is yet another wake-up call for the criminal justice system to correct the shortcomings of forensic science. We demand that guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt; we should also demand accurate and reliable forensics. Without improvement, we can't trust forensic science to promote justice.
Explore further: There are question marks over much of the forensic evidence used in our courts

 

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2.8

Infinit is joining Docker, Google open-sources Embedding Projector, and Windows 10 Creators Update released—SD Times news digest: Dec. 7, 2016

Infinit and Docker are joining forces in the container space to tackle some of the challenges of container technologies.
According to a blog post written by the Infinit team, “With stateful applications being the next natural step in this [container] evolution, Infinit comes into play by providing the Docker community with a storage platform that is scalable, resilient and easy to deploy.”
Along with this announcement, Infinit plans on open-sourcing different components of its software like its core libraries, decentralized key-value store and storage platform. Right now it does not have the resources needed, but they plan on eventually open-sourcing the components for the community, according to the Infinit team. Additionally, they are working on developing storage interfaces to cover more use cases like databases, logs, website media files, and concurrent accesses.
Docker’s announcement can be found here .
Google open-sources Embedding Projector Google has open-sourced the Embedding Projector, a web application for interactive visualization and analysis of dimensional data that was first demonstrated as an AI experiment. This open-source project is also a part of TensorFlow, and Google is releasing a standalone version at projector.tensorflow.org.
This project allows users to navigate through views of data in either 2D or 3D, and it offers three methods of data dimensionality reduction, so users can have a clear look at complex data. The purpose is to tackle the challenge of exploring data that has “hundreds or even thousands of dimensions,” according to software research engineer Daniel Smilkov and the Big Picture group in a blog post.
Windows 10 Creators Update brings in new security advancements Windows 10 Creators Update will give the modern IT world new features and capabilities, including more security advancements like the centralized portal called the Windows Security Center.
The Windows Security Center will link to Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection via the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph so IT administrators can track attacks in a seamless way, according to the Windows blog .
With this update, Microsoft is also adding new actions and insights in Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection so teams can respond to network attacks. Enriched detection and enriched intelligence are other features included in this update.

 

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1.9

Google makes app updates 65% smaller but twice slower

Google today announced it has implemented a new method of rolling out app updates through the Play Store that will significantly reduce your data usage – but not without any downsides.
While the optimized algorithm shrinks the size of app updates by 65 percent on average, it also makes them twice as slow.
Because of this drawback, Google is limiting the new method solely to automatic updates to avoid spoiling your mobile experience. Here’s how Google software engineer Andrew Hayden explained the rationale behind this:
The enhanced system, dubbed File-by-File patching, essentially detects minor differences between old and new uncompressed archives of apps. Once Google has identified these differences, it applies the changes from the new archive to the one already installed on your device and re-compresses it, making sure the archive on your smartphone matches the one on the Play Store “byte for byte.”
Compared to previous update algorithms, Hayden claims File-by-File patching tends to be approximately 20 percent more efficient in reducing size – which is why it requires more time and processing power.
The good thing is that, since Google is implementing File-by-File patching on its end, users and developers won’t have to lift a finger to get the app update size reductions.
Saving Data: Reducing the size of App Updates by 65% on Android Developers Blog
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2.1

This site has the largest collection of WhatsApp Statuses for every mood

We all have a WhatsApp status that says something about us or what we are going through (except for our parents and cool grandparents – they still have the default “Hey there! I am using WhatsApp.”).
With users coming from every corner of the world – even the most remote island you can think of, one of the things that users can change according to its consent in WhatsApp is the WhatsApp Profile Status messages.
Enter WhatsStatus.com – the biggest collection of the best WhatsApp status ever on the internet. With over 60 WhatsApp Status categories to choose from, this is a perfect place to discover new WhatsApp status every day.
All statuses are written by real users. So if you’re a regular WhatsApp user and love to set the status as per your mood you’ll love this application with lot of status adding every day.
So next time when you’ll be updating your WhatsApp Status do visit WhatsStatus.com for matching status as per your mood. The WhatsStatus also provide contribution program in which you can monetize your idea by sharing WhatsApp Status for various available category.
Credit: Bumblebee Hub

 

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1.1

Street Fighter V: victory and diversity in the eSports world final

T he atmosphere in the competitor pen at the 2016 Capcom Cup in Anaheim, California, is weirdly tranquil – despite the stakes. There’s a $230,000 cheque waiting for the winner, $60,000 for the runner-up. The room, snugly closed off from a shanty town of flight cases, stage lights and wires behind the sweeping stage is lined with sofas, on which the eight finalists sit. In 10 minutes they will emerge to a full house of hollers and applause, ready to make their bids in the annual competition to crown the best Street Fighter player in the world.
In the middle of the room, two trestle tables sag under the weight of monitors, on which the finalists are free to warm up their fingers with practice games. There are, however, no preparatory or prayerful rituals going on back here; only the idle swiping of phones. I sink into the couch beside 32-year-old Ricki Ortiz, one of two Americans to reach the finals (the other six competitors all come from Street Fighter’s home of Japan). What does she do to prepare for a major fixture like this, I ask. “Me?” she says. “I had a quick nap.”
Three hours later, Ortiz finds herself in the final two, preparing to compete against young rival Du Dang, who goes by the handle NuckleDu. Dang, 20, has risen quickly through the ranks, competing in Street Fighter IV tournaments with veteran character Guile. Dang is famed for his use of aggressive tactics and in-game taunts to mock opponents; Ortiz is an expert in reading other players and using pinpoint counters. Ortiz has the experience to win, but she’s only seeded 26 in this competition. Currently Dang has the form.
It’s been a two-day tournament of surprises – or, as I hear one audience member describe it in south London patois, of “blow ups all over”. In part, the unexpected results are a function of the game at the centre of it all. Street Fighter V , launched this year, is, most professional players agree, a scrappier, less predictable proposition than its forebears. “It’s a very erratic game,” explains Ortiz. “The tide can turn quickly. It’s hard for players to be consistent, which is good for the crowd because there can be upsets.” By the end of the first day of the two-day tournament, many of the odds-on favourites (most major gambling sites now take bets on video game tournaments like this) have been relegated, including Daigo Umehara, the 35-year-old Japanese Street Fighter doyen.
The excitement isn’t confined to the room. On Twitch, where the entire tournament is broadcast live around the world with accompanying chatter from so-called shoutcasters (a preposterous, redundant neologism for video game commentators derived from their high-decibel, rapid fire crescendos of observation), close to 100,000 people tune in to watch the final. Many of these viewers tap out their own commentary – sarcastic or jubilant remarks and emoji – via an ever-flowing waterfall of text beneath the video stream. Hive mind jokes flare up then expire like fireworks. Each time a British player loses a match the throng, en mass, posts the word “BREXIT!” to mark the departure (by the end of the first day there are no Europeans left in the winner’s bracket). The banter has all the jostle and ribaldry of the football stand. Yet here, it’s accelerated and amplified by technology, as if all 50,000 supporters at Wembley Stadium could be heard speaking at once, with equal volume. It’s exhilarating. It’s exhausting.
It’s also, in many cases, unpleasant. When Ortiz takes to the stage, the chat blackens into a torrent of comments about her appearance; something that none of her male co-competitors suffer. “I hate how the fighting game community treats LGBT people,” writes one viewer. Ortiz may be a veteran champion in the Street Fighter scene but, as a transgender woman, she is a wearied target of harassment. Since 2003, Ortiz has finished seventh or higher 12 times at the world’s biggest fighting game tournament, Evolution Championship Series (or EVO), now held annually in Las Vegas. Even though she races to tonight’s final, for many of the online audience, her expertise is the less important aspect of her identity. “My skill takes a backseat,” Ortiz told a reporter for Playboy last year. “People question my gender identity v me playing the game.”
Ortiz’s skill is, nevertheless, self-evident. By 9:30pm, she has beaten last year’s winner, Ryota “Kazunoko” Inoue, without losing a bout to make this an all-American final. She learned to play Street Fighter as an eight-year-old, when her father, a metal worker from California would take her and her cousin to a local amusement arcade. An interest in the game soon blossomed into an obsession. Ortiz would compete at the arcades after school each day. She entered and won her first Street Fighter tournament at 13. “It was unheard of for a kid my age to have thousands of dollars, she told me. “Kids just didn’t have that kind of money, especially in the early 2000s.”
Those prize pots have grown drastically in recent years, in the nascent world of eSports. An influx of advertising dollars, and interest from sports channels eager to broadcast the zeitgeist, has brought major money into the scene. Coca-Cola, Nissan, Red Bull and Intel are all inveterate sponsors on the scene, targeting the huge crowds that follow titles like League of Legends and Dota 2. Compared to those heavy hitters, Street Fighter is something of a middleweight. Earlier this year at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, a crowd of 20,000 gathered to watch the 2016 championship final of League of Legends, the widest played video game in the world. The winners of that event, the drearily named SK Telecom (the team is backed by the South Korean wireless telecommunications operator) took home a $2m purse. One the game’s best players, Sasha Hostyn, is also a transgender woman.
Street Fighter is the flagship title in fighting game genre, but that genre is less accessible than the more chess-like League of Legends. Anyone who, like Ortiz, played Street Fighter 2 growing up in the 1990s will still have the muscle memory to send a ball of flames streaking from the palm of poster boy character Ryu’s hands. But the arcane joystick movements required to handle the game’s ever-expanding character roster is broad and varied. In Street Fighter, command inputs usually combine specific movements of the joystick, more often in quarter or half-circle revolutions, followed by button presses – but these must often be deployed in complex sequences to optimise the attacks. The best players know exactly how long – in fractions of a second – each move takes to execute; a practice known as counting frames (referring to single frames of animation, of which there are 60 per second). Simply learning the fundamental language of the game takes months. Mastery is a lifelong pursuit, similar, according to one academic researcher ’s recently published findings, to the lifelong pursuit of a martial art.
Despite the barriers to entry, fighting games have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, in part thanks to 2008’s Street Fighter IV , which revived the series that debuted in 1991 but flagged in the late 1990s with the decline of the amusement arcade. This year’s EVO was the best attended in the event’s 14-year history. More than 5,000 competitors entered EVO’s Street Fighter V tournament. There, the prize money, jointly supplied by Capcom and Sony, was just $50,000. That’s risen to more than $250,000 for the Capcom Cup. Despite the size of the prize, many of the finalists say – via short films played on stage before the matches begin – that, if they win, they intend to spend some of the money on investing in eSports in their home countries to encourage younger players to take up the game.
The size of the purse indicates not only burgeoning interest from players (Ortiz, who is a full time player of Street Fighter V says that she’s noticed a clear increase in the quality of competitors: “As the game grows and more players come in, the competition escalates.”) but also the rising value of these physical events to video game companies. Professional tournaments serve as much as marketing tools as commercial sidelines. When establishing the League of Legends professional leagues, for example, the game’s developer, Riot Games , offered to pay each of the players a salary, to ensure they didn’t skip out midway through the season in order to focus on their studies or, perhaps, their love lives. Now, however, there is advertising and merchandising revenue to chase. For the 2016 Capcom Cup, the broadcast rights were sold to ESPN for an undisclosed sum. Advertisements for controllers and headsets meanwhile, were broadcast at regular intervals during the competition.
Many companies are placing sizeable bets on the future of eSports, and game publishers are looking to take more control. Last year Activision, the publisher of Call of Duty, created a dedicated eSports division headed up by Steve Bornstein, the former head of ESPN and the NFL Network. Later in the year, rival Electronic Arts – publisher of the Battlefield series – announced The EA Competitive Gaming Division. There are, nevertheless, challenges that stand between eSports and the kind of truly mainstream acceptance that traditional sports enjoy. League of Legends and its ilk are illegible to non-players; Street Fighter fares better as in its explosive animations, as it’s clear when one player has performed a spectacular move or comeback. It’s possible the video game that has the best chance of mainstream adoption is Rocket League – essentially football played with cars.
Regardless, eSports is a rich and popular enough ecosystem to support an increasing number of professional players. Ortiz joined Evil Geniuses, a California eSports organisation owned by Amazon, in 2010. She’s proven a worthy hire, as her place in the Capcom Cup Final, the first time she’s reached this stage, testifies.
It’s an exhilarating contest. The winner is decided through five matches, each bout lasting an explosive 90-seconds of lightning fast moves. Each player steals rounds from the other before Dang’s varied and vicious play-style begins to dominate Ortiz’s more mannerly Chun-Li. Despite the trash talk she’s faced from some online spectators, the room is clearly rooting for Ortiz, who inspires the loudest cheers of the night.
But it’s not to be. In the final reckoning, Du Dang, takes the cup. He’s an affable winner – perhaps even humble. In victory, he holds his head in his trembling hands before standing to embrace Ortiz. They hold on to each other for several seconds. “I actually did it,” he later tweets .
Backstage, as the venue’s staff litter-pick around us, Ortiz looks tired and a little sad. “It’s bittersweet,” she says. “I wanted first place.” Then she levels her frustration at Dang’s choice of character, R Mika, an irritatingly speedy wrestler, able to catch and fling an opponent against the side of the screen for a flurry of follow-up attacks. “I’m not very good at fighting Mika yet,” she says. “I don’t fight enough Mikas. I don’t like Mika.”
Ortiz resolves that she will be back – but she is now one of the elder players in the scene. Many of her seniors have retired while others have expressed concern at what effect ageing might have on their prowess. “I haven’t felt my physical abilities weakening yet,” Umehara told me a few years ago. “But I think I might be at the peak of my career as a fighting gamer.” Any concerns Umehara might have had about his performance declining with age have proven unfounded. He remains at the top of his game. Perhaps time’s usual career-ending effects on athletes do not apply to all eSports.
Ortiz, for her part, is banking on this. “People always ask me: what are you going to do when you’re 50,” says Ortiz. “Won’t you have bad reactions or arthritis? I say to them, we’ll see – eSports hasn’t been around long enough for players to compete at an older age. Nobody knows what will happen.”

 

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1.7

Malicious online ads expose millions to possible hack

Since October, millions of internet users have been exposed to malicious code served from the pixels in tainted banner ads meant to install Trojans and spyware, according to security firm ESET.
The attack campaign, called Stegano, has been spreading from malicious ads in a “number of reputable news websites,” ESET said in a Tuesday blog post. It’s been preying on Internet Explorer users by scanning for vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash and then exploiting them.
The attack is designed to infect victims with malware that can steal email password credentials through its keylogging and screenshot grabbing features, among others.
The attack is also hard to detect. To infect their victims, the hackers were essentially poisoning the pixels used in the tainted banner ads, ESET said in a separate post.
The malicious banner ad.
The hackers concealed their malicious coding in the parameters controlling the pixels’ transparency on the banner ad. This allowed their attack to go unnoticed by the legitimate advertising networks.
Victims will typically see a banner ad for a product called “Browser Defense” or “Broxu.” But in reality, the ad is also designed to run Javascript that will secretly open a new browser window to a malicious website designed to exploit vulnerabilities in Flash that will help carry out the rest of the attack.
Hackers have used similar so-called malvertising tactics to secretly serve malicious coding over legitimate online advertising networks. It’s an attack method that has proven to be a successful at quickly spreading malware to potentially millions.
The makers behind the Stegano attack were also careful to create safeguards to prevent detection, ESET said. For instance, the banner ads will alternate between serving a malicious version or a clean version, depending on the settings run on the victim’s computer. It will also check for any security products or virtualization software on the machine before proceeding with the attack.
ESET declined to name the news websites that were found unknowingly displaying the malicious ads, but cautioned that the attack was widespread, and could have been hosted through other popular sites as well.
The security firm is advising that users upgrade their computers and software to the latest security patches, to avoid becoming victims.

 

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1.7

Drinks firm Pernod Ricard experiences ‘dramatic’ application performance boost with Brocade traffic manager

Pernod Ricard has been producing alcoholic drinks since Henris-Louis Pernod began distilling in Switzerland in 1797. Now at 18,000 employees and with a global reach, the Absolut, Kahlua and Jameson-brewing firm has had to keep moving with the times.
Having moved aggressively into digital, Pernod Ricard recently realised its grasp was exceeding its reach in terms of its application deployment, with a resulting burden on both users and the IT staff managing the rollouts.
"New applications were becoming difficult to publish, and we were experiencing downtime several times each week because intranet servers had to be rebooted," explained Maxime Granatini, group network and security manager at Pernod Ricard.
"This increasing instability was impacting users, and creating a significant burden on IT staff. "
A load-balancing and web acceleration solution that proved simple to deploy and manage "on an on-going basis", as well as with the ability to perform "advanced traffic management" was what Granatini sought.
A consultation with fitting vendors uncovered Brocade's Virtual Traffic Manager product, with Brocade Web Accelerator completing the package.
Pernod Ricard cites the software as being "easy for IT staff to learn" and a simple process of teaching new IT staff "how to leverage the solution moving forward".
A floating IP option means intranet users can now access a secure application "in minutes".
This is in comparison to a previously "time-consuming", "complex" and "frustrating" experience for users with the firm's old solutions. One cited scenario was an internal finance department application that "could require up to ten servers, for users to know specific server names, page names and country identifiers," Pernod Ricard revealed.
"Before Brocade, we didn't have the user experience we wanted with our applications," said Granatini. "The solution created a single point of entry for users-they just type the URL and they're in. Users don't have to know what's going on behind the scenes, they just have a faster, easier, secure application experience, and with the Brocade Web Accelerator we've reduced the load time of applications from 40 seconds to less than 15-that's an improvement that really contributed to a better user experience. "
Reworking commercial web pages for specific geographies to reach minimum SLAs is another top priority for Pernod Ricard, and the Brocade suite has given IT access to a geolocation database with traffic scripting that takes "minutes to implement".
"Today we have a level of agility that we didn't have prior to Brocade," Granatini confirmed.
"Before Brocade, applications were difficult to publish and complex for users. Now, with the Brocade Virtual Traffic Manager, it's like having a Swiss Army knife in front of applications with automated application delivery and centralized management that simplifies service deployment and secures applications. "
Henris-Louis Pernod would probably be particularly proud of that analogy.

 

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3.2

Does Your Doctor Need to Show More Empathy?

Instead of being urged to simply "be more compassionate," doctors should learn specific empathy skills during their training to improve their care of patients, one doctor argues in a new paper.
According to Dr. David Jeffrey, an honorary lecturer in palliative medicine at the Center for Population Health Sciences in Edinburgh, Scotland, who wrote the paper, there is concern about a general lack of psychological and social support for patients from doctors. Some studies have found that medical students experience a decline in empathy for their patients as they get further along in their training.
In addition, the "commercialization of health care leaves people vulnerable" to being treated as though their care is simply an instrument to bring in money to the system, Jeffrey said. Patients can become dehumanized by the system, he said.
But there is also concern that if doctors become too emotionally involved with their patients, they may experience psychological distress and burnout, Jeffrey said.
In his article, Jeffrey distinguishes among the three terms that are often used interchangeably — empathy, sympathy and compassion — in an attempt to provide some clarity to this problem. Jeffrey argues that doctors would best serve their patients by striving to have empathy for their patients, rather than sympathy or compassion. [ 7 Medical Myths Even Doctors Believe ]
For example, having empathy means imagining what it is like to be a specific person undergoing a specific experience, rather than imagining that they themselves are undergoing that experience, Jeffrey said.
"This more sophisticated approach requires mental flexibility, an ability to regulate one's emotions and to suppress one's own perspective in the patient's interests," Jeffrey told said.
In contrast, having sympathy means taking a more "self-oriented" approach, and imagining what it would be like for yourself to be in another person's situation.
This is a way of trying to identify with a person, but it means that you assume that people will think and feel the way you do, Jeffrey said. Also, a doctor who attempts to sympathize with a patient may focus on the doctor's own distress, and risk burning out, he said.
Having compassion means being aware of the suffering of others, but not necessarily understanding their views, Jeffrey said.
What's more, Jeffrey said, compassion and sympathy are simply reactions, that don't involve much reflection.
It takes skill to develop empathy, and developing this skill should be a goal for medical education, Jeffrey said.
In Jeffrey's view, doctors should develop empathy by learning to build a connection with their patients that involves emotional sharing, as well as an "other-oriented" perspective, in which the doctor tries to imagine what it is like to be the patient. Doctors can then act appropriately on the understanding they have gained to help the patient, Jeffrey said.
"A benefit of this model of empathy is that it focuses on developing skills, attitudes and moral concern rather than just urging medical students and doctors to be more compassionate," Jeffrey said. "Empathy, unlike compassion or sympathy, is not something that just happens to us, it is a choice to make to pay attention to extend ourselves. It requires an effort. "
The paper was published yesterday (Dec. 6) in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Original article on Live Science .

 

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0.0

Should your business adopt mobile payments?

One-third of consumers expect mobile money will dominate payments within a decade, yet merchants have been slow to catch up. Here's why you should consider mobile payments, and how to get started.

 

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1.8

Android Pay FAQ: Everything you need to know about Google's mobile payment system

The promise of mobile payments is that you’ll never need your wallet again. Just a tap on the payment terminal with your smartphone will get you everything from movie tickets to groceries.
In reality, we’re nowhere near ubiquity when it comes to ushering in this plastic-card free future. But after more than a year of substantial updates, Google is in a much better position to leverage Android Pay. If you buy in, you’ll find it’s not only a better way to pay for stuff, but you get the added benefit of a convenient digital container for all of your loyalty and gift cards.
Optimizing Android Pay for everyday life takes a little bit of effort, but the payoff is worth pushing through the details.
Android Pay uses NFC communication to make a secure credit/debit card transaction between your smartphone and the payment terminal. You’ll be prompted to tap your phone to the contactless payment terminal when it’s your turn at the counter.
Use your phone to pay at a supported NFC terminal.
Your default card (more on that later) will then be used to extract the money. Depending upon the system being used, you may have to enter your card’s PIN on the payment terminal’s keypad. You’ll get a push notification when the transaction is finished and the clerk will send you on your way. This peppy video from Google exaggerates things a bit, but in general it makes the point about how paying with your phone can be faster.
There’s a very large and growing list of supported banks and credit card companies , so if you’re with one of the larger institutions then you should be able to get going without any problems. Lately, a whole host of regional banks and credit unions have added support, so odds are good that at least one of your cards is covered.
However, you’ll want to check the details. Wells Fargo, for example, works with Visa but doesn’t support MasterCard or “co-branded” cards (those that are done in partnership between a bank and another retailer for rewards points). Also, Capital One is a mixed bag. Consumer debit, credit, and MasterCards work, but partnership credit, non-Visa credit, and non-U. S. cards won’t work.
You can add a debit, credit, gift, or loyalty card to Android Pay.
Android Pay handles multiple cards and allows you to choose which one to use as the default. If you’re running an Android 7.1 device, you can use an app shortcut to jump right to a specific card if you want to use that for a certain transaction.
Launch a specific card from your home screen.
Any of your cards can be set as the default.
This is the same spot where you can remove a card if you’re no longer with that bank.
Android Pay works with Android phones running KitKat (4.4) and above that include NFC. Most major and budget smartphones released in the last few years should have this, but double check the spec sheet on your device to ensure that you’re good to go. You can check in your phone’s Settings to see if NFC is enabled.
Make sure this is flipped on so you can get going with Android Pay.
A fingerprint sensor is not required, but without one you’ll have to unlock your phone with its PIN or pattern every time you try to make a transaction.
Android Pay is accepted at most major retailers or anywhere you see the following symbol:
Look for either the Android Pay or NFC payment symbol.
Anywhere that takes contactless payments should work for you. Note that you’ll sometimes see the contactless payment symbol on a payment terminal but it won’t be enabled.
Yes, Android Pay can work there also. For example, Uber, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Fancy all can connect your payments from their app through Android Pay.
Uber is one of several apps that integrate directly with Android Pay.
For example, when your Uber ride is finished you’ll be debited from the default Android Pay card. The advantage of using Android Pay is that you don’t have to re-enter your credit card information for each app where you’re likely to spend money.
In-app payments with Android Pay is supported on an app-by-app basis, though. The list is includes some of the most popular retail and service apps.
Yes, Android Pay can work with merchants that support this feature. You’ll need to be using Chrome and one of a handful of supported merchants.
Sites like Groupon now support Android Pay on the web if you’re using Chrome.
Google says that Groupon.com and 1-800-Flowers.com support the feature, while more are coming down the line. Chrome has long included a capability to save a credit card, but this goes a step further by tying online payments directly to Android Pay.
Yes. Google Wallet got ye ol’ “Google Pivot” and is now strictly focused on peer-to-peer payments, just like Venmo or Paypal. It’s a completely separate service. However, it works very well for sending and receiving money without any fees. Recommended for your fantasy league.
Apple Pay requires a retailer with specific terminal that supports Android Pay—just any ol’ NFC terminal won’t necessarily do it. Additionally, Apple Pay only works with iPhone 6 and above, as a fingerprint sensor is required. On Android, a PIN, password, or pattern will work if you have a phone that doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor.
Apple Pay also lets you pay with the Apple Watch, while Android Pay doesn't yet support tapping your watch to the payment terminal.
The major claim to fame for Samsung Pay it that, in addition to NFC, it can use Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST), which allows you to pay with your phone at terminals that don’t support NFC. It tricks the "swipe your card" reader into thinking it has swiped your Samsung Pay card. The downside is that it only works with a limited number of Samsung smartphones: the Galaxy S6 (and variants), Galaxy S7 (and variants), and Note5. It now works with the Gear S3 watch, too.
Android Pay sends a virtual account number to the merchant, so your actual credit card details aren’t shared. The major difference between Google and Apple’s payment techniques is that Apple Pay uses a Secure Element, which lives on a physical chip inside the phone for storing encrypted financial data. Android Pay, just as Google Wallet did, uses Host Card Emulation. In Google fashion, this means the encrypted information is stored in the cloud.
Android Pay will require you to have a screen lock on your phone so that no one can swipe your phone and then start racking up your card. However, you should always use good security practices and monitor your account to ensure that nothing unseemly has taken place.
Because the retailers gets a one-time use token to a virtual card, your actual credit card details are safe. If a hacker compromises the retailers payment system, they can't actually steal anything useful. So paying with Android Pay is far more secure than using your real credit card.
However, if you’re adding a card for something like Best Buy or Target then you can scan it and you’ll have a digital copy inside of your Android Pay app. Expect a push notification when you are in or near the store where you can redeem it.
That gift card you’ve had for two months doesn’t need to get lost in your drawer if you keep it in Android Pay.
Pro tip: you’ll want to delete the card one you’re done with it. Otherwise you’ll receive notifications in perpetuity even after you’ve used up the balance.
The process is very similar. Touch the floating action button, find your store, and then scan the card. You’ll then have a digital barcode at the ready and the details of your loyalty program, so you can ditch that giant keychain full of loyalty cards.
Scan a loyalty or gift card so it’s always with you.
The app will ping you when you walk into a store where you’ve registered a loyalty program. This way you can swipe down and show the card right from the home screen. Most retailers now just take your phone number, but this can serve as a reminder that you should rack up points with your purchase.
Not really. At this point all you get is a notification that you’ve made a payment or when you enter a store where you can use Android Pay. There have been rumors about being able to pay with your wrist piece Apple Watch style, but we’ll have to wait for Android Wear 2.0 to see if this comes to fruition.

 

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1.4

Lions are the Brainiest of the Big Cats

An African lion gazes up at a suspended wood box. Inside is a hunk of raw beef. To enjoy the snack, the lion needs to yank on a rope descending from the box, which is attached to a spring-loaded door latch. The scheme: to test the charismatic cat's cognitive abilities. The social intelligence hypothesis posits that having to navigate a complex communal life, which involves challenges such as keeping track of who is a friend and who is an enemy, has pushed group-living animals to evolve the mental machinery required to solve and remember mental tasks such as the box puzzle. In other words, social complexity leads to cognitive complexity. Researchers have long explored this idea by observing animals such as chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants, but biologist Natalia Borrego of South Africa's University of KwaZulu-Natal focuses on big cats. “You have a lot of closely related species with these diverse ecological challenges and different social systems,” she says. Borrego and her team presented the rope challenge to 12 captive lions at Florida's Lion Country Safari. Eleven of them successfully solved it: seven on their own and four after watching another lion do it. Ten of the 11 recalled the solution five to seven months later. The results were recently published in the journal. “That they remember what they've learned isn't terribly surprising,” says Oakland University cognitive psychologist Jennifer Vonk, who studies cognition in bears. But she finds the social facilitation—the fact that some individuals figured it out after being paired with another lion—particularly exciting. “We don't always see those kinds of effects—even in primates,” she adds. In a follow-up experiment using a similar conceptual puzzle, lions outperformed leopards and tigers (which are both solitary big cats)—more evidence for the social intelligence hypothesis. But Borrego acknowledges that habitat and diet could also be factors in cognitive evolution. “The evolution of cognitive complexity is itself complex,” she says.

 

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3.7

Top 10 most popular companies for job seekers

It's no surprise that IT jobs are some of the hottest, most lucrative and exciting careers around, but some companies are more alluring than others. Job search site Indeed.com searched through its more than 16 million job postings last month, filtered results to focus on only the IT industry jobs, and then ranked each company based on viewer impressions and click-through rate to gauge how appealing each company is to potential candidates.
"With over 16 million job postings globally and more than 200 million unique visitors a month … We compiled a list of the most popular tech company job postings. We then ranked the companies by click through rates on job postings during the month of October. Each company had to have at least 100 job postings to be considered. To compile the list, Indeed looked at the number of job seeker clicks relative to impressions -- or click through rate," according to Indeed.
There were some surprises, says Daniel Culbertson, Indeed.com's lead economist; many of the Silicon Valley heavyweights like Facebook, Google and Apple had received lower job seeker scores than anticipated, and two lesser-known companies, Concur and Reynolds and Reynolds, made the Top 10 list.
"What we see from this list is that job seekers count on a company's reputation. White-hot, consumer-focused companies, social media companies -- these are popular household names with services people use every day. But we also see companies with solid reputations, like HR software company Concur that are popular. We think, too, that companies like Facebook, for example, or Google, aren't higher on the list because they're notoriously difficult for candidates to be hired," Culbertson says.
Here are the top 10 most popular companies for job seekers, based on Indeed's research, along with each company's job seeker score.
Yelp, the online, crowd-sourced user and customer business review site, claims more than 25 million unique visitors through its mobile app in Q3 2016 and more than 72 million unique visitors via the mobile web.
Streaming digital music services company Spotify has more than 40 million subscribers, as of September 2016, and more than 100 million active users worldwide as of June 2016. The company's library contains about 30 million songs, and is available in more than 60 different worldwide markets.
Cloud storage and secure file-sharing company Dropbox, headquartered in San Francisco has approximately 500 million users, worldwide, and claims 1.2 million files are saved on its service daily.
[ Related story: How career mobility programs improve retention ]
Subscription video-on-demand service Hulu partners with many major media and communications companies to provide its programming; most recently it partnered with the Walt Disney Corporation and Time Warner.
The better-known streaming video subscription service offers not only syndicated programming, but has recently branched out into original programming. Netflix is also notable for its corporate focus on culture and employee engagement.
The social media giant is the most popular worldwide, and has approximately 1.78 billion monthly average users as of Q3 2016.
[ Related story: In tech recruiting, playing it safe is risky business ]
Reynolds & Reynolds is an Ohio-based company that provides documents, forms and document management solutions software to automotive dealerships.
The search and data giant is notoriously choosy when it comes to hiring, but its benefits and perks are second-to-none.
From mobile devices like iPhones and iPads to personal computers to apps, Silicon Valley's premier hardware company is still a majorly popular employer for job seekers.
[ Related story: IT Career Roadmap: IT project manager ]
Concur is a travel and expense management software company that offers its software solutions to businesses.

 

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1.3

Trump’s plan for protecting IT jobs raises hopes, fears

President-elect Donald Trump is showing a willingness to wage an economic battle with firms that move jobs offshore. He’s threatening tariffs and promising H-1B visa reform, but may be offering carrots as well, namely tax incentives.
These actions may be raising hopes among some IT employees who have lost jobs, or are losing them, that the incoming Trump administration is serious about keeping IT jobs in the U. S. But Trump’s proposals—particularly the tariff—are also raising much uncertainty.
Trump, in a series of tweets this weekend, reaffirmed plans to impose a 35 percent import tariff on “cars, A. C. units etc,” on goods made by offshore U. S. firms but sold in the U. S.
Trump has left analysts guessing whether these tariffs will apply to offshored IT services, such as application support and maintenance.
Trump also demonstrated interest in using incentives to retain jobs. Carrier’s $7 million, 10-year tax break, engineered by his incoming administration, saved about 800 of the 1,400 jobs in the plant. Carrier last week dropped its plan to close Indianapolis plant and move all the jobs to Mexico.
Meanwhile, there are 500-plus IT employees awaiting layoff at Healthcare Services Corp. (HCSC) who may welcome a Trump intervention as well. An India-based IT services contractor, HCL, is taking over their work, and employees are training replacements. The layoffs are scheduled for the first two quarters of next year.
“I’m sure a bunch of us would be very appreciative if President-elect Trump would reach out to HCSC leadership to try to save our jobs,” said an IT employee at the insurer, who asked that his name not be used because he is still employed at the firm.
“Even if half of the 540 were saved, that would have a big impact on 270 American families. We’re thrilled for the Carrier folks—we really are,” said this employee.
But not everyone agrees the deal is a worthwhile model. “The Carrier deal sets a dangerous precedent for companies to threaten to move offshore in order to request such money,” said David Rutchik, executive managing director for business transformation and outsourcing advisory firm Pace Harmon.
At its “ultimate conclusion,” said Rutchik, this policy “will encourage companies to say they will move everything offshore unless they get all kinds of government benefits to do otherwise,” he said. This gets “the government involved in the private sector to an unprecedented degree for this country,” he said.
Marco Pena was one of about 150 IT employees who lost his job at Abbott Laboratories earlier this year after the firm outsourced work to India-based IT services firm Wipro. Pena said he doesn’t know if the Carrier deal is a good model that for saving IT jobs, as well as manufacturing jobs, from moving offshore, “but I do know that it worked and it’s a good example that something could be done if there is a real sincere effort behind it.”
States routinely offer tax incentives to high-tech firms to build data centers and new offices. Even outsourcing firms that use H-1B workers to help move jobs overseas have won state incentives.
In November 2014, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, announced an agreement to help Cognizant build an IT delivery and operations center in Charlotte. The company planned to create 500 jobs in the state by the end of 2018 and invest more than $1.4 million.
Cognizant received a grant tied to job creation requirements. The state said that over 12 years, the award “could yield aggregate benefits to Cognizant of more than $5 million.” McCrory lost re-election this November in a state Trump won.
Firms that want to outsource IT offshore also hire Cognizant, including EmblemHealth in New York. About 200 Emblem IT employees were told earlier this year that they were losing their jobs. At MassMutual Financial Group about 100 IT employees faced layoffs after the firm hired Cognizant.
But incentives, as in the case of Carrier, are usually awarded on a case-by-case basis. The Trump administration effort appears focused on broader initiatives, namely tariff changes and visa reform, to raise the cost of offshore outsourcing.
The tariff proposal—if it’s applied to services as well as physical goods—will raise the cost of IT outsourcing. But analysts say Trump hasn’t provided the necessary specifics to understand the impact on IT costs if that were to occur.
Trump’s “comments are too high-level to know how or if they will affect the services markets,” said Peter Bendor-Samuel, founder and CEO of the Everest Group, a research firm and consultancy. But it is possible to imagine Trump “working with a newly protectionist” Congress that changes tax laws to penalize offshoring of services, he said.
In terms of IT services, David Wagner, vice president of research at Computer Economics, says a tariff’s impact on services won’t be drastic on overall IT budgets. The company’s research shows that U. S. firms are spending only about 10.6 percent of IT budgets on outsourcing at the median, and an even smaller amount would be affected by tariffs, he said.
Trump has also proposed increasing prevailing wages for H-1B workers, as well as restricting the use of visa workers. In theory, it’s argued, this will make it more difficult and expensive to move work offshore.
Pena, the former Abbott IT professional, believes the only thing that will have a significant impact on offshore outsourcing is reform of the H-1B visa.
“What I do know is that this is a war on the value of IT professionals in America and our elected public officials are complicit in it,” said Pena, who left his job without taking a severance because he didn’t want to be bound by a non-disparagement clause. He told his story in a video. “What I also know is that I am a casualty of this war and I am suffering tremendously from its devastation,” he said.
Glen Wiley was an IT employee for 29 years at MassMutual. He said he was among the employees given the option of taking a job with Cognizant. Wiley said it wasn’t much of choice. He either had to take the job with Cognizant or leave his job without severance.
Wiley left his job.
“As a military veteran I felt that accepting the job was not an option,” said Wiley. “To go to work for a company and teach H-1B workers technical skills that would help them replace American workers would be un-American,” he said.
“I was fortunate that I could walk away to stand up for my principles. Many others had to compromise their principles so they could feed their families. I was the lucky one,” said Wiley. Now he is waiting to see what Trump might do.

 

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0.2

| How to download apps to Chromecast: Our guide to setting up and using Google Chromecast

The Chromecast's design has changed since Google first announced the product, but the basic setup instructions are the same. Here’s how to set it up and turn any TV with an HDMI port into a smart TV - how to set up Chromecast. See Best free apps for Chromecast you don't know about.
The Chromecast is available from £30 direct from Google , or from Currys/PC World , Argos , John Lewis , Tesco and Maplin .
The basic requirements for Chromecast are a TV with an HDMI port and either a USB port or the ability to plug in a USB cable to a mains adaptor somewhere near the TV. It connects over Wi-Fi (only the Chromecast Ultra can support ethernet), and you'll also need some sort of device to use as a remote control - you can use an Android or iOS phone or tablet, or a PC, laptop or Mac (in the following walkthrough we are using an Android phone). See also: What can you watch on Google Chromecast in UK? and Why Google's Chromecast is a game changer.
See also: full Chromecast review and Chromecast Ultra review
Step 1. The original Chromecast (pictured below) comes with an HDMI connector as well as a short HDMI extension cable that you may need to use depending on the location of your TV’s HDMI ports. The most recent version of Chromecast has a longer HTML dongle so you're unlikely to need to extend it, but the Chromecast itself still connects to the TV and is powered in the same way.
Plug in the Chromecast to a spare HDMI slot on your TV, then make a note of which HDMI port the Chromecast is connected to. Now plug in the supplied Micro-USB cable to the other end of the Chromecast. Attach this either to a USB port on your TV, or connect it to a USB adaptor and plug it into a nearby mains power outlet.
Step 2. Turn on your TV. If it doesn’t detect the Chromecast and switch to the appropriate input, use the TV’s remote control to select the HDMI input you noted down in step 1. You should see a setup screen.
Step 3. Now install the Google Home app or visit chromecast.com/setup on the device you will use to control Chromecast. Accept the Terms of Service, and ensure your device is connected to the Wi-Fi network you wish to use for Chromecast if you have more than one.
Step 4. Select the devices icon at the top right of the Google Home app and allow it to search for any casting hardware on your network. When it finds the Chromecast select this and choose Set Up, Continue.
Step 5. A code should pop up on your phone and match that shown on the TV screen. Tap I See The Code to continue.
Step 6. You can now change the Chromecast's name to something more memorable if you wish, or simply click Continue.
Step 7. Choose your Wi-Fi network and click Continue. Your Chromecast will connect to the internet and, if necessary, download and install any updates. Follow the prompts to sign into your Google account and complete the setup process.
Step 8. Now you're ready to start streaming. Many apps now support casting, and to begin streaming you simply tap the Cast icon on their interface and select your Chromecast. You can also mirror the screen of your Android phone or tablet by opening the Google Home app and choosing Cast screen/audio from the menu on the left, then choosing your Chromecast.
Step 9. You will also find apps written for Chromecast in Google Play when you search for Chromecast. For example, you might want to install a game that you play on the TV but control on your phone.

 

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0.0

: an internet-connected home alarm with a backup battery and SIM card

By
Jim Martin | 49 mins ago
See full specs
£149.99 inc VAT
Price comparision from , and manufacturers
Y-Cam has, until now, produced great home security cameras but is now broadening its sights to alarm systems. The Protect is the result, and Y-Cam reckons it's the best smart alarm you can get in the UK. As well as connecting to your router, it also has a built-in SIM and battery, so the alarm will sound and send you an alert even if your broadband goes down or there's a power cut.
The Protect costs £149 from Y-Cam and it goes on sale 8 December.
Included in the box is the hub, a motion sensor, a door/window sensor and a remote fob. You can connect up to 32 sensors and 8 fobs. Additional motion sensors cost £24.99; door/window sensors and fobs cost £19.99 each.
The starter kit is good value, especially when some competitors such as the MyFox Home Alarm cost £100 more and don't offer a built-in SIM.
As you might expect, you will have to pay a monthly subscription fee to use the SIM, and it's either £5.99 per month or £59.99 per year. This is called the Plus service and it gets you not only app alerts when using the SIM, but also text messages when the alarm is triggered (even if the hub is using your broadband to connect).
You can also set the Plus button on the fob or in the app to send a custom emergency message to two mobile numbers, which could be useful in some situations.
The Plus subscription also gives you a three-year extended warranty and unlocks a 30-day activity log, which you can't see if you go for the free internet-only plan.
And if you own a Y-Cam HomeMonitor camera, you'll also get upgraded to 30 days' storage for recordings rather than the standard seven days.
There's also a Plus Premium option which is £9.99 per month and gives you 30 days' storage for an unlimited number of HomeMonitor cameras.
There are lots of smart alarms, but the Protect has what Y-Cam is calling "Triple Layer" security. It means that it keeps protecting your home if your internet or mains power fails: there's always a backup if something fails.
The battery lasts eight hours, which is hopefully long enough to cope with most power cuts. The motion- and door / window sensors are battery powered and should last a year before needing replacements. They keep their size down by using non-standard batteries, but these are easy enough to buy online. The motion sensor is just like a traditional home alarm system and detects any motion, which means it can be triggered by pets as well as people.
As well as full arming there's a 'home' arming button. This enables only the door/window sensors. Unlike some rivals, there's no vibration sensors which would trigger the alarm if a potential break-in is detected.
Of course, unlike a traditional dumb alarm, you will get a notification on your phone whenever the siren is triggered, and a text message if you subscriber to the Plus service. You can also arm or disarm from anywhere - so long as you have an internet connection on your phone. This can be useful if you have a cleaner, for example.
When you arm it, the hub informs you with a nice English voice and it beeps for a few seconds to let you exit (you can set the time delay for this). Similarly, if you trigger the alarm because you've stuck the sensor on your front door, you'll hear beeping and then a spoken message when you've disarmed it.
The hub measures 157x157x30mm and is designed to sit next to your router, or hang on the wall. It needs a wired network connection to the router as there's no Wi-Fi: Y-Cam deemed Wi-Fi too unreliable for an alarm system. But, if you do want to place the hub somewhere else, you can use powerline network adaptors.
The motion and window/door sensors are wireless and come with sticky pads, making installation a breeze. Adding them in the app involves entering a code printed on a sticker, but it's a shame this can't be automatically recognised by your phone's camera as with Apple HomeKit products: you have to key it in manually. It's quick enough, though, and only has to be done once.
You'll need the Y-Cam app for iOS or Android, but you'll already have this if you own a HomeMonitor camera.
The interface is simple enough, and clearly shows the status of the hub: its power source, armed status and whether it's using the SIM or your broadband.
Below is the same button layout found on the fob, which makes things easier.
The settings are a little hidden away, as you have to go to the hamburger menu, then settings, then choose your Protect hub, and then tap the arrow pointing right.
Here you can choose the time delay for triggering a sensor after arming, the name of your hub, the custom text message to send and whether or not the sensors' tamper triggers are enabled or not. Note that the tamper switches are internal and won't be triggered if someone rips the sensor off the wall or door / window frame. However, doing so will trigger the alarm anyway.
You can also see which network the SIM is connected to (it will use whichever UK network provider's signal is strongest, usefully) and upgrade the hub's firmware.
In general, the Protect performs well. It arms and disarms quickly after pressing the button on the fob, or in the app. Alerts also arrived swiftly to say the system was armed, disarmed or triggered, and there are also alerts sent if certain settings are changed.
On occasion we found it took a long time to get a response in the app to tell us that the system had been armed or disarmed. There's no immediate feedback to let you know a button press has been registered, either, but Y-Cam is working on an app update to address this and a few other things such as a warning to tell if you phone has no internet connection.
The app can also be a bit slow to load images and the settings page, and we're certain it's not an issue with our own 4G or Wi-Fi.
One other problem with the app is that if you set the Plus button to turn all your HomeMonitor cameras on or off, it merely responds with an "Action is successful" message when the button on the fob or in the app is pressed. It is at least feedback, but doesn't tell you if the cameras were switched on or off, so you could inadvertently turn them off when you meant to turn them on.
Our only other criticism is that the siren isn't particularly loud, certainly not loud enough to make a thief want to leave the premises immediately. It's doubtful any neighbours would hear it, but this isn't such a bad thing as people tend to ignore house and car alarms: the important thing is that you'll know if the alarm is triggered wherever you are. You can then view the feed from your HomeMonitor camera(s) and call the police if necessary.
The Y-Cam Protect is a good-value home alarm system which reliably informs you when a sensor has been triggered. It has a built-in battery and SIM so will continue to work even if there's a power cut or your broadband fails. Using the SIM demands a small subscription fee, but this also brings a list of other benefits, and it's good value overall.
Price comparision from , and manufacturers
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4.5

Google Wifi review roundup

There is not a whole lot that Google doesn't have a hand in these days, when it comes to personal technology, at least.
The tech giant already had a router in OnHub, but they just upped the home wireless ante with their new Google Wifi. The reviews are in -- here is what everyone is saying about Google's latest.
In IT Blogwatch, we are connected and ready to go.
So what is Google Wifi? Keith Shaw has the background :
And what exactly is a mesh network? Antonio Villas-Boas has the details :
Well, "cheapest" is a good start. But how hard it is to set up and keep running? Ed Oswald has that info :
Any other features worth mentioning, before we get to how well it works? Edward C. Baig has something to add :
All sounds good. But what about the coverage? That is the most important part, afterall. Dong Ngo has us covered:
So should you get one? That is the big question, after all? Jordan Novet doesn't make the choice much easier :
What are others saying? Tercius Bufete seems to agree :
Raymond Wong, on the other hand, has a different opinion :
So let's say you want Google Wifi. Where you can you get it and for how much? Joe M. is in the know :

 

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3.4

GoDaddy’s HEG buyout backed with $1.91 billion of loans

The fully committed debt financing from existing lenders will include a US$1.377bn-equivalent incremental term loan, split into a dollar-denominated tranche and a euro-denominated tranche. It is set to pay 275bp-300bp over Euribor/Libor.
There is also a US$530m bridge loan, which will pay 275bp over Euribor. The bridge is expected to be repaid in order for the company to reduce debt in 2017, if it sells part of the business.
GoDaddy said it would explore options for HEG's PlusServer managed hosting business, including a possible sale.
From the €1.69bn total purchase price, €605m will go to the sellers and €1.08bn assumed net debt will be simultaneously refinanced at closing. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2017.
Barclays is leading a leveraged loan financing to back the deal alongside a number of other banks, expected to include Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and RBC. The loan is due to launch for syndication to investors in January, banking sources said.
GoDaddy, owned by private equity firms KKR and Silver Lake, will buy Host Europe from private equity firm Cinven, which acquired the business in August 2013 for £438m.
(Editing by Christopher Mangham)

 

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0.1

Gears of War 4 Title Update 2 Adds Glory And Speyer Maps, Bug Fixes For Xbox One And Windows 10

The Coalition has finished work on a new patch (Title Update 2) for Gear of War 4 that makes available two new maps, Glory and Speyer, for Season Pass owners. Both maps will be available in public playlists for everyone, along with Private Matches for Season Pass holders starting December 13. When they arrive, Gridlock and Relic will be rotated out. Fallout has also been removed from Competitive Play, a decision that brings the playlists in line with the official Pro Circuit settings. Since all of these maps are from the original 10 that shipped with Gears of War 4, they'll still be available to play in Private Match for all players. The patch also introduces balance changes to Horde mode's mountable turrets. After applying the patch, the turrets will be less accurate, do less damage, and have lower maximum ammo reserves. Players using turrets will receive less damage mitigation. In addition, Level 4 turrets have reduced health. "Mounted turrets are designed to be powerful fortifications that need to be used sparingly to deal with tougher enemies or a large wave of opponents storming your base. After observing how players are playing Horde in the wild, we wanted to tune the mounted turrets to be a little less powerful to reduce the viability of only using turrets and barriers on tougher difficulties—while retaining the Mounted Turret’s role as important powerful part of your defenses," The Coalition said. Finally, the roughly 6GB patch contains a wealth of bug fixes and general improvements for both Xbox One and Windows 10 players , such as no longer spawning facing the wrong direction at the start of a round. It's a rather long list—hit the source link and get ready to give your scroll wheel a workout.

 

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1.6

Tape backup: Often old and confused, but quite cheap

Most organisations have two or three backup products deployed, while many have tapes up to 20 years old – and they don’t know the contents. Meanwhile, tape storage hardware , maintenance and staff costs are the three highest expenses for those that maintain a tape architecture.
Those are the findings of a survey of more than 800 IT professionals about their use of tape backup carried out by data recovery specialist Kroll Ontrack in the UK, France, Germany, Poland, Italy, the US, Canada and Australia.
Most of those questioned (81%) have fewer than 100 tapes retained. The largest proportion (40%) are less than five years old but 48% are up to 10 years old and 11% are more than 20 years old.
Nearly half of respondents (49%) have two or three backup products deployed, while 27% have only one.
A sizeable minority (37%) have backup tape formats for which there is no longer any function.
The average number of times a month that those questioned are asked to restore from tape is 26.5, and the most common reason is to access needed but non-active data (74%). Next came internal investigations (16%), while 7% cited evidence in lawsuits and 3% mergers and acquisitions.
Respondents from the US, the UK, Canada and Australia reported a significantly higher average number of restore requests (25 to 42 per month) compared with those in Germany, France, Poland and Italy (all single figures), which, according to the survey sponsors, is possibly due to their common law heritage which requires they surrender relevant data in legal disputes and can result in increased restores from legacy tapes.
Most (73%) said they could quickly identify archive data, but a majority (55%) said they do not know the contents of tapes down to file level.
When asked what prevents them understanding what data they have, the largest proportion (52%) said it is too difficult or time-consuming to read the tapes, and 38% said they do not have the infrastructure to do so. Nearly one-third (31%) said it is too expensive to retain the infrastructure needed and 10% said their tapes are damaged.
Remarkably, 49% do not know what it costs to maintain their tape infrastructure, but of those that do, the largest proportion (39%) said up to $10,000. The largest of those costs is storage hardware, followed by maintenance and then staff.
Only 6% said their tape infrastructure costs up to $50,000 a year, and 5% said it costs up to $100,000. Only two respondents said their tap infrastructure costs more than $1m a year.

 

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2.5

Security Think Tank: Communication is key to cyber security in digital era

In our digital era, organisations are becoming increasingly vulnerable to attack, with new points of entry opening up from email to cloud environments, from mobility to applications, from the payment gateway to the datacentre, and many more. In fact, with technology becoming so crucial to how we do business, every business is becoming a “digital business”.
Of course, some business models are based solely on digital technologies – think apps such as Uber and Spotify. But many businesses traditionally based on tangible goods have also been disrupted by a digital business model – retail, print media and music, for example.
Although digitally enabled businesses certainly have an increased attack surface, the key principles of cyber security best practice will always remain the same. Whatever the type of business, it is a fundamental requirement to have a plan in place that takes into account all the emerging technologies we are seeing, from cloud to increased mobility, big data and the internet of things (IoT).
It is also critical that organisations, no matter the size or industry, comprehend where data, which is instrumental for the day-to-day activities of a company, lives and, consequently, how it should be protected.
Beyond the technical processes and procedures, security professionals should also be familiar with the latest legislation and regulations that companies have to abide by, with a clear understanding of the various governance frameworks, including Isaca’s COBIT 5.
It is, of course, a cliché that those in the IT industry have poor people skills, but while their technical expertise might be second to none, how well are key cyber security messages being communicated throughout the business? It is imperative that security professionals can communicate effectively with employees and business stakeholders at all levels. This is especially important in digital businesses, where there may be a higher number of vulnerabilities.
Employees on the front line who might be vulnerable to social engineering must be educated about the latest potential threats, and how to avoid or mitigate them. While the advice is largely “don’t open attachments” or “don’t click on links” in unsolicited emails, the message is still not getting through, with phishing and even whaling attacks continuing to rise.
Communication skills are starting to feature more often on security course curriculums, but the issue is wider than that. Many organisations have no education or communications related to security in place. Isaca’s 2016 Cyber Security Perceptions research has found that more than half of UK office workers say their employers have provided no cyber security awareness training and more than one-third said they could not confidently define a phishing attack.
Cyber security also needs to be a board-level issue, with many calling for CEO pay to be linked to the success of a business’ cyber security measures. These issues are linked to every level of an organisation’s operations and, as such, clear communication is needed with the boardroom – right to the very top.
Businesses are starting to understand the vulnerabilities that digital technologies are opening them up to, and they are looking to security professionals to advise them. But their advice will only be heeded if it is clearly understood.
Ramsés Gallego is past international vice-president of the Isaca board of directors and strategist and evangelist in the office of the CTO at Symantec.

 

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0.3

Two Fresher Job Opportunities: Software Developers – Uganda National Bureau of Standards and REN Publishers Limited

About UNBS and REN Publishers Limited:
Uganda National Bureau of Standards and REN Publishers Limited have developed, and are in the process of rolling out an Electronic Verification Service, offering a non-forgeable electronic tag system that enables consumers to conclusively detect forgeries of labels and standards quality marks using their mobile handsets free of charge.
The service is called UNBS E-Tag Service.
Job Summary:
The Software Developer will be responsible for development and maintenance of web applications.
The incumbent will work as part of a team to assess user requirements and developing ways to meet these requirements
Key Duties and Responsibilities:
Qualifications, Skills and Experience:
How to Apply:
All suitably qualified and interested candidates should send a detailed CV, academic documents with any relevant certificates, a TYPED covering letter explaining how and why you are suited to the role, and the contact details of two work related referees.
The Human Resource Manager,
REN Publishers,
UNBS E-TAG Service, hr@unbsetag.go.ug
Deadline for you to submit your applications is 14th December, 2016.

 

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1.2

Fitbit Buys Pebble, Crushes Kickstarter Darling's Smartwatch Dreams Into Dust

If you were hoping to get your hands on an next generation Pebble smartwatch, think again. The company has been acquired by Fitbit. This purchase includes Pebble’s personnel and intellectual property related to software and firmware development, but excludes the company’s hardware products. James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit, remarked, “With this acquisition, we’re well positioned to accelerate the expansion of our platform and ecosystem to make Fitbit a vital part of daily life for a wider set of consumers, as well as build the tools healthcare providers, insurers and employers need to more meaningfully integrate wearable technology into preventative and chronic care.”According to Pebble, it can no longer function as an independent entity due to “various factors”. Although the company's doesn't offer any specifics, this deal could be due to the fact that demand for wearables is simply down. This past Spring, Pebble axed 25 percent of its workforce. This past quarter, smartwatch sales drooped by 51%. Subsequently, these companies have lowered their expectations for the holiday season. What does this deal mean for Pebble customers? Pebble will no longer be promoting, manufacturing, or selling any devices. However, how-to information and troubleshooting will still be found on its support page and Pebble forum. Pebble watches will continue to operate normally for now, but functionality or service quality may be reduced in the future. Warranty support will also no longer be available. Orders from pebble.com are no longer being accepted or fulfilled. This includes Pebble 2 pre-orders, which have not yet been charged or shipped. Kickstarter backers who have not received their rewards will receive a full refund within four to eight weeks. Returns of pebble.com orders that were successfully completed before December 7, 2016 will be refunded. Pebble watches purchased at a retail store can be returned to the stores according to their respective return policies. If you're outside of the return window, you're out of luck.

 

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0.0

IT admin fleeced Expedia for $330k in insider trading scam

A former Expedia senior IT support technician has pleaded guilty to accessing confidential company files and illegally using the information within for insider trading that netted him over $300,000.
Jonathan Ly, 28, pleaded guilty to securities fraud, which began in 2013 and continued even after he left the company in 2015.
FBI special agent in charge Jay S Tabb Jr said Ly's behaviour was "particularly egregious because [he] abused his special access privileges as an IT administrator".
"On top of violating the trust of the public and his company, he violated the privacy of fellow employees by surreptitiously accessing their files," Tabb continued.
A court document detailing the case against Ly notes that, as part of his role as a senior IT support technician, he was given "certain administrative access privileges that could be used to remotely access electronic files on Expedia employees' electronic devices", as well as, from time to time, being given corporate network passwords.
In a summary of how the scheme worked, the document states that between 2013 and 2015 Ly "secretly and fraudulently accessed the contents of Expedia executives' computer files and corporate email accounts to ... [collect information] in order to execute a series of well-timed and lucrative securities trades in Expedia options".
Ly left Expedia in April 2015, but, unknown to the company, took with him an Expedia laptop that he used to continue accessing corporate systems and email and carry out his insider trading.
Commenting on the case, Rui Melo Biscaia, director of product management at Watchful Software, said: “This case demonstrates how much damage malicious insiders can cause, especially when armed with a high level of privilege and little oversight.
“The threat of trusted insiders abusing their positions can be greatly reduced by ensuring that confidential files can only be access by the authorised user themselves. Internal support staff that are able to access other users’ machines should only be able to access files and network areas relevant to their current job, rather than having free reign over information that would normally be highly restricted. Classifying and encrypting all confidential files against unauthorised access will also help protect against external attackers that are able to gain control of a system. "
The US Department of Justice praised Expedia for its "quick reporting" of the intrusion once it was detected, which made it easier for the FBI to trace the malicious behaviour back to Ly.
In total, Ly made over $331,000 from the fraudulent trades. He is scheduled to be sentenced on 28 February next year and could face up to 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Main image credit: Bigstock

 

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1.8

Qualcomm Samples 10nm 48-Core Centriq 2400 ARM Server Chip To Challenge Intel Dominance

Leading the charge for Qualcomm is the new Centriq 2400 series, which is based on Falkor microarchitecture that can be configured with up to 48 custom ARMv8 cores into a single socket. Most importantly, Qualcomm claims that this is the first server-class processor to be built using a 10-nanometer FinFET manufacturing process. If you recall, Qualcomm has already announced the 10-nm consumer-grade Snapdragon 835 processor , which will be manufactured by Samsung and will ship during the first half of 2017. Qualcomm today gave a live demonstration of the Centriq 2400 family, which is designed to provide the ultimate in high performance for datacenter workloads while delivering unmatched power efficiency.
“The Qualcomm Centriq 2400 series processors will drive high performance, power efficient ARM-based servers from concept to reality,” said Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and general manager for Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies (and former Intel exec). “We are first in 10nm IC technology for mobile, and leveraging our expertise in ARM processors and system on chip design, we are the first with our Qualcomm Centriq family of server processors to bring the leading edge to the datacenter.”
Qualcomm is already sampling Centriq 2400 series processors, and is expected to ship production silicone to customers during H2 2017. Intel’s 10nm Xeon chips aren’t expected to ship until the second half of 2018, or roughly a year after Intel’s 10nm Cannonlake desktop processors debut.

 

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0.9

GOV. UK admits 73 per cent of its content is viewed by fewer than 10 people a month

GOV. UK - the UK government's services and information index - has admitted that the "sheer volume and low quality of all the things" is preventing users, "conclusively and repeatedly", finding what they need on its web portal.
In fact, 73 per cent of content on GOV. UK is viewed by "less than 10 people a month," the service has revealed.
The candid admission came from Trisha Doyle, the Government Digital Service (GDS) head of content design, in a blog written this week .
Doyle admitted that GOV. UK has such a historical issue with user discoverability of content that a team called "Finding Things" has already been set up to address the problem, and has found that building "better search and navigation" is "part of the answer", and is being acted upon.
However, Doyle added that GOV. UK could "build the best search and navigation in the world but if there's lots of content that's poorly titled, duplicative and written in a way our users don't understand, they will never find what they need to complete their task".
With 2,500 items of content added every week to the tune of 300,000 items in total and 250,000 downloadable files. Doyle admits "civil servants' time is being wasted producing content hardly anyone is looking at and users' time is being wasted sifting through hundreds of pages on the same topic".
Doyle doesn't mention the amount of UK tax payers' money being wasted on paying these civil servants, but take that as read for a service with rather a track history of such .
Moving forward, GOV. UK is promising seven themes to help them "decide what to do next", and these range from insisting "content remains important" to "content needs to be part of service design" to bemoaning the "really hard job" content designers have to do.
While this sounds more like a list of moans to raise at a quarterly management meeting, Doyle distils everything down into three further points of change: Design around publishers' needs, "fix search and browse" and "enable the design of end to end services that transcend department silos".
In the absence of a metaphor to describe how slowly the public sector moves (generally "at public sector speed" being the textbook example of near-halt in itself), there seems little left but to wish Doyle and friends the best of luck.
GOV. UK is also looking for feedback from users themselves.

 

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0.0

Allianz Insurance cuts software release times with Jenkins continuous delivery tools

Insurance may not traditionally be perceived as the most dynamic industry, but these days large insurers are increasingly required to move quickly to create new digital products. Consequently, this puts pressure on software development teams to deliver new services at speed.
Part of Allianz Insurance’s plan to reduce the time taken to deploy code for its Java-based line of business and web-facing applications has been the deployment of CloudBees Jenkins. The open source automation tool has enabled the UK insurer to adopt continuous delivery and continuous delivery practices.
Adam Rates, head of strategy and architecture at Allianz Insurance, says that the Jenkins software has helped push code into production “quicker, cleaner and more efficiently”.
“We are doing between three and four times as many code releases across [application] environments as we were before,” Rates says.
“We can do a code release across into an environment, run a set of automated tests in half a day comfortably, depending on the complexity of the code, or in some cases in an hour if it is simple.
“That would have taken us a week to do before, maybe even a bit longer, across the environments.”
Allianz offers a range of insurance products, such as home, motor and commercial policies. The company employees 400 developers – half in the UK and half overseas.
Allianz Insurance had previously been using tools such as Subversion for software versioning and revision control and Serena for migrations, which automates the release process across application environments. “But what we needed was a way of providing a level of control over the top of that and also providing a way of triggering things like automated testing,” says Rates.
“So we wanted to move to a much more formalised continuous integration and continuous delivery environment rather than using a set of ad hoc tools because, although we get advantages from the ad hoc tools, we don’t get any of the control and we don't get standardisation of process. And standardisation of process is really important.”
Rates said that there are two ways Jenkins has benefited the business. Automation means that software releases are carried out quicker, but there are also improvements to code quality, resulting in a more efficient process.
“Because you are testing as you go as a result of the continuous integration environment, you are hitting any defects much earlier in the process and that is way cheaper to fix,” he says.
“It's way cheaper for a developer to fix their individual piece of code than it is once it gets into user acceptance testing and then realise you have got to go back and redo it. So you get two advantages - you get speed and you get cost. "
He adds that “the consequence of that is that the business gets throughput”.
“We can make web modifications much more quickly, you can launch new products more quickly, you can launch propositions more quickly.”
The use of Jenkins is part of a wider move to a devops methodology within Allianz. “We are continuing to look at agile and devops. You don't have to do agile and devops to get benefits out of continuous deployment and continuous integration [but] you get more benefit if you do. "
However, Jenkins is just one element of the approach. “So step one is to put Jenkins over the top and automate some of the processes, step two is to get a more integrated, better continuous integration/continuous delivery environment, and step three is looking at agile and how we can improve the way we work in a devops fashion.”
Read next: Eight useful tools for devops success
Rates says that Allianz is not currently using Jenkins to automatically push code into production.
“With something like Jenkins or a continuous integration environment you could press a button at the beginning, automatically deploy the code through environments and automatically, assuming it is part of a set of criteria, take it into production. We don't do that. We take it to the end point of user acceptance testing or preproduction environments and then the end process requires an extra set of authorisations.”
In future Jenkins could be used for production code, but only for certain purposes.
“I think it very much depends on the environment in which we are operating and what it is we are migrating through. From my point of view, from a line of business system, no, but for a web environment where we were loading brochureware pages or changes in look and feel, yes absolutely.”

 

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2.1

MTN Group Announces Senior Management Appointments

Pursuant to the SENS announcement of 31 October 2016, MTN Group is pleased to advise that as part of reviewing and finalizing the permanent senior management team, the company has made further appointments of the following executives:
Jens Schulte-Bockum will succeed Jyoti Desai as the Group Chief Operating Officer, effective 16th January 2017. As Jyoti retires, Jens has extensive operational experience in the mobile telecoms sector, with his last senior role being as CEO of Vodafone Germany between 2012 and 2015.
Jens is expected to bring extensive experience in the consumer business, as well as the area of large scale transformation in a convergent operation.
Oliver Fortuin who is currently the CEO of BT Global Services Sub Saharan Africa, having previously held many senior roles at IBM, HP and Lenovo, will assume the position of Executive Head of Business Enterprise, effective 1st March 2017.
Bernice Samuels has re-joined MTN as Group Executive of Marketing, effective 1st January 2017. Bernice was previously Chief Marketing Officer in MTN South Africa, prior to assuming a similar role at FNB. She subsequently assumed the position of Executive Director of Strategy and Business Development at SABMiller in South Africa. Bernice will greatly assist in lifting and re-positioning product development and uplifting the MTN brand to maintain its pre-eminent position in Africa and the Middle East, whilst adapting to a rapidly evolving sector.
In a statement, Phuthuma Nhleko; the Executive Chairman said; all the appointment senior managers will bring to finality the management aspect of a large scale transformation and operational review process.
“We have attracted individuals of high calibre and wide, relevant experience, to further enhance the existing management team, consistent with the anticipated trajectory of the Group,” Nhleko said.

 

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4.9

Aerobic Exercise Pumps Up Gray Matter

Looking to increase your brain size? You may want to try aerobic exercise , a new study suggests.
Researchers found that participants who exercised aerobically four times a week for six months showed greater increases in brain volume than participants who exercised for that same amount of time by stretching .
"This type of result is always encouraging, especially because the study shows changes not only in brain volume, but also in cognitive function ," said Max Wintermark, a professor of radiology at Stanford University, who was not involved with the research. [ Aerobic Exercise: Everything You Need to Know ]
In the study, researchers looked at 35 adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is considered an intermediate stage between the normal cognitive decline associated with aging and more serious conditions like dementia. The researchers assigned 16 of the adults (whose average age was 63) to the aerobic exercise condition, and assigned the other 19 (whose average age was 67) to the stretching control group.
The participants also underwent an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) brain scan at the beginning and end of the six-month study. MRI scans use magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed pictures of organs like the brain. In addition, the researchers tested the participants to see whether their exercise routine effected their cognitive performance.
It turned out that all of the adults in the study showed some increases in the volume of their brains' gray matter , which is made up of the type of neuron that is responsible for tasks such as processing information and controlling muscles, according to the study.
But the participants in the aerobic exercise group showed greater increases in volume in a few regions, including the corpus callosum , which consists of the nerve fibers joining the left and right hemispheres of the brain, the researchers said in their study. [ The 4 Types of Exercise You Need to Be Healthy ]
And in fact, the participants in the stretching group showed decreases in volume in an area of the brain called the right posterior corona radiata, which carries information to and from the brain regions that are responsible for thinking and perceiving.
In addition, participants in the aerobic-exercise group showed improvement in their executive function after these six months, while participants in the stretching group did not. Executive function includes skills such as working memory , problem solving and reasoning.
The results suggest that aerobic exercise interventions , more so than exercises such as stretching, could help preserve or even improve brain volumes in people suffering from MCI, the researchers said. This is especially significant considering that people with the condition are at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, which today affects more than 5 million Americans, the researchers said in a statement about their findings.
Still, Wintermark told Live Science, "this is a relatively small study, and it definitely needs to be confirmed in a larger population. "
However, the finding may help shape additional research into brain-related changes of different types of exercise.
Original article on Live Science .

 

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1.7

Get a complete computer science education for only $39

It’s been repeated ad infinitum: Coding is the new literacy, and you’ll need to learn a programming language or two if you’re serious about keeping your resume sharp in the 21st century. Here’s one way: Take advantage of a university-caliber computer science education without the crazy tuition fees via this Complete Computer Science course bundle.
This package of eight comprehensive courses — covering everything from programming to page design — is available now for $39 from TNW Deals .
Knowing the down and dirty behind every website or app can be the difference maker in your tech career. This course bundle includes the following content to help you do just that:
From building with C and Python, to SQL database management — it’s a world’s worth of coding know-how, paired with the web design expertise needed to make it all sing. You’ll even get practical training to tackle real-world programming problems, as well as deep analysis on why tech titans like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Apple are so successful.
This package would usually run over $360, but right now, you can pick up this bundle for a hefty 89 percent off with TNW Deals .
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3.8

Hewlett Packard Enterprise enriches HPE IDOL machine learning engine with natural language processing

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE:HPE) today announced a new release of its flagship unstructured data analytics engine, HPE IDOL, featuring advanced Natural Language Question Answering. The new version of HPE IDOL leverages advanced machine learning functionality to improve the effectiveness and contextual accuracy of human interactions with computers.
Among the biggest challenges facing organizations trying to leverage Big Data is providing answers to users’ questions in a natural, effective manner without cumbersome user interfaces or extensive training. Interactive voice assistants and online chatbots have recently simplified this process for consumers, however developers have had a difficult time adapting this approach to enterprise-class tasks due to the complexity and context of the questions, trustworthiness of the source, specificity of the information needed and accuracy of the answer.
HPE Natural Language Question Answering deciphers the intent of a question and provides an answer or initates an action drawing from an organization’s own structured and unstructured data assets, in addition to available public data sources to provide actionable, trusted answers and business critical responses.
“Building on HPE IDOL’s history of delivering industry-leading analytics engineered for human data, IDOL Natural Language Question Answering is the industry’s first comprehensive approach to delivering enterprise class answers,” said Sean Blanchflower, vice president of engineering, Big Data Platform, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “Designed to meet the demanding needs of data-driven enterprises, this new, language-independent capability can enhance applications with machine learning powered natural language exchange.”
To deliver natural language based systems that meet the demanding needs of knowledge workers, it is critical to deliver answers that are accurate, relevant and trusted. HPE IDOL Natural Language Question Answering is a core feature of the new HPE IDOL 11.2 software release that features four key capabilities for natural language processing for the enterprise:
· IDOL Answer Bank: Delivers precise, curated responses to predetermined reference questions. For example, IDOL Answer Bank could be programmed to deliver detailed step-by-step instructions for configuring a specific model of a mobile phone.
· IDOL Fact Bank: Provides fact-based answers, such as the price of a stock on a specific date, by querying existing structured enterprise data sources or by employing sophisticated table extraction methods to extract precise data from unstructured data sources such as a company’s annual report.
· IDOL Passage Extract: Designed to provide text-based overview information on topics, people or events by analyzing freeform text data sources for contextually relevant information to provide a summary text passage response. This feature could be used to provide an overview of a recently enacted financial services regulation or a news event.
· IDOL Answer Server: Analyzes questions and available data sources to determine how to best provide an optimal answer by harnessing the IDOL Answer Bank, Fact Bank, and Passage Extraction natural language answer engines.
HPE IDOL Natural Language Question Answering is architecturally designed to be language independent and can be seamlessly integrated with most third party dialogue flow systems, such as the popular NADIA open source natural language system, to create natural, back and forth conversational exchanges.
“Transforming access to contextually relevant and critical information to improve patient care is central to our mission,” Dan Schlake, Strategic Accounts Director, ChartMaxx, Quest Diagnostics. “With HPE IDOL Natural Language Question Answering as the next addition to ChartMaxx Deep Search, we can see a path forward to address the critical last mile of computing in which sophisticated information exchange happens between humans and machines in a natural and intuitive fashion.”
“To be competitive, it is crucial for organizations to extract maximum value from their informational assets”, David Meyer, Chief Technology Officer, SEC 1.01 AG, a leading system integrator based in Switzerland. “HPE IDOL Natural Language Question Answering brings the power of Big Data to the fingertips of end users in a way that is tailored for humans.”
Availability and Additional Information
HPE IDOL 11.2 featuring machine learning powered Natural Language Question Answering for the enterprise is available today.
For more information on HPE IDOL 11 click here. To read a blog post about IDOL 11, please click here.

 

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5.6

Apple is going to start publishing its AI research to improve Siri

For the first time Apple is going to allow its AI researchers to publish their research, a move which could help the company make significant advancements in its AI technology.
According to a report from Bloomberg , Russ Salakhutdinov, an Apple director of AI research, recently revealed the news at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference in Barcelona.
This isn't a completely surprising move since Apple has already proven it's willing to step away from the secretive insular development processes its become known for in the name of improving the performance of its voice assistant Siri.
Earlier this year, for example, the company announced that it would allow third-party developers to integrate the Siri voice assistant into their apps, immediately making it much more useful.
According to researchers, aside from its initial refusal to engage with third-party app developers, Apple’s inability to keep up with its competitors is largely down to its unwillingness to publish its research and learn from other academics in the AI field.
It's hard to hear anything new in an echo chamber.
When Siri launched in 2011, it made Apple a leader in AI mobile technology. However, since then Apple’s technology has quickly fallen behind Alphabet and Microsoft, whose Google Assistant and Cortana are advancing at a much faster rate.
The fact that Google and Microsoft allow their researchers to publish their papers has no doubt helped them advance their technology by allowing them to engage in wider academic discussions.
It’s also likely to have made them more attractive to the best talent in the AI field than Apple, as skilled researchers would naturally be drawn to companies which allow them to share their work and discoveries with their peers.
So, what does this mean for Apple device owners? Well, it’s highly likely that they’ll see Siri improve at a much faster rate and become an increasingly useful service with interesting features that feel natural to use.

 

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2.5

Xen Project Hypervisor continues to expand into embedded use cases in latest release

The Xen Project , hosted at The Linux Foundation, today announced the release of Xen Project Hypervisor 4.8. The latest release focuses on advanced embedded use cases, features to support security-first environments and continued advancement in support of ARMv8-A based servers. Xen Project technology continues to see growth in these environments due to its flexibility, extensibility and customizability.
As the demand for 64-bit ARMv8-A data centers builds, Xen Project continues to lead by delivering advanced ARM server feature support. Xen Project Hypervisor 4.8 provides initial support for ARM server Live Patching. This allows users to apply security fixes to the Xen Project hypervisor without rebooting, providing five-to-nine reliability for ARM servers. The new feature, available as a preview, also supports the needs of security-first embedded uses cases, such as automotive and avionics.
Over the last year, contributors with strong security and embedded backgrounds have joined the Xen Project. Furthering its stronghold in embedded and security, the project now supports GICv2m (an interrupt controller with MSI capabilities), mmio-sram and IO memory regions with special caching requirements.
“New functionality added to the Xen Project for market segments like automotive, aviation, embedded and security have turned out to be valuable building blocks for traditional server virtualization and hyperscale clouds,” said Lars Kurth, chairperson of the Xen Project. “Some of the innovations contributed by vendors from these segments have helped increase performance, scalability and reduced latency for general workloads, while others led to a more flexible and customizable software architecture that benefit all users of the Xen Project hypervisor and positions us well for future growth across all market segments.”
In the 4.8 release, the general purpose Credit2 scheduler is now supported for production use. Compared to the default Credit scheduler, the Credit2 scheduler is more scalable and is better at supporting latency sensitive workloads such as VDI, video and sound delivery, as well as unikernel applications. Credit2 is still based on a general purpose, weighted fair share, scheduling algorithm unlike some of the more specialized Xen Project schedulers such as RTDS and ARINC653.
Major contributions for this release come from ARM, BitDefender, Bosch, Citrix, Freescale, Intel, Linaro, Oracle, Qualcomm, SUSE, Star Lab, the US National Security Agency, Xilinx, Zentific, and a number of universities and individuals.
The following new features and capabilities are available in Xen Project Hypervisor 4.8:
Support for Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC: In the embedded space, as multi-chip and multi-OS systems consolidate into virtualized Systems on Chips, Xen Project software’s ability to scale down and provide partitioning with low overhead is key to these environments. Xen Project Hypervisor 4.8 comes with support for the Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC, making it much easier for Xilinx customers to integrate Xen into their solution.
ARM Architecture Updates: Xen Project 4.8 ARM DomU ACPI support is now able to build ARM64 guests with ACPI support, such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server for ARM Development Preview (available via Partner Early Access Program). It can also run unmodified Xen on ARM.
The new release supports alternative runtime patching for ARM64, a powerful technology to dynamically adapt the Xen Project hypervisor code at boot time. This enables the hypervisor to apply workarounds for erratas affecting the processor and to apply optimizations specific to a CPU.
Intel and x86 Feature Support: The latest version of Xen Project hypervisor adds support of Intel Advanced Vector Extensions 512 (Intel AVX-512), which is a natural extension to AVX and AVX2. Intel AVX-512 instructions offer higher performance for the most demanding computational tasks. They represent a significant leap to 512-bit SIMD support. This enables processing of twice the number of data elements that AVX/AVX2 can process with a single instruction and four times that of SSE.
This Xen Project release also comes with PVCLOCK_TSC_STABLE_BIT support, which greatly improves user space performance for time related operations. Another x86 feature is CPUID faulting emulations making it possible to make CPUID fault in HVM userspace program without hardware support.
PVH v2 update: PVH v2 guest (without PCI passthrough support) ABI is also now stabilized. Guest operating system developers can start porting OSes to this mode, which is simpler and gives them all the goodies that hardware and software provide.

 

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8.3

This parkour robot is really, really good at jumping

Meet Salto. He's a robot, designed for one specific purpose - jumping. In fact, he's the most agile vertical jumping bot that has ever been built.
Built by roboticists at UC Berkeley, Salto was inspired by the animal kingdom's most vertically agile creature - the galago , or bush baby. The galago has the ability to leap five times in four seconds off walls and trees, gaining a combined height of 8.5 metres.
How? By shifting into a special crouch that stores energy in its tendons, allowing it to reach heights that wouldn't be achievable from muscles alone.
Salto does the same thing. Inside, he has a motor that drives a spring that can store energy using a similar crouch manoeuvre to the galago. Power modulation means that it doesn't need to wind up before a jump - it can immediately jump again.
And jump it does. After springing into the air, it can jump again off a wall surface like a galago to reach even greater heights - up to 1.21 metres. Not bad for a bot that weighs just 100 grams and is 26 cm tall when fully extended.
Eventually, its creators hope that similar bots could be used to jump around rubble in search and rescue missions.
Ronald Fearing, who supervised research led by Duncan Haldane, said: “By combining biologically inspired design principles with improved engineering technology, matching the agile performance of animals may not be that far off.”
Details of the robot were published in the first edition of a new journal, Science Robotics .

 

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0.9

Chrome for Android now lets you download media and web pages for offline viewing

Google has today announced that it’ll start distributing a much-requested update (version 55.0.2883.84) for Chrome for Android via the Play Store over the course of the next few days.
In addition to the usual plethora of bug fixes, the upgrade brings users the facility to download music, videos and even full web pages for offline viewing, as well as the option to share downloads from within Chrome itself.
The firm also noted that the latest build of Chrome introduces a new feature that highlights misspelled words in text fields, and brings several improvements to the contextual search user interface.
To see if the update’s ready for your device, open up the Play Store and search for ‘ Google Chrome ’. If it’s available, a label entitled ‘Update’ will appear next to the application in the list. If it’s not there, be sure to check back at a later date.
Chrome for Android Update on Chrome Releases
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2.1

: Best practises for the New Year

You may already be feeling a sense of dread over some of the New Year's resolutions you've told everyone you're going to make. These tech New Year's resolutions are far more easy to keep, and can be completed from the comfort of your own home. (And while you're there, check out our collection of tutorials to give you thousands more reasons to avoid the gym.)
Consider the amount of personal data stored on your PC , laptop , tablet or smartphone. You'll have photos, videos, music files, documents and more. Not only will some of these be irreplaceable, but it probably took you quite some time to gather them all together and make yourself at home on that computer. Now imagine someone steals your laptop, or your hard drive fails, or you accidentally overwrite those files. It happens every day, but you can quickly and easily set up an automated backup plan to protect your data. Follow our advice in our How to back up PC, laptop, tablet or phone to get started from a laptop or PC, or see how to back up Android.
No doubt you've read all our advice on securing your PC or laptop with good anti-malware, anti-spyware and a firewall (see Security Advisor ), but there's one final piece of the security puzzle with which to contend: you. No offence intended, of course, but you are the weakest component in your computer's defences. It is you who chooses easy-to-guess passwords, clicks on links or opens attachments in emails without checking they are legit, falls victim to phishing attacks and leaves traces of your identity all over the web. The solution is simple, and good advice for all walks of life: think before you act. You can also read up on our security advice , starting with how to stop hackers stealing your data.
Should you do all the above and still get infected by a virus, see how to remove malware from a PC or laptop , or from how to remove malware from Android .
It's important to realise that these days your chances of securing that job of a lifetime depend on much more than your qualifications and CV. Your digital reputation is crucial. So, whether it's to support your career or simply to prevent your friends thinking you're an idiot and deleting you, watch what you post on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook , particularly when you're somewhat worse for wear. Here are some tips on protecting your online reputation , too.
Over time your PC will pick up all sorts of dust, grime and other yucky stuff, which is not only a bit gross, but it can cause the computer to overheat and slow down performance. Clean up your act! This one might involve you getting out of bed, but your efforts will be rewarded as your flagging PC is put back on track. Also see how to speed up Windows 10 and how to speed up a PC or laptop.
Out with the old and in with the new. If you're still using Windows Vista, 7 or 8, you're either very patient or you just don't know that life doesn't have to be like this. Windows 10 is Microsoft's flagship operating system, and you don't need to buy a new PC or laptop to enjoy it. We help you decide whether you should upgrade to Windows 10 - and if you want to give it a try, here's how to install Windows 10.
Analogue media, such as printed photos, slides and negatives won't last forever and, for each year that passes, you step that little bit closer to losing forever your precious memories. Follow our simple walkthroughs on digitising your photos and take action now.
Analogue audio and video are subject to the same fate, so also check out our guides on converting audio tapes to CD or MP3 and VHS videos to DVD or Mpeg4 .
We aren't all pro photographers, and you've probably got hundreds of digital photos that should have been worthy contenders for framing on the wall or sharing with friends and family but, ultimately, were a let-down. The perfect photographic moment may have passed, but it isn't too late to rescue your marred shots. You can correct blurred photos, remove red-eye, delete unwanted objects and more, all for free, with our useful tips. See our guide on fixing your photos for free.
Smartwatches and fitness bands are the way forward in 2016. If you've made a resolution to lose some weight or just get in shape, check out ways technology can help you get fit. Also see our list of the best smartwatches and best fitness trackers.
These are our top eight; add your own tech New Year's resolutions in the Comments below.

 

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1.6

: Secure your new phone, tablet, laptop or PC for free with AVG Free antivirus

Getting a new phone , tablet , PC or laptop for Christmas? Logging into Facebook or Twitter to tell the world? STOP. Install some antivirus software (for free) or you'll spend Boxing Day clearing up your mess. Also see: Best antivirus for Windows PCs and laptops.
Here we explain how you can install one of the best-known free antivirus software programmes, AVG Free, on your Android phone , Android tablet , Windows PC or Windows laptop. We also discuss what steps you can take to protect a new iPad or iPhone. Also see: Do I need to pay for security software?
Don't go online using a Windows PC or laptop without installing antivirus software on it. You are asking for trouble. It's all too easy to get a new computer for Christmas and, in your excitement, jump straight on to Facebook or Twitter to tell the world. Don't do it, or you'll spend Boxing Day clearing out viruses and other malware. Or, rather, that tech-savvy relative you happen to know will, and they won't thank you for it. See all security software reviews.
To download the free version of AVG Free just head to AVG's website and click the big green Free Download button. On the next screen again click the green Free Download button at the top of the page.
The AVG_Protection_Free.exe file will automatically download to your PC. Launch the installer by clicking the notification at the bottom of your browser window or find the file in your Downloads folder.
Note that you will need to be an administrator to install AVG Free. If you are not using an admin account, ask the admininstrator to enter their password. AVG will then begin to install.
On the first screen click Continue, then select Basic Protection and click Install now.
When User Account Control pops up click Yes.
AVG will install itself and download new updates, then run in the background on your PC.
To run a scan at any time tap on the Protection icon on the AVG home page and select Scan now. You can otherwise leave it running in the background and forget about it. Also see: How to remove malware from a Windows PC or laptop.
Generally speaking you can get away without installing antivirus on an Android phone or tablet, but there are malicious apps to be found outside the Google Play store, and installing them is as simple as unticking a box in the Settings that lets you download apps from unknown sources. Plus, Android is now the most popular mobile operating system in the world and, as we saw with Windows laptops and PCs, that means it will become increasingly attractive to wrongdoers. Since AVG antivirus is available for free, you might as well play it safe and install it. Also see: How to remove a virus from Android.
Launch the Google Play store on your phone or tablet. You probably have an icon for this on your home screen; if not, open the apps menu and look for what looks like a white shopping bag with a triangular icon on top. If this is the first time you've opened Google Play you will be prompted to accept the terms and conditions. You will also need to have already set up a Google account on your device (if you bypassed this when you first turned on the device, add a Google account in the Settings menu).
With Google Play open, tap the magnifying glass search icon in the top right corner, type 'AVG Free' and tap the magnifying glass icon to search. Tap on the top result - 'AVG FREE 2016 - Android'.
On the next screen you'll see more details about the app, including its user rating and some screenshots. Tap the green Install button, then press Accept to allow AVG to access certain features on your device. Once it has installed the green Install button will change to Open - tap this.
Before you can begin using AVG Free for Android you need to accept its terms and conditions, so hit Get Started on the first screen. You'll then be prompted to upgrade to the paid for version of AVG, which removes the ads. Don't do this unless you want to: the antivirus part of AVG is free. Just tap Continue With Ads to continue.
If this is a new phone or tablet, that's all you really need to do. By default AVG will scan your device once a week, although you can change this within the Settings, Protection settings menu.
If this is an older phone or tablet that you're only just getting around to installing an antivirus on, hit the big orange Scan button. On the screenshot here you'll see AVG found a couple of threats, one of which is the fact we have it set to allow the installation of apps from unknown sources (necessary for sideloading apps from outside Google Play, but not a good idea if you're not sure exactly what you're downloading as it could be malicious). You don't need to blindly accept these warnings; just use your common sense.
To keep AVG running at the best of its ability, make sure you keep it up to date. Launch Google Play and click the three horizontal lines icon in the top left corner, then choose Settings. Under auto-update apps choose to either Auto-update apps at any time or to update apps over Wi-Fi only (if you have a limited mobile data plan choose the latter). From time to time you may still find an app update requests your permission, and this will be because it wants you to accept its updated access requests.
No. In general iPads and iPhones are considered secure, since Apple keeps a constant check on any apps allowed in its store, and claims to have built iOS with security at its core.
But there have been vulnerabilities. Even if you haven't heard of previous iOS malware that has hit the headlines, for example WireLurker, Masque Attack and Oleg Pliss, we doubt news of the nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebs leaked as the result of an iCloud hack passed you by.
These flaws have all been blocked by Apple - as have those that have occurred since - but in order to protect yourself from future attacks you need to ensure you install only safe apps and that all your logins are ultra-secure.
The Oleg Pliss and nude celebrities scandals were a result of hackers targeting Find My iPhone and iCloud accounts, then logging in as their victims. You should always use a strong password for online accounts (see how to create a strong password ), and avoid using the same login for multiple sites.
WireLurker targeted iPhones and iPads when they were plugged into insecure Macs or PCs (read our instructions above on how to install AVG Free antivirus on your Windows PC or laptop). Only jailbroken devices were maliciously affected.
On that note, jailbreak your iPad or iPhone only if you really know what you're doing. A good rule of thumb is to never install untrusted apps found outside the App Store, since Apple has no control of what goes on outside its walls.
Finally, always keep your iPad and iPhone up to date. iOS updates are free to download and install, so there's really no excuse. If you're having trouble updating because you're running out of storage, just plug your iPad or iPhone into a (secure) PC or Mac and launch iTunes.
Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter .

 

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10.0

Downloads advent calendar: get Pivot Animator free today

The holidays are an expensive time, so we’re bringing you a special treat: a full, free, fun Windows program to download every day until Christmas.
Behind the seventh door in our advent calendar you'll find Pivot Animator - a fantastic, fun way to make your own stick-figure animations. Use a ready-made character or create your own using an intuitive toolkit of shapes, lines and joints that can move in different ways, or remain static.
Animations are built up frame by frame, and the use of pivots means there's no need to redraw the figure - just adjust its joints. The process is much like stop-motion animation, and it's great fun!
You can export your finished animation in GIF format, ready to share online, or as an AVI file that you can adjust further in any video editing program , applying special effects, adjusting the speed, and even adding background music.
Got something fun in mind, but don't have time to build the figures from scratch? There are lots of characters available to download free from stickman animation site Droidz .
Download here: Pivot Animator

 

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3.6

PHP 7 user migrations are well underway

PHP users are slowly but surely migrating over to PHP 7, the upgrade to the server-side web development language that came out a year ago. But issues like incompatibility and IT user policy restrictions are stalling their progress.
A recent survey of nearly 1,300 PHP users taken by PHP tools producer Zend found that nearly 20 percent had already made the move, 21 percent were in progress, 15 percent planned to move in the next six months, and 17 percent planned to move in less than one year.
But 14 percent were putting off the migration for more than a year, and another 14 percent were not planning to move at all. Barriers to migration include incompatibility with custom code (nearly 31 percent), lack of support for third-party frameworks and libraries (17), lack of available extensions (11), IT policy restrictions (11), and customer requirements (10).
When respondents were asked about their security concerns related to PHP, they mentioned vulnerabilities in custom code (48 percent), open source or third-party components (30), infrastructure (12.2), and the PHP stack (6.5).
The survey also found, unsurprisingly, that about 93 percent of users were deploying PHP for web applications. It's also being used for services or APIs (63 percent), CMS software (48), internal business applications (46 percent), e-commerce (35 percent), and as a back end for mobile apps (34.35).
Respondents encountered few issues when deploying PHP applications into production, with 25 percent saying they almost never had problems and about 42 percent saying they had problems fewer than one-quarter of the time. About 9 percent said they had problems with almost every deployment or with more than half of deployments.
The survey asked about the problem resolution and maintenance vs. developing new functionalities equation, and it found imbalances in both directions. Slightly less than 35 percent of respondents said they spent three-quarters of their time on new functionality and the rest fixing problems, and almost 26 percent spent the vast majority of their time on new functionality. For about 25 percent, the breakdown was half and half.
Zend also inquired about the frequency of code deployments. Nearly 32 percent deploy several times a week, while 14 percent deploy several times per day. Slightly more than 21 percent deploy weekly, and 27 percent opt for one to three times a month for deployments. Just 6.26 percent deploy one to three times a year.
PHP 7 was unveiled to much fanfare , pledging lower memory usage and dramatic improvements in real-world performance. PHP 7.1 recently made its debut , also featuring speed and programming improvements. The survey was conducted from September 13 to October 1; results were released to InfoWorld yesterday.

 

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4.8

Got pliers? IT ninja attempts delicate operation

When I worked for a family-owned company some time ago, everyone was expected to do whatever it took to keep the company profitable. It was a laudable goal, but it sometimes presented us with unexpected situations.
Our IT shop was small but very efficient. We supported multiple branches in about eight different industry sectors. Most corporations would have a staff three times our size, but when your efficient and capable practices keep things running , cries for additional staff generally fall on deaf ears.
Because the company was shorthanded, we were expected to fill in wherever we were needed, even if it was outside the realm of the IT job description. We soon learned which person in the office had which skills or would at least give a problem a go, regardless of title.
For me, I had experience with several vocations before obtaining a degree in computer science, so I found myself often called on to do many jobs, including (but not limited to) the following: light the boiler if the heat was out, check out the AC unit on the roof that wasn't functioning, replace light bulbs, and even repair broken flappers in toilets.
I was getting used to odd requests that were far from my IT expertise, but one was especially surprising. Early one morning, I was in my cubicle when a co-worker buzzed me. I had seen her scurry into her office a bit late and looking agitated, but I figured it wasn't my concern. Now she had buzzed and asked for help. I went to her office wondering what new tech task or calamity would present itself.
When I arrived at her desk, she said, "I know you were once an EMT, and I need your help. " Intrigued, I replied, "What do you need? "
She told me to get my flashlight and return, but she didn't offer any other details. Now I was really wondering.
Once I came back she laid her head down with her left ear up. "Look in there," she said, pointing to her ear. I shined the light into her ear and saw clearly what was plaguing her: the broken end of a Q-tip. It was very damp, and I could see that water still remained in the ear canal.
She explained that the Q-tip had broken off while she was getting ready for work and she had tried everything, including going to the drugstore and getting her ear flushed to dislodge it. Nothing had worked and she didn't want to go to the ER or a doctor.
I looked at the ear and told her I would make one and only one attempt. If it didn't work she would have to choose the ER or a doctor.
I returned to my toolbox and got my longest set of needle-nose pliers. I gently inserted the pliers into the ear canal, careful not to push the Q-tip deeper. Grabbing the end of the shaft I pulled it out. Momentary thoughts of being a surgeon sped through my brain, which I quickly dismissed.
With her hearing restored, my co-worker was able to return to her work after making me swear not to reveal this story to any of the other staff. Thankfully, they don't read this publication!
The company's culture of doing what needed to be done to keep the place humming did get frustrating at times. But the upside was that as a staff we learned to really work together. And the environment brought new meaning to the idea that in IT we are always ready for any catastrophe -- no matter how big or how small.

 

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5.0

How to integrate Microsoft Teams with other apps

Back in the late 1990s, as instant messaging became popular, you could tell who’d been on what team by seeing which consumer IM tools they’d been using. Eventually, of course, everyone had an account on every service, and the first decision a new project team had to make was which IM tool it’d use for group chats.
That problem is back, as teams decide between collaboration platforms like Slack and HipChat. Now, of course, there’s Microsoft’s entry in the collaboration space: Teams.
Microsoft’s recently released service builds on its existing Office 365 and Skype for Business framework to give you a way to handle ad hoc collaboration and chat in existing teams. Like Slack, it’s a free-form channel-based app where Office 365 accounts are used to control access to team discussions, with easy options for adding new Teams members and sharing common documents and information. Users can dip in and out of threaded conversations, and they can quickly receive notifications from colleagues, with the option of changing to real-time video and voice where necessary.
Although an ad hoc channel for conversation is useful, it’s only part of the story. Teams can also bring other applications and services into one informal team-focused hub. Like Slack and HipChat, it can connect to external services, working with web standards to simplify the development and integration process.
Teams offers three options for integration: tabs, cards, and bots.
Tab-level integration brings an entire site or service into Teams. This approach works well where you need to work with significant amounts of information, like a Kanban board in an agile development process, a sales funnel for marketing, or a list of outstanding tickets for a support team. Pages are displayed in an iframe hosted in Teams, and although you’re unlikely to have to redesign your content for use in Teams, it’s worth considering what information needs to be displayed and how you want to lay it out for use inside a collaboration app.
Tab-level integrations are simple enough; all you need to do is create an appropriate manifest for your content, which you host as normal. A link to a configuration page is included with the manifest to help users choose options, and you’ll also need to bundle small and large icons for use inside Teams. Manifests are simple XML files, and the whole package is delivered as a Zip file and added to a Teams gallery in your Office 365 tenant.
Authentication for tabs is an issue, and although Microsoft encourages you to take advantage of Azure Active Directory to give users a simple single-sign-on experience, you can also work with third-party authenticators. These can be handled via Teams-specific markup that is parsed by mobile, desktop, and web Teams apps to create appropriate iframe-based pop-ups for user logins.
Building apps into Teams tabs is a useful option, but if you want to get the benefits of the ad hoc nature of working with collaboration tooling, the other two options Microsoft offer make a lot more sense, allowing you to embed interactions directly in channels, either using cards to display information or via chatbots.
Adding cards to Teams is easy enough, especially if you’ve been working with Office 365’s Groups feature and its application connectors. Microsoft makes it easy to reuse connectors between Groups and Teams. If you employ Groups for more formal team collaboration, the same connectors can quickly be repurposed as part of a channel in a team; for example, developers can quickly see the output from a test or a build running a continuous integration tool like Jenkins, or a sales team can get its latest pipeline information from Salesforce. If you can create a webhook, you can build a connector.
Webhooks are a simple way of building asynchronous connections into web applications, offering an easier route to integration than using JavaScript-based callback functions. Teams currently offers support for incoming webhooks as part of a publish-and-subscribe mechanism. Teams subscribes to a webhook URL, and services use it to publish content wrapped as a JSON-formatted document.
Connectors can be manually configured in Teams or delivered from the Office Store. The latter option allows you to preconfigure images and icons, as well as making them available to other collaborators. Manually configuring connectors is currently more complex, but can be handled with a set of basic online documentation and the URL of an appropriate webhook.
Putting a JSON payload on a webhook is easy enough; there are plenty of libraries and toolkits that can be used to add functionality to existing apps. The JSON document can be constructed to include different sections, including formatting and links. To keep it simple, they’re constructed with the common Markdown formatting syntax, which makes building and managing content relatively easy. Once formatted, cards let users click on links and hit action buttons to access external content from inside Teams. Other options let you build card sections from lists of images and from simple key/value pairs.
If you want to go further, you can connect Teams to a bot built using Microsoft’s Bot Framework. This lets you take advantage of a range of cloud-hosted machine learning services for natural language parsing. Going from chat to actionable data is relatively easy, and users can interact with bots in Teams with text or images.
Working with bots lets you start incorporating Teams into a chat ops strategy; users can interact with services via chat in Teams channels—for example, creating and launching virtual machines or subscribing to services.
But chat is only one way of working with bots in Teams. The can also deliver a richer card experience, with more interaction options. If you don’t want to have a free-form chat approach to your bots, this interactive card approach could be the basis of a more structured set of interactions between a user in Teams and an external application.
Microsoft needs to make its Teams service as much of a platform as its competition. Although its key differentiator is its integration with the Office graph that’s built around Office 365 users and their content, it needs to offer access to other tools and services. Using web standards like webhooks and Markdown makes a lot of sense, giving organizations an on-ramp to Teams from other collaboration platforms.

 

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6.4

Cloud convenience is killing the open source database

Open source has never been more important or, ironically, irrelevant. As developers increasingly embrace the cloud to shorten time to market, they're speeding past open source, making it even harder to build an open source business.
After all, if open source were largely a way for developers to skirt legal and purchasing departments to get the software they needed when they needed it, the cloud ups that convenience to the nth degree. In Accel's annual business review , the vaunted venture capital firm writes: "'Product' is no longer just the bits of software, it's also how the software is sold, supported, and made successful. " The cloud is changing the way all software is consumed, including open source.
The database market, where open source databases like MySQL and Postgres have dominated adoption for years, makes the shift to cloud readily apparent. Even among this open source elite, the cloud is making waves. More recently, MongoDB, Cassandra, and Redis have climbed to rank among the top 10 most popular databases, as shown in DB-Engines most recent findings.
If we drill down into relative growth, yes, cool-kid NoSQL vendors like MongoDB and Cassandra are growing fast relative to open source RDBMS leaders MySQL and Postgres. However, they pale in comparison to the absolutely torrid growth of cloud databases like Amazon DynamoDB or Microsoft Azure DocumentDB, as Indeed.com data reveals :
Of course, this is relative growth, and the Amazon and Microsoft Azure databases have the benefit of starting from comparatively small bases. But Amazon DynamoDB, for example, is a top-25 database under DB-Engines' ranking, so it's hardly an unknown.
One way to explain this uptick in adoption across these databases is their appeal to developers. As noted in an Andreessen Horowitz podcast , developers are the new go-to-market for many leading businesses like Atlassian or MongoDB because they offer a way to route around the cumbersome institutions of legacy software procurement:
The first companies to try this approach focused on open source, but the perfection of the model is the "as a service" business. Companies like Amazon offer a way around traditional procurement vehicles, minus the headache of assembly. As RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady has asked : "If you select Nginx, Kubernetes, Docker, Chef, and MongoDB, for example, what assurances do you have that these all work reliably together? " On their own, the answer is "none. " But in the cloud, the answer changes.
Developers, fed up with cobbling together proprietary or open source solutions themselves, increasingly are comfortable letting AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud remove that complexity for them. Or as O'Grady pithily puts it in a separate post : "Choice is an overhead, overhead that is multiplied with each additional choice a user has to make. " The cloud removes choice (bad!), thereby increasing developer productivity (good!).
It may also remove open source.
In this convenience-first world, open source licensing may not matter much. As DataStax executive Patrick McFadin told me in an interview, in the future "developers will use APIs and will be charged by the call or megabyte. The argument of what type of license will disappear as a result. "
Not that everyone is happy about this. For some, like Weaveworks founder and CEO Alexis Richardson , this brave new world of cloud has "everything you need, except freedom. " This, however, depends on how one defines freedom. If freedom begins and ends with the license governing the software, perhaps it's true that the cloud kills open source freedom.
But if the larger concern is with a "freedom to get stuff done," then the cloud has the potential to unlock dramatically more freedom than the 1s and 0s of open source code ever could. This is the realization that Capital One CIO Rob Alexander came to : Rather than burying his teams in server and software maintenance, they could increasingly build on public cloud services from AWS.
Again, this carries risks. One, as Red Hat engineer Timothy St. Clair highlights , is "hidden costs as those [cloud] services morph. " An enterprise that builds on someone else's foundation remains dependent on it.
Developers don't seem to mind. Perhaps this is because they're cutting their teeth with new infrastructure as open source code first, then going cloud as AWS, Microsoft, and Google operationalize it for them. In this way, open source remains highly relevant to initial use by early adopters, but it's the cloud that makes it real for the mainstream.

 

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3.1

8 free virtual appliances you’ll love

Despite the fact there’s no such thing as a free lunch, you can download the eight virtual appliances discussed in this article for free. That doesn’t mean you can use any of these in a high-end production environment, but it doesn’t mean you can’t either. Some even have paid and supported versions should you choose to go that route.
Our collection includes the world’s most popular web application stacks, two blogging platforms, a NAS server, and ready-made servers for network and system monitoring, log search and reporting, and secure network access. We found most of these jewels in the VMware Solution Exchange and/or the Bitnami and TurnKey Linux websites. You’ll find there are a number of advantages to using the virtual appliances put together by Bitnami or TurnKey Linux, starting with excellent documentation, frequent updates, and one-click deployment to Amazon EC2 and (in the case of Bitnami) several other clouds.
To continue reading this article register now
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1.4

It's insanely complex. How could MY code be wrong?

This bank is upgrading its ACH capabilities -- that's the way direct deposits get made, among other things -- and it's turning out to be far more complicated than expected, says a pilot fish on the project.
"In the past, we were using an aggregator who accepted the transactions from us in a simple form," fish says. "With these changes, we would be going directly to the Federal Reserve banks.
"But the Fed's 96-byte, fixed-record-length file format was obviously written for punched cards. And there were batch and file header and trailer records, sums of credits and debits individually, check digits on account numbers, and checksums on bank routing numbers. Some actions took multiple records, some had optional additional records. "
Another team is working on software to generate those files. Fish's assignment is to write a validation program to make sure the generated files will match the ridiculously complicated format, since the tools that have been acquired to do that aren't up to the task.
By the time he's done, fish's validator is more than 1,000 lines in the AWK scripting language. The validator is also flagging a lot of the records in the files being generated by the other team. Something must be wrong with my code, he figures.
But after a painstaking comparison of the flagged records to the official ACH standards, it turns out fish's code is correct. He reports that fact to the file team. They don't believe it.
That results in a meeting in which fish walks the file team through the format from the official ACH standard. The file team modifies its code. Fish's validator flags new errors -- and the cycle repeats numerous times until testing is complete.
Eventually the system is finished, the code goes live, and fish moves on to another job. Then one day he gets a call from an IT employee at the bank.
"She was my co-worker at an even earlier employer, and was now working at the bank," says fish. "It turned out that another developer added features to the file-creation code, generated a test file, ran it through my validator and got an error alert.
"Believing the alert to be wrong, he asked my friend to look at my code, since she knew AWK.
"Long story short, it turns out my validator was still correct -- the error was in the new code. To my friend, it appeared that the developer just didn't understand the error message. "

 

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2.1

Huawei has Unveiled the ‘Huawei Enjoy 6s’ in China

The Huawei Enjoy 6s looks almost identical to its predecessor with a few differences on the back panel. On the design front, the new Huawei Enjoy 6s also sports metal body and comes with chamfered edges. It measures 7.6mm thin and supports dual-SIM functionality.
It features a 5-inch HD with 720×1280 pixels IPS LCD display, powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 processor clocked at 1.4GHz coupled with 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of in-built storage.
Huawei Enjoy 6s sports a 13MP and a 5MP front camera, backed up by a 3020mAh battery which is smaller than the 4100mAh battery of it’s predecessor. It supports 4G with VoLTE and runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Huawei’s Emotion UI 4.1, and also comes with a fingerprint sensor at the back.
The Huawei Enjoy 6 is water and dust resistant with IP52 certification, there is no mentoion of the Huawei Enjoy 6s being certified to this feature.
The Huawei Enjoy 6s is priced at CNY 1,599 (approximately $236.08) and will available to buy in Gold, Silver, and White color variants.
According to Gadgets 360, the company might not launch the Enjoy 6s phablet outside China.
This launch was first reported by GizmoChina and Gadgets 360.

 

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8.3

Nanoxia launches Ncore Retro mechanical keyboard

Nanoxia's new Ncore Retro mechanical keyboard, based on Kailh White switches, certainly lives up to its name with a typewriter-inspired design. Nanoxia has announced the launch of a keyboard the design of which is sure to prove divisive: the Victorian-era typewriter-inspired Ncore Retro.
While not the first mechanical keyboard to boast typewriter-style keys, Nanoxia's Ncore Retro looks set to be one of the cheapest. Based on Kaihl White switches, offering a 50cN actuation force and a tactile feedback designed to mimic that of Cherry's popular MX Blue family, the keyboard is designed to be both eye-catching and practical: the company promises switchable six-key and N-key rollover, a locking Super key, and twelve multimedia function keys.
It's the keycaps that are the primary selling point of the Ncore Retro, of course. True to its name, the caps are inspired by typewriter keys from the Victorian era: each features a rounded, rather than square, design with white-on-black leather-like coverings surrounded by a slightly raised chrome frame. As you would expect from a mechanical keyboard the caps are also removable and can be repositioned at will, though Nanoxia has not announced plans to sell the caps separately for users to add on to existing keyboards.
The Ncore Retro's remaining features comprise a USB connection, a choice of UK ISO, US ANSI, and German QWERTZ layouts, switchable WASD/arrow functionality, and water resistance. The keyboard is promised to be available in the retail channel by the end of the week, with German customers able to order the boards from today priced at €109.99 (around £94 including taxes).
More information is available on the company's official product page .

 

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Tech talk: your tech for Christmas questions answered

Want to ask us about whether the Pixel is better than the iPhone? If VR is really the future? Or how good that new Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro is?
Experts from the Guardian’s technology desk, including Jonathan Haynes, Samuel Gibbs and Alex Hern, will be online and in the comments from 11am-1pm (GMT) answering your tech questions and discussing the latest issues – join them now. We’ll round up some of the best discussion, advice and expert opinion in a blog post after.

 

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S&T CEO says full takeover by Foxconn possible: magazine

"If we develop poorly and our share price falls significantly I expect that Foxconn will do a full takeover," weekly magazine WirtschaftsWoche quoted Hannes Niederhauser as saying in an interview in its BoersenWoche newsletter.
Foxconn unit Ennoconn raised its holding in S&T to 29.4 percent in a capital increase in October.
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Christoph Steitz)

 

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Russian MPs are not the first to try to write LGBT people out of video games

I n 2013, Russia’s parliament unanimously passed a law forbidding “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”, essentially making it illegal to distribute any material on gay relationships or gay rights via the internet or any other kind of media, or to hold gay pride marches or rallies.
The move led to an immediate rise in homophobic hate crime. So far, targets have included Ikea (for the crime of including gay couples in its catalogue), sports events run by LGBT-friendly organisations, and perhaps most famously, the Sochi Olympics.
This week, Russian MPs took aim at what might seem like an unlikely target : EA Sports’ Fifa 17, the latest entry in an annual series of football games that routinely sells over 20m copies year.
What’s so gay about Fifa, you might ask? There’s no mention of anything remotely approaching an LGBT issue in Fifa 17’s narrative mode. The issue is developer EA Sports’ support for Rainbow Laces , a Stonewall campaign tackling homophobia in football through challenging homophobic language and supporting LGBT fans and players in the sport.
For a limited time a few weeks ago, players could download rainbow uniforms for use in the game’s Ultimate Team mode, in which players build their fantasy teams. (I wouldn’t read the replies to EA’s tweet announcing this, unless you need to depress yourself.)
The demand perhaps reflects wider attitudes to sport in Russia. Sport in the country has very strong traditional gender roles: women’s football or ice hockey are relatively rare, for example. A couple of years ago, one of the country’s biggest football fan groups at Zenit St Petersburg published a manifesto pledging, among other racist and objectionable things, that they would never support a gay player at the club, although it never gained much actual traction in society.
Specifically, the Russian MPs in question want EA to either remove this “offensive” gay code, or face consequences involving either a higher age rating or restrictions on the game’s distribution in Russia. This could theoretically have financial consequences for EA, as the video games market has been booming in Russia in recent years and is now valued at more than $1bn, although it doesn’t represent one of Fifa’s biggest audiences.
This is the first time that the 2013 law has been invoked against a video game, but not the first time that games have fallen foul of Russian parliamentarians.
Previous calls to ban video games include Pokémon Go (over fears it was being used by the CIA to gather video footage of the inside of Russian government facilities), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (over the infamous “No Russian” mission [in which Russian terrorists indiscriminately murder civilians in a Moscow airport]), Company of Heroes 2 (for its less-than-heroic representation of Russian forces), and assorted shooter games, which have provoked panic over players shooting people in real life. So far none of these games has actually been banned, but publisher Activision voluntarily removed the “No Russian” level from copies of Modern Warfare 2 that went on sale in the country, as well as in Japan and Germany.
EA Sports has not responded yet to this demand. However, the publisher has a long and admirable history of visible support of LGBT employees and players – it has been named one of the best places to work for LGBT equality several years in a row – so although video game publishers regularly comply with special regional regulations in, say, Germany or Australia, where violence in games is more strictly regulated, it is highly unlikely that the company will comply. This is hardly the first time that someone has suggested that the presence of LGBT people be censored out of a video game: the only difference this time around is that it’s a government making the demand.
LGBT themes and characters have been appearing in video games since the 1980s, but until recently, both developers and publishers were rather shy about it. Nervousness about the potential reception of gay or non-gender-conforming characters in Japanese games led to fairly widespread censorship in America in the 1980s and 90s, affecting games as varied as Super Mario Bros 2, Streets of Rage 3 and Dragon Warrior II. As recently as 2008, when the Japanese RPG Persona 4 was released, localisation of Japanese games often downplayed the sexuality of queer characters, or made it deliberately ambiguous.
Recently, though, developers have been less tentative about including LGBT characters and themes, and they feature in games ranging from teensy indie projects to blockbusters. A great many role-playing games let you form romantic relationships with pretty much anyone you have the hots for, regardless of gender. The Sims has always included gay relationships, and actually included gay marriage before most real-world societies decided it was acceptable. Ellie, a main character in 2013’s the Last of Us, is gay. In 2014, Nintendo came under fire for not including the possibility of gay relationships in its cartoonish life-sim Tomodachi Life. We’re still some way off from the kind of diversity that players are increasingly demanding, but progress is happening quickly.
This has sparked a bit of a backlash, largely from the same people who bafflingly believe that the dreaded social justice warriors are ruining everything about pop culture by suggesting that perhaps women, LGBT people or people of colour should be included in it. They whine about “forced” LGBT representation in, say, Tom Clancy’s The Division , in which a character mentions her wife exactly once, or the fact that characters of the same gender sometimes hit on them in Dragon Age. It is odd that these people should demand ever more realistic video game graphics and technology, but that their representation of the actual people who make up society should remain stubbornly stuck in a mythical past where nobody was gay and women were only ever in the background.
Truth is, though, that neither disgruntled “consumers” nor Russian MPs are going to be able to turn the clock back on this. LGBT people are present in the real world, and in the real sport of football, so it is only natural that they feature in Fifa 17’s reflection of it. Calls for censorship – whether from socially conservative governments or reactionaries who seem inexplicably threatened by the presence of anyone who isn’t straight in pop culture – are not going to change that now.

 

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YouTube's $1bn royalties are not enough, says music industry

YouTube has said it has paid the music industry $1bn (£794m) in royalties this year - but record companies have responded by claiming it is not enough.
The spat began on Tuesday, when YouTube's chief business officer Robert Kyncl posted a blog highlighting the site's contribution to the industry.
He said YouTube had distributed $1bn in advertising royalties alone, arguing that "free" streaming was as important as subscription sites like Spotify.
But record labels were not impressed.
"Google has issued more unexplained numbers on what it claims YouTube pays the music industry," said a spokesperson for the global music body, the IFPI.
"The announcement gives little reason to celebrate, however. With 800 million music users worldwide, YouTube is generating revenues of just over $1 per user for the entire year.
"This pales in comparison to the revenue generated by other services, ranging from Apple to Deezer to Spotify. For example, in 2015 Spotify alone paid record labels some $2bn, equivalent to an estimated $18 per user. "
In his blog post, Mr Kyncl conceded that the current model was not perfect, arguing: "There is a lot of work that must be done by YouTube and the industry as a whole.
"But we are excited to see the momentum," he added.
The music industry has targeted YouTube - and other free streaming sites - as their villains du jour.
They say YouTube does not pay a fair rate to musicians and record labels, and is slow to police illegal and pirated material uploaded by its users - a claim which YouTube disputes.
The rhetoric intensified this year as YouTube's licensing agreements with the three major record labels - Sony, Warner and Universal - came up for renewal.
The industry has also pushed for reforms to the "safe harbour" laws, which mean YouTube and other similar sites cannot be penalised when users upload copyrighted material - including full albums - provided they remove it on request.
Artists like Lady Gaga, Sir Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Abba have all written to the US Congress asking for the law to be changed.
YouTube recently hired former Warner Music executive Lyor Cohen as its head of music, a move which was widely interpreted as an attempt to smooth relations with the music industry.
He took up his post on Monday, 24 hours before Kyncl's blog post was published.
However, the IFPI has maintained its position, saying in a statement that YouTube is still "not paying artists and producers anything like a fair rate for music".
It continued: "This highlights more than ever the need for legislative action to address the 'value gap' that is denying music rights holders a fair return for their work. "
Follow us on Facebook , on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts , or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk .

 

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Western Digital teases 14TB UltraStar hard drive

Western Digital's new HGST UltraStar He14 hard drive boasts a 14TB capacity, but won't launch until the middle of next year. Western Digital has confirmed plans to once again leapfrog its competitor Seagate in the mechanical hard drive capacity wars, promising a 14TB 3.5" model by mid-2017.
According to details released by Western Digital this week, the upcoming 14TB drive is to be based on the company's existing HGST-branded 12GB UltraStar He12 but featuring a boosted areal density for additional capacity. Accordingly, it's possible to guess at the specifications the company has yet to officially release: the drive will feature a 3.5" chassis filled with helium to reduce drag and more efficiently transfer heat to the casing, come in SATA and SAS variants, and offer a 256MB buffer, 7,200 rotations per minute (RPM) platter speed, around 4.16ms latency, and a typical 8 millisecond read and 8.6 millisecond write seek time.
The drive is also set to be based on perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) rather than the shingled magnetic recording (SMR) chosen by rival Seagate for its highest-capacity drives. Compared to SMR, PMR offers a considerably simpler storage system which does not require any optimisation in software or firmware for best performance - meaning that, in theory at least, the 14TB drive should be drop-in replacements for existing smaller capacity models without the need to modify any software.
For those eager to add some serious storage to their system, though, the following news is likely to be disappointing if not surprising: Western Digital is to target the data centre market with the new drive, as with its previous helium-filled drives, which could put its price out of reach of most hobbyists and enthusiasts.
Neither WD nor its HGST subsidiary have confirmed a formal launch date beyond mid-2017, and pricing has yet to be announced.

 

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1.2

East Asian dust deposition impacts on marine biological productivity

Since the iron hypothesis, scientists have studied the impacts of atmospheric deposition on the marine biogeochemical cycle. However, few studies have examined the direct link between natural dust events and marine biological productivity.
In recent years, a series studies by Dr. TAN Saichun and Prof. SHI Guangyu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and their co-authors found that significant correlations were observed between East Asian dust events and chlorophyll a concentration in the open ocean of North Pacific Ocean and also in the Chinese marginal seas.
In addition to long-term statistics analysis, dust storm case studies also found that phytoplankton growth in the Yellow Sea was related to dust deposition, and peak chlorophyll a concentration in dust years was above 40 percent higher than that in non-dust years. Those studies suggested the effects of dust fertilization on marine biological productivity.
Recently, the team investigated the transport process of East Asian dust events and quantitatively estimated the contribution of dust deposition to phytoplankton growth.
They found that the combination of satellite-observed column and vertical properties of aerosol were able to show the transport of dust storms from the source regions to the research seas (Chinese marginal seas and southern North Pacific) and reduce the identification uncertainties of dust affecting the seas. The contribution of dust deposition to marine biological productivity was estimated from a model of simulated dust deposition flux.
Results showed that dust containing iron was the most important factor affecting phytoplankton growth, and the deposition of iron via severe dust storms satisfied the increase in demand required for phytoplankton growth (115 to 291 percent), followed by nitrogen (it accounted for up to 1.7 to 4.0 percent), and phosphorus was the smallest one (up to 0.2 to 0.5 percent).
Explore further: Researchers show ocean response to Red Dawn
More information:
Sai-Chun Tan et al, Transport of East Asian dust storms to the marginal seas of China and the southern North Pacific in spring 2010, Atmospheric Environment (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2016.10.054

 

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3.1

Paris winter pollution worst in 10 years

The peak is due to the combination of emissions from vehicles and from domestic wood-fires as well as near windless conditions which means pollutants have not been dispersed, the agency said.
Explore further: Paris bans half of cars to tackle new peak of pollution

 

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7.7

Background Checks May Lower School Shootings

States that require background checks before people buy guns or ammunition may have a lower chance of having a school shooting, a new study finds.
Researchers found that over a three-year period, states that didn't require background checks before purchases of guns or ammunition were more likely to have a school shooting than those states that did require them, according to the study.
Moreover, the researchers found that school shootings occurred less frequently in states that spent more money on mental health services , compared with states that spent less. This suggests that mental health service providers may help states screen people who could harm themselves or others with firearms, the researchers said. [ Fight, Fight: The History of Human Aggression ]
In the study, the researchers, led by Bindu Kalesan, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University, looked at media reports of school shootings in the U. S. that happened between 2013 and 2015. The researchers used media reports because there is no official, comprehensive national data source on school shootings.
The researchers also looked at certain factors that could be linked to how frequently these shootings occurred. Besides background checks and mental health services, the researchers also looked at how many people in a state owned guns and how much money states spent overall on education in schools, from kindergarten through grade 12.
The researchers found that there were 154 school shootings between 2013 and 2015, and that 39 states had at least one school shooting during this three-year period. Of those states, 34 had fewer than 10 school shootings during this time period.
Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas each had 10 to 15 school shootings during the three-year period, according to the study, which was published today (Dec. 6) in the journal Injury Prevention.
However, 11 states had no school shootings during the same three-year period. These states included Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. (The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Connecticut, happened in December 2012, prior to the study period.)
When the researchers looked at their data, they also found that school shootings were less likely to occur in states that spent more money on K-12 education than in those that spent less money on education for students in those grades. This finding is in line with previous research that has suggested that there is a link between increased spending on education and lower levels of crime and violence, the researchers said.
This study was observational, so the researchers noted that they cannot firmly conclude that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between background checks or other factors and school shootings.
But the rising incidence of school shootings shows that there is a need for a national registry to monitor such events, so that the causes of these traumatic events can be better understood, they said.
Originally published on Live Science .

 

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2.6

Big Brother state, or Little Brother society: How healthy is our data-sharing culture?

I think George Orwell would be very pleased with many of his 1984 predictions foretelling today's surveillance society, but I am also sure he would be amazed that we buy our own cameras, install them,...

 

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0.0

From smart toothbrushes to cancer, Philips bets big on software

"It's a huge shift," Frans van Houten told Reuters, noting that around 60 percent of the healthcare technology company's R&D staff are now focused on software.
"It could rise further. It will not go to 100 percent, because we will still make products, but you could easily see that the value-add comes more out of software than hardware. "
Philips has repositioned itself as a health business after spinning off lighting, which has freed up capacity for acquisitions such as last year's $1.2 billion purchase of blood vessel imaging firm Volcano.
"M&A will play a more active role," van Houten said during a visit to London, highlighting informatics, diagnostics, patient monitoring and homecare as areas for potential deals.
Philips is betting on a new era of connected healthcare as smart connected devices in hospitals and at home feed data to doctors, insurers and drugmakers.
It is not alone in targeting this convergence of health and technology, with traditional medtech groups like Medtronic ( MDT. N ) striving to integrate disease care and newcomers, such as Google parent Alphabet ( GOOGL. O ), also investing heavily.
But van Houten believes Philips' existing standing with consumers can give it an edge.
"Having a consumer brand helps us a lot. We will see more ambulatory care and there will be a lot of new ways to deliver healthcare... and that means consumerism is going to play a bigger role. "
The humble toothbrush may be a start. Philips already sells connected ones designed to encourage correct brushing in children and adults. In future, its toothbrushes could include a sensor to measure disease biomarkers in saliva.
At the other end of the spectrum, the group is developing integrated solutions for cancer, such as a single workstation combining genomics, pathology and radiology that can give medics a complete picture of tumors.
Philips' full reinvention still has a little way to run.
A sale of lighting components business Lumileds to Chinese buyers was blocked earlier this year by the United States on security grounds, although van Houten said he still hoped to clinch a deal before the end of the year.
It also retains 71 percent of Philips Lighting ( LIGHT. AS ), which van Houten said could take a few years to unwind.
(Additional reporting by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Editing by Alexander Smith)

 

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0.0

The benefits of planning to fail to avoid failing

Data is the lifeblood of any business. It offers a competitive advantage and provides a rich tapestry of knowledge that employees can use to work with colleagues, serve customers and drive increased business value.
While the day-to-day cogs of business are turning, data comes in and out of your business and all is well. Customers are – in the main – happy and employees are able to do their jobs and add value to your bottom line.
But what if something happens. Something that you were aware of but hoped wasn’t headed for you, or even something that occurs that’s completely leftfield? Are you prepared?
“Data protection is essential for every business and its importance cannot be underestimated for DR and prevention of data loss as a result of more day to day incidents. Yet even after several decades of effort, backup and recovery functions often resemble less of a science and more a dark art in many organisations,” said Tony Lock from analyst firm Freeform Dynamics.
“Why? Well from a practical perspective, Freeform Dynamics research has consistently shown how difficult it can be to protect data that is increasingly spread and replicated across many locations, including the cloud, departmental servers and user devices. It also illustrates how hard it can be to get hold of budget to improve the situation.”
Business seatbelt
In consumer and business life we don’t generally prepare for the worst. We prefer to be positive and hope the worst won’t happen. However, SMBs cannot afford to adopt and continue this attitude. A lack of preparedness for bad things is akin to SMB kryptonite…
While enterprises live or die by their reputation and customer loyalty, they are often big enough to absorb the effects of and survive a blip. SMBs are not so fortunate so there is much more at stake that needs to be fiercely protected.
Financial and human resources are in short supply for the average small business, however, backup and DR are areas where you really do need to invest. You may think of it as money you’ll never see a return on, however, if you plan properly, the measure of success will be just that – never needing to see a return as you’ll be protected.
It’s a bit like buying car insurance. You purchase it in case you ever have a crash. But who would put their hands up as wanting to crash their car if they could avoid it? Similarly, some people hate seatbelts. They can be annoying and restrict movement. However, they could also save your life…
Forewarned is forearmed is a term often used and it rings true for SMBs when it comes to backup and DR. If you’ve already got some plans in place, now is a good time to take stock and review them (as you’ll see later on, a solid DR strategy does not sit on a shelf gathering dust. It evolves as your business and the threat landscape changes). If you don’t have one at all, now is the time you must sit up, listen to good advice and take action. If you don’t, you’ll only have yourself to blame should the worst happen…
Planning to fail vs failing to plan
Is it better to have a plan that doesn’t quite work out as planned or have no plan at all and head, full pelt, into panic mode? It doesn’t take a genius to work out the answer to that one, does it?
So let’s apply the same common sense and logic to business.
“The value of data makes it even more critical for businesses to protect,” Lisa Person, director of CompTIA’s Managed Services Community, in a blog post
CompTIA has introduced a tool to help SMBs assess the negative value of any downtime to help crystallise exactly what’s at stake. SolarWinds also offers similar tools to ensure small businesses become ‘risk intelligent’ rather than ‘risk ignorant’ or ‘risk averse.’
“SMB customers don’t seem to always understand the cost of their systems being down, which is specifically why this tool was created. You fill in the information about the company and you can calculate the overhead cost per hour. Add in the data related to your recovery process, and you can calculate the cost for every hour you’re down,” Person added.
“You don’t want to be down for more than an hour. A lot of people don’t know this, but overhead cost per hour tends to be about half of what the wages are.”
Recognising what’s at stake
So we know what’s at risk, so how do we get that much-needed plan in place?
Firstly, it’s a case of going back to basics and assessing and re-assessing where your business-critical priorities like and where your business would be most hurt should something go wrong.
Once you have that list in place, you can go about setting up sub contingency plans that cater to each area of the business. DR is never a one-size-fits-all solution – and that applies as equally to different sectors and business sizes as it does to different areas of the same business.
David Norfolk, from Bloor Research, recently offered this very valid viewpoint .
“It is not unknown for a company to recover all its IT and data after a disaster, only to find that the business still can't operate, because key people or communications links aren't available (of course, this is less likely if you actually test your business continuity plans regularly). I'd also note that customer communication is important, if customers might be impacted by an incident (or hear about it on Twitter) - letting your customers know that you are still around and in control of the situation (especially after a visible or newsworthy disaster) is probably even more important than getting a broken database back on-line,” he said.
Norfolk added: “I also think that business continuity (or disaster recovery and so on) is one area where a company might not (I hope) have a lot of internal practical experience to call on. Engaging with a third party specialist may make economic sense, not least because a third party can "speak truth unto power". Telling the CEO that his demand for 0% downtime, and 100% security at zero additional cost is unrealistic may be seen as "negative thinking" and will probably be career limiting.
Nevertheless, business continuity is well worth investing in - I believe that a significant number of companies suffering a major and visible outage go out of business further down the line, without necessarily realising that (whatever the immediate cause), their problems started when customers lost trust in the company, and started looking at the competition, back when a major outage was mishandled.”
Sage advice indeed. And advice SMBs would do well to do more than pay lip service to.
SolarWinds MSP’s Nick Cavalancia recently offered some great advice on the company blog
“I’ve been in IT for over 25 years and spend much of my time rubbing elbows with IT pros that specialise in certain parts of the industry. So, when I talk a lot (and I do) about backups, there’s sort of an assumption that the IT pro I’m interacting with has the basics down,” he wrote.
“But, as those of you in SMBs know, it’s never that easy. You have so many hats (including backup) to wear, that you often need a little push in the right direction so that you don’t need to try and reinvent the wheel as it were.
So, what’s the right way to plan out your backup strategy for small business?”
First, you need to be asking (and then answering the right questions), Cavalancia advises.
Why do you need a backup at all? Would perhaps be the most obvious one, but one that is often overlooked or responded to with action without really thinking it through.
A backup is essential, for the following key reasons cited by Cavalancia:
Once you’ve got your head around the fact backup is an SMB necessity, you need to decide how to do it. You have the choice of on-premise, in the cloud or the best of both worlds through a hybrid mix of the two. For many, the latter is the best option as it offers greater certainty in the face of disasters of the natural kind.
The next question after why is what? What needs to be backed up?
“In a word? Everything ,” said Cavalancia.
“The whole point of disaster recovery for a small business is to provide an ability to recover regardless of the loss incurred. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is to perform image-level backups, where the entire system (whether physical or virtual) is backed up as a single data set (more on this later).
“Given, you may be reading this because you don’t have your backups in proper order, you should at very least be considering the backup of critical servers and services that you know your business can’t be without for very long.”
The basics are now in place, but they need to become fact rather than theory. And that requires testing. You don’t want to wait until the worst happens to check that your DR and backup plans actually pass muster, do you? Would you do the same with a fire drill at work? Same principle, right?
“This both the hardest part (because who has the time and resources to mock up a disaster and then test recovery?) as well as the most critical (because without testing, your plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on),” Cavalancia advises.
“Testing, at a minimum, can be a table-top session with those involved with the recovery process where you walk through the steps together discussing what may go wrong and what to do about it. At a maximum, you’d perform an actual recovery to an alternate server, location, etc. testing out the backups you have, ensuring an ability to recover.”
Want to know more about disaster recovery? Click here to download the whitepaper.
This is an independent article written by IT Pro, sponsored by SolarWinds MSP to celebrate thought leadership in IT. Learn more about SolarWinds MSP's Backup & Recovery and enjoy a free 30-day trial by clicking here.

 

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0.7

: Which Fitbit is best to buy? Fitbit Charge 2, Surge, Blaze, Alta, One, Zip or Flex 2 activity tracker

Fitbit currently sells five activity tracker wristbands – the Fitbit Flex 2, Alta, Charge 2, Surge, and Blaze – and two clip-on activity trackers: Fitbit Zip and One. Which Fitbit is best for you? Which Fitbit should you get? We explain all in the buying guide to the Fitbit activity trackers. Fitbit trackers compared and features in detail.
It's a great range, but it can be confusing. Fitbit may even confuse us slightly more when it was revealed in December 2016 (by t he Information ) that the company is to buy its rival Pebble. Pebble got into the smartwatch game through successful Kickstarter campaigns and only recently released its Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 products. It has been reported that Fitbit is interested only in Pebble's software, however, and that the company will can its Pebble Time 2 and Core smartwatches. Those who have already pledge support on Kickstarter will be issued with refunds.
Aside from Fitbit, there are other activity trackers of course, so be sure to read the best activity trackers currently available to buy too.
This feature has been updated to include the new Fitbit trackers: the Flex 2 and Charge 2, announced in August 2016, and now both on sale. The Fitbit Charge HR has been replaced by the Charge 2. The Flex 2 replaces both the Flex and the non-HR Charge tracker, so we've removed all of those models from this round-up.
Choosing the best Fitbit for you will come down to features and price, but you should also consider size, battery life and of course looks.
For more detailed reviews of each Fitbit activity tracker go to our dedicated review pages, listed below.
Fitbit One review | Fitbit Zip review | Fitbit Flex 2 review | Fitbit Alta review | Fitbit Charge 2 review | Fitbit Blaze Review | Fitbit Surge review
See also : Fitbit vs Apple watch
Let's start with a key factor: cost. None of the Fitbits are pocket change but none are horrendously over-priced either. You'll find cheaper variations online and in supermarkets but there are several advantages to buying a quality tracker. And if you start walking more you can make the money back quite quickly by not taking the bus, tube or train. I saved £100 in around two months, and got fitter into the bargain.
Click on these links below for the latest, best prices from Amazon. You can also order direct via the Fitbit Store.
Fitbit Flex 2 - £79.99 / US$99.95 / €99.95 - click here to view today's best prices on Amazon .
Fitbit Alta - £99.99 / US$129.95 / €149.95 - view today’s best prices on Amazon .
Fitbit Charge 2 - £129.99 / US$149.95 / €159.95 - click here to view today's best prices on Amazon .
Fitbit Blaze - £159.99 / US$199.95 / €239.95 - view today’s best prices on Amazon .
Fitbit Surge - £199 / US$249.95 / €249.95 - view today’s best prices on Amazon .
If price is important you may be better off trying the clip-on Fitbit Zip or Fitbit One instead. The One costs the same as the Flex, but, as we’ll see, offers more features.
Fitbit One - £79.99 / US$99.95 / €99.95 - view today’s best prices on Amazon .
Fitbit Zip - £49.99 / US$59.95 / €59.95 - view today’s best prices on Amazon .
Although it's officially discontinued (replaced by the Charge 2) the Fitbit Charge HR can still be found online at discounted prices. We've seen it on Amazon for less than £80.
The cheapest Fitbit wristband tracker is the Flex 2 , but this lacks some of the features of the more expensive Fitbits, such as an altimeter to measure "floors climbed", multi-port functions, heart rate, Caller ID and Text Notifications and GPS tracking. But casual users don't really need the heart-rate monitor or sports capabilities, and only the top-end Surge actually boasts a built-in GPS anyway. The Flex 2 is also the only waterproof, swim-ready Fitbit tracker.
The Alta is one step up from the Flex 2, but quite a jump in terms of price. For the extra money you gain Caller ID and Text Notifications, which many will find very useful. If your phone is a short distance froim you but not in your pocket or in Silent mode then that little vibration alert that a call is incoming can be super handy.
If you do jog, run or exercise in any way as well as walking we think that it might be worth paying for the extra heart-rate-monitoring functionality you get with the Charge 2, Blaze and Surge. But if you're just interested in everyday exercise the Fitbit Flex 2 or Alta will suffice, and are excellent trackers.
We also prefer the watch-buckle strap found on the Charge 2, Blaze and Surge. It feels more secure, and again is worth the paying extra for.
Remember to factor in the cost of the straps and accessories to the price of the wristband trackers if you fancy something different to the included Classic bands. Having a choice of straps is appreciated, but it does make the pricing harder to compare.
You should find cheaper prices at the usual online retailers. Check each individual Fitbit review at the links above for the latest, best prices.
Fitbit also sells the Fitbit Aria smart scales, which sync with the trackers to add measurements of your weight, BMi and Body Fat Percentage. Read our Fitbit Aria review and also our Best Smart Digital Scales review.
The charts below shows all Fitbit features by device model, plus prices. Click on the image to make it bigger.
The cheaper clip-on Fitbit Zip doesn’t offer all the features found on the One, Flex 2, Charge 2, Alta, Charge HR, Blaze or Surge. For example it lacks the Sleep Tracking and Silent Wake Alarm found on the otehr clip-on tracker, the Fitbit One. Neither clip-on tracker features a heart-rate monitor, or the sports functions and notification alerts.
All Fitbits have a MEMS 3-axis accelerometer that measures motion patterns to determine your calories burned, distance traveled, and steps taken. All but the Zip also monitor sleep quality.
The One, Flex 2, Charge 2, Alta, Blaze and Surge also contain a vibration motor, which allows it to vibrate when alarms are set to go off. The now discontinued Fitbit Charge HR (but still available at online retailers) offers the same functions as the Charge 2, except for multi-sports and GPS connectivity with a smartphone.
The One, Charge 2, Charge HR, Blaze and Surge boast an altimeter that measures stairs (or height) climbed. Despite its name the Alta does not include an altimeter.
The Fitbit Surge boasts eight sensors: 3 axis accelerometers, gyroscope, compass, ambient light sensor, GPS and heart rate. The Fitbit Blaze lacks the GPS, but does boast a smart colour touchscreen.
The Fitbits track seven days of detailed motion data – minute by minute, and daily totals for past 30 days. They store heart rate data at 1-second intervals during exercise tracking and at 5-second intervals all other times. The Sample rate for GPS is 1Hz.
The Charge 2, Charge HR, Blaze and Surge monitor your heart rate , and without having to lash sensors to your chest like some HR trackers demand. It's all done on the wrist. They use Fitbit's PurePulse heart rate technology that gives continuous, automatic, wrist-based heart rate, plus simplified heart-rate zones.
The Charge 2, Alta, Charge HR, Blaze and Surge will all show Caller ID when linked to a smartphone. All the wristbands also display Text Notifications on its display, and the Blaze and Surge allow you to control your music from the touchscreen display. We found call notifications very useful. You can rely on the wriststrap buzz more than your phone's vibration, and even see who's calling right there on your wrist, which is more polite than and easier than pulling our your phone when chatting to someone else. It's expecially handy when you're at home and your phone is in a different room where you might not hear it.
The top Fitbit wristbands (Alta, Charge 2, Blaze and Surge) feature multi-sport exercise tracking to easily record workouts and see real-time exercise stats and summaries. A recent software update means the Charge HR and Surge can now automatically detect which activity you're doing – and this functionality is also present on the Alta and Blaze. This means these trackers will know when you're cycling, running, hiking or playing sports including football, tennis and basketball. They will also recognise aerobic workouts such as Zumba, cardio-kickboxing and dance workouts. They will record the excercise in the Fitbit app along with an excercise summary.
All the Fitbit wristbands now boast a neat new feature borrowed from the Apple Watch. Using short exercise prompts the Fitbit encourages you to meet a mini-step goal of 250 steps each hour (approximately 2-3 minutes of walking). These prompts can be personalised to your schedule; for example they can be put on “Do Not Disturb” during long meetings or appointments. We love this feature, and hope Fitbit adds it to the other trackers soon.
Fitbit has added Hourly Activity and Stationary Time in the Fitbit app, when paired with Surge, Blaze, Charge HR, Charge 2, Alta, or Flex 2.
All the Fitbits, except the Zip, check your sleep , too. They measure the time you spend asleep and check the quality of sleep – noting when you are restless or wake up during the night. Increasingly sleep is regarded as a vital health factor. Runing around and eating well won't help you as much if you're sleep patterns are too short or restless. Poor quality sleep is also seen as a factor in heart disease, colds and infections, depression and lack of sex drive.
If losing weight is one of your aims then you should consider the Fitbit Aria , digital scales that wirelessly sync with your account and measure your weight, body fat percentage and BMI. But don't try wearing it on your wrist!
On top of all this the super-fitness-stats Fitbit Surge features GPS tracking, without the need for a smartphone to be linked. Users can see distance, pace and elevation climbed, and review routes and split times. This beats the Apple Watch, which relies on the GPS in your iPhone. The Blaze and Charge 2, like the Apple Watch, require a connected smartphone, but works not just with the iPhone but Android and Windows Phone too. While built-in GPS is great, most of us exercise with our smartphone on us for music and calls – so connecting to your phone's GPS isn't that much of a nuisance, and saves your trackers' battery. See New Fitbit trackers rumours and release date.
Here's how Fitbit lists each of the trackers' special features, starting with the Flex 2 , below:
The Fitbit Alta features:
Now, the Charge 2 features:
Next, the discontinued Charge HR (replaced by the newer Charge 2, but still available on Amazon ) features:
Then, Fitbit Blaze features:
And finally the Surge features:
Top 10 tips for hitting your Fitbit step goals
Fitbit was bitten hard when it had to withdraw and recall its Force wristband when some owners reported developing a skin rash as a result of metal allergies. The company has employed scientific experts Dr Peter Schalock, an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School, and Dr Patricia Norris, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Oregon Health & Science University, to make every effort to reduce the chances of Fitbit users having reactions from parts of their wristbands.
Fitbit still warns that “if you have eczema, allergies, or asthma you may be more likely to experience a skin irritation or allergy from a wearable device.”
It also advices that “if you sweat for more than two hours while wearing your Fitbit band, be sure to wash your band and your wrist using the directions above to avoid skin irritation.”
Each new wristband (except the Alta, Charge 2 and Blaze's leather and stainless steel wristbands) is made of a flexible, durable elastomer material similar to that used in many sports watches.
Another problem that beset Force owners was the wristband's weak clasp, which lead to many – me among them – losing their treasured tracker. Now take a look at the back of the Charge 2, and you'll see a surgical-grade stainless steel buckle that's much more like a standard watch. The new buckle is found on the Charge 2, HR, Blaze and Surge, but not the slimmer Flex 2 or Alta. Fitbit has improved the pop-in clasp found in the Alta and Flex 2, but it can still come undone. It's one of the reasons we recommend the watch-buckle Fitbits instead. Plus the buckle isn't uncomfortable when worn in bed.
The Zip display has five modes: Steps; Distance; Calories burned; Fitbit Smiley (highlights your recent activity level); and Clock.
The One ’s display has six modes: Steps; Distance; Calories burned; Floors climbed; Flower (grows and shrinks based on your recent activity); and Clock.
The Flex 2 ’s display is the most minimal, consisting of a series of flashing dots that show you how your day is stacking up against your goals. Each light represents 20 percent of your goal. You just tap the display twice to see your progress against your daily goal. This is very easy to get used to but isn’t as informative as the other Fitbits. Of course you can see all your stats via the Fitbit iPhone or Android smartphone app.
The Fitbit Alta takes a longer, vertical view of its displays.
The Charge 2 's OLED display (below) shows Time; Steps; Heart Rate; Distance; Calories burned; Floors climbed; Very active minutes; Caller ID; Text Notification; and Alarm.
The (discontinued) Charge HR 's OLED display shows Heart Rate; Exercise Tracking; Time; Steps; Distance; Calories burned; Floors climbed; Very active minutes; Caller ID; and Alarm.
The Blaze 's colourful display wins hands down, although you won't see it if you put your hands down…
The Surge 's larger display (below) shows even more data to fitness and sports nuts. Its display is a touch screen monochrome LCD with backlight (for low light visibility).
While the Fitbit One and Zip are small and can clip onto clothing or sit in your pocket they’re in some ways less flexible than the wristbands. You’re also less prone to forget a fitness wristband than you are a tiny clip-on gadget which inevitably gets left behind when you change your clothes, and we've put several through the washing machine (amazingly, they mostly survived).
The Flex 2 and Alta are thinner and slightly lighter than the Charge 2. The Flex 2 is 13.99mm wide and the Alta 15mm, compared to the Charge's 21.1mm girth. As the Charge/HR/Surge also include a watch function they might actually save you wrist space as you can ditch your watch.
The Zip is the smallest of the Fitbits – it’s shorter than the One but podgier.
When you buy a Flex you get both a large (161-209mm) and small (140-176mm) wristband, but with the Charge, Charge HR and Surge you need to specify whether you want Small, Large or X-Large, as the tracker itself is built into the band. You choose a S, L or XL tracker for the Alta and Blaze, and can also choose an extra, different strap separately. You can check with Fitbit’s online wristband sizing tool.
Fitbit Zip size and weight: H: 48mm; W: 19.3mm; D: 9.65mm; Weight: 8g.
Fitbit One size and weight: H: 35.5mm; W: 28mm; D: 9.65mm; Weight: 8g.
Fitbit Flex 2 size and weight: W: 11mm; Weight: 23.5g (weight dependent on strap choice). This is the slimmest and lightest Fitbit wristband.
Fitbit Alta size and weight: W: 15mm. Weight dependent on strap choice.
Fitbit Charge 2 size and weight: W: 21.45mm; Weight dependent on strap choice.
Fitbit Charge HR (discontinued) size and weight: W: 21.1mm; Weight: 26g.
Fitbit Blaze size and weight: W: 42.1mm. Weight dependent on strap choice, but 43g with Classic Strap.
Fitbit Surge size and weight: W: 34mm; Weight: 52g.
Remembering to keep your Fitbit charged is important if you wish to keep your activity tracked. The longer the battery life in between charges the better, then.
The Zip is easily the best for battery life but you will need to buy a new battery two or three times a year. The 3V coin (CR 2025) battery is cheap, though – you can buy a pack of five for under £2.50 (US$3). The other Fitbits feature rechargeable batteries.
Remember that accessing the display on any of the Fitbits will drain the battery faster.
Fitbit One battery life: 5-7 days
Fitbit Zip battery life: 4-6 months
Fitbit Flex 2 battery life: up to 5 days
Fitbit Charge 2 battery life: Up to 5 days
Fitbit Alta battery life: up to 5 days
Fitbit Charge HR battery life: 5+ days
Fitbit Blaze battery life: up to 5 days
Fitbit Surge battery life: Up to 5 days
Only the new Fitbit Flex 2 is actually officially sanctioned as waterproof, and has swimming tracking features.
Sadly none of the other Fitbit activity trackers can monitor your swimming. And none of the other Fitbits are happy getting wet. See: Is the Fitbit waterproof?
The Fitbit One, Zip, Alta, Charge2, Blaze and Surge are splash proof, but should not be submerged more than one metre.
The Flex 2 is water resistant to 50 metres, which is rated as 5 ATM (Atmospheres).
The Alta, Charge 2, Charge HR and Blaze are water resistant to 1 ATM (Atmosphere), so theoretically can be submerged up to 10 metres (33ft). However, watch specialists advice that a device with this resistance level is protected against accidental exposure to water; for example, splashes, perspiration or accidental immersion; and state that it should not be exposed to any water pressure. I did once jump in a swimming pool with my Charge HR and it survived, but it's not recommended!
The Fitbit Surge is water resistant to 5 ATM, which means it is wearable around household sinks, while playing sports and while swimming in shallow water. Experts recommend that you don't wear it while bathing, snorkeling or scuba diving, and Fitbit calls it water resistant rather than properly waterproof.
What's the best activity fitness tracker for swimmers ?
The Fitbit One is available in either Burgundy or Black.
The Fitbit Zip is more colourful, available in either Blue, Magenta, White, Charcoal or Lime.
The Flex 2 wristband is available in four colours: Black, Lavender, Magenta and Navy Blue.
From 2017 you can buy extra bands for the Flex 2 (without the tracker) in packs of three for £24.99.
The Fitbit Alta is available in a classic strap (extra £19.99 or US$29.95) in Black, Blue, Plum or Teal; in leather (extra £49.99/£99.95) in Graphite or Blush Pink); or in Stainless Steel Links (extra £79.99/$129.95).
The Fitbit Charge 2 is available in its Classic Band model in Black, Plum, Blue and Teal.
There are also Special Edition models of the Charge 2, available in Lavender/Rose Gold and Black; and Luxe Leather in Brown, Blush Pink and Indigo.
The (discontinued) Fitbit Charge HR is available in Black, Plum, Blue, Tangerine, Teal and Pink.
The Fitbit Blaze is available in a classic strap (extra £19.99 or US$29.95) in Black, Blue or Plum; in leather (extra £59.99/£99.95) in Black, Camel or Mist Grey); or in Stainless Steel Links (extra £89.99/$129.95).
The Fitbit Surge is available in three colours: Black, Blue and Tangerine.
The Fitbit Zip ships with tracker, silicone and metal clip, wireless sync dongle, replaceable battery and battery door tool.
The Fitbit One comes with tracker, silicone and metal clip, wireless sync dongle, charging cord and sleep wristband.
The Fitbit Flex 2 includes removable tracker, wristband (one small and one large), and charging cable.
The Fitbit Alta ships with a removable tracker, Classic wristband, charging cable, and wireless dongle.
The Fitbit Charge 2 comes with tracker, wristband (either small, large or x-large), and charging cable.
The Fitbit Charge HR comes with tracker within wristband (either small, large or x-large), wireless sync dongle, and charging cable.
The Fitbit Blaze ships with a charging cable. You need to specify the type of band (Classic, Leather or Stainless Steel) you require.
The Fitbit Surge ships with tracker within wristband, wireless sync dongle, and charging cable.
All the trackers work with the excellent Fitbit desktop dashboard and iPhone, Android and Windows Phone apps.
The apps look wonderful, and display all your daily and historical stats in beautiful graphs that expand in landscape orientation as well as display in portrait view.
The desktop dashboard is another visually atrractive and informative place to monitor your factivity and fitness statistics.
And as added incentive you can link with friends, family and colleagues to compete against each other on the leaderboard, get involved in daily or weekly Challenges, and win badges determined by passing goals, and historical milestones. These aspects of the Fitbit system really set it apart from the other trackers.
Some Fitbits are easier to lose than others. Obviously if you are the sort of person who puts things down and then forgets where they put them, then you'll expect to lose your possessions every now and again. But with Fitbits some are risker than others.
The Zip and One clip to your clothing or can be carried in a pocket, and so could be easier to mislay than something attached to your wrist. The wristbands are certainly less easy to lose, but we recommend you go for one with the watch-like buckle (Charge 2, HR, Blaze, Surge) as these are much more secure than the pop-in clasp (Flex 2, Alta) if you're concerned about losing it. The slimmer Alta and Flex 2 are undoubtedly more chic than the watch-buckle brigade, but not as secure on the wrist.
Fitbit Flex 2 - £79.99 / US$99.95 / €99.95 - click here to view today's best prices on Amazon. Fitbit Alta - £99.99 / US$129.95 / €149.95 - view on Amazon. Fitbit Charge 2 - £129.99 / US$149.95 / €159.95 - click here to view today's best prices on Amazon Fitbit Blaze - £159 / US$199.95 / €239.95 - view on Amazon. Fitbit Surge - £199 / US$249.95 / €249.95 - view on Amazon. Fitbit One - £79.99 / US$99.95 / €99.95 - view on Amazon. Fitbit Zip - £49.99 / US$59.95 / €59.95 - view on Amazon .
It’s possible to look at the Fitbit activity trackers in three groups.
The clip-on Zip and One offer the least features but are perfect if you don't want to wear a wristband. We do worry that these are easier to lose than the wristbands, though.
The watch-buckle Charge 2, Charge HR, Blaze and Surge wristbands boast the most features, including Floors Climbed via the altimeter. They also show more right there on their displays, including Call and Text Notifications from your phone, including Caller ID.
The slimmer pop-clasp Flex 2 and Alta wristbands are mnore chic, and maybe aimed at women, although there's nothing in the design to put off men. Neither has an altimeter or boasts heart-rate or multi-sport functions. One solution is to own more than one Fitbit! You can sync multiple trackers to your Fitbit account, so maybe wear a fully featured sporty tracker during the day, and slip on a slimmer, more chic Alta or Flex 2 in the evening. We love the Flex 2 minimalist display, but think the Alta's better display gives you more data right there on the wrist.
The Zip is the cheapest Fitbit, and if you can live without the altimeter and sleep tracking then this is a great entry point. Sleep tracking is fun but not at the top of most people's fitness lists, but the buzz is a great way to know you’ve reached your key target. Is that worth an extra £30 for the One or Flex? That’s really up to you.
When it comes to choosing between the three Fitbit watch-buckle wristbands it's really a matter of price vs features. The top-end Surge, with its GPS, is the obvious choice for the serious fitness nut – or you can wear one, and pretend to be a performance fitness nut, and just use it to count your steps and tell you the time. But the multi-sport functions and smartphone GPS connectivity of the Charge 2 and Blaze should satisfy most fitness enthusiasts. Their lack of built-in GPS might disappoint some, but most runners take their smartphone with them for music or call, so their wireless connection to the phone's GPS does the same trick.
The Fitbit Blaze is similar to the other Fitbits but comes with a flashier colour display. It will apeal to those people who want an activity tracker but also a watch-like timepiece. Its colourful displays are also going to attract attention.
Finally, it's not long since Fitbit discontinued the popular Charge HR wristband tracker, so look on Amazon for any available bargain prices .
There's a Fitbit tracker for everyone. If you're unsure you can always later sell up and upgrade to a higher-spec Fitbit tracker. Getting fitter now is the main thing, so get started soon.

 

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0.4

| Best movies coming soon | New film trailers and release dates: Star Wars Rogue One, Fantastic Beasts, Assassin’s Creed, Wolverine 3, Beauty and the Beast, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Wonder Woman and more

With excitement gathering around the new Star Wars Rogue One, due next week, we've rounded up some of the best new films coming out in 2016 and 2017 with their trailers and release dates, including Star Wars Rogue One, Assassin's Creed, Wolverine 3, Beauty and the Beast, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Wonder Woman and more.
Also see: Best films to watch on Netflix | Best films to watch on Amazon Prime | Best films to watch on Sky
You'll also find extra footage in the International Trailers:
NEXT PAGE: BEST FILMS OF 2016 OUT NOW

 

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1.2

: With no Note 7 the S7 edge remains the best big phone money can buy, coming soon in Pearl Black

By
Chris Martin | 30 mins ago
See full specs
£639 inc VAT
Price comparision from , and manufacturers
Samsung has now played around with a few curved screen smartphone and what felt like a bit of a gimmick is now a legitimate technology. Although the Galaxy S6 was the best phone of 2015, it was missing key features like expandable storage and waterproofing. Those are now back and the dual edge screen has more functionality so the Galaxy S7 edge is a serious contender for best phone of 2016. Here's our full and in-depth Samsung Galaxy S7 edge review. See also: The 20 best phones 2016.
Also see: Best Black Friday Phone Deals
Update: Samsung has released a new colour variant of the S7 edge: Coral Blue. It is currently available in Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore, though UK availability has not yet been confirmed. It's rumoured that this new Coral Blue colour option will also soon be joined by a Pearl Black Galaxy S7 edge, likely on 9 December (but again with UK availability to be confirmed).
Read our Galaxy Note7 review: Hands-on with the phablet from 7th heaven .
The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge are two of the first flagship phones we've reviewed this year so it's just the beginning in the fight for best phone 2016. However, it's so far so good for the Galaxy S7 edge which is an improvement on its predecessors – the Galaxy S6 edge and Galaxy S6 edge+.
Samsung has settled on a single size for the Galaxy S7 edge and the phone looks dramatically stunning with its dual edge screen design. Once again, there's a combination of metal and glass which looks sleek and premium but also feels slippery and gets grubby a bit too easy. Although it looks similar, it's now fully waterproof without the faff of things like port covers. Also see: Best Samsung phones 2016: What is the difference between Galaxy Note, Galaxy S, Galaxy A and Galaxy J?
Another major feature has been returned so fans will rejoice at the inclusion of expandable storage through the Micro-SD card slot. That's two out of three and although the battery is still not removable, it is bigger. A larger battery cell means longer battery life and we really don't mind that the phone is a bit thicker to enable this (and make the camera bump smaller).
Helping out with battery life, according to Samsung, is a new processor and although we expected the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 model in the UK we've actually got the Exynos 8890 chip. There's a whopping 4GB of RAM and the Galaxy S7 edge breezed through our benchmark tests setting some new records.
As you would expect, the Galaxy S7 edge comes packed with other tech including a fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor, but the IR blaster has been dropped which will be a shame for some. A bigger deal is being made around the camera which has fewer pixels than the Galaxy S6 at 12Mp but Samsung touts amazing low light performance with the f/1.7 aperture and 'Dual Pixel' technology. We're really impressed with the camera and although it's one of the best on a phone, it's perhaps not as good in the dark as Samsung makes out. Also see: Best MiFi 2016.
A feature which isn't as big as we thought is the 'Always On' screen which is simply a software feature which shows some basic information on the display to avoid you unlocking the phone. It's handy but doesn't do as much as we thought and there's a small amount of control over it. That said, there are plenty of cool features hidden away in the settings which you'll want to explore including some existing ones like Smart Stay.
You can read our full and in-depth Samsung Galaxy S7 review .
The Game Launcher is one software feature which helps you be a better player by doing things like blocking notifications, lowering the framerate to save power and record the screen while you play. It's the dual edge screen which makes the Galaxy S7 edge stand out and the key difference when compared to the regular model. It's still a luxury but Samsung has refined and improved what it can do with new edge panels and greater control.
That's an overview of the Galaxy S7 edge but we're going to go into a lot more detail below. Use the links below to help you navigate to the different sections of the review.
Design and build | Hardware and specs | Dual edge screen | Always on display | Processor, memory and benchmarks | Storage and Micro-SD | Fingerprint scanner | Connectivity and sensors | Battery life and charging | Cameras | Software and apps
Priced at £639 from the official Samsung store , the Galaxy S7 edge is one of the most expensive smartphone on the market (short of luxury ones from the likes of Vertu). If you're contemplating buying it over the regular S7, it will cost you an extra £70 which isn't much of a premium to gain the dual edge display.
In terms of competition, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium is the closest on price at £599 from Sony's online shop. That phone is also a rival on the size, as is the iPhone 6S Plus which is cheaper for the equivalent model at £619 but goes all the way up to £789 if you want 128GB of storage.
Other key Android rivals to the Galaxy S7 edge include the LG G5 which is priced at £529 and the Google Nexus 6P which is just £449, so there are cheaper options if your budget is more limited.
Our review sample was provided by MobileFun. Also see: Best Samsung Galaxy S7 deals.
Price comparision from , and manufacturers
What is Amazon Go and will it come to the UK? The store without checkouts or queues
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iPhone 9 and beyond: 32 amazing future smartphone developments - graphene, supercapacitor…

 

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1.8

HTC 10 and HTC One M9 Users Receive the Android 7.0 Nougat Update, HTC One A9 Users Left out for 15-Days

Earlier this month Chinese-based smartphone markers, Huawei Corp. announced a number of it’s phones including; the Huawei Mate 8, Huawei P9, Huawei P9 Lite to get Android 7.0 Nougat Update in the first quarter of 2017, their rivals Taiwan-based consumer electronics firm, HTC Corp. didn’t sit back to wait till the year ends. On Monday the company announced through their Official Twitter Page, it begun rolling out Android 7.0 Nougat Update to unlocked HTC One M9 users.
HTC Twitter Page writes that the “HTC One M9 unlocked variants will start receiving the update, though Carrier variants will have to wait till early 2017.”
After promising HTC 10, HTC One M9, and HTC One A9 users that they will receive the update sometime in the fourth quarter, the company finally let HTC One M9 receive the update, after HTC 10 users received the update last week.
According to Gadgets 360 news, the update should arrive via an OTA, and to manually check if you’ve received it, use the Settings menu.
So it’s only HTC One A9 users remaining to get the Nougat update. According to the company, HTC One A9 users might get the Nougat update within 15 days.

 

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2.0

WD’s 12TB monster hard drive can hold almost 500 Blu-rays

Western Digital has revealed new hard drives and SSDs aimed at the enterprise, including a new fourth-generation helium drive which offers the biggest capacity available in the HDD world, and a super-speedy solid-state drive.
The Ultrastar He12 is helium-based 3.5-inch hard disk which uses PMR technology and notches up 12TB in capacity, coming in either SATA or SAS flavours.
It utilises the world’s first eight-disk design, the company notes, and offers plenty in the reliability stakes as well, with a five-year warranty and a MTBF (mean time between failures) rating which tips in at 2.5 million hours. And it boasts the lowest power profile in the industry, according to Western Digital.
The drive is sampling to OEMs now, and is expected to be commercially available in the first half of 2017.
Seagate does also have its own 12TB helium hard disk in the pipeline, and currently sampling, but Western Digital is planning to stay a step ahead with a 14TB SMR flavour of its helium drive currently being tested with customers and expected to emerge in the middle of next year.
In the next couple of years, we can expect helium drives to push up to the 20TB mark.
On the SSD front, another new offering is the HGST Ultrastar SN200 which is an NVMe PCIe solid-state drive offering capacities of up to 7.68TB, and random read performance of up to 1.2 million IOPS in ‘key workloads’.
WD also unveiled the Ultrastar SS200 SSD enterprise-class SAS drive which will also be available in capacities of up to 7.68TB, and offers up to 1800MB/s sequential read performance, and 1000MB/s writes. It’s designed for data-intensive operations and cloud-based platforms.
Mark Grace, senior vice president of devices at Western Digital, commented: “We have raised the bar in enterprise storage with our most advanced and highest capacity enterprise class SAS SSD, NVMe SSD, and HDD solutions to date.”
While these might be enterprise offerings, as ever, we can expect trickle-down benefits in terms of consumer drives from the heavyweight technology which is pushing these HDDs and SSDs forwards.
Along with all these drives, an announcement was also made about 3D NAND technology being used in SanDisk Edge microSD cards, with a new card currently shipping to OEMs which has capacities of up to 256GB and is designed for use in the likes of dashboard cams or drones. It’s capable of storing almost 60 hours of Full HD video footage.

 

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1.7

News UK 'getting close' to avoiding all vendor lock-in

News UK, the publisher of The Times and The Sun newspapers, is getting close to being able to switch cloud providers whenever it wants, avoiding the concept of vendor lock-in.
With many organisations complaining about being tied in to lengthy contracts at cloud suppliers , News UK CTO Christina Scott told Computing that her firm is not far from eliminating vendor lock-in completely.
"I've set a challenge for my teams to look at cloud balancing [distributing workloads across different clouds], and we're now getting very close to being able to switch between cloud providers at will. That means we can always take advantage of the best cost and features that are available," said Scott.
She explained that the biggest challenge is around architecting the tools and systems which sit within these clouds to be able to function in any vendor's environment. Scott added that most firms aren't yet close to this goal.
"Lots of people moved into the cloud but have now found that they're very tied in to AWS [Amazon Web Services] or whoever else. We're now looking at more of a serverless architecture, which helps with this flexibility. "
Scott said that some of this work was already in progress when she joined in early 2016. "I can take no credit for any of that," she said.
At a recent Computing event, a panel of CIOs advised the audience to avoid vendor lock-in issues simply by choosing a supplier you want to be with over the long-term .
Scott described News UK's technology estate as 85 per cent cloud-based, with the company already users of Google Docs and Gmail when she arrived.
"They've been using those systems for seven years already," she said. "The maturity of the cloud operations here is far beyond anywhere I've worked before. "
However, Scott had some harsh words for some of the smaller vendors who pitch their services to her, complaining that eventually they all end up proving themselves to be too greedy.
"You get new vendors who pop up and they say 'We're not Oracle, we're not IBM, we're different,' and they all gradually become the same. Their prices always go up, and they become less transparent about billing. There are always add-ons, I feel they just get greedy. "
She said that there have been some vendors she has worked with who were in the early stages of their business, which means that her custom helped them stabilise and grow. But instead of goodwill, she sees only more greed.
"You feel if you're there in the early days you've taken the pain of being on a less mature platform, you've helped them on their way. And you're rewarded only by bigger bills. "
Scott also discussed how her organisation managed to build a 170 person technology team in just seven months.

 

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1.4

Ubisoft Makes Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands Beta Official, Here's How To Register

Forget the rumors, it is now official— Ubisoft has posted a website where fans of the Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon series can register for the Ghost Recon: Wildlands beta, an open-world first person shooter set in Bolivia sometime in the near future ("a few years from now"). The game will be playable as a single-player experience or with up to three others in a four-player co-op. In Wildlands, it's the players job to coordinate the infiltration and take down of the brutal Santa Blanca cartel, a network of bad guys (and girls) that rely fear, intimidation, and violence to rule the land. The game begins with creating and customizing a character. Customizable traits will include gender, facial features, hairstyle, tattoos, and a whole lot more. Wildland participants will also have to decide on what clothing to wear and what tactical gear to bring based on the strategy at hand. As far as the look goes, Ubisoft claims there are billions of available combinations. The freedom of choice will also extend to how players approach their missions. "Players will have a total freedom of choice to accomplish their missions how they want and watch as the world reacts to their actions," Ubisoft said. There will be missions to destroy every aspect of the cartel's operations, everything from production and smuggling to weakening its influence and security. Ubisoft didn't say how many people it will be selecting for the closed beta, which you can sign up for here. It also didn't say when the beta will begin, though barring any last minute delays, Ghost Recon: Wildlands is scheduled to release on March 7, 2017.

 

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1.4

IT Priorities 2017: Hybrid cloud set to dominate datacentre infrastructure buying decisions

Connecting on-premise datacentre assets to public cloud resources will be a top investment priority for UK and European IT decision makers in 2017, research suggests.
According to the findings of the 2017 Computer Weekly/Tech Target IT Priorities survey, readying their on-premise infrastructure for hybrid cloud has been voted the number one datacentre investment priority by IT decision makers across the continent.
With enterprises increasingly looking to tap into off-premise resources, the hybrid cloud is often seen as a delivery model that will enable them to do that while making the most of their existing datacentre investments.
Which is important for enterprises that might still have several or more years still to run on their existing datacentre leases, but do not want to miss out on the cost savings and business agility benefits public cloud could bring.
All of the major cloud providers – including Microsoft , Google and Amazon Web Services (AWS) – have spent a large portion of 2016 setting out their enterprise hybrid cloud strategies for this reason.
According analyst Gartner, 2017 is also likely to see an uptick in enterprises looking to manage public, private and hybrid cloud resources from a multitude of providers, as their digital transformation efforts in this area continue to mature and evolve.
“While public cloud usage will continue to increase, the use of private cloud and hosted private cloud services is also expected to increase at least through 2017,” said Gartner .
“The increased use of multiple public cloud providers, plus growth in various types of private cloud services, will create a multicloud environment in most enterprises and a need to coordinate cloud usage using hybrid scenarios.”

 

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1.6

ADOT increases use of remote technology to ease traffic flow

MARICOPA, Ariz. (AP) - State transportation officials are increasing their use of remote technology to help keep traffic moving on portions of highways that pass through various communities across Arizona.
The Department of Transportation says it has installed a wireless communication system that allows technicians in Phoenix to monitor conditions on State Route 347 in Maricopa and to adjust signal timing accordingly.
ADOT says similar systems are used to remotely monitor traffic signals in Nogales, in Tucson and in the Phoenix area and that a system is also planned for Safford.
The Maricopa system has infrared and video cameras at highway intersections and the capability to monitor traffic times and notify technicians about delays.
ADOT says University of Arizona researchers are to evaluate whether the system is cost-effective.

 

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0.4

Iceland plays the tourism card, for better for worse

Along with hikers, nature lovers, reality TV starlets and fans of the series "Game of Thrones" which was partially filmed in Iceland, 1.3 million tourists visited the country in 2015, a number expected to rise to 1.8 million this year.
Long a destination that appealed only to the earliest ecotourists and fans of the eccentric singer Bjork, this small nation of 330,000 inhabitants is now reaping the benefits of a thriving tourism sector.
Since the 2008 collapse of Iceland's financial system, tourism has become a pillar of the economy, accounting for seven percent of gross domestic product in 2015.
But why are tourists thronging to this remote island, described so darkly in the recent wave of "Ice-lit" crime novels?
"It's a place of fire and ice. You can see different things everywhere: geysers, glaciers, volcanoes. Things that you don't normally see in other places in the world," says Marcelle Lindopp, a 28-year-old Brazilian thrilled by her stay despite a glacial rain lashing her face.
"It's the experience of a lifetime, really. "
A strange beauty
One has only to drive a few kilometres beyond Reykjavik's city limits to be seized by the beauty and strangeness of the Icelandic panorama.
Here, the rocky mountains give way to verdant tundra dotted with horses and sheep. Majestic waterfalls break the monotony of the volcanic rocks.
A little further away, near the sea, the cliffs seem to impress even the puffins.
Off the coast, bolder visitors can go whale watching, which tourism professionals hope will eventually sound the death knell for commercial whaling.
Taking refuge inside a souvenir shop to escape the wind and rain, Jimmy Hart, a 49-year-old Irishman, who visited "Geysir", the hot spring that erupts high into the sky and which has given its name to the famous geysers.
"It's wonderful," he tells AFP. "An amazing experience. "
"We were at the Blue Lagoon yesterday and it was even better than I thought. A beautiful place. "
In this geothermal bath, visitors can bask in water between 35 and 39 degrees Celsius (95 and 102 Fahrenheit) while enjoying a majestic view of the volcanic hills.
Bieber impact
But does Iceland have the means to fulfil its ambitions?
The director of the Icelandic Tourism Research Center, Gudrun Gunnarsdottir, rejects the idea that tourism has exploded out of control with unpredictable consequences.
The tourism boom "totally affects the Icelandic community" and "is both positive and negative," she insists.
Justin Bieber is one example.
In 2015, the Canadian star shot a music video in the country, which instantly became a huge hit.
But the singer, idolised by young fans, ended up sparking an outcry after he nonchalantly ignored the particularities of Iceland's nature—and forgetting that it can also be perilous.
Bieber swam among the icebergs—risking hypothermia and the danger of detaching blocks of ice—and trampled volcanic foam, a protected species which will take years to recover.
Social media went wild and the local tourism office had to release a statement urging tourists to behave more respectfully.
'Protecting nature'
In general, "Icelanders are not as positive as they were one or two years ago" about tourism, says Grimur Saemundsen, chairman of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF), while acknowledging that tourism has been helping the nation recover from economic collapse.
"It has been very good for the economy but tourism has to be controlled way more... Until now the focus has been on quantity and not quality," laments Linda, who runs a boutique selling Icelandic products in central Reykjavik.
"We need to invest in general infrastructure... we need to focus on protecting the nature," Saemundsen says.
Explore further: China's Arctic ambitions take shape in remote Iceland valley

 

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0.0

Amazon Teases NES Classic Edition Availability In The Coming Week For Frantic Retro Gamers

Amazon made the announcement last night with a simple tweet:
For now, that’s all we have to go on. Will Amazon drop additional hints over the next few days, or will people simply hit refresh on the NES Classic Edition’s product page until the “Add to Cart” button finally shows up? Whatever the case, your chances of getting an NES Classic from Amazon are probably a lot greater than the epic fail that transpired yesterday when Urban Outfitters opened up orders for a limited number of consoles.
The launch of Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition was supposed to be a joyous occasion. Those of us who grew up with the console salivated over the chance to relive 1980s gaming nostalgia with a relatively cheap $60 price tag. However, we should have known that we were in for a bumpy ride when Nintendo wouldn’t even allow pre-orders for the console.
Nintendo is purposely limiting supply — seriously, have you seen the rather simple design and construction of the device — and gamers are paying the price. A product like the NES Classic Edition is practically a license for Nintendo to print money, yet the folks that are making out like a bandit are the scalpers that were able to miraculously score a console and flip it for insane profits. It doesn’t have to be this way — especially during the holiday shopping season. And what about Nintendo’s pledge to provide a “ steady flow ” of stock through the holidays?
The Nintendo NES Classic is priced at $59.99 and comes with a single wired controller (albeit with a cord that is comically small compared to the original), although you can purchase an additional one for $9.99 (good luck finding that in stock too). Third-party manufacturers have solved the cord length problem by going wireless, as witnessed by solutions from Nyko and 8bitdo.
The console also comes with the following 30 games preinstalled:

 

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0.0

Bringing Cisco's cash back to the US would cause a rush of dividends, buybacks and M&A, CEO says

Cisco Systems CEO Chuck Robbins told CNBC on Wednesday if the company could repatriate overseas capital, it would do a combination of dividends, buybacks and M&A activity.
Repatriating cash, or bringing international profits back to the U. S., would ultimately create some jobs for Cisco, Robbins said on " Squawk Box " on Wednesday at the Business Roundtable meeting in Washington.
Many major U. S. corporations keep piles of cash overseas because they don't want to pay steep taxes to bring it back home. Cisco has more than $60 billion abroad, and it could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of repatriation measures proposed by President-elect Donald Trump.
"I think it would for [create jobs] for Cisco, but it would also create jobs beyond that," Robbins said. "If we come back — if we were to increase our dividend — then that flows through the mutual funds, which flows through to the middle-class America, which flows through to make people feel better about their income. "
He continued: "I think all that is good for business. "

 

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4.0

Watch Pitch@Palace Global Now

TechCrunch is pleased to bring you the Pitch@Palace Global, live from St. James’s Palace.
Established by The Duke of York in 2014, Pitch@Palace offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their business in front of an audience of influencers.
During 2016, the initiative has expanded internationally, with the aim of developing links between U. K. and overseas entrepreneurs in a number of key markets. In 2016, Pitch@Palace events have taken place in Estonia, Mexico and Malaysia. Next year, events will take place in China, Australia and the Middle East.
Today, the Duke is hosting the first Pitch@Palace Global to showcase the winners from these events. Twelve entrepreneurs representing these countries will give a three-minute pitch to an invited audience of high-profile investors and key business leaders, articulating their idea and their ask of the audience.
You can watch right here starting at 5:45pm GMT.
RangeForce – RangeForce is a cyber battle simulation platform that transforms IT professionals into cyber defenders.
Timbeter – Timbeter is a smart-device solution for quick and accurate timber measurement and data management.
Christy Ng Shoes – Christy Ng Shoes is a multi-channel footwear company that allows women to design their dream shoes, with more than one million design options and combinations.
Touristly – Touristly is a travel activities platform that helps travelers create, book and share itineraries to Asia Pacific.
Glatt Stove – Glatt Stove distributes clean cook stoves and fuel to save the lives of those who die from lack of access to clean cooking options.
Hablando con Julis – The technological solution for people with speech, reading and writing difficulties to be able to communicate effectively with you.
Reach – A social network based on geolocation and the integration of local authorities, citizens and artificial intelligence for the fight against crime.
Himore Medical – Himore Medical is a company that designs and manufactures low-cost medical devices for hospitals that need to use telemedicine to follow patients.
Hisky Medical – Hisky focuses on non-invasive disease diagnosis technologies and develops FibroTouch, which takes around one second for early diagnosis of liver injury.
Health Delivered – Health Delivered is a dietary management platform designed to tackle the growing rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic health issues.
Opsys – Opsys is a multi-disciplinary engineering firm focused on fire prevention, simulated altitude training and cryogenics.
Gongali Model – Provides a low-cost sustainable water filter (Nanofilter) for water purification, to overcome waterborne diseases and dental/bone fluorosis.

 

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3.3

: power and protection from Apple, Mophie and more reviewed

While Apple has improved the iPhone 7's battery life, you can expect it to fade quickly through the day if you're anything like the average iPhone power user. You need to boost that battery at least once during the day, and you're likely not to be close to a power outlet when you need to recharge.
Also see: Best Black Friday Gadget Deals
There are plenty of portable power banks available – see our round up of the best power banks – but with most of these you need to lug around not just the extra battery but a Lightning or (worse) MicroUSB cable too.
The best solution is a case that includes a built-in battery. Battery cases have a dual purpose: recharge a fading phone battery when you need it most; and protect your fragile smartphone from everyday knock, drops and scratches – and sometimes worse.
The iPhone 6 had a battery capacity of 1,810mAh, compared to the iPhone 7's 1,960mAh. That's a little better but not a lot. Crucially, it's not enough for most users. Apple claims that the iPhone 7's battery will give you a couple of extra hours battery life over the day. Read our iPhone 7 review.
The iPhone 7 was released in September 2016, and so far there are not many battery cases available for it. We will continue to update this round of the best iPhone 7 battery cases as more arrive.
The best iPhone 6/6s battery cases included the Apple Smart Case, ThinCharge, Tylt Slider, iWalk Chameleon, plus the Juice Pack range from battery-case champs Mophie. Only the Apple and Mophie versions are currently available for the iPhone 7.
It is possible to fit the iPhone 7 into an older iPhone 6 battery case, but the likelihood is that the camera cutout won't fit the iPhone 7's new camera bump properly, leading to poor photos or no photos at all.
One of the iPhone 7 battery cases reviewed here claims to be compatible with the iPhones 6, 6s and 7, due to its larger rear camera cutout, but most 6/6s cases fail the camera cutout test.
It's not quite as simple as it sounds but look for a large battery capacity in the case. It needs to be at least 2,000mAh (milliamp hours) but that would just scrape a full recharge, and more likely give you just 80 percent more juice – enough but there's better out there. See Phone battery charging tips and Tips to Boost iPhone Battery Life.
An equally important role of the battery case is to protect your phone from bangs, crashes, drops and bumps. We look at case robustness in all our tests. Also note that while the iPhone 7 is waterproof, most cases are not.
Look for lightweight and slim battery cases if you value the iPhone's naked statistics. You usually sacrifice some slimness for extra battery capacity.
Try to choose a battery case that uses Apple's Lightning charge and sync cable rather than MicroUSB as that avoids having to keep two different types of cable – one of which (MicroUSB0 is fiddly. See also: Best Charging Cables
Read next: Best new phones coming in 2017

 

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2.9

Cab-hailing company Careem launches women drivers in conservative Pakistan

Careem has a larger market share than rival Uber in most of the 32 cities in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan region in which it operates.
Now it has a new idea for Pakistan: taxis driven by women, who will pick up both male and female customers.
The start-up operates in the Pakistani cities of Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.
"We want to give women the same opportunities and the same chance that men have of leveraging our platform to generate healthy income," said Careem's Pakistan General Manager Ahmed Usman.
Usman said seven women drivers had qualified to join the fleet but applications were open and the company hoped more would apply.
Zahra Ali, 30, heard about Careem from a friend and thought it would be an "honorable" way to support her two children, who she is raising alone since the death of her husband two years ago.
She had just enough money to buy a car and got her driving license this year.
When Ali applied to be a Careem driver a few months ago, she was told there was no provision for women drivers.
Then Careem called back with good news.
"The only skill I know is driving," Ali told Reuters at her home in the city of Lahore. "Now I can raise my children honorably, I can give my children a good education. "
Launched in Dubai in 2012, Careem has a global force of 90,000-plus drivers and more than four million users registered through its mobile app.
In the sweltering southern city of Karachi, among Careem's largest markets, demand for secure taxis is particularly strong among women, Usman said.
"If an organization is offering security for women ... naturally that is very important," said driver Aasia Abdul Aziz, 46, when asked why she chose to work for Careen.
"Especially in a city like Karachi where no work can be done in the absence of proper security. "
Aziz said she had worked long hours at a beauty salon for most of her life and now that her two daughters were settled in jobs, she wanted work that allowed her flexibility.
When asked about the challenges of being a woman driver in Pakistan, Aziz said:
"When people start accepting something, when our public realize that women can do a certain job and are doing it in a commendable manner, then I think it will not be so difficult. "
Domestic abuse, other violence and economic discrimination make Pakistan the world's third-most-dangerous country for women, a 2011 Thomson Reuters Foundation expert poll showed.
About 500 women are killed in Pakistan every year at the hands of relatives over perceived damage to family "honor" that can involve eloping, fraternizing with men or any other infraction against conservative values.
"One must face problems bravely," Ali said in Lahore. "Women are not weak; it is our society which portrays them as weak. One cannot move forward with fear. "
(Additional reporting and writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Robert Birsel)

 

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2.7

This old military truck is now a camera that shoots with 4.9-foot glass plates

Many photographers toss around the cliche that they live and breath cameras — but one photographer could actually live inside his. Photographer Kurt Moser is converting a Russian Ural truck into a camera capable of shooting images on 4.9-foot glass plates that weigh nearly 90 pounds.
The reimagined truck serves as both a camera and darkroom, and allows Moser to work with the (very) large format remotely — and his website even says he will both work and live in the giant camera truck.
More: Back from the dead? Kickstarter campaign aims to revive glass-plate photography
Designed to capture the beauty of Italy’s South Tyrolean Dolomites mountains with the large (and historic) glass plate process, the truck uses an APO Nikkor 1780 mm lens. Moser said the lens is one of only ten in existence, and was one of the biggest hurdles in realizing the project.
After securing the lens — and a giant 6.5-foot 1907 wooden camera for studio shots and areas not quite accessible by the big truck — Moser sought out funding on Kickstarter and raised over $70,000 for the project, allowing him to move forward with his dream.
The camera will use glass plates instead of film, using a method known as the ambrotype. The glass plates are coated with collodion emulsion and dipped into a silver bath, and then a chemical reaction etches the image into the glass. The medium requires an on-site darkroom, since the glass has to be finished and sealed before the chemicals have fully dried.
Moser, a broadcast news cameraman and documentary photographer, describes himself as a professional globetrotter. His Lightcatcher project aims to use both that 1907 wooden camera and the Ural truck to create fine-art images of the Dolomites that cannot be reproduced.
“I would like to put the Dolomites in their true light,” Moser said. “For a long time, I have been searching for a technique that would allow to depict the mountains the way I see and feel them. The colloquium process provides this very subtle, smooth visual language, the depiction on noble glass and the haptic experience linked to it.”
While the rugged truck will help Moser shoot the mountains, the smaller camera is his tool of choice for shooting portraits of the mountain farmers who live in the Dolomites. While Moser has yet to share images taken from the truck, the 1907 camera has already done a number of different shoots, like this one:

 

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2.1

Netflix releases second trailer for ‘Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events’

Netflix has released a second trailer for its upcoming adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. The series is set to star Neil Patrick Harris as the villainous Count Olaf, and Patrick Warburton as the titular author and narrator Snicket.
A Series of Unfortunate Events tells the story of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, three children who are forced to resist Count Olaf’s attempts to steal their family fortune after the untimely death of their parents. Over the course of 13 novels, the orphans delve into a mystery that links their family with Olaf.
“If you are interested in stories with happy endings, that story is streaming elsewhere,” Snicket states at the beginning of the trailer. “I would advise all our viewers to watch something more pleasant instead.”
More: How to download Netflix movies and TV shows to your phone or tablet
Warburton’s presence in the trailer seems to confirm that we’ll actually see Snicket on screen in this adaptation, whereas in the 2004 film, Jude Law’s performance as the character was limited to spoken narration. The new footage also confirms exactly which books from the series will be covered in the first season of the Netflix show.
It stands to reason that the first novel, The Bad Beginning , will be adapted for the show, given that it introduces the Baudelaire children and their nemesis Count Olaf. However, we also see Olaf’s Stephano disguise from The Reptile Room , Aunt Josephine from The Wide Window , and the mill from The Miserable Mill.
Each book will seemingly be adapted across two episodes of the show. This might seem like cause for concern, but given that each novel clocks in at around 200 pages, there should be plenty of time to do these stories justice in this format.
All eight episodes of the first season of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events will be available on Netflix from January 13, 2017.

 

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1.4

The Last Guardian performs poorly on the base PS4

2016 has already seen dozens of big games, but it’s not finished just yet. This week, PS4 players finally get an opportunity to play The Last Guardian – the third game to be lead by famed auteur Fumito Ueda. It’s been a long nine years since development began, but it’s better late than never.
Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, Ueda’s previous projects on the PS2, have a well-deserved reputation for pushing video games forward. They weren’t really technical showpieces, but the stellar art direction, attention to detail, and clever use of game mechanics made them critical darlings.
The Last Guardian started out as a PS3 title in 2007, and was shown off for the first time at E3 2009. Years passed, Ueda left the employ of Sony, a new generation of consoles hit, and countless rumors of cancellation popped up along the way. But despite all of the challenges and criticism, the game is finally finished. That alone is a feat worth celebrating regardless of the quality of the actual product.
Over at IGN, the game scored a 7/10 — a “Good” rating. The tone, characters, and music all score high marks, but the development issues still show through. The camera is frustrating, the controls can make you pull your hair out, and those two problems make solving puzzles a real hassle.
With 62 reviews counted in Metacritic, The Last Guardian is sitting pretty at 83/100. It seems that, on the whole, most critics were able to overcome the game’s flaws to thoroughly enjoy the third (and likely final) installment of the Ueda-Sony union.
Unsurprisingly, the game ships with support for both the base PS4 and PS4 Pro. Complicating matters further, the PS4 Pro runs the game differently depending on whether or not you’re using a 4K UHD TV. There’s no in-game setting for resolution preferences or HDR, mind you – it must be manipulated manually at the OS level.
So, what’s the best way to run the game? Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry captured footage from all three scenarios, and found that the performance varies wildly. The base model is frequently running in the mid-20s, and the PS4 Pro at 4K (rendering at 3360×1890) is only mildly improved. However, the PS4 Pro at 1080p delivers a nearly locked 30fps – the preferable option.
While the lackluster frame rate isn’t entirely unexpected from this team, it’s disappointing that they couldn’t rally to hit a solid 30fps on the most popular version of the hardware. And when you consider its history as a last-gen game, the inability to keep the frame rate stable is difficult to overlook.
In terms of art direction, we have no complaints. But with blurry textures and relatively basic geometry, it doesn’t look like a brand new current-gen title. It’s more along the lines of a remaster of a game that never even came out. It bums us out that The Last Guardian looks and feels dated, but at least we no longer have to discuss it every time E3 rolls around.

 

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1.5

Japan's deal maker, Softbank tycoon Masayoshi Son

A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Son founded Softbank in 1981 after selling a pocket translator he invented while still in college to Sharp Corp. for $1 million. Softbank became Japan's largest distributor of computer software and leading publisher of computer-related magazines and books, going public in 1994.
The Tokyo-based company is now one of Japan's biggest telecoms providers, with more than 63,590 employees, a solar power business, humanoid robots for home use, ride-booking services and financial technology. It recently set up a $25 billion private fund for technology investments , along with Saudi Arabia and other investors, that Son says could grow to $100 billion. But Softbank has had its ups and downs over the years, occasionally having to retrench and sell off investments.
Here are some highlights:
ARM HOLDINGS: In July, Softbank bought Britain's ARM Holdings for 24.3 billion pounds ($32 billion), in a deal the British government hailed as a vote of confidence despite its decision to leave the European Union. ARM is known as an innovator in smartphone technologies and the "internet of things. " ''Now is the time. This is the Cambrian explosion," Son recently told investors in a presentation.
SPRINT CORP.: Son's 2013 purchase of a 70 percent stake in Sprint Nextel for $20 billion was the biggest foreign acquisition in the history of Japan Inc. The U. S. wireless carrier is slowly turning itself around, though it reported a loss of $142 million in its fiscal second quarter. Son hopes to expand Softbank's U. S. footprint by acquiring T-Mobile. On Tuesday, he praised Trump as a "deregulator," suggesting he is hoping the new administration might ease hurdles to such a deal. Son has said he believes the mobile Internet is the most important, backbone technology for the 21st century, but the U. S. lags in terms of speed. He could be looking to focus investments in that area.
ALIBABA: Son says he parted "unwillingly" with some of his investment in the Chinese e-commerce giant to help pay for the ARM acquisition. "But I still believe in Alibaba's future; it is still in the process of growth and it has a big future," he said in an earnings presentation last month.
SUPERCELL: Earlier this year, Softbank sold its stake in Finnish game developer Supercell to Chinese technology firm Tencent in a deal that values the company at about $10.2 billion.
INDIA: Son has pledged to invest $10 billion in India over 10 years, though Softbank has had to write off losses from ride hailing technology company Ola Cabs and e-commerce company Snapdeal.
EARLIER DEALS: In 1995, back when Softbank was still a software distributor and publisher of computer and hi-tech magazines, it bought Comdex and other computer-related show businesses from The Interface Group. Eventually it sold off the trade shows. Over the years, Son has also invested in satellite TV and other media ventures, in banking and in Japan's Nasdaq. An investment in U. S. computer memory board maker Kingston Technology Corp., in 1996, is considered one of Son's missteps.
Explore further: SoftBank eyes $100 bn for new tech fund with Saudis

 

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1.4

Slack and Google announce partnership focused on better integrating their services

Slack announced a strategic partnership with Google Cloud this morning, which will bring a number of new features, including deeper integrations with Google services, to its collaboration platform for teams. Among the additions are new bots for notifications, as well as support for Google’s recently launched Team Drives, document previews, permissioning and more.
The move comes at a time when Slack is facing new competition from Microsoft and Facebook , who have each launched their own rival products in recent weeks. Microsoft Teams is basically a Microsoft Slack clone, but has the added advantage of being able to tie into Microsoft’s suite of services, including Skype and Office 365.
Slack, as an independent company, doesn’t have the same, native ability connect deeply to other products and services that a business may use – instead, it relies on third-party integrations. Google and Slack have already worked together on that front, though not via formal arrangement like this.
Google Drive was one of the first Slack integrations and remains one of the most popular, says Slack, noting that a Google Drive file is imported in Slack approximately 60,000 times every weekday. Or, that means a file is shared every 1.4 seconds.
Now, Slack says it will work with Google developers on building further integrations for their overlapping customer base.
That begins with the rollout of the integrations announced today, but will expand to include other features in the future.
One of the new integrations is a Google Drive Bot that will post comments and requests for access into Slack. Recipients can then approve or reject requests from Slack, or settle comments, or they can launch Google Docs to work with the files directly.
Slack will also allow users to preview Google Docs files in the app itself, and, when shared, Slack will check the permissions on the file. If you’re sharing with people who don’t have access currently, Slack will prompt you to update your sharing settings.
Slack will work with Google Team Drives, too, if the company is using that newer service. Files shared in Slack will be uploaded automatically to the Team Drive, and Team Drive updates are also shared back to Slack.
Finally, admins will be able to provision Slack for their company through an integration with the G Suite ( formerly, Google Apps for Work ) dashboard. This will work with both new and existing teams.
“Google and Slack share the same vision for the future of work: that smart software could bring teams together and make all of their work and conversations seamlessly available in one place,” writes Nan Boden, Head of Global Technology Partners, Google Cloud, in a blog post. “The result is that teams can move faster and more efficiently,” Boden said, adding that Google will also be helping Slack take advantage of Google’s technologies to scale its business.
The new integrations are being announced today, as a look as what’s in store for Google and Slack customers, but will be rolled out over the first half of 2017.

 

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2.2

CRN Exclusive: TekLinks Makes Its Big Move To Dominate Fast-Growing Nashville Market, Snatches Up MSP Superstar Guidant Partners - Page: 1

TekLinks, which is already a Southeast technology services superpower, is significantly strengthening its position in the fast-growing Nashville, Tenn., market by acquiring its toughest competitor there -- Guidant Partners .
The acquisition of Nashville-based Guidant Partners, long considered a regional MSP superstar, increases TekLinks' Nashville revenue in one fell swoop by 50 percent, said TekLinks CEO Jim Akerhielm.
The deal gives Birmingham, Ala.-based TekLinks, which has a long-standing presence in Birmingham, Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tenn., a dominant technology services position in the Nashville market with about 60 technology services professionals helping business navigate the treacherous technology landscape.
"It's a game-changer for us," said Akerhielm. "It's arguably the fastest-growing market in the mid-South. It's now the biggest market we serve. For customers, this expands our service offerings with new high-touch capabilities. "
Twenty-eight-year-old Guidant Partners is widely recognized as one of the top MSPs in the Tennessee market. The company provides 99.97 percent uptime and 98.9 percent service-level agreement resolution.
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but 90 percent of Guidant Partners' revenue is recurring-revenue-services-based.
"That is very, very unusual," said Akerhielm. "They have a long history of great customer relationships. Their whole go-to-market process with delivery and support is so tightly integrated and customer-friendly that it is really impressive. "
TekLinks, No. 174 on the 2016 CRN Solution Provider 500 , is now a $130 million company with well more than one-third of its annual sales from recurring revenue.
The acquisition significantly boosts TekLinks’ MSP prowess, said Akerhielm. "In addition to scale and geographic presence, they do some things better than we do," he said. "What they excel at is the very high-touch managed services model. "
TekLinks plans to leverage Guidant Partners' "high-touch" MSP muscle to drive deeper into its key vertical market segments: health care and financial, said Akerhielm. "We want to grow the Guidant platform beyond the current customers into our vertical markets efforts in health care and financial," he said.
The Guidant Partners acquisition will be critical in expanding TekLinks' health-care presence – already its No. 1 vertical market. "Nashville is a big, big health-care market," said Akerhielm. "Those relationships are consultative and evolutionary. So having highly capable resources in the market to design and deliver is critical. "
Akerhielm said TekLinks is committed to retaining all of the Guidant Partners' team.
However, Guidant Partners CEO Steve Burgess, who hailed TekLinks as a leader in the "next wave of managed IT services for companies," plans to step aside after a consultative period with the company. He called the deal a case of "quality meeting quality. "

 

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Sprint latest to partner with Niantic, rolls out ‘Pokémon Go’ bonuses at retail stores

Pokémon Go , the augmented reality app responsible for car accidents, lost jobs, and broken relationships, is back in the news. This time, though, it’s about new features: on Wednesday, Sprint, the U. S.’s third-largest mobile carrier, announced a partnership with The Pokémon Company and Niantic Nabs that will manifest in “special … experiences” across the carrier’s brick-and-mortar locations.
Sprint’s more than 10,500 retail locations throughout the U. S. — which include Sprint corporate stores, Boost Mobile, and Sprint at Radioshack popups — will become both PokéStops — real-world locations where players collect items and that help capture Pokémon — and Gyms, where players battle and train their captured Pokémon against others. The benefits of the partnership aren’t just virtual: Sprint stores will gain Pokémon Go -branded in-store charging stations that will help “keep your Pokémon Go sessions going even longer.”
More: Yelp’s new Pokémon Go filter helps you find nearby PokéStops
The Sprint collaboration comes on the heels of two others, with Softbank and McDonald’s. Last month, mobile operator Softbank rolled out PokéStops and Gyms near its more than 3,700 stores. And earlier this summer, The Pokémon Company connected a launch in Japan with a nationwide promotion involving McDonald’s Japan’s more than 3,000 locations. The fast food chain’s restaurants became PokéStops and Gyms and served limited-edition Pokémon Happy Meal toys.
The McDonald’s promotion proved especially lucrative. Sales at the company’s locations spiked 19 percent, and the chain’s net income for the quarter ending in June ended at a record $3 million.
It’s far from an isolated success story. In the months following Pokémon Go ‘s release, stores and restaurants near PokéStops have reaped the benefits. According to Revel Systems, which builds mobile point-of-sales systems for iPads, 82 percent of companies saw at least a 9 percent increase in weekly foot traffic, an average of 265 new weekly customers, and growth in weekly sales of about $2,000. And Lures, which are $10 in-app purchases in Pokémon Go that attract Pokémon to a specific geographic location, boosted those numbers even higher. In one instance, a pizza shop in New York City saw sales increase 75 percent after the owner dropped a Lure.
More: With trading, in-game events finally coming to Pokémon Go. Are battles next?
It’s not surprising, then, that today’s Pokémon Go promotion won’t be the last of its kind. Leaked Starbucks training slides indicate that the beverage behemoth will roll out a campaign as soon as December 8. Starbucks stores will become PokéStops and Gyms, and a new Pokémon Go -branded Frappuccino Blended Cremé — a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino blended with raspberry syrup and blackberries — will go on sale at locations around the country.
The Pokémon Go craze may have died down since this summer, when it attracted more downloads in the first week from Apple’s App Store than any game in history, but it hasn’t gone neglected. Niantic launched in-game events, story elements involving rare Pokémon , over the Halloween holiday. A recent app update introduced Buddy Pokémon, a feature that lets players choose a favorite pocket monster to follow them at all times, and added support for Pokémon Go Plus, a wearable that vibrates and illuminates when Pokémon approach. And in the future, Pokémon Go players will receive bonuses for certain daily activities like catching a Pokémon or visiting a PokéStop.
There’s more on the way. “We’re excited for December because we have a few new experiences and in-game events planned for you before wrapping up the year,” Niantic CEO John Hanke wrote in a blog post. “While we cannot share all the details yet, keep an eye out on our social media channels on December 12 for details about the first addition of more Pokémon into Pokémon Go .”
More: McDonald’s Japan captures its first profit in two years thanks to Pokémon Go
In September, Pokémon Go became the fastest game ever to hit $500 million in revenue. It’s been downloaded more than 500 million times worldwide since its debut, and according to SurveyMonkey, it’s leapfrogged Candy Crush and Draw Something to become the most popular mobile game in history.

 

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1.2

Flying the Breeze drone just got simpler with a joystick controller and goggles

Yuneec’s portable selfie drone, the Breeze , now offers a first-person look at the flight and physical flight controls. On Tuesday, Yuneec International announced the Breeze First-Person View Controller and goggles, an optional upgrade from the drone’s original app-based flight controls.
A smartphone slides into the goggles, offering a view from the Breeze’s onboard 4K camera. The video-game-like controller pairs with that smartphone via Bluetooth, allowing users to control the drone with joysticks while watching the flight through the goggles.
More: No piloting experience? No problem. Here’s the 5 best drones for beginners
Yuneec, a California-based company, says that the new goggles help create an immersive and uninterrupted experience flying the Breeze. Along with the first-person view mode, users can also place the smartphone in the cradle on top of the controller.
The Breeze ships without a controller — users instead control the drone with an app. While Digital Trends reviewer Drew Prindle said the Yunnec app is one of the best he’s tried, the touchscreen format isn’t as precise as physical controls. Now, Breeze pilots who want that enhanced physical control can get a more fine-tuned flight with the controller and goggle combo.
“At Yuneec, our engineers are always pushing the envelope to develop creative solutions that deliver the best experience for the consumer,” Yu Tian, chief executive officer of Yuneec International, said in a press release. “The Breeze FPV controller enhances the flying experience for Yuneec pilots by literally putting them in the driver’s seat of their drone. While operating the Breeze, they’ll have more confidence, greater perspective, and more creative possibilities at their disposal.”
The goggles can accommodate both iOS and Android phones measuring between 4.7 and 6 inches, offering a 110-degree field of view from the drone’s camera with pupil distance adjustment available. The drone sends 720p video to the goggles via Bluetooth.
The controller works within 100 meters, or 328 feet, of the drone.
The controller and goggle add-on lists for $70 and will be available directly from Yuneec as well as from selected Breeze retailers.

 

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0.0

‘Final Fantasy XV’ update will add gameplay enhancements, alter story

Final Fantasy XV finally released in late November after nearly a decade of development time, but Square Enix isn’t done working on the game just because it has landed on store shelves. Director Hajima Tabata has planned an update that will not only add additional gameplay enhancements, but will look to address narrative complaints his team has received thus far.
The first changes coming to Final Fantasy XV will be gameplay-focused, including “gameplay enhancements for Chapter 13” and “buffing ring magic.”
Chapter 13 has come under considerable fire since the game released, with fans calling it “ rushed ” and reminiscent of the oft-maligned Final Fantasy XIII .
Following gameplay-specific changes, Square Enix will be expanding certain sections of the narrative, including “adding scenes that will give you insight into character motivations, such as why Ravus walked the path he did.” These changes will take more time due to voice acting and localization requirements, and Tabata promises more information once development times and details have become more finalized.
More: Buy Final Fantasy XV at Target to get a free ‘Elixir’ soda
Square Enix is also planning a number of other changes and updates to Final Fantasy XV further down the road. Though not guaranteed, the team is considering implementing customizable avatars, making additional NPCs playable, adding a “new game plus” mode, and additional rewards for killing certain bosses. Smaller UI changes, such as “readability tweaks” to increase font sizes, are also being discussed.
“We want you to enjoy Final Fantasy XV for a long time to come,” Tabata said. We have been listening to your ideas on how to make the game experience ever better, and so in addition to the previously announced content, we’ll be providing free updates to the game throughout the coming year.”
It’s uncommon to see developers actually alter a game’s narrative after release, but it’s not unprecedented. After the negative fan reaction to Mass Effect 3 ‘s ending, developer BioWare released an “ extended cut ” to give more insight into the give more insight into particular characters’ fates.
Final Fantasy XV is out now on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

 

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1.7

Unity poaches Uber’s machine learning head to tackle AI in AR/VR

Unity has hired Dr. Danny Lange to take on the next generation of AI and machine learning problems at the game engine startup. For Lange, this comes after just over a year as Uber’s head of machine learning. Previously Lange worked on machine learning products for Amazon and Microsoft.
Lange joins Unity at a time of particularly high growth for the company. Unity raised $181 million last July at a reported $1.5 billion valuation and is now used by over 5.5 million developers. The company is behind 34% of the top mobile games and is now increasingly focusing its efforts towards new emerging platforms.
In a digital world increasingly built upon game engines, Unity is one of the companies that stands to gain the most from virtual reality and/or augmented reality taking off. VR/AR are also the areas that need the most attention when it comes to AI.
“Danny’s deep, technical background and expertise in Machine Learning align perfectly with the needs of our developers in the rapidly changing world of games and AR / VR,” said John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity Technologies, in a statement. “We look forward to Danny creating innovative technologies our developers can use to help them optimize engagement and revenue for their products.”

 

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1.1

New Zealand passport robot tells applicant of Asian descent to open eyes

Richard Lee's attempt to renew his passport was blocked after he submitted the picture to an online passport photo checker run by New Zealand's department of internal affairs.
The automated system told the 22-year-old engineering student the photo was invalid because his eyes were closed, even though they were clearly open, according to a copy of the notification posted on social media site Facebook.
"No hard feelings on my part, I've always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated," Lee told Reuters.
"It was a robot, no hard feelings. I got my passport renewed in the end. "
Up to 20 percent of passport photos submitted online are rejected for various reasons, an Internal Affairs spokesman said.
"The most common error is a subject's eyes being closed and that was the generic error message sent in this case," he said.
The lighting in Lee's first photo was uneven, but a later one was accepted, he added.
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

 

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0.0

Sony’s Project Field could give us a new way to play card games

Sony has announced a new interactive platform called Project Field, which integrates with tablets and smartphones and adds additional functionality to card games. Equipped with an IC chip reader, Bluetooth connectivity, and a number of additional sensors, the pads correlate your real-world actions with the cards into a digital version, adding a whole new layer to the games.
The past couple of years have seen companies like Disney, Activision, and Nintendo make billions of dollars from selling augmented reality toys and models and this seems to be Sony’s attempt to expand that mixed-reality gaming system.
Initially built to support the Yokai Watch card game, it allows players’ real-world card movements to have an impact on the game itself. The Field pad can also identify which cards are which, letting players watch their monster sand heroes battle it out in real time by leaping right off of the cards and into the digital world.
The cards can have tracked stats too, so they can improve or level up over time thanks to their saved data in the Project Field device.
More: Final Fantasy Trading Card Game set for English-language release in October
As Engadget points out, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen augmented reality card games — there are similar versions in Japanese arcades already — but this is the first time we’ve seen a consumer-focused use of the technology.
Sony claims to have multiple projects already in the works for the Field, despite the fact that Project Field is only aimed at Japanese gamers for now. However, considering the international popularity of big games like Magic the Gathering, Gwent and Pokémon Go , it wouldn’t be surprising to see this sort of technology leveraged by a number of different properties in the future.
There’s always the potential for digital card games to make the crossover, too. Hearthstone would be a pretty solid choice, but Hex could theoretically make the jump as well.
If you could pick any card game, real world or digital, which would you want to see on Project Field?

 

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5.5

Mads Mikkelsen discusses working with Hideo Kojima on ‘Death Stranding’

Even after the trailers that aired at E3 2016 and The Game Awards last week, it’s difficult to discern exactly what’s going on in Hideo Kojima’s new game Death Stranding. If you found yourself confused by the beached whales, crying infants, and skull-headed soldiers showcased in the two clips, don’t fret — one of the lead actors set to appear in the game doesn’t quite understand all of it, either.
The trailer shown at The Game Awards introduced acclaimed actor Mads Mikkelsen as a character that’s likely to serve as the game’s primary antagonist. Mikkelsen is currently on a press tour supporting his upcoming appearance in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story , and along the way he found time to field a few questions about Death Stranding for Birth. Movies. Death.
The Danish actor apparently boarded the project after seeing Norman Reedus star in its first trailer. He praised the “emotion” and “sensuality” that he saw in that footage.
More: Here’s everything we know about Death Stranding , Hideo Kojima’s next video game
However, Mikkelsen wouldn’t classify himself as a gamer. He didn’t even fully know who Kojima was before working with him on Death Stranding , according to a report from Kotaku. Having spent some time in the video game auteur’s company, he now refers to the director as “a very brilliant man,” even if some of that brilliance sometimes went over his head.
“The stuff he told me?” said Mikkelsen, “I only understood some of it.” The actor went on to comment that Kojima is creating “something completely new” with Death Stranding .
There’s clearly a lot of excitement surrounding Death Stranding , both from the people involved with the project and fans looking forward to playing a brand new title helmed by Kojima. However, we may well have to wait a while before we find out what the its mysterious narrative is all about — no release date has been given as of yet, but given Kojima only officially left Konami in late 2015, it’s likely that the game is still in the early stage of development.

 

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2.7

NextGen Panel: VC-Backed IT Startups Must Overcome Hurdles With Building Partner Programs To Expand Sales Pipelines - Page: 1

Building out a channel is an important stage for venture-backed companies in expanding their sales pipeline – but both IT startups and solution providers need to overcome hurdles in order to cultivate a successful relationship.
A panel of venture capitalists, speaking at The Channel Company's NextGen Cloud conference on Tuesday, said channel programs are crucial to boosting the salesforce for startups in their early stages of funding rounds – but many VC-backed companies aren't doing a good job of building out partner programs.
"Many entrepreneurs are in love with innovation, but don't know how to sell," said Cliff Boro, general partner with Entry Ventures Group. "Meanwhile, solution providers know how to sell and generate revenue. I think there's an enormous opportunity [for startups] to tap partnerships with solution providers, but it's hard to get a deal. "
[Related: How One Channel Partner Built Out A Successful Practice To Monetize IoT ]
Solution providers, for their part, are often wary of partnering with startups that are still in the early stages of funding – mainly because of the risk associated with devoting resources to young companies with uncertain futures.
"Channel partners don't want to do business too early in the game – they don't know enough about the value proposition or the buyer to join a partnership with a startup," Boro said.
Ben Black, managing director at Akkadian Ventures, agreed that solution providers need to be careful with partnering with certain venture-backed companies, particularly in the software space.
"Many software companies are running up against AWS, Google or [Microsoft] Azure," he said. "All of these [startup] companies look successful, but core trends are moving against them, and solution providers need to look ahead at the impact that Google or AWS is having on them. "
While "a lot of Silicon Valley companies don't do a good job with the channel," some companies are making progress, said Alex Rosen, managing director at IDC Ventures. For instance, Tempered Networks, a Seattle-based Internet-of-things security company, launched a formal partner program a year ago with the goal of developing a channel in the U. S.
How can channel partners determine which startups to avoid partnering with? Black said a big indicator for solution providers is identifying the edge that startups will have in the future over their competitors.
"It's hard because you don't know what someone else is working on in their garage," he said. "The one signal I look for is figuring out if a company has a sustainable competitive advantage over others over a long period of time. "
To stay in the loop, solution providers should also keep an eye on the newest trends and technologies that venture capitalists are betting on – including IoT and data analytics.
Rosen's big bet is on companies pushing the democratization of data and analytics: "We're in an era where we have the tools that allow companies to access data and share that data with more than just the C-Suite," he said.
"There's a lot of talk in financing circles about artificial intelligence and what that means," he added. "We're seeing interfaces like Siri and Alexa, but think about the enterprise applications and machine learning capabilities we'll see in the future. "

 

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3.1

Rinspeed’s Oasis concept is a cozy respite from urban stress

Swiss firm Rinspeed has more details on its latest radical concept car, an autonomous two-seater called the Oasis that will appear at CES 2017 and the 2017 Detroit Auto Show in January.
Rinspeed has lofty goals for the tiny car. The company believes it can be a literal oasis in the urban landscape, providing a peaceful space that passengers can enjoy because they don’t have to drive. Rinspeed also views the Oasis as a companion just like, it says, the Star Wars droid R2-D2.
Like R2-D2, the Oasis can spin around in place. The car does that with two in-wheel electric motors and a special steering mechanism. While it looks fairly nondescript on the outside, the Oasis packs a lot on the inside, including armchairs, a television, and even a garden, which Rinspeed says has enough growing space for radishes or bonsai trees.
More: Audi installs vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication in Las Vegas
To give its occupants something to do besides tend plants, the Oasis is also equipped with Harman’s Life-Enhancing Intelligent Vehicle Solutions (LIVS) connectivity system, which uses the car’s curved 5K widescreen monitor, and includes voice and gesture controls. The system basically turns the Oasis into a personal assistant, allowing passengers to check on their friends via social media, reserve a table at a nearby restaurant, or make Skype calls for work. These features can also be accessed outside the car using Harman’s cloud.
The Oasis can also be manually driven by unfolding a steering wheel from the dashboard, but the driver must first pass a fitness and alertness test. This addresses concerns that humans can’t simply take over driving after long periods of inattention, although it’s still hard to say what would happen in an emergency requiring a human driver to take control quickly.
Rinspeed views the Oasis as more than just a personal car. The company believes it could also be used as a delivery vehicle, or even in both roles under some form of car-sharing scheme. All of that is theoretical, though. Like the company’s previous concepts , the Rinspeed Oasis isn’t functional; it’s just meant to demonstrate the possibilities of different technologies and design ideas.

 

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3.7

Everything you need to know about Android Pay

With Android Pay , you can start leaving your wallet behind, as anyone with Android Pay on their device can pay for goods and services with a simple tap of their phone against a compatible point-of-sale terminal with near-field communication, or NFC.
Here’s everything you need to know about Android Pay , including the places and banks that support it.
All four major banks in the U. S. support Android Pay — that’s Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Bank of America. Chase Bank grossly lagged behind the rest of the major U. S. banks, but as of September 2016, it has finally added support for Android Pay.
More: Google takes on India’s sanitation problems with toilet-finding tool
In addition to adding your credit and debit cards to the service, Bank of America is installing NFC-enabled ATMs around the country — this would allow you to access your bank account to withdraw cash just by tapping your phone.
Other U. S. institutions, integrations
Most banks that already support Apple Pay will back Google’s service, since both use similar NFC technology for payments — other top institutions include PNC, Capital One, TD Bank, HSBC, American Express, Ally Bank, and USAA.
Google isn’t only targeting major banks though — the company added support for 19 additional rural banks and credit unions across the contiguous United States. They include 1st Advantage Federal Credit Union, ACU of Texas, Alpine Credit Union, Alternatives FCU, Bank of the Ozarks, Union State Bank of Fargo, and Valley Federal Credit Union. You can view the full list of more than 450 supported U. S. banks here .
MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover support Android Pay. Sites that support Visa Checkout and Masterpass will soon be able to handle Android Pay as well, thanks to a strategic partnership. You’ll be able to use your fingerprint to confirm payments as well, and Visa Checkout and Masterpass customers will be able to link their accounts with Android Pay as well. The integration will roll out in early 2017.

 

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3.6

Perceived long-term job insecurity puts pressure on older workers

Employees believing for multiple decades that they will lose their jobs leads to heightened levels of fear and distress, a new University of Michigan study suggests.
Unlike previous studies that tracked workers for only a few years, U-M researchers followed the same people for 25 years.
"Our data give us the unique opportunity to examine to observe how the persistence of job insecurity is related to greater psychological distress in later life," said Sarah Burgard, an associate professor of sociology and research associate professor at the Institute for Social Research.
Burgard, the study's lead author, and researcher Sarah Seelye said persistent job insecurity that extends over a 25-year career—and the chronic employment stress associated with it—is a reality for many Americans.
Researchers used data from the Americans' Changing Lives study, in which nearly 435 people completed five surveys from 1989 to 2011 about how they felt during the past week and any concerns about job security. Respondents were interviewed before and after the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009) to capture their perceptions of their job standing in the wake of that massive downturn.
The findings indicate stress from perceived job insecurity was high among minorities and those without a high school degree.
In addition, older workers may experience distress due to their circumstances. Burgard said age discrimination or an employer's perception that health problems could become more prevalent later in life could endanger this older segment's ability to keep a job.
When researchers adjusted the findings based on age, race and educational attainment, among other factors, the respondents' health changed significantly more for those who were persistently concerned about job loss?.
In times like these, ?employers and managers can do several things to help workers stay healthy even if job threats loom, the researchers said.
"It is important to keep people informed about what's going on," said Seelye, a doctoral student in sociology. "Not knowing whether a pink slip may be coming or not is very stressful. "
Providing information about impending layoffs or office relocations, for instance, rather than letting rumors circulate, allows workers to think about a response and do some advance planning, researchers said.
Burgard also suggested that policymakers and employers should think about the health care costs and productivity losses that could occur in a workforce composed of many insecure employees, especially during and following economic downturns.?
"Those who face the worst burden are those who have faced uncertainty the longest, and it is important to think about the costs of restructuring a labor force and social supports in ways that create such vulnerable workers ," she said.?
The study appears in the current issue of Society and Mental Health .
Explore further: Job insecurity leads to health problems in U. S. workers
More information:
S. A. Burgard et al. Histories of Perceived Job Insecurity and Psychological Distress among Older U. S. Adults, Society and Mental Health (2016). DOI: 10.1177/2156869316679466

 

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0.3

Trump promises to heal divisions, plans visit to Ohio State

FAYETTEVILLE, N. C. (AP) - President-elect Donald Trump promised to “heal our divisions and unify our country” as he prepares to meet with some of the victims of last week’s car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University.
“When Americans are unified there is nothing we cannot do - nothing!” Trump told the crowd at a rally Tuesday night in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “I’m asking you to dream big again as Americans. I’m asking you to believe in yourselves.”
The Republican businessman largely stuck to the script - and, in a change, even stopped the crowd when it started to boo the media - and avoided some of the score-settling and scorched-earth rhetoric that defined his campaign and was present again last week in Cincinnati.
Trump is expected to visit Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the plans but not authorized to discuss them before they are announced.
Authorities have said Ohio State University student Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, stabbed students before being fatally shot by police. He first rammed a campus crowd with his car before hopping out with a knife.
Authorities have said Artan, a Somali immigrant, was inspired by Islamic State rhetoric, but they are still investigating the claim by the militant group that it had recruited the student. Trump has denounced the immigration policies that allowed Artan into the country.
In North Carolina, he repeated his vow to fortify the nation’s military and brought Marine Gen. James Mattis on stage, officially naming his choice to be defense secretary after teasing it last week.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump telegraphed that when he takes office in six weeks he’ll take an interventionist role in the nation’s economy - as well as play showman when he sees a chance. The celebrity businessman’s declaration about Air Force One caused manufacturer Boeing’s stock to drop temporarily and raised fresh questions about how his administration - not to mention his Twitter volleys - could affect the economy.
“The plane is totally out of control,” Trump told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower. “I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.” Earlier he had tweeted that the deal’s costs were “out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”
Not long after his first appearance, Trump returned to the lobby with Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank, a massive telecommunications company that counts Sprint among its holdings. Trump pointed proudly to Son’s commitment to invest $50 billion in the United States, which Trump said could create 50,000 jobs.
Trump - who also tweeted the deal - shook Son’s hand and posed for photos. Details of the deal were scarce and it was unclear if the money was part of a fund of up to $100 billion in global technology investments that SoftBank and the government of Saudi Arabia announced in October.
As for Air Force One, the government has agreed that Boeing will build two new planes, which would go into service around 2024. That means Trump might never fly on the aircraft, which carry U. S. presidents around the globe.
The overall deal for researching, developing and building new planes was to be about $3 billion, but costs have been reported to be rising. The General Accountability Office estimated in March that about $2 billion of the total - for work between 2010 and 2020 - was for research and development on complex systems, not for building the actual aircraft. The inflated $4 billion figure Trump cited appears to include operation and maintenance as well.
Trump had tweeted in 2013 that he owned Boeing stock, but a spokesman said Tuesday he sold all of his stock holdings in June. That sale was not publicized by the campaign at the time, and aides did not reveal how much cash it might have generated.
___
Associated Press writers Joseph Pisani in New York and Stephen Braun and Richard Lardner in Washington contributed reporting.
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Reach Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

 

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0.0

More Bay Area residents struggling than poverty statistics indicate – Silicon Valley

MENLO PARK — Close to 30 percent of the Bay Area’s residents aren’t able to make ends meet as they contend with high housing costs, suggesting poverty is more widespread in the region than official reports indicate, according to a study published Wednesday.
The report by JobTrain, a Menlo Park-based nonprofit organization, estimated that 29.2 percent of Bay Area residents, or roughly 1.45 million people, are not self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency, the study’s authors said, is defined as having a stable place to live and being able to cover the basics for survival.
JobTrain hopes its report, “The Broken Pathway: Uncovering the Economic Inequality in the Bay Area,” will highlight the challenges facing many residents of the nine-county region.
“The problem is much larger than the number of people who are living in poverty in the Bay Area,” said Nora Sobolov, president of JobTrain. “The poverty rate and the unemployment rate don’t tell the full story.”
Stephen Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, agrees that the challenges are more complex than simple calculations regarding the strength of the region’s job market and the number of people living in poverty in the area.
What’s more, this is a problem that may be getting worse due to a surge in the Silicon Valley tech sector and jobs throughout the Bay Area, Levy warned.
“This is a housing-cost problem,” Levy said. “High costs for homes and rentals are pushing people into distress economically.”
Long and crushing commutes often are the only option for employees who can’t afford to live near their workplaces.
The squeeze may be worst for middle-class workers. People with mid-range wages sometimes can’t generate enough cash flow to cough up the money needed for mortgages or monthly rents, let alone for a down payment on a typical Bay Area residence.
Those with mid-range wages, however, also make too much money to qualify for an array of government subsidies, programs and benefits that have been crafted to ease the poverty pinch, experts say.
In the Bay Area, thousands of residents facing economic distress don’t quality for many government-funded work or training services, the report said.
What’s more, federal officials may tend to not allocate sufficient resources to the Bay Area, whose job market is growing at roughly double the national employment market and is outpacing California.
“There is a perverse disconnect in the federal funding formula for workforce development that punishes the Bay Area due to low unemployment and poverty rates,” said Kris Stadelman, executive director of Sunnyvale-based NOVA Workforce Development.
The government’s reliance on official benchmarks and little else also poses problems for people who seek training.
The official poverty-level benchmark is $24,000 for a household of four people. But the study determined that the actual wage levels for living in the Bay Area are much higher, depending on where the family is located.
The necessary household family annual income to be self-sufficient, however, is $78,000 for Alameda County, $84,000 for San Francisco, $86,000 for Santa Clara County and $89,000 for San Mateo County, the JobTrain study estimated.
About half of the Bay Area’s residents over 25 years of age don’t have a bachelor’s degree. As a result, the report recommended training initiatives to help people achieve the wages needed to live here, the report said.
Training efforts should focus on helping people obtain jobs in construction, health-care support, office administration and computer technology, the report suggested.
“The Bay Area has benefited from technological change and innovation in an increasingly global economy,” the report stated. “These changes have left significant parts of the workforce behind by making it more difficult for them to find good jobs.”

 

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9.1

Jitterbit update takes integration to ‘Citizens’

Jitterbit is pushing integrations to the people. The company will push its Jitterbit Harmony Winter ‘17 update to customers tomorrow morning in the hopes of spreading its integrations platform to the unwashed, non-developer masses.
The Winter ‘17 update includes the new “Citizen Experience,” a point-and-click path to developing integrations between internal and external systems. Initially, this takes the form of 50 preconfigured recipes from Jitterbit designed to bring together popular web services inside enterprises.
The integrations include syncing Salesforce.com with NetSuite, or bringing together data from external services and internal databases. The update includes support for cross-connecting services and products like SAP, SteelBrick, Workday and Zendesk.
(Related: GitHub previews membership APIs )
Andrew Leigh, vice president of marketing and alliances at Jitterbit, said the company plans to release more than 500 recipes over the course of 2017. Those will be supplemented by others created and shared by customers in an open repository.
“It’s more than just API adapters; these recipes represent best practice processes,” said Leigh. “We’re including not just the connections, but the orchestrated processes. It’s the entire end to end orchestrated process.”
Jitterbit Harmony Winter ‘17 goes live in the web management console of all Harmony customers Thursday morning.

 

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1.3

Pearl Harbor 75th anniversary: Tour the sites, ships and planes of World War II

Three quarters of a century have passed since the instigating event that brought the US into World War II. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was a key moment in the history of the 20th century, profoundly affecting countless events that happened after.
Today the iconic ships and planes so familiar to the seas and skies during the war have become museum pieces. The battleship Arizona, tomb for 1,177 men, still serves as a somber reminder.
In Pearl Harbor and elsewhere you can visit ships of the era, like the massive USS Missouri that sits nearby, or the Iowa across the Pacific in Los Angeles. The Wisconsin and New Jersey are even farther, on the East Coast, while air museums preserve WWII aviation heritage in hangars and airfields all over the world as well.
And then, of course, there are the bunkers and battlefields themselves. Some, like the beaches at Normandy, still have the casemates seven decades on, with memorials set nearby as remembrance.
Here are 10 photo tours from around the world, starting in Hawaii.
Sitting vigil next to her sunken sister ship, the Arizona.
Near the Missouri is the Pacific Aviation Museum, with dozens of propeller and jet aircraft.
The lead ship in what would be America's last battleship class, the Iowais now a museum ship in Los Angeles.
Commissioned in 1943, the Intrepidserved in the Pacific in WWII and then in various roles until being decommissioned a final time in 1974. She's now a museum ship in New York City.
Though commissioned after WWII, she served for nearly 50 years including the Vietnam war and Desert Storm.
The British have preserved very few of their old warships. One of the few ships remaining from WWII is the HMS Belfast, which is hard to miss, sitting in the Pool of London.
There are incredible air museums all over the UK too, including the American Air Museum and Imperial War Museum Duxford, both at the Duxford Aerodrome near Cambridge.
The legendary RAF actually have two museums. This one, in Greater London, has some massive bombers inlcuding an Avro Lancaster and a B-24, along with dozens of other aircraft.
A bit harder to get to for the average tourist, the RAF Museum Cosford near Birmingham, has a the National Cold War Exhibition and some fascinating aircraft of its own (like an AW.660 Argosy ).
2014 was the 70th anniversary of the Allied landing in France. Here's how it looked.

 

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2.5

Climate change battle heats up for Australian winemakers

The crops survived, but the extreme weather last year was a reminder of how climate change can hurt a resurgent Aus$2 billion (US$1.5 billion) export industry boosted by Chinese thirst for Australian premium red wine.
"I've been here for 20 years ... and we're seeing more severity in the weather," winemaker James Sweetapple told AFP at his vineyard in Orange, a picturesque town 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of Sydney.
"The wet years are much, much wetter, the dry years are much drier and much hotter. "
With record-breaking hot weather tipped to become the new "normal" in the world's fourth-largest wine exporter by value, the government and grape-growers are trialling ways to mitigate against the challenges, including pruning later and switching varieties.
Lower quality
Australia is known as a land of drought and floods, and vignerons are accustomed to dealing with a variety of conditions.
But climate change appears to be causing a permanent shift, warming the continent by approximately 1.0 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) since 1910 according to government data, intensifying the risk of bushfires and droughts, while altering rainfall patterns.
The rising heat is compressing harvesting seasons, causing grapes to ripen earlier—sometimes during the hotter December-February summer months rather than autumn.
This changes grapes' sugar and acid levels, leading to lower-quality wines with higher alcohol content.
"The last six weeks of ripening are critical for flavour and colour development and sugar-acid balance, so we don't want to have too much heat at the end of the season before harvest," winemaker and former viticulture lecturer Peter Hedberg told AFP.
"Most vineyards in Australia are actually in very hot climates... and unfortunately a lot of regions are ripening grapes at over 35-degree Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) into 40-degree heat which is not good for flavour. "
Australia's independent Climate Council warned last year that up to 70 percent of wine-growing areas in the country with Mediterranean climates—including the Barossa and Western Australia's Margaret River region—would be "less suitable for grape growing by 2050" due to global warming.
While little or nothing can be done to save vines from flooding or smoke from bushfires tainting grapes, low-tech approaches to delay harvesting times and increase soil moisture are already being used.
Change or get out
Orange's Justin Jarrett boosts carbon levels in his soils by layering mulches and compost on top to make them more moist, while Sweetapple keeps a "hairy" vineyard by allowing grass to grow freely underneath vines, providing shade in dry spells and sucking up excess moisture when wet.
Pruning later is another tried-and-tested approach for delaying harvesting times, while winemakers are being encouraged to look at different varieties that thrive in warmer climes—such as from Italy and Spain—when replacing old vineyards.
Wine Australia, the official grape and wine body, commissioned a project that analysed 500 alternative varieties to map out the lengths of their seasons, when their grapes ripen and how much is produced, so growers have a guide if they want to make a switch.
"Most wines are made from 12 different varieties but there's thousands of them, which really means there's lots of opportunity within the genetics of grape vines to basically live in just about any environment that you attempt to grow them in," Wine Australia's research and development head Liz Waters said.
With 2016 "very likely" to be the world's hottest on record, according to the United Nations, the race to stay one step ahead of the shifting climate is heating up.
"Good farmers think about what's coming," said Jarrett, who has started growing prosecco, a white Italian variety he believes could suit Orange's climate in 20 years' time.
In warmer regions where profit margins are already tight, some farmers may need to consider moving away from grapes to nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and pecans that thrive in the heat, Hedberg suggested.
"I think people realise they've got to change or get out," he said.
"The world doesn't need more cheap wine. We need premium wines that have good flavour; they've got a good story with them that we can sell to China or all around the world. "
Explore further: Research to bring full-flavour to low alcohol wine

 

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1.3

More than GDPR: Brexit, Safe Harbour and Privacy Shield, and the Network and Information Systems Security Directive

In part two, we examined how the GDPR will weigh on cloud computing providers and the affect of new breach disclosure rules.
It always looked most likely that, Brexit or not, the GDPR would apply and...

 

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0.0

Intel may use AMD GPUs to challenge Nvidia's rising power

AMD already owns the graphics in consoles, and the next place it could plant its flag could be the last anyone expected: Intel.
While rumors of a possible deal have circulated all year, something firmer arose Monday night when Kyle Bennett, longtime editor of enthusiast hardware site HardOCP.com, posted that the ink on the deal was already dry. “The licensing deal between AMD and Intel is signed and done for putting AMD GPU tech into Intel’s iGPU,” Bennett wrote on his site’s forum.
Bennett didn’t detail reasons for the statement and didn’t respond to an email PCWorld sent him late Tuesday. Officials PCWorld contacted at both companies declined to comment.
As bizarre as such a partnership may sound to outsiders, the timing actually makes it more likely. Kevin Krewell, an analyst with Tirias Research, laid out two possible scenarios in a column at Forbes.com that was published Tuesday evening.
First, Intel needs patent protection. Nvidia and Intel began suing each other in 2009 over Nvidia’s nForce chipsets for Intel CPUs. The suits were eventually settled in 2011: Nvidia agreed not to build chipsets for Intel’s Core i7 CPUs, and Intel was free to build graphics cores without getting sued by Nvidia.
The price of Intel’s freedom was high, though: The chip giant agreed to pay Nvidia licensing fees over the next six years totalling $1.5 billion.
After writing the last $200 million check in January 2016, the licensing deal is winding down, which means Intel has to go shopping for patent protection for its graphics cores. As AMD and Nvidia essentially own the lion’s share of graphics patents in the world, developing graphics cores is nigh impossible without licensing deals.
Krewell said Intel could just ink a deal and be done with it. The second scenario, however, is far more intriguing, if, as Bennett alludes, Intel uses Radeon graphics inside of Intel CPUs.
This forum post points to a likely licensing deal between AMD and Intel.
Krewell said the deal would give AMD some much-needed funding. “AMD still has some significant financial headwinds with its debt load and needs cash to fund more R&D,” Krewell said to PCWorld late Tuesday. “The way I’d rationalize AMD’s licensing of Radeon GPU tech to Intel is that Radeon would become the dominant graphics architecture of the PC market and outflank Nvidia in graphics. If Intel then used Radeon GPUs for GPU computing, it would help push back on Nvidia and CUDA.”
Such a deal wouldn’t come cheap, but Intel was already cutting checks of $200 million to $300 million to Nvidia every year. “Intel would have to pony up some significant money to make this deal work,” Krewell told PCWorld. “The amount of extra cash AMD could make on royalties would be very appealing to the shareholders.”
Fans may be concerned that such a deal would all but give up the last advantage AMD’s upcoming Zen-based APUs would have over Intel chips. AMD’s Zen core could equal Intel’s newest cores in x86 performance. Combine that with AMD’s much more powerful graphics cores and you’d have an instant winner.
Financial realities, however, overshadow any moral victories. “Is it better to make a royalty on 80 percent to 90 percent of the PC processor shipments or fight it out for the remaining 10 percent or 20 percent?” Krewell said. AMD can make a lot more money partnering with Intel rather than competing.
For its part, Intel has plenty of reasons to stop sending money to Nvidia. As the GPU maker busily builds market share in self-driving cars, machine learning and more, it’s becoming more of a threat to Intel (which is trying hard to get its own chunk of these businesses). In AMD, Intel would have a partner that offered competitive technology to Nvidia’s—and needed its money. We’ll continue to follow this story and will let you know when we learn more.

 

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1.3

China fines Medtronic $17 million on anti-monopoly charges

The Cabinet's planning agency said Wednesday the company, which supplies cardiovascular, restorative, and diabetes-related medical devices, improperly suppressed competition through agreements with distributors that set minimum prices.
Chinese regulators have imposed similar penalties on foreign automakers, milk suppliers and other companies. Setting minimum retail prices is a common tactic in other markets but lawyers say Beijing appears to see them as a barrier to competition.
Wednesday's government statement said minimum price agreements for medical devices hurt patients.
Explore further: China fines Mercedes $57 million in price-fixing probe

 

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1.8

Generate photo app now integrated with Adobe Creative Cloud, mobile apps

Artistic filter and photo remix app Generate is now directly compatible with several different features inside Adobe imaging apps, including saving projects to the Creative Cloud.
Generate is an image editor with a variety of different artistic filters and effects, from mosaic tiles to neon object edges. Unlike most filter-based image editors, the effects can be adjusted individually and layered on top of each other to further expand the different possibilities. Along with editing stills, users can also add effects to video and even sync them with the audio.
More: MuseCam unlocks iPhone camera’s potential with manual controls and editing
With the app’s latest update, Generate users can now use several Adobe tools within their projects. The new compatibility takes images from Generate and automatically goes back and forth between the different apps. Adobe’s Photoshop Mix cut out, liquefy and healing effects give Generate users more options for remixing images, while the adjust options in Photoshop Express and the effects and stickers from Aviary Photo Editor round out the list of current compatible features.
Creative Cloud subscribers can also now save their Generate app creations directly into the cloud, making it easier for users to backup their work — or to open the files in desktop versions of Adobe software. The cloud compatibility also works with Generate’s video files.
Generate says that additional tool compatibility is already in the works, and that a series of updates over the next several months will continue to tweak the photo and video editing platform.
Along with the Adobe integration, the app’s latest update removed watermarks from images and simplified the screen share and saving processes. The update also brought 15 new filters to Generate.
The latest updates with Adobe integration are available on Generate’s iOS version. The Google Play Store option doesn’t yet have the same Adobe compatibility, but offers similar filters and adjustments. The app is free to download on both platforms.

 

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0.6

Fight over revolutionary genetic advance goes to court in US

The tool called CRISPR-Cas9—hailed as faster, cheaper and more accurate than current gene-snipping methods—holds fabulous promise for applications in medicine and agriculture.
It is to genetics what word processors meant as progress compared to typewriters.
In one corner of the fight are two women regularly considered possible candidates for a Nobel prize: French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin and biochemist Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley.
Opposing them is Feng Zhang, a leading light at the Broad Institute, a research facility affiliated with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Both sides claim to have developed CRISPR-Cas9. It allows scientists to edit, with pinpoint accuracy, stretches of the genome by removing, adding or changing pieces of the DNA sequence.
Major medical labs and biotechnology companies see the technique as having stunning potential.
But critics worry over ethical concerns, such as changing DNA within reproductive cells , because these tweaks will be passed on from generation to generation.
The three scientists were represented by lawyers at the court in Alexandria, Virginia for a hearing that lasted less than 50 minutes.
There is broad agreement that Charpentier and Doudna—winners of many prizes in the past four years—discovered this gene-editing technique that has raised so many hopes.
Their work was published in the journal Science in June 2012. But they described using CRISPR with simple organisms such as bacteria. They filed for a patent in May 2012.
The Broad Institute, with Zhang, filed a patent request in December 2012 for a successful test of CRISPR with eukaryotes—more advanced organisms whose cells contain a nucleus with a membrane.
This step forward opened up vast possibilities for extending gene-editing to human cells.
The question before the three-judge panel Tuesday was whether Zhang benefited from the discovery of the other two scientists or was actually responsible for moving CRISPR forward as a technology.
"Dr Zhang had already started to work on it prior to" the publication of his rivals' work, said Steven Trybus, lawyer for the Broad Institute.
Quoting an interview that she gave, Trybus said Doudna "experienced many frustrations trying to get it in human cells. "
A lawyer for the other side sought to dismiss any suggestion that his clients had failed.
Todd Walters, a lawyer for the University of California, said Doudna has granted hundreds of interviews and "there is no statement in the record that she believed that it wouldn't work in eukaryotic cells. "
What will the judges do to attribute paternity for the discovery of the century in biotechnology?
They can decide that one side wins it all, or split things up by assigning some patents to both sides.
No decision is expected for weeks. But either way, CRISPR-Cas9 is destined to keep the world of genetics abuzz for a long time.
Explore further: Patent office agrees to move forward with interference hearings on CRISPR/Cas9 inventor case

 

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0.6

Corporate IT security? Start with the CEO and email invoice fraud

Ibukun Adebayo, ex-IT director at social care charity Turning Point and now an independent consultant, has warned that CEO email fraud and spear phishing are among the biggest IT security threats facing organisations.
Speaking at a panel session at Computing's recent Security & Risk Management Summit, Adebayo warned that fraudsters were increasingly targeting high-value individuals in organisations in spear-phishing operations.
"In companies in the UK at the moment, I believe that the most important threat is CEO email fraud. We have got to address that," said Adebayo.
Furthermore, with corporate IT security typically starting at the top, Adebayo suggested that CEO email fraud was a good place to start.
"You can't have an organisation where the CEO and senior executives are succumbing to fraud and yet expect the rank-and-file employees not to succumb to the same threats," said Adebayo.
She continued: "We have a key role to play as security professionals in terms of converting our security policies into awareness programmes that encompass executives within organisations. This is to make sure that they are aware of the threats, and are open to mitigating the threats by their own actions before they can take the lead in reducing the threats to their own organisations. "
Adebayo cited the case of Walter Stephen, the CEO at Austrian aerospace parts manufacturer FACC, who succumbed to an email fraud that lost the company €42m. He was fired in May as a result, following a 14-hour board meeting.
The hoax email asked an employee to transfer money to an account for a fake acquisition project - a kind of scam known as a "fake president incident". Stephan believed that the email had come from a trusted employee.
"The supervisory board came to the conclusion that Mr. Walter Stephan has severely violated his duties, in particular in relation to the 'fake president incident'," FACC claimed in a statement.
Corporate boards need to be told bluntly that they need the training, added Adebayo.
"It's a case of preparing a paper for the board and requesting a meeting with the board... you may not be at a senior management-team level, but if you have been hired to mitigate the risks to your organisation then you have to do exactly that.
"You have to tell them: we are at risk; you are a known vulnerability to the organisation," said Adebayo.

 

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0.0

Forrester Researcher Projects Cloud Hyper-Growth Through 2020 - Page: 1

The public cloud market is exploding into a stage of hyper-growth, an analyst with Forrester Research told NexGen Cloud attendees Tuesday, but partners need to understand their role in helping customers migrate to the right platforms to maximize that opportunity over the next few years.
Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Forrester, told attendees of the conference in Anaheim, Calif. that we've entered the "age of the customer," and in that new epoch it's not about the big beating the small, but the fast beating the slow.
"Fast businesses are creating cloud-based ecosystems that are centered around the customer," Bartoletti said at NexGen, produced by CRN parent The Channel Company.
[Related: The 10 Biggest Cloud Stories Of 2016 ]
The "value ecosystem" being created focuses on touching the customer at every stage in the business process, and is fueling the growth in cloud technology adoption, he said.
It's important for the channel to remember that cloud isn't a place for their customers to get cheap servers and storage. It's "a place to turn ideas into software faster," Bartoletti said.
IT adoption follows an S-curve, with a slow ramp, an acceleration phase and then a plateau.
The cloud market essentially started only four years ago, when performance and security greatly improved, at which point just 10 percent of global companies had adopted Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service, Bartoletti said.
It's now in the acceleration phase, with 33 percent adoption this year—a number likely to rise to 49 percent in 2017, he said.
Even Forrester has underestimated the cloud's market potential. The research firm had to upwardly revise its predictions for 2017, but now estimates a $32 billion spend. That number is expected to double by 2020 as hyper-growth continues, Bartoletti said.
Cloud spending is ramping twice as fast as the virtualization wave that preceded it, he added.

 

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2.1

Powrtabs are disposable emergency chargers for your phone

It’s no fun when your phone runs out of power and there’s no charger around. Whether you’re at a restaurant in the middle of New York, or deep in Yosemite National Park on a camping trip, you’re going to want to find a way to boost that battery.
Powrtabs could be that way. These are small, emergency battery top-ups that can offer up to four hours of extra battery life, depending on your phone. They come in two flavors: with a Micro USB connector for Android phones, or with a Lightning connector for iPhones. You can buy them for $5 each, or get a discount for buying in bulk.
More : The best portable battery chargers
They’re very easy to use. Open the wrapper, plug the precharged Powrtab into your phone, and the juice will start flowing. They’re rated at 1,000mAh with an output of 5V and 380MA. But what does that really mean?
We tried a couple out with a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which has a 3,600mAh battery in it. The first one took our flagging S7 Edge from 17 percent up to 28 percent and took 39 minutes to do it. The Powrtab got a wee bit warm, but not especially, and you’ll be glad to hear that the S7 Edge didn’t heat up at all.
The second Powrtab we tried took our S7 Edge from 25 percent up to 40 percent and it also took 39 minutes. The S7 Edge has a relatively big battery in it, so you’re going to get more out of a Powrtab if you have a phone with a smaller battery, like the iPhone 7, for example, which has a 1,960mAh battery.
Because they’re disposable, you may well question the environmental credentials of Powrtabs. The outside casing is biodegradable, compact cardboard. So far, so good, but there’s a Li-ion battery inside that.
Li-ion batteries don’t have toxic metals like lead or cadmium in them, as some other batteries do, but they still contain iron, copper, nickel, and cobalt. They’re considered safe for incinerator or landfill disposal by most U. S. states, but California is a notable exception.
Where Powrtabs are sold in store, they’re keen to offer a recycling program. You can also recycle them yourself, as you would any other Li-ion battery. There are lots of options like the call2recycle website that will help you find a recycling location.
If you’ve glanced at the photos above, you’ll no doubt have noticed that the Powrtab packaging is reminiscent of something else. It’s no accident that they look like condoms. Powrtab’s creators, the 23-year-old Helfer brothers, hope you’ll slip an emergency Powrtab into your bag or your car’s glove box, just as you might an emergency condom.
They’re not trying to replace the wall charger or even portable battery chargers, but rather to offer another solution that will help you out in a pinch. To that end, Powrtabs have a shelf life of five years, so you could sling one in a bag and forget about it, until you need it.
Powrtabs are certainly easy to use, and they’re affordable, which may explain why they’ve sold more than 20,000 units in their first month. If you like the idea, head over to the Powrtabs website where you can buy a pack of three Powrtabs for $15 or a six pack for $25.

 

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1.5

Polar bear numbers to plunge a third as sea ice melts

There is a 70 percent chance that the global polar bear population –- estimated at 26,000 -– will decline by more than 30 percent over the next 35 years, a period corresponding to three generations, the study found.
Other assessments have reached similar conclusions, notably a recent review by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which tracks endangered species on its Red List.
The IUCN classified the sea-faring polar bear—a.k.a. Ursus maritimus—as "vulnerable", or at high risk of extinction in the wild.
But the new study, published in the Royal Society's Biology Letters , is the most comprehensive to date, combining 35 years of satellite data on Arctic sea ice with all known shifts in 19 distinct polar bears groupings scattered across four ecological zones in the Arctic.
"Polar bears depend on sea ice for most aspects of their life history," the study notes.
Most importantly, they use it as a floating platform to hunt seals, which can outswim them in open water.
Researchers led by Eric Regehr of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, Alaska projected three population scenarios out to mid-century, and all of them were bad news for the snow-white carnivores.
The first assumed a proportional decline in sea ice and polar bears.
Despite year-to-year fluctuations, long-term trends are unmistakable: the ten lowest Arctic ice extents over the satellite record have all occurred since 2007.
The record low of 3.41 million square kilometres (1.32 million square miles) in 2012 was 44 percent below the 1981-2010 average.
This week, the US National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that sea ice extent in October and November was the lowest ever registered for both months.
Ice-free summers
The culprit is global warming, which has raised the region's surface temperatures by more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to the pre-industrial era level, twice the global average.
On current trends, The Arctic could see its first ice-free summers sometime in the 2030s, according to climate scientists.
In the second and third scenarios, the same sea ice projections were matched with available data about changes in specific polar bear populations spanning at least a decade, in small areas in one case, and across the four larger "eco-zones" in the second.
Averaging all three scenarios, the probability that polar bear numbers would drop by a third in 35 to 41 years is more than 70 percent, the study concluded.
Unfortunately, polar bears face other threats besides a habitat radically altered by the release of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
In the 1980s and 1990s, females and pups were found to have accumulated high levels of toxic PCPs in their tissue and organs.
The manmade chemicals—used for decades and banned in many countries in the late 1970s—worked their way up through the food chain, becoming more concentrated along the way.
But a new study, published last week in the Royal Society's Proceedings B, suggested that declines in some polar bear populations stemmed from contaminated males rendered sterile by the chemicals.
"PCB concentrations in the Arctic have levelled off," said lead author Viola Pavlova, a scientist at the Institute of Hydrobiology in the Czech Republic.
"Unfortunately, many other manmade chemicals that are also endocrine disruptors occur in the Arctic and could act similarly," she told AFP.
Explore further: Polar bears losing crucial sea ice: study
More information:
Conservation status of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in relation to projected sea-ice declines, Biology Letters , rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/lookup/doi/10.1098/rsbl.2016.0556

 

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0.7

Captive elephants help save wild cousins on forest frontline

Dodot—a veteran Indonesian elephant keeper trained to handle such emergencies—rushed to the scene, fearing villagers would take matters into their own hands if he didn't get there in time.
"It was the king," Dodot said of the hungry bull male that had strayed from the forest in southeast Sumatra in search of food.
"He's not afraid of humans, or weapons. He owns the territory. "
It was the third such intrusion in a month.
Confrontations between elephants and humans can quickly turn violent in Sumatra, where competition for space has intensified as the island's forests have been rapidly cleared for timber and farming.
Nearly 70 percent of the Sumatran elephants habitat has been destroyed in a single generation, says conservation group WWF, driving them into ever-closer contact with humans.
Villagers have been trampled and killed by stampeding herds, but it's the elephants that have suffered most as their habitats have shrunk.
In 25 years, half of Sumatra's wild elephants have been wiped out. The species was upgraded to critically endangered in 2012, with experts blaming the twin drivers of deforestation and conflict with humans.
Ivory poachers have long hunted bulls for their tusks but many elephants are killed simply for trespassing on land.
This month an elephant was found dead near a palm oil plantation in the island's northeast. Authorities believe it accidentally ingested fertiliser but an investigation is continuing, the local conservation head told AFP.
Elephant patrols
Keeping the peace between elephants and humans is a round-the-clock job for rangers like Dodot, who like many Indonesians goes by just one name.
He's assigned to one of three specialist elephant response units strategically located at hotspots around Way Kambas National Park, where human settlements border a tranche of lowland forest home to an estimated 250 wild Sumatran elephants.
At the Margahayu station half a dozen rangers man their remote forest camp year round, rotating four days on, two days off.
They cook their own food, maintain canals and fences and, most importantly, patrol the borders with a squad of six captive elephants under their command.
These elephants are vital to the team's success. Atop patrol elephants, rangers can keep track of the wild, nomadic herds as they roam the 1,300 square kilometres of dense forest.
The patrol elephants—trained by the keepers, or mahouts, who live alongside them—are skilled at picking up the trail of their wild kin, said Eko Arianto, a forest policeman posted with the Margahayu response unit.
"When we spot wild elephants we inform the community, and our teams on the outside, to be on the lookout," he told AFP.
"That way they can be ready to turn them back. "
It doesn't always go to plan. Villagers killed an elephant in 2012, Arianto said, while angry farmers have been known to use fire, poison and beehives to drive away intruders.
Dominant males are solitary and harder for the rangers to track, emerging suddenly from the forest to raid fields before "vanishing" for weeks on end, Arianto said.
A single incident can strain hard-earned trust between rangers and local communities, who view elephants as a threat to their livelihoods and blame park authorities when they run amok.
Building trust
The response units recruit locals to thaw suspicion and foster a sense of joint responsibility for the future of the iconic species.
"We are striving to find ways people can coexist with the elephants," Arianto said.
"If the community feels involved, then they will help protect them. These elephants not only belong to us, but to everyone. "
Their diplomacy has paid off. Rangers estimate the frequency of clashes has dropped up to 80 percent since they began patrolling the area in 2015.
Farmers—once so fearful of rampaging elephants they slept in their fields at night—were now reporting their first undisturbed harvests in years, Dodot said.
"Before we were here they were constantly on guard. Now they stay at home to sleep," he told AFP.
The patrols also locate and disable traps laid by poachers, disrupting lucrative criminal networks trading in exotic species.
It's a dangerous business. Last year, a beloved patrol elephant from a separate Sumatran unit was found dead at his station, his tusks hacked off.
But those on the frontline aren't deterred.
There's plans to expand patrols next year to a fourth outpost at a trouble-prone section of Way Kambas, Arianto said, and talk of acquiring a drone for aerial tracking.
Junaidi, a 23-year-old trainee ranger, uses GPS technology to map the position of wild herds, but in the jungle relies on traditional skills passed down by experienced mahouts.
Following dung trails and crushed vegetation, the young recruit wanders deeper into the forest until spotting three elephants , almost camouflaged in the undergrowth, grazing silently.
"If the next generation doesn't care for them, what does their future hold? " Junaidi said.
Explore further: Can drone technology save the Sumatran elephant?

 

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Virgin Galactic's new VSS Unity spacecraft completes test flight

Virgin Galactic seemed to be on the fast track to making space tourism a reality. Unfortunately, that was before the tragic 2014 loss of the SpaceShipTwo (VSS Enterprise) test vessel. The accident resulted in the death of one of the ship’s two crew and set back Virgin Galactic’s plans dramatically. The slightly redesigned VSS Unity vehicle has now made its first untethered test flight. An initial review of the flight data shows everything went as planned, but Virgin Galactic is taking no chances this time.
Prior to the failure of its last test vehicle, Virgin Galactic used it to successfully complete 55 flights at a maximum altitude of 22 kilometers. The aim of Virgin Galactic is to take passengers beyond the Kármán line, which is the barrier 62 miles (100 kilometers) above the Earth where space is agreed to begin. If you go past that, you’re an astronaut (sort of). Virgin Galactic won’t actually be entering orbit—that takes a lot of energy. Instead, its plan is to use a parabolic trajectory to give passengers several minutes of weightlessness in space before coming back down into the atmosphere.
The test flight was one hour and twenty minutes long, including 10 minutes during which VSS Unity was free of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane. This follows several “captive carry” tests where the space plane is not released from the carrier at all. This test flight was also glide-only, meaning the rocket engines were not fired up. Still, VSS Unity flew down for a perfect landing from an altitude of nearly 10 miles (16 kilometers).
The VSS Unity has the same basic design and engines as the airframe as the VSS Enterprise, but it has a modified feather locking system. When activated, the feathering system rotates the wings vertically to increase drag and assist with landing. However, the investigation into the 2014 crash showed that the system was accidentally deployed while the rocket engines were still engaged. This resulted in extreme stress on the body of the craft that broke it apart. VSS Unity includes a mechanical pin on the feathering control system that prevents it from being activated while it is under high acceleration.
The company says it will only begin flying passengers when it is confident it can be done safely. VSS Unity needs to head much higher in the atmosphere to be properly tested. In particular, engineers are going to be looking at how its rocket engines perform in the upper atmosphere and how heat is dissipated. Virgin Galactic doesn’t have a firm timeline for commercial flights yet, but several competitors have picked up steam while Virgin was picking up the pieces. Blue Origin says it will be ready for passengers as soon as 2018.

 

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2.4

Yes you cannabis! Smart grow box is designed to make growing pot at home easy

Marijuana is moving from illicit to accepted across much of America, with states from Florida to Alaska having legalized the drug for medical and recreational use. While there are still some pretty strict regulations on who can grow, possess, and ingest the buds, many personal growing operations are moving out of the closet and into the open.
Case in point: a small refrigerator-sized box called Leaf , which is designed to help growers grow healthy plants — from kale to cannabis — with minimal effort.
“I have anxiety and have been treating it with medicinal marijuana for years,” says Lead founder Yoni Ofir tells Digital Trends. “I hated not knowing what was in my medicine, or how it was grown, so I decided to grow my own.”
Ofir discovered what growers have known for years — cannabis can be surprisingly difficult to raise. “It’s very time-consuming and requires a lot of knowledge and daily upkeep,” he says. “As I learned more about growing, I came up with the idea to automate it with smart home technology and designed Leaf.”
More : Too lazy to grow weed? Let the internet of things do it for you with Gro.io
The grow box is built with sensors to measure vitals like temperature, humidity, pH, and plant height. Cartridges automatically feed nutrients to the plant. An app allows growers to monitor and control the production, and a carbon filter helps keep any “skunk-like” smell out of the house. When the bud is harvested, the box can be set for drying mode. Unlike many other systems that help growers connect their operations to the Internet of Things, Leaf is intended to be all-in-one.
Leaf was first announced in September 2015 when the company began taking $100 deposits to reserve a limited number of $1,500 beta devices. Starting today, Leaf is taking $300 pre-order deposits for updated boxes that will retail for $2,990, with shipment expected by September 2017.

 

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2.9

Air Force to launch satellite to increase military bandwidth

CAPE CANAVERAL — Many consumers are more dependent on high-speed Internet connections at home to connect smartphones and tablets and stream high-definition movies or video games.
The Department of Defense similarly is grappling with a growing need for bandwidth, and on Wednesday night the Air Force will launch its highest-capacity satellite yet from Cape Canaveral to improve military communications.
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket is targeting a 6:53 p.m. ET liftoff with the eighth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite, or WGS-8.
"The information age has resulted in an explosion of communications demand and capability for everyone globally," said Rico Attanasio, director of military satellite communications for Boeing, the builder of WGS spacecraft. "For our armed forces and DoD users, wideband communications is vitally important to executing missions that protect and defend the people of the United States and our interests. More and more, WGS is called upon to deliver reliable, high-data rate communications anywhere in the world, sometimes in contested environments. "
Cloudy skies are expected during the 49-minute window at Launch Complex 37, but there's still an 80% chance of acceptable weather, according to the Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron.
Each WGS satellite, which first launched in 2007, has offered at least 10 times greater capacity than the entire constellation that preceded the program.
The new satellite, worth $425 million, features an upgraded digital channelizer that nearly doubles its bandwidth compared to the last satellite in the series, and also improves its ability to thwart enemy attempts to jam its signals.
The satellite weighing about 13,000 pounds at launch will orbit 22,300 miles high, where it will appear to remain in a fixed position over the equator. The Air Force won't say yet exactly where over the globe it will be positioned and when it will enter service, but it will add capacity wherever it ends up.
"We’re simply making more bandwidth available," said Charlotte Gerhart, WGS-8 program manager for the Air Force. "There’s no specific user that’s targeted, and there’s no specific area. Wherever WGS-8 is, and whatever capacity is requested, the system will provide it. "
Attanasio described the satellite as a router in orbit.
Thomas Becht, deputy director of the Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate at the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, said the high-capacity constellation supports the military's increasingly important Global Broadcasting Service, which works "like the DIRECTV of the DoD. "
"It broadcasts anywhere from unclassified, in-the-clear signals, all the way up to classified (signals) out to the warfighter, and has the capability of going to pretty much any platform or even to troops in field," he said. "And the WGS system is the backbone for getting the signal out to the warfighter. "
The powerful Delta IV rocket will blast off with 2.1 million pounds of thrust, with four solid rocket boosters assisting the core booster. It's the sixth time the rocket has launched in this configuration, so far used exclusively for WGS satellites.
ULA's 11th launch of the year — the last of seven national security missions — should last nearly 42 minutes before the satellite is deployed in orbit.
The 45th Space Wing is not allowing news media on the Air Force Station to take pictures of the launch, citing safety concerns. The usual viewing locations are within the rocket's blast zone, or could be at risk after an accident if prevailing winds blew a plume of toxic spacecraft fumes in the wrong direction.
Rocket: United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium+ (5,4)
Mission: U. S. Air Force's eighth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite (WGS-8)
Launch Time: 6:53 p.m. ET
Launch Window: 49 minutes, to 7:42 p.m. ET
Launch Complex: 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Weather: 80% "go"
Join floridatoday.com for countdown updates and chat starting at 5:30 p.m., including livestreaming of ULA's launch Webcast starting 20 minutes before liftoff.
Follow James Dean on Twitter: @flatoday_jdean

 

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3.8

UK's Sage says may sell North American payments business

The firm, which was responding to recent media speculation, said there can be no certainty that the evaluation will lead to any transaction.
Shares in Sage closed Tuesday at 619.5 pence, valuing the group at 6.7 billion pounds ($8.48 billion).
($1 = 0.7902 pounds)
(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton)

 

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1.2

DST leads $80M round in Brazil’s Nubank to take on the big boys in financial services

As Brazil continues to reel as a result of its economic turmoil and its worst recession in 80 years, one of the country’s first financial tech startups has raised significant funding. Sao Paulo-based Nubank , whose first (and to-date only) product has been a “no-fee” credit card that is managed only through a mobile app, has raised $80 million in a Series D round of funding — money that the company says it would like to use to continue expanding its operations with more hiring and new products, David Vélez, the founder and CEO, said in an interview earlier.
The investment was led by DST Global , the prominent VC firm headed by Yuri Milner that has backed the likes of e-commerce giants Alibaba, enterprise juggernauts like Slack, consumer tech icons like Twitter, Spotify and Facebook, and other fintech companies like Klarna and Lending Club. DST last year raised a new $1.7 billion fund and it looks like it’s been flying into newer areas with it: this is DST’s first-ever investment in Brazil.
Others in this round included previous investors Sequoia (where Vélez was once an investor ), Tiger Global , Founders Fund and QED. Nubank seems to be a poster child of sorts for investing in South America for these firms. As with DST, Nubank had been the first investment in the region also for Sequoia, Founders Fund and QED (but not Tiger).
Nubank is not revealing its valuation, but in its last round — $52 million led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund — it had a post-money valuation of $500 million, and sources tell me that this round is not catapulting Nubank into the realm of “unicorns” (in other words, Nubank is still valued at under $1 billion).
Given the financial climate in Brazil right now, it might seem counterintuitive for VCs to be putting their money into a startup that is building its business on credit products, since these carry risk and you’d think that risk becomes acute when money is tight. In fact, the opposite seems to be true.
Currently Brazil has the largest credit card market in the region, with 100 million cards in circulation. But as Vélez describes it, the country’s five largest banks — which control some 95% of all consumer financial services in the country — are being impacted by the economy today, and they are pulling away from some services and trying to cut their costs, resulting in worse terms for their customers. This means that smaller offerings like Nubank’s, whose credit card is “free” — as long as you pay your balance on time (that is, no upfront or service charge as many others do in Brazil) — suddenly become more attractive to consumers.
Then for the VCs, along with the crisis and lower costs for products and services, come lower valuations for businesses as well. In other words, this is the right time to come in before valuations and the climate improves. “In addition to Brazil’s economy gradually getting better, prices have hit a bottom,” Vélez said.
The company, he added, is using the tough economic climate to its advantage as well. He notes that the company’s credit modelling — which lets Nubank decide whether or not to issue a customer a card — has been built out at the worst possible time for consumers. Essentially, that means that the model is conservative and is better able to identify and encourage the addition of low-risk credit customers.
He believes that the companies that are more challenged are those “built during booms” because they find it harder to adjust to adverse conditions.
Nubank’s business itself has been on a tear since it launched in 2014. Vélez is not disclosing total customer numbers but says that while many other smaller fintech startups appear to have maxed out at around 150,000 customers, Nubank has well surpassed that. He said that there have been some 7 million applications for the card, and some 500,000 are currently on the waiting list to get it. (Nubank doesn’t approve everyone who applies.)
The company doesn’t charge a fee up front, but makes its money in three areas: transaction charges of 1.5% with each purchase; foreign exchange when people buy abroad (so far the card has been used in 171 countries); and interest on unpaid balances.
However, Vélez said that ideally it doesn’t want customers who pay interest on their balances, focusing instead on those who are more likely to pay in full each month. The reason: they are less likely to default (and not pay) over time. And this is exactly what Nubank is doing: today over 90% of its current customer base pays their balances in full each month.
Some 75 million purchases have been made using Nubank’s cards up to now.
As for what the company would like to build next, while Nubank was an early mover and more or less was operating with virtually no competition, that is no longer the case. Others looking to rival and beat Nubank at its own game include Digio , which is a joint project between two of the big banks in the country, Bradesco and Banco do Brasil.
Unsurprisingly, that will likely spur more activity from Nubank. It looks like the next product is likely to be a rewards service, where you get credits for air miles and other products with each purchase. This service, which interestingly will be charged at a monthly fee, is already being tested and is likely to be widely rolled out next year.
Apart from this, Vélez said that there will be another major, new service launched next year but would not disclose what it was. However, considering that the goal is to create a new kind of bank, one clue could be to recreate the most popular services that those traditional banks offer today, such as consumer or small business loans; and savings and current accounts.
There is also the issue of marketing. The company today boasts “zero” customer acquisition costs, said Vélez, as it’s been built entirely on word of mouth and viral campaigns on social media and elsewhere. That could be another area where Nubank finally decides to spend some money to acquire customers. (Or not, and keep the margins up.)
For now, Nubank will stay focused on Brazil, but part of the interest for its investors is to ultimately grow into other markets in the region, too:
“David and the team at Nubank are building a global leader in digital financial services that brings significant benefits to their customers in Brazil, including improved service levels, reduced ecommerce payment friction and lower cost,” said Tom Stafford, managing partner at DST Global, in a statement. “Nubank is establishing one of the leading technology teams in South America and we are excited to partner with them.”

 

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3.3

Here are all the places that support Apple Pay

Apple Pay is Apple’s contactless payment service, and it’s available to the iPhone 6/6S, 6/6S Plus , iPhone SE , and the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The service, like Android Pay, requires stores to have NFC terminals at checkout so that you can simply tap your phone to make a payment.
While Apple was hardly the first with contactless payments, the company’s solution has banks, stores, and companies jumping on the bandwagon and pledging their support for Apple Pay. It seems as if new partners are joining every day, so we’ve put together this handy list of all the major partners, which we’ll update as more are added. Here are all the brands and countries that support Apple Pay.
Initially, Apple Pay only worked in the United States, but Apple is interested in bringing the service to users in many countries. Apple has to prioritize which countries it will reach first, as the company has to take several factors into account. Apple evaluates credit and debit card penetration, the current infrastructure in place for mobile payments, and the popularity of iPhones in each country.
Whether or not Amex and Visa cards are accepted in each country is also part of the vetting process, because both credit card providers are partners with Apple Pay. Their presence in any given country speeds up Apple Pay adoption. Indeed, that’s likely why so many countries kick off Apple Pay launches with limited support for Amex and Visa cards only.
Spain
Spain is the latest country to get Apple Pay support, and you can add credit or debit cards from Carrefour, American Express, Banco Santander, and Ticket Restaurant. The service also supports Mastercard.
Apple says more than 25 major vendors accept Apple Pay, including Media Markt, Starbucks, Bershka, Zara, Repsol, and Pull & Bear.
Singapore
Apple users in Singapore have been able to use Apple Pay since the summer of 2016, but now HSBC customers can use it as well. The banking institution is offering a promotion for its customers that use Apple Pay — link an HSBC credit card to get $5 off every transaction that’s $10 or more. This offer will last until January 15.
Other banks in Singapore that support Apple Pay are United Overseas Bank, Standard Chartered, OCBC Bank, POSB Bank, American Express, and DBS Bank.
Japan
One of the rockier rollouts took place in Japan , where Apple Pay debuted after much anticipation on Oct. 25. Commuters had a difficult time loading their train passes onto their iPhones on the morning after major railways began accepting Apple Pay. Luckily, most services were restored after a couple hours. East Japan Railway Co. noted that much of the disruption was due to “the large number of attempts to access the service,” so it certainly looks as though Apple Pay has come to an eager audience.
At Apple’s September 7 event, the company announced that it was bringing Apple Pay to Japan. Of course, in Japan, they actually use a different technology to NFC, so along with the launch of Apple Pay in the country, Apple will also be selling the iPhone 7 with support for a technology called Felica — it’s very similar to Bluetooth, but the broader point is that the iPhone will now support Apple Pay in Japan.
The list of supported institutions are too great to mention, but you can check them out here .
Russia
On Oct. 4, 2016, Apple Pay expanded its services to Russia.