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Thursday, 9 August 2018

Apple on Thursday announced updated MacBook Pro 13- and 15-inch notebooks with a Touch Bar, 8th-generation Intel Core processors, support for up to 32 GB of DDR memory in the larger notebook, a True Tone display, and an improved third-generation keyboard for quiet typing.

The 15-inch model comes with 6-core Intel Core i7 and i9 processors rated at up to 2.9 GHz -- with Turbo Boost, up to 4.8 GHz. It offers up to 4 TB of SSD storage.

The 13-inch model has quad-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors rated at up to 2.7GHz -- with Turbo Boost up to 4.5 GHz. IT has double the eDRAM of its predecessors and up to 2 TB of SSD storage.

SSD read speeds are up to 3.2GB/second. Both new MacBook Pros have up to 10 hours of battery life.

The new MacBook Pro delivers a speed boost for complex simulations and data manipulation.

"The processor and RAM upgrades are crucial to keeping up with competitors on very premium devices like this," said Eric Smith, director of tablet and touchscreen strategies at Strategy Analytics.

"HP, Microsoft, and even Huawei have all made hay of how much more power their premium laptops have over Apple," he told TechNewsWorld.

Other features include an AMD Radeon Pro graphics card in the 15-inch MacBook Pro, as well as Touch ID, dynamic stereo speakers, and up to four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Easy on the Eyes

The True Tone screen technology, rated at 500 Nits, supports the P3 wide color gamut, as do the iPhone 7 and iMac Pro.

"The TrueTone display is a nice touch for people who sit in front of their screens for hours on end -- particularly for creatives, who really strain their eyes with their work," Smith noted.

Security, Siri and the T2 Processor

Both update notebooks have Apple's T2 chip, which debuted in the iMac Pro desktop earlier this year.

The T2 supports secure boot and on-the-fly encrypted storage for greater security. It also enables the Siri voice assistant.

"The real-time encryption makes it easier to protect your data," said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"I don't think the Siri aspect is all that important, but it does level the field with Microsoft's Cortana support," he told TechNewsWorld.

The processors aren't new. Apple began using AMD Radeon in 15-inch MacBook Pros back in 2016, and the T2 processor in the iMac Pro desktop released earlier this year. MacBook Pros released in 2016 had Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Demand and Defection

"There's a lot of pent-up demand out there for an updated MacBook Pro, but there's also been evidence of Mac users defecting to Windows machines in recent years," Smith said.

The updates "will give Mac sales a little boost over the next year," he said.

Some users might be upset that the MacBook Pros only offer the Thunderbolt port, "but Apple included [up to] four of these," Smith noted, "and, frankly, it seems a little antiquated to still be complaining about ports that have been around for several years."

The Touch Bar "remains somewhat controversial, and only minor upgrades are available on the non-Touch Bar model," he said. Also, "it sounds like incremental improvements were made to the keyboard but that some issues persist."

Pricing and Availability

The new MacBook Pros are featured in Apple's Back to School promotion, which launched Thursday. Purchasers will get educational pricing for the Mac, iPad Pro, AppleCare, select accessories, and a pair of qualifying Beats headphones free with the purchase of any eligible Mac or iPad Pro.

The updated 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at US$1,800 and the updated 15-inch model at $2,400. Both are available at Apple.com, and at select Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Resellers.

A maxed-out 15-inch updated MacBook Pro costs $6,700, according to AppleInsider.

That might seem pricey, but MacBook Pros are a critical tool for professionals, Tirias' Krewell pointed out. "They are not as price-sensitive, and Apple knows it."

Microsoft has a $3,300 Surface Book 2 with 1 TB of storage, 16 GB of RAM and a discrete GPU, Strategy Analytics' Smith noted. "By leapfrogging many of these specs with an 8th Generation Core i9 processor, it's not [impossible] that some well-heeled Mac enthusiasts who value a powerful workstation will shell out for this."

The most interesting part of this announcement "was the extension of [Apple's] portfolio upwards with more build-to-configuration options," observed Linn Huang, research director at IDC.

"This is less about competing with a performance desktop market, and more about Apple tapping into the rapidly growing mobile workstation market, which grew more than 19 percent annually over the past two years," he told TechNewsWorld.

"The $7,000 i9 behemoth is less about moving a typical current MacBook Pro owner up the stack than it is about luring, for example, the Dell Precision Mobile Workstation user back to Apple," Huang said.

The iPhone is Apple's main revenue generator, so whether Apple will remain committed to the MacBook is a question "only a few in Cupertino can answer," he remarked.

This is the device's third iteration since its overhaul in 2016, Huang pointed out, and "if we're still getting component bumps and feature adds in 2020 without a new design, that would suggest some focus is diverting elsewhere."

On the other hand, "if we exclude the iPhone from revenue, the Mac is one of the biggest contributors to Apple's business," noted Smith, "and is one of three hardware legs it relies on to make incremental services revenue."

Previews of the Microsoft Surface Go two-in-one, which hit shelves on Thursday, mainly have been positive.

"It's a tiny wonder of a computer -- with a few flaws -- that can do more than I would have given it credit for before I tried it," wrote Dieter Bohn for The Verge.

The Surface Go "is simply a very small Surface, with everything that entails," he said. "It's a little less powerful and probably not the right thing to be your only computer, but as a secondary machine for Windows users, it could have a real place."

The Surface Go is a 2-in-1 laptop that's "a very, very good one that jumps up to being exceptional when you consider its price versus other devices of the same ilk," wrote Alex Cranz for Gizmodo.

The Surface Go is the device consumers who "want a solid Windows machine that's primarily for browsing, emailing and word processing need to buy," she noted.

Under the Hood

The Surface Go has a 10-inch Corning Gorilla Glass 3 PixelSense display with 1800 x 1200 (217 PPI) resolution, a 3:2 aspect ratio, a 10-point multi-touch screen and ink.

It measures 9.65 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches.

Connections are 1 USB-C port, 1 Surface Connect port, 1 Surface Type cover port, 1 MicroSDXC card reader, and a 3.5mm, headphone jack.

Battery life is rated at up to 9 hours.

The Surface Go runs on an Intel Pentium Gold processor.

It uses Windows Hello facial sign-in and has TPM 2.0 for enterprise security.

It has a 5-MP front-facing camera with 1080 Skype HD video that's used for facial authentication, and an 8-MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD video, one microphone, and 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium.

The Surface Go comes with Microsoft Office 365 Home on a 30-day trial basis.

It is IEEE 802.11 a/b/b/n/ac compatible, and uses Bluetooth Wireless 4.1.

The Surface Go has an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer.

Its weight starts at 1.15 pounds not including the Type Cover, which is sold separately. The Surface Go comes with a 30-day return policy, 90 days of free tech phone support, 12 months of in-store support and tech assistance, and one free training session.

There are two versions: one with 4 GB of RAM and 64-GB eMMC, priced at US$400; and one with 8 GB of RAM and a 128-GB SSD, for $550.

Accessories, sold separately, are the Surface keyboard, priced at $100-$130; the Surface Mobile Mouse, which costs $35; and the Surface Pen, priced at $100.

"The price is a clear advantage as Microsoft attempts to crack the mid-market with a competent detachable," noted Eric Smith, director of connected computing at Strategy Analytics.

"Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of processing power without significant battery life improvements, cellular chipset, or other advantages Microsoft has been touting for its Always Connected PCs," he told TechNewsWorld.

The entry-level Surface Go "reportedly has performance issues while browsing the Web, which doesn't compare favorably to most competitors in that price tier," he said, but added that it could be "a perfect device" for students.

Comparisons With the iPad

The Surface Go is "almost as light as an iPad but can also run most of the Windows apps you need," wrote Devindra Hardawar for Engadget.

It is "an intriguing option as a secondary device," he said.

The Go "is the first Surface that can actually take on the iPad," Hardawar maintained. "It's impressively thin and light, while also being a fully fledged Windows PC."

The iPad "is better for entertainment -- but if that's what you want, I'd suggest the large Amazon Kindle is a far more economical choice than either," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"This Surface Go is far closer to what people seem to want in a small product that's more focused on productivity than the iPad has yet been able to deliver," he told TechNewsWorld.

"While the iPad is likely to offer the better tablet experience, the Go runs Windows 10 S or 10 Pro, both of which support more traditional PC applications," observed Lauren Guenveur, senior research analyst for devices and displays at IDC.

That means it likely will offer a better PC experience, she told TechNewsWorld.

"In addition, with Windows 10 security and encryption features, IT buyers may find the Surface Go appealing for workers that need either more portable or secondary devices," Guenveur said.

Fit and Finish Win Kudos

The Surface Go earned praise for product quality, with reviewers noting its superiority to other inexpensive PCs in terms of design and finish.

"It's rare to have a device at this price with such a premium feel," Guenveur remarked.

On the downside, the CPU isn't up to handling large applications such as Photoshop and games, or loading big PDFs or complex Web pages with embedded videos, reviewers noted.

Another issue is the paucity of apps in the Windows Store. The Surface Go runs Windows 10 in S mode, which restricts it to using Microsoft's Edge browser and Microsoft apps.

Still, the upgraded version could run eight or 10 lightweight apps simultaneously, together with a dozen Edge browser tabs, noted The Verge's Dieter Bohn.

Enterprise Potential

Microsoft has positioned the Surface Go as an enterprise device, emphasizing its security features.

Microsoft "did see fair success with the Surface 3 in the enterprise, and this would be a timely replacement for those devices," IDC's Guenveur said.

However, "the modest inner workings could dampen an employee's ability to use the device as a daily driver, depending on the vertical they work in," she added.

An ARM-based product "is coming under the 'Always Connected' effort, which will likely be a stronger enterprise product," said Enderle, "but it's waiting for the next-generation Qualcomm processor, the Snapdragon 1000."

Chromebooks and small iPads, "the natural competitor to this offering, haven't been that popular for work in the enterprise, and I doubt this will be much better," he noted.

"It's a stronger alternative for education, though, due to price and capability," Enderle said. "There really isn't much in the productivity area with this screen size. The exception has been schools and people with extreme requirements for portability, but this latter group hasn't been well targeted with a product until now."

Education "and perhaps millennials" will be the strongest markets for the Surface Go, he suggested, "though for the latter group, I think the Snapdragon version will be far more attractive long term

obile phone cameras are about to get a significant performance boost.

Sony on Monday introduced a 48-megapixel sensor for cellphone cameras that measures less than one-third of an inch diagonally. The sensor is slated for release in September.

To pack that many pixels into such tight quarters, Sony had to shrink their size to 8 microns. Shrinking pixel sizes usually results in performance degradation, not improvement. It usually results in poor light collection and a drop in saturation sensitivity and volume.

"With traditional sensor architecture, the pixels get so small that they pick up a lot of noise, so the pictures aren't as good as sensors with fewer but larger pixels," David D. Busch, creative director of the David Busch photography guides, told TechNewsWorld.

Better Digital Zooming

However, the new sensor is designed and manufactured with techniques that improve light collection efficiency and photoelectric conversion efficiency over conventional products, Sony said.

The smaller pixel size makes the sensor suitable for many mobile phones.

"Any component that fits into current hardware design trends, like thin bezels, will be attractive to OEMs," noted Gerrit Schneemann, a senior analyst with IHS Markit.

Meanwhile, the large number of pixels enables high-definition imaging, even on smartphones that only have digital zooms.

"Having that much pure resolution opens up more options when it comes to a digital zoom, as opposed to optical zoom, which happens in the lens," said Stan Horaczek, technology editor atPopular Science.

"Digital zoom happens by basically cropping in on an image as you capture it, rather than in post capture," he told TechNewsWorld. "More megapixels help for that, because the system doesn't have to guess what details should look like."

'Amazing Product'

The new Sony sensor is an "amazing product," said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

The sensor blends a 48-megapixel super resolution mode with a lower resolution mode that offers high sensitivity for low light conditions, he explained.

"The 48-megapixel mode, combined with a precise lens, will offer very detailed pictures," Krewell told TechNewsWorld. "The smaller area for each pixel will limit the amount of light those pixels receive, but the quad-pixel, low-light mode addresses that limitation."

Sony works its low light magic through something called the "Quad Bayer color filter array." In low light conditions, that technology allows the signals from adjacent pixels to be added together, effectively doubling their sensitivity.

"Sony is combining four smaller pixels into one in order to improve resolution in low light circumstances. Overall, this is a proven, sensible approach to solving a common problem," observed Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

"Huawei is another OEM utilizing this type of technology to increase low-light performance," IHS' Schneemann told TechNewsWorld. "Subjectively, this has worked for Huawei. It remains to be seen if Sony can deliver as well."

Manipulating pixels may have some tradeoffs, however.

"My guess is that when they group smaller pixels to form larger pixels, they may be able to smooth over the noise in the image, but there may be loss of sharpness in the details," said freelance journalist and photographer Terry Sullivan, a former associate editor for digital cameras and imaging at Consumer Reports.

"It will also affect dynamic range," he told TechNewsWorld. "Details will be missing from lightest highlights and darkest tones."

'Pixel Wars'

Sony's sensor can deliver dynamic range results that are four times that of conventional products, according to the company. What that means is that even scenes with bright and dark areas can be captured with minimal highlight blowout or loss of detail in shadows.

"If the new sensor has four times better dynamic range than conventional sensors, that suggests that performance in both full and low-light modes should be outstanding," Pund-IT's King told TechNewsWorld.

During the age of the "pixel wars," when megapixel count was a major selling point for both phone and camera makers, a 48-megapixel sensor would have drawn a lot of attention. That's less so today.

"Today, the traditional association between megapixels and printing quality no longer has a lot of significance," noted Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

However, there are some advantages to higher resolution, he said.

"When Nokia came out with the 1020, which was a 40-plus megapixel camera , they touted its high resolution as a substitute for an optical zoom," Rubin told TechNewsWorld.

Red Meat for Marketers

When the new sensor starts to hit the market, it most likely will appear in high-end phones.

"Shooting pictures in 48-megapixel mode will use up more storage and will require an applications processor with high-performance image processing, which should limit it to the high-end phones," Krewell said.

"That said, it will likely kick off another round of pixel wars," he added.

Whether a new round of pixel wars starts or not, that 48MP number will be red meat for marketers.

"I think both sensor makers and handset OEMs will view this as an opportunity to stand out with a headline-grabbing hardware spec," Schneemann said.

That said, "I am not convinced that this will necessarily shift the overall market in a significant way, where consumers abandon one brand over another, because of more megapixels," he continued.

"The output of the sensors is subjective for consumers, and the implementation of a sensor by each OEM varies as well," Schneemann pointed out. "The Nokia Pure View and 1020 both hit 40 megapixels, but that did not impact the fate of Nokia's smartphone business materially."

King of Megapixels

Sony will hold the leadership position in the megapixel category for some time to come, said Ken Hyers, director of emerging device technology research at Strategy Analytics.

"Most smartphone vendors aren't going for a huge number of megapixels," he told TechNewsWorld.

Only 2.5 percent of smartphones shipped this year will have 20 or more megapixels, Strategy Analytics has forecast.

"The sweet spot this year is at 12 to 15 megapixels," Hyers said.

That may change, though, as resolutions of smartphone displays increase.

"We might start seeing smartphone companies pushing resolution up as the future of high-res screens looms," Popular Science's Horaczek said. "Filling an 8K screen takes something like 33 megapixels, so more image data is probably going to be the order of the day."

've all been there: scrolling through a seemingly never-ending carousel of shows and movies available on Netflix, trying to find the one thing we might want to sit down and enjoy. Except we often end up spending more time looking for something to kick back and view than actually watching the thing itself.

But fear not! You too can optimize your Netflix viewing experience, both in terms of finding something you want to watch, and amplifying how you watch it. Here's how.

1. Rate Everything

Though Netflix has ditched user star ratings in favor of a binary, Siskel and Ebert-style thumbs-up, thumbs-down system, it's well worth your while to tell Netflix what you enjoyed and what you didn't. Absolutely make sure to rate a show or movie as soon as you've seen it.

It's also a good idea to stop for a second on something you've already seen elsewhere while you're browsing your viewing options. Even if you saw that title years before Netflix existed, take a moment to rate it, whether you plan to watch it again or not. The more data Netflix has on your interests, the more refined the recommendations it can offer.

2. Remove Items You Didn't Like From Your Watch History

Netflix's recommendations never will be completely spot on. It's inevitable that you'll end up slogging through something you didn't really enjoy. (More power to you if you last until the end!) However, Netflix often gives recommendations based on your watch history. An entire row of suggested shows and films based on something you didn't like is a waste of everyone's time.

Did you know that you can scrub items from your viewing history? To do so, once you have logged in and chosen the relevant profile (more on profiles in a moment), faccess the Account menu and select the Viewing Activity option in the My Profile section. This displays a list of everything you've watched, along with an option to delete each item from your history.

This feature is also super handy if you've watched a show ahead of your partner and want to cover your tracks, but you didn't hear that from me.

3. Plug In Some Plugins

If you're watching Netflix on your computer, you can add some browser plugins to supercharge your experience. In the Google Chrome Web Store, for instance, there are plugins which can variously crank up the playback speed, adjust the contrast, or import custom subtitles. If you're more socially inclined, the Netflix Party plugin lets you hold watch parties with friends, with synced playback and group chat, which is a particularly neat option if you're a social viewer but don't live close to your buddies.

Should you seek external opinions on your options, some plugins let you add Rotten Tomatoes review scores next to each title on Netflix. And, if you're feeling lucky, there are some plugins which offer a random viewing button to make your evening's viewing a total gamble. Any of these plugins could amplify your Netflix experience, though it is worth remembering that plugins usually need access to your browser data to work -- keep that in mind if you're concerned about privacy.

4. Use Dedicated Profiles

One of the best features Netflix has added in recent years is multiple profiles. Even if you don't let anyone else use your account, it might be worth using separate profiles to categorize the shows and movies you watch.

You might set up one profile for horror, one for documentaries, another for comedy, and a fourth for reality shows. That way, each time you check into a dedicated profile, you might see more recommendations tuned to your specific mood, rather than suggestions that take your full range of interests into account.

5. Check Out Third-Party Recommendations

If your Netflix hacking efforts don't turn out as well as you hoped, there are some fantastic resources you can turn to for guidance on what to watch.

The New York TimesWatching site, for instance, offers thoughtful suggestions -- particularly if you don't feel like wading through endless lists of "best movies on Netflix" ideas from practically every pop culture site. The frequent email newsletters offer solid suggestions on the best of the latest streaming choices, and as you're browsing the well-designed site, you can save items to a watchlist as a reminder for later.

If you don't mind exploring those best-of lists, however, Decider is a solid option. The site's lists of Netflix shows and movies worthy of your time are thorough and well-researched. They tackle the best entries of each genre, along with more niche suggestions, such as the best Die Hard rip-offs. You might find recommendations that stray a little further from the typical well-worn paths here.

6. Find Out Where to Stream a Specific Show or Movie

If you have the opposite problem (knowing what you want to watch, but not where to find it), there are some resources for that too. If you have an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV Cube, for instance, you can ask the respective voice assistants to find that elusive show or movie. Both of those devices can figure out which service is streaming your content of choice and start playing it.

Alternatively, there are some sites that will answer that question for you, including Just Watch andCan I Stream It? (CISI).

There are other sites that scrape data from streaming services and do the same thing, though these are particularly helpful: CISI lets you see if a title is available for digital rental or purchase if you're especially eager to watch it and it's not available to stream, while Just Watch lets you tailor your search depending on your country of residence.

For instance, the Netflix library in Canada has many titles the U.S. version does not, and vice versa. Scouring the titles that are actually available in your locale seems like an essential function for a site such as this.

7. Add Items to Your List

Netflix has a built-in feature called "My List." Be sure to add interesting items to it as you scroll through the myriad options available, even if you don't plan to watch them immediately. If Netflix cycles that show or movie out of its library and then back in again, it will reappear on your list.

However, an extensive number of titles in your list could require you to scroll through it for several minutes before finding the one you want to watch -- which is the precise problem this column is trying to help you avoid. So be judicious in your use of this feature, instead of tossing in every single title you might ever care to watch in the future.

Fortnite Mobile for Android may get its big public reveal today. Before this, a video has surfaced detailing what you could expect when Epic Games finally lifts the lid on its battle royale sensation for Google's OS. Thanks to serial Fortnite Android leaker XDA, it appears that we know Fortnite Mobile for Android will work with Samsung and non-Samsung devices. The game ran at what the site claims to be 'Epic' settings, which is, every graphical option maxed out on a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. Fitting since its shares internals similar to the soon to be launched Samsung Galaxy Note 9 that may have the game as a rumoured 30-day exclusive. From what we can tell, it looks similar to what you'd expect from the game running on an iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X, though given the shaky nature of the footage, it warrants further inspection, something we hope to do when Fortnite for Android is finally available.


What's more is, XDA claims that the game ran on non-Samsung devices as well despite attempts of trying the Fortnite APK on a OnePlus 6 and failing.


"All hope isn’t lost, though. Max’s Essential Phone and Kieron’s Google Pixel 2 XL were both rooted and able to enter a game. I suspect that one or more of the system modifications I made while tinkering with my phone caused the SafetyNet check to fail, so I wasn’t able to fully play a game before being kicked. So while this means devices rooted with Magisk should be able to play the game, you should prepare for a new wave of battles with the SafetyNet API," writes XDA's Mishaal Rahman.

It would appear that most mid-range and budget Android devices may not be able to play Fortnite. Now, more evidence indicates you'll need a relatively high-end Android device to play Fortnite Mobile. As per a thorough report from XDA, which has access to a Fortnite Android leaked APK, a majority of SoCs may not be able to play the game at all. The list is restricted to Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and above, Samsung Exynos 8890 and above, and Kirin HiSilicon 970 and above. If you're looking to play Fortnite Mobile on Android you might need a OnePlus 3Samsung Galaxy S7Honor Play or a higher-specced Android smartphone. On iOS however, Fortnite works on the iPhone SE and above. You can check out the video of the game running on a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus below.


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According to the report, Fortnite Android won't support any MediaTek or Nvidia Tegra SoCs at launch. Furthermore, most Qualcomm, HiSilicon, and Samsung chips such as the Snapdragon 660, Kirin 659, and Exynos 7885 can't run the game either. What this means is, mid-range smartphones such as the Xiaomi Mi A2Honor 9N, and Samsung Galaxy A8may not be able to run Fortnight

With that in mind, it is quite possible that Epic Games may optimise the game further for greater compatibility across the broad spectrum of Android devices, seeing how the Nintendo Switch can run the game (albeit poorly, we won't be surprised to see the Fortnite Mobile for Android compatibility list increase over time.


Personal home robots that can socialise with people are starting to roll out of the laboratory and into our living rooms and kitchens. But are humans ready to invite them into their lives?

It’s taken decades of research to build robots even a fraction as sophisticated as those featured in popular science fiction. They don’t much resemble their fictional predecessors; they mostly don’t walk, only sometimes roll and often lack limbs. And they’re nowhere close to matching the language, social skills and physical dexterity of people

Worse, they’re so far losing out to immobile smart speakers made by Amazon, Apple and Google, which cost a fraction of what early social robots do, and which are powered by artificial intelligence systems that leave many robots’ limited abilities in the dust.

That hasn’t stopped ambitious robot-makers from launching life-like robots into the market – albeit with mixed results so far.Still others, including a rumored Amazon project and robots designed to provide companionship for senior citizens, remain in the development phase.

“I think we’re going to start seeing some come to market this year,” said Vic Singh, a founding general partner of Eniac Ventures, which has invested in several robotics startups. But they’ll be limited to very specific uses, he warned.

Hopes for social robots keep outpacing reality. Late last year, the squat, almost featureless Jibo graced the cover of Time Magazine’s “best inventions” edition. Its creator, MIT robotics researcher Cynthia Breazeal, said that “there’s going to be a time when everybody will just take the personal robot for granted.”

That time has not yet arrived.

Jibo, a foot-high, vaguely conical device topped by a wide hemispherical “head,” stays where you put it, typically on a countertop. But it can swivel its flat, round screen “face” to meet your gaze; tells joke and plays music; and can shimmy convincingly if you ask it to dance. It was pitched as “the world’s first social robot for the home.”

At almost US$900 (RM3,600), though, Jibo didn’t win anywhere near enough friends. It’s still for sale online, but its parent company reportedly laid off much of its workforce in June and didn’t reply to requests for comment.

“It’s a really cool device, but it didn’t offer a ton of utility,” Singh said.

In late July, another startup, California-based Mayfield Robotics, ceased manufacturing Kuri, a roving US$699 (RM2,850) machine that would shoot pictures and video from cameras hidden behind its round, blinking eyes. Other home robots, such as the three-foot, video-screen equipped personal assistant US$1,499 (RM6,100) Temi  and Sony’s dog-like US$1,800 Aibo (RM7,300), are even less affordable.

“You cannot sell a robot for US$800 (RM3,200) or US$1,000 (RM4,000) that has capabilities of less than an Alexa,” said Boris Sofman, CEO of Anki, which plans to launch its pet-like Vector this fall.

Promising a robotic future beyond “puck-like vacuum cleaners and lifeless cylindrical talking speakers,” Anki is pitching the US$249 (RM1,010) Vector as an older brother to its tiny – and feisty – toy robot Cozmo.

Both robots are tiny enough to fit in your palm. They scoot around on tank treads and chirp more than talk, but Vector can answer basic questions, set a timer or deliver messages from email and texts. It can rest on a tabletop until it hears a door open or, using facial recognition, “sees” a familiar person in view. It purrs when you rub its gold-plated back.

Social robots trace their lineage back to an interactive humanoid head named Kismet, which Breazeal built in an MIT lab in the 1990s. Since then, advances in artificial intelligence have propelled the field forward. The popularity of Alexa and its ilk has also helped take the strangeness out of talking machines.

The key for Vector and other companion robots, experts say, is to strike the right balance between usefulness and personality. (Affordability also seems pretty important.) Though there’s plenty of disagreement over what makes the proper balance.

Fall short on personality, and “you better be perfect because the moment you make a mistake, you’re going to be the big lumbering robot that made a mistake,” Sofman said. But people can forgive errors so long as the robot reacts in a realistic way.

Anki hired animators from Pixar and DreamWorks to give character to Cozmo and Vector. Israeli startup Intuitions Robotics brought on prominent industrial designer Yves Behar to help craft the look of ElliQ, which is designed for seniors. The robot is expected to launch next year.

“We were looking for an aesthetic that will earn the right to be part of people’s life for a long period of time, not just a gadget or a toy,” said Dor Skuler, Intuition’s founder and CEO.

Instead of cute, ElliQ aims for calm. Designed to sit on an end table, the robot is shaped like a rounded table lamp with a circular light shining from inside its translucent plastic head. It swivels frequently, directing attention to the person it’s speaking with, and has an adjacent tablet screen to show off photos or text messages.

Many researchers say social robots hold great promise in helping an aging population. Such robots could remind seniors to take medicine, prompt them to get up and move or visit others, and help them stay in better touch with extended family and friends.

For the robots to catch on across all ages, though, they need to prove themselves useful and helpful, said James Young, a researcher at the University of Manitoba’s human-computer interaction lab.

“Whether that’s by helping with loneliness, helping with tasks like cooking, that’s key,” he said. “Once people are convinced something is useful or actually saves them time, they’re really good at adapting.” — AP

Step aside, Samsung, Sony, LG, and Apple, there’s a new king of the consumer tech business, and its name is SHAASUIVG. This literally unbelievable new brand has cropped up on Chinese online store Pinduoduo, offering eyebrow-raising deals such as a 55-inch 4K TV for a mere ¥388 (or around $57). What’s most impressive about it, though, is the bold and courageous logo design. Using some creative kerning and daringly varied font weights, SHAASUIVG resembles the familiar SAMSUNG insignia at first glance. What an amazing coincidence.

Pinduoduo, which began trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange two weeks ago at an initial valuation of more than $23 billion, has earned itself an unenviable reputation as a home for counterfeit goods. Quartz and Bloomberg have both taken in-depth looks at the high volume of trade in shady consumers electronics on the shopping platform, wagging their disapproving fingers at China’s entrepreneurial hustle. The country’s regulators are also taking the matter seriously, with Bloomberg reporting that an investigation is about to get underway into the trade in obvious fakes on Pinduoduo. The serious edge to all this unregulated and unmoderated e-commerce is that Pinduoduo also hosts sellers of food and baby products, which are categories of goods with a far greater risk than a TV that may or may not have all the specs printed on its box.

Still, there’s something in me that just loves the ingenuity and sheer chutzpah it takes for someone to chop up the Samsung logo and assemble a brand name from the fragments.

If you’ve always wanted to watch fish swim past a data center with 27.6 petabytes of storage, stop surfing around as today is your lucky day. Microsoft has taken the oppor-tuna-ty to install a webcam next to its undersea data center, offering live views of just how well the metal container is rusting and the hundreds of fish suddenly interested in cloud data and artificial intelligence. The software maker originally sunk a data center off the Scottish coast in June to determine whether the company can save energy by cooling it in the sea itself, or if it should leave it to salmon else.


Microsoft has been experimenting with undersea data centers for years, and the current installation in the Orkney Islands will be deployed for around five years. There are 12 racks with 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes (27,600 terabytes) of storage, enough to store at least 5 million copies of Finding Nemo. The data center is powered by a giant undersea cable that also connects it back to the internet, and the findings could mean the company will scale this project up to more powerful data centers in the future.


Fish hunting for bytes to eat

The webcam itself isn’t just in place to watch a load of carp, Microsoft is observing the environmental conditions near its data center as part of the experiment. If you’re interested in watching the live feed you should dolphinitely check it out over at Microsoft’s Project Natick site. Sorry about the fish puns. Whaley sorry.


While most of Google’s services are blocked in China, its website 265.com remains open. The search engine on 265.com redirects to Baidu, China’s dominant search company, by default, but Google can apparently see the queries that users are typing in.

Google engineers are reportedly sampling those search queries in order to develop a list of thousands of blocked websites it should hide on its upcoming search engine in China. Blacklisted results, which include topics like the Tiananmen Square massacre, will result in users seeing a blank page, The Intercept reports.

GOOGLE HAS ESSENTIALLY BEEN USING THE SITE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT CHINESE USERS ARE SEARCHING FOR SINCE 2008
On Baidu, if you search for something less specific, like Taiwan or Xinjiang, you’ll get a partial blackout where you can only see tourist information and not politically sensitive news reports. It could be possible that Google is taking a similar tack.

Originally, 265.com was founded in 2003 by Chinese entrepreneur Cai Wensheng, who’s also the founder of Chinese beauty app Meitu. Google bought the site in 2008, while it was still operating its search engine within China. Google has essentially been using the site to figure out what Chinese users are searching for since 2008, and now that it is working on an Android search app, it will finally have a use for that data.

After reports surfaced last week of Google’s plans to return to China with a search app, a news app, and potentially cloud services, US employees reacted in anger and confusion. Management shut down access to documents related to the project. And in the meantime, employees are spreading tongue-in-cheek memes related to human rights in China, according to The Intercept. One meme shows a Chinese internet user searching for the Tiananmen Square massacre and getting a result saying it wasn’t real. We’ve reached out to Google for comment.

Samsung is introducing its latest Note soon, and we have a pretty good idea of what to expect, thanks to numerous leaks. So far, we know that it bears a strong resemblance to the Note 8, with a headphone jack, a USB-C port, dual rear cameras, and a rear fingerprint sensor. And the Note 9 looks to have a bigger battery than its predecessors, at 4,000mAh.

In fact, the only thing that’s really remained a secret is how much it will cost and when it will become available for preorders. There are also rumors of a Samsung Galaxy Watch or a new smart speaker powered by Bixby. Perhaps they’ll be addressed at today’s event ahead of IFA in Berlin later this month.

Follow along with webtech, as we’ll be live blogging from the event in New York and posting stories as they happen.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Ever since the first phone was made available to the public, we have seen companies take up the mobile phone market and flourish in it. Before the smartphone, we had dumbphones that preceded feature phones. Despite the impressive sales that we see smartphone companies such as Apple and Samsung report in their financials, the real winners have always been dumb phones from back in the day that sold in the hundreds of millions.

This list simply highlights phones that were sold around the world and still hold the record for being the top 10 most sold devices to date, we have a few surprises, for example, the Nokia 3310 is missing in action but Nokia still dominates the list with quite a number of phones from back in the day and while Apple has one device on the list, the Android camp hits the bench on this one:

10. Motorola Razr V3

Motorola-Razr-V3_

A device that probably only a few Kenyans got to play around with, the Moto Razr V3 was a phone with looks that demanded attention. One of its best features was the metallic feeling keyboard and the dual display that it packed. Motorola sold over 135 million units of the Razr V3.

9. Nokia 2600

Nokia-2600

Keeping true to the Nokia standards of those days, the 2600 was a simple device that attracted many thanks to its price tag. I cannot say much about it since I never personally got to interact with it. Nokia sold over 135 million units of the Nokia 2600 across the world.

8. Samsung E1100

Samsung-E1100

This one passed me by but I remember a few people rocking it. This Samsung dumb phone featured a flashlight a standard display by standards of those days and 1MB of internal storage. The device hit over 150 million units, thanks to its worldwide availability.

7. Nokia 5230

Nokia-5230

This one holds a special place in my heart. I loved my Nokia 5230. At that time it was a classy phone with a 3.2-inch display, Symbian OS, a camera and 3G connectivity. The device hit over 150 million units across the world.

6. Nokia 6600

Nokia-6600

Do you remember this one? Honestly, I don’t. But it seems quite a number of people loved it since over 150 million units were sold despite its expensive price tag of 695 dollars back in 2003, an equivalent of $947 by today’s standards.

5. Nokia 1200

Nokia-1200

The fourth Nokia device on the list was a basic dumbphone that seemed to spark a lot of interest among people. The Nokia 1200 garnered over 150 million sales across the world and it’s not rare to find a few people still rocking this device, especially in the rural areas.

4. Nokia 3210

Nokia-3210

The phone that preceded the 3310 got over 150 million sales since it was released back in 1999. At that time, the biggest feature the 3210 had was Snake, the game that HMD Global is now using to push their refresh devices.

3. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone-6-and-6-Plus

The second smartphone on the list and the only modern smartphone here is the iPhone 6. This was the first time that Apple had moved from their minute displays to bigger screens that people were demanding. Apple sold over 220 million units of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus combined.

2. Nokia 1110

Nokia-1110

I am certain you remember this one, you probably owned one of these. This one was a favourite of many, myself included. I did not own one but I certainly did have enough around me to enjoy what it had to offer. Nokia 1110 sold over 250 million units, better than any other device released the same year as it.

1. Nokia 1100

Nokia-1100

Another one that I am certain you remember is the Nokia 1100. The device was really curvy and had a good number of colour options to choose from. It did not pack anything interesting but it rose to the top of the peak thanks to its affordable price tag which saw Nokia sell over 250 million units.

Infinix Mobility continues the trend as to produce a Pro version for its Note series. Coming as a new update is the Pro version of Infinix Note 5 device. We know that the Pro version of Infinix devices, doesn’t sport too many differences as the base model but the minor changes, at worth having a look at. This Infinix Note 5 device, unlike its base model, it sports a bigger RAM, internal storage capacity and it comes with a Stylus.

Infinix Note 5 specs and review
Design and Display
As we have seen the Note 5 base model, the Pro version comes with a very slender body look making it seem like a premium smartphone. One thing that will catch the attention of Infinix users, is the trimmed bezels that comes in the Note 5 Pro device. Of course, we all know that the body design of the Infinix Note 5 Pro version, is supposed to be something of worth but that’s not the case here. The body build of this device looks like that of a budget device.
Infinix Note 5 Pro specifications, review and price
That does not make us forget the screen display. The large display measures up to 6.0-inch with  resolution of 2160 x 1080 pixels. It happens to bring out the dynamic view from the phone and with a nice screen size.

Hardware and Software
Surprisingly, the Infinix Note 5 sports a much lower MediaTek SoC chipset. As it features a Octa-core Helio P23 processor clocking at 2.0GHz supported by Mali-G71 GPU for gaphics. As for the memory, you have a 4GB RAM size and 64GB internal storage which has an option to expand up to 256GB using the microSD slot. It runs on Android 8.1 Oreo (Android One) that lacks the XUI.

Camera and Battery
The camera of the Note 5 Pro can be looked as an improvement from its predecessor. As it comes with an impressive 16MP front camera with LED flash and wide-angle capability at your disposal and a 12MP rear camera that has the ability to take 4K resolution videos. Infinix devices come with massive battery capacities, and Infinix Note 5 Pro has a 4500 mAh battery with fast charge technology available for use.

he Microsoft Surface Go two-in-one, which hit shelves on Thursday, mainly have been positive.

"It's a tiny wonder of a computer -- with a few flaws -- that can do more than I would have given it credit for before I tried it," wrote Dieter Bohn for The Verge.

The Surface Go "is simply a very small Surface, with everything that entails," he said. "It's a little less powerful and probably not the right thing to be your only computer, but as a secondary machine for Windows users, it could have a real place."

The Surface Go is a 2-in-1 laptop that's "a very, very good one that jumps up to being exceptional when you consider its price versus other devices of the same ilk," wrote Alex Cranz for Gizmodo.

The Surface Go is the device consumers who "want a solid Windows machine that's primarily for browsing, emailing and word processing need to buy," she noted.

Under the Hood

The Surface Go has a 10-inch Corning Gorilla Glass 3 PixelSense display with 1800 x 1200 (217 PPI) resolution, a 3:2 aspect ratio, a 10-point multi-touch screen and ink.

It measures 9.65 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches.

Connections are 1 USB-C port, 1 Surface Connect port, 1 Surface Type cover port, 1 MicroSDXC card reader, and a 3.5mm, headphone jack.

Battery life is rated at up to 9 hours.

The Surface Go runs on an Intel Pentium Gold processor.

It uses Windows Hello facial sign-in and has TPM 2.0 for enterprise security.

It has a 5-MP front-facing camera with 1080 Skype HD video that's used for facial authentication, and an 8-MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD video, one microphone, and 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium.

The Surface Go comes with Microsoft Office 365 Home on a 30-day trial basis.

It is IEEE 802.11 a/b/b/n/ac compatible, and uses Bluetooth Wireless 4.1.

The Surface Go has an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer.

Its weight starts at 1.15 pounds not including the Type Cover, which is sold separately. The Surface Go comes with a 30-day return policy, 90 days of free tech phone support, 12 months of in-store support and tech assistance, and one free training session.

There are two versions: one with 4 GB of RAM and 64-GB eMMC, priced at US$400; and one with 8 GB of RAM and a 128-GB SSD, for $550.

Accessories, sold separately, are the Surface keyboard, priced at $100-$130; the Surface Mobile Mouse, which costs $35; and the Surface Pen, priced at $100.

"The price is a clear advantage as Microsoft attempts to crack the mid-market with a competent detachable," noted Eric Smith, director of connected computing at Strategy Analytics.

"Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of processing power without significant battery life improvements, cellular chipset, or other advantages Microsoft has been touting for its Always Connected PCs," he told TechNewsWorld.

The entry-level Surface Go "reportedly has performance issues while browsing the Web, which doesn't compare favorably to most competitors in that price tier," he said, but added that it could be "a perfect device" for students.

Comparisons With the iPad

The Surface Go is "almost as light as an iPad but can also run most of the Windows apps you need," wrote Devindra Hardawar for Engadget.

It is "an intriguing option as a secondary device," he said.

The Go "is the first Surface that can actually take on the iPad," Hardawar maintained. "It's impressively thin and light, while also being a fully fledged Windows PC."

The iPad "is better for entertainment -- but if that's what you want, I'd suggest the large Amazon Kindle is a far more economical choice than either," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"This Surface Go is far closer to what people seem to want in a small product that's more focused on productivity than the iPad has yet been able to deliver," he told TechNewsWorld.

"While the iPad is likely to offer the better tablet experience, the Go runs Windows 10 S or 10 Pro, both of which support more traditional PC applications," observed Lauren Guenveur, senior research analyst for devices and displays at IDC.

That means it likely will offer a better PC experience, she told TechNewsWorld.

"In addition, with Windows 10 security and encryption features, IT buyers may find the Surface Go appealing for workers that need either more portable or secondary devices," Guenveur said.

Fit and Finish Win Kudos

The Surface Go earned praise for product quality, with reviewers noting its superiority to other inexpensive PCs in terms of design and finish.

"It's rare to have a device at this price with such a premium feel," Guenveur remarked.

On the downside, the CPU isn't up to handling large applications such as Photoshop and games, or loading big PDFs or complex Web pages with embedded videos, reviewers noted.

Another issue is the paucity of apps in the Windows Store. The Surface Go runs Windows 10 in S mode, which restricts it to using Microsoft's Edge browser and Microsoft apps.

Still, the upgraded version could run eight or 10 lightweight apps simultaneously, together with a dozen Edge browser tabs, noted The Verge's Dieter Bohn.

Enterprise Potential

Microsoft has positioned the Surface Go as an enterprise device, emphasizing its security features.

Microsoft "did see fair success with the Surface 3 in the enterprise, and this would be a timely replacement for those devices," IDC's Guenveur said.

However, "the modest inner workings could dampen an employee's ability to use the device as a daily driver, depending on the vertical they work in," she added.

An ARM-based product "is coming under the 'Always Connected' effort, which will likely be a stronger enterprise product," said Enderle, "but it's waiting for the next-generation Qualcomm processor, the Snapdragon 1000."

Chromebooks and small iPads, "the natural competitor to this offering, haven't been that popular for work in the enterprise, and I doubt this will be much better," he noted.

"It's a stronger alternative for education, though, due to price and capability," Enderle said. "There really isn't much in the productivity area with this screen size. The exception has been schools and people with extreme requirements for portability, but this latter group hasn't been well targeted with a product until now."

Education "and perhaps millennials" will be the strongest markets for the Surface Go, he suggested, "though for the latter group, I think the Snapdragon version will be far more attractive long term."

ver the weekend disrupted the operations of the Asian manufacturer that makes chips for the iPhone and other devices offered by top shelf high-tech companies.

The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. on Sunday said that a virus outbreak Friday evening affected a number of computer systems and fab tools at its facilities in Taiwan.

The incident likely will cause shipment delays and create additional costs, the company said, as well as a 3 percent reduction in revenue and a 1 percent decline in gross margins in the third quarter.

However, TSMC remained optimistic that it could catch up with lost production in the fourth quarter, and still meet its forecast of high single-digit revenue growth for the year.

The degree of infection varied by fab, but 80 percent of the company's tools affected by the bad software were recovered by Sunday and full recovery was expected by Monday, TMSC explained.

The outbreak occurred due to a "misoperation" when a new software tool was being installed. When the tool was connected to the company's network, the virus began to spread. However, data integrity and confidential information were not compromised by the malware, according to the company.

iPhone Delays Possible

TSMC makes the A11 processor Apple used in the iPhone X, and it has been making the company's A12 chip for its next generation of iPhones, which are expected to roll out next month. It remains to be seen if this bump in TSMC's production schedule will affect the availability of the new iPhones.

It's hard to say if iPhone availability will be delayed, because TSMC hasn't revealed which production lines the virus infected, said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research, a research, analysis and advisory services firm based in Mesa, Arizona.

"My belief is that this was a transient issue and will not affect long-term production volumes," he told TechNewsWorld.

It is too soon to predict how the incident may affect Apple's new products, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, an advisory and consulting firm in Haywood, California.

"While production of iPhone chips may have been impacted, whether those effects were enough to delay delivery of upcoming products is purely speculative," he told TechNewsWorld.

Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

Move Manufacturing Home?

American manufacturers know there are risks to making products overseas. So far, the benefits have outweighed those risks, and a few supply chain hiccups aren't likely to induce device makers to do something drastic, such as bring manufacturing back to America.

"If we look at breaches over the last few years, suppliers in the U.S. are not more or less likely to be hacked than those overseas," Anupam Sahai, vice president of product management at Cavirin, told TechNewsWorld. Cavirin is a cybersecurity risk and compliance company based in Santa Clara, California.

"Moving to the U.S. does not necessarily mean better security, but it would clearly mean the cost of mobile phones would be significantly higher," maintained Joseph Carson, chief security scientist at Thycotic, a Washington, D.C.-based provider of privileged account management solutions.

"Then the question would be, would you pay (US)$2000 for your next iPhone if it was more secure?" he asked.

"At the end of the day," Carson told TechNewsWorld, "most consumers buy ease of use and value versus security, and the industry is focused on what the consumers wants versus what they need."

Trapped in Global Economy

There no guarantee that products built in the U.S. would be more secure than those built overseas, but there's no getting away from using parts produced overseas, in any case.

Apple may want to manufacture in the U.S., but it still would have to deal with parts from China, noted Jack E. Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates, an IT advisory company in Northborough, Massachusetts.

"Any additional security would be mitigated by the worldwide supply chain considerations necessary to build modern products," he told TechNewsWorld.

Some companies are producing high-end products in the U.S., Pund-IT's King pointed out, but that's because of concerns over theft of intellectual property, not industrial sabotage or malware.

"Unless problems like those experienced by TSMC become more common," he said, "I expect microprocessor and other vendors will continue to engage with offshore manufacturers like TSMC."

Ripple Effect

Manufacturing concerns in today's world are global, so cybersecurity concerns affect companies worldwide, explained Dirk Morris, chief product officer at Untangle, a network security provider for small and mid-sized businesses based in San Jose, California.

"This incident highlights the fact that any business that relies on software, especially Internet-connected software, could be vulnerable to cybersecurity threats," he told TechNewsWorld.

Semiconductor manufacturing has been becoming centralized. For example, TSMC builds products for multiple Tier 1 vendors, including Apple, AMD, Nvidia and Qualcomm. That concentration of manufacturing can multiply the impact of incidents like this weekend's virus attack.

"It's becoming increasingly likely that a single event could ripple through multiple supply chains," King said.

"It's notable that TSMC stated that it had prepared for this eventuality, and the company appears to have things well in hand," he added, "but that doesn't mean that future events or actions against other suppliers won't be more disruptive."

The TMSC situation reinforces what old supply chain hands already know.

"Just like any industry in high tech, you need to diversify your supply chain to ensure you can continue to deliver products to your customers in the event one of your suppliers is impacted by a major service disruption," Thycotic's Carson advised.

Consumer Worry

What about worries that the TMSC virus could jump from the supply chain into Apple's products?

"Consumers should not be concerned about the security of Apple products any more than usual," Carson said.

"As an organization, Apple is usually very strict on supply chain requirements, and this issue is about supply shipments availability, rather than integrity of parts," he said.

"Consumers should be more concerned about what Internet services they use and register for after they purchase mobile devices," Carson added.

Only the machines making the chips, not the chips themselves, were affected, Tirias' Krewell explained.

"There's no way to hack an Apple chip design through changing the manufacturing machinery," he asserted.

It appears that no data or confidential information were compromised by the virus, noted Untangle's Morris.

"At this time, there is no reason to believe that any components TSMC manufactures will be affected," he said. "The only downstream impact to consumers at this time is related to manufacturing delays due to the downtime caused by the incident." 

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Brace yourself for laptops with 128GB of RAM because they’re coming. Today, Lenovo announced its ThinkPad P52, which, along with that massive amount of memory, also features up to 6TB of storage, up to a 4K, 15.6-inch display, an eighth-gen Intel hexacore processor, and an Nvidia Quadro P3200 graphics card.


The ThinkPad also includes two Thunderbolt three ports, HDMI 2.0, a mini DisplayPort, three USB Type-A ports, a headphone jack, and an Ethernet port. The company hasn’t announced pricing yet, but it’s likely going to try to compete with Dell’s new 128GB-compatible workstation laptops.


The Dell Precision 7530 and Precision 7730 also feature 4K displays and compatibility with a Quadro and AMD Radeon WX graphics cards. They start at $1,199. All these laptops are VR-ready, of course. Both seem to be enabled through Samsung’s newest memory modules that allow laptop makers to increase capacity and speed without consuming all the power. The days of laptops topping out at 16GB of RAM might be nearing an end, at least once these come to standard consumer devices.