Researchers Create Flexible Camera That Can Wrap Around Objects

If you want to take a 360-degree photograph, you either need a complex and bulky camera rig to do it, or deal with the blurry stitching that often appears in 3D images taken in pieces by smartphones. These limitations could soon be a thing of the past as a team of researchers from the University of Colombia have invented the prototype of a “flexible wallpaper camera” that is capable of wrapping around objects and taking photographs in all directions.

The wallpaper camera is based around the concept of being able to employ flexible lenses that are still able to take images while avoiding the issue of aliasing in incredibly compact lenses. The researchers first identified the properties that were required for a flexible lens requires to show passive optical adaptation and used this knowledge to construct a model of tiny identical lenses made of convex and planar sides and arrayed in a grid layout. The convex side of each lens faced outwards while the planar side was used as the base and the side upon which the detector components of the camera were attached. When the lens array is incredibly compact, the researchers found that it brought on a kind of adaptation that is required for optical anti-aliasing, countering the normal aliasing effect where signals become indistinguishable when sampled.

To tackle this, the lens array was made highly elastic and if constructed correctly, the lens array changes shape and focal length when distorted with the bending forces acting to regulate the aliasing. When combined with a flexible sensor array, the technology is capable of forming a complete sheet of camera says the team. They believe that the next step for the technology is to create a high-resolution lens array that and attaching it to a large format image sensor to create a true high-resolution flexible camera.

The current findings in the team have been published in a document which can be found here.

Image credit to Columbia Engineering.

Uber Shared Data on 13 Million Users With US Government

The Uber mobile application which allows smart phone users to travel to another location by an accredited driver has revolutionized transport and caused a great deal of anger from taxi drivers. These people feel they can’t earn a living due to the huge taxi license expense and lower fees consumers face when using Uber. Clearly, Uber has modernized the taxi system for the interconnected world and offered consumers an additional choice. Recently, the company publicly released a transparency report which discloses how much information is shared with authorities. The data shows Uber shared information on 13 million users including passengers and drivers with the US government. The majority of these requests stem from U.S. transportation regulators. Once the findings were unveiled, Uber released a statement on their thoughts about data requests which reads:

“Regulators will always need some amount of data to be effective, just like law enforcement. But in many cases they send blanket requests without explaining why the information is needed, or how it will be used,”

“And while this kind of trip data doesn’t include personal information, it can reveal patterns of behavior—and is more than regulators need to do their jobs.”

“We hope our Transparency Report will lead to a public debate about the types and amounts of information regulated services should be required to provide to their regulators, and under what circumstances,”

Rightfully so, Uber believes the huge scale of these requests isn’t right and it does seem like interference from government bodies. Personal information should be protected if you’re using a commercial service. There’s no reason for the government to get involved and it looks like all they want to do is monitor the behaviour of its citizens. Hopefully, transparency reports like this can help raise the issue of privacy and how many requests are made by government authorities.

Apple Claims ‘Most Effective Security Organization in the World’

In a recent press conference with some of Apple’s engineers, the company stated that they had the ‘most effective security organization in the world’. It wasn’t just an idle statement either, with them revealing a number of the security features that are packed into their iPhone both on the hardware and software levels.

The conference itself was a highly technical affair, with the attending engineers going to great lengths to detail the security protocols they have in place. More than just being a podium for Apple to  grandstand, this conference was a show of clear defiance against the revived effort by the US government to unlock the iPhones of criminals with them restating the point that making the popular smartphone less secure for them would risk compromising the privacy and security of their customers.

Unlike Android and the numerous companies developing Android devices, Apple control all aspects of their phone’s development which allows them to bake security into every level of their device, from hardware to firmware to software. The features employed in order to make the device so secure include a number of both industry-standard and Apple-specific features, which, when employed together secure the device at all levels, making it impossible to even flash the device with a hacked version of iOS or similar super-low-level attacks. They also believe that the chance of a bug occurring at a low enough level to cause a major compromise is small.

Getting users to ensure their phones run the latest version of iOS is another important step to keep devices secure, as each new iteration of the mobile operating system includes new security improvements and bugfixes. Some of the ways that Apple have employed to increase the adoption rate of the newest versions of their software include shrinking the size of the operating system from 4.6GB in iOS 8 to just 1.3GB in iOS 9 and also offering “while you were sleeping” update options, both of which seem to be effectual, with iOS 9 having an adoption rate of 80% so far.

It is plain to see how important Apple believe that security and encryption are to our future by the effort they put into ensuring their devices are secure. Their struggle to convince governments that slackening of security and precedents to force companies to unlock devices would have long-term damage is likely far from over, but we can be assured that Apple (and many other tech firms) will continue to struggle against these demands and ensure a safer and more secure digital future.

Tesla Reveals Their Model 3 Electric Car

Technology companies love-making new toys, especially those that people have wanted for years. When it comes to technology, people have been looking forward to affordable electric vehicles, something which the company Tesla have been keen on creating. This may all come true with Tesla revealing their Model 3 electric car.

With their long-term plan always being that the high-end electric cars, like the Model S, were just a way to bring the technology to everyone at an affordable plan, it is safe to say with the Model 3 they are one step closer to the dream. At its debut event in Los Angeles, the Model 3 appears just like any other car. With a range of 215 miles, the Model 3 will give people access to electric vehicles for everyday drives, and with 0-60 in under six seconds and supercharging as standard the car already gives a wide range of options that make it stand out above electric vehicles before you get the $35,000 price tag.

While a little more expensive than the initial guesses at $25,000, the pre-orders of the Model 3 seems to have already caught people’s attention with Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk stating the over 115,000 pre-orders have already been received. You may have to wait a year or two, with the delivery of the Model 3 not expected to begin until 2018, so a small wait until that new car of your dreams but just in time for testing on the new roads that could see your car charging as you drive.

Take A Look At The First Driverless Racecar

With more and more people being interested in driver-less technology it was only a matter of time before it went from the streets to the race track. Formula E have already announced their intention to start a driverless championship, but you can even get a glimpse at the designs behind the first driverless racecar.

Roborace, the world’s first driverless series, released renderings of what their first designs for what autonomous racing cars could look like, and they do not disappoint. Designed by Chief Design Officer Daniel Simon, known for his work on Oblivion and Tron: Legacy, the designs look perfect for a vehicle that no longer has to worry about their driver, offering people the chance to enjoy great looking vehicles doing insane speeds around a track.

While we still have to wait till 2017 before we get to enjoy the series featuring all-electric cars, just seeing the first design reminds us of its potential.

With a trailer to go alongside the design rendering, when will we get to see the next design? With the ability for anyone in the automated vehicle business to take part in the championship, we could soon see designs from big names in both technology and cars manufacturing as they get ready to view and race their cars doing high-speed around tracks.

Marvel Launches Program For Female Scientists

When people talk about Marvel they are normally discussing either the comics, the movies or the characters that feature in or both of the former. With some of the largest movies released (and with them only seeming to increase in both size and reception) it is only natural that people look to them when they think of heroes. Now the studio is looking for real life heroes in the form of female scientists.

In partnership with the national Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange, Marvel has launched a program in the hopes of finding female applicants who are interested in STEM subjects (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics).

The project titled Girls Reforming the Future Challenge is open to girls aged 15 to 18 and submitted projects need to include a short video demonstrating their idea and then explaining how far-reaching its potential is.

Five finalists will be picked to present their projects to a panel of experts and visit the red carpet at the release of Captain America: Civil War on April 12th. Alongside this, they’ll get to tour Walt Disney Studios, receive $500 from Synchrony Bank and one lucky winner will get an internship at Marvel studios itself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOd3QKD518g

Entries are still open until March 26th at CaptainAmericaChallenge.com so if you have any idea and want to enter, please check out the site here.

Sony’s Future Lab Shows Off First Prototypes

It hasn’t been long since they revealed their Future Lab program, a research and development-focused part of the company that would show off its prototypes in order to get input from the public. At SXSW, the department showed off some of their first prototypes including the rumored “Project N” wearable device.

N can be described as a neck-worn version of the Amazon Echo, admittedly with a few extra features. Like most voice-activated digital assistants, it is triggered by a phrase, in this case, “Listen up Arc!” and will await your commands, as well as synchronizing with a mobile phone for location data. Currently, it is able to tell you the weather, give you local news, local restaurant info as well as taking a photograph via a built-in camera that is hidden when not in use. It can even play audio back to the wearer in a limited zone around their head using directional speakers on the device though the quality isn’t excellent. For better audio quality, the Future Lab has you covered, offering “open-ear earphones”, which move the driver out of the way of the ear canal, providing audio through a small tube into the ear while also allowing external sound to be heard.

Other prototypes on show include two types of projectors. The first is a touch screen projector intended to be mounted above tables which turns them into interactive surfaces able to be controlled in 3 dimensions. The second was an aimable projector that can be directed to any point along a wall using a black wand-like device. The projector even contained an array of speakers able to make it sound like the source was the location that the image was projected.

Lastly was a controller with inbuilt advanced haptic feedback. The demo on show was simply a ball viewed through a touchscreen, however when the controller was tilted and turned, the user can “feel” the ball move around as if it really existed inside the device. While less exciting than the other prototypes, it seems like a solid choice for a feature to integrate into the next Playstation controller.

It is great to see a technology company willing to show off their prototypes so early on in their development, and the future of any of these products isn’t assured and may rest in the hands of the feedback they receive. We can only begin to dream what crazy technology Sony will dream up next.

World’s Largest Aircraft Set For UK Test Flight

Every few years we hear about something being bigger, faster, crazier, and the Airlander 10 is no exception to this. Clocking into the world of aviation as the world’s largest aircraft, the Airlander 10 is preparing to take its first test flight in the UK in just a few weeks time.

It’s no normal craft either. It generates its lift aerostatically since it’s filled with Helium, but also aerodynamically thanks to its wing-like shape. It’s a hybrid of a lot of technologies overall, blending plane, helicopter and airship into one and that all plays no small part in allowing it to be as big as it is.

Created by Hybrid Air Vehicles in Bedford, UK, the Airlander 10 is expected to be deployed for use in leisure cruises, airborne research and cargo transport due to its less demanding landing and take-off abilities. It’s capable of carrying up to 10-tons, or fitted to carry 48 passengers for a very impressive five days at a cruising speed of around 80 Knots (92mph); there’s also a 50-ton version in the planning stages.

“It’s not an airship. It’s a mix between an aeroplane, an airship with a bit of helicopter thrown in. It uses the latest materials, it’s got the latest fly-by-night technology, avionics and computer software. It’s very much an aircraft for the 21st century.” said company spokesman Chris Daniels.

Obviously, it remains to be tested and it’s questionable how much demand there will be for such a craft, but that doesn’t make it any less cool. Would you take a trip on an air-cruise aboard something like this, or do you prefer the speedy alternative of a jet to fly you to your next holiday destination?

“We are not talking about a mass market products here. We’re talking about something highly specialist. It will be very useful for those who need it. But the number of companies and organizations that are going to need something as specialist as this is not large in number.” added Aviation Expert David Learmount.

Microsoft: Windows PCs ‘Do More’ Than Macs

The PC Vs Mac debate has been hotly discussed and analysed for what seems to be since the dawn of time. Over the years, there’s been various arguments which outlines the benefits and drawbacks of both systems which makes for an interesting topic. In the past, Mac users proclaimed Windows was an unstable operating system with poor security. However, Alex Stamos of iSec Partners claimed this was incorrect back in 2011 and said that Mac OS X is “significantly more vulnerable” than Windows 7 when it comes to network-based attacks. On the other hand, David Morgenstern from ZDNet dismissed these theories and believes:

“Searching through F-Secure’s Monthly Security Updates for 2013, I could only find one solitary mention of a Mac or iOS vulnerability, and it was for Microsoft Outlook for Mac. There has be something Windowsy behind it.”

As you can see, there’s still varying opinions on this subject, as people try to defend their purchasing habits. On a personal note, I’ve used Macs, PCs, and even completed a few Hackintosh projects. Both operating systems have their own merits, but I really struggle to understand how easily Apple sells computers with such a low specification for the price point. Furthermore, Apple has a very restricted ethos which revolves around control and prevents the end-user from performing major tweaks. Linux is probably the best option for advanced users wanting total control, but Windows isn’t too shabby in this particular field.

Yesterday, Microsoft unleashed an advertising campaign with the slogan, “PCs do more”. In these videos we see The Bug Chicks teach children about insects using Windows 10 software. As always, these marketing adverts are fairly cringe-worthy but it’s always great to see Microsoft outline the benefits of the PC platform. This is bound to spark a lively debate between PC and Mac users. Here is a complete list of the released videos so far:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6SVsf0k2i0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHoHKjjttvQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ln5LU532GuY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOV1tQpgAs8

Image courtesy of A New World Society.

NVIDIA Pascal GPUs Spotted in India’s Trade Database

NVIDIA’s upcoming architecture codenamed ‘Pascal’ is based on the TSMC 16nm manufacturing process and utilizes the latest iteration of high bandwidth memory. HBM2 will feature bandwidth exceeding 1 Terabyte per second and ship in larger forms compared to HBM1. Some of you might remember, HBM1 was a major talking point on AMD’s Fiji XT line-up but the memory has a limitation of 4GB. Thankfully, HBM2 resolves this and could potentially allow for GPUs sporting a whopping 32GB. While this isn’t confirmed, rumours suggest that NVIDIA could launch a flagship with a huge amount of video memory. However, I personally think a 32GB graphics card will target professionals requiring huge compete power.

It’s important to remember that HBM is up to 9 times faster than the current GDDR5 standard and a huge revolution in memory technology. Pascal will also be the first architecture to utilize NV-Link. This is an energy-efficient, high-bandwidth communications channel that uses up to three times less energy to move data on the node at speeds 5-12 times conventional PCIe Gen3 x16. In theory, this enables faster communication between the CPU and GPU as well as multiple graphics cards. This is only a very brief insight into the potential of Pascal and it could be the biggest step forward in graphics technology we’ve seen in a long time.

Recent information from Zauba.com shows a shipment of Pascal graphics cards which suggests the launch date isn’t too far off. However, according to the Tech Times, Pascal might not launch until June at the earliest! The general consensus is the launch will occur sometime in Q2 this year. With AMD and NVIDIA preparing new architectures, it’s a very exciting time and I cannot wait to see the kind of performance gains compared to the previous generation. Hopefully, the new range offers superb performance at reasonable prices, and AMD keeps NVIDIA in check to drive costs down.

Cybersecurity Experts Urge Parents to Boycott VTech Toys After Hack

VTech is a company which specializes in electronics devices, baby monitors, toys and other equipment aimed at children. During my youth, I remember VTech being the main source of educational laptops for children in the Argos catalogue. Since then, technology has progressed at a rapid pace, and VTech now produces a huge range of smart devices including tablets. Back in late November, the company’s Learning Lodge gateway was compromised due to poor security and almost 6.4 million children’s details were exposed by a hacker. This is a shocking revelation and exemplifies the importance of being incredibly careful with your personal information. Recently, a VTech spokeswoman made some very worrying comments which suggest the company has a fairly incompetent attitude towards user data:

“Since learning about the hack of its databases, VTech has worked hard to enhance the security of its websites and services and to safeguard customer information,”

“But no company that operates online can provide a 100% guarantee that it won’t be hacked.”

“The Learning Lodge terms and conditions, like the T&Cs for many online sites and services, simply recognise that fact by limiting the company’s liability for the acts of third parties such as hackers.”

“Such limitations are commonplace on the web.”

As you might expect, this has been heavily criticized by industry experts, and consumers requiring peace-of-mind about their personal information. The latest terms were flagged by a  blog by the Australian security specialist Troy Hunt. He lambasted the company and said:

“You acknowledge and agree that you assume full responsibility for your use of the site and any software or firmware downloaded.”

“You acknowledge and agree that any information you send or receive during your use of the site may not be secure and may be intercepted or later acquired by unauthorised parties.”

“You acknowledge and agree that your use of the site and any software or firmware downloaded there from is at your own risk.”

“If [VTech] honestly feel they’re not up to the task of protecting personal information, then perhaps put that on the box and allow consumers to consciously take their chances rather than implicitly opting into the ‘zero accountability’ clause.”

I have to echo the thoughts of Troy Hunt, and cannot believe VTech isn’t updating their security infrastructure after such a massive attack. If you value your children’s data, then it’s probably the most sensible idea to avoid using VTech’s online services.

Image courtesy of Threatpost.com

Donald Trump Claims he Will Make Apple Start Building Computers in The US

Donald Trump is a divisive figure who seems to thrive on controversy. Whenever he voices any sort of xenophobic or racist remarks, his popularity increases. While there’s an ongoing discussion in the UK about banning Trump, you cannot overlook his ability to resonate with certain voters in the USA. The majority of Trump’s rhetoric revolves around making America great through nationalistic, patriotic speeches and decrying the current state of the USA. During a talk at Liberty University today, Trump made outlandish claims about Apple’s workforce and promised to bring employment back to US citizens:

“We have such amazing people in this country: smart, sharp, energetic, they’re amazing,”

“I was saying make America great again, and I actually think we can say now, and I really believe this, we’re gonna get things coming… we’re gonna get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries.”

Clearly, this is pure fantasy as bringing a huge amount of manufacturing jobs back to the US isn’t financially feasible. Apple is well aware they can acquire labour in the Asian market at a reduced rate, and maximize profits. While it’s possible for some jobs at the company to be created in the USA, Apple isn’t obliged to offer jobs to a specific nation. In all honesty, this is another political tool being used by Trump to try and emphasize his pro-American ideology. Whatever the case, Trump has become a laughing stock in many countries and his views are mocked all over social media platforms. This is exemplified by various internet memes and brief Vine clips.

Apple has rightfully received criticism for its tax avoidance and could face a hefty charge by the European Commission. On the other hand, the idea that someone running for president can suddenly bring the US workforce back to a company driven by profit is absurd.

Image courtesy of The Atlantic.

D-Link Demos Smart Home Technology @ CES 2016

CES 2016: Turning your home into a smart hub appears to be the hot trend of late, as consumers want more control of their devices and household appliances. During CES this year, D-Link showcased their impressive range of smart home devices including a WiFi Smart Plug, WiFi Water Sensor, WiFi Siren, WiFi Motion Sensor and Smart Alarm Detector. The Smart Plug can be used to turn a fan off when you leave for work, power on a stereo to wake you up and a whole host of other options. The Water Sensor informs users when a leak has begun to protect your gadgets, and home from serious damage.

As its name suggests, the Siren warns away potential intruders within a close proximity of your home and act as a deterrent. The Motion Sensor like all the other devices utilizes IFTTT to make the home react to any motion. This means it’s possible to adjust the lighting at specific times. Finally, the Alarm Detector sends users a message via text or other means when a smoke or carbon monoxide warning is triggered.

The free mydlink Home app for iOS® and Android will provide IFTTT support in late Q1 2016 and adds huge potential to the hardware shown at CES.

Smart me up Demos Real-Time Face Recognition Analysis @ CES 2016

CES 2016: Smart Me Up is a French company which created a highly advanced software suite to monitor a person’s age, gender, head pose and other essential statistics. This is also completed in real time and constantly updates as the software learns more about your facial characteristics. During a hands on demo, the software initially misread my age by a decent margin but as time progressed, the age score became almost perfect. Apparently, the face recognition is designed to be an integral part of smart technology in the home and provide a way to personalize various devices. It could also be used in robotics, medicine and other vital industries.

It’s still fairly unclear when the facial recognition software will be implemented and its wider appeal, although it certainly captured people’s imaginations during CES.

Would you like to see this kind of facial analysis become a part of modern homes?

Knomo London Demos Luxury Bags Featuring Fast Charging Pocket @ CES 2016

CES 2016: Mobile phones have almost become a status symbol as SIM-Free handsets can exceed £60 and showcase an individual’s wealth. Although, it seems pretty strange to see luxury items being stored in cheaply made cases which utilize a poor grade of materials. However, in recent years, fashion companies have started to judge the buying habits of the high-end market and unveiled leather cases which look fantastic. Despite this, the majority of cases only function to store devices and do not implement technology in a useful way. Thankfully, Knomo London has crafted a number of interesting products which combine technology and sophisticated fashion in a very impressive manner.

Instead of creating a simple, mass-produced case, Knomo London decided to manufacturer leather handbags containing a pouch to store your device. Additionally, the pouch utilizes fast charging and makes it remarkably simple to keep your handset powered on. Unfortunately, this requires a custom designed case which only works with the Apple iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Nevertheless, it’s a really innovate idea and the target market will primarily be iPhone users, so this makes business sense.

In terms of pricing, the bags can cost upwards of $35o, but this isn’t a surprising revelation considering the high-grade leather, excellent stitching and superb design.

 

What’s the maximum you would pay for a phone case?

Obama Orders Study Into Smart Gun Technology

Smart guns are nothing new, they are the concept of using technology to not enhance guns but to make them easier to track and ensure they are used by the correct people for the correct reason. It would seem though that President Barak Obama hopes that smart gun technology can be used to stem gun violence in the U.S.

In a memorandum, the departments of Defence, Justice and Homeland security were told to look into smart gun technology. Obama is rumoured to be using his authority to push forward extra gun control measures in his last year, within the statement he stated that “developing and promoting technology that would help prevent these tragedies is an urgent priority”.

Smart guns would allow guns to be outfitted with radio frequency trackers, or even fingerprint scanners, which would allow lost or stolen weapons to be traced more easily and then require authorisation to use the weapon in the way of a fingerprint scan respectively. Alternatives include having a small watch device on your wrist, with the gun only discharging when the watch and the weapon are within a certain range, thereby limiting the number of people that can pick up and use the weapons with ease.

With 90 days to report their findings on the study, the concept has already come under fire from the national rifle association with a spokeswoman Jennifer Baker saying that “there is nothing in this set of proposals that would improve public safety“.

With these requirements and the idea to licence anyone selling firearms, not just in store but also at events or online, the idea of limiting or tracking firearms more effectively seems to be at the core of the new proposals.

It will be interesting to see the results of the studies and the subsequent comments from the NRA and government authorities regarding Smart weapons as upgrading anything with technology is often seen with sceptical eyes from everyone.

Image courtesy of the Verge.

Transcend Develops SuperMLC NAND Technology

Here I sat thinking that I knew all the terms for the different NAND technologies and then Transcend comes along with a new one that they have called SuperMLC. SuperMLC was developed as a more cost effective solution to SLC NAND with a performance that comes very close. In fact, the write performance is up to four times better than traditional MLC-based products.

Okay, I have to be honest right away and say that this technically isn’t a new form of NAND, we’re still dealing with Multi-Level Cell NAND chips. The difference comes down to how this NAND is handled by the SSD controller and its firmware. By using high-quality NAND chips and reprogramming the firmware, Transcend essentially created a cell-based RAID setup where the same data is stored in both bits in the same cell instead of having different data stored in the two. This naturally decreases the available capacity per NAND chip by half, but it also allows the drives to deliver a much better performance. In fact, the new SuperMLC has up to four times the sequential write performance when compared with traditional MLC NAND. It also brings better lifetime expectancy with up to 30,000 P/E cycles.

Transcend will release new drives based on this technology in early 2016 and they are all aimed at the enterprise sector where both initial costs and total costs of ownership really matters. That doesn’t mean that you can’t purchase these drives and use them in your personal setup, if that is something you are considering. Among the upcoming products with this brand new SuperMLC technology are a 2.5-inch SSD (SSD510K), an mSATA SSD (MSA510), a half-slim SSD (HSD510), and two M.2 SSD models. (MTS460 & MTS860).

What do you think of this way to utilize the NAND chips? Would this be an option you would be interested in, or do you prefer the normal MLC NAND for capacity or SLC NAND-based products for their reliability and performance? Let us know in the comments.

Who Needs 4K? Report Reveals Black and White TV Usage in UK

There’s always a buzz about what is new in the tech world. People have marketing campaigns pushed at them every day, showing how fantastic it would be to upgrade to a flat panel TV, high-definition, 3D and more recently, 4K, OLED, curved and more types of TV. Of course, new tech isn’t the primary concern for everyone and a recent report from the BBC proves just that.

The statistics show that around 9000 people in Britain are still using an older black and white TV. This isn’t a huge number, especially given the millions of TV viewers in the country, or that the first colour TV broadcasts started almost 50-years ago. I’m 31 years old now, and I personally haven’t seen a black and white TV in the house in since the late 80’s!

“We like the glow of valves, rich sound and wonderful warm smell of these old sets. Older people who grew up with black-and-white still love it and don’t see why they should throw away their perfectly good set to get color they don’t even want.” said TV and radio historian Jeffrey Borinsky. “Unfortunately even the youngest black-and-white sets are more than 20 years old and very few people now mend TVs at all. In a few more years this group will have gone to TV heaven,” he added.

I’m partly amazed there are still old black and white TV’s still working, but I guess the saying “they don’t make them like they used to” still rings true. Of course, the other saying of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is also valid, and perhaps many of the viewers holding onto their old sets don’t use it that often, or just like watching Betamax tapes of classic black and white movies! Of course, there is one other reason, a black and white TV licence is about £50, while a colour one is around £150 per year.

It’s not only England that are rocking it old-school, as there are a few hundred sets also in use in Scotland. Although I do wonder what the global usage of older TVs is these days.

TV Licensing Scotland spokesman Jason Hill said: “It’s astounding that more than 550 households in Scotland still watch on a black and white telly, especially now that over half of homes access TV content over the internet, on smart TVs. Whether you have the latest 4K TV or a black and white set from the 1970s, if you are watching or recording live television, then you do need a TV licence.”

Do you still have an old black and white TV in your house or have you upgraded to something a little more modern?

Toshiba Records $4.5 Billion Annual Loss

Toshiba CEO was forced to resign after revelations came to fruition about the company’s management exaggerating operating profits by as much as $1.2 billion. Clearly, this has made a profound impact on their reputation among partners and consumers. According to The Wall Street Journal, The company is set to make a $4.5 billion annual loss with 7,800 jobs being cut as part of a large restructuring programme. Toshiba is having to make difficult decisions to try to restore faith in the company and rebuild once again. However, given their tarnished reputation, it’s impossible to know if they have a long-term future.

Out out the job losses, 6,800 are going from Toshiba’s customer electronics and applications department. Toshiba President Masashi Muromachi said about the upcoming financial period:

“We admit our steps toward restructuring were behind the curve,”

“The damage wouldn’t be this large if we had been able to implement overhaul plans much sooner.”

He also suggested that the company would “focus on businesses that can generate profits” and “consider withdrawals from unprofitable ones if a turnaround is difficult.”  This is an interesting statement to make and exemplifies how challenging Toshiba’s future is. It seems even the company’s CEO isn’t optimistic about the profitability of certain markets. This means is perfectly feasible for them to exit the consumer electronic sector to stay afloat.

Apple CEO Tim Cook Refutes Tax Avoidance Claims

Apple has been accused of tax avoidance and exploiting loopholes in US legislation to move profits to tax havens. For example, Apple’s tax base is in Ireland with a 12.5% corporate rate while the US taxation figure is around 35%. As a result, some critics have argued this is a sophisticated way to either delay paying tax or reduce Apple’s bill. Recently, Tim Cook described the current US tax system in an interview with Charlie Rose on the programme 60 Minutes:

“This is a tax code, Charlie, that was made for the industrial age, not the digital age. It’s backwards. It’s awful for America. It should have been fixed many years ago. It’s past time to get it done.”

Cook became quite aggravated and described the claims of tax avoidance as:

“total political crap.”

He also went onto say that moving the assets into the US would have severe financial implications:

“Because it would cost me 40% [in taxes] to bring it home. And I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing to do,”

Clearly, Tim Cook believes that the current US tax system is completely broken and in need for huge reforms. Not only that, he made bold statements about Apple’s behaviour and the amount of tax they put into the US economy:

“There is no truth behind it. Apple pays every tax dollar we owe,”

“We pay more taxes in this country than anyone.”

This is an interesting statement to make, and the idea that Apple pays a large amount of tax seems fairly credible. However, the amount paid is due to how successful Apple is compared to other companies. What really matters is the percentage of tax paid in regards to Apple’s total earnings. Are they actually paying the full amount, or employing complex schemes to maximize profits? Sadly, I don’t think we will ever know unless there is an independent investigation.

Image courtesy of newspaperplus.com

Micron to Acquire Taiwanese Chip Company Inotera For $3.2 Billion

Micron Technology Inc. is an American manufacturer of memory chips, including dynamic random-access memory, flash memory, and solid-state drives. The company announced today it will purchase the remaining 67% of shares in Taiwan’s Inotera Memories Inc. This is a deal valued at $3.2 billion and gives Micron full ownership of this particular outfit. During November, Inotera’s monthly sales fell by 23% and reported the lowest monthly revenue this year. Micron’s Chief Executive, Mark Durcan said in a statement:

“The acquisition is the culmination of a highly successful seven year partnership with Inotera,”

The semiconductor business is very competitive and perhaps Micron wants a greater say in the production line. This is clearly a huge sum of money, but the falling sales figures might have made the takeover bid make more business sense. With the growth of ultra fast PCI-E drives, there’s the possibility of SATA devices being replaced in the future. Although, this could take some time. Whatever the case, it will be fascinating to see how Micron’s development continues and the effect of this acquisition.

Are you using a SATA, M.2 or PCI-E boot drive?

DirectX 12 3DMark Shown For The First Time!

3DMark is an essential tool in the technology industry and predominately used to differentiate between various graphics cards. More specifically, FireStrike, FireStrike Extreme and FireStrike Ultra determines the GPU’s performance at different resolutions and provides an accurate score which many leading hardware websites depend on. That’s not to say it’s just for professional use though, as some enthusiasts like to bench hardware and see the enhancements in driver revisions as well as small core clock adjustments. DirectX 11 is a functional API but doesn’t offer anywhere near the optimizations and low overheads in DirectX 12. As a result, DirectX 12 is often perceived as a revolutionary step which encourages multi-GPU configurations and utilizes each person’s setup in a more effective manner.

The latest big update to 3DMark revolves around these major changes and has been kept under wraps for some time. However, 3DMark’s product manager, Pasi Virtanen showcased the current working build of 3DMark using DirectX 12 during a presentation. According to Pasi Virtanen, the upcoming edition will feature two GPU tests, including the “Time Spy” benchmark and a CPU test. Apparently, this will provide some of the most complex benchmarking tools ever devised and incorporate leading DirectX 12 attributes in the testing procedure.

Currently, there’s no firm release date as the software suite is being worked on. Although, early reports suggest it will probably launch sometime in 2016. I cannot wait to see if DirectX 12 lives up to its potential and how developers manage to cope with the new API.

Cyber Psychologist Proclaims “‘I Wouldn’t Let Children Use The Internet as it Stands”

The internet is possibly mankind’s greatest invention in recent memory and an invaluable tool which many of us rely on. As with any technology, the internet is open to abuse, and not always suitable for adolescents. The huge amount of pornography, aggressive behavior and 24 hour news coverage isn’t an ideal situation for children. However, I strongly believe it’s far too easy to blame the open nature of the internet and parents have to take responsibility for using computers as a means to keep children occupied. Furthermore, there’s no excuse as modern versions of Windows include parental controls to restrict websites, and only grant internet access during specific times. On another note, the internet is designed to be a completely open concept and any discussion about blocking websites to protect children is dangerous and a form of censorship. It’s not a difficult concept that any internet access by a minor should be supervised. Similarly, blocking inappropriate content at an ISP level doesn’t prepare children for the tough reality of modern life.

However, this is only my viewpoint, and I’m not a medical professional. In an interview with the BBC, Cyber Psychologist Professor Mary Aiken said the internet as configured is “not fit for purpose”. Professor Aiken is director of the Cyber Psychology Research Centre at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and advises the European policing agency, Europol as well as the United Nations. She also went onto discuss the harmful psychological effects of the internet and said:

“I wouldn’t allow children to use the internet as it stands”,  

“It’s too easy to make parents exclusively responsible for children in a cyber context – we don’t do that in the real world, we don’t expect parents to man the doors to bars […] or man the cigarette counters in newsagents”.

“it’s not a stretch to think that children won’t suffer from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of being exposed to this content”.

While I do agree that certain sections of the internet can be harmful to children, it can also be just as harmful to adults too. The aggressive and often hurtful comments made to other people just because they have an opposing viewpoint is frankly, pathetic. This isn’t the internet’s fault but a wider problem with society in general and the way in which people behave. For some bizarre reason, many human beings actually believe their opinion equals the truth when it’s really just a personal viewpoint. Without getting too sidetracked, the most important thing to remember is you cannot protect children from nasty people or dark corners of the internet forever. There is a global mental health problem and the internet is one of the factors. Despite this, it doesn’t mean the right thing to do is simply to stop internet access to minors. It’s very simple, parents need to put some effort into learning about the internet, their options and never leave their child unsupervised for a prolonged amount of time.

Research Firm Investigates Why Some Apple Watch Owners Are Dissatisfied

The Apple Watch received a fairly lukewarm reception and ridiculed for its extremely high pricing. Despite this, the device has sold surprisingly well and I didn’t expect this given the daily charge requirement. As with any purchase, there’s always going to be some buyer’s remorse but this doesn’t occur that often with Apple products. Perhaps, this is due to their slow price depreciation or simply Apple’s very strong brand loyalty. However, not everyone is pleased with the Apple Watch and research firm, Wristly asked 330 disgruntled Apple Watch owners to explain why they were so unhappy.

Here we can see, the majority of those surveyed felt like the Apple Watch represented poor value, and believed the device was too limiting. Additionally, battery life is another huge concern and makes the Apple Watch pretty inconvenient. The research company also asked Apple Watch owners to recommend improvements. Here is a brief selection of the comments:

“The user interface and get rid of that “crown” wheel, or improve it… and maybe stop calling it crown as it is cheesy and pretentious.”

“Thinner and more aesthetically pleasing, longer battery, better heart rate software, not requiring phone tethering.”

“Speed, waterproofing, activity tracking more in line with fit band watches, battery life.”

Unfortunately, the sample size is quite small so it’s unclear how representative these views are of Apple Watch owners. Although, it definitely seems like a flawed device and rumours indicate a second generation model could arrive sometime mid year next. If this occurs, and it’s a significant improvement, early adopts will rightfully feel aggrieved.

World’s First White Laser Could Change TVs Forever

A professor in Arizona has developed the world’s first white laser, a rather simple sounding innovation at first, but one that could have a significant impact on a huge range of technologies over the next few years and beyond.

The white laser technology could be used to create much more vivid images for TV screens, as well as offer faster and more secure communications using LiFi technology and more. The creator, Professor Cun-Zheng, has been working on his white laser technology for almost a decade, and his work is being award with top honours from Popular Science Magazine.

“With lasers we can produce many more colors than the standard LED. You can represent any colors you want to represent in a more truthful manner,” said Ning. “To grow for the first time a semiconductor that would be made red, green, and blue at the same time, and furthermore we were able to demonstrate that single piece of material can actually have laser actions simultaneously so that the overall light coming out is white,” he added.

Laser TVs are nothing new, but they’re wildly expensive and not quite ready to take on the current crop of consumer hardware. This new technology uses razor-thin lasers that would represent just one pixel each on the screen, using three colours to mix to white, or any other colour required for each “pixel”. Much like OLED technology, this doesn’t require a backlight, but can produce even more vivid colours and detail.

“That was really exciting when you put a laser TV side-by-side, with the best LCD or LED TV, and there’s no comparison, the kinda color you see is immediately so vivid,” said Ning.

This is great news, but don’t expect to see a per-pixel laser TV set on the shelves too soon, this is just the first step of getting this hardware working, bringing it to market is the next step.

Razer Launching Corporate Investment Fund in 2016

Razer is one of the leading peripheral manufacturers in the world and continues to grow at an impressive pace. More specifically, in 2014, the company was valued at over $1 billion due to an undisclosed investment from Intel. Over the last few years, Razer has expanded beyond the peripheral market and sold products in other sectors such as the Razer Blade 2015 ultrabook. Their financial success has given them the room to open a corporate venture capital fund which allow clients to use Razer’s industry expertise. CEO and co-founder Min-Liang Tan told Techcrunch:

“The plan is really to find strategic companies that we can help and [that can] leverage off of our profile,”

“We’re really globally covered… and can pretty much [assist them] before they even more into a new geographies or jurisdictions.”

“We can [tell portfolio companies that] this is what we learned in this jurisdiction. For example, here’s our European sales manager and they can talk to him. He’s not going to help you do your work, but he’s sure as hell going to take you 70 percent of the way there by telling you what the pitfalls are. We’ve got people on the ground who have been doing the exact same work [for years],” 

Razer is already a massive brand name and believes they can employ their marketing skills to help clients become a success story. The current market situation is fragile, and it’s incredibly difficult to be a commercial success. As a result, I can see this venture becoming quite popular as companies or individuals seek an investment. Currently, there isn’t a specific date set for Razer’s capital fund, but it looks likely to begin sometime in 2016.