iTunes Allowance to Shutdown Next Month

iTunes allowance is a service that allowed parents to place money into their child’s iTunes account on a monthly basis. No need to allow them to borrow your card or even for you to type into or access their account, preventing you from hundreds of pounds of charges to your card you never expected. Come next month though and the service will be shut down.

In an announcement, Apple has stated that after April 13th users aren’t able to create new iTunes allowance setups, with all current allowance setups being shut down as of May 25th. If you are one of the many who already has a system in place, don’t worry any unused allowance will remain in the account until it has been used, while Apple is keen to stress that similar effects can be achieved using different schemes they provide.

If you are looking to provide for your family, you can share your purchases through the family sharing feature while if you are looking to take sole control of the system then using the  iTunes gift system would be ideal. With no reasoning behind the removal of the feature, people are left wondering if the new systems will teach the same values about money and the consequences of spending an allowance.

Obama Would Veto ‘Anti-Net Neutrality Bill”

The power to veto something is a strong one, and many governments have the power in place for specific reasons. Though rarely used it can often be what makes or breaks a law or new piece of legislation. In this case, the White House has stated that it would veto the ‘No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act’ on the grounds that it is very anti-net neutrality.

H.R. 2666 would appear at first glance to support the concept of net neutrality, with its author Adam Kinzinger, the republican representative for Illinois, saying that regulating broadband rates would create “significant uncertainty for ISPs” while also discouraging “investment and unique pricing structures or service plans”.

The sly part of the new bill, which the Electronic frontier foundation spotted, was that the FCC would have to stop summoning companies to explain a new trend of data exception schemes. These schemes like the T-mobile binge service, see companies making deals with certain providers and then not counting their content towards your data usage. Unlimited videos from certain sites? Sure, but videos on every site will be throttled.

In the White Houses letter, they state that the bill “would restrict the FCC’s ability to take enforcement actions to protect consumers on issues where the FCC has received numerous consumer complaints.” The White House then continues to say that the bill would also cause issues in the future as it ” could limit the Commission’s ability to address new practices and adapt its rules for a dynamic, fast-changing online marketplace”.

The letter finishes by saying that “if the President were presented with H.R. 2666, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”.

Uber CEO Faces Lawsuit Price Fixing Allegations

Uber is a popular app that allows people to act almost like taxi’s for others, with one person pressing a button to request a ride and minutes later a driver arriving to provide the transport at a cost. With the concept of pricing, a key part of the system, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick may want to be careful as he faces a lawsuit of price fixing allegations relating to the app.

Uber is no stranger to legal troubles, with people in Jakarta staging violent protests over the app and one driver even claiming that a demon convinced him through the app to commit murder, the app has seen its fair time in the spotlight for legal issues. During the recent Metro shutdown in New York Uber decided that it wouldn’t raise prices to more than 3.9 times their normal rate, a kind gesture that could certainly see people put off using the service. A US District court judge in New York has stated that Kalanick must face

A US District court judge, Jed Rakoff, in New York has stated that Kalanick must face the lawsuit that states he conspired with drivers to set the fares the app provides using an algorithm, including its well-known progress of increasing rates during peak hours through its “surge pricing” model.

In his comments, Rakoff states that the plaintiffs had “plausibly alleged a conspiracy” which ultimately drove out rivals for the app. It will be interesting to see how a company as well known as Uber faces charges over something some would call a “feature” within their software while others would claim it takes money from those desperate in times of need, such as those escaping from attacks or when other transport systems are shut down.

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming Graphics Card Review

Introduction


NVIDIA’s cogent strategy to launch the Titan X at $999 and subsequently release the GTX 980Ti with similar performance at a significantly reduced price was a master stroke. This made the 980Ti compelling value and a great choice for high-end consumers wanting the best possible experience at demanding resolutions. Admittedly, there isn’t a GPU on the market capable of driving a 4K panel at maximum details but you can attain 60 frames-per-second with reduced settings. Evidently, the 980Ti has proved to be a popular choice especially when you take into consideration that factory overclocked models can easily pull away from NVIDIA’s flagship graphics card. While there is some competition from the Fury X, it’s not enough to dethrone custom-cooled 980Ti models.

Some users might argue that the upcoming Pascal architecture built on the 16nm manufacturing process and utilizing HBM2 ultra fast memory is reason enough to hold off buying a top-tier Maxwell solution. However, the current estimate suggests Pascal won’t launch until Q2 this year, and there’s no indication regarding pricing. As always, any new product has a price premium and I expect enthusiast Pascal cards to retail at a high price point. This means purchasing a Maxwell-based GPU right now isn’t a terrible option unless you require additional power to enjoy 4K gaming and have deep pockets. One of the best custom-designed GTX 980Ti cards on the market is the Gigabyte G1 Gaming. This particular GPU rapidly gained a reputation for its overclocking ability and superb Windforce triple fan cooling hardware.

The latest addition to Gigabyte’s graphics range is the GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming sporting a 1216MHz core clock, 1317MHz boost, and memory running at 7200MHz. One major improvement is the use of illuminated RGB rings behind the fans which creates a very unusual, and stylish appearance. Gigabyte’s GPU Gauntlet is a binning process which selects the best performing chips with impressive overclocking headroom. Once discovered, the top chips are incorporated into the Xtreme Gaming series, and G1 Gaming. By default, the Xtreme Gaming is bundled with a hefty overclock and should offer sensational performance. Although I expect to see some further gains due to the excellent cooling and stringent binning procedure. Could this be the best 980Ti on the market thus far?

Specifications:

Packing and Accessories

The product comes in a visually appealing box which outlines the extreme performance and gaming focus. I really like the sharp, dynamic logo with bright colours which draws you into the packaging.

On the rear side, there’s a brief description of the Windforce X3 cooling system, RGB illumination, GPU Gauntlet, and premium components. The clear pictures provide a great insight into the GPU’s main attributes and it’s presented in such a slick way.

In terms of accessories, the graphics card includes a driver disk, quick start guide, case badge, sweat band and PCI-E power adapter. It’s quite unusual to see a sweat band, but I’m sure it could come in handy during a trip to the gym or intense eSports contest.

Brigador Developer Defends $20 Price Tag

Brigador is an isometric real-time strategy game created by independent studio, Stellar Jockeys released on October 16th 2015 under Valve’s Early Access programme. The overall reception thus far has been extremely positive and the gameplay is reminiscent of the Syndicate series. Despite this, some users have questioned the game’s $19.99/£14.99 price point and believes it offers poor value. This is a common occurrence with indie titles due to the amount of bundles, and huge sales on the Steam store. As a result, consumers expect games to be discounted rather quickly. This is fantastic news for gamers on a budget, or trying to acquire a large library. However, according to Brigador’s developer, higher prices are required to fund development costs and the time investment. In a passionate statement on the Steam forums, the developer said:

“We have spent 5 years making Brigador, if you include when we started building the engine.

5 years.

Much of that has been working full time, 6-7 days a week, 8+ hours a day. Even at a very conservative estimate that’s over 10,000 hours of work per person, and there are 4 of us. We did not do a kickstarter, we do not have a publisher. We have funded this entire project out of pocket.

Here is a list of things that also take about 5 years to do:

  • get a PhD
  • get married and have two children
  • earn $72,000 at the US minimum wage (pre-tax)
  • win the election and serve a term as President of the United States
  • fight World War I
  • develop from an embryo into a person who can speak in complete sentences
  • fail to qualify for the Olympics, twice
  • start drinking too much and gain 20lbs because of stress from starting a company and building a game for 5 years
  • watch all 262 episodes of Two and a Half Men (we do not endorse doing this)

Brigador was made almost entirely from scratch, and when it ships will contain 2 hours of original music (small sample[soundcloud.com]), over 100 different enemy units (spoilers[i.imgur.com]), a story campaign, a free play mode, and a playable landmass of ~2 mi² (split between 20 maps) — roughly the size of downtown Chicago or the urban area in GTA III — hand detailed all the way down to street lamps, trash cans, stop signs, etc. I took some time to render out two of the maps in their entirety at game resolution so that you can look around for yourselves:
(heads up, each image is ~10 mbs)
St. Martim’s Commercial Spaceport[i.imgur.com]
The Sintra Necropolis[i.imgur.com] (had to be slightly downscaled to fit on imgur)

For this we kindly ask that you pay $20.

As a reference point, here is a list of things that cost more than $20:

It’s bad enough there’s a Nickelback poster worth more than the game we’ve spent the last 5 years building, worse still to have people come along and announce that in fact our game is only worth about as much as this other more common Nickelback poster[www.amazon.com]. I hope you can understand the frustration this inspires.

$20 a copy, once you factor in Valve’s take and taxes, gets cut down to about $10 a copy (we live in Illinois which has the highest state income tax rate[wallethub.com] in the US at 5%). Pretending we don’t have to pay contractors or have any other development related expenses, to pay ourselves minimum wage for the time we’ve put in requires selling 25,000 copies of Brigador. Factoring in contractors and any kind of reasonable living and that number jumps up to ~50,000 copies. While not unheard of, that’s already getting into long-shot territory, especially for a new company that has no pre-existing ties to games media or the backing of a publisher. And people’s reticence to pay what amounts to a pint of beer more for the game means adding another 33% or 16,000 copies to see the same results. That increase alone amounts to more units than many independent releases ever sell.

We’re not asking for pity or charity, nor are we saying you should buy a game just because people worked hard on it– it’s possible to struggle valiantly and still make poo. But quality, depth, innovation all require time, and projects of this scope demand full-time work. If Brigador is not worth $20 to you, that’s fine, by all means wait until it goes on sale. But understand that you’re making an already extremely difficult job that much harder. Brigador took so long to make because we wanted to take a risk on building something unique rather than just reskinning an existing game. We wrote an engine from scratch so that we could create fully destructible environments and still have good control over performance. Iterating on design, creating something even only partially new takes a tremendous amount of time, and if people are unwilling to pay a price commensurate with the labor involved in creating games like this then fewer people will take those risks, and many of the ones who do will get starved out the industry.

At the end of the day we all have to eat. So yeah, we think it’s worth $20. Hope that clears things up.”

It’s incredibly difficult to stand out in the current market because there’s so many indie games being released every day. This means, there’s hardly any coverage on Steam, and people can easily miss a game’s release date. I’m pretty torn on this issue because modern life is difficult and the average consumer doesn’t have an endless supply of money to spend on games. However, without proper support, game developers cannot feed their staff or continue to create unique experiences.

£500 Battery Opened – Contains Only £22 Worth of Batteries!

We’ve all had bad experiences with buying things, from ordering something online and never receiving it to misrepresenting a product to the point where you can sell something completely different from what people are expected to buy. This is even worse when the technology you use is something quite expensive, and replacement components costing quite a bit. At least, that seemed the case until Markus Fuller revealed a shocking secret via YouTube.

The Nagra VI (6) Digital recorder is used by a lot of people for recording everywhere including your favourite TV shows to the latest movies. In the video, you can see Fuller take off the case to reveal components that add up to £22 worth of batteries, which is terrible given that the model he takes apart would set you back £498.

If you ever wondered what £500 worth of batteries looked like the video may come as a bit of a disappointment as the small battery pack comes with just 6 batteries that are often used in laptops.

I don’t know about you but when you have to pay £500 for a replacement battery, you expect to receive at least a fraction of the cost to cover in the quality you receive.  With each battery only costing £3.75 each, replacing the whole pack in the replacement would cost you less than 5% of the cost they are charging you. What adds insult to injury is that in the pack he takes apart, only two of the batteries are “dead”, meaning that for £7.50 you can replace a battery pack that would cost you hundreds.

Azimuth “SP-1 Crazy Rider” Designed Watch Unveiled at CES

Mechanical wristwatches are seen as rather antiquated when you consider the development and ubiquitous use of both Smartphone’s and also the new breed of smartwatches. Who would want a timepiece that is able to tell the current time when these new gadgets are able to surf the Internet, keep track of your workout routine and also able to let you know the time in Australia. Luxury Swiss watchmaking company Azimuth is proving there is still a large market for expensive timepieces after unveiling a new watch at CES.

The watch in question goes by the name of the “SP-1 Crazy Riderand is quite nifty when you consider it is able to convey the correct time within the 24-hour clock. A normal watch is as you know, designed for the 12-hour clock, the Azimuth watch takes its inspiration from a motorcycle drive chain. Below is an image to convey this new watch as well as a quick summary of the design behind this new product.

  • Inside the watch housing is a chain which is wrapped around two sprockets which turn in unison.
  • A watch hand is attached to the chain, it makes its way around the watch face indicating the hour
  • A more traditional watch hand in the centre of the watch indicates the minute.
  • As the time goes on, the hour hand is carried along by the chain while the minute hand appears to be linked to the chain.

I know what you thinking, you would like one of these, well, there might be a slight problem considering the watch is estimated to have an RRP price of $5,200 (£3,581.14), which is a lot. Still, the design is certainly creative and will have both consumer appeal and also a market within today’s watch aficionados. Would you buy one?

Image courtesy of ablogtowatch

Tesla Model 3 Will Be Released

Tesla has been pioneers in the electric car field, this has helped by charismatic CEO Elon Musk who has pushed Tesla firmly into the mainstream with innovations that capture consumer imagination. Tesla now plans to launch the “Model 3” with speculation that it will be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show on March 1st, 2016; this new model will sit alongside the current range that includes the model S and X.

Tesla’s chief designer Franz von Holzhausen had stated that the Model 3 will be conveyed to journalists and the public alike at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, but that year has well and truly passed without a sign of Tesla’s new model. Now, Tesla’s spokesman Khobi Brooklyn has confirmed that the Model 3 will follow the original plan of it being released in March of this year, a slight caveat to this is that the car is not expected to be on general sale until around 2017.

As for the price, reports suggest that it will be around the $35,000 mark (£24,103.85) or around £30,000 once various taxes have been added on. Reports also suggest that this car will be limited to 300,000 units, although, this could change depending on the popularity etc.

 

Tesla’s projects are always worth following and this one should be no different.

French Uber Drivers Launch Rival App

Uber is known for a lot of things, from their drivers employment stance ranging from contractors to employee’s being charged with crimes. One of the more recent decisions they’ve had to face with was the decision to cut fares across Paris. Some drivers have had enough though and have created their own app in order to compete with the taxi app.

VTC Cab is an app created by former uber drivers to complete with the popular app. The app is available on the Google Play store and now iTunes, and shares some similarities with the Uber app. Users can hail cars and rate their drivers, but VTC Cab also allows you to place orders for a taxi in advance and works on a different model to Uber. Instead of the commission taking a cut of the raised funds there is a membership fee.

Instead of the 20% that Uber takes off all trips, VTC Cab will only charge its drivers a monthly fee of €250 (around £180), meaning that anything after that initial fee is theirs to keep. Mohammed Radi, the app’s founder, also stated that they will offer a customer service phone line, instead of following the email based system other app-based taxi services use.

Do you use Uber? Do you drive for an Uber-type service? What are your thoughts on a flat fee per month instead of a commission?

US concerned Over Russian Activity Near Undersea Data Cables

Tensions between nations over Cyber warfare have increased dramatically over the last 5 years, from the US accusing China and Russia of systematically hacking into highly sensitive government systems through industrial means, to groups affiliated with IS and similar terrorist organisations who have cyber attacked various departments. Now, Washington is reportedly becoming concerned that Russia and its fleet of military submarines could in theory cut vital undersea cables that carry almost all global communications.

As yet there is no evidence to suggest Russia or any other country has attempted this, but, according to US intelligence, or lack of sometimes, who are monitoring a significant and increased “Russian activity along the known routes of the cables, which carry the lifeblood of global electronic communications and commerce”.

It was reported last month (Sep 2015) that a Russian spy ship “equipped with two self-propelled deep-sea submersible craft, cruised slowly off the East Coast of the United States on its way to Cuba — where one major cable lands near the American naval station at Guantanamo Bay”. US officials state this spy ship has the ability to launch submersible vehicles that in turn could cut data cables situated miles down in the sea.

The Pentagon is also concerned that Russia is attempting to hunt for cables at much greater depths than originally thought where such data lines are harder to both monitor and repair. The significance of these data cables is vast considering it has been estimated that they carry “global business worth more than $10 trillion dollars a day, including from financial institutions that settle transactions on them every second”

Is this all smoke and mirrors? Possibly, it’s difficult to know how much of this information is genuine and if so how much is actually being planned. If Russia succeeded in cutting vital cables then this would lead to a dramatic set of circumstances. One thing to bare in mind is that Putin quite likes the idea of censorship and could be looking at cutting Russia off from outside influences. What we do know is countries, for example Russia and China, have a vested interest in disrupting countries such as the US, but having said that, the US and others also have well-documented interests in intercepting gigantic amounts of data from other countries. It’s the same practice in a different pair of shoes, from both World Wars, the Cold War to modern-day cyber spying, countries want others data and will plot while both sides remain unsure of the final outcome.

Image source

Prisons Get Capped Phone Rate as Prices Hit $14 Per Minute

People often complain about how much they pay for their phone, be it a monthly bill or a subscription we tend to buy what we think is a good deal, often unaware of the hidden fees or the limits we easily pass. This isn’t the case for all, and if you thought your bill was bad try being in prison where the prices were said to have reached even $14 a minute.

The Federal complaints commission is facing a lawsuit regard the prices some prisons have charged $14 a minute, roughly £9 per minute. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn stated that “None of us would consider ever paying $500 a month. where calls are dropped for seemingly no reason”. With a vote deciding that all rates within prisons should be capped at a mere 11 cents per minute (7p per minute), not everyone, however, is happy with this decision.

Securus, a company involved with the running of several prisons has warned that this move could end up harming more than it helps with the medium and smaller sized prisons ending up more damaged by the decision.

With the vote winning at a 3-2 ratio it is clear that this is something the FCC want to put in place, although more lawsuits may come with many arguing with how the final cap was calculated.

Image courtesy of Telegraph.

Cheap Electric Car? Lose The Steering Wheel!

Electric cars are all the rage these days. With big companies like Tesla and even public transport like buses and shuttles in airports and between towns. So why do the public not take up electric cars if they are cheaper to run and better for the environment? Two big problems, first being that the batteries drain quickly and secondly the cost of the cars; one man hopes to have solved the second problem.

Mark Frohmayers came up with the idea eight years ago, the idea of creating an electric vehicle that would be great for a little runaround and would come in quite cheaply. With all the companies building large vehicles, Frohmayers saw a gap in the market where people could just afford a simple electric vehicle.

Arcimoto was born, a start-up for affordable electric vehicles, and has since shown off a few three-wheeled prototypes, but sadly over the eight years the company never quite felt happy with the overall goal. That was until now, with a car that meets all the criteria they set out, and it will cost less than $12,000 (£7772 approximately).

Their latest model, the SRK, ditches the steering wheel. The three-wheeled vehicle features two seats and the vehicle is officially classed as a motorcycle and features a range of 70 miles with speeds up to 85miles per hour. Only 105 inches long, the vehicle fits in small spaces and with the option to fully enclose the SRK (instead of the frame style protective shell).

Could you see yourself commuting to work on an SRK? Or would you need a little more distance and power? Could you ever see yourself getting a run around vehicle such as this or will you always want something to carry you and the family on holiday?

Oculus Rift Outlines Cost For Release Model

The oculus rift has taken the world by storm, offering virtual reality to a wide range of people for a whole series of uses. With the CEO, Brendan Iribe, stating that the headset and a computer powerful enough to drive it would cost roughly £1000, people are now looking forward to a release date that could soon be announced. In another released statement the company founder, Palmer Luckey went into discussing the price of the headset itself.

At the Oculus Connect Conference Luckey was asked about if the release price for the oculus rift would come in at around the same as the developer kits that are currently being sold. Priced at 350$ (around £230) it is not a small price, but not a huge one. This was however before this little gem,

“You know, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. We’re roughly in that ballpark…” said Luckey, “but it’s going to cost more than that. And the reason for that is that we’ve added a lot of technology to this thing beyond what existed in the DK1 and DK2 days.”

Meaning that the rough ballpark of £230 could go out the window very quickly, with it later being stressed that a lower price point wasn’t of concern to the development team and they were instead more focused on making sure the quality wasn’t compromised.

Are you interested in the Oculus Rift? Do you own one or have you got a development kit? What are your thoughts on it?

Thank you Ars Technica for the information.

 

Amazon Web Services Goes Down Before Getting Up Again

Bit of Tubthumping play on words in the title there, readers who remember the 90s will get this, surely, oh come on I am not that old! Anyway, many web services are intrinsically integrated with each other to bring benefits to consumers, all well and good then right? Yes and no, as having many services which rely on a single destination, whether it be a server or software, provides its own challenges; this includes a domino effect to any technical glitches that would inevitably affect other connected pages.

Yesterday (20th September 2015) there was a problem with a server in Virginia which affected most of the north-east of the US. This glitch in turn killed the infrastructure for many popular products and services including Netflix, Social Flow, Group Me and Amazon Echo among others. The error was described as an “Elevated API Error rates” but has since been resolved to normal operating functionality within the same day.

Any outage in these services for the US giant could lead to a painful financial loss; let’s take a 2013 technical outage as a study example. AWS suffered a similar problem which took services that included Instagram, Airbnb and Vine off-line, it was reported that Amazon accumulated a loss of about $1,100 dollars per second in average net sales.

To keep track of any potential errors there is a handy website by the name of “Amazon web services health dashboard” which publishes up-to-the-minute information on the health of services within four tabs, these are North and South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. It’s pretty interesting and I have said before that in fact I do have a life, just intertwined with stats and tech that is all.

“Amazon reminds us of the good times
We sing songs that remind us of the best times”  ha!

Thank you status.aws and thenextweb for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of muycloud

iPhone 6s Only Costs $234 to Make

Apple’s product-line has always incurred a premium price-tag and even extended to the “budget” iPhone 5C. Recently, the Phone 6s was announced with a retail price of $199 for the 16GB model plus a 24 month contract. Bear in the mind, these are very expensive contracts and usually start around $30+ and reach absurd pricing levels around Europe. A complete tear-down of the iPhone 6s has revealed the device only costs $234 to manufacture.

This includes $25 for the A9 CPU, $36 for the cellular radio, $22 for sensors, $20 for 64GB flash which accounts for the more expensive mid-range model. The camera, battery and other components make up $73 while the casing and front buttons cost $33.

If we dismiss the contract prices, then you’re looking at $749 for a 64GB iPhone 6s which results in a profit margin of $515. This is simply astounding, but there are a few caveats before Apple can be considered as fleecing their customers. Apple is a huge corporation and able to buy individual parts on a huge, global scale. As a result, this limits the cost of each component as the quantity is increased.

Furthermore, a large proportion of the $515 goes towards designing and marketing the iPhone 6s. To compare, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 costs $260 to manufacture and retails at $699.99. Although, as a technology enthusiast, I would prefer my money to go to a product’s specification instead of its marketing budget.

Do you care about the build cost of devices?

iPhone 6 To Start At $199 But Do You Want That Price?

Everyone likes a little upgrade to their every technology, and it can be argued that the most everyday technology we all use is the phone you have in your pocket that you’ve probably checked at least once since you started reading this article. With the reveal of the iPhone 6 at their big event people are already cheering for the new unit, but should we be careful with which new phones we buy?

With prices starting at $199 for the iPhone 6 and $299 for the iPhone 6S they are not the most expensive starting phone on the market, but these two little prices come with a cost. The built in memory of the phone is only 16GB.

I know this may sound bad, but I recently upgraded my phone and I have found that not having enough memory (be it on the actual phone or a big enough memory card ready) has meant that everything from your pictures to your music must be controlled before you get the warnings about “low memory”. With $100 adding to each level of memory, making it $299 and $399 for the iPhone 6 128GB and 256GB phones, it’s clear that some users may want to save that little extra before finally replacing your current phone.

How much memory do you have on your phone? Are you looking to upgrade your phone and if so does the amount of memory you have matter to you?

Image courtesy of Apple.

Stationary Electric Vehicle Batteries May Be Getting Much Cheaper Than Anticipated

Have you heard the big headline in the electric car market? No? Well, some of you might have heard that Tesla is now selling its own stationery storage batteries. But you might ask, how is it a big thing? Those types of batteries were around for years, but they have never been cost-effective. The thing is, they are becoming more cost-effective than ever before, according to another study.

It is said that the price for installing one of these batteries in a home would have cost more than $23,000 last year. In May, Tesla announced that the price of such a Li-ion battery would start at $3,500, with an installation price of just $500. Ok, so it’s cheaper than ever before to install a battery in your home, but how is that cost-effective when charging it? Well, times are changing and businesses are making a lot of progress too. Tesla announced that it is currently building a “gigafactory” near Reno, Nevada, having Panasonic making its Li-ion batteries.

The above example is just what we would expect in the near future. However, two researchers from Stockholm stated that the cost of battery packs has fallen drastically. From $1,000 per kWh in 2007, it plunged down to $300 per kWh. Due to this price drop, Tesla and similar electric car manufacturers are now refurbishing old electric vehicle batteries to sell for stationary storage. Also, Tesla said that it also takes feedback very seriously and is now looking into increasing the discharge rate of batteries during continuous use, from 2.2 kilowatts to 5 kilowatts.

This does not mean we will see electric cars being a solution and everyone dropping gas cars overnight. Researchers state that the cost of battery packs needs to fall below 150 per kWh before significant shifts towards electric vehicles take place. However, they estimate that a cost level of 200 – 250 kWh might hit before 2020, so we are just a few years away from potentially switching to electric vehicles.

Thank you Arstechnica for providing us with this information

Europe Gets New Laws to Protect Net Neutrality

It’s the weekend and you decide you’re going to pop over the channel to go do a bit of shopping and enjoy a bit of Europe. While you’re abroad you realise you need to make a few quick phone calls, and maybe send a snap chat of what your buying, maybe even video chat an order from your friend for real french cheese or Belgium chocolate. Suddenly the biggest bill is your phone bill, with data roaming charging you for every single use of your phone, and even costing the people who have never left the country. This will soon change.

As of June 15th 2017, roaming charges will be scrapped in Europe. This means that everyone in Europe will pay the same price no matter which European country they are in. This does come with a catch though, in order to prevent abuse of foreign and local networks there will be a “fair use limit”. This means that after a certain amount of use you will find yourself being charged a basic fee, ultimately stopping people from grabbing cheap SIM cards abroad and using them as their main SIM.

On April 30th 2016 new net neutrality laws will come into effect, these will effectively ban not only “fast lanes” (where people pay extra for a service provider to prioritize their connection) and prevent internet service providers from blocking or throttling online content. While this seems to be a case for celebration, EU networks will be allowed to put aside a specialist part of their network for “higher quality” service. While under the condition that this doesn’t affect other people’s access to the rest of the internet, it does leave them open to a broad definition of “specialized services”.

Have you been charged for using your phone abroad? What was your biggest bill?

Thank you Engadget for the information.

Image courtesy of ItsAGadget.

How Dre Beats Are Made

How it’s made, Beats by Dr Dre.

It is almost impossible to go outside and not see these headphones everywhere, the headphones are very successful and give out a great sound quality. But for a whopping retail price of $199 are they packing some tech we don’t know about? Bolt has done a teardown and it seems not.

Lots of optimizations are expected when products are manufactured at a multi-million unit per year scale. Push-together components and glue are used for main assemblies where possible instead of screws as it doesn’t require a lot of human intervention, making it cheaper to make.

Bolt took a set of these apart and has come up with some interesting finds.

The headphones have several large parts of metal, these weigh in at 36 grams out of the 86gram headphones. This provides a feeling of stability, strength and weight. 30% of which is from four non-functional metal blocks.

The next part is the single plastic mold that makes up the main part of the headphones. It has many curves and angles on it and would be the highest cost part to make. The parts have to be made perfectly which requires a several part, precise process to be made. There are two sides to it too, which makes it even more complex.

The picture above shows how the manafacturer has made the speaker housings to connect together without requiring screws.

Screws are cheap, but they are tedious and complicated to install on a mass manufacturer level. you can see how many screws are saved by cutting two or more molds by looking at the left and right housings. One has two more screw holes. Screws are great here because they will hold the circuit board secure and stop it moving around right next to your ear.

They also used rather generic speaker drivers inside them, do they really enhance the bass? these drivers make it seem unlikely. Bolt states that they were impressed by Dr Dre’s ability to create such a good feeling product from such cheap and few parts.

Bolt also pictured a table with a price breakdown:

you see that bottom figure? $16.892 to make these headphones, wow!  This is the figure that Bolt came up with excluding labor or shipping. However I can’t imagine it would add more that $5 to the total cost of manufacture. It’s impressive to say that Dr Dre and Jimmy Lovine have been able to get people to pay a whopping $199+ for these things.

Thank you bolt.io and medium.com for providing us with this information

Cheap Electric Vehicles May Arrive on the Market Sooner than Expected

A recent analysis states that electric cars may soon be competing or even surpass gas cars on cost. This means that electric cars won’t be just a luxurious accessory for the few.

Manufacturers tend to keep the cost of lithium-ion batteries found in electric cars a strict secret, but a recent peer-reviewed study of more than 80 estimates reported between 2007 and 2014 suggests that the costs of battery packs are lower than assumed by energy-policy analysts.

The study suggests that batteries found in EV manufacturer cars such as Tesla and Nissan cost around $300 per KW/h in 2014. This estimate is much lower than the most optimistic projections published this year and even below the average projections published for 2020. The study also tells that the batteries could even reach $230 per KW/h by 2018.

People are also said to be more interested in EVs if the battery costs between $125 and $300 per KW/h. Having the battery cost be a quarter or even half of an EVs price tag, cheaper batteries would make the vehicle itself more cheaper. Alternatively, car manufacturers can maintain the current EV price tag, but offer a battery with much longer ranges instead.

The range factor on an EV is also a crucial thing for buyers, because it would be cheaper to fill an EV with electricity than a car running on gas. It is said that charging an EV with a 300 mile range would cost less than $10. Also, the study states that if batteries fall as low as $150 per KW/h, this may lead to “a potential paradigm shift in vehicle technology”.

The analyst report that the cost of battery packs is falling around 8% each year, which they say is likely to continue at this rate in the following years as well. However, Luis Munuera, an energy analyst for the International Energy Agency, and Pierpaolo Cazzola, a transport policy analyst for the same agency, tend to be sceptical about the peer-reviewed in question, but they do seem to agree about “events moving quicker than expected in lithium-ion battery technology”.

Thank you MIT Technology Review for providing us with this information

Apple Stores to Install Safes for Gold Apple Watch

 

The Apple Watch is set to arrive in April, starting at $345. Now while we all know that, not so many of us care about that base price. Most of us are interested in the price of the ‘rose gold’ option, the ‘Apple Watch Edition’.

Why? Because unlike its iPhone counterpart, instead of just being gold coloured, it really is made of gold. 24-carat gold to be precise. So how much will it cost? $3000, $5000, perhaps $10,000? Who knows, they’re only suggestions. But now, we may just have our first indication of how expensive it will really be, by way of news that Apple is to begin installing safes in stores to house these expensive watches.

Yes, the venerable Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac says that Apple stores will soon be adopting practices somewhat more akin to jewellery stores, all for the ‘Edition’ model of the Apple Watch. He also says that the stores will receive weighing equipment to ensure that no-one has replaced the gold on the watches when someone returns one.

All of this is making it quite clear that this piece of technology, is going to be a pretty serious piece of jewellery too.

Source: 9to5Mac

Amazon Glitch Caused Hundreds of Items to Sell for a Penny

We all thought prices were low on Black Friday, but it seems that last Friday (12th) brought even lower prices to customers on Amazon. The Independent reports on the news that a glitch with the popular online retailer meant that hundreds of items sold for just a penny.

The tool ‘RepricerExpress’, which allows retailers to easily keep prices up-to-date, has taken the blame for the mishap. The report says that “small, independent companies” could have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds from the error, which affected sellers between 7pm and 8pm.

A number of customers claimed to have bought “thousands of pounds” worth of items for little cost. One retailer expressed concern that the glitch could put her out of business:

“I have lost about £20,000 overnight,” she said, adding: “Surely someone has to be accountable for this. I will be bankrupt at this rate by the end of January.” – Judith Blackford of Kiddymania.

The CEO of RepricerExpress said:

 “I am truly sorry for the distress this has caused our customers. We have received communication that Amazon will not penalise sellers for this error. We are continuing to work to identify how this problem occurred and to put measures in place to ensure that it does not happen again.”

Source: The Independent

‘Exciting New Announcement’ by Google to Hit India September 15th

Invites have started arriving for a special Google event set to take place in India on the 15th of September – this marks the possible launch of their ‘Android One’ certified devices.

Although we know what the events purpose is, we’re unsure where  and what exactly is going on. NDTV has reported on the actual date of the event and rough starting time and this is all we have to go off.

Google have said they will release “More details closer to the date!”, but speculation points towards a launch of the aforementioned Android One devices. Originally uncovered in June at Google I/O, these devices were announced in partnership with Karbonn, Micromax and Spice. With these companies being based in India, the launch location starts to make perfect sense.

Googles Android One devices are said to reach a new pinnacle in mobile technology, providing consumers with a sub-$100 low-cost alternative running pure Android.

Image courtesy of NDTV

 

Amazon Raises Shipping Charges

Amazon has announced that they have made slight change, recently they upped their shipping charges. These changes are only to the FREE Super Saver Shipping, all of the other services will stay the same. If you still want to use the free shipping from using FREE Super Saver Shipping from Amazon, you will now need to place an order of at least $35 up from the normal $25 minimum that it has been for over a decade.

Amazon has loads of products that normally ship for free, and even more that use the Free Super Saver Shipping program, of course you could always just use Amazon PRIME which gives users free shipping without needing to fulfil a minimum order size as well as tons of FREE stuff!!!

AmazonPRIME is not only a shipping service, in which they offer users Free two-day shipping and require no minimum order size. They are trotting along with the digital age, offering users access to books, and movies for FREE. Amazon Prime users have access to over 41,000 movies and TV Episodes from Prime Instant Videos as well as over 350,000 eBooks that users are able to borrow from their extensive library collection.

If you’re interested in signing up for Amazon Prime, in order to save yourself a few bucks or even just to use as a movie or e-book service you can expect to pay $79 per year, though if you are a student or a mum you qualify for 50% off giving you the service for just $39 for the year. If you check out this link HERE you will be able to check out the rates for Amazon Prime.

Personally I do not see an issue with requiring someone to make a slightly larger order than they were planning. Most of the time users probably meet the requirements without even thinking. If you usually have an issue meeting the requirement, you can do what I do. Create a wishlist and when you place your order and it is a few dollars short add something from your wish list.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this press release.

Images and video courtesy of Time.com.

 

SSD Power: 5 Benefits of Converting to a Solid State Drive

Since the personal computer was invented, it’s been more-or-less relying on the hard disk drive (HDD) to operate. Your hard drive is what lets your system start up, store information and open applications. In recent years, the HDD has seen some competition from the solid state drive (SSD). There are many advantages to SSD computing, and as other technology around it advances, SSD is poised to become the clear preference in how computers are built. Here’s why.

1. Speed

In every conceivable way, SSD is faster than HDD. A computer with an SSD boots in mere seconds and continues to operate with incredible speed and smoothness throughout use. In a world dominated by high-speed Internet and instant communication, slow computer processing stands out more and more. Plain and simple, HDD computing takes time that modern businesses, students and at-home users are willing or able to spend waiting.

2. Lifespan

The biggest overall problem with HDD units is that they have a lot of moving parts. It’s a standard rule of engineering that the more moving parts an object has, the more potential points of failure it has. By contrast, SSD units have no moving parts. This means there’s inherently very little to wear down over time — whether it is due to manufacturing errors or parts knocking loose in accidents. This all amounts to SSDs lasting a lot longer than HDDs.

3. Ongoing Performance

Because of the way HDDs store and process information, they often run out of physical space on the disk to store large programs in a contiguous block. This forces the HDD to store that data in separate places, which leads to pieces getting stuck, also known as “fragmentation.” To keep an HDD in peak performance, users have to go through regular defragmentation processes. SSDs aren’t limited to this physical writing format, so they never have a problem with fragments and their inherent performance issues.

4. Cloud-Friendly

Today’s SSDs tend to have less on-board memory than their far more common HDD counterparts, but in the age of cloud computing there’s not as much value in on-board memory. For users to store and access information through cloud systems, the speed and flexibility of the SSD is preferable to the robust but chunky nature of the HDD.
Note that this does require users to be a bit more vigilant with their data security. But by implementing a proper antivirus, encrypting all Wi-Fi connection and securing USB disks, cloud computing with a SSD beats out the backup-dependent situation of HDD computing.

5. Size

Because of the way they operate, HDDs can only be so small. SSDs are not limited to physical disk space so they can get very light and small. This is especially useful for laptops and other portable devices so users can get the most out of a tiny package.

Despite currently being more expensive (if only because they’re more rare), solid state drives are clearly superior to hard disk drives in every element of function. They’re faster, smaller and more reliable, especially for users who prefer the cloud to on-board storage.